Field leaders and executives in investment, insurance and financial services in Asia and beyond converged earlier this month for the annual GAMA LAMP (Leadership & Management Program) Asia conference to learn, network and recharge with the industry’s best and brightest. Held in Hong Kong this year (which also happens to be Hearsay Social’s Asia headquarters), it drew more than 1,000 attendees – from managers to CEOs of leading firms – around the theme of “leadership to outperform.” Hot topics throughout the event included recruitment, marketing, technology and diversity.
Our CEO and founder, Clara Shih (right), delivered the conference keynote and joined a prestigious list of speakers that included Bonnie Godsman, CEO of GAMA International; Daralee Barbera, managing principal of Waddell & Reed and current president of GAMA’s board of directors; Edward Deutschlander, CEO elect of North Star Resource Group; and Richard Weylman, best-selling author of “The Power of Why: Breaking Out in a Competitive Marketplace” and Hall of Fame speaker.
Clara and Hearsay Social managing director Jason Suen (below) together hosted a session on the four key steps to establish a successful social business program. Attendees gained practical knowledge on social media best practices, as well as how to use social as a recruiting tool to attract high-performing talent that understands and utilizes technology to grow business.
One overarching theme from the conference was the shift from a features-and-benefits selling approach to one that leverages individual customer priorities and emotional, social positioning. According to Richard, rather than focusing on “attributes” (e.g., better products, qualified experience), a more effective way for advisors to reach customers is to talk about the emotionally-charged outcomes they desire (e.g., achieving better financial health, protecting their families). Technologies such as social media, email and other digital avenues now make it easy and more efficient for advisors to get to know their clients and prospects on that personal, social level.
Recruitment and the advisor career was another key theme, as evidenced in Edward’s talk about how people join people and causes, not companies. To attract top talent, firms must be able to align themselves to a meaningful purpose, and field managers must instill in advisors that their core motivation is finding, educating and inspiring consumers to take action to better their well-being, he said. Thanks to the explosive growth and influence of social media, it’s never been easier for both companies and advisors to publicly show and reinforce their mission and values.
The atmosphere of this year’s GAMA LAMP Asia was electric throughout the three-day conference, and we’re thrilled to have been a part of the action! Read more about Hearsay Social and how we’ve empowered over 115,000 advisors and professionals to deepen relationships with clients using social media. Related Resources:
From Southwest Airlines to Asos, customer engagement has already been transformed by Twitter. Representatives not only respond to customer complaints and inquiries at breakneck speeds, but they share content which show off the company’s unique style and culture, appealing to their respective audiences. Retailers from Burberry to Starbucks (where I’m proud to serve on the board of directors) not only shine through creative campaigns and audience engagement, but they have also made cutting-edge social- and mobile-enabled technology their core business.
Even in financial services, an industry sometimes perceived as slow and sluggish due to the regulatory environment, I’m excited to share that Hearsay Social enables the world’s largest banks, insurers, and financial firms to “get social.” We now support over 100,000 financial professionals, allowing them to meaningfully connect with clients and prospects across multiple social networks and devices.
Whether it’s improved responsiveness to customer complaints, greater audience reach, more instantaneous market insight, or the opportunity to connect with a new lead, compelling business cases now abound on social media.
In most organizations, however, social media still sits in a silo by itself. And some companies are still investing in social just to say they are social. Therefore, my big idea for 2015 is that social media will cease to exist as an individual silo, but instead will become integrated into standard business practice.
With the initial business case proven out, it is time for the C-suite as well as functional leaders to institutionalize social as a core part of how business is done every day. Here’s how:
Define a customer-centered vision for transformation
We like to think we’ve come so far, but change comes from the top. And how much can be said when, in 2014, two in three CEOs still have no social presence on any major social network whatsoever? (Source: 2014 Social CEO Report, CEO.com.) Of those CEOs who do use social media, two in three are only on one platform. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the only Fortune 500 CEO on every major social network is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is arguably the best equipped to understand the power of social.
We need to change this next year. If you truly want to create a customer-centered organization–that is, a company dedicated to long-term success amid seismic shifts in consumer expectations and behavior–then executives at the top must articulate why the transformation needs to take place. The first step towards articulating this is leading by example: CEOs, functional and line-of-business heads, and first-line managers all need to be practicing what they preach so that they are not only more credible but are also better equipped to lead and influence from within their organizations.
Create a new methodology, process, and metrics
It’s no longer acceptable to be doing social media for the sake of doing it. Have a plan in place, no matter how simple. Document your plan and intended goals, train employees and managers on it, drive success by checking in regularly, and, of course, measure people on it.
Our customer success team at Hearsay Social, for example, has developed a four-step methodology for financial firms and their advisors who may initially feel overwhelmed when approaching social: First, establish a presence, which can be measured simply by seeing who has online social profiles. Second, grow your network by connecting with colleagues and clients where appropriate–yet another step that can be easily measured. Next, listen to your network for opportunities that could help you grow your business. Finally, share content and thought leadership to continually stay top of mind with your audience.
Having a methodology, process and metrics in place for the social program helps institutionalize social as part of a company’s DNA and standard operating procedure while ensuring repeatability and scale as the company brings on new employees.
Cut and consolidate
Regardless of the organization, resources are never unlimited. Employees can only get so much done in a day, and there’s only so much cash flowing to fuel projects.
With that in mind, even the largest companies in the world must start thinking like startups by adopting a mentality of ruthless focus. In other words, you need to decide what you’re not going to do in order to make room for social.
