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Success Story: How Hartford Funds Went From Having a Social Media ‘Vendor’ to a True Collaboration

Part 3 of a 3-part series. Previously: Learn three creative ways Hartford Funds gets its wholesalers off the bench and to hitting social media home runs. Also: How they kick-started their social media program.
In my previous post, I shared some ideas for turning your wholesalers from social media spectators into players. Next up (in my last post!), let’s talk about the ways your third-party technology ‘vendor’ can be a ‘partner’ in helping grow your social media program.
Let’s face it; social media isn’t always at the top of the priority list for every organization. It can often be seen as a ‘nice to have,’ especially in financial services. So if you’re in a role like mine, you may find yourself in the position of proving out the value of this endeavor. You may also find yourself in the position of having very few resources with which to turn this ‘nice to have’ into a ‘must have.’
Time to get resourceful.
One of the best things I did when starting our social media initiative here at Hartford Funds was to schedule bi-weekly meetings with my Hearsay customer success manager. I did this because I had the expectation that my technology vendor would do more than just troubleshoot technical issues. I had the expectation that this would be an ongoing partnership.
Why? Because they can be a great resource for industry knowledge and best practices. And touching base bi-weekly helps me to optimize regularly, gain new insights and grow. Here are just a few areas where your technology partner can act as an extension of your team.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

When I first started the social media program for our sales team, I had a ton of questions around best practices. How many posts should we have in our content library to start? How often should we be adding new content? How often should the wholesalers be posting? The list goes on and on.
But while this space was new to Hartford Funds, it wasn’t new to Hearsay. They had worked with similar firms in financial services. They had gained insights on best practices, and they were willing to share them. (Woohoo!)
And while every team is different – and some things still required a little trial and error – having an informed place to start was extremely helpful in getting things up and running. And our ongoing conversations around best practices continue to help me adjust and fine-tune our program.

Why Didn’t I Think of That?

Your technology partner can also be a great source of ideas and inspiration when it comes to things like rolling out a new program, increasing awareness or encouraging adoption. Ask them to share what other customers are doing that’s working well, or maybe even get connected with one of their customers that’s recently launched a program similar to one you’re working on. Connect, share and learn. It’s what social media is all about right?

The More You Know …

Now that we’ve been up and running for a bit, I believe that one of the most important things I can do as part of our social media program (and, admittedly, a piece that’s still a work in progress) is to create a shareable dashboard of key performance indicators (KPIs) that shows how our program has done month over month, as well as how we’ve done in comparison to industry benchmarks. This will help me to make the case for additional investments, as well as help me to pinpoint areas that need work. I view this piece as critical in taking our program to the next level.
My Hearsay customer success manager and I have recently started delving into the mechanics of this reporting framework – what data points I want to capture, frequency of reporting – and created a customized scorecard that she will send to me on a quarterly basis. This is really just the first step in performing regular health checks of our program to assess strengths and weaknesses, as well as the first step toward integrating these metrics into our overall brand social media results to see the impact our wholesalers are having on increasing awareness and driving traffic.
So that’s it for me. I’ve had a great time contributing in this space. I look forward to reading more on the blog from my peers in the industry, and learning some new tips and tricks that I can put into practice with our Hartford Funds social media program. Thanks for reading!
Lauren Kitson is an employee of Hartford Funds. As discussed in my previous blog posts, Hartford Funds has hired Hearsay to provide its recordkeeping services for LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. The views and opinions expressed herein are Lauren’s and may not necessarily represent those of Hartford Funds.
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Success Story: 3 Ways Hartford Funds Is Increasing Wholesaler Adoption of Social Media

Part 2 of a 3-part series. Previously: Learn how Hartford Funds obtained leadership buy-in and kick-started its social media program.
In my last post, I described how my company, Hartford Funds, got our social media program off the ground, from making the case that social media is worth investing in, to helping align compliance and sales, to executing a successful pilot. So what happened next?
After that initial spark of interest, it was critical to keep the momentum going among our wholesalers and advisors. If you’ve just started a social media program at your firm, you know how important this is. Here are some suggestions – a friendly heads-up, if you will – as to what you might want to keep in mind as you build out your adoption strategy; you know, the stuff I wish someone would have told me.

