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How Digital Programs Drive Revenue for Agents [Webinar Recap]

Last week I hosted a webinar full of leading industry voices. From American National, Christy Morgan, a digital marketing specialist, and Matthew Daley, an agency owner, joined us to talk about how they’re using social media to drive real revenue. Jim Kerley, Chief Membership Officer, at LIMRA also joined us to give us a broader industry perspective. Our discussion touched on everything from how the client journey has changed, to creating engagement to tracking ROI.
For those of you that prefer the written word to sitting through a webinar, here are the highlights.

The Client-Advisor Journey has Changed Significantly with Digital Channels

Many of you may remember the “pre-Google” days, where nothing was digital. Jim shared a ‘back in the olden days’ story about how agents actually read a newspaper to find out about important life events – birth and death announcements, who got hired and fired – and then sent a physical letter, followed up with a phone call to get a meeting, there was phone back and forth until the prospect had all of the information they needed, until finally a contract was signed. This took a LOT of time.
Matt then contrasted today’s “post-Google era,” noting that customers are more educated than ever before. He noted that people are no longer looking to TV and newspapers, but social media for answers. By the time people reach out to Matt, or he’s given their name to contact, they are already well into researching the product/service they want. Matt said, “What we try to do using Hearsay Social is make that beginning of the process of them getting to know me, on my terms…We attempt to provide value to them before we ever speak to them. What I’m trying to create is being [on LinkedIn, Google, Facebook] before they even know they’re looking for me – seeing my name, learning information from me. I want them to feel like they know me before they call me.”

The Key to Social Success is Building an Emotional Connection 

Building relationships has always been the key to being a successful advisor or agent. Though it may seem hard to believe for some, this can absolutely be done online, through social media. Jim believes that social media allows you to present yourself in a way that allows others to decide whether you match what they want and need, and being pre-qualified in the relationship is a very powerful thing. He shared that research shows many consumers are very interested in buying what advisors have to offer; they’ve done a lot of research and they’re looking for relationships. If you can present yourself in a powerful, engaging way – a human way – they’ll reach out to you.
Matt’s agency perspective brought several concrete steps one can take to build these relationships:

  • When you meet people at local events, follow them, friend them, then invite them to like you. Let them get a sense of who you are before you begin discussing products.
  • Create a sense of community. Do personalized, local interest posts. His agency shares things like ‘Where’s the best apple picking?’, ‘Who has the best pies on Long Island?’, and curated lists the Long Island community will value. He strongly believes in providing value beyond answering insurance questions. This is what keeps people coming back!
  • Interaction is critical! Where a lot of people lose credibility in social media is in the response. Make sure when people engage with your post, you respond to them. Matt gave a hilarious analogy here: If you were at a party and someone came up and said ‘Hi, my name’s Jonathan” and you turned around and walked away, it would be rude. Same goes on social media

What Fuels the Emotional Connection? 

The answer to this question is no great surprise. Christy and Matt agreed a combination of content and brand – a set of attributes you want prospects/customers to think of when they think of you or your agency – were the necessary foundation for building an emotional connection.
For content, Matt shared that “insurance is still sold at kitchen tables and in the back of pickup trucks, but the funnel starts online now; content has to be local and personal.” By this, Matt means that he and his agency invest a lot of time in building custom content that let his brand shine. He noted that using Hearsay is critical for them to schedule their content and ensure compliance, and occasionally share corporate content. The scheduling feature in particular is a favorite, since it allows him to appear to be always accessible. He can schedule posts all day and night, on holidays and have a consistent presence. Consistency is a point that Matt stressed repeatedly.
While Christy sees the value of organic (custom / personalized) content, she knows that it doesn’t come as easily to some agents as others. Her job in the home office is to support the field with ideas, strategies and content to engage with their audiences. She provides plenty of content through the Hearsay Social Library to supplement advisors’ own efforts. She makes sure they have a strong content library, and educates agents on using content in a way to personalize and humanize themselves for validation rather than advertising, which is a trap many inexperienced advisors fall into.
An important note from Jim: he strongly believes that while contests and gimmicks may work, what consumers want today is understanding and advice. There is so much information out there, they’re looking for someone who they can trust to turn to for education. The real prize they are looking for is education.

Final Thoughts

The other big topic we touched on is metrics. At Hearsay, we’ve developed new metric guidelines (KPI suggestions) for companies to evaluate the impact of advisors and agents at each stage of the client journey, as well as actions to be taken with Hearsay Social at each stage to support those goals. I talked through these, Christy talked through what metrics are important to her and Matt shared what tracking helps him as an agency owner. It was a pretty robust discussion so I encourage you to tune in to the recorded version of the webinar to learn more.
I’ll leave you with a story Matt shared as our final thought: Earlier this year, Matt was doing a campaign via traditional marketing (letters) and social media. He was contacted by phone, by someone who saw a post on Facebook through a friend who followed Matt. Because he saw Matt’s information through a trusted connection, he was predisposed to trust Matt. Matt signed this large account that would typically have a 6 month to 1 year sales cycle in just 3-4 weeks!

Welcome, Alex Falls! Insurance cloud veteran now leading Global Product Management

Last Friday, we announced the addition of Alex Falls to our leadership team, and I couldn’t be more excited. Alex joins us from Guidewire where he led the financial industry’s back-office transformation, delivering industry-changing core systems across billing, policy, and claims management. This experience is invaluable in his role leading Hearsay’s new product development, where he’ll be heading up the financial industry’s front-office transformation as Hearsay delivers insurance and wealth management workflows and analytics to allow field distribution to become more systematic while enhancing rather than replacing the human touch.

Alex Falls, Global VP of Product Management, Hearsay Systems

I sat down with Alex for a few minutes to help everyone get to know him better.
Clara: Welcome to Hearsay! Tell us a bit about your background, Alex.
Alex: I’m excited to join the team leading product management. For over two decades, I’ve been delivering product vision, strategy, and execution in insurance and financial services. My background encompasses core systems, CRM, and analytics.
Clara: What about Hearsay made you decide to join the team?
Alex: Hearsay has been at the cutting edge of financial services from the start. The company is moving the industry into the future with compelling solutions that work together to solve complex issues while helping advisors and agents improve relationships with clients and prospects. I can’t wait to work with this outstanding team as we transform the financial services industry.
Clara: Thanks, we’re so excited to have you here! What’s something that has surprised you about working with financial services institutions?
Alex: I came into financial services in the form of core software for the property and casualty insurance market. Most people look at insurance as a necessary evil, a tax, and an industry that values profit above all else. What I found was one of the most deeply human industries I’ve ever encountered: an industry that wants to liberate people from risk so they can deliver amazing things and an industry that cares deeply about its customers’ happiness, livelihood, and wholeness. I’ve become an evangelist!
Clara: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Alex: You will always regret a choice not to try something new far more than choosing to try it, no matter the outcome.
Clara: Let’s let people get to know you a little more personally… What do you like to do in your spare time?
Alex: I’ve traded in kayaking, scuba diving, and globetrotting for something far better: being the father of a wonderful, headstrong five-year-old daughter. We still travel, but our vacations have become much more relaxed!
Clara: Where would you chose to live if you had to leave your country and why?
Alex: My wife and I would likely choose London, where we lived for a time many years ago. Walking down a single city street, you hear several languages, see food from many cultures, and experience more variety and newness than anywhere else we’ve been.
Clara: I’m sure our London team looks forward to your visit! Great to have you on the team.

Analytics, Acquisitions, and the Future of Financial Advice

Data analytics is big business, but not just any solution will do in financial services

This summer, data analytics hit the big leagues. As I recently shared with InvestmentNews, Google and Salesforce spent tens of billions of dollars purchasing data analytics leaders Looker and Tableau, respectively.
The deals, $2.6 billion for Looker and a staggering $15.3 billion for Tableau, are among the largest either company has made to date. Meanwhile, rumor has it that both IBM and Microsoft may look to expand their own analytics offerings.
The money being poured into the market affirms the value that data pipelines and analytic tools bring to business in all major industries. But to truly deliver insight on that data at the point of business  impact, solutions must be tailored to meet the specific needs of vertical industries, including the highly regulated financial industry
Nowhere is data relied on more heavily than in financial services, which both requires and generates enormous amounts of data. As a consumer-heavy industry, financial services produces a huge amount of customer data. In addition, the compliance processes of this heavily monitored industry generate massive additional amounts of data.

The Future of Financial Advice

Actionable, accurate information provided by sophisticated data analysis, on comprehensive data, can provide insights into customer needs, preferences, and strategies allowing insurance agents and wealth management advisors to provide their clients with a level of service before unimaginable.
Based on targeted analytics like that that provide helpful insights on both client and field representative behaviors that influence sales, advisors and agents can easily engage clients at all stages of the customer cycle. Smart triggers can alert agents/advisors to potential problems early on, preventing policy lapses or lost clients, while other features streamline or eliminate tedious tasks and data entry, enabling advisors and agents to focus on high-ROI activities.

How to Get There

Every business needs a data and analytics strategy but as we’ve seen, not just any solution will meet the needs of financial services firms. Financial services organizations need to consider the hurdles posed by adherence to strict regulations. Compliance must be built into the solution, not just an add-on.
Fintech companies that understand the complexities of the industry and can integrate with all available data sources represent the best possibilities for the future. We can make the future of financial advice described above happen now. The resulting next-level insights will propel businesses forward as a personalized and more human experience pairs with the best of what technology can automate and optimize.
It’s a pivotal moment for analytics. As intuition is replaced by information, the impact of today’s decisions will set the course for tomorrow’s outcomes.

Get to Know Hearsay: Bryan Yeung, Director of Prototyping, Triggered Actions

Efficiency and innovation are the name of the game here in the Silicon Valley, and our Triggered Actions team at Hearsay is staying ahead of this trend for the financial services industry. In this employee spotlight, we wanted to introduce you to part of that team, Bryan Yeung, who’s helping to create a new era for agents and advisors. Get to know him here and find out more about the work he’s doing on our Triggered Actions team!

What is your role at Hearsay and how long have you been at the company?

I run rapid prototyping and solutioning for our newly formed Actions team. I began my career at Hearsay a year and a half ago on the sales team, in solutions consulting, and naturally progressed to the Actions team.

Why did you join Hearsay?

I joined Hearsay to build out our pre-sales functions, including optimizing the solutions consulting team, refining our product evaluation experience for customers, and advising/building our technical integrations across the revenue operations teams.
What I find notable about Hearsay is that concepts typically stand based on merit and not by their owner. I’ve had many ideas here replaced by better ones because they were well intentioned but not well informed. I subscribe to “Culture is what happens when no-one is looking.” When you see self-assembling teams critically vet their own thinking, as a manager it’s refreshing, as a participant it’s engaging, and as a shareholder it’s the only way your organization should scale.

What’s something that has surprised you about working with financial services institutions?

I think scale and reach. I spend a fair bit of time traveling across rural areas in the US, and many of our customers’ logos are found in all corners of this country. There aren’t many industries that have that type of reach, with that level of personal and local representation.

Where do you see Fintech heading?

I see an outsized opportunity to empower professionals to engage their clients in a relevant and material way.
I see an insurance agent with a view of their business through real-time updates, but – most importantly – the next most important items surfaced not for their rote execution, but for their professional judgement. I see a financial planner or wealth advisor with a path of possible outcomes for their clients, and clear methods for how to get them there.
Relevant and easily interpreted analyses surface at exactly the right time within the right context for easy implementation (one click in most cases). Risks are shown but, more importantly, the right pathways are automatically built to add the advisor or agent’s human expertise. Because implicit expertise and hidden wins are surfaced, bias can be positively addressed while improving outcomes for clients. This is a well placed use of our current technology and we can do this now.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I generally alternate between cooking, researching health and nutrition, spending time with family, and keeping our dog Jax from kitchen counter surfing.

What’s a skill you have that not many people know about?

I used to cook part time at a Japanese restaurant while also learning the pre-sales game.  Though spare time was fairly limited.

Greatest accomplishment to date and why?

A memorable event was a hiking race I completed, before endurance events became mainstream. Less than an hour in, we saw teams quitting. The first event of many was to figure out how to carry 100lbs of rocks, between two people for 6 miles…in addition to your 60ish pounds of gear each. In the 23 remaining hours, we slowly made it across the finish.