For example, many of the insurance agencies we power on social media have decided to stop advertising on park benches and in the Yellow Pages. Instead, they are using their funds to buy promoted posts on Facebook. Another company, a financial services firm, which previously provided two separate training programs for “inter-generational wealth transfer” and “social media” realized that there was actually an opportunity to combine the two because social media should be core to any effort to appeal to future generations of heirs.
Let your people teach and inspire one another
The first three steps are all top-down, but equally important, if not more so, is the groundswell of employee engagement and feeling of ownership. Companies more than ever need to have bottoms-up evangelism and peer-to-peer sharing to succeed in the digital era.
As partners of our client companies, we regularly attend national conferences hosted by our client organizations that bring together advisors across the country to share ideas about how they do business today. Time and time again, we hear anecdotes of social-savvy advisors sharing their success stories and ROI proof points, which serve to sway even the most skeptical advisors to become social media believers and practitioners. In the end, though executive buy-in is crucial, peer-to-peer evangelism will be much more credible than corporate departments pushing their initiatives down. You need both.
Expect continual iteration
To succeed as a company in 2015 and beyond, it is imperative to accept that change is ubiquitous and accelerating. There’s new tech coming out every day–from mobile payments to virtual reality, connected cars and homes to the Internet of Everything–destined to challenge and upend every established sector. In turn, each of these disruptions will cause even newer technologies like social media to evolve, and there will always be new use cases. Perhaps your company may pave the way to the next innovation in social media case studies.
In 2015, social will be disrupted by going mainstream across the enterprise. Soon, we will no longer call it out separately. Social as a silo is going away. A decade ago, we spent a lot of breath talking about “online” experiences, but today we assume every customer is always online. Social will be the same.
Ed. note: The following post, penned by Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih, originally appeared in Advertising Age.
Long before the digital age, all business was local and social. Customer engagement was paramount. Shopkeepers, barbers, and Avon ladies alike intuitively knew that their ability to connect with customers would often determine whether or not a purchase would be made. They also understood that investing in building long-standing relationships with customers would result in repeat visits and loyalty.
For many successful proprietors, this meant knowing customers by name, remembering their likes and dislikes, and being on hand to answer product questions. Years before founding Walmart, at the age of 26, Sam Walton put these principles to work as a variety store manager in Newport, Arkansas.
On stage at fMC (Facebook’s marketing conference) earlier this year, Walmart CMO Stephen Quinn hearkened back to this bygone era:
“If you went back 120 years ago, a retailer would be a pillar in the community. [Retailers] would know not only everybody, but their likes, what they thought was interesting, what new products they might be interested in.”
So, what happened to the shopkeeper who cared about customers? The answer is very simple: technology.
Technology has enabled two of the biggest changes to sweep across retail: national mega-chains and more recently, e-commerce. Both have played key roles in driving down prices by introducing greater transparency, efficiency, and economies of scale. But this has come at a cost: the customer experience now feels “mass produced.”
In his eloquent foreword to my book, The Facebook Era, 1-800-FLOWERS founder and CEO Jim McCann captures it perfectly:
“Past technologies helped drive down costs, improve reach, and grow the business, but in the process we lost something very important: customer connection. I have missed the direct customer dialogue I had in our retail flower shops. The digital age has felt largely transactional in comparison.”
A central theme of fMC last month was how social media provides a way to put a human touch back into business. Several Facebook executives, including David Fischer, Mike Hoefflinger, and Chris Cox, took the stage at various moments to explain how Facebook’s new Timeline redesign provides businesses with an opportunity to “reintermediate” a human touch in their online interactions with customers. Less advertising, more engagement. Less cookie-cutter, more authentic. Less corporate, more local.
Slowly but surely, even the biggest retail organizations around the world are awakening to this sea change. Quinn and his team at Walmart have recommitted to a “social-local strategy” that I think would have made Sam Walton proud.
Walmart has launched thousands of Facebook Pages, one for each of its brick-and-mortar stores. Designated store employees who have received special training on social media are responsible for maintaining the pages, such as by responding to customer questions and issues, sharing targeted local promotions, and discussing town news or events, such as the local football game. Quinn says social media is enabling Walmart to “go back to the future” by providing an authentic local customer experience, but at scale.
Walmart is not alone. A growing number of brick-and-mortar retailers from Lululemon and Home Depot to 24 Hour Fitness and Quiznos are embracing social-local. According to a report published last month from Mainstay Salire, local Facebook pages already outperform corporate pages by a factor of 40 (Download the report here.)
Disintermediation is fine for highly commoditized brands and products, but if you want to build brand differentiation and customer loyalty, there are no shortcuts to authentic engagement. Certainly, social-local requires greater coordination than having brand pages alone, but like anything, what you get out of social media is proportional to what you put in.
Retail e-commerce sales topped $61.8B in Q4 of 2011, but this still amounts to less than six percent of total retail sales. Embracing a social-local strategy allows retailers to capitalize on the shift in consumer behavior toward digital, social, and mobile technologies at the store level where most of the transactions are still taking place, even while investing in growing e-commerce channels over time.
It turns out shopkeepers, barbers, and Sam Walton had it right all along. Customers want to be treated like real people, not an audience segment. Having 20 million fans secures bragging rights for any brand, but from the perspective of the fan, it’s generally far more engaging and rewarding to be part of a smaller, more intimate community.
Today, social-local is a really good idea. As more of your customers get smartphones, check in to your store locations, and begin demanding authenticity with a human touch, it will soon become mandatory. In my next article, I will discuss how retailers should go about establishing and operationalizing a social-local strategy, as well as why I believe brands have no choice but to do this. Please stay tuned.
Watch Walmart CMO Stephen Quinn talk about his social-local marketing strategy below: