Focus on WIIFM, not the article

Nobody gets excited about reading an article. That’s the thought that crossed my mind when I received a newsletter that opened as you see in the image below.


The person sending the newsletter had good intentions. He knew that the SECURE Act brings changes that can affect the retirement planning of his clients and prospects. However, he didn’t convey that the changes were going to offer opportunities for readers to gain—or to experience pain. As a result, few people are likely to click on the link to read the article. It might be a great article. But the newsletter doesn’t give readers a reason to click.

Readers care about the WIIFM—What’s In It For Me. They want to know how they’ll benefit—or how they can minimize their pain.

The SECURE Act offers both gains and pains. That could inspire better headlines, such as:

  • GAIN: Avoid required minimum distributions—and the related taxes—for longer under the SECURE Act
  • PAIN: New limits on “stretch IRAs” mean you may need to adjust your retirement plan.

If you think about it, I bet you can apply this lesson to create better headlines.

A great way to annoy your editor

Would you like to guarantee that the editor of a magazine, blog, newspaper, or other publication never asks you to write for them again? Then, follow the advice in this article. I feel confident that your assigning editor will ignore your future proposals.

Surefire way to annoy

Here’s my advice: Accept a clearly defined assignment from an editor, and then turn in a story on a different topic. After all, if your new topic is interesting, the editor should be delighted, right?

No, no, no.

An editor’s perspective

When I’m wearing my “editor hat,” and I ask you to write on a specific topic. I want an article on that topic. That’s because the topic fits in with the rest of my editorial calendar. Also, I believe that my readers are interested in the topic.

Despite this, I’ve run into a writer who ignored the assignment that I’d given him. He turned in his article late, and didn’t comment in his cover email about his change of topic. When questioned, he said, “Oh, I figure everyone already knows all about that. I thought this topic was more interesting.”

Can you imagine how that infuriated me? Plus, then I had to start over in finding a writer to tackle my original topic.

When an article idea doesn’t work

There will be times when assignments don’t work out. Perhaps I was testing a hypothesis for which there’s not enough supporting evidence. Perhaps you weren’t able to gain access to the resources needed for the story.

I understand that things happen. However, please figure that out before your deadline. And, tell me about your issues early in the process. Don’t just drop a story on a different topic into my email inbox.



Tips for managing author approvals

Managing author approvals can challenge the patience of financial writers and marketers. The process can be equally distressing for authors, if it’s not done well.

Here are some tips that will make managing author approvals easier for you.

1. Set expectations

Educate your subject matter experts about the process. Start by telling them the purpose and timeline of the piece they’re helping you with. They’ll be more helpful if they understand why it’s important.

2. Communicate clearly

Put your deadline for comments in the subject line of your email seeking approval. Here are a couple options:

  • Due March 2—check attachments
  • Pls review by MARCH 2: white paper attached

Reinforce your message by repeating the deadline in the body of your email. It could start like this: “By MARCH 2, please …”

3. Request an accuracy check

Don’t ask for “edits” or “suggestions.” That can lead to an unnecessarily wide-ranging rewrite.

Instead, ask the expert to “check for accuracy.” This, at least theoretically, limits the scope of their edits to what’s essential.

I often say, “Please check that my edits haven’t introduced any inaccuracies.”

4. Use “Track Changes” wisely

I send drafts to my clients with “Track Changes” turned on. I want them to highlight their changes in the drafts they return to me. That allows me to pay closer attention to edits they make. Those are the spots where typos, clunky wording, and information that disrupts the document’s flow are likely to sneak in.

I leave Track Changes turned on while I edit a draft. That helps me check my work before returning it to the client. If I make substantive changes, I use Microsoft Word’s “Comment” feature to explain the changes. However, after I make those comments, I typically accept all changes.

I don’t highlight all of my changes because most clients aren’t interested in nitpicky details. I accept all changes to spare authors those distractions. Instead, they can focus on the substantive changes I’ve highlighted. I typically identify significant changes using a Comment that will appear in the right-hand margin of the article.

5. Criticize the words, not the expert

You may need to push back against edits made by the expert. When that happens, criticize the words, not the expert.

For example, don’t say “I hate the way you wrote this.” (I’m exaggerating to make my point.) You may be able to rewrite the sentence without comment. Or, you could say, “Here’s a streamlined sentence that makes the same point.”

6. Send a gentle reminder

Has your deadline passed, and are you still waiting for comments?

Your subject matter experts have many demands on their time. Your needs are not their top priority. Because of this, they don’t always finish their work for you on time.

