Success Story: How Hartford Funds Kick-Started Its Social Media Program
April 27, 2017
As I prepped for my call with the Hearsay team about this blog post, one question kept running through my mind: What makes me uniquely qualified to write about launching a social business program? I had to assume there were firms out there with longer track records using Hearsay, with off-the-charts adoption from their sales teams. So what unique perspective could I offer?
The answer to that question became much clearer as I talked to them about Hartford Funds, our brand, and the LinkedIn program I created for our sales team. Big numbers don’t happen overnight. You have to start somewhere. And when you’re in the heavily regulated financial services industry, knowing where to start can be daunting. It can be difficult to convince the powers that be that, although this new territory may be uncomfortable at first, we can put controls in place to make it a lot less scary. (Heck, I had to get approval just to write this post about social media.)
Furthermore, convincing a sales team that they have time for this – that they should make time for this – is also easier said than done. And let’s not forget about the fact that this industry, and sales in general, is built on relationships, making technology seem contradictory at first glance.
So back to my original question: What unique perspective can I offer?
Well, to start, I’ve experienced all of the pain points above. I’ve been there – and recently. Our program is still a work in progress and the challenges are still fresh in my mind. So let me share a little of my experience with setting up a social media program for sales: what worked, what didn’t and what we’re still working on.
Why a Brand Account Isn’t Enough
Our Twitter and LinkedIn corporate brand accounts were running great. But corporate brand accounts were never the endgame. Human-centric investing is what Hartford Funds is all about – understanding the emotional relationships between advisors, their clients and their investments. And social media is all about engaging and interacting.
The problem is that there’s only so much engaging and interacting that people are willing to do with a company. I knew that the marketing power of social media would only truly be realized if we could get our sales team posting themselves, supplementing any traction we were getting with our corporate brand account. It was a real opportunity for them to be brand ambassadors and to further their reach by staying top-of-mind with a large group of advisors at one time. It was a chance to be where the advisors are: LinkedIn.
Inviting Compliance and Legal to the Party
The first step I took – the first step I always take when I want to try something new on social media – was to engage compliance and legal.
I headed into the meeting with the basic information as to how this would work and some answers to questions I knew were sure to come up – archiving, the ability to edit posts. I filled them in on my idea, and attempted to address their regulatory concerns as well as any additional concerns they raised.
The next step was to work closely with my Hearsay customer success manager to better understand how the inherent functionality of the platform could address these concerns, and where functionality didn’t exist, how we could create a business policy that could help mitigate the risk.
I should stop here and say that I can’t stress enough how important it is to engage your compliance and legal teams from the beginning. I’m not just saying this because I know they’ll be reading and approving this post (Hi!) but because if you wait too long to engage them, you can end up losing a lot of time and effort backtracking. And that’s never a good place to be in.
The Importance of DIY
The good news for me is that our senior leaders in sales tend to be pretty supportive when it comes to new marketing endeavors. So while I wouldn’t say it was a priority for them, they were excited about the opportunity.
The key for me here was convincing them that this new endeavor wouldn’t require much of their teams’ already limited time, and that it could be easily incorporated into their current process – an important point given the amount of new tools, procedures and products that are thrown at these teams every month, meant to help them, but often taking their focus away from supporting financial advisors and their clients.
So what could I do to get our two heads of sales to champion my cause? What could I do to assure them that this new Hearsay tool was easy-peasy?
Let them see for themselves! Not just with a demo, but by connecting their own LinkedIn pages to Hearsay. Letting them go through the on-boarding process I created with our legal and compliance teams and letting them click the publish button themselves was the ticket to winning them over and gaining two new advocates of the program.
It also acted as a checkpoint for me – making sure all of my ducks were in a row and that the onboarding process was as tight and as simple as possible before I rolled it out to the field. No way was I going to put our heads of sales through a clunky set-up process riddled with issues.
Work Your Plan
One of the things that helped our compliance and legal team embrace this new program (in an awkward hug kind of way) was the idea of a three-month pilot. And if I’m being honest, it felt more manageable to me too. A small group would allow for easy communication and quick identification of issues. It would also give us the opportunity to really test the archiving process and find the right rhythm for content creation.
Picking the right group for the pilot was key. We decided to start with our Advisory Services Group, which mostly calls on RIAs and firms who have historically been more lenient with allowing their advisors to be on social media and, therefore, connect with our sales team.
Next up was pitching it to the pilot group of 13 wholesalers, in hopes that at least half would want to participate. I decided the best way to do that was by jumping on one of their monthly calls. It was a chance to talk through the concept and the potential benefits as well as a chance for the head of their group to tell them why he thought this was such a great idea. It was also an opportunity to hear any concerns they had.
In the end, 11 of the 13 signed up. We wanted to keep it simple when measuring the success of the pilot, so we decided to use a combination of data from Hearsay – average number of posts per week, average number of engagements – and qualitative feedback from email surveys at the one-month and three-month points.
The pilot was a success! And, the results from the pilot set the foundation for the program as it exists today. Most importantly, it helped show all of the key stakeholders that not only could this go smoothly, but that there were people on the sales team who would really run with it and make it part of their tool set. That this could really be a thing. A good thing.
Next: Stay tuned to learn how Lauren and Hartford Funds rolled out the program across the sales organization, encouraged adoption of Hearsay, and their plans for getting wholesalers off the bench and into the social media game.
Lauren Kitson is an employee of Hartford Funds. As discussed in the piece, Hartford Funds has hired Hearsay to provide its recordkeeping services for LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. The views and opinions expressed herein are Lauren’s and may not necessarily represent those of Hartford Funds.
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