BetaShares talks ETFS, automation and content marketing

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A strategy that works
By Susan Burchill, staffer. 1 May, 2018
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Observing the meteoric rise of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) in the US, a group of local visionaries set up BetaShares knowing it was only a matter of time before Australia followed suit. Now they have 44 funds and 5.5bn under management – and a strong commitment to content marketing.

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Co-founder and head of strategy and marketing, Ilan Israelstam takes us through BetaShares’ content story so far.

Who was the champion of content marketing and marketing automation at BetaShares?

It probably would have been me. One thing that is maybe a little bit unusual in our business is that one of the founders [Ilan] also takes care of marketing – that gives it a very significant place in our business. My colleague Alex [Vynokur] who runs the business is exactly the same, he’s very focused on marketing.

Can you explain your strategy around content?

We put out a lot of content, two to three posts a week. That content is educational in nature in the main.

One of the key people who writes for us was a decade-long writer for the Australian Financial Review. Another very important thing: we made it a mandatory requirement for the vast majority of our entire team to write at least three blog posts a year. That’s a way to get a whole lot of different voices into the business which is really effective.

We do tailor it depending on the audience – we’ve got stuff that’s quite professional in nature, quite sophisticated and we’ve got things that were written for the absolute newbies.

Content marketing gives that credibility – we are very careful not to make every piece of content a spruik, but we do connect particular products to the content we put out. We find that if we don’t give people an implementation opportunity to do something we’re suggesting, they get upset because they don’t know what to do with the information.

Can you explain a bit more about your content automation?

We’ve run a marketing automation platform in the business for two and a half years or so. We’ve got a series of automated bots and reports that track the performance of everything we do, whether content marketing or anything else. We’re quite data intensive.

Automation allows us to have a lot more information about how our customers interact with us, it allows us to understand how effective our various pieces of content are relative to each other and it allows us to score the quality of that content. It also allows us to tailor a lot of our content to the particular personalisation requirements of that client.

Automation allows us to have a lot more information about how our customers interact with us, it allows us to understand how effective our various pieces of content are relative to each other and it allows us to score the quality of that content.

What is the personality/tone of voice you’re establishing with your content?

We’re continually battling with this concept of being on the one hand, very institutionalised and professional, and on the other hand, very approachable, because you’re trying to demystify a lot of these concepts. It’s not easy, and I don’t think we get it right all the time.

A lot of our competitors err too much on the side of that institutional component and that’s understandable given where they’ve come from. We’re dealing with individual investors and we want to make sure that they can understand what we’re writing.

Has your content strategy achieved what you set out to achieve?

In terms of measuring ROI, we’ve got our own metrics that indicate to us that content marketing is amongst the best marketing we do. We do a weekly newsletter that’s bespoke every single week, we’re not republishing content, we’re writing it from scratch, we’re not using any third parties to write… so it’s a fairly hefty piece of work, but it’s definitely working.

We continually get positive feedback from industry and from the end investors which is the most important thing.

Are there competitive businesses out there using content like you are?

A lot of it comes down to the culture and the size of these firms. To get content out at the speed, regularity, and number that we do, you need to be quite flat in your structure. We’ve got the two largest fund managers in the world that compete with us; for them to do this kind of activity, it’s hard from a legal, regulatory and compliance perspective. We take our legal and regulatory responsibilities seriously but we’re just a lot more nimble due to the way the business is set up.

I would say fairly confidently that in exchange traded funds, we’d have by far the most-developed content marketing strategy out there.

We read that you’ve taken Facebook out of your ethical EFT – does that tie into your brand personality and voice at all?

We have two responsible investment products, one is a global fund we have called ETHI – and that had Facebook in it. There is a responsible investment committee which looks at what’s in the fund and checks it against a whole set of rules. We’re constantly monitoring the current holdings in that fund against the rules – and it became increasingly obvious to us that Facebook was starting to be a problem. The decision was made by that committee to remove Facebook from that particular fund.

It ties into what we do, by giving people what they expect. If people are buying into a true-to-label ethical fund, and Facebook’s really not being that ethical, it’s incumbent on us to remove it, if it fits the rules. The way it all comes together – brand personality and voice is about integrity, and our ability to act swiftly along a defined robust framework.

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When Susan was a youngster she didn't know what she wanted to be, but somehow she fell into advertising; then digital was invented so she worked on websites for a while. From there it was a small leap over to TV producing, scriptwriting, promo writing, and some copywriting.... Then when content marketing became a 'thing', she somehow fell into that. It's worked out ok so far - luckily she's always landed on soft things.