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Scaling 1:1 Relationship Success with Hearsay Relate

In our post-pandemic world, the ability to scale 1:1 interactions and relationships for your sales team has taken on new urgency and relevance. With a compliant text and voice solution like Hearsay Relate, teams are effectively enabling advisor and agent productivity to cut through the clutter with faster (and better) responses to drive new business.

Recently, I had the honor of facilitating a Hearsay Summit session with two Relate innovators, Allison Couch, from Modern Woodmen of America, and John Heidrich, of Allstate. Allison and John shared how they’ve helped their teams lay the groundwork for sustained success with Relate, and improved field productivity and speed to service in the process.

Both Allison and John had excellent advice when it came to inspiring the behavior change needed to successfully implement a new technology, including:

  • Have advocates in the field. When representatives from around the country can provide feedback, test new features, and share their success with their network, you’re able to identify and eliminate roadblocks to adoption.
  • Work closely with other stakeholders in the organization to ensure the program serves end users well. So for a marketing team, this means partnering with distribution and compliance leaders, so that messaging is consistent and goals are aligned.
  • Understand and segment field users to provide appropriate onboarding materials according to their technological proficiency. Customized materials and onboarding go a long way toward improving adoption.
  • Provide guidelines for how often to text, when you shouldn’t text or how you shouldn’t text. Templates and dialogue examples of what you can text, or should text, are also helpful.

To maintain momentum, some of their best practices include:

  • Communicate new Hearsay features on an ongoing basis. This can help new users get off the fence, and also increase usage for current users.
  • Use Hearsay’s new weekly messaging report for Relate users. This allows field representatives to do their own analysis and benchmark where they’re at with text messaging, and how it’s affecting their business on a weekly basis.
  • Move to an opt-out as soon as possible, because the field loves it and consumers are receptive to it. This allows representatives to initiate conversations sooner, which helps them get results sooner.
    Finally, both speakers recommended having Relate office hours.

One more advanced strategy that Allstate has implemented—and which Modern Woodmen is considering—is integrating Relate with their CRM systems. The integration solves challenges around streamlining processes, maintaining accurate records, and providing corporate visibility. Agency users were saying, “Hey, we’ve got too many things open at the same time,” and also wanted to capture what conversations are taking place, with whom and when, for errors and omissions purposes. In addition, the visibility for management has been highly insightful. John’s team has gained visibility into conversations with new prospective clients, for example, by looking at how those interactions are taking place, and seeing what is and is not working.

Thank you to Allison and John for sharing their successes and learnings from their Relate journeys! To watch their session, or other Summit recordings, visit our Summit highlights page.

Drive Trust and Conversions with Digital Storefronts

As financial services firms rethink business models, in some cases downsizing their real estate footprint, the notion of a storefront has transformed significantly. At the heart of that transformation is the “digital storefront”—-where prospective clients engage directly with advisors and agents, and the brands behind them.

We’ve seen consumers seek financial advice from an increasingly diverse range of sources, requiring firms to build scalable, compliant, and compelling entry points that together comprise this digital storefront. Today, that includes social profiles, personal websites and other listings, each playing its own role.

Thrivent Financial has pushed the boundaries on their digital storefronts with a hugely successful digital program that has consistently been the top driver of leads for their advisor network.

Recently, Thrivent’s VP of Integrated Marketing, Nicohle Schluender, joined our CEO, Mike Boese, on the virtual stage of Hearsay Summit to discuss the importance of the digital storefront.

A key takeaway is that although the pandemic accelerated innovation, consumer behaviors were changing well before that. In 2014, Thrivent found that 30% of customers did research online before engaging with them; by 2020, just before the pandemic, 70% were doing so. Fortunately, Thrivent had already started their journey to “digitize trust building” prior to the pandemic, providing their financial professionals with the tools that enabled them to be agile, including multiple platforms to share their professional and personal values in a way that the corporate team could supervise and assist with.

Another takeaway was the focus on integrations to reduce friction. So while social media profiles drive awareness, websites move leads through the funnel, and Hearay Relate—-our compliant texting and voice solution—gets the advisor into a 1:1 interaction quickly, the impact of each of these tools is multiplied when the experience is seamless. To that end, Nicohle and her team have focused relentlessly on a fully-integrated approach. Clients have the choice to opt-in to texting with the financial professional right from the advisor’s website. Advisor website leads flow directly into Salesforce for immediate data and activity capture, and Salesforce opportunities are automatically created when a lead converts. These integrations reduce friction in the customer and advisor experience, while eliminating barriers to connection between clients and financial professionals.

As a result of their connected digital storefronts, Thrivent has experienced a 60% increase in traffic for financial professionals who take advantage of personalizing their sites, and greater than 25% conversion of those website leads into prospective clients.

Congratulations to Nicohle and the team at Thrivent for these stellar results! We’re thrilled to be a part of their journey to digitize trust building with their customers.

The Art of Igniting Change Across Your Agents and Advisors

At our Hearsay Summit last month, we had the honor of hosting brand evangelist and social media expert, Guy Kawasaki, on the virtual stage. In his keynote, The Art of Igniting Change, Guy imparted the wisdom he’s learned from his decades of experience creating deep connections between brands and customers.

Listening to Guy speak, I realized that these nuggets of wisdom could not only positively influence the customer brand experience, they could also be applied to how corporate financial services teams approach agents and advisors. Here are some key takeaways from Guy’s keynote below:

Work Backwards
The first principle Guy shared was to ‘work backwards.’ No, he wasn’t referring to setting your end goal first; he was encouraging us to deeply understand what customers need and want—then work backwards to meet those expectations. Guy acknowledged that this can be a major philosophical change, but assured us that it’s one worth pursuing.

For corporate teams at financial services organizations, this means really tuning in to your field force. When building digital programs, resist the temptation to take the easy route, with assumptions like, “This is the technology that we have…This is the way it’s always been done in our industry.” Work backwards from your agents and advisors. Channel their day-to-day activities, understand how new workflows fit in, see how technology impacts the customer experience, listen to how and when they want to interact with their customers—and then build that program.

Provide a MAP
Another nugget of wisdom Guy shared was the idea of providing a MAP, which stands for Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose. It’s not enough to just deliver a guide or a learning path; rather, we must develop a framework that empowers agents and advisors to take action. Seek to deliver the tools and support that help your field master new skills, while allowing them the autonomy to activate programs independently. Together, this construct will reinforce their higher purpose, which for most advisors and agents is to help customers achieve their financial goals, and attain peace of mind.

Tell the Stories of Converts Converting
One of the bigger challenges of deploying a digital program in financial services to thousands of field reps is getting buy-in and driving adoption. By marrying two of Guy’s methods— “use converts to convert” and “use stories’—we get closer to overcoming this dual challenge!

Guy shares that ”one of the most powerful ways…to convince people who are neutral or negative or resistant is to use an example of someone who was just like the customer and changed his or her mind.” Find an agent or advisor that brought a healthy dose of scepticism to the social media or texting program, only to grow their business success as a result, and tell that story! With Hearsay Spotlights, our team partners with you to create compelling agent/advisor success stories that you can share with the rest of your field to drive greater interest, demand, and adoption, potentially converting cynics into adopters, and perhaps even into future fans!

In closing, Guy reminds us that the word evangelism “comes from a Greek origin and it means bringing the good news.” Every one of us has the power to be a brand evangelist. By reminding your field teams that their personalized perspective and insights help them achieve the trustworthiness that their clients crave, you help cultivate their inner evangelist. And by celebrating their victories in social selling—-while getting some competitive energy ignited across the organization—you’re inspiring a lasting change in the battle to win hearts and minds.

Thanks to Guy for sharing his stories and insights with us. You can catch Guy’s top 10 lessons for igniting change—as well as our other Summit session replays—here.

If Content is King, Is Your Content Strategy Ready to Rule?

At last month’s Hearsay Summit, Director of Content Strategy Gabrielle Levin joined Hannah Bland, Digital Marketing Manager at Aviva Investors and Tim Rickards, Director of Marketing and Client Engagement at Charles Schwab, to discuss their key content strategy tips for nurturing clients via social media, particularly during this past year.

Here are five takeaways from their discussion:

Carve out a safe space where knowledge and need takes precedence
Content plays an important role in simplifying people’s journeys, so Tim’s team seeks to create content that engages, educates, and activates prospects and clients.Through content, potential clients can engage without feeling pressure. Delivering the right content to the right people helps them build knowledge before they’re even ready to make a buying decision. Then, when the conversation finally happens, better and more meaningful outcomes arise because of the knowledge gained prior to the conversation.

Tim also posed the million dollar question, “how can you be relevant enough and targeted enough without maybe being too creepy? We work really hard to be as relevant as we can, and…when we’re right, I think it’s way more valuable to the individual who receives it.”

Consider content holistically
Hannah agrees that content must be considered in the context of the entire customer journey. In some cases, maintaining engagement with clients and prospects as they move through that customer channel can take years.

