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How 3 Firms Are Using Social Media Education Programs to Grow Business

shutterstock_130643495One of our goals at Hearsay Social is to arm financial professionals with the tools necessary to succeed in an always-connected world. This includes educating advisors and agents on how to use social media to build their credibility, engage with customers and prospects, and grow their business.
A recent article in Ignites, Financial Times publication, entitled “Anti-Social Shops Failing to Connect with Advisors” states “fund companies that fail to help advisors navigate social media are likely blowing a big opportunity to connect with client assets.” 
The article highlights three leading financial services firms – including Pacific Life, Putnam and Vanguard – who have successfully implemented programs to train and encourage its sales teams to use social media for business. 
In a Practical Perspectives study conducted in December 2015, nearly 90 percent of advisors rely on some type of social media guidance to build their practices’ online presence, but few lean on their home office for education and support. Instead, most (72 percent) do their own research, ask colleagues (37 percent), or rely on broker-dealers and custodians (36 percent).
But, according to the article, there’s a real opportunity for firms to build awareness and differentiate themselves at the advisor level on social media. It describes Pacific Life’s successful social media training initiative:

“The firm made sure its external wholesalers had LinkedIn presences in 2014 and knew how to use the network to connect with advisors. After launching the website in 2015, Pacific Life began holding presentations in branch offices, says Christine Tucker, VP of marketing at the company.

‘We do see it as a growth opportunity for helping advisors and helping our wholesalers differentiate themselves,’ she says.

Advisors have particularly gravitated toward more sophisticated training materials, Tucker says. The site includes pieces on how to prospect for clients by age or limit the visibility of connections on LinkedIn.

The social media education effort started because Pacific Life sought to create a unique value-add offering, one that would help advisors attract more business, Tucker says. The future buyers of mutual funds have been raised on technology, so the medium struck the firm as an ideal way for advisors to connect with them, she says.

‘We wanted to be able to have a different story to tell [in advisor offices],’ she says.”

The article also describes how Putnam Investments provides a multitude of ongoing social media training resources for its sales team:

At Putnam, everyone across the retail sales team is well versed in how to use social media to build business, says Jayme Lacour, director of social media at the Boston-based firm. That includes internals giving presentations over the Web and externals presenting ideas to advisors at the branch level and one-on-one, as well as the firm’s sales and marketing leaders speaking on panels. ‘It’s an expectation of our sales team from the top to the bottom,’ he says.

The firm offers a full range of presentations that cater to social media neophytes and experts alike. Putnam reps cover everything from creating a profile to using Boolean search terms to find potential clients on LinkedIn, Lacour says. …

A few years ago, Putnam rolled out a dedicated website, called Advisor Tech Tips, that includes social media pointers.

Building relationships with advisors through social media has been a major focus at Putnam, says Mark McKenna, head of global marketing. ‘This is really what we do hands-on with advisors,’ he says. For instance, the firm recently brought about 30 advisors into its offices for a full day of training, which also included professional head shots taken in Putnam’s studio, he says.”

Vanguard also is included in the story as a leader in providing social media education and support for its field force; the article says the firm recently added a section to its website offering tips for how advisors should use social media.
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Sales has changed more in the past 10 years than it did in the previous 100: Recap from LIMRA Distribution 2014

Recently we were honored to be in Florida for LIMRA’s annual distribution conference, where our CEO Clara Shih shared the stage with Mark Hug (Executive Vice President Product and Marketing, Individual Life Insurance Prudential), Patrick T. Leary (MBA, Assistant Vice President, Distribution Research, LIMRA), business experts Daniel Pink and Ryan Estis, and many other industry leaders.

For those who weren’t able to make it, here are some of the best takeaways from the event, where we discussed the future of distribution in financial services.

The New Age of Marketing and Sales

Kicking off the conference, Mark Hug framed his presentation around key challenges the industry faces today. You may be familiar with the industry challenges as listed below, but what made Mr. Hug’s presentation especially insightful was how he tied the challenges to the opportunities facing the industry.

Key Challenges

  • The Economy: The pressures of low interest rates are especially affecting the life insurance industry. Although the U.S. is projected for a full economic recovery by 2015, the recovery of the life insurance industry is lagging.

  • Regulations: “The industry has never been more regulated,” said Mark. He described the growing regulatory pressure, especially as new technologies emerge and make information more accessible.

  • Distribution: Distribution volume is at a low point, and by some measures, there are 25% less producers than there were 10 years ago. Life insurance distributors are also greying at a faster rate that their financial services counterparts. Today, the average age of a life insurance advisor is in the upper-50s compared to a financial advisor who is in their lower-50s.

Mark described how some organizations are experimenting with “alternative” distribution channels, such as websites or big-box chains. But “we are not going to make progress through experimentation,” he argued, encouraging LIMRA members to move faster to keep up. “We can’t experiment anymore, we need to disrupt.”

