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The Advisory Firm of the Future: A Case Study

We’ve written about the advisor of the future and the fundamental shifts in both client and advisor attitudes, behaviors, and relationships (not to mention the recent shift to remote-first work) that are driving adoption of new technologies for client engagement. And in order to meet expectations as the client engagement model evolves and stand out from the competition, firms need to be forward-thinking in how they support their field.

Not long ago, we were lucky enough to get an inside look at a visionary firm launching cutting edge programs to support their force of over 3,000 independent broker dealers and corporate RIAs. Amy Webber, President & CEO of Cambridge Investment Research, sat down with us to share how she and her team are getting Cambridge-affiliated advisors future-ready, today.

First, Webber shared the three things she sees as critical for advisors to embrace to be successful, today and in the future:

  • The advisor of the future needs to stay innovative and leverage digital engagement heavily.
  • They need to use technology to do the right things and delegate tasks that are not value add.
  • There must be a relentless focus on personalization and customization.

The ‘New Century Council’

Cambridge is ultra focused on making sure their advisors are enabled to meet the three requirements outlined above. They have a ‘New Century Council’ made up of progressively minded advisors and corporate team members, including Webber, that meet regularly to discuss tools they’ll need to be successful into the upcoming decade.

Several years ago, the Council raised texting as a channel that would be critical to success. Not long after, they began exploring solutions and started using Hearsay Relate. Webber herself is a Relate power user and shows strong executive sponsorship by texting with the field. “Every generation is texting. We pushed ourselves to think about how Relate could be used by the home office to communicate with the field, and started the journey believing we had to lead by example,” she explained.

Webber shared a story that demonstrated both the power of their onboarding strategy and how Camridge uses texting to build relationships with personal messages. One of their top producers was resistant to texting, so Webber personally helped get him set up and told him she expected him to send her a text once a day. When he missed a day, she checked in to see how he was doing. This showed him how his clients feel when they get that type of personal connection from him. Incidentally, Webber shares her Relate number with any of her 3,000 advisors who ask.

Though their advisors are all independent, Cambridge carries the cost of Relate for two reasons. First, it’s a critical tool that makes advisors efficient and productive. Second, and perhaps more important, it’s essential for risk mitigation. They weren’t willing to take a chance that compliance requirements weren’t being met.

Centralized Contact Service Center

Many advisors join when they’re embarking on the process to build their own small business and need or want to leverage the infrastructure of a larger company. In addition to offering Relate to all advisors, Cambridge also offers a centralized support center. By joining Cambridge, they get technology, practice management, products and services, compliance, regulation, and—for a fee—a centralized contact service center at a scale they couldn’t build by themselves.

The contact service center, a team of virtual office assistants, is one of Cambridge’s most popular offerings, for both solo and larger offices. The support staff’s pictures go up on the advisor/agency website, they talk to clients, pick up delegated activity in Relate, and clients know them as part of the team. This extended team helps the advisors deliver that level or personal and customized service that clients expect without the heavy lift of increasing headcount. It’s perfect for advisors/agencies who don’t have the bandwidth or desire to staff and train a support team – and enables them to hit the ground running.

A Blueprint for Success

With a continuing eye toward future trends, Cambridge has ensured that their advisors are ready for today and the future. When COVID struck, they were prepared to handle the 100% increase in text messages in the following month, thanks to the foresight of their New Century Council and Webber’s leadership in getting Hearsay Relate in place well before the crisis happened. And while they had a 5-year plan for digital transformation that now must be steeply accelerated, their ability to adapt and lead by example will serve them well.

Lincoln Financial Increases Social Program Adoption and Inbound Web Traffic

It’s always a thrill when a client partners with Hearsay to achieve success through social selling. It’s even more exciting when they’re willing to share their story to benefit others, and Lincoln Financial Group’s Distribution Marketing team agreed to do just that recently.

Lincoln Financial Group provides advice and solutions that empower people to take charge of their financial lives with confidence and optimism. The Lincoln Financial Distributors division markets and sells Lincoln-manufactured variable and fixed annuities, life insurance and investment management products through financial advisors, financial intermediaries and sales professionals.

