Skip to content

Announcing the Hearsay Summit 2020 Innovator Awards!

Drum roll, please!

We had over a dozen nominees for this year’s awards. This year’s winners had a very unique experience — they received their awards in the mail and we celebrated them virtually on Day 2 of the Hearsay Summit last week. We hope you were able to join and raise a glass to celebrate them during the awards ceremony.

Learn more about our six winners and the amazing accomplishments they’ve conquered over the past year with their Hearsay programs.

Greatest Compliance Efficiencies

This award recognizes the Innovator who has leveraged Hearsay Compliance to effectively automate compliance workflows while minimizing risk and enhancing communications across the entire agent/advisor-client journey.

Greatest Compliance Efficiencies Winner – Christy Zielinski, MassMutual 

Christy partnered with Hearsay’s Compliance & Supervision Advisory Practice to develop a secondary review process for monthly internal audits of supervision activities. This process enabled MassMutual to mitigate risk by monitoring its compliance admins through an audit feedback loop. This operational efficiency ensures the supervision review procedure is properly followed in order to adhere to industry regulations and best practices using social media. Christy’s leadership drove this initiative to completion and MassMutual is now averaging 3K automatically captured posts a month that will result in an expected reduction of 24K alerts annually!

Best Strategies for Improving ROI

This next category recognizes Innovators for each Hearsay product category (Social, Sites, and Relate) for establishing and measuring program ROI, increasing field agents/advisors adoption, and driving greater client efficiencies.

Best Strategy for Improving ROI – Sites winner – Wendi Phillips, The Co-operators

Wendi has launched over 600 fully custom-themed sites in two languages, English and French.

She has been working to harmonize advisors’ sites with the Social program team at the Co-operators, combining forces to roll out a smooth program for advisors. Wendi has been pushing Hearsay to the best of its abilities to roll out a customized Sites platform and to brainstorm ways in which the Co-operators can better integrate Social and Sites, all while demonstrating clear ROI to advisors.

Best Strategy for Improving ROI – Relate winner – Nicohle Schluender, Thrivent Financial

Under Nicohle’s direction, Thrivent is completely transforming the digital experience for its financial representatives and the clients they represent by creating a seamless client experience. Nicohle spearheaded the full field rollout of Relate to all 2,600 financial representatives during the COVID-19 crisis to make sure communication between financial representatives and clients never stopped. Thrivent has also greatly increased the number of leads they receive through their Advisor websites. Nicohle is a true visionary!

Best Strategy for Improving ROI – Social winner – Scott Carlisle, Kiersten Shank, Lincoln Financial Distributors

Scott and Kiersten have demonstrated a relentless pursuit of transformation. Over the past year, they have grown Lincoln Financial’s Social program at an unprecedented rate while establishing ROI benchmarks and catering to their wholesaler client on a daily basis. As part of their efforts, they’ve optimized LinkedIn profiles, doing a full audit of all 272 of their wholesalers and providing them with best practices to make their profiles go “from good to great!” Scott and Kiersten also created a digital resource hub with educational videos. They’ve seen an 85.5% increase from last year for wholesaler onboarding, a 74.5% increase in LinkedIn connections from last year, and continual organic growth for their LinkedIn and Twitter pages. Additionally, they’ve experienced an increase of 128.8% in creating and posting content on behalf of their wholesalers from 2019 to 2020 per business line.

Most Influential Insurance Leader in Transforming the Client Experience

This award recognizes the Innovator who has leveraged the Hearsay platform to effectively lead their organization through change management while increasing client transparency to transform the client experience.

Most Influential Insurance Leader in Transforming the Client Experience Winner – Erin Fenton, Allstate

Erin received two Innovators nominations this year and is this year’s winner for Most Influential Insurance Leader in Transforming the Client Experience. She has increased traffic to from the Agent Social program by about 1,400% since 2016. The agent active rate each month on social has grown by about 20% since 2016. The program adoption of agents has also increased by 22% since 2016. The total published content per year has increased by 164% since 2016. These are incredible wins for Erin and Allstate!

Most Influential Wealth Management Leader in Transforming the Client Experience Winner – Chris Johnson, Janney Montgomery Scott

The next award recognized someone who has leveraged the Hearsay platform to effectively lead their organization through change management while increasing client transparency to transform the client experience.

Chris has been managing the Hearsay program since its inception in 2015 across Social, Sites, Relate, and multiple integrations, as well as dealing directly with the field for training and communication. He has spearheaded unique integrations with Hearsay including threaded archiving for Relate and third-party site integration to the Hearsay publisher. He also led beta testing for any new features that Hearsay develops. Under his leadership, yearly adoption of the Hearsay Program at Janney Montgomery Scott has grown over 280% in users since the start of the program in 2015. In the past year there were thousands of visits to the teams’ financial advisor sites. Hearsay Social was the top referral source for traffic and third in total acquisitions, directly behind organic and direct referrals for Hearsay Sites. Hearsay Sites has also generated over 650 leads in the past year.