The first time an expert misses a deadline, send a gentle reminder. Consider using a sentence such as, “I imagine you’ve been busy, so you weren’t able to send your feedback by the deadline.” However, reinforce the importance of your revised deadline by reminding the expert of its importance to corporate goals.

7. Know how hard you can push

“If I don’t hear from you by [DATE], I’ll assume that you approve this document.” That’s a bold statement that I was able to make at a staff job, when I had the backing of my boss. Don’t do this unless you are confident of your boss’s backing. In any case, it’s better to get the expert’s approval. I always did.

8. Use the personal touch

When I worked on staff for an asset management firm, I’d sometimes walk to an expert’s office to request approvals. It often worked.

If you work offsite, a phone call can help you cut through the clutter in the expert’s inbox.

9. Use a “stick”

If you’re an outside writer, you can apply a “stick” as incentive for your client’s staff to move along the approvals. My agreements typically have a clause that requires final payment after the first submission or “when feedback on the first draft becomes overdue.”

Your ideas?

If you have ideas about how to managing author approvals, I’d love to hear from you.

You may find more ideas in my posts on getting employees to follow style guidelines and managing difficult portfolio managers.


The image in the upper left is by Majays31 [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Social media and digital marketing for investment managers

Darien Gould did a great job hosting my webinar on investment blogging for the Third Party Marketing Association last summer. I was intrigued by the statistics she found on social media marketing by investment management firms, so I asked her to blog about the topic. The guest post below is the result.

I’m particularly taken with Darien’s point that social media and digital marketing can help small firms compete against larger firms. In the world of financial blogging, I’ve noticed how smaller firms can show more personality than their larger peers. Smaller firms are also often nimbler in dealing with compliance.

Darien and I would love to hear if these statistics and suggestions match up with your experience in this arena.

Can social media and digital marketing be effective for investment manager marketing?

By Darien Gould


Digital marketing and social media were hot topics at the eWomen Network entrepreneur conference I attended last summer. But as a marketing consultant I have heard investment managers express a lot of resistance to social media. They typically use digital media only as an electronic substitute for paper marketing materials, and web pages are often only brochures about the firm. This made me wonder, can social media and digital marketing be effective for investment manager marketing?

After the conference, I did a quick survey of information online. I found that the answer is yes! Social media and digital marketing can really benefit investment managers—and give smaller firms an edge over their competitors.

Reports from Peregrine Communications and Greenwich Associates show that institutional investors and consultants increasingly use digital and social content to research and track managers. If you’re not active in these arenas, you’re hurting your visibility.

Statistics from Peregrine Communications

Here are highlights from Peregrine’s 2018 Connected Content, as reported in Peregrine’s BEST PRACTICE: Hidden Habits of the Best Asset Management Communicators:

  • Seasonality: Traffic from institutional investors to investment manager websites was seasonal. Compared with the average number of visits, manager websites enjoyed more than 26% more visits between August and October, and 29% more visits between December and February. Digital content on a website increases prospects’ interest in the company, and can lead to repeat visits. This makes it important to refresh your content more frequently during these five months.
  • Effectiveness: Thought leadership and demonstrations of firm strengths can differentiate firms in the increasingly competitive fight for investor interest. The firms getting the most attention from prospect searches use client-centric terms like “solutions,” “services,” or “clients.” If you’re an investment manager, does your content focus on solving your clients’ problems?
  • Social media: More than two thirds of institutional investors use LinkedIn for research. However, one in five asset managers has no presence on social media at all. This reinforces my suggestion that you can use social media and digital marketing to differentiate your firm from your competitors’ firms.

Statistics from Greenwich Associates

Greenwich Associates’ study, Investing in the Digital Age, yielded insights into the use of social media in the investment process and its impact on investment decisions:

  • 63% of institutional investors now consume social media while less than half consume finance-specific publications.
  • 58% of respondents use social media to seek support or service from their asset manager.
  • LinkedIn is the most thought-of provider of personalized market information.

Step up to digital and social media marketing!

My conclusions? Compliance and legal concerns don’t have to exclude all social media marketing. Reinforcing your firm’s brand and demonstrating your firm’s strengths through thought leadership don’t require discussion of performance or specific stock selections. And the same digital marketing that can interest prospects in your firm are also effective for highlighting your value to current clients.

These new marketing techniques level the playing field and allow even the smallest manager to compete for the attention of prospects against even the biggest investment firms.

I am curious, is your firm using digital marketing? What social media platforms do you use?

