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The New Mobile Imperative in Financial Services

One of the most effective ways to sell – the face-to-face conversation – has become somewhat outdated with the rise of mobile technology. In our always-connected, information-rich world, it’s nearly impossible to grab anyone’s attention, anywhere.
Yet while it’s harder than ever to get in front of prospects for an actual face-to-face, there’s one device that nine out of 10 adults keep within an arm’s reach all day, every day. The mobile phone. It is perhaps the single most effective tool to help financial advisors be successful in today’s competitive environment for business.
At our recent Hearsay Summit, leaders from across the financial services industry discussed how to unlock mobile to recruit more effectively, and build loyalty with clients with a team-based approach.

Recruit New Advisors by Giving Them Mobile Tools

“It’s not an easy business,” said Caroline Feeney, President of Prudential Advisors. “And it’s certainly not an easy one to get started in as a brand new advisor.”
At Prudential, one of the most difficult challenges the firm faced in recruiting was giving young advisors a way to tap into their networks while complying with regulatory requirements. The easiest way to open up those networks was to open up the channel that provided access to contacts: texting. Since the firm implemented Hearsay Messages, advisors can text friends and family on day one of work – and they don’t have to worry about getting in trouble with compliance. It’s the easiest way to start their business, Feeney said.

Build Loyalty With Clients – As a Team

Advisors have a tall order – to build and strengthen relationships across their client base, while also managing portfolios and doing all the administrative work of running a business. Advisors spend 40 percent of their time just getting in touch with existing clients, according to PwC. And that’s important, because staying top-of-mind is key to building trust and, ultimately, selling. But what if you could empower your team to help you engage with clients more frequently?
At Prudential, assistants help advisors build relationships with clients over text using the Hearsay Messages team Texting Console. “It really saves the advisors’ time,” said Birdia Chambers, Head of Social, Texting and Communications Distribution at Prudential Advisors. “It takes away the administrative tasks so they can focus on maintaining relationships with their clients.”

Also, watch Hearsay CEO and founder Clara Shih’s opening keynote, where she discusses the latest mobile trends:

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Mortgage Lenders Must Embrace These 3 Technology Drivers

mortgage lendersTechnology has not only changed the way we communicate, but also the way we manage our money.
We pay our cable bills with the touch of a button or automate the entire process by setting up auto-pay. We ask friends to “Venmo” us for our portion of the dinner bill. We deposit a check by taking a photo of it with an app on our smartphones.
Buying a home has also changed dramatically. According to a national survey by JPMorgan Chase, today, 45 percent of future homebuyers begin their search on a computer or laptop, while 13 percent start the search from their smartphones. Like other industries, the mortgage industry has evolved to support these new buying habits, and mortgage lenders must embrace technology and find ways to benefit from it.
Why the urgency? At its core, the mortgage industry is a relationship business. Successful lending professionals focus on developing and nurturing relationships with their centers of influence (COI) – real estate agents, home builders and developers, and financial advisors. Since providing great service no longer happens exclusively offline, loan officers must use technology that lets them be responsive and active on digital channels – or risk quickly falling short of today’s changing client expectations.
Here are three key technology drivers for mortgage professionals to better serve their COI and ultimately grow business:

1. Connect on Mobile for Stronger 1:1 Relationships

To compete for the attention of top real estate agents, loan officers need to be available to establish a relationship and get leads. Many lenders and real estate agents tend to work independently, though they are both incentivized to move a consumer through the mortgage application process as smoothly and quickly as possible. This is a lot easier to do by texting and emailing on the go, especially since nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone and use their devices to navigate the world around them.
Whether a mortgage professional goes through a real estate agent or not, being able to text a borrower is critical in the often time-sensitive process of securing a loan. When a homebuyer fills out an application for a loan on a lender’s website, it’s crucial for the lender to follow up immediately. Being able to text the applicant to follow up and meet to sign papers can be the difference between closing business or not.