Congratulations to all our winners and nominees this year!

Reflections on Hearsay CKO: Connection and Inspiration for the Year to Come

Last week, the entire global Hearsay team united in person in New Orleans to get excited about all of the initiatives and outcomes we will be driving with our customers in 2020. One of the major benefits of having everyone together in one place is getting face time with people from all of the global offices. So often we are in our day to day, chatting with someone online or sending them an email with a request, but how often do you get to connect in person with employees across a global company?

We asked for takeaways on the kickoff from across the company, and here is what folks had to say:

“I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet and work with team members from various departments around the world. It allowed for some great knowledge sharing, department insights, and team building! Having everyone new to the city was also a fun touch as we were all open to exploring and being present for one another. We truly have a unique and talented team at Hearsay that I feel grateful to be a part of. Looking forward to taking the learnings from our Omnichannel Orchestrated Outcomes, one of our large customer’s motivating presentations and from the shared knowledge across the board to my upcoming client meetings!” – Cristine Sousa – Customer Success, Toronto, Canada

“CKO is one of my favorite times of year. As someone who works in a smaller office (we are growing fast though!) getting face time and meeting people in person is so beneficial. There’s also always a motivating and family-like atmosphere. Everyone is so friendly and it really makes you feel like part of a bigger picture. I love it!” – Lauren Wyatt, Engineer, Seattle, Washington

“This was one of the best CKOs of my career! I was impressed by the coordination and it was of course also a ton of fun. Most importantly though I’m inspired by the vision for the next 5 years and look forward to deepening our partnerships with our strategic customers. Orchestrating hundreds of thousands of agents and advisors to leverage multiple channels to get everyone behaving (and performing!) like the top reps are going to be transformational to Financial Services and I’m proud to be a part of it!” – Matt Haney, Sales, New York

“Social is a key element to any advisor based digital transformation. However, Social in a silo is not good enough. It has to be combined with outcomes sought and the necessary orchestration with other channels to optimize its value in the digital ecosystem. Rarely does a customer journey start on one channel and stay on that same channel to conclusion.” – Adrian Del Busso, Sales, West Coast

“Any successful CKO has to focus on 2 different fronts: aligning on corporate outcomes and objectives, and connecting the people. I appreciate we took the time to reflect back on our prior year for areas to be better, as well looked ahead on where we need to go to be successful. Bringing everyone together in a city like New Orleans made it extremely fluid to bond in a city conducive of fun and silliness, which is immensely important to fostering a strong corporate culture.” – Roger Liang, Partnerships, San Francisco

“As a new Hearsay employee, I cannot imagine a better opportunity to meet individuals from every part of the company.  The cross-pollination of ideas, personalities, and experiences gave me deep insights into the company as a whole and helped me better understand our shared goals.  Meeting everyone on neutral ground in a fun and historically-rich location was an operations masterstroke. CKO 2020 was an absolute blast!” – Daryl Benzel, Full Stack Developer, Seattle

“We had so much fun in the product and design team breakout. Not only did we build structures with spaghetti and marshmallows as a team building exercise, but we also spent time envisioning future Hearsay products, and brainstormed how to get there. It was an eye-opening collaborative session.” – Yingying Zhang, Product Design, Seattle

Now that we’ve spent a great week connecting, we are more energized than ever to provide the maximum value for our customers in 2020!

In the Spotlight: Jessica Niles, Financial Advisor, Janney Montgomery Scott

At our recent New York roundtable, we had the privilege of sitting down with Jessica Niles, a financial advisor with Janney Montgomery Scott, who uses Hearsay Social, Sites, and Relate. Jessica is one of three advisors with Niles and Carl Wealth Management Consulting, located in Saratoga Springs, New York since 2013. In our open conversation, she covered how the home office can help advisors like her and how she has found success with social media.

What is a typical day like for you?

It really varies day to day. I try to be more proactive than reactive so I typically work from home in the mornings to get busy work done. I schedule social media posts for the week, then daily I will check to see who likes or comments on posts. I find interacting with these people is an effective way to get meetings.

How often do you get lead referrals from social?

I get a couple of leads per month from social media.

How do you identify your target audience?

Given the demographics of the area, my clients are all over the map in terms of who they are, so I’m not sure I have identified a real ‘target.’ I typically look at who’s interacting with social media and also think events and active community engagement are great ways to connect with prospective clients.

What is something that surprises you when you talk to clients?

When a new client signs on, I always ask them what kind of communications they like – email, text, whatever – and how often they want to be contacted. I have a ton of clients who switch to me who aren’t getting the communication or service level that they want, which has led to them being dissatisfied enough that they look for a new advisor.

Were you texting with clients before you started using Hearsay?

I was and when clients were texting my personal phone, it felt like a never-ending job and often blurred the line between business and personal relationships.

Why did you start using Hearsay Relate (compliant texting and mobile calling)?

Janney does training days one day a month virtually and I found out about Relate and I love it! It’s really convenient and I find that a lot of clients would rather text than email. It really speeds up quick transactions too, such as scheduling a meeting.

What do you want to see from the corporate marketing team?

The Janney marketing team does an awesome job of putting in new content every week. I want as many prompts and reminders from them as I can get, and look for them to make the tools they provide flow organically into my everyday life.

Where would you like to see financial services tech head?

For me, it needs to be simple. I literally still use spreadsheets to log my customer calls!

What advice would you give to your peers on how to get started or be better with social media or texting?

Technology and social media may not be a familiar platform for you to use, it isn’t for me either! However, if you have a team member that may have more of an interest in this area, let them lead the way with the scheduling and posting, and you can consult on the topics!

AmFam’s Digital Maturity Model: The Proof is in the ROI

You may have seen the blog post we did in May, featuring American Family’s digital maturity model. After winning the Hearsay Summit ‘Transforming the Enterprise’ award, we were anxious to have Josh Feyen share secrets to his team’s success with guiding agents to not only get started on social media, websites, and texting for their businesses but how to really fly. In the post, Josh gave us AmFam’s top three tips for maximizing their ‘Crawl, Walk, Run, Fly’ program:

  1. Educate your reps (and don’t forget to take advantage of their competitive spirit)
  2. Provide lots of content and leave room for agents to post their own original content too
  3. Track metrics and review/revise the maturity model yearly, since the rules of digital success are continually changing

As follow-up to the first blog post, we decided to catch up with a few American Family agents and staff who have progressed through the program to demonstrate how a digital maturity program truly produces measurable results.

Heath Burchill, Colorado – 70% increase in calls from Google, 50% website lead close rate

Heath Burchill has a large agency, managing 14,000 policies and 11 employees. His agency is consistently at the head of the pack in driving traffic and leads through his agency website. He has seen a traffic increase of 130% to his Google listings resulting in a 70% increase in total calls. Through 2019, mobile searches on Google directly generated 200 calls to his agency, which is significantly helped by 20 years in business and 189 positive reviews on Google. And the Burchill agency has a 50% close ratio on website leads!

Monica Hoskins, Ohio – Top agent driving leads through agency site and

Monica Hoskins spent 10 months ‘Walking’ on social media before she decided to try her hand at increasing her original content posting. That original content increase began in October 2018, and now she’s a ‘Fly’ agent most months. She is also one of the top agents driving leads directly through her agency site and, both of which convert higher than the state sales average.
Monica has a couple of tricks up her sleeve when it comes to creating original posts that really drive engagement. First, people love getting a glimpse of who she is as a person. Insurance is a business built on trust and customers want to know that the person they’re putting their faith in for guidance is a real person. Monica’s most popular posts are pictures of her grandkids, which make engagement “go through the roof,” with 300-400 engagements. Next, she makes sure to respond to social engagement. This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many business people don’t take the time to do it and how often it results in leads.

Christina Smith-Gallagher Agency, Wisconsin – Success through delegation 

Christina’s agency ‘walked’ for all of 2018 but in 2019 moved on to ‘run’ and ‘fly’ as she delegated social media ownership to her staff Kristie Pecard. Kristie focuses on original postings and managing the content calendar. Kristie also updates the agency website a few times a year and they’ve even had a few reviews recently which Christina responded directly to. Finally, the agency’s calls from their Google listing have also increased year over year by ~120% from 100 to over 220.
There are a few best practices Christina and her team follow that have contributed to her success. First, Christina has built a team and delegates across multiple office locations for digital and sales. She has a talented social media program manager in place, Kristie, who subscribes to campaigns that keep corporate content flowing. She also uses the Hearsay calendar feature to change some of those dates to spread corporate content out. This allows her to pepper in customer content like staff highlights and funny stories.

Todd Laczynski, Indiana – More leads, above-average conversion and delegation

Todd’s agency is driving leads through the digital channel and creating more original content in 2019 compared to 2018. The agency is not only driving leads but consistently has an above-average conversion rate. He is also receiving more calls each month from Google, over 55 for last month. He credits some of his success to delegating ownership of digital marketing to his staff Brianna Merz. She makes sure all agency profiles are up to date, sets content for Facebook, and uses her mobile phone to stay on top of any new notifications.