Learn more

You can follow my postings about investment marketing on Twitter at @DG_Analytics and on LinkedIn at While you’re on Twitter, also check out postings from @PeregrineComms and @GreenwichAssociates.


Marketing tips from Allison Baird of Boston Private

Allison Baird, Boston Private’s senior vice president of products & solutions, shared some thoughts on marketing as part of a Q&A panel at a conference run by Skyword on June 6, 2019.

Here are some interesting comments she made:

  • Typically, the board thinks of marketing as “fluff” that’s not really important. But now marketing is becoming more data-driven, which elevates marketing in the organization.
  • No one wakes up in the morning thinking, “I wish someone would sell me a financial product.” They’re thinking about their kids, about an upcoming trip, or things like that. That’s part of what drives Boston Private’s approach to marketing, including its separate microsite,
  • Big banks spend $1 billion or more a year on technology, so it’s very important for smaller banks to make the right technology choices and to find partners who can help them innovate.
  • Do client surveys to understand clients better—not just annual surveys, but also pulse surveys to follow up client interactions. For marketing, it’s very important to understand who you are and what you represent.
  • Boston Private is on all major social media channels except Snapchat. Employees are trained in compliance. The company also has monitoring so it can pull content quickly, if necessary—it’s good to put the technology in place to do that easily.

For a case study of Boston Private’s “Why of Wealth” marketing, read “Why Ask Why: How Boston Private’s Marketing Strategy Builds Trust Across Generations,” written by a Skyword contributor. Boston Private’s microsite at downplays discussion of Boston Private in favor of zeroing in on its clients’ motivations for growing their wealth. This focus on clients and prospects fits with something I tell my clients: Focus on “you,” the client or prospect, not “we,” the providers of services or products.

If you’re marketing wealth management, it’s important for you to use all methods at your disposal—including the latest technology—to understand what drives your clients and prospects. Then, reflect that understanding in your marketing communications with them.

Marketer’s perspective on investment marketing compliance

My colleagues in investment marketing and writing roles were generous with their feedback on my draft of “6 tips to keep your compliance officers happy.” One of them wrote a reply that stands on its own. I’m happy that I received permission from that marketer to publish that reply. It’s anonymous to avoid the step of going through compliance review.

A marketer’s perspective on investment marketing compliance

Here are a few reactions to your post from the perspective of a marketer, which is somewhat broader than that of a writer.

Respect matters

Your post makes several valid suggestions about building a strong relationship. To me the most important one is about mutual respect.

Because Compliance and Marketing have different jobs to do, their work can seem to be at cross purposes. Compliance’s job is to protect the firm, to keep it out of trouble. While Compliance may strive to stay under the radar, that is the opposite of what a marketer does. A marketer’s job is to call attention, which by definition requires doing something different, being unlike the others.

You and I, and the readers of your blog, are likely familiar with situations when the relationship has devolved—Compliance complains of Marketing trying to get away with something while Marketing blames its ineffectiveness on the clichéd “Sales Prevention Department.” This reflects laziness on the part of both.

What works is when Compliance and Marketing each brings their best. I like the idea of trusting Compliance to include them early in a new initiative, and it’s a beautiful thing when, consulted early, Compliance can collaborate and provide insight beyond the line editing of copy. This assumes that Compliance recognizes Marketing as being thoughtful, prepared, and generally aware of the guardrails (what you detail in your post)—and yet still capable of original thought.

Paths of junior marketers

I’ve seen junior marketers go a few directions after being introduced to the rigors of Compliance review:

  • There are those who rebel. They won’t work for an asset manager long.
  • At the other end of the spectrum: Those who offer no fight, they can’t and won’t defend how they’ve presented something. They roll over and the result is the marketing communications are written by Compliance officers.
  • Then, weirdly, there are those who take it upon themselves to become so proficient in the rules that they become quasi-Compliance experts themselves. Over time, their work becomes bland, colorless and designed to do little more than breeze through Compliance review.

None of the above leads to effective marketing, in my opinion.

Be effective marketers

There’s no question who has the power in the Compliance/Marketing dynamic, but I like to see the marketers who find a way to work with Compliance while resisting the urge to capitulate.

We focus on Compliance because they’re who controls whether our communications get out the door. But let’s not mistake them as the client. Compliance’s concern is the regulators, and we all accept that as their role. (In fact, years ago an academic study found that regulated businesses overall think the regulator is their customer.)