Content Is (Fill in the Blank)

Important. Critical. King. We’ve all heard it before. We get it. But curating the content you provide to your wholesalers is particularly important. At Hartford Funds, we essentially have two audiences we need to appeal to – our wholesalers and external advisors. The best way that I’ve found to appeal to wholesalers is to provide a variety of content and to be flexible enough in our process to take requests for specific content (within reason).
Lucky for me, content shortage is not an issue that we encounter often. Still, I wanted to add some breadth to the Hearsay content library and help the wholesalers create a well-rounded presence on LinkedIn by sharing content outside of our own.
One way I do that is by adding one LinkedIn Pulse article each week to the library. The articles are chosen by one of our writers and center around business related topics like leadership and practice management. The wholesalers appreciate the variety and, based on engagement, I think the advisors do, too.
I also regularly tell our wholesalers to let me know if they see something communicated from our marketing team that’s not in the content library. Because of our tight content creation process, nine times out of 10 I’m able to have that request in the library within a day or two.

Keeping Wholesalers Interested

The nice part about social media is that there’s built-in reinforcement in the form of likes and comments. The more you get, the more you want to post. What I’ve found, however, is that even the most well-intentioned of wholesalers can lose momentum and go dark if you don’t keep the practice of posting interesting and top of mind. Here are a couple of tactics that I found helpful.
The Personal Weekly Email: It’s true: Hearsay does send out an automated email to users when new content is available in the library and that’s a great reminder. However, I found that our wholesalers were much more likely to open up an email that came from an actual person – as in me. So every week when new content is available in the library, I send out an email to let them know it’s there and to give them a summary of the new topics in hopes of piquing their interest and getting them to post. I also include a link to the Hearsay app to keep it super easy.
The Leaderboard: One of the things I learned early on about our sales team – and I’d venture to say is probably true for most sales teams – is that they are a pretty competitive bunch. So, I shamelessly played to that competitive spirit by including a leaderboard in my weekly emails. Calling out the top three or top five wholesalers based on posts and engagement each week created a little friendly competition (up the ante by including sales leadership on your weekly emails).

What to Do About Benchwarmers

Benchwarmers are the ones who were interested enough to connect their social media accounts to Hearsay but just can’t seem to click that publish button. This is probably the most frustrating group because they’ve already done the majority of the work by connecting their accounts. There aren’t enough reminders in the world to get these folks posting. So you have to get to the root of the problem, which is often a lack of time and/or good time management skills.
The solution? Simplify, simplify, simplify. Here are a few examples of how to reach this group:
The Hearsay App: Maybe you just need to be where they are. This is probably the easiest of all solutions. Get the Hearsay mobile app approved by the powers that be for use on their smartphones and tablets, and you instantly make it easier for these folks that are always on the road.
The Campaign: Maybe they just need you to save them a few minutes and take the guesswork out of it. Enter, the campaign. You pick the posts, you pick the dates, and all they have to do is opt in with two simple clicks to have the posts automatically publish to their pages over the course of a predetermined timeframe set by your Hearsay administrator. I said it before, I’ll say it again: easy-peasy.
The Delegate: Maybe they like the concept but just can’t find the time. In this case, giving them the ability to delegate posting to their internal wholesaler or an admin could be just the ticket to keeping them in the game. Hearsay offers a delegation feature as part of the Engage platform that allows you to formally create a role for a delegate, so they can post on someone’s behalf while utilizing all of the recordkeeping and monitoring functionality inherent in the tool. Win/win.
So there you have it folks; just a few things I discovered along the way that might be helpful in your social media journey.
Next: Up next, hear from Lauren on the value of collaborating with a technology partner at a strategic level and why she thinks metrics are the ultimate key to success for the Hartford Funds social media program.
Lauren Kitson is an employee of Hartford Funds. As discussed in the piece, Hartford Funds has hired Hearsay to provide its recordkeeping services for LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. The views and opinions expressed herein are Lauren’s and may not necessarily represent those of Hartford Funds.
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Success Story: How Hartford Funds Kick-Started Its Social Media Program

Part 1 of a 3-part series
As I prepped for my call with the Hearsay team about this blog post, one question kept running through my mind: What makes me uniquely qualified to write about launching a social business program? I had to assume there were firms out there with longer track records using Hearsay, with off-the-charts adoption from their sales teams. So what unique perspective could I offer?
The answer to that question became much clearer as I talked to them about Hartford Funds, our brand, and the LinkedIn program I created for our sales team. Big numbers don’t happen overnight. You have to start somewhere. And when you’re in the heavily regulated financial services industry, knowing where to start can be daunting. It can be difficult to convince the powers that be that, although this new territory may be uncomfortable at first, we can put controls in place to make it a lot less scary. (Heck, I had to get approval just to write this post about social media.)
Furthermore, convincing a sales team that they have time for this – that they should make time for this – is also easier said than done. And let’s not forget about the fact that this industry, and sales in general, is built on relationships, making technology seem contradictory at first glance.
So back to my original question: What unique perspective can I offer?
Well, to start, I’ve experienced all of the pain points above. I’ve been there – and recently. Our program is still a work in progress and the challenges are still fresh in my mind. So let me share a little of my experience with setting up a social media program for sales: what worked, what didn’t and what we’re still working on.