Hearsay Highlights

The agents and their teams told us some of the things they like about Hearsay and use to increase success:

  • Relate has saved team about 4-5 days/month worth of time
  • Appreciate Hearsay as a ‘one stop shop’
  • Keep Hearsay Relate IM desktop open so they can respond to text messages immediately
  • They get notification emails when they are getting a text message, in case they aren’t using their phone in that moment
  • By posting to Facebook through Hearsay, they don’t always get new business but tend to get a lot of clients wanting to reinstate and/or add policies.
  • Delegation is key. If you have hired staff, let them help keep your social media going – it pays off!
  • They use the resources and guidelines that the home office provides to the field, like the agent site profile suggestions when just getting started, and the dynamic campaigns to “keep the content lights on”

One large trend we noticed is that the agents are not spending a lot of time in the Hearsay dashboard. We love to hear this because as you get up and running, you shouldn’t need to spend much time using Hearsay. Hearsay hopes to set each agent up to be out meeting with clients and nurturing relationships. These agents are really on their way to digital mastership!

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.

Get to Know Hearsay: Jill Kiernan, Customer Success Executive

When Jill Kiernan recently joined Hearsay’s Client Services organization from a large life insurance company, I knew I had to feature her story. As someone with years of marketing experience and a deep understanding of Hearsay prior to joining the team, she brings a unique perspective to her role and the customers she supports. Read on to learn about Jill, why she joined the Hearsay team, and the role of a Customer Success Executive!

What is your role at Hearsay and why did you join the company?

I am a Customer Success Executive located in Boston, Massachusetts. On the Customer Success team, our charter is to lead our customers to great outcomes while delivering a great experience.
I joined the company because I have been constantly impressed by the leadership and mission of Hearsay, coupled with their – I guess our, now – product offerings. I wanted to contribute toward that mission, and saw an opportunity to do so given my background as a customer. At the same time, I was looking for a role where I could learn and grow both professionally and personally and knew this was the place for me.

You were very familiar with Hearsay before joining, can you give some background on your previous role at your previous company?

I used to work for Knights of Columbus Insurance, a global charitable organization and life insurance company. In my role as Director of Marketing, I helped the field force (about 1,500 insurance agents throughout the United States & Canada) develop and execute their digital marketing strategies. This included equipping them with the tools they needed to stay relevant in the digital age and connect with today’s social consumer.

What did you love the most about Hearsay from a customer standpoint?

My favorite part about working with Hearsay from a customer standpoint was the trusted partnership from day one. I loved getting to work with a team that helped us develop and implement our program goals and celebrated our successes as the program grew exponentially.
In the digital world that we live in, it can be a challenge for agents to break through and build trust with their prospects. Hearsay’s social tool enabled the agents I worked with to have a turnkey solution to manage their social media accounts and connect with today’s digital consumer. The features within Hearsay made it easy for them to not only share all of the good they were doing in the community and showcase who they were as a person, but also to raise awareness around the importance of planning your financial future and how they could help with that.
Hearsay’s team was there for us every step of the way. From agent onboarding and training to adoption and expansion, they were instrumental in the success of the social program.

What do you love about working in financial services?

I am very passionate about life insurance. Life insurance is one of the most important intangible products you can purchase, yet oftentimes people don’t realize until it’s too late. Having the opportunity to help agents and advisors expand their reach and educate consumers about the importance of life insurance and how it’s there for you when you need it most is very fulfilling. Their work directly impacts and changes people’s lives, it’s humbling to be a part of that. I am inspired every day. At my former company I was able to help a few thousand insurance professionals do this, now I am able to help hundreds of thousands through Hearsay’s solutions.

What excites you most about working at Hearsay?

The people!
Being surrounded by people who are passionate about what they do, collaborating on existing goals as well as creating new ones inspires me. I feel so empowered and supported by my new coworkers at Hearsay. From the day I started in the NYC office to now being remote in Boston, the amount of people who have reached out to help me learn has been incredible. They genuinely care about my growth and want to help me succeed. It’s an awesome feeling. I’m so grateful to be a part of this company.

What’s something that you’ve learned since you’ve joined that has surprised you in a good way about Hearsay?

I’m a newbie… this is the first tech company I’ve worked for so it’s been eye opening. I’m fascinated by all of the people, teams, systems and workflows that collaborate to create, maintain and improve the products. In general I’m very impressed by how easy it is to collaborate on pretty much everything.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given…

Remember who you are, why you started, and where you’re headed.

Favorite place for coffee/food/drinks in your city or a city you travel to frequently?

Rino’s in East Boston – The best Italian food in Boston (their lobster ravioli is to die for and has 3 pounds of lobster meat in them… just sayin), and it helps that Rino’s is conveniently located on my street!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Travel, try new restaurants (I’m a foodie), and spend time with my friends and family.

Get to Know Hearsay: Liberty Slater, Operations Manager

I recently realized that it’s been a while since we introduced you to someone from Hearsay. This week, our global Hearsay Systems teams are meeting regionally to align for the second half of the year.

It’s always fun to get together face to face and bond with our teammates as we get ready to execute on a new set of goals. Being with other groups also reinvigorated my desire to make sure that, as we grow, we keep that start-up vibe we had when I first came on board almost 5 years ago. Part of that is making sure we keep you up-to-date with who we are on an individual level.

This week we talked to Liberty Slater, who joined Hearsay in 2015. Thanks to her infectious passion for her coworkers and customers, she has grown right along with Hearsay. Read on to learn more about who she is and what she does!

What’s your role at Hearsay and how long have you been here?
I am currently transitioning into a new role as an Operations Manager for Client Services from managing our North American and European Support team. I’ve worked at Hearsay just shy of five years.

What do you do day-to-day?
I have two major areas at the moment: internal training and product-to-GTM (go-to-market) enablement. My day-to-day varies quite a bit, which I enjoy. I like being confronted with new challenges, new learnings, and competing priorities that push me to really think about what is most strategic at any given point.

What is your favorite thing about Hearsay
My manager, John Williams. John is incredibly gifted at supporting the growth and development of his direct reports in a manner that also meets the strategic needs of the company. In doing so, he ensures that his team remains challenged and that their contributions are meaningful to the larger Hearsay community. He is gracious, experienced, full of good-natured sarcasm, and open to learning from all those around him. I am extremely grateful to have had him as a manager and hope some of that has rubbed off on me! I fear that only the sarcasm has stuck….

What has been your favorite team building activity?

One of the most memorable team building exercises was an escape room that occurred relatively early into my Hearsay experience. It was a cross-coastal, cross-functional group who were still new to one another. Nevertheless, everyone immediately stepped outside of the absurdity of the situation and their lack of familiarity with one another to embrace the task at hand. I’ve never felt more comfortable crawling along a dusty floor, looking for trap doors with a group of relative strangers. We progressed through one, two, three layers of rooms in a frenzied (and uproarious) mix of individual and team code-cracking before we were confronted with the final puzzle.

The final challenge required us to translate the answer to a riddle into binary code, deactivating a wall of lasers that stood between us and the room key. Unfortunately, we had missed a crucial clue earlier: the riddle itself. Less than four minutes remained. The group quickly split into three: a member of our engineering team began to brute force the binary puzzle, two of us scanned the previous rooms for the riddle, and the remaining members of the team began to physically lift the smallest member of our group into the air and feed her slowly through a six inch gap in the lasers, like a new age cheerleading stunt. Just as my co-worker — rigid as a board for fear of tripping the alarm — was about to grab the key, our engineering teammate cracked the code and deactivated the lasers. Key in hand, we sprinted to the door with 54 seconds to go.

What stood out to me about this was the dynamic of that group: the decision-making was flat; the tone was always cooperative (and often hilarious); and when a seemingly impossible hurdle was placed before us, everyone focused on the solution — differentiating their approach to amplify their individual strengths, while still working as a group — and rose (literally, in the case of one of my colleagues) to the occasion until we crossed the finish line.
If that isn’t a metaphor for how we work at Hearsay, I don’t know what is.

What Hearsay value do you embrace the most? (Values here.)

G(TR)SD – Get (the Right) Stuff Done
I love that Hearsay promotes balance in its scrappiness. A strong work ethic is wonderful, but it needs direction or vision to maximize the outcome of the effort put into it. Hearsay embraces self-direction and GSD while still emphasizing that an endeavor needs to be thoughtful, strategic, and (as much as possible) focused on long-term scalability. Being scrappy AND smart is a Hearsay value that I try and carry with me in all things.

What’s your favorite part about working closely with engineering and customer success?

I love how EPD and Client Services challenge my perspective. One of my favorite things at Hearsay is when someone uses the phrase, “tell me the problem you’re trying to solve.” So often we close ourselves off from potential solutions because we have too narrowly defined a problem. Both from an Engineering and Product & Go-To-Market perspective, I so appreciate the wealth of experience around me, the solution-minded approach they have, and the different ways they look at a scenario to find an avenue forward that makes our customers more successful. I am forever learning from both teams.

What do you love about our customers?

It is humbling how focused on building community the Agents and Advisors who use Hearsay are. Their social media content highlighting the many ways they give back to their friends, neighbors, and local charities is a privilege to see and facilitate.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Character is what you do when no one is watching

Favorite place for coffee/food/drinks in your city or a city you travel to frequently?

Mother of Pearl, New York. It’s a tiki fantasy with custom (candy!) garnishings and novelty mugs that make you feel like every week can be shark week.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

An unreasonable amount of SoulCycle.

In the Spotlight: Josh Bradburn, CFP®, CWS®, Charles Schwab

Each month we put the spotlight on a customer who’s fully embraced digital transformation. We’ll share stories of advisors and agents who are using digital to be more productive, build deeper relationships and increase business, as well as those of distribution, marketing, compliance and IT leaders who successfully led or participated in digital initiatives.

Josh Bradburn was recruited to Charles Schwab by his best friend, straight out of business school from Ball State University. After he ‘bought into the culture on day 1,’ he’s still going strong 12 years later. Josh is a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional and Certified Wealth Strategist™, and holds several securities and insurance licenses (Series 7, 63, 66, 9, 10, life, health). He lives in Santa Monica and is a financial consultant in Schwab’s Santa Monica branch. After years of being really active in his community and holding board positions at the YMCA, Boys & Girls Club, Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce, he’s been weaving social networking into his daily agenda to extend his reach and build his online reputation.

What’s a typical day like for you?
I usually get to the office around 7am or so, start with a bit of market analysis, check the headlines, indexes and stocks, and move over to email to see what came in overnight. Then, one of the first things I do every single day is use Hearsay. I schedule my social posts based on the current Hearsay content provided by our marketing department. The rest of my day is full of meetings with new and existing clients and with boards of the organizations I serve.

What trends are you seeing in the industry lately?
It’s no longer enough to just put out a short tweet and some hashtags. Bloggers are getting a lot of traction and following because the audience can see them, and that personal touch helps people connect. These trends really align with the rise of ‘millennial money.’ A lot of the younger generation is taking to social media to gain financial literacy and talk about finance, and they want a real human they can trust to teach them.

What social best practices have you adopted?
You have to be active. It’s not enough to post one thing once a week and expect to get any traction. Social media moves so fast that a post disappears 10 minutes after it goes live. You really need to be consistent and responsive, not only with your posts, but also replies, comments and likes of other posts.

You also have to do some customizing, whether it’s adding hashtags or creating your own post — it gets a lot more traction than re-sharing exactly the same posts that others share. I want the audience to see that there’s a real person behind the screen, not a bot posting articles.

I’m also diligent about doing social twice a day. I spend about 15 minutes in the morning sharing content that’s been created for me. I regroup in the afternoon, maybe take a little longer and customize posts or put out original content.

How has Hearsay improved the way you work?
I take a bigger picture view of marketing and I’m playing the long game. I’ve learned to use social and digital marketing from a branding perspective. I wasn’t expecting million dollar referrals off the bat; I was looking to build a name and a brand with an extended audience, where people in my community view me as a go-to financial resource. I started using Hearsay in December of 2017 and really latched on and pushed it to the max. Now I often get people saying ‘I like the article you posted’ or ‘I see you online all the time’ and I’ve gotten some really nice referrals through social media that have turned into actual business.

What platforms are you using?
I use LinkedIn and Twitter, primarily for business, and I use Facebook a bit as well. I like LinkedIn in particular because it’s designed specifically to build your professional network.

What myths would you like to dispel about social media?
The naysayers tell me I’m wasting my time and seem to think their clients aren’t on social media. That couldn’t be further from the truth. People of all ages and all wealth levels get on social media at least occasionally — whether they’re posting vacation pictures or checking in on what family and old friends are up to. I heard recently that the #1 thing people do after they’ve met with a financial advisor is Google them. So it’s important to have a good online presence and reputation. Your prospects and clients are out there and they are looking for you.

Now let me tell you one thing that’s not a myth in financial services: Wow, is it regulated! It is incredibly regulated. When you start mixing finance and social media, you have to be careful. Sometimes the tiniest little thing that you would never think would be an issue may get flagged. But social media can be done and it can lead to revenue.

When you’re not at the office, what do you do for fun?
We just had our first baby, little Lucas. He’s my absolute pride and joy. It’s amazing how your life changes for the positive; it’s so rewarding when I come home and see his smiling face, see how he’s growing and changing right before my eyes. Right now, I spend virtually all of my free time with Lucas. Other than that, I love anything health related — I’ve been actively boxing for a few years, and I love playing tennis and basketball too. My wife and I are also really into food and are on a mission to go to all the 3-star Michelin restaurants we can!

How Charles Schwab Doubled Advisor Social Selling Adoption in One Year

One of the biggest issues wealth management firms have during digital transformation is getting financial advisors to adopt new ways of doing business. The move to a social selling model can be uncomfortable for advisors not well-versed in social media or viewed as a waste of valuable time by those unfamiliar with the power of social selling.

When we saw the success Charles Schwab was having with their Social Networking Activation Program (SNAP), we knew they had cracked the code. Winning our annual Innovator Awards at Hearsay Summit was a good start but, in the spirit of our mission to lift the whole industry we had to share some of their keys to success.

Introducing the SNAP Team

Managing a group of over 1000 advisors, the SNAP team is comprised of seven people, including Amy Heiss, VP of employee activation and engagement. Stacey King, Managing Director of the team, oversees the program strategy and supports the SNAP team in driving program engagement. Rounding out the team are Sean Carey (Senior Team Manager, Social Media), Katie Leimkuehler (Senior Manager, Social Media Coach), Katie Pfledderer (Senior Manager, Social Media Coach), Jake Thompson (Senior Manager, Social Media Coach), and Nia Copeland (Manager, Social Media Coach).