The Distribution Marketing team wanted to take a strategic approach to drive demand for their financial services in an authentic way and decided social selling was the right approach. They knew that delivering the right technology would be critical in driving adoption from their field team and the business outcomes they desired. Ease of use, efficiency and a strong foundation of compliance were also ‘must haves.’ In addition, they knew they needed a comprehensive program to guide onboarding and beyond. To ensure they met all of their goals, they were looking for a true partner, not just a technology vendor.

Lincoln selected Hearsay Systems as their partner and deployed Hearsay Social to 350 wholesalers. This required close orchestration between the Lincoln Financial Distributors marketing leaders and the Hearsay team, including tailored training and an instrumental digital toolbox.

Learn more about the solution by downloading the full case study.

“The transparency we get in our partnership with Hearsay and how Hearsay is able to perfectly serve our industry has made it one of the easiest decisions we’ve made. We are looking forward to moving forward in rolling out a CRM integration next!” –Scott Carlisle, AVP Digital Marketing & Collaboration for Lincoln Financial Distributors Marketing 

Lincoln Financial Distributors’ strategic approach and dedication to set the program up for success from the beginning is starting to pay off. Their onboarding efforts have resulted in a 300% increase in adoption of the social selling program, which has led to more than 114K impressions and 1.8K clicks across social posts. Perhaps most impressively, the company has found that upwards of 50% of inbound traffic to the Lincoln Financial website was driven by wholesalers (up from 28% at program launch).

“Hearsay has made growing our social program simple, providing amazing tools to get our sales folks engaged. Through usage of their dynamic campaigns, pre populated content and ROI tools, our social program has grown over 300% in one year!” –Kiersten Shank, Digital Marketing Consultant 

Download a PDF of the full case study here.

The Power of Giving Your Customers Control

insurance

Hearsay Summit 2020 is officially a wrap! Along with being the first virtual one we’ve ever hosted, we had two days of amazing speakers, fireside chats, and breakout sessions. One of the speakers we were lucky enough to hear from was Glenn Shapiro, Allstate President of Personal Property-Liability.

Glenn shared four ways that the advancement of customer-centricity can work amidst the current challenges of COVID-19 and beyond:

Give customers control.

According to Glenn, “Customers want to take work that we have somehow, and for some unknown reason, tried to keep from them for years.” Customers want to feel a sense of control over their own customer journeys, and businesses, now more than ever, can and should give that to them. Glenn shared an example of how Allstate’s claims process evolved a few years ago from using onsite appointments to an online claims submission model that completely empowers the customer. He shared how coworkers were recently noting how effective this model is during the current challenges. While he agreed that may be true, he emphasized it was simply practicing the fundamentals of giving the customer control that allows for that. “If you do things that empower the customer, they’re going to work in any scenario.”

Eliminate friction.

Next, Glenn shared an example of a company that, by putting its customers in control, set itself up to weather the current pandemic climate: Publix. The widely known grocery chain took an experience that is traditionally high touch and typically done in person and created an app, allowing its customers to order and pay for groceries online and then pick them up. When COVID-19 arose, Publix enabled its app to track customers’ arrivals into the parking lot so that they could seamlessly pick up their groceries without ever even leaving their car. By eliminating possible points of friction, Publix was uniquely situated to quickly pivot to address the current needs in this crisis.

Create customer connections.

Glenn’s next example highlighted a company that created connections with its customers—as well as for its customers—during COVID-19. Netflix, although already well-positioned for the current atmosphere, partnered with Google Chrome to create Netflix Party, a feature that brings people together by allowing family and friends to watch shows together from different locations. As Glenn pointed out: “They decided to create connections between people.”

Put relentless focus on internal consistency.

Glenn used Amazon as an example of a company that shows a relentless focus on internal consistency. While it may seem obvious given its business model is thriving even during COVID-19, Amazon’s seeds for success were planted way back in 2002. Jeff Bezos created a list of expectations for his company from a technology standpoint, now referred to as the “Bezos Mandate,” that Amazon uses to this day. Glenn pointed out that although Amazon has several different lines of business, “they are completely seamless, completely integrated, because they have been relentlessly focused on internal consistency.”

