Are Financial Wholesalers Going the Way of the Dinosaur?

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As technology becomes a bigger part of how financial advisors do their job, the need for external wholesalers is diminishing—at least in the traditional sense. To stay ahead of this trend, asset managers need to evaluate how well their current sales and marketing strategies meet the needs of advisors, as well as ways to leverage technology and tweak their distribution strategy to ride this impending wave of change.

Key things asset managers need to know:

  • Advisors have less time. Advisors are taking on more responsibility, enduring higher levels of scrutiny regarding how they service customers and utilizing more tools to help facilitate how they do their job. These factors have pushed a full 25% of advisors to decrease the number of wholesaler meetings that they accept. This presents the first challenge: In-person meetings have historically been a very important part of forging and maintaining strong relationships with advisors, so how do asset managers dial down the personal side of selling without putting the stability of the relationship at risk?
  • Technology is leading the way. You hear and read it everywhere. Email is the most effective and most desired form of communication, but the obvious issue is how to stand out among the hundreds of emails that land in the advisor’s mailbox. The second challenge: Email only works if the recipient is already engaged or open to being engaged. Adding another layer, if you are going to rely on email you better be sure the advisor you are trying to connect with actually prefers email. There is a whole subset that prefers social media to email. You can see in this article and video that email is not the way to engage these advisors.

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ETF Growth Encompasses Multiple Markets

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It’s no secret that ETF use is up. In fact, a multitude of industry forces are fueling the growth in the ETF category, and the momentum is only poised to continue. Not only in one market, either. ETF use is reaching new levels among advisors, affluent investors, DC plan sponsors and both US and international institutional investors. While this is great news for top ETF providers, many smaller providers are nipping at their heels. The influx of growth will bring in new players and new challenges that providers will need to be aware of in order to survive and prosper.

In nearly all of our Cogent Wealth studies, we ask respondents about ETFs, which gives us a unique perspective on the category. We have gathered ETF-related findings from five of our most popular reports to provide a broader understanding as to why this category is experiencing such steady, and at times, extraordinary growth.

The following are the most important factors in what industry leaders will need to consider to continue to stay informed and be able to pivot when needed.

Focus on Fees

Across all sectors of the financial services industry, there is clear evidence of increasing pressure on product providers to reduce the fees associated with their investment offerings. In addition, the recent Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary ruling is pressuring product providers and advisory firms to defend their fee structures and offer lower-cost options to clients whenever possible. Upon examining our data, it’s clear that this heightened focus on costs and fee transparency is strengthening the appeal of ETF products across all markets. Continue reading

All iWant: Putting iPhone 7 Rumors to the Test

Putting iPhone 7 Rumors to the Test

This summer has seen no shortage of analyst reports of what the soon-to-be-released iPhone 7 will look like and what features it will (and will not) possess. Continuing what has become an annual frenzy of leaks and predictions, rumors are flying about its multiple screen sizes, memory capacity, camera quality, headphone jack and water resistance. Most notably, some speculate that there may not be any dramatic changes at all as Apple waits for 2017 to release a world-changing 10th anniversary iPhone 8.

Market Strategies International decided to put all these rumors to the test to find out which ones really resonate with consumers and which do not. We asked more than 1,100 consumers about their current phones and preferences among the most frequently rumored iPhone 7 features, including:

Screen features
  • Larger screen
  • Smaller screen
  • Curved screen
  • Wraparound screen
  • Better screen quality/resolution
Memory/Storage features
  • More memory (the latest iPhones have 2GB RAM)
  • More storage space (the latest iPhones have a maximum of 128GB)
  • Expandable storage capacity
Internal features
  • Faster processors
  • Electronic SIM chip
  • Longer-lasting battery
  • Wireless charging
External features
  • Thinner
  • Lighter
  • Waterproof
  • Two speakers (the latest iPhones only have one)
  • Different color options
  • Higher quality camera
Other features
  • USB connector (Micro USB or USB Type-C)
  • Available stylus/pen
  • No headphone jack (the latest iPhones have a standard 3.5mm headphone jack)
  • Virtual reality headset

 Who Wants to Buy the iPhone 7?

