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SIFMA Social 2018 Recap: 3 Ways Digital and Social Are Shaping the Advisory World

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending SIFMA’s Social Media and Digital Marketing Seminar with a group of my Hearsay colleagues.
Hearsay’s founder and CEO, Clara Shih, kicked off the event with a keynote, “Solving the Loyalty Crisis,” on how financial services companies must leverage digital tools to help advisors scale their high-touch practices.

Clara Shih, Hearsay CEO, keynotes SIFMA’s 2018 Social Media and Digital Marketing Seminar

Clara discussed how advisors these days are feeling more pressured than ever – from lower-cost competition, to new regulations, to the greatest generational wealth transfer on the horizon. She then outlined the four requirements that firms must act on in order to increase advisor productivity:

  • Automate/delegate 1-to-many: Advisors need a way to easily automate, delegate and nurture customer engagement until critical 1-to-1 sales conversations
  • Seamlessly drive 1-to-1 workflows: Advisors need efficient hand-off between 1-to-many and high value, 1-to-1 sales conversations like annual review notifications and referral requests
  • Gather actionable analytics: By optimizing and increasing CRM data, sales and marketing leadership can get the visibility and insight they need to drive successful advisor programs
  • Have compliance built in: If the compliance barrier is high, field adoption plummets

The day then featured discussions on the digital transformation of financial services, touching on topics ranging from artificial intelligence to cybersecurity. Over the course of many engaging conversations, a few things in particular stood out.

The Trust Vacuum

Among the topics discussed was the deterioration of trust on a global scale. Highlighted as one of the markets with extreme trust losses over the past year, America and, in particular, its media institutions, have been among the hardest hit. So where is the public turning for trusted sources of information?
They’re turning to subject matter experts within their own networks, and advisors and agents that are actively engaged online are poised to benefit. To capitalize on this opportunity, advisors and agents need to deliver facts, insights and substance … and they need to be timely and relevant.

Shifting Consumption Habits

To remain relevant, advisors and agents need to adapt. During a panel discussing social media trends, Ken Johnston, industry manager for financial services at Facebook, shared that the average consumer scrolls through what amounts to 300 feet of content daily. The expectation across all the panelists – which also included industry representatives from Twitter and LinkedIn – is that 75 percent of all content will be video by 2020. So how can advisors stay top of mind?
Depending on company policies, one option could be Facebook Live video. Imagine the possibility of being able to address your network with timely content as soon as a quickly developing situation is materializing; for instance, sending a reassuring message during a stock market sell-off. As video increasingly becomes the preferred social medium, this is one worth watching.
For more on Facebook Live: “To Stream or Not to Stream? Compliance Considerations for Facebook Live”

Social Media as the Consistent Prospecting Tool

As a former financial advisor myself, I found the “View from the Field” panel – featuring high-performing advisors from Merrill Lynch, Raymond James, Wells Fargo Advisors and Edward Jones – particularly interesting in that each had a distinctly approach to finding new business. One advisor tapped into traditional family networks, while another specialized in 401(k) plans. Another targeted firms with recent layoffs to find people that needed financial assistance during transitional moments.
What is consistent across all of the advisors is their use of social media to initiate contact and nurture warm introductions. They rely on social as a critical validation tool to establish themselves as a thought leader in their unique area of expertise. Each emphasized just how crucial a role social plays in their business development and client retention efforts, and how staying timely and relevant sets them apart.
The event was a great way to bring together leaders across marketing, sales and compliance, and across financial services firms, social media networks, tech startups and academia, for insightful discussions on issues affecting the industry. At the rate at which things are transforming, it will be incredible to see what’s in store for financial services.

New York Life Builds Single, Data-Rich Customer View with Hearsay's CRM Integration [Video]

See how New York Life is building a world-class, integrated agent marketing and sales enablement ecosystem by partnering with Hearsay. At Salesforce’s Dreamforce event, Steve Abramo, Head of Enterprise CRM at New York Life, explains how Hearsay’s integration with New York Life’s field system of record is unlocking new data-driven insights that drive productivity, retention and business growth.

With Hearsay, activities on social media, mobile, websites and email are synced automatically with New York Life’s CRM system, eliminating the need for agents to manually enter information and providing a complete, data-rich view of every client or prospect.
Learn more about Hearsay’s Advisor Cloud and CRM integration capabilities, and check out the Hearsay Systems Connector listing on the Salesforce AppExchange.

