What we’ve learned about acquiring new leads and nurturing business relationships in a virtual world.
It’s time to assess digital maturity in a more advanced and comprehensive way. To help, we’ve developed the Last-Mile Digital Maturity Model.
Across our customer base, we’ve seen a strong correlation between a solid social selling content strategy and website traffic and conversions, with as much as 50% of inbound traffic originating from Hearsay Social. The strong sales and marketing partnership these organizations have developed and the strategic approach to content has led to this success.
Corporate marketing teams have a responsibility to coach advisors and agents to create high-credibility social profiles which boosts SEO; this combined with highly-relevant helpful content helps sellers build out their network. As sellers share that targeted content, buyers engage because the sellers professional digital presence and consistent approach to content instills a sense of trust. A well-placed call-to-action draws traffic to the local advisor or corporate website. These website visitors are higher-quality traffic—they stay longer and view more—and then ultimately show higher rates of lead form submissions. Sellers are helping amplify and bring marketing content to life using their own personal social capital, while marketing is helping sellers establish a professional brand and supplying an ongoing stream of thought leadership. Thus, the marketing and sales funnel of today is inextricably tied.
1-to-1 Sales Engagement Still Requires Marketing Partnership
Even in one-to-one sales engagement with clients—email or text outreach—marketing plays an important role.
Instead of calling a list of contacts from top to bottom, it’s critical for sales to engage with those who have shown behavioral triggers that indicate intent or interest. Knowing who to engage when and with what message requires digital tools and data to interpret client signals. And who tracks client signals and delivers the technology to engage across multiple channels? You guessed it – marketing.
Across our most innovative clients, we’ve seen corporate marketing teams develop digital marketing hubs that provide advisors and agents easy access to tools that help them reinvent the way they engage with their networks. From tracking engagements on Hearsay Social posts to following up on lead conversion forms via a compliant text through Hearsay Relate and using Hearsay Social Signals to be the first to congratulate contacts on a new job or recent move – marketing insights allow advisors and agents to follow up in a timely and targeted way.
Digital touches may not all be sales opportunities, but they’re a powerful way for sales to stay connected and deliver the necessary human touch. The right digital tools help sellers scale and deliver more frequent light touches with a greater number of people to build pipeline, influence, and most importantly relationships. It’s surprising what consistently wishing someone a happy birthday or congratulating them on business news can do.
Endgame: Better Serve the Customer
In the end, when everyone is doing their part, marketing and sales together can transform outreach from random and cold to trusted, authentic, and timely. The key is to use digital to deliver relevant, targeted content created by marketing and analytics around what clients are engaging in to elevate advisors and agents to become trusted problem solving partners. This not only lets sellers scale to serve a greater number of clients, but serves the client more personally, on their timeline and channel, around topics that are important to them.
In the video, watch Hearsay’s co-founder and executive chairperson, Clara Shih, break down how sales performs better in partnership with marketing.
It’s hard to remember that just 10 years ago, smart phones were not the norm. Most people weren’t on LinkedIn. Marketing was relatively simple, focusing on press releases, collateral like brochures, and advertising. Sales was pretty straightforward too. Selling financial services and insurance primarily involved cold calling to set up in-person seminars and meetings.
Fast forward to today. Usage of Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networking sites has exploded. Everyone has a mobile device and everyone ‘Googles’ when they’re thinking of buying something. People research their options and go into even their first sales conversations as an educated buyer. At the same time, government regulators around the world have stepped up their privacy protections which make cold calling much more difficult for salespeople.
Over the last decade, these new consumer behaviors, technologies, and restrictions in consumer privacy have led to the shifts summarized below.
Four Fundamental Shifts in Selling
- Sales people are trusted advisors, cultivating professional networks over an entire career. Cold calling is a thing of the past.
- Selling is all about attracting clients using educational content. Sellers are partners and problem solvers.
- Digital analytics arm salespeople with intelligence about who to engage with, what they are interested in, and when to engage them. No more blind ‘call downs.’
- Engagement across a multitude of digital channels is necessary to acquire and build client relationships, (rather than in-person events, especially now), and allows salespeople to scale like never before.
The Power of Sales & Marketing Collaboration
These shifts have pushed once separate sales and marketing organizations toward an essential partnership for success. Webcasts, white papers, research reports, and blog posts are the thought leadership and credibility magnets that get prospects interested in engaging with organizations. Sales teams depend on marketing for this content and the behavioral analytics to know when to engage with who and on what channel.
In the video, watch Hearsay’s co-founder and executive chairperson, Clara Shih, walk through these shifts and their impact on today’s sales funnel.
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.
