Strengthening the Patient/Provider Relationship

Strengthening the Patient/Provider Relationship

In the rapidly evolving healthcare marketplace, the role of a primary care physician (PCP) is changing. Healthcare organizations are working to surround PCPs with broader care teams—nutritionists, mental health professionals, social workers and physical therapists—to provide PCPs time to focus on the most critical patients. In addition, PCPs provide a valuable link in referring patients to a healthcare organization’s specialty care offering, leveraging the power of a unified electronic medical record, driving pay-for-performance reimbursements, and strengthening patient loyalty. It’s probably not surprising, therefore, that health systems we work with are seeking to learn more about the patient/provider relationship.

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Plan Sponsors Look to Make Shifts in Investment Lineups

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Plan sponsors’ desire to reduce plan costs is substantially impacting their approach to investment menu design and their relationships with DC investment managers. But the impact of the resulting activity varies by plan as well as by asset manager. Overall, 7% of plan sponsors intend to add at least one manager to their investment lineup in the next year. At the same time, 2% plan to drop a manager and 16% intend to do a combination of adding and dropping managers, suggesting that the future is not necessarily secure for all firms.

Plan Sponsors Adding and Dropping Investment Managers

When asked specifically about the managers they will continue to use, 29% of plan sponsors intend to award new business to existing firms while only 15% plan to pull business away—evidence that plan sponsors are concentrating their assets with the smaller number of managers they know. Continue reading

6 Ingredients for Effective Institutional Thought Leadership

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We know how challenging it can be to get the attention of institutional investors, but luckily for asset managers, there is one tool in the institutional marketing toolbox that offers the best opportunity of getting noticed: thought leadership. When done right, institutional investors will not only read thought leadership from managers they are already doing business with, but will also consume pieces from unknown managers, offering firms a way in—and a chance to build a favorable brand impression.

According to a series of focus groups and one-on-one interviews we conducted with institutional investors, thought leadership materials must have six ingredients to craft effective thought leadership materials for this exclusive audience:

  1. Timely
  2. Unique
  3. Sophisticated
  4. Engaging
  5. Objective
  6. Credible

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Adapting to the New Normal

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Ready or not, the DOL fiduciary rule is here and changing everything. While many product providers and distributors have been preparing for months, the financial advisors they
rely upon are now beginning to feel the effects. Many advisors are regretfully watching their choice of available products constrict as their brokers/dealers eliminate certain products, asset managers and share classes. At the same time, advisors are facing higher hurdles in the form of additional disclosure and product justification, making their job of providing investment advice increasingly challenging.

While the industry’s heightened focus on fees is creating a windfall for passive managers, advisors are boosting their reliance on managed money or model portfolio solutions, effectively distancing the direct link between asset managers and advisors selling their products. This, in turn, is impacting the role of the wholesaler, shifting expectations from that of a product spokesperson to a technical industry expert. Continue reading

New Research: Pharmaceutical Companies are Overlooking a Key Audience

Pharmaceutical Companies are Overlooking a Key Audience

I never used to pay attention to anything in the healthcare industry. As someone young and healthy with no medical conditions, I rarely went to the doctor and ignored drug commercials. That all changed when I met my husband. After we had been dating for a while, he let me know that he had been diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (commonly referred to as UC) when he was 20 years old, and it was not well controlled. My mindset quickly shifted, and I took on the role of a caregiver to someone with a chronic illness. Suddenly everything about the pharma industry fascinated me. I quickly went to find all the information I could on the internet, but it turns out there aren’t a ton of resources available to caregivers for this non-life threatening illness. It was frustrating, to say the least. The lack of resources directed toward caregivers of people with UC seemed to delegitimize their role as caregivers, like they are not even a part of medical decisions.

Luckily for my husband and me, my new-found fascination with the world of pharmaceuticals led me to Market Strategies, where all of my healthcare market research colleagues had seemingly endless knowledge about how to find deep information on diseases and current treatments, as well as treatments in development. I did some independent research on UC and discovered there were better options for my husband than what he was currently prescribed. With my encouragement, he found a more open-minded doctor who prescribed a new medication I had suggested. This new medication was a self-injectable. My husband is brave in a lot of ways, but shots are not his favorite thing. For this new medication to work, I would have to administer the shots. I went with him for his initial loading dose at the doctor’s. My presence at the medical office was viewed as normal, it seems a lot of patients are accompanied by caregivers. The nurse showed me how to inject the medicine and gave us some material from the drug manufacturer.

However, once we got home, it was clear that the manufacturer did not consider the possibility that someone other than the patient would be reading the materials or administering the injection. They did not acknowledge the role of a caregiver at all, which made me feel a little strange as I’m a big influence when it comes to my husband’s medical care. Even after reading the patient-facing materials, I still feel a little bit nervous when I give him his shot, even a year later. That part may come as a surprise to my husband, as I get the feeling he’s pretty confident in my ability. He has to be.