But while a clean FINRA letter is important, it’s not the only hurdle an asset management marketer needs to clear—there’s the ongoing need to attract attention, to persuade, to convert clients and prospects. Marketing still needs to do marketing, which requires a certain stamina that extends even beyond the Compliance relationship-nurturing you describe in your post.

4 tips for mutual fund fact sheet templates

“What’s your best advice for someone who’s creating mutual fund fact sheets?” A colleague’s question spurred this list of tips for mutual fund fact sheet templates that you can use repeatedly.

1. Write your fact sheets so they are compelling, clear, and concise

Focus on the information that your readers care about. Replace jargon with plain language. Trim unnecessary words.

Of course, you’ll still need the disclosures that your compliance officers demand. But even those can be clearly written. As I pointed out in “Ammo for your plain-language battle with compliance,” there’s no legal requirement to use jargon in disclosures. In fact, plain language may offer you a better defense, says lawyer Joseph Kimble in Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please: The case for plain language in business, government, and law.

2. Scavenge from your other marketing materials

Assuming that your mutual fund’s other materials are well written, you should borrow content from them for your mutual fund fact sheet templates. You’ll raise the standards for your fact sheets when you recycle compelling, clear, concise language. You’ll also benefit from consistency across your communications.

3. Hire a writer or an editor to improve the fact sheet template that you’ll use repeatedly

It’s hard for you to view your mutual fund fact sheet template through the eyes of an outsider. You’re too immersed in your product. Hire an outside writer or editor to help.

No budget for outside help? Show your draft to members of your target audience. Don’t simply ask them “Do you have any suggestions?” or “Do you understand?” Ask them, “What are the main messages of this fact sheet—and can you sum them up in your own words?”

4. Consult a designer

Effective design, with plenty of white space and a layout that makes it easy for readers to find what they seek, can make a big difference in your fact sheet’s effectiveness.

Some fact sheets present a cacophony of data. Others draw readers’ eyes to the most important information.

YOUR ideas?

If you have suggestions for how to create better mutual fund fact sheet templates, please comment. I enjoy learning from my readers.


Disclosure: I received a free copy of Kimble’s book after mentioning it in another blog post. If you click on the Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I only link to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.

Image courtesy of ratch0013 at

Use LinkedIn for a mass email without angering your connections

Do you remember my cranky post railing against people who add me to their e-newsletter lists as soon as we connect on LinkedIn? I send those people’s communications straight to spam.

However, earlier this year I received a mass email from a LinkedIn connection that did not make me angry. Why? Because the sender made it clear that she would not bombard me with emails. Here’s the start of her email:

annual LinkedIn email



Why did this email work for me?

  1. The sender immediately reassured me that I was not being added to a frequent newsletter without my consent. Also, she enhanced her credibility by explaining why some recipients might see more of her than only her annual message.
  2. She sounded like a human being in her writing style, as shown by the third paragraph in the image.
  3. She offered some interesting information in the rest of the email.


Is this a technique that you could adapt for your communications with your LinkedIn connections? Tell me how it works out if you try it.

Improve your design skills with this book

Want to improve your design skills? Would you like to be able to look at something and have ideas about how to tweak its design? The Non-Designer’s Design Book: Design and Typographic Principles for the Visual Novice can help.

4 principles to improve your design skills

I like how author Robin Williams tackles the four main principles:

  • Contrast
  • Repetition
  • Alignment
  • Proximity

She doesn’t just explain them verbally. She provides before-and-after examples, dissecting different designs. Even better, she challenges you to critique in “Train your Designer Eye” examples. After you jot down your ideas about a specific item, you can flip to her suggestions in the back of the book. These exercises mean you’re more likely to improve your design skills than if you simply read passively.

Centered alignment: good or bad?

Williams challenged my tendency to center titles and similar text. She says, “I guarantee most designs that have a sophisticated look are not centered.” She does, however, say that centered designs are more formal.

I’m mulling over what I think about this. Her comment has me looking more critically at design elements such as centering. I like it when my reading challenges my thinking.


Disclosure:  If you click on an Amazon link in this post and then buy something, I will receive a small commission. I link only to books in which I find some value for my blog’s readers.


Is there a place for influencer marketing in asset management?

After Joe Polidoro of Polidoro Marketing and I traded emails about influencer marketing for investment managers, I asked him to contribute this guest post.


Is there a place for influencer marketing in asset management?

By Joe Polidoro


Joe Polidoro, author of Is there a place for influencer marketing in asset management?
“Influencer marketing” is such a buzzword that it’s lately been declared dead.