“We completely appreciate social is just one avenue for clients or prospects to engage with you as a business, and there are going to be multiple touch points across that client journey,” says Hannah. While consistency, activity and visibility are key for social, “it’s really key for us to understand the attribution model and how social plays a part in that.” By utilizing a single customer view, they’re able to get a 360 view of their clients and prospects, and how they’re engaging with their content.

Focus on customer impact
Hannah and her team use social media to demonstrate their expertise through weekly thought leadership pieces, producing publications such as “House View,” which gives a view into what investment decisions are being made, and “The Little Book of Data,” which highlights data visualizations.

Each publication focuses on customer impact, and is tied to their business objectives of brand awareness and increased credibility among clients. Because Aviva Investors’ business objective is to deliver strong investment performance for its customers through ESG-led solutions, this type of thought leadership also helps generate leads and grow third-party business.

Don’t forget the big picture when it comes to metrics
While it’s important to look at the number of people who respond to multiple touches to see how content is connecting with an individual, Tim stresses that it’s not the whole story. “More contacts, more touches, or more interaction may not necessarily mean the conversion rates are better,” he says. “Likewise, if someone doesn’t react at all, but does convert that’s a win.”

Keeping the feedback loop open with field teams is critical. Hannah layers in anecdotal feedback from her teams to understand what resonates with clients. “You might look at metrics, and say it’s really positive, but actually just because somebody clicked, opened, or engaged with something, it doesn’t necessarily mean it was a positive engagement,” she says. Getting feedback from her sales and distribution teams keeps the dialogue flowing and helps her contextualize and validate metrics.

Establish a trusting relationship
Trust is the bedrock for any successful business, but is even more important in financial services. Establishing this foundation absent in-person meetings is tough, so Aviva Investors rose to the challenge through a weekly LinkedIn poll called “Ask the Fund Manager.” They asked their audience what they wanted to hear from them, and created videos sharing poll results and providing answers.

“It’s very much person-to-person,” says Hannah. “It feels like you’re having a conversation with one of the fund managers which makes it really authentic as well. And in a time where we’ve got those limited face-to-face interactions, we wanted to demonstrate to clients that we’re visible and we’re active and we’re here.”

Already in its 50th week, the 3-5 minute video series helps Aviva Investors bridge a personal connection with clients, while building familiarity and trust with fund managers, who can showcase their expertise.

A huge thanks to Hannah Bland and Tim Rickards for sharing their content strategy insights with us! You can watch a replay of their session, and other Summit sessions here.

How the Supreme Court’s Auto-Dialer Ruling Impacts Future TCPA Litigation

“In sum, Congress’ definition of an autodialer requires that in all cases, whether storing or producing numbers to be called, the equipment in question must use a random or sequential number generator.” Facebook v. Duguid, Case No. 19-511

The April 1 Supreme Court ruling, applicable to both placing telephone calls and sending text messages, adopts the narrower of the prevailing interpretations regarding the applicability of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Specifically, the requirement to obtain prior consent from a recipient rests on whether a system is an auto-dialer or not. To be deemed an auto-dialer, the Supreme Court found that a system “must use a random or sequential number generator.”

This narrower interpretation means that telephone and texting solutions which lack the capacity to generate random or sequential numbers no longer qualify as an auto-dialer; consequently, a substantially smaller portion of previously covered communications will now be regulated under TCPA. Because the Hearsay platform does not contain components—in Relate, or elsewhere—that use a random or sequential number generator, the platform would not be deemed an auto-dialer. Use of the platform is consequently not predicated on customer consent prior to calling or sending text messages.

Note that the Supreme Court ruling is not viewed as a positive by all, and the legislature may yet enact new rules to restrict the new standard. Additionally, while eliminating the obligation to obtain consent facilitates communication, the following remain true:

  1. Existing policies regarding the use of text messaging (i.e., consent is required) will need to be updated before or concurrent with any process change
  2. Certain limitations remain: pre-recorded calls require consent; ‘Do Not Call’ filters must still be applied
  3. Financial Services rules persist – including the tenets of FINRA’s Communications with the Public rule (solicitation times; advertising rules; suitability)
  4. Carriers block calls that they believe are spam; increased use could result in calls or text messages being blocked.
    If communications become out of control, Congress—or worse, the states—could write new laws to address industry practices, resulting in a patchwork of state requirements that could become tremendously cumbersome.

    Ensuring compliance in a dynamic regulatory environment may be challenging, but we’re here to help. Should you require any guidance with respect to this new ruling, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Hearsay’s in-house Compliance practice.

400 Days Later: Igniting Connections in our Post-Pandemic World

In case you’re counting, we’ve now surpassed day 400 of the COVID pandemic. New habits are formed after repeating a behavior for an average of 66 days, so it’s no surprise that behaviors that previously would have taken decades to go mainstream transformed in a matter of weeks. Fundamentally, our market and clientele evolved.