Several of the findings are quite intriguing and have significant implications for telecom leaders. One thing is for sure: The difference in iPhone 7 needs and wants varies greatly based on customers’ current make and model, wireless carrier and brand loyalty. Understanding who these customers are and what differentiates their interests in upgrading to the iPhone 7 is of paramount importance when developing messaging campaigns, forecasts and product roadmaps. In our report, iPhone 7 Market Landscaper, we explore these differences and provide the data telecom leaders need to optimize their marketing plans. Download iPhone 7 Market Landscaper now or contact Greg Mishkin, vice president of Market Strategies’ Telecommunications division for more information.

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Santa Baby, Please Bring Me Some Cash…or Perhaps a Laptop

Santa Baby

Recently I was listening to the incomparable Eartha Kitt singing her signature 1953 holiday tune “Santa Baby,” and I was marveling at the audacity with which she asked Santa for some pretty outrageous gifts. Eartha’s wish list spans multiple luxury categories, including furs (a sable, to be exact), vehicles (a ’54 convertible and a yacht), jewelry (a ring and some baubles from Tiffany), some property (a duplex and a platinum mine) and naturally some checks for making future purchases. In the tune, Eartha has an opportunity to influence the gifts she’s likely to receive, and she doesn’t hesitate to ask for the big stuff.

Listening to and talking about “Santa Baby” got us curious about what folks would want to receive now, in late 2015, if some benevolent gift-giver (whether Santa or someone else) was offering, and money was no object. We here at Market Strategies wanted to know what fantastic gifts Americans are yearning for this holiday season, so we ran a poll to find out. We asked 960 Americans the following:

If Santa or some other benevolent gift-giver were to bring you something, what would you be thrilled to receive? Please don’t take price into account in your response—assume you wouldn’t pay anything for the gift (including tax).

We included a long list of gifts across categories—technology, luxury goods, property, vehicles, vacations and experiences, and plain old cash. We also allowed folks to tell us they’d pass on a gift altogether (though only 3% did).

So what would Americans be thrilled to get this holiday season?

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The Pizza Turnaround: Engaging Customers Through Marketing, Social Media and One Nifty App

2014 Michigan Social Media Brand IndexFor the third year running, Market Strategies International partnered with DBusiness to rank the top 50 Michigan-based companies on social media engagement. Read the full article, “Rules of Engagement,” just released in the November/December issue. The list includes brands with a national or even international footprint as well as those with a regional one, and is dominated by companies with a rich, multifaceted presence in the social space—engaging customers on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Foursquare and various other social channels.

Last year, we focused some attention on regional pop company Faygo, looking into how its strong brand following has translated into social media success. This year, we are taking a look at international pizza chain Domino’s, whose “Pizza Turnaround” has resulted in a huge improvement in customer satisfaction, company revenue and business growth since the turnaround started in late 2009. According to Adrian Campos of The Motley Fool, Domino’s increased its customer satisfaction index score 12 percentage points, rising from 69% in 2000 to 81% in 2013. And Domino’s leads among top restaurant franchises—including Starbucks, Dunkin’ Brands, Yum! Brands and McDonald’s—in international store growth, growing 43% since the end of 2008. All of this by taking harsh customer feedback seriously and committing to making improvements? That is a brand story worth taking a closer look at. Continue reading

Looking at Facebook’s “Look Back” Videos

2014-02-facebookFacebook is 10, and they celebrated by releasing a new video app. If you’ve been on Facebook this week, you have undoubtedly seen it—it’s responsible for the “My Facebook Movie” posts that have been ever-present on the site the past couple of days. I’ve seen two dozen of them so far among my circle of friends. And every one of them has been perfectly charming—a beautiful (and often touching) little summary of that user’s life as seen through the lens of Facebook. The videos are spreading like wildfire on the site (and, frankly, I’m amazed that all that video sharing and viewing hasn’t crashed the servers yet).

On my commute into work this morning, I was thinking about why they’ve been so successful and seem to be truly delighting users…

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The Mute Button = How Far I’ll Go for Good Data

Two surprising things happened when I introduced tracking research into my marriage (a move I don’t generally endorse):

1.  My husband introduced the “mute button.”
2.  I willfully accepted this concept and now try my best to honor it—for the data.

Let me explain. For Christmas, I gave my husband the Jawbone UP, a wristband and app that tracks your sleep, activity and food. I’ve been thrilled to see him enjoy using it as much as I enjoy amassing a dataset about health habits. Already, we have hypotheses around how certain foods and types of exercise affect the amount of deep sleep he gets in a night. Most importantly, it’s been a great example of being able to manage what you can measure. I think my husband and I would agree that this new knowledge is leading to positive changes.

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