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Is the Next Big Bank a Bank?

Amazon recently announced that its Amazon Lending service surpassed $1billion in small business loans over the past 12 months.

Wait, Amazon? Small business loans? Amazon isn’t a bank, but that doesn’t seem to matter. And that got me thinking, could Amazon be a bank for consumers, too?

Most likely, yes. Trust is the foundation of any relationship, especially when money is involved. Market Strategies’ financial services market research reveals that half of consumers would trust a company that does not specialize in banking to provide their banking. Of those, 26% would trust Amazon, 22% would trust Apple, 21% would trust Google and a whopping 63% would trust PayPal. Not surprisingly, younger consumers (58% of those 18-34) are even more likely to trust a non-bank to provide their banking.

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How Sustainable Is Your Environmental Brand?

How Sustainable Is Your Environmental Brand?Recently, we announced our 2017 Environmental Champions to highlight the utilities that have developed effective approaches and struck a chord with their customers who like to hear about the dedication of their utility to the environment. These utilities are, in turn, rewarded with high Brand Trust and Customer Satisfaction scores.

2017 Utility Environmental Champions_Residential

The fact is, most utilities utilize environmental dedication as a key brand attribute, but only some utilities’ environmental positionings are effective. The difference between success and ineffectively tying your brand to environmental benefits can be found in fundamental marketing principles. Jerome McCarthy’s classic four P’s of marketing—Product, Price, Place and Promotion—hold true when it comes to effective environmental positioning. Utilizing his principles will allow you to build and maintain an effective and believable environmental brand for your utility.


Product offerings serve as the ultimate proof statement of environmental dedication. Any utility’s plan to position itself as an environmental champion has to start with a product portfolio assessment to gain an understanding of how each offering, or lack of offerings, impacts perceptions of the utility’s environmental dedication.

First, electric utilities that offer renewable energy have a built-in commodity value to environmentally focused customers. In our recent fielding, 78% of customers would prefer their utility use renewables as a fuel source. And natural gas was preferred by 65% of customers, so offering renewable energy also benefits natural gas utilities. Other consumption management offerings can be tied to green offerings and bill savings. Energy audits can be tied to a broad segment of utility customers, as are rate programs that reward customers for their at-home efforts. Offering online carbon footprint calculators is also an easy way to demonstrate interest in a cleaner environment. Finally, solar programs can be marketed to your environmentally focused customer segments. And solar programs aren’t just for electric utilities anymore—natural gas utility holding companies such as New Jersey Natural Gas’s parent company have developed solar offerings to customers in its trading area. This is in direct competition with PSE&G, which serves many of these customers with electricity. PSE&G, in turn, offers a loan program for customers to install solar.

Develop a product plan that inventories your offerings that can be tied to the environment, and enumerate the key features and benefits of those offerings. Also, develop marketing plans for programs you intend to launch in the near future using the same marketing principles.


While any utility’s environmental marketing plan starts with a product portfolio assessment, price is how the utility shows how much it values its dedication. Offering attractive net metering and green rates can be effective in certain markets. Touting a strong and growing renewable energy portfolio as well as natural gas investments to provide affordable clean energy to customers for the foreseeable future has broader appeal. Utilities should leverage the demand for renewable pricing options to gain as much environmental advantage as possible.

Demonstrating your support for the next generation of energy-efficient innovations is a great way to position yourself as a leader in helping customers lower both their carbon footprint and bill amounts. Our energy industry research shows that customers are open to practical, cost-effective environmental solutions. Customers will appreciate these solutions and reward you with higher brand value.

Do you have price programs that help the environment or does your fuel provide a more environmentally friendly alternative (such as natural gas)? Map your price programs and advantages to customer segments with the highest demand.


Most utilities’ customer base is broad but their resources to reach it are limited. So where you concentrate your efforts is key to your success. It is important to thoroughly understand your customer base so you can effectively target your efforts to your most environmentally focused customer segment. Likewise, it’s essential to track the effectiveness of your efforts by circling back with quality market research. Have your customers heard about or do they appreciate your environmental programs? The following chart shows that utility environmental understanding and support varies greatly by customer segment.

Your customer base is unlike any other utility’s. Every utility must take ownership of what its customers want from it and define its environmental role in the communities it serves.


None of your environmental strategies can bear fruit if you don’t promote them properly. Customers won’t give you credit for what they don’t know about you.

You need to know which channels are most likely to reach which customers, then target your message mix to key customer segments: home energy audits might resonate most effectively with new homeowners, time-based rate programs could be more attractive to those on fixed incomes, and solar programs and renewable investments could score big points with your greenest customers.

But utilities should think beyond what they traditionally view as products when designing their environmental offerings. In fact, the cause customers think their utility should support over all others is “clean environment.” Therefore, increasing awareness of your environmental programs and local support is crucial.

