Tag Archives: Hollywood

Should Social Media Have a Place?

This is a question that seems to pop up a lot: Is there a place for social media in a “boring” business like insurance, plumbing or trucking?

While I do believe nearly any business can benefit from some social media presence, we do need to take a rational look as to whether it should really be a priority in the marketing mix for a “boring” business.

Are you a conversational business?

Let’s re-frame this word “boring” and put it this way: “Do people normally talk about you over the dinner table or at a party?” If the answer is “yes,” then social media should probably be a top priority for you. If it’s no … well, look at your budget options carefully to see where social media might fit in.

There have been a number of studies out there about the “conversationability” of a business and the connection to social media success. Not surprisingly, there is a hierarchy of conversationability – more remarkable products like sports teams and Hollywood movies are talked about twice as much as less remarkable brands like banks and over-the-counter medicine.

In a study of organic Facebook reach conducted by AgoraPulse, the company found that, across 8,000 companies, there was definitely a pecking order of conversationability. Organic reach is the content that is naturally connecting to customers without any promotion. Here is a list of the industry categories with the highest organic reach:

Amateur sports teams

Farming/agriculture

Fashion designer

Professional athletes

Music industry

Building products

Professional sports teams

Photographers

Zoos and animal-related businesses

Television programs

And here are the industries with the lowest Facebook organic reach:

Appliances

Books

Telecommunications

Household supplies

Tools and equipment

Phone/tablet

Chef

Musical instruments

Industrials

Transportation and freight

There is an implicit hierarchy of conversation popularity across industries. If you are in sports, entertainment or any of the other industries in the first list, there is an implied, fervent fascination with your content. There is something that people find naturally remarkable about you that gets rewarded with content transmission. If you’re in the second list or somewhere in between, you have less of an organic opportunity for social sharing … not necessarily because of the job you’re doing with your content, but because your products just aren’t naturally conversational.

Are you conversational … or could you be?

There is another option. If you’re in an industry with relatively low organic reach, can you become remarkable? It doesn’t come easily or cheaply, but it is possible, as evidenced by the series of “Will It Blend?” videos produced by BlendTec blenders. A blender isn’t the most remarkable product, but the brand made it so through its wacky challenge … ripping apart the most unusual things (golf balls, an Apple watch) in its powerful blender.

One of my favorite examples of a company overcoming a low place on the remarkability continuum is the Chipotle restaurant chain, which sells burritos and tacos—nearly commodity products in the food business.

Chipotle began producing two-minute animated mini-movies telling a story of the restaurant as an oasis of natural goodness in an otherwise bleak and dystopian world of processed food. The first episode, a clay animation video with a soundtrack of Willie Nelson singing a Coldplay song, was extraordinarily popular with Chipotle’s youthful audience and garnered nearly 9 million views in a year. The next year, the company went a step further by creating a free smartphone game to go with a new video. It had 4 million views in the first week.

Reality check: All this was created to sell burritos. It wasn’t easy to become a conversational brand. It wasn’t cheap, either. But it worked, and Chipotle’s stock and market share soared. That’s the nice thing about remarkability: You can apply it to almost anything.

The key to finding your remarkability is to think about what makes you surprising, interesting, or novel. In my book Social Media Explained, I suggest that marketing strategy needs to begin by finishing this sentence: “Only we …” That’s a tough task, but it’s the essential path to discovering your remarkability.

In the case of Chipotle, the “only we” was creating a story of health and sustainability, a story far bigger than mere burritos and tacos. They broke a pattern of what people expected from fast food.

But wait…there’s more

At this point, you might be thinking, “My business is boring and unremarkable and I’m not about to be a Blend-Tec or Chipotle. Why would I participate in social media?”

There are a lot of reasons, and here are a few:

Public relations – It’s likely that some aspect of social media has to be incorporated into any plan for media relations, crisis planning, event planning and community relations.

Word-of-mouth advocacy – Social media opens up an entirely new way of identifying and nurturing powerful online advocates for your brand.

Cost savings – Social media represents an extremely cost-effective communication channel. Most research shows that, in terms of many traditional measures, the results are as good, or better, than paid advertising. There are many opportunities to leverage existing content and marketing materials across vast new audiences.

Customer service – You may not have a choice about this really. Social media has become a very popular way to complain about poor products and services. It’s the new 800 number. Are you going to answer the call?

HR and recruiting – Social media, and particularly LinkedIn, has transformed the human resources function. One professional told me that a candidate’s “social media footprint” was more important today than a resume! Whether you are trying to find talent or be found, social media is a critical piece of the puzzle.