2. Automate Your Marketing and Increase Efficiency

Successful mortgage lenders stay top of mind with real estate agents and advisors with regular touch points to build relationships. This used to require making calls and sending snail mail, but today, technology can help keep the “top of the funnel” warm. Technology can automate many of the tasks required to maintain brand awareness on digital channels, so loan officers can more efficiently keep in touch with the COI in their area. Using social media and monitoring website activity in a box doesn’t work, but being able to track engagement across these channels – and know the types of content that resonate – is powerful.
Loan officers have to spend a certain amount of time in every stage of the sales funnel, but by automating brand awareness, they can spend time tailoring a Facebook ad or personalizing an email instead of starting from scratch. This automation gives them more time to spend in person developing long-term relationships with their COI and consumers.

3. Use Software for Worry-free Compliance

Regulations from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) require loan officers to remain compliant as they communicate with COI across digital channels. Regulators want to ensure mortgage lenders are putting out content that is fair and balanced on channels like social media, so there are controls in place and procedures for audits and compliance. Some organizations will have an oversight process for monitoring digital channels, including those generated by third parties, to ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.
Choosing a software vendor with experience in the mortgage industry will help ensure loan officers stay compliant with industry regulations. Software with flexible governance solutions can help throughout the monitoring and review process, making it much less painful and giving marketing teams an extra layer of security.
Technology can empower the best mortgage lenders today to spend time on their highest-impact work: nurturing relationships with influencers. By using mobile to power communication, automation to stay top of mind, and compliance-enabled software to open up new digital channels, mortgage pros can transform the way they do business.
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Janney Montgomery Scott’s Winning Digital Strategies for Content and Connecting with Millennials

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Clara Shih, Karen Shakoske, and Chris Johnson

Connecting with the next generation of wealth through digital marketing is a massive opportunity, according to leaders at Janney Montgomery Scott, an east coast-based firm that’s been serving clients since 1832. The customer journey has changed, especially for millennials. “They’re digital-first,” said Karen Shakoske, SVP and Head of Marketing and Corporate Communication at Janney. “It’s not only online or only in person – it’s a blend of the two.”
To connect with younger clients, advisors have to be online. “It’s about how you get in front of the children and the grandchildren of your current clients,” said Chris Johnson, Manager of Advisor Marketing and Communication at the firm. To this end, Janney teams sometimes have younger advisors help lead digital marketing efforts for their team, proactive on social media, websites and even running webinars. Moving from channel to channel is a waster of advisors’ time, said Johnson. “With Hearsay, they can connect all their accounts through one easy-to-use dashboard,” he said. “Once you’re in the library of content, you’re clicking two buttons to push this content to all of your profiles.”
Janney advisors post a mix of industry and personal content to reach both young and older clients. Johnson said industry content, or “advice beyond investing content” performs well on LinkedIn and websites – articles on financial, retirement and social security planning. On Facebook and Twitter, interpersonal and human interest content resonates best. The most successful advisors on digital mix in their personal content across channels, writing long-form LinkedIn posts and sharing events on their websites.
Another key to Janney’s digital strategy is how the team distributes a single piece of content across channels. They have an acronym in-house to describe their content strategy – COPE, or “Create Once, Publish Everywhere. ” Once a piece is published, advisors can print it, email it, and it goes straight into the Hearsay Content Library so advisors can push it out across their social media networks and websites. “We do it all in the same day,” Johnson said. “It’s become part of advisors’ routine and we remind them to print it, put it on social, post it on your website.”
To watch the full webcast with Janney Montgomery Scott’s Karen Shakoske, SVP and Head of Marketing and Corporate Communication, Chris Johnson, Manager of Advisor Marketing and Communication, and Hearsay CEO and Co-Founder Clara Shih, check out the full webcast.

How American Family Insurance Invests in 1-on-1 Relationships, Websites and Social Media to Supercharge Agency Marketing