Social Networking Activation Success Stats

The numbers are undeniably impressive. During the 2018 calendar year, the SNAP team were able to:

  • Increase advisors in the SNAP program: 100%
  • Increase the number of Power Users: 67%
  • Decrease inactivity*: to only 35%
  • Grow social post engagement: 333%
  • Increase posts from the Hearsay library: 292%
  • Increase customized library posts: 107%
  • Help SNAP participants grow their overall network size**: 13.5x
  • All-­in-­all, advisors shared nearly 150,000 posts from the Hearsay Content library in 2018 and published over 20,000 original, organic posts.

Five ways Charles Schwab’s SNAP team turns advisors into social sellers

We can’t give away all their secrets but, with permission, here are a few ways Amy, Stacey and the team turn advisors into social sellers.

  1. Provide world class service. SNAP’s team charter is to provide white glove service to Schwab advisors as they make their move to social selling. The team is fortunate to have talented, curious, bright Social Coaches who provide regular coaching to SNAP participants at various stages of their digital journey, helping advisors use Hearsay and develop a social selling strategy to grow their business. In addition to one-on-one coaching and guidance, SNAP’s Social Coaches provide best practices and advice on topics such as time saving and productivity hacks, how to build a personal brand and how and why to create custom content. White glove service from a SNAP Social Coach goes well-beyond 1­-to-1 meetings and expands into more scalable coaching, like webinars and ‘5-­minute drills’ – short web based trainings covering trending topics.
  2. Provide a digital maturity model with a clear path to each next level. Like American Family Insurance, the SNAP team uses a digital maturity model so advisors can gauge their level of understanding and use of social media. Each stage has concrete goals and behaviors to move to the next level.
    • Beginners are new to social media, just getting comfortable posting and starting to define what they’re known for. They heavily rely on Hearsay Campaigns for one­-click easy posting.
    • Learners are starting to post their own content or customize library/Campaign posts, beginning to grow their network and maturing in their content strategy.
    • Social Sellers have grown a substantial number of connections and are building a strong brand around financial acumen and the areas they want to be known for (leadership, family focused, etc.). This is the level where advisors will see a real business impact and the SNAP team expects most advisors to end up here
    • Power Users are driving business more consistently through client acquisition and the recruiting of talent through social media. They have a robust social network, an established personal brand and are as comfortable networking online as they are in person. This level is aspirational and the team expects only 5% of advisors to reach it (though they have been able to help grow this pool by 67% in 2018 to 2% of the overall participant population). It’s not necessary for success but does offer extended benefits.
  3. Set goals. Sales people are goal oriented so setting concrete goals at each stage of the digital maturity model gives them something to set their sights on. A few metrics the team measures are network size (how many connections an advisor has), number of posts and engagement rate. They also measure percentage of custom content. It’s interesting to note that we’ve heard from more than one client that custom content – whether it’s original or corporate content that an advisor puts their own spin on – always outperforms corporate content. This makes sense in an era where people appreciate authenticity.
  4. Make it fun, reward and recognize. Don’t underestimate the value of “fun”; it is critical to success. The SNAP team’s ‘Surprise and Delight’ campaign has a hand in everything from attracting new advisors to moving them further along in their social selling journey to engaging advisors’ social networks. It’s a great example of the way SNAP keeps social media, and the program, top of mind with advisors. Some particularly fun examples include:Social media themed Valentines (I will like you forever, You’re Twitterific) that doubled as advisor business cards
    • A cookie/business card with a haiku on it for ‘Haiku Appreciation Day’ (imagine the social media pics!)
    • Fat Heads of top performers at sales leadership meetings to highlight Hearsay ‘Power Users’
    • Buttons (think “flair” from Office Space) with the faces and names of top Hearsay users ­ all pinned to the coat of the head of sales at internal events ­ to elevate their brand
    • All of these double as rewards for the top advisors who receive them, as well as motivators for other advisors. Each time a Surprise and Delight package goes out or these type of items are on display at events, requests to join the SNAP program always spike.

      “Recognition encourages loyalty. We inject fun at every turn to attract new participants and keep advisors coming back,” says Amy Heiss, Vice President, Employee Activation and Engagement, Charles Schwab

  5. Share success stories. Seeing how other advisors are able to use social media to drive real leads and close business helps other advisors envision themselves having the same success. Just like seeing others get rewards they want, it can act as a flame for the competitive fires. The SNAP team shares success stories everywhere they can to get the word out. There’s a monthly internal podcast where they focus on one program participant who talks about their success; monthly best practices calls where they do the same; and coaches share them through their monthly newsletters.

    Sales meeting SNAP program station promotes top performers

A final note, the Schwab team are also big believers in tracking ROI. In addition to the program metrics they shared, they track both new business and new hires (an important advisor metric where social can make a big impact) sourced by social media through Salesforce.