We were excited to hear about Suzanne Siracuse’s new podcast, The Big Reveal, which aims to bring personal interviews with wealth management industry innovators and leaders to life. Suzanne, founder and former longtime CEO and Publisher of InvestmentNews, is herself an influential leader in the wealth management industry, and we were thrilled when she invited Hearsay founder Clara Shih to be her launch guest speaker along with Michael Kitces, George Nichols, and Bill Crager.
Here’s a link to Clara’s recent conversation with Suzanne, with a few excerpts highlighted below:
Suzanne: Clara, we met four years ago when I interviewed you at the InvestmentNews Women Advisor Summit. I have to admit I was in awe of your background… You graduated from Stanford with undergraduate and Master’s degrees in computer science. You were an early employee at Google, then joined Salesforce.com. In 2007, you saw the rising tide of social media and became famous for creating the first business application on Facebook, known as “Faceforce.” Then you founded Hearsay Social, now Hearsay Systems, where you served as CEO for 11 years until one month ago. With all those successes, I found you to be warm, generous, and personable, and you were a huge hit with the many advisors who attended that summit.
Clara: Thank you, Suzanne. My family came to this country in the 1980s with not very much, and I’m so grateful for the many opportunities I’ve had. In my life, I have always tried to dream big and take risks. Some have worked out well. I’m thankful to have met inspiring partners and leaders like you along the way!
Suzanne: So let’s talk about your recent announcement. You recently moved into the role of Executive Chair and promoted your COO Mike Boese to CEO. Whenever a high profile leader leaves the top spot, there’s always speculation on why. Can you take us through this decision and why now?
Clara: After 11 years, it was time. I know you know, having been the founder of InvestmentNews, and those of you watching who have built your own business know that being the founding CEO takes everything you have– every day, every hour, every weekend, every ounce of your being.
Last December I let the board know I needed to start thinking about a longer-term transition. In Q1, I met Mike, and here was someone who has started companies and scaled companies to hundreds of million in revenue and loved our mission and culture, then COVID happened and I realized the transition could happen much sooner.
Suzanne: Do you think the pandemic accelerated your timeline?
Clara: There is no question. During crises, we see what leaders are made of. Mike rose to the occasion and truly impressed me and the entire board of directors with his compassionate leadership, incredible work ethic, and commitment to our customers. On a personal level, the pandemic for me, like many people, has been a time of reflection and soul-searching. Over the summer, I realized the time had come after 11 years for me to take a break, spend time with my family, and try something new, with the peace of mind that Hearsay would be in great hands.
Suzanne: Over the summer, before you announced your new role, you and Mike co-led a major deal with Salesforce in which they took an equity share in Hearsay. This deal showcased an important strategic alignment between Hearsay and Salesforce marrying Salesforce’s CRM and Hearsay’s social and digital engagement capabilities. It was big news in our industry. Tell me how that all came together.
Clara: Our partnership has been driven by market forces – compliant digital engagement and CRM need to come together in service of the customer. Customers of both companies kept asking us to work more closely together on integrations, customers like Fidelity, Prudential, Morgan Stanley. So it was really just formalizing what was already happening naturally in the market to better serve what advisors need.
The amazing thing is there are now multiple phases of digital transformation which have been made possible thanks to this partnership. It’s not just about digital marketing. It’s completely rearchitecting how advisors spend their time and leverage analytics in every part of running their practice. The implications are tremendous, more than many people realize.
Phase 1. Contact and data sync
Phase 2. Workflow
Phase 3. Routing
Phase 4. Automation
Suzanne: While both Salesforce and Hearsay are giants in serving large brokerage firms and independent broker dealers, you have not made as much traction in the RIA space, though you do count Marty Bicknell and Mariner as a client. Are RIAs an area you are looking to expand into?
Clara: There’s no question we need to serve RIAs. They are a critical and growing segment in wealth management, and it’s a matter of when, not if. That said, I’m a big believer in focus, and timing and sequencing expansion– this is why Hearsay doesn’t sell technology to life sciences or tech companies. We have always been laser-focused on wealth management and financial services firms with relationship managers. When it comes to RIAs, we have a lot of learning to do. I’d like to learn from as many people as I can. Thinking about new markets and segments such as RIAs and international geos is one key area I’ll be focused on as Executive Chair.
Suzanne: Social media, which was the primary area Hearsay specialized in when you started the company in 2009, has become “not a nice to have” way to communicate but almost an essential way to communicate. You were ahead of your time! What gave you the idea to create Hearsay and the category of social selling in the first place?