Hearsay’s 2021 Summit analyzed these shifts in client demands and how agent and advisor practices advanced to facilitate deeper, stronger client engagement. At our opening session, CEO Mike Boese and guests examined three key challenges that we must tackle in order to build authentic, long-lasting connections in our post-pandemic environment.

Challenge #1: The New Trust Criteria

2020 saw record low trust in financial institutions and record high levels of switching. Why? We think some of this can be attributed to how the customer’s decision criteria has shifted. In addition to service and price, consumers demand that companies take a stand in alignment with their values.

To underscore this point, Nicohle Schluender, VP of Integrated Marketing at Thrivent, shared research that since the pandemic, 70% of clients are doing research online before taking a meeting with financial professionals. To meet clients’ new trust criteria, Thivent has adopted a coordinated approach across local websites and social media to ensure their advisors can authentically showcase their practice and put forward their firm’s unique values. This “digital storefront” has been invaluable in digitizing trust-building, resulting in a 21% increase in YoY leads and a remarkable 1 in 4 inbound leads converted.

To ignite a deeper connection in this new environment, firms must strive to address these principles, and adopt a point of view beyond financial advice. Do you facilitate diversity and inclusion? Do you speak to societal and personal challenges with empathy? Do you have a robust ESG offering? Beyond your corporate brand addressing these trends in a targeted, personal manner, they must empower advisors and agents to express their views and personalize corporate value messages on channels like social media, for it’s field teams that can cultivate and nurture deeper, more personal connections to their clients.

Challenge #2: The “Social” Experience

Since the pandemic, we’ve experienced a dramatic spike in the use of social networks for financial advice….in particular with younger investors. Younger investors are five times more likely to get financial advice from social media, and not just for investing; new participants are engaging networks to evaluate insurance, mortgages, and other financial products.

When the pandemic started, social activity—and web traffic—surged. Then we all hit a virtual wall, and engagement plummeted. So how did programs adjust their activity in the digital realm to give participants the best shot possible at breaking through the noise and really connecting?

Tim Rickards, Director of Marketing at Charles Schwab, honed in on video as a medium that resonates with younger audiences. Looking ahead to the next generation of clients, video will likely become the preferred medium for learning and information sharing. No longer will a purely face-to-face strategy suffice (more on that below), investors will increasingly turn to video for its balance of accessibility and humanity. To win client hearts and minds, it’s imperative that firms seek to ignite connections online in more places while leveraging modern mediums like video to demonstrate social and financial savvy in a compliant and engaging manner.

Challenge #3: The Artful Mix of Human & Digital

The pandemic drove new behaviors and challenged some preconceived notions regarding client engagement. Perhaps you don’t need to travel as often for client meetings. Maybe clients preferred a simple text vs. a call. Maybe lunch has been supplanted by a Zoom meeting? Our post-pandemic approach will require a skillful blend of both old and new techniques, combining the best of human and digital techniques.

Finding the right balance will require an even greater focus on data and leveraging insights to guide the right experience. Hearsayers Gabby Levin and Iain Duke-Richardet highlighted this point, unveiling new Content and Compliance dashboards full of actionable insights to help you better understand your advisor and audience populations, so that you can continuously iterate, improve and manage engagement accordingly.

Because of COVID-19, customers are even more attuned to ease of use and a frictionless experience. Firms must drive productivity that unlocks more customer touches and high-quality interactions for field teams. This was on display as Alex Falls, VP of Product at Hearsay, laid out a future vision of unifying engagement around the client, not the channel. A client-centric experience allows advisors to communicate with customers in the most intimate, seamless, and effective manner, while maximizing the value of each conversation.

Above all, the Hearsay Summit saw customers, partners, and thought leaders come together to share strategies and best practices for the future of last-mile engagement. We stand in awe of the massive shifts programs have made to meet customers where they are in this new world. We’re excited to see how our customers and programs evolve to transform these new challenges into opportunities to ignite connections.

You can watch a replay of our Day One session, or our other Summit sessions here.

When it Comes to Trust, Main Street Beats Wall Street

A wise man or woman once said that trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair. After decades of scandals across nearly every industry, consumers remain extremely skeptical of corporate America and institutions at large, creating real-world challenges for the financial industry marketers charged with building and protecting corporate brands.