*  Inactivity is defined as posting less than 10x/quarter; down 11% from 46%
**  From beginning 2017 to end of 2018

AmFam’s Blueprint for a Successful Agent Digital Maturity Model

At last week’s Hearsay Summit, we held our annual Hearsay Innovator awards. The American Family Insurance Field Digital and Social Marketing team won our ‘Transforming the Enterprise’ award for the way their cohesive approach is helping agents grow their digital presence using social media, agent websites, and compliant texting and voice. But what truly stood out to us is a program they pioneered in 2010 to measure digital maturity and drive agent digital adoption.

AmFam Social and Digital Marketing Team – Jeff, Ashley and Josh

Josh Feyen, Field Digital and Social Media Administrator, created the field social media program and digital maturity model. They called it “Crawl, Walk, Run, Fly.” The straightforward program name established easy-to-understand vernacular for the field and their staff, as well as the field management teams, to understand what the agents’ digital social media capabilities were. Since all sorts of metrics were tracked and shared, AmFam’s marketing team could show that moving up the digital maturity scale could help with desirable results like an increase in leads, motivating reps to participate.

3 Top Tips for Making the ‘Crawl, Walk, Run, Fly’ Digital Maturity Model Work

Agents are Inherently Competitive but Require Education Too
“Salespeople at heart, agents are a competitive bunch. As such, we knew we had to make metrics across regions transparent. We wanted one sales manager to see the team down the street further up the maturity model scale and think “What are they doing that we’re not doing?” to stoke their drive. Here’s a good anecdote: We sent the percentage of Walk, Run, Fly agents that each state had to field management. One state was at the bottom in the percentage of Fly agents. It’s a small state but the sales director got keen to reversing that number and charged his operations folks to work with the field. In a year he reversed it and they now have a higher percentage of Fly agents than any other state. We’ve toyed with the idea of giveaways or incentives but it just hasn’t been necessary so far,” says Josh.
That said, AmFam shared that ‘Fly’ status is aspirational and they tell agents it’s not a necessary status for success. However, the AmFam team truly believes that the criteria they’ve set for the Run level is what agents need to achieve digital and social marketing success. To get there, agents rely on continuous education and training. The AmFam team regularly develops field specific educational material such as a “5 ways to make your new website work for you” tip sheet, and a monthly newsletter with features like “In case you missed it/want to learn more” highlights section.

Provide Plenty of Content and Leave Room for the Agent to Create and Publish Their Own
AmFam uses Hearsay Campaigns to give agents a way to automatically publish prepared content. They know salespeople don’t want to spend too much time on their social media so they’ve created an ‘Ongoing Campaign’ which runs the gamut in content from holiday greetings to the value of Life, Auto, and Home insurance and the and the occasional safety information. They also include content around the American Family ‘Dream Fearlessly’ campaign, an inspirational lifestyle component. Since posts that are personalized or created from scratch by agents often receive more engagement than posts prepared by marketing (not because they’re better written, but because it’s more authentic – the audience knows it’s in the advisor’s own voice), AmFam leaves a couple of days per week without a prepared post from the Ongoing Campaign.

The Rules of Digital Success Continually Change
Every year the American Family Social team reviews the criteria to qualify for each stage of the Crawl, Walk, Run, Fly model, and updates it according to what’s changed in the digital and social marketing sphere. The digital landscape changes fast and so do best practices. To truly progress, they need to help agents easily keep up with the times.

They’ve found that it’s been easy to update tracking metrics since partnering with Hearsay, with regular information provided around things like agent created content, number of posts, number of engagements, etc. They also use metrics (from outside of Hearsay) like the number of online reviews for each agent. Then they combine all the metrics to generate an agent’s monthly score to compare against the Digital Maturity Model stages.

This year, AmFam is changing a key metric: post volume will no longer be tracked. The goal is to show the agents the value and importance of original content. There are two reasons for this. First, as previously discussed, agent-created content has higher levels of engagement (quality over quantity). Second, it supports their upcoming Instagram rollout where agents will be entirely on their own for content. As Josh says, “The last thing we want to do is unleash 3,500 of the same photos on Instagram one Monday morning. We want to get them into the mindset, now, early, well before we launch this, that it’s valuable to create their own content.”
One final note: Though Instagram calls for 100% original content and they’re emphasizing quality over quantity, the marketing team will not be decreasing the amount of content they create and make available to agents on every other social platform.

Lesson Learned – Metrics Overload: Another Move to Quality Over Quantity

Over the last five years, all AmFam Agents with a Hearsay account and their staff, have received a monthly newsletter from the AmFam team. As happens over time, more and more metrics have been added for tracking and those were all included in each newsletter. Salespeople like their numbers (!) but they also have to be able to make sense of them. Instead of the 23 metrics that had made their way into the newsletter over time, the social team recently decided to pull back and focus on one important metric each month, including a deep dive into why it’s so important, how it plays into the Crawl, Walk, Run, Fly criteria, and what an agent or staff person needs to do to advance to the next level. In each newsletter, the team will still share a link to the dashboard that tracks all 23 metrics and, for the foreseeable future, will also promote the value of original content.