But word-of-mouth and peer recommendations have been with us for as long as people have had something to sell. Influencer marketing—leveraging word-of-mouth promotion from online influencers—is just the latest evolution of this time-honored marketing technique.

Influencer marketing:

  • Lives where we live, at least regarding news and information: on social media. According to the Pew Research Center, six out of 10 people get their news on social media platforms.
  • Relies on the greater trust most people have in word-of-mouth. Nielsen has found that an overwhelming 92% of people globally trust user-generated content and word-of-mouth over traditional advertising.
  • Ideally consists of user-created content, which is seen as more authentic and more trustworthy than advertising content. (Less ideally, but still effective, the influencer shares company-created content.)
  • Often focuses on personal experience, not on the product or service. Seeks to educate, humanize, or even entertain—not to sell.
  • Is more affordable, more targeted, and more measurable than traditional advertising.
  • Can accomplish a number of precise goals, from raising awareness to increasing online engagement to encouraging specific actions.
  • Successfully reaches not just millennials but also older audiences.

Banks are doing it

Influencer marketing comes in two flavors—paid and earned. Firms will pay celebrities and even lesser-known people who have sizeable, passionate social followings to interact with their brand.

For example, American Express’s #MyAmex campaign gave control of its Instagram account to six owners of small but high-profile business owners to produce running stories of how the Amex Card facilitates their businesses, earning 10 million impressions and 40,000 engagements. Scotia Bank, Chase Sapphire, and US Bank have run equally successful paid influencer marketing campaigns.

Earned influencer marketing tends to rely instead on larger numbers of smaller-scale influencers or everyday people.

TD Ameritrade’s multi-platform #humanfinanceproject “movement” relied on real people—advisors—“to showcase the great work that financial advisors are doing, particularly independent registered investment advisors.”

Capital One’s #EveryDayMoneyBoston Instagram campaign sought to humanize its brand within its community, featuring photos of Bostonians supporting local causes, and attracting a much viewed post from New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman.

And TD Bank’s #ShouldaBeenAVideo featured an Instagram-based photo contest held in partnership with Polaroid, receiving over 3,000 posts, many by Instagrammers with very large followings.

Even relatively small-scale earned influencer marketing campaigns can make a big business impact.

To promote its Cardless Cash mobile app feature, Massachusetts-based Avidia Bank relied on financial social media influencers as part of an integrated online campaign, resulting in a 13% increase in app enrollments, positive sentiment of 83% around the campaign, and an over 100% boost in Twitter engagement.

Can asset managers do it?

Great. Influencer marketing works well with consumers. What about with intermediaries—particularly the often highly sophisticated audiences most asset managers market to?

The first hurdles for asset managers are the FINRA and SEC proscriptions on testimonials, entanglement, and adoption. Recent FINRA notes seem to clear a path for influencer marketing. With compliant disclosure, it would seem that even influencer marketing for products might be feasible.

But for Rule 2210 to apply, online content has to relate to products or services. Educational or otherwise non-product-specific content wouldn’t apply. The faster way to the hearts and minds of advisors is not to push product but to educate and inform. This creates a fairly large space for some interesting influencer marketing approaches.

For example, a manager of advisor-sold municipal bond funds—a more retail product—might engage end investors and advisors by sponsoring a photo contest of fund-financed public projects on targeted social media (Instagram, Facebook) with the hashtag #WeBuiltThat.

For asset managers who want to influence a much smaller, specialized, non-retail audience, highly targeted efforts that look less overtly like campaigns may be more fruitful.

A liquid alts manager seeking to break into the institutional market might produce a series of institutional-level content relating to its philosophy and approach—then share it over time with a growing set of highly selected institutional investors, consultants, reporters, and other influencers. And share similar content created by trusted third parties.

Campaigns like this require time, content, coordination, and cooperation from its more social media-savvy mid-level and senior employees, who would be expected to share the same content with their networks.

Hey, I didn’t say it was easy. But as a researcher on peer influence at MIT Sloan School of Management said, “most human behavior is the result of learning from other humans.” Especially in today’s hyper-connected, super-cynical environment, asset managers may do well to learn from their bank brethren.

More reading

Pass the Word: Peer Influence Has a Big Impact on Online Market Dynamics

A New Way to Measure Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Getting a Sharper Picture of Social Media’s Influence

McKinsey Says Influencer Marketing in Social Media Generates 2 Times the Sales of Paid Advertising


Joe Polidoro is founder and president of Polidoro Marketing, offering strategic communications consulting and agency services since 2003 that have helped B2B companies better express their value—increasing sales, improving revenues, and enhancing brands.