So, we've relocated to the Jersey Shore for a while and I got to thinking about the last time I was down in our Avalon house while I was still with Harrisdirect. In the summer of 2005, HD really started to turn the business around as our trade volume was going up as well as our new accounts. Right before my vacation, we were tipped off that we did very well in SmartMoney's annual broker survey and we started to make plans for new creatives. You see the brokerage community lives for these annual surveys.
When I waled walked in the door and attended my first director meeting with the executive staff at DLJdirect, we were just given the nod as Barron's Best Discount Broker and our Chairman, Blake Darcy declared that we need to really "pump this up in our marketing because the last time we won it, it really increased our new accounts." This of course was early 2001 and the internet was a lot different back then. Anyway, I can't remember if our sales increased or not because I was in the thick of a battle with AOL regarding our finance buy and when we won SmartMoney's award for best Discount Broker it was only a few weeks away from the E*Trade acquisition announcement so the results we had post that would not be a fair analysis.
Every year and multiple times per year, our PR department as well as marketing, legal, trading, operations, and etc got really charged up to participate in these surveys. We'd pick a few and then spend a lot of time filling in surveys and working the PR game with these magazines. It seemed like an awful lot of work for what we thought were big results. Fast forward to 2007 and I'm not so sure how valuable they are.
A couple of weeks back I saw a giant ad in the WSJ for TDAmeritrade announcing that they had won Barron's award for 2007 best discount broker. Then I didn't see any more ads that proclaimed their dominance, but they did put a small button on their landing page. Anyway, not trying to make fun of TD because I think it is great that they won, but really what's it worth now?
In an era where you have blogs and a lot of word of mouth, do you still need a seal of approval from a magazine? Sure they do a very thorough analysis, but wouldn't you rather see what your peers have to say? When you go to make a major purchase, don't you turn to Google first to see what is being said about a product? Perhaps you visit blogs and talk with friends about what they use or what their experience is with a certain product.
Seriously, what's the value of a magazine's or newspaper's product review? A magazine like Consumer Reports that does nothing but reviews is probably still valuable, but when a magazine or newspaper gives a review, how much do you rely on it to make your decision? Isn't Google a better barometer now? What's a company's Gcred?