claratelisaIn an increasingly competitive market, insurance agents have to double down on the activities that help drive business, especially when trying to reach millennials. According to American Family Insurance CMO Telisa Yancy, it’s important to focus on building 1-on-1 relationships and using local websites and social media to strengthen those connections.
There are a lot of misconceptions about how to reach younger clients or “digital natives,” Yancy said. But recent research from American Family proves millennials crave personal relationships. “They value them more than any other generation before,” said Yancy. “The real trick for our agents is to how to combine digital, mobile and social tools with these personal relationships.”
But it’s not just a personal relationship with any agent. According to a report by American Family, 72 percent of customers prefer to work with a specific insurance agent over a group of people in a call center. Younger clients want a named agent who knows them and can advise them over a long period of time, as their needs change, Yancy said.
Technology empowers agents to do their jobs better and connect locally, Yancy said. By using agent websites and social media, agents can tell their brand stories. “Their websites are just as critical and have just as much capacity to be unique as their storefronts,” Yancy said. For decades, American Family agents have been involved in their communities across 19 states. But now, their presence online through their personal websites and social media pages lets them show off that involvement.
Screen Shot 2016-10-05 at 8.25.23 PMWhat’s more, corporate content now gets more engagement by leveraging local agent marketing. For Father’s Day, American Family launched a digital campaign called Dad Insurance. The video tells the story about the role insurance plays when a young boy is going after his dream. The team launched the video exclusively on social media, and as it gained popularity, decided to let agents localize the content in their hometowns.
At the end of the localized version, the boy walks past an agent’s local office. The video went viral with more than six million views. “This is the type of 1-to-1 material you can do in a digital world that makes your brand seem larger than life,” Yancy said. By customizing content, agents also have a local, community message that’s in line with the corporate brand. This project made Yancy particularly excited about how corporate and local agents could work together on digital campaigns, said Yancy. “I’m proud of our agents for letting us experiment with how we continue to move the brand forward.”
To watch the full webcast with CMO Telisa Yancy and Hearsay CEO and Co-Founder Clara Shih, check out the full webcast.

5 Texting Tips for Increasing Lead Conversion

This blog post is part 2 of a 2-part series. Read part 1, “4 Reasons to Text Prospects for Better Conversion.”
shutterstock_298429103Now that you know how important text messaging is for converting prospects into clients, it’s critical to understand the nuances that make texting such a powerful way to communicate. According to a study by Morgan Stanley, a whopping 91 percent of adults keep their smartphones within arm’s reach. But that doesn’t necessarily mean advisors and agents know the most effective way to use their phones for text messaging. 
Here are five text messaging tips to help turn prospects into clients:

1. Know when to text

Texting is an earned privilege. It’s most effective when you’ve had some type of interaction with a prospect. Have you ever received a text from an unidentified number? It can feel intrusive. That’s the last feeling you want to give a prospective client. Once you’ve communicated with a prospect, the door is open to texting. Texting at this stage can significantly improve conversion up to 112.6 percent over average conversion when following up on leads, according to a study by Velocify

2. Be concise

The beauty of texting is that it’s acceptable and appropriate to keep your message short. Be concise. Ideally, you’ve met your prospect or talked to her before you text, so there should be some context when you reach out. Say hello and if you feel it’s appropriate, perhaps refer to something you discussed when you saw her last. Then, get to the point. Even if you were introduced to this person by a friend, he or she is likely talking to you with a purpose. Prospects aren’t looking for a new best friend; they want you to help them with major life decisions. Be concise. Don’t ramble.

3. Set professional boundaries

It’s easy for texting to feel familiar—it’s an intimate channel that can be used to communicate with faraway parents, partners and close friends. As an advisor, on the other hand, you don’t fit neatly into these categories and, although texting can feel familiar and friendly, you need to maintain a business relationships with your prospects. So, when in doubt, ask yourself, “Would I text this message to my manager?”

4. Text as part of a bigger close strategy

Use texting as a means to communicate when it makes the most sense. In general, texting is a good way to set up meetings, send reminder messages or check in about something happening in your prospect’s life without having to make a call. For example, if you want to send a prospect detailed information about a life insurance plan, it might make better sense to send her that article over email. If you can keep your prospect’s text preferences in mind, you’ll be even better off. Some people will want to catch up or ask you questions over text, while others will prefer a phone call.

5. Be yourself

Nobody wants to feel like they’re texting with an automated machine, and texting gives you the opportunity to be yourself and interact with a prospect in a casual way. You can comment on the rainy weather in your town and easily transition to asking about a prospect’s new job or aging parents. Moreover, texting allows you the time to think about what you’re going to say (before you type it) and respond thoughtfully.
When done right, texting is a crucial component of your digital strategy as a savvy, successful advisor or agent. By texting at the right moments, you can build deeper relationships and convert prospects faster.
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4 Reasons to Text Prospects for Better Conversion

This blog post is part 1 of a 2-part series. Check out part 2, “5 Texting Tips for Increasing Lead Conversion.”