Clara: Back in 2009, Facebook and LinkedIn had just launched and usage was growing at an exponential rate. A friend of mine was just starting out as an advisor, had no clients, and was just cold calling. I couldn’t believe how inefficient and ineffective it was. It dawned on me that every step of the sales relationship cycle, was going to get totally transformed by social and digital forces and that a solution was needed to bring business focus to social media. We started with social signals – money-in-motion life events being shared on social networks (the “hear” part of Hearsay), as well as social drip campaigns and 1-1 messages (the “say” part of Hearsay), and of course all of the compliance elements which are table stakes in wealth management.
Suzanne: Since then, Hearsay has made some big moves into adjacent client engagement areas, such as your compliant text messaging solution and new Hearsay Actions platform. How have you seen digital help advisors with their business development and client engagement efforts?
Clara: In every industry, technology is completely transforming how we need to work. In wealth management, this manifests as advisors focusing more of their time on value-added relationship acquisition and deepening activities. On the surface, Hearsay appears to be compliant text messaging and social selling. In reality, what Hearsay really is, is a way to automate and route marketing demand generation and client servicing tasks.
Suzanne: How has COVID changed the way Hearsay is working with clients and how advisors use Hearsay?
Clara: We’ve seen unprecedented usage of our platform since March. It’s been very uplifting to see how advisors have stepped up like never before to be there for clients when it really counts. From Hearsay’s perspective, the shift to remote work has been very seamless given we were already set-up with zoom, texting, social, and digital engagement tools pre-pandemic. With everyone stuck at home, we’ve tried to get creative in finding ways for human connection despite not being able to meet face-to-face, such as sending a supply box to everyone ahead of our largest-ever customer summit in May, or more recent virtual dinners where we have the same meal and bottle of wine delivered to a client as what we’re having so that we can still break bread together and have a slower conversation outside the hustle and bustle of back-to-back meetings.
Congratulations to Suzanne for the launch of her new podcast, and thank you for featuring Clara and Hearsay!
In order to help advisors thrive in the current environment, corporate teams need to rethink how they guide the field through and beyond the present crisis to adapt to new realities and seize the very real opportunities to make their practices stronger than before.
Social media proficiency is a must have for advisors and agents today. In fact, 92% of advisors report that social media has helped them gain new clients. Social media plays a key role in the digital landscape, and done correctly it can help advisors find new clients and strengthen relationships with their current ones.
Not only has social media transformed how business is conducted, it has also transformed where it is conducted. It is estimated that nearly 3 billion people worldwide own a smartphone. Another staggering statistic: 70% of web traffic comes from mobile devices. In order for your advisors and agents to find and stay connected to clients, they need to be both social and mobile.
It may seem unbelievable, but over 60% of advisors’ and agents’ time is spent on non-revenue generating activities such as administrative tasks. With texting, advisors and agents have an ultra-efficient way to stay connected with clients. In fact, text read rates are as high as 98%. Studies show that 75% of people report receptiveness to receiving text messages, making it easier for your advisors and agents to connect to clients. Within financial services, the average customer opt-in rate for advisor texting programs is 80%, suggesting that clients are eager to hear from their advisors and agents. We’ve found this is especially true in today’s volatile financial climate.
Not only are clients more responsive, but activating texting as a compliant advisor-client channel drives a deeper level of authenticity in the last mile of communications. It also enables your field with the flexibility to schedule time-based text message reminders, such as appointment and annual review reminders, that help shift the balance of where advisors and agents spend their time, from administrative activities to client meetings.
Does this mean that you should solely favor text messaging over email marketing? On the contrary. When it comes to communications, a balanced approach is always best. Authentic relationships thrive across various digital channels. Make sure your advisors and agents leverage both text messaging and email marketing to communicate with their clients and prospects for a successful content strategy with a tangible ROI. For example, studies show that when sending a text to follow up on an email, the email open rates increase by as much as 30%. And given that clients of advisors using Hearsay, on average, respond to a text message in under four minutes, your advisors and agents are more than likely to connect with their clients quickly and efficiently.
To learn more about how automated text messaging can improve client communications, check out the recording of our most recent admin webinar or share these advisor/agent webinars where we discuss how Hearsay tools can provide compliant text messaging that helps save time, secure prospects, and increase client retention.
 &  Hearsay Data, Time Management for Sales Study, 2017
 &  https://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/email-marketing/2019/01/roi-showdown-sms-marketing-vs-email-marketing/
 Hearsay 2020 Financial Services Social Media Content Study
How Janney Montgomery Scott empowers advisors with a modern, integrated digital marketing hub.
From webinars to live social media sessions, coffee hours to “appy” hours and more, virtual events are a great way for advisors and agents to build their brand and build trust. Here’s a whole list of ideas for you to build out for your field.