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Empowering the Field to Connect Authentically in the Digital Age

May 31, 2017

Authenticity probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind when you think of “The Digital Age,” or sales and marketing for that matter. But when it comes to your strongest personal relationships, it’s likely near the top of the list. Authenticity builds trust, and trust grows into lasting connections. It’s why we have large field teams in the first place – so they can focus on growing productive long-term relationships with their customers.

Many of our jobs, including my own, are to help field reps use the myriad of communication channels (and rapidly changing information) to develop relationships with their clients. The two most important lessons that I’ve learned are to: 1) know your audience, and 2) help them play their strengths.

Developing an Authentic Digital Marketing Presence – On Your Own – Is Hard

Advisors are not digital marketers.

I know, I know. Pools are also perfect for holding water.

It’s comically obvious, but if you stop and think about what we ask the field to do, how many of those asks are outside their skillset? Asking advisors to do their jobs and run a one-person marketing shop on top of that is a lot. As you would expect, some take to it better than others.

But if we’re going to empower the entire field – not just the top fill-in-the-blank percent – we should ask them to do what they do best: build relationships, build trust, and ultimately, sell.

This was a prevalent theme throughout our fifth annual Hearsay Summit, where more than 110 executives from the world’s top financial services firms gathered to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the industry.

Matt Dunn, Morgan Stanley

“Every single data point we have says the more you engage with the client, the better outcomes you’re going to have,” Matt Dunn, Head of Digital Marketing at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, said during his Summit keynote. “Likelihood to refer your financial advisor, NPS [Net Promoter Score], revenue, net assets acquired, likelihood to retain that client when a family member is deceased … All of those factors can be improved by simply engaging with the client.”

He goes on to share that advisors don’t have the capacity to engage with their clients, at scale, without digital tools. So, Morgan Stanley is building, buying and running the tools that advisors need to make this possible.

In other words, the firm is beginning to do the digital marketing work on behalf of the advisor.

Late last year, his team rolled out a “Next Best Action List” that surfaces client data to the advisor and prescribes a method of digitally communicating with the client based on that data. Interestingly, this action list is designed to cover the bottom half of an advisor’s book, because advisors are engaging with these clients less frequently (for obvious reasons). Communications might cover a fixed income asset that’s maturing, or an overdue account. The result is each of these touchpoints occur inside an authentic advisor-client relationship, not an impersonal communication from the firm’s corporate marketing machine.

Morgan Stanley’s move to next-best, 1-to-1 actions for advisors started with email, because it is a familiar and proven channel. In selecting a second way to communicate, it’s important to think about the channels advisors are already using without even thinking about it.

Developing an Authentic Relationship 1-to-1 is Easier – We Do It Everyday

“Think about it for a moment. Do you really have close relationships with people that you’re not texting?” asks Caroline Feeney, President of Prudential Advisors, during her keynote at Summit.

Empowering the field to succeed with digital can be as simple as allowing them to do what they already do. These are personal relationship managers, and texting is about as personal as you can get. It’s natural for them to leverage a channel like this – not to mention it’s something they probably do in their personal lives.

Birdia Chambers, Head of Social, Texting and Communications Distribution at Prudential Advisors, shared that Prudential’s average response time for advisor-client texts is 2.5 minutes. That stacks up quite nicely against the 20 percent open rates for marketing emails in the financial services industry.

And from an advisor’s perspective, this is time well spent. It isn’t time spent on “marketing” activities that are difficult to measure (except in terms of hours spent). It’s time spent deepening a 1-to-1 relationship and speeding up the often monotonous, less-than-effective coordination with a client.

Read more about Prudential’s advisor texting program.

This is the type of activity an advisor is designed to succeed with, so it makes sense to help our advisors to spend more time doing it. We’ve seen Morgan Stanley do it by automating advisors digital marketing efforts into a next best action list, and we’ve seen Prudential do it by opening up texting, the highest-performing 1-to-1 channel, to their advisors. Strides like these better align our firms’ digital-enablement efforts with the way advisors work, and the value advisors bring to their clients.

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Michael Murphy

Product Marketing Manager

Michael is passionate about helping companies acquire more customers, build brand awareness and grow their businesses.

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