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Whether you’re waiting in line for your morning coffee, commuting to work, or even sitting in a meeting—there’s one thing you can count on happening all around you today. Everyone is texting. According to Pew Research Center, 97 percent of U.S. smartphone users text at least once per day. In fact, text messaging has become the most widely used feature on our phones, followed by using the internet, making voice/video calls and email.
Texting has become a crucial part of any high-performing advisor or agent’s communication arsenal. By texting with a prospect, you’re 40 percent more likely to convert that prospect into a client. In a hyper-distracted world, it’s a critical way to connect with prospects.
Here are four reasons to text prospects for better conversions:

1. Millennials don’t answer their phones.

By 2020, almost half of U.S. workers will be millennials. They simply don’t answer their phones. If you’re serious about reaching this tech-savvy sector of the workforce, you have to text them. Many millennials find voice calls intrusive compared to receiving a text. A Nielsen study showed that among 18-to-34-year-olds, average monthly voice minute usage has dropped dramatically from 1,200 to 900 minutes while texting among 18-to-24-year-olds has more than doubled in the same period from an average of 600 messages a month to more than 1,400 texts per month.

2. Communicating via text is a quick, efficient way to get your message across…and get a response. 

Texting, by definition, is a short message (it wasn’t called a Short Message Service, or SMS for nothing). With email, there is a higher expectation for more context, but texts are supposed to be brief. When you’re reaching out to a prospect, texting is a great way to force yourself to keep the message concise. If you’re setting up a lunch to go over a retirement plan, you can worry about the details in person. Just text a note to set up a time. Texting will save you time (emails take longer to write) and help you get to the point quickly.
But texting isn’t just an efficient way for you to get in touch with prospects. It’s also the best way to guarantee your prospect will get your message and respond. A study by Radicati Group showed that 98 percent of texts that are sent will be opened by recipients and 90 percent of texts are read within three minutes of sending them.

3. Texting is personal.

Texting is the most intimate and personal form of communication available to you as an advisor or agent. A great email can still get lost in your prospect’s inbox, but a text message appears alongside your prospects’ texts from her closest family and friends. It’s also casual means to send someone a quick text, which can feel more thoughtful and help build relationships. As an advisor or agent, you’re often communicating about big life ups and downs—a divorce, a new baby, a college savings plan. These are sensitive topics and being able to talk about them one-on-one over text can feel more intimate and private. 

4. Texting provides an easy entry point for a follow-up.

Because texting has such high open and response rates, it’s a great channel for beginning a serious conversation about financial products and services. Perhaps a client of yours introduced you to his friend Gary at a party. You guys chatted casually and at the end of the conversation, Gary mentioned he’s looking for a new home. But you didn’t get his phone number. You follow up with your friend for Gary’s number and text him.
In today’s world, this is a totally kosher way to communicate. Setting up a meeting or call by text is easier for both you and Gary. This requires little effort on your end, and also makes it easy for him to ask for more information. Since you’re highly likely to get a response over text, you can start the conversation about being a first-time home buyer there and follow up over email with information about the real estate market in your city or mortgage loans. Texting makes for a great conversational starting point for business when prospects want to learn more.
It’s a no-brainer as an advisor or agent that you should be taking advantage of texting as an effective communication channel for converting prospects into clients. As long as you’re using a compliance-enabled solution, it’s hard for any prospect to ignore a concise, to-the-point text from you.
To learn more about compliance-enabled text messaging, visit www.hearsaysocial.com.
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Expressing Empathy Through Reactions and What It Means For Financial Services Firms

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Since 2009, we’ve been able to Like content on Facebook, making it easy for us to express a virtual “thumbs up” to our friends’ baby announcements, big moves to new cities and wedding photos. But a Like doesn’t fit certain status updates or news articles. In the past, when a friend shared that a loved one had died, I’ve vacillated between hitting the “thumbs up” or saying nothing at all.
It didn’t feel quite right to Like that type of post. But I still wanted to express something.
Others have felt the same way. According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, people have been asking for a Dislike button for years. But what they really wanted was the ability to “express empathy,” he said in an a Q&A at Facebook last September. So, his team worked on a way to make the “thumbs up” more expressive. On Wednesday, Facebook rolled out Reactions, an extension of the Like button, to give users more ways to share their reactions to a post in a quick and simple way. Now you can hold down the Like button on mobile or hover over the LIke button on desktop to express how a post, photo or article makes you feel by tapping Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, or Angry.