Internal process improvement – Tapping into the free tools and information on the web can help unleash employee productivity, collaboration and problem-solving.

Lead generation – Even setting up a simple Twitter search can help you find customers looking for your products and services…even if you’re boring.

Reputation management – The largest brands have social media “war rooms” set up so they can monitor conversations and sentiment about their products and brands in real time, at any spot in the world. Today, you need to be tuned in to the conversations and respond quickly or risk problems going viral.

Research and development – An active customer community can be a gold mine of new ideas and suggestions for products and innovations.

SearchGoogle is now showing tweets more prominently in search results. And you are just as likely to be discovered via your LinkedIn profile, blog post or video as on a website. An entire generation is finding businesses and services through Facebook search.

Social proof – In a world of overwhelming information density, we may look to clues from others to make a decision. How many positive reviews do you have? How many “likes” or followers do you have? It might sound weird, but people make decisions to connect to a company based on these badges of social proof (there is an entire chapter on the connection between social proof and content success in my book The Content Code).

The Trade Show Dilemma – Have you ever had to sit at a booth during a large industry trade show? Why did you do it? Because if we weren’t there, people would think something was wrong. We would be ostentatiously absent. In this day and age, not being on Facebook or Twitter sends the same message. It shows you “don’t get it.”

The Net Generation – Your next pool of employees, customers and competitors prefer to use the social web over any other form of communication. You might enjoy reading a paper copy of the Wall Street Journal each morning, or even looking at an online version of your favorite news site. But nearly half of Americans under the age of 21 cite Facebook as their primary source of news. The social web is where a generation is going to connect, learn and discover. Ignore this at your peril!

So the short answer is “yes.” There is a place for social media, even in a boring business, but your “conversationability” may influence how much effort you put into it. Comments?

This article was first posted on business2community.com

The Rise of the Robo-Advisers?

The robots are here. Not the humanoid versions that you see in Hollywood movies, but the invisible ones that are the brains behind what look like normal online front-ends. They can educate you, advise you, execute trades for you, manage your portfolio and even earn some extra dollars for you by doing tax-loss harvesting every day. These robo-advisers also are not just for do-it-yourself or self-directed consumers; they’re also for financial advisers, who can offload some of their more mundane tasks on the robo-advisers. This can enable advisers to focus more on interacting with clients, understanding their needs and acting as a trusted partner in their investment decisions.

It’s no wonder that venture capital money is flowing into robo-advising (also called digital wealth management, a less emotionally weighted term). Venture capitalists have invested nearly $500 million in robo-advice start-ups, including almost $290 million in 2014 alone. Many of these companies are currently valued at 25 times revenue, with leading companies commanding valuations of $500 million or more. This has motivated traditional asset managers to create their own digital wealth management solutions or establish strategic partnerships with start-ups. Digital wealth management client assets, from both start-ups and traditional players, are projected to grow from $16 billion in 2014 to roughly $60 billion by end of 2015, and $255 billion within the next five years. However, this is still a small sum considering U.S. retail asset management assets total $15 trillion and U.S. retirement assets total $24 trillion.

What has caused this recent “gold rush” in robo-advice? Is it just another fad that will pass quickly, or will it seriously change the financial advice and wealth management landscape? To arrive at an answer, let’s look at some of the key demographic, economic and technological drivers that have been at play over the past decade.

Demographic Trends

The need for digital wealth management and the urgent need to combine low-cost digital advice with face-to-face human advice have arisen in three primary market segments, which many robo-advisers are targeting:

 

  • Millennials and Gen Xers: More than 78 million Americans are Millennials (those born between 1982 and 2000), and 61 million are Gen Xers (those born between 1965 and 1981); accordingly, this segment’s influence is significant. These groups demand transparency, simplicity and speed in their interactions with financial advisers and financial services providers. As a result, they are likely to use online, mobile and social channels for interactive education and advice. That said, a significant number of them are new to financial planning and financial products, which means they need at least some human interaction.

 

 

  • Baby Boomers: Baby boomers, numbering 80 million, are still the largest consumer segment and have retail investments and retirement assets of $39 trillion. Considering that this segment is either at or near retirement age, the urgency to plan for their retirement as well as draw down a guaranteed income during it is critical. The complexity of planning and executing this plan typically goes beyond what today’s automated technologies can provide.

 

 

  • Mass-Affluent & Mass-Market: Financial planning and advice has largely been aimed at high-net-worth (top 5%) individuals. Targeting mass-affluent (the next 15%) and mass-market (the next 50%) customers at an affordable price point has proven difficult. Combining automated online advice with the pooled human advice that some of the digital wealth management players offer can provide some middle ground.