For more insights from Allstate President Glenn Shapiro, or to see other speakers from our virtual event, check out our Hearsay Summit 2020 Highlights page.

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 Allstate.com 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!

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 AmFam.com

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 AmFam.com, 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!

How Digital Programs Drive Revenue for Agents [Webinar Recap]


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

The Client-Advisor Journey has Changed Significantly with Digital Channels

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

The Key to Social Success is Building an Emotional Connection 

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

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

What Fuels the Emotional Connection? 

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

Final Thoughts

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

Transforming IT for Long-Term Success


Four years ago, Mutual of Omaha launched a corporate strategy that placed a high priority on digital transformation to deliver greater value to its customers. As one of the key leaders of this initiative, Chief Information Officer Mike Lechtenberger knew it would take a combination of new digital technologies sourced both internally and externally to successfully complete the mission. Mike recently shared some of the transformation strategy, process and keys to success as the IT operation evolved to a more agile, customer-centric approach.

Digital transformation: It’s all about the business outcome

A common – and understandable – misconception about digital transformation is that it’s all about new technologies. While it’s true that technology is a critical component of these initiatives, it’s also just the tip of the iceberg; enterprises have decades of legacy systems, processes and culture that also need to change to realize the true value of the latest technologies. The true impetus for any new technology is to achieve tangible business results. For technical teams, it can be easy to lose sight of this.

A strategic decision-making framework

As Mutual of Omaha kicked off its digital transformation, the first step was to establish a mission and vision statement that would support its decision-making framework. In this case, as with many digital transformations, the ultimate goal was to better serve their customers.
One of Mutual of Omaha’s core values is “we exist for our customers,” which helps ensure everyone in the company is aligned around their customer-centric mission – from frontline advisors and customer service representatives to corporate operations and IT. Mike credits this organizational clarity as a key driver in the success of transforming the IT operation and how they perceived their role in the company. According to Mike: “We focused internally on our people, helping them adopt a new mindset and expand their skillsets, as well as hiring new people to drive innovation. Our focus on culture is the best thing we could’ve done.”

A move to scalable, agile methodologies and technologies

Within the IT operation, the culture shift was manifested in a couple of ways. The team started moving to more scalable, agile methodologies and technologies, including a preference for buying SaaS and cloud solutions rather than building solutions exclusively in-house. These changes brought meaningful gains in efficiency and cut time and expenses from projects.
“As business becomes increasingly complex, we need to deliver more value in the technology we roll out,” Mike said. “We have to move quickly and efficiently and Agile methodologies and SaaS technologies allow us to that.”
The team also shifted from selecting one-off technologies to fit a specific scenario to evaluating technology by how it complements the company’s mission and fits within the overall ecosystem.
“We took a step back to evaluate the tools we had already purchased and asked, ‘What do we use this tool for? What is its purpose and are we getting value from it? How well does it integrate with the other technologies we use? Is it positioned to grow with us, the industry and technology trends for the next 5, 10, 20 years?’” Mike said.

Technology that complements strategy for enhanced digital experience

Answering these questions helped guide Mutual to technology partners that complement their strategic focus. CRM technology was a big part of that equation, and Mike notes that when it comes to developing a CRM strategy, selecting a partner like Salesforce is only one aspect of the journey. CRM encompasses all the systems that must interact with it, including technology like Hearsay for industry-specific compliant digital communications and workflows, Marketo for marketing automation, as well as the people (customers and advisors) and processes. The goal behind this initiative is to build a true cloud ecosystem.
One of Mutual of Omaha’s overarching goals is to remain relevant to its customers long term, which will require attracting, retaining and developing a modern workforce and recruiting advisors that embrace new digital technologies as they interact with customers.
“One of the best investments we made was to update our digital presence for our Mutual of Omaha advisors to ensure consistent design and branding and an excellent user experience,” Mike said. “Not only does this updated digital experience better serve our customers and support our advisors, it helps us achieve our goal of remaining relevant in the marketplace. It has been a cost-effective and impactful effort and Hearsay has been a great partner.”

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