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Highlights from Innovation Summit Toronto: Sales and Marketing in the Social Era

May 8, 2013

Hearsay Social is in Canada!

In anticipation of the LIMRA LOMA Canada Annual Conference, we hosted the second event in our Innovation Summit thought leadership series in Toronto. The Innovation Summit yesterday brought together leaders and innovators from top Canadian financial services and insurance firms. Hearsay Social COO Michael Lock kicked off the event with a presentation about how firms must adapt to changing consumer behavior and build stronger relationships with customers by making the leap from social marketing to social sales.

The Honourable Kevin Lynch, Vice Chair of BMO Financial Group and former Clerk of the Privy Council, keynoted the event with a presentation entitled,”Disruptive Innovation and Us–From Banking to Baking, No Sector is Immune to Innovation.” Highlighting the importance of innovation, no matter the industry, Mr. Lynch focused specifically on financial services, where “innovation is the key to competitiveness.”

Part of the challenge he sees facing Canada is the limited focus on innovation and new ideas. Canada falls very low in rankings on productivity (72%) and innovation, ranking #20 in R&D. Banking is not at the forefront of technology, and Canadian companies may be even slower to move. There is opportunity, however. You just “can’t be a follower if you want to be a leader,” said the Honourable Mr. Lynch.

The changing financial services client

Following Mr. Lynch’s talk was a panel of industry leaders including Michelle Smyth, Director, Social Media, Sun Life Financial; Sulemaan Ahmed, Principal, Servo Annex; Jen Evans, CEO, Squeeze and Sequentia; and Silu Modi, VP, Associate Director, Digital Marketing, Macquarie; moderated by Brian Cook, Country Manager, Canada for Hearsay Social.

The panel conversation started with a discussion around how consumers have changed: 77% of consumers do research online and 45% do only online research according to one of the panelists. They discussed how some advisors have found success on social networks just watching who views their profiles; typically  before they have a meeting, not only are advisors doing their research on clients, but clients are doing due diligence on their advisors.

Jen highlighted another opportunity, pointing out that 13% of leads and new relationships are coming from social media, according to a Hubspot study. She has seen evidence that, in a lengthy buy cycle, social media can help move people from weaker ties into stronger advocates.

Sulemaan made a comparison between social technologies emerging today and the way some companies approached email in prior decades. Speaking to a CEO about compliance trying to block a social media pilot, he told them, “You sat on the other side of this table and told me we didn’t need email. We did, and we’re moving forward with social.” Later, Sulemaan added, “People don’t connect with brands. They connect with people. Unleash them.”

Addressing the issue of compliance, Michelle opined that employees are going to participate in social media whether their employers want them to or not. Highlighting the importance of identifying business objectives of a social media initiative, she also noted that it’s “not about spending hours, but being smart.”

In the final session of the day, we heard from Brian Church, Country Manager, Canada Head of Sales Solutions, North America, LinkedIn, and Sabrina Geremia, Managing Director, Integrated Solutions, Google Canada. Sabrina described how they have seen the consumer path to purchase for the financial services industry change dramatically over the past decade. Customers are spending more and more time researching financial services online, and up to 25% of these queries are coming from mobile devices, according to various sources.

Brian backed up Sabrina’s point, citing a study from CEB indicating that 57% of B2B decisions are happening before any engagement with sales. This is a result, he explained, of how much information is available before a buyer even reaches the salesperson. Social media is having a massive effect on consumer decisions, and people are looking to their network to decide what’s important.

Meagan Herfkens Hency

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