Many utilities have generated environmental goodwill by showcasing their stewardship programs. These efforts can be improving natural landscapes, supporting like-minded local environment organizations such as those dedicated to keeping local roadsides and parks clean, or focusing on clean fuels. And these efforts score points with a swath of customers.

Also, since we are talking marketing, branding environmental programs and adding promotional incentives to purchase can be very effective. For instance, SMUD offers Greenergy®, a branded program that allows its customers to add up to $6 every month to receive up to 100% renewable power. SMUD also promotes the program as Green-e Energy Certified. Meanwhile, MidAmerican Energy offers Renewable Advantage, a program that allows its customers to make one-time or ongoing donations to build renewable energy in their market. MidAm customers can sign up for the program through their monthly bill simply by checking a box. Using the bill for easy access to environmental programs can be an ongoing promotion of your dedication even if your customers don’t “check the box.”  And, NYSEG offers Smart Savings Rewards, a smart WiFi thermostat program.  This program provides customers an $85 bill credit for every thermostat they enroll in the program and $5 for every event they participate in.  Customers using these programs have stronger customer engagement.

Promoting what you do is the most important part of your environmental marketing strategy. If customers aren’t aware of your environmental efforts, then a lot of great work will not be appreciated.

Creating effective environmental initiatives and then leveraging them to build brand trust isn’t easy—but it’s not too complicated either. Your customers are used to being appealed to in a specific way, so using time-proven marketing principles will resonate with them. Utilities should develop environmental strategies based upon the sound tactics utilized by marketers for the last half-century, and create cost-efficient, specific and supportable brand appeal. That’s the key to building a sustainable environmental brand.

We will be releasing our Most Trusted Utility Brands soon. Sign up for our webinar on The Value of Utility Brand Trust.

The Value of Utility Brand Trust

When Volatility Is Positive

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Sentiment toward the Investment Environment Is More Volatile among Ready-to-act Investors … and That Is Good News for the Financial Services Industry

While volatility is generally not well received in the money management industry, in the case of investor sentiment, volatility signals a level of engagement from investors who are likely to make an investment move in the near future. This increase in engagement makes it easier for asset managers and distributors to connect with these ready-to-act investors, who are closely monitoring the impact of both political and financial market events.

Volatile investor sentiment also represents an opportunity for asset managers and distributors to reach an already engaged audience at a time when many firms are facing the challenges of record-low trust levels, decreasing brand awareness and low brand differentiation among affluent investors. Put simply, conducting any type of outreach with an engaged client or prospect is comparatively easier than getting the attention of someone who is focused elsewhere. The key lies in knowing how to harness the power of investor engagement to bring in new business.

In order to gauge investor sentiment and monitor important changes over time, Cogent includes a series of questions in our monthly Cogent Beat Investor survey. Respondents are asked to identify how they feel “right now” about the current investment environment. Later in that same survey, we identify the investors who are planning to open an investment account in the next three months, letting us isolate investors who are “ready to act.” When comparing investor sentiment during the 2016 presidential election cycle—perhaps one of the most unpredictable periods in recent US history—among ready-to-act investors and investors who don’t plan to open an investment account in the near future, some interesting findings popped.

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Advisors Expect to Increase Use of Active Strategies

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Following a period in which advisor-controlled assets have been gradually shifting toward lower-fee, passively managed investment strategies, advisors still see an important role for active management. In fact, according to Cogent’s Advisor Brandscape, when advisors were asked to anticipate how their use of 15 specific asset classes would change, more advisors plan to increase their use of actively managed than passively managed equities over the next six months. This finding signals that advisors may be looking to diversify their clients’ portfolios, as more of clients’ core holdings have shifted to passive products. As expected, advisors in the broker/dealer channels are fueling the anticipated gains in actively managed strategies, while interest in active equities among RIAs is much weaker.

In addition, as advisors seek growth, four in ten (41%) plan to increase their allocations to emerging markets. Advisors’ growing interest in emerging markets represents a shift from last year, when only one-quarter of advisors said they plan to increase their investments in this area. Notably, interest in this category is primarily being driven by advisors in the National and Regional channels. Continue reading

Unlocking the Power of Institutional Consultants and Peers

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Contrary to popular belief, most institutional investors are not bombarded with a large volume of marketing collateral, so getting their attention should be easier than getting financial advisors’ attention in theory. However, in practice, it’s even more challenging for asset managers to reach this coveted audience.

The most immediate hurdle: institutional investors admit that materials from unfamiliar providers are easily and often discarded. Yet all is not lost for aspiring asset managers. Unsolicited content has a higher chance of being reviewed if the topic speaks to a current business need or if it’s introduced from a trusted source. Even during the RFP process—in which the sole focus is to consider a range of managers for a specific mandate—institutions are not conducting their own research. Instead, they are relying on consultant recommendations. That said, this decision point represents a rare time when institutions are willing to learn about a new manager and develop initial brand favorability for the future. Continue reading