Why a Brand Account Isn’t Enough

Our Twitter and LinkedIn corporate brand accounts were running great. But corporate brand accounts were never the endgame. Human-centric investing is what Hartford Funds is all about – understanding the emotional relationships between advisors, their clients and their investments. And social media is all about engaging and interacting.
The problem is that there’s only so much engaging and interacting that people are willing to do with a company. I knew that the marketing power of social media would only truly be realized if we could get our sales team posting themselves, supplementing any traction we were getting with our corporate brand account. It was a real opportunity for them to be brand ambassadors and to further their reach by staying top-of-mind with a large group of advisors at one time. It was a chance to be where the advisors are: LinkedIn.

Inviting Compliance and Legal to the Party

The first step I took – the first step I always take when I want to try something new on social media – was to engage compliance and legal.
I headed into the meeting with the basic information as to how this would work and some answers to questions I knew were sure to come up – archiving, the ability to edit posts. I filled them in on my idea, and attempted to address their regulatory concerns as well as any additional concerns they raised.
The next step was to work closely with my Hearsay customer success manager to better understand how the inherent functionality of the platform could address these concerns, and where functionality didn’t exist, how we could create a business policy that could help mitigate the risk.
I should stop here and say that I can’t stress enough how important it is to engage your compliance and legal teams from the beginning. I’m not just saying this because I know they’ll be reading and approving this post (Hi!) but because if you wait too long to engage them, you can end up losing a lot of time and effort backtracking. And that’s never a good place to be in.

The Importance of DIY

My next stop was our sales leadership.
The good news for me is that our senior leaders in sales tend to be pretty supportive when it comes to new marketing endeavors. So while I wouldn’t say it was a priority for them, they were excited about the opportunity.
The key for me here was convincing them that this new endeavor wouldn’t require much of their teams’ already limited time, and that it could be easily incorporated into their current process – an important point given the amount of new tools, procedures and products that are thrown at these teams every month, meant to help them, but often taking their focus away from supporting financial advisors and their clients.
So what could I do to get our two heads of sales to champion my cause? What could I do to assure them that this new Hearsay tool was easy-peasy?
Let them see for themselves! Not just with a demo, but by connecting their own LinkedIn pages to Hearsay. Letting them go through the on-boarding process I created with our legal and compliance teams and letting them click the publish button themselves was the ticket to winning them over and gaining two new advocates of the program.
It also acted as a checkpoint for me – making sure all of my ducks were in a row and that the onboarding process was as tight and as simple as possible before I rolled it out to the field. No way was I going to put our heads of sales through a clunky set-up process riddled with issues.

Work Your Plan

One of the things that helped our compliance and legal team embrace this new program (in an awkward hug kind of way) was the idea of a three-month pilot. And if I’m being honest, it felt more manageable to me too. A small group would allow for easy communication and quick identification of issues. It would also give us the opportunity to really test the archiving process and find the right rhythm for content creation.
Picking the right group for the pilot was key. We decided to start with our Advisory Services Group, which mostly calls on RIAs and firms who have historically been more lenient with allowing their advisors to be on social media and, therefore, connect with our sales team.
Next up was pitching it to the pilot group of 13 wholesalers, in hopes that at least half would want to participate. I decided the best way to do that was by jumping on one of their monthly calls. It was a chance to talk through the concept and the potential benefits as well as a chance for the head of their group to tell them why he thought this was such a great idea. It was also an opportunity to hear any concerns they had.
In the end, 11 of the 13 signed up. We wanted to keep it simple when measuring the success of the pilot, so we decided to use a combination of data from Hearsay – average number of posts per week, average number of engagements – and qualitative feedback from email surveys at the one-month and three-month points.

Spoiler!

The pilot was a success! And, the results from the pilot set the foundation for the program as it exists today. Most importantly, it helped show all of the key stakeholders that not only could this go smoothly, but that there were people on the sales team who would really run with it and make it part of their tool set. That this could really be a thing. A good thing.
Next: Stay tuned to learn how Lauren and Hartford Funds rolled out the program across the sales organization, encouraged adoption of Hearsay, and their plans for getting wholesalers off the bench and into the social media game.
Lauren Kitson is an employee of Hartford Funds. As discussed in the piece, Hartford Funds has hired Hearsay to provide its recordkeeping services for LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. The views and opinions expressed herein are Lauren’s and may not necessarily represent those of Hartford Funds.
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