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My friend’s nonprofit was accepted to Y Combinator – I Love this!

Facebook has become a place to share news about life’s highs and lows. Being able to express our excitement at a friend’s new job post or our mourning over the loss of a loved one gives us a more empathetic experience on Facebook.
Reactions also show us how others are engaging with our own posts on the social network. For financial advisors and insurance agents, this new feature could prove to be a more nuanced way to assess how prospects and clients are engaging with content on Facebook.
So, how does this apply to financial services?
Any time new functionality is introduced by social networks, firms need to look at this functionality from a compliance standpoint.
If your policy is to prohibit advisors and agents from using the Like button on Facebook, you may consider applying the same policy to Reactions. You may also consider that some firms adhere to the 2012 SEC Risk Alert which states that interpretation of a Like as a testimonial is based on the facts and circumstances surrounding the type of post or piece of content.
As always, you should consult your firm’s policies and talk with your compliance team about the application, if any, of these or any laws or regulations restricting advertisements and other communications with the public to your business.
Disclaimer: The material available on this blog is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. We make no guarantees on the accuracy of the information provided herein.

4 Mistakes to Avoid with Local SEO

shutterstock_95646130When consumers seek financially-related information or a financial advisor, they often do so online. Usually this happens with a quick Google search. In order to show up in the search results, it’s important to have advisor websites that are optimized for local search. Why? Google has been prioritizing local-friendly websites for years and, as of last year, gives local, mobile-optimized sites higher priority
To help you increase your chances of search engine success, here are four local SEO mistakes to avoid:

Mistake #1 – Not adding fresh, relevant content

In our content-driven world, it’s critical that advisors post fresh, quality content in order to rank well in search results. Content is not just growing in the amount that’s produced, there are more types of content: video, images, news, real-time social media updates. When we search today, our expectation is to find the latest relevant content. Google has been indexing the web to optimize for fresher results since 2010 with a web index system called Caffeine. As Google finds new pages or information on existing pages (a new advisor post, for example), they add the information straight to the index. Creating fresh content is important because with every update or page you create, an advisor has another opportunity to be indexed by Google’s freshness algorithm and earn inbound links.

Mistake #2 – Having Incomplete or incorrect contact information

If you use the word “Avenue” on one website and “Ave.” on another website, it likely won’t make a huge difference in optimizing for search results. But if you use different business names in various listings, you’re missing out on getting credit for the citation and it’s hurting your local rankings in Google. It’s critical to have consistent and correct citations across the web in order to rank locally in Google. An effective local SEO strategy is dependent on accurate NAP (name, address, phone number) across the web. To avoid this problem, make sure NAP is identical across advisor websites, social media pages and blogs.

Mistake #3 – Choosing the wrong keywords

One of the biggest mistakes marketers make is selecting keywords without doing proper industry research. Choosing the wrong keywords can damage your brand by driving the wrong audience to your advisor websites. It’s easy to take the opinions of individuals on your team and run with those keywords, but it’s harder to put in the time to understand what terms your prospects and clients are searching for, and therefore what paid and organic keywords you should choose for your local SEO strategy.

Mistake #4 – Having sites that are not mobile-optimized

More searches now come from smartphones and tablets than from laptop and desktops, according to Google, yet only 44 percent of advisor websites are optimized for mobile. By 2016, we expect mobile to exceed desktop by 27.8 billion queries (BIA/Kelsey).It’s important to have a mobile-optimized advisor website so when a client is looking for his advisor’s phone number or searching for an agent’s office address on-the-go, he can find the information he needs quickly and efficiently. Therefore, it’s imperative that when someone lands on an advisor website, it’s a smooth experience free of unnecessary tapping, zooming and scrolling. It’s important that visitors to your websites can consume content without headache. You can check to see if your advisor websites are mobile-friendly by performing Google’s mobile-friendly test.
As your team builds out an advisor web program, keep these local SEO tips in mind so you can optimize your advisor websites for local search results. Remember: there’s no use in having a website if no one ever finds it.
For more information, download the free ebook Making the Shift From Corporate to Local Marketing: 5 Ways to Maximize Advisor Success in the Digital Age.
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