Curian Capital delivers a differentiator to advisers

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Objective: Curian needed a marketing tool that not only gained the attention of financial planners and educated them about the ease of use of its tax-harvesting program but that also could be customized by planners and sent to their clients. Solution: Curian conducted a campaign that included a tax harvesting “commercial” that could be embedded in e-mails to financial profes-sionals, an educational tutorial and customizable e-mail presentations. Results: More than 800 advisers used the program to harvest $127 million in unrealized capital gains, helping build credibility for a company working to make a name in a populated niche. Peter Muckley , VP-marketing, is the first to admit his company, 6-year-old Curian Capital does not yet boast a household name, even among some of the professional money managers who are the initial targets of its marketing materials. The company, a registered investment adviser, works with financial professionals tasked with overseeing their clients' individually managed account portfolios—presenting a financial product that essentially offers the individually owned, tax-liable equivalent of a mutual fund. On a competitive playing field populated by such names as Genworth Financial and Brinker Capital, the Denver-based newcomer is building its reputation by highlighting innovative features of its account management platform and putting together a statistical story that supports its capital gains tax harvesting software, which offered the company the opportunity to separate itself from the crowd, Muckley said. Curian, a company at ease with direct mail and e-mail marketing, faced several challenges. First, marketing materials needed to gain the attention of time-strapped financial professionals and demonstrate the software's ease of use. “Historically [harvesting taxes] was a labor-intensive act,” Muckley said. “We wanted something that would promote [this feature] but also show the screen captures so they could see it's really easy. It sounds like it's going to be really hard [to use]. It's not.” The marketing program also needed to help advisers reach their clients, Muckley said. “Step one is to tell advisers about it and how easy it is to do. But the real thing is to translate that down to their clients so they understand tax harvesting and why they want to do it with their account.” Curian developed a three-part e-mail campaign to promote the tax harvesting feature, working with Waltham, Mass.-based online communications vendor Brainshark. Advisers clicked a link in their e-mails and a PowerPoint presentation that incorporated Flash and voice-over talent launched on their screens. The two-to-three-minute adts captured advisers' attention, Muckley said. “The idea of being able to send them an e-mail that talks to them and has a little more of a TV-commercial flavor to it is good for us,” Muckley said. The company did not require registration to launch the ad, removing a hurdle for advisers working quickly through their inboxes. A third presentation helped planners market the service to their clients and incorporated a slide that could be customized. Almost 150 financial professionals asked for customized versions of the e-mail ad, Muckley said. About 800 individual advisers used the software to harvest a combined $127 million of unrealized capital gains, with potential capital gains tax savings of $15.4 million—up almost 90% from the potential amount advisers harvested with the Curian tool last year, Muckley said.
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