A polished corporate website is table stakes; customers, investors, the media, and regulators visit sites for formal (form submission) and informal (research) reasons. Marketers pour resources into brand management, modifying messaging and perception for a broad and non-specific audience, and ultimately winnowing down into targeted content for specific groups. Built for this purpose, corporate websites are great at what they do. But for financial services companies with distributed workers, a corporate site often isn’t enough to create For financial services firms, this means that corporate websites must extend, in order to help local reps effectively build brand the community-based trust and confidence that consumers desire.

Fortunately, while trust in institutions is at all-time low, trust in peers is at an all-time high. Whether through in-person conversations, online reviews, Facebook groups or TikTok review videos, consumers are listening to one another. Practically, this means a neighbor, former college roommate, or work colleague is often consulted for recommendations.

For financial institutions, the rise of trust in peers offers a unique opportunity to evolve digital strategy and leverage the distributed nature of their workforce. They can do so by offering corporate-supported localized and personalized websites, which empowers agents, advisors and bankers to:

Build a personal brand with a local flair. A user website allows each banker, advisor or agent to attach a face to the name, share personalized information and provide a local address or map to establish proximity and relevance. Does an agent who graduated from Ohio State want to target local alumni? Does a wealth manager in southern Florida want to establish interest in boating and an upcoming regatta? Here’s the chance.

Establish credentials and coverage. When advisors are able to efficiently share biographic and demographic information that meets prospects’ needs for specific credentials, coverage areas, or expertise, sites can quickly demonstrate the right business match.

Share localized content to establish community ties. Beyond social media, the ability to share relevant content that drives in-person or virtual meetings and events fosters a sense of community. From hosting a wine and cheese prospecting event to supporting a charity fundraiser for the regional high school, there are plenty of ways advisors can demonstrate their personal investment in their neighborhood.

In a highly competitive and saturated market where consumers are skeptical of large brands, advisor websites are integral to the digital toolbox. Localized sites also help foster the community-based, Main Street trust and dependability that consumers crave, particularly in today’s socially distanced world.

Starbucks CMO Brady Brewer Shares Three Lessons for Human Connection

This year, we were excited to welcome back Brady Brewer, the CMO of Starbucks (and our top-rated speaker from last year’s Summit), to our virtual stage. Brady joined Hearsay’s VP of Marketing, Leslie Leach, to share how Starbucks continues to sustain authentic client relationships across every individual interaction.

Just as Starbucks is in the people business—not the coffee business—Hearsay is in the people business, helping to guide agents and advisors in the last mile of client engagement, as they work with clients to help them fulfill their future dreams and aspirations.

Here are three best practices that Brady shared with us:

Connect, discover, and respond
Regardless of role, every person at Starbucks is informed by the same type of training model: to connect, discover and respond. Simple gestures such as making eye contact, greeting a customer as they walk through the door, or making sure you get a customer’s name right, are ingrained in the Starbucks experience.

“Getting the small details right…make [a customer] feel cared for as a person,” says Brady. “And that can have a huge impact on a customer’s day.”

If that first cup of coffee is the start of someone’s day, baristas have the ability to set the tone for the day ahead. Scaling this approach as a global company is no small feat, particularly with 30,000 Starbucks stores around the world!

Provide safe, familiar, and convenient experiences
People’s everyday routines were disrupted by the pandemic. For Starbucks, their stores used to be customers’ first stop outside of their homes—“the place before the place”; now, it may be the only place that’s visited outside the home.

With some stores operating as curbside or pick-up only, Starbucks quickly adapted to find ways to show their customers they were still there for them. By investing heavily in their mobile app, they enabled customers to enjoy Starbucks on their own terms: Contactless, curbside, and doorside, were all new delivery methods that helped Starbucks transform their service and provide everyone a little slice of comfort.

Use storytelling to create a culture of empathy and care
While working in marketing, Brady’s team came up with the idea of sending every store 25 blank holiday cards—without any instructions for what to do with them.

Months later, when he worked a shift at his neighborhood store, the manager brought one of these cards out to a loyal customer. When the customer read the card, she burst into tears, saying “I had no idea I meant this much to you.” The store manager had written to the customer that she loved seeing her every day, and that she was a part of the store family.

“Brands are built from legends,” says Brady. The smallest gesture, which might have taken a minute, had the power to show heartfelt, tremendous care for this customer, who likely would’ve shared this story with others as well. It became a lesson for the Starbucks team, that anyone can do little things to foster belonging, inclusion and appreciation.

As a parting thought, Brady shared that “The number one thing you can do to help a human being feel connected to another person is to be of service to them.” It’s a great mantra to return to, as we navigate the customer experience in our post-pandemic world.

A huge thanks to Brady and Leslie for sharing their conversation around igniting connections with customers.