Top Tech Trends Driving Advisor-Client Engagement

With more than 150 financial services firms and 150,000+ financial advisors using our technology, we’re on a mission to develop new sales productivity tools and features that help close the gap between corporate and local advisor sales/marketing efforts. (See: Hearsay’s Winter ’18 Product Launch is Here)
So, we were thrilled to discover that Aite Group, a leading research and advisory firm also exclusively focused on financial services, recently released new, independent research that further validates our mission. The report, “Advisor Content Marketing and Sales Enablement: Empowering Connections,” outlines the major trends and drivers for advisor-focused marketing strategies across North American firms, based on an in-depth survey of 268 advisors. The report also details the advisor programs in place at several leading companies, including Ameriprise, MassMutual, Morgan Stanley, Northwestern Mutual, Putnam Investments, Raymond James and RBC.
Our senior director of product marketing, Sarah Pedersen, recently teamed up with Aite lead analyst and the report’s author, Isabella Fonseca, on a webcast that digs deeper into the challenges that sales and marketing teams are facing, and uncovers ways to turn these challenges into business-growing opportunities.
Watch the webcast: “Top Tech Trends Driving Advisor-Client Engagement” and/or view the full presentation below
Today’s reality, according to Sarah and Isabella:

  • Broad, 1-to-many marketing is table stakes for advisors, but they’re too busy – and don’t have the expertise – to craft their own strategy
  • Personal 1-to-1 client engagement is key to sales success, but advisors don’t have access to the communication channels – like texting – required in today’s digital-first world
  • Important client engagement data is not tracked, which puts all sales and marketing efforts at risk

Based on the survey results, Aite notes the importance of making the distinction between content marketing – programs meant to create top-of-funnel awareness and content intelligence at a broad level – and lower-funnel sales enablement, which are high-touch, 1-to-1 activities that “help to create and deliver the appropriate type of content in the best format to engage with clients and prospects.”

Here, the key discussion points from the webcast:

1. One-to-Many Content Marketing is Table Stakes, But Advisors Are Too Busy

We all know that general awareness-building content marketing activities – such as maintaining a professional social media presence and having an updated company website – are a no-brainer in order to survive as a business. But according to Aite’s research, only 28 percent of advisors are actively engaged in marketing support/strategies; their time is being taken up by client referral strategies, leadership culture, practice management, pricing strategies and more.

What’s more, corporate marketing and sales teams have little, if any, visibility into what advisors are doing at the local level, resulting in a disjointed overall customer experience. The solution? Corporate teams need to reclaim one-to-many marketing programs and automate many of those actions, so that advisors can focus on what they do best.

2. One-to-One Engagement, Like Texting, is Key, But Advisors Don’t Have Access

Aite’s data shows that high-performing advisors – those who grew revenue by at least 5 percent over the last five years – rely more heavily on 1-to-1 communication methods, like texting, video calls and instant messaging, versus those who experienced little or no revenue growth.

Of particular interest, nearly half of high-performing advisors text for business; yet, at the same time, nearly 40 percent of all advisors surveyed say their firm doesn’t yet have texting functionality in place. Furthermore, advisors need the ability to automate the texting of common but client-specific messages, like annual review reminders – engagement opportunities that are crucial to client retention and to meet fiduciary interest requirements in a post-DOL world.

3. Important Engagement Data Is Not Tracked, Putting Sales and Marketing at Risk

When all pistons are firing, digitally enabled advisors are generating an enormous amount of rich client interaction data. But all the data in the world means nothing if it can’t be tracked and acted upon. According to Aite’s research, the median business-systems integration level at firms is at just 60 percent, illustrating the need for more investment in this critical area.

4. Next Steps

So what can sales and marketing teams do to help their advisors thrive in the digital age? Sarah and Isabella offered the following best practices:

  • Offer a 1-to-many content strategy that is automated and efficient for advisors (“autopilot” + authenticity = win!)
  • Improve productivity of 1-to-1 communications through channel enablement and matched use cases (i.e., DOL)
  • Automate data capture for advisor-client engagement across channels (social media, advisor websites, texting, email)
  • … Ensure all this is done compliantly, of course.

Here’s the full presentation that Sarah and Isabella shared:


How to Apply 2018's Biggest Digital Trends to Your Client Engagement Strategy

We Are Social recently released their 2018 Digital Trends report, which summarizes five trends they predict will change the way business is done online and the way people interact with other users as well as directly with brands. Pay close attention to these five trends when building out your business’ digital strategy for 2018.