 

Technological Advances

Technical advances have accompanied demographic developments. The availability of new sources and large volumes of data (i.e., big data) has meant that new techniques are now available (see “What comes after predictive analytics?”) to understand consumer behaviors, look for behavioral patterns and better match investment portfolios to customer needs.

 

  • Data Availability: The availability of data, including personally identifiable customer transactional level data and aggregated and personally non-identifiable data, has been increasing over the past five years. In addition, a number of federal, state and local government bodies have been making more socio-demographic, financial, health and other data more easily available through open government initiatives. A host of other established credit and market data companies, as well as new entrants offering proprietary personally non-identifiable data on a subscription basis, complement these data sources. If all this structured data is not sufficient, one can mine a wealth of social data on what customers are sharing on social media and learn about their needs, concerns and life events.

 

 

  • Machine Learning & Predictive Modeling: Techniques for extracting insights from large volumes of data also have been improving significantly. Machine learning techniques can be used to build predictive models to determine financial needs, product preferences and customer interaction modes by analyzing large volumes of socio-demographic, behavioral and transactional data. Big data and cloud technologies facilitate effective use of this combination of large volumes of structured and unstructured data. In particular, big data technologies enable distributed analysis of large volumes of data that generates insights in batch-mode or in real-time. Availability of memory and computing power in the cloud allows start-up companies to scale on demand instead of spending precious venture capital dollars setting up an IT infrastructure.

 

 

  • Agent-Based Modeling: Financial advice; investing for the short-, medium- and long-term; portfolio optimization; and risk management under different economic and market conditions are complex and interdependent activities that require years of experience and extensive knowledge of numerous products. Moreover, agents have to cope with the fact that individuals often make investment decisions for emotional and social reasons, not just rational ones.

 

Behavioral finance takes into account the many factors that influence how individuals really make decisions, and human advisers are naturally skeptical that robo-advisers will be able to match their skills interpreting and reacting to human behavior. While this will continue to be true for the foreseeable future, the gap is narrowing between an average adviser and a robo-adviser that models human behavior and can run scenarios based on a variety of economic, market or individual shocks. Agent-based models are being built and piloted today that can model individual consumer behavior, analyze the cradle-to-grave income/expenses and assets/liabilities of individuals and households, model economic and return conditions over the past century and simulate individual health shocks (e.g., need for assisted living care). These models are assisting both self-directed investors who interact with robo-advisers and also human advisers.

Evolution of Robo-advisers

We see the evolution of robo-advisers taking place in three overlapping phases. In each phase, the sophistication of advice and its adoption increases.

 

  • First Generation or Standalone Robo-Advisers: The first generation of robo-advisers targets self-directed end consumers. They are standalone tools that allow investors to a) aggregate their financial data from multiple financial service providers (e.g., banks, savings, retirement, brokerage), b) provide a unified view of their portfolio, c) obtain financial advice, d) determine portfolio optimization based on life stages and e) execute trades when appropriate. These robo-advisers are relatively simple from an analytical perspective and make use of classic segmentation and portfolio optimization techniques.

 

 

  • Second Generation or Integrated Robo-Advisers: The second generation of robo-advisers is targeting both end consumers and advisers. The robo-advisers are also able to integrate with institutional systems as “white labeled” (i.e., unbranded) adviser tools that offer three-way interaction among investors, advisers and asset managers. These online platforms are variations of the “wrap” platforms that are quite common in Australia and the UK, and offer a cost-effective way for advisers and asset managers to target mass-market and even mass-affluent consumers. In 2014, some of the leading robo-advisers started “white labeling” their solutions for independent advisers and linking with large institutional managers. Some larger traditional asset managers also have started offering automated advice by either creating their own solutions or by partnering with start-ups.

 

 

  • Third Generation or Cognitive Robo-Advisers: Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) based techniques (e.g., agent-based modeling and cognitive computing) will see second generation robo-advisers adding more sophisticated capability. They will move from offering personal financial management and investment management advice to offering holistic, cradle-to-grave financial planning advice. Combining external data and social data to create “someone like you” personas; inferring investment behaviors and risk preferences using machine learning; modeling individual decisions using agent-based modeling; and running future scenarios based on economic, market or individual shocks has the promise of adding significant value to existing adviser-client conversations.

 

One could argue that, with the increasing sophistication of robo-advisers, human advisers will eventually disappear. However, we don’t believe this is likely to happen anytime in the next couple of decades. There will continue to be consumers (notably high-worth individuals with complex financial needs) who seek human advice and rely on others to affect their decisions, even if doing so is more expensive than using an automated system. Because of greater overall reliance on automated advice, human advisers will be able to focus much more of their attention on human interaction and building trust with these types of clients. 

Implications to Financial Service Providers

How should existing producers and intermediaries react to robo-advisers? Should they embrace these newer technologies or resist them?

 

  • Asset Managers & Product Manufacturers: Large asset managers and product manufacturers who are keen on expanding shelf-space for their products should view robo-advisers as an additional channel to acquire specific type of customers – typically the self-directed and online-savvy segments, as well as the emerging high-net-worth segment. They also should view robo-advisers as a platform to offer their products to mass-market customers in a cost-effective manner.

 

 

  • Broker Dealers and Investment Advisory Firms: Large firms with independent broker-dealers or financial advisers need to seriously consider enabling their distribution with some of the advanced tools that robo-advisers offer. If they do not, then these channels are likely to see a steady movement of assets – especially of certain segments (e.g., the emerging affluent and online-savvy) – from them to robo-advisers.

 

 

  • Registered Independent Advisers and Independent Planners: This is the group that faces the greatest existential threat from robo-advisers. While it may be easy for them to resist and denounce robo-advisers in the short term, it is in their long-term interest to embrace new technologies and use them to their advantage. By outsourcing the mechanics of financial and investment management to robo-advisers, they can start devoting more time to interacting with the clients who want human interaction and thereby build deeper relationships with existing clients.

 

 

  • Insurance Providers and Insurance Agents: Insurance products and the agents who sell them also will feel the effects of robo-advisers. The complexity of many products and related fees/commissions will become more transparent as the migration to robo-adviser platforms gathers pace. This will put greater pressure on insurers and agents to simplify and package their solutions and reduce their fees or commissions. If this group does not adopt more automated advice solutions, then it likely will lose its appeal to attractive customer segments (e.g., emerging affluent and online-savvy segments) for whom their products could be beneficial.

 

Product manufacturers, distributors, and independent advisers who ignore the advent of robo-advisers do so at their own risk. While there may be some present-day hype and irrational exuberance about robo-advisers, the long-term trend toward greater automation and integration of automation with face-to-face advice is undeniable. This situation is not too dissimilar to automated tax-advice and e-filing. When the first automated tax packages came out in the ’90s, some industry observers predicted the end of tax consultants. While a significant number of taxpayers did shift to self-prepared tax filing, there is still a substantial number of consumers who rely on tax professionals to file their taxes. Nearly 118 million of the 137 million tax returns in 2014 were e-filings (i.e., electronically filed tax returns), but tax consultants filed many of them. A similar scenario for e-advice is likely: a substantial portion of assets will be e-advised and e-administered in the next five to 10n years, as both advisers and self-directed investors shift to using robo-advisers.

Where to Start on Cyber Security?

Because of the recent and hugely public spate of cyber “events,” the world of cyber security and subsequently cyber insurance is firmly in overdrive. According to the UK Department for Innovation & Skills, 81% of large businesses and 60% of small businesses suffered a cyber-security breach in the last year, and the average cost of breaches to business has nearly doubled since 2013.

We have all seen the headlines, from Sony last year to British Airways earlier this month to the French TV Channel TV5Monde. The severity and importance of each of these has material impacts on not only their ability to do business but also their brand and reputation as a customer, employee and partner.

Sony was clearly hugely public, by far one of the biggest and most public I have seen hit the news for a long time. It was all over most news channels, causing outcry from customers and employees, some of whom threatened to sue their employer or former employer for failing to protect their data. Sony, of course, has had many attacks, including one taking down its PlayStation online platform for days on end. As for BA, the first I heard of this was an email saying, “Someone has accessed your account.” Please come change your password! This is the brand that I trust with my personal details, my location and much more.

Finally, TV5Monde seems to be particularly worrying to me. In a scene that reminded me of the wonderfully played Elliot Carver from 007’s “Tomorrow Never Dies,” the media giant was quite simply disabled, their TV taken off air, their public online presence taken over and more. An attack of this scale and power to me simply highlights what Hollywood has been portraying for years (remember “Die Hard,” where the bad guys take over the airport by hot wiring a few cables nearby?). Interestingly, subsequent reports again point to human error here – for instance, a TV interview showed passwords stuck to Post-It notes.

If we are under any doubt by the frequency, scale and impact of attacks, I found a great website (www.informationisbeautiful.net) recently that visualizes some of the data breaches by year, industry and size, reason and more; see here for the full interactive chart.

data

Cyber threats have been defined by many; however, as with many other critical business issues, lots of other things are being added to the overall “cyber” definition. The recent report from the UK Government on UK cyber security: the role of insurance talks through both the threat and, importantly, the opportunity for insurers.

The World Economic Forum in its 10th Annual Global Risks Report has cyber risks up with water crisis and natural catastrophe and ahead of WMD, infectious disease and fiscal crisis (in terms of likelihood of occurrence). Given what we have all experienced in the last recession, I don’t think we could have a stronger wake up call.

data 2
– Top Global Risks According to the World Economic Forum

For now, and certainly as I write today, there is a small correlation between cyber-attacks and loss of human life. However, as we become ever more connected with IoT (Internet of Things) or IoE (Internet of Everything), future devices will all be connected. In the latest report, the government said that 14 billion objects are already connected to the Internet, 40 million of them in the UK. By 2020, it could be as many as 100 billion worldwide.

The upside of being able to monitor your heart pacemaker or your insulin levels from an app are already upon us; “wearables” is the buzzword for 2015. When these devices move from monitoring to controlling, the threat just increases. A cyber-attack at a local level, shutting down a hospital, airport, city traffic system, taking over a driverless car or airplane – it’s far too easy to paint a picture here.

What’s the role of the insurer in all of this?

The insurance provider has a huge role in this, not only to pick up the pieces when an event occurs, but also across the entire lifecycle. At the outset, we have an opportunity to better educate the market on cyber risks in general, in creating insurance capacity for the event and ultimately better prepare ourselves for the continuing advancement and frequency of attacks.

This goes far beyond the cyber essentials to better prepare small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and large enterprises alike. This is not collecting a badge; this is time to get ready for a battle. Not just a battle against cyber threats, but a battle for your reputation and brand. A brand that says to your employees, customers and partners, you can trust me with your information – I have a plan in place that’s tried and tested! The government scheme has covered the bare minimum essentials, which is like passing your driving theory test. We need expert drivers here to navigate roads no one has previously seen.

The UK, and London market specifically, is already well-placed given its deep experience in insuring against specialty risks, but capacity in the market will continue to increase as the threats and frequency of events increases, giving rise to new, more tailored products and opportunities for the entire market. How long will it be before we all have our own personal cyber Insurance policy?

Move to prevention rather than cure

We need to better help organizations truly understand the cost of putting this right after the event. As an example, some estimate that the cost of the Target breach in the U.S. has cost them north of $100 million to correct. In the early earnings call post the event, Target executives said, “The breach resulted in $17 million of net expenses in the fourth quarter…, with $61 million of total expenses partially offset by the recognition of a $44 million insurance receivable.”

Hindsight is wonderful, but perhaps a fraction of this upfront would have saved this money and, importantly, provided time to focus on the business strategy, not remedial work.

Reputation, Reputation, Reputation

It’s already been widely discussed, but insuring an organization’s reputation is challenging for a number of reasons. Of course, almost anything can be insured, but defining what the impact is and then working out what you need to be covered for will no doubt bring additional challenge for something that most would describe as intangible. The Insurance Times has a good piece here on this.

More importantly, what’s the short-, medium- or long-term impact and value on the reputational damage? Take your favorite or most-used retailer, give it all your personal financial data and shopping habits. It then suffers a breach – how likely are you to use or recommend the retailer again? Maybe you would forgive it for one breach; what if it happened again? It’s too easy to move. I read that in the UK you are more “likely to suffer a theft from your bank than a physical burglary” these days.

Does this affect your future choice? How long does it take you to re-establish trust with your customers, employees and partners?

Typically, reputation risk is around 5% to 20% of cyber cost. However, in reality, it’s the gift that can keep on giving, that no one really wants.

What if you are an online-only business? What if you were the ones who disrupted your market through technology and now that has been taken away from you. You don’t have the luxury of physical outlets as a backup or alternative part of your business plan. Dealing with other breaches such as shoplifting has been an occurrence since retail began, but these were isolated to the individual locations.

SMEs, especially, are not as well-equipped. On one hand, digital makes access open to anyone to create a new business, but on the other hand we must now factor in the cost of doing business online, of which cyber is a now business-critical.

What do you think?

Are we prepared and doing enough across the sector?
Is this at the forefront of your business continuity strategy?
Have you a plan in place to protect your employees, customers and partners?
Do you have adequate cover that is well-enough defined?
Are you investing ahead of the curve to prevent it?