Believe it or not, 90 percent of the data created on the internet has only existed since 2016, meaning that the amount of content available online is growing exponentially year after year.
That’s a lot of content. And when coupled with increasingly shortened attention spans, we’re faced with an intense competition for user attention. Re-curating content on social networks is a way to ensure that you don’t miss out on relevant content, but that also means that your content could get lost in the crowd. Navigating this space successfully will be key to staying relevant on social and digital.
How does this relate to the financial services industry?
The key to a digital marketing strategy that will have a direct impact on ROI is constant change. In this case, advisors must focus on making their social media content more engaging, relevant and easy to find. Prospects are getting inundated in every direction with information so your content has to stand out and proclaim, “Hey! I’m important, too.”

Never-Ending Frictionless Communication

One millennial might prefer contacting a business via Twitter DMs while another might prefer Facebook Messenger. When making a purchase, one buyer might visit the company website while another might peruse Instagram until something catches her eye. All of these possibilities have allowed for a multitude of tastes and preferences to surface.
It is now up to businesses to accommodate these countless communication preferences.
How does this relate to the financial services industry?
While the report refers to digital channels for this trend, advisors can create a frictionless communication experience with an older, but effective, type of technology: texting.
Texting is now a mainstream means of communication for advisors and consumers alike. Wirehouses like Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley have begun investing in texting and the momentum doesn’t seem to be letting up, meaning other firms are likely to fall behind if they don’t follow suit.
Check out Hearsay’s texting technology landscape report and blog post for three approaches your firm can take to implement advisor-client texting solutions in not only compliant, but also engaging, ways.

Reference Not Deference

Users are relying less on traditional cultural authority figures like the government and mainstream media to make decisions, and are instead referencing multiple peer-like sources.
Influencers are still integral to a holistic digital marketing strategy and new social feedback features such as Instagram Polls and Facebook Polling are creating new opportunities for firms and advisors to engage with followers.
How does this relate to the financial services industry?
Referrals are the bread and butter of advisors, and referrals from Centers of Influence (COIs) are “more than 20 times as profitable for financial advisors than referrals from their own wealthy investor clientele,” according to John Bower, founder of CEG Advantage. As this trend of trusting peer-like sources more than anything else continues, relying on referrals from current clients and COIs alike will become even more essential.

Utility to Empathy

Despite what critics might say about how technology is keeping people apart, this shift actually enables empathy to flourish. Technology such as telepresence tech (like Elli-Q’s AI-driven social robot) and virtual reality (like Facebook Spaces) presents an opportunity for enabling empathy through digital means.
How does this relate to the financial services industry?
While several of these features may still be a few years away, it is essential to recognize the importance of empathy in digital communication and make it a priority in your social efforts.
Do a quick Google search for “financial services trust” and a multitude of results will appear. A key part of rebuilding trust in the financial services industry requires advisors to be able to empathize with their prospects and clients, and vice versa. The best advisors already know how to be empathetic when working one-to-one with clients. Firms just now have to figure out how to scale that experience through social media and other channels.

The Importance of Ephemeral Experiences

This year will provide the opportunity – and challenge – to create engaging content that is impactful for their ephemeral qualities. Not only does its short life make the experience more valuable, but it also comes across as more authentic as well.
An exciting app leading the way in this field is HQ Trivia. The live trivia show app recently hit a milestone of 1 million users in January 2018 (and inspiring a certain controversial billionaire to invest $15 million into the app), proving that users are hungry for this kind of experience.
How does this relate to the financial services industry?
While investing in ephemeral channels like Snapchat might be difficult for both implementation and compliance reasons, there are other ways financial services professionals can leverage this trend.

  • Host or take part in a live Twitter chat
  • Post a photo of yourself or of an event while you’re at the event
  • Live-tweet any conferences or events you’re attending

The Internet in 2018

The Internet is becoming increasingly democratized, personalized and streamlined. As users demand that these experiences and tools change to accommodate shifting wants and needs, it’s up to brands and businesses to take this challenge as an opportunity to meet their customers where they are. And to do that, they must take their digital strategies to the next level.
Are you a current Hearsay customer? If so, join our “2018 Digital Trends” webinar and learn from our very own Customer Education team about how you can leverage these digital trends in your social media strategy!

  • Wednesday, February 7, at 11am PST / 2pm EST / 7pm GMT
  • Tuesday, February 20, at 8am PST/ 11am EST / 4pm GMT