Specifically, through technology and big data, he sees key opportunities for the life insurance industry to innovate and adapt in the areas of marketing, distribution and customer experience. Some producers have adopted social media as a means of building relationships with clients, but he also encourages other digital channels of communication such as chat or video conferencing.

Mark pulled out his iPhone and used Siri to search for a life insurance advisor to make a point: it is just not that easy to find a life insurance agent online. He went on to explain how important it is for advisors to be findable on the Internet, using the legal industry as key example. Social media profiles and pages boost search results, making social media a key tool for producers to make themselves more findable.

Another area of opportunity that Mark highlighted was big data and analytics. He encouraged LIMRA attendees to start leveraging the information they already have to better serve their customers and prospects.

“Leverage predictive analytics, learn about your customers and understand how they are going to change in advance,” he said.

In his parting message, he focused on customer experience. At Prudential, they are spending more time on customer experience than ever before. Mark urged his peers that if they are not already investing heavily in their customers’ experiences, then they should be. And the investment can’t be done in isolation by a single team. Distribution and marketing should work as partners, understanding your customer and potential segmented consumer better.

“If you do this,” he said, “you’ll be right along with us next year.”

To Sell Is Human: The New ABCs of Moving Others

The second main stage presentation was led by Daniel Pink, bestselling author of “To Sell is Human.” Daniel started out his presentation with a bold assertion that the disintermediation predicted as a result of digital distribution hasn’t happened. He supported this assertion with U.S. employment numbers showing that the number of salespeople in the workforce hasn’t declined.  The percentage of American workers that are in sales has stayed constant at about 11% from 2000 to 2014, according to Daniel.

Sharing some data his team researched, Daniel described the negative connotation most Americans have with “sales.” The team asked approximately 7,000 adult full-time workers, “When you think of ‘Sales’ or ‘Selling,’ what’s the first word that comes to mind?” Results were overwhelmingly negative: 20 of the top 25 adjectives they recorded were negative, including words such as “pushy” and “smarmy.”

We are no longer in a “buyer beware” world: with all of the information available online, the warning is “seller beware.” Not only can buyers now do extensive research on a product before making a purchase, they can also research the salespeople. Daniel highlighted three key qualities of salespeople in this new era: attunement, buoyancy and clarity.

Daniel also debunked a popular myth that people with an extrovert personality are the best sales reps. In their study they found that “ambiverts,” people who are neither exclusively extroverted nor introverted, are actually the most productive salespeople.

Daniel’s key message: selling has changed more in the past 10 years than it did in the previous 100. Salespeople today need to recognize these changes and return to customer-centricity.

Social Media and the Future of Agency Distribution

On day two of the event, we were proud to take the stage with business leaders from Pacific Life, Thrivent Financial, and New York Life to discuss how social media affects the future of agency distribution.

Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih (@clarashih) was joined by Greg Bailey (VP, Marketing, Pacific Life Insurance Company, @gregbaileyco), Knut A. Olson (CLU, FIC, Chief Distribution Officer, Thrivent Financial), and Maurice B. Springer (CLF, CVP Manage Development, New York Life Insurance Company).

Building off of Mark’s and Daniel’s presentations described above, Clara discussed how multiple factorsshifting customer demographics and buyer expectations, an aging advisor population and the unprecedented pace of technological changeare challenging the effectiveness of traditional distribution models. She argued that innovations in social, digital and mobile technologies for the advisors can help solve many of the problems discussed at the conference.

To support her arguments, Clara passed the microphone to distribution leaders from Pacific Life, Thrivent Financial, and New York Life in the audience so they could share their social business success stories. Selling is transforming, but that doesn’t mean it’s dying. The most adaptable firms will embrace new technologies as way to help, not hinder, their field forces.

Learn more:

The rise of the customer and social business in financial services: Recap from LinkedIn FinanceConnect
Social Media Is Key to Humanizing Financial Services: SIFMA Seminar
Enhancing the social business experience for financial advisors at Wedbush Securities

Looking forward to the LIMRA Distribution Conference for Financial Services

LIMRA has selected Hearsay Social as its Elite Strategic Partner and endorsed social media solution for LIMRA members to learn about and be successful on social media.

Once again, we’re proud to be in Florida for LIMRA’s annual Distribution Conference, where our CEO Clara Shih will be sharing the stage with Mark Hug (EVP, Product and Marketing, Individual Life Insurance, Prudential), Patrick T. Leary (MBA, Assistant Vice President, Distribution Research, LIMRA), business experts Daniel Pink and Ryan Estis, and many other industry leaders.

On Friday, Clara will be joined by business leaders from Pacific Life, Thrivent Financial, and New York Life to discuss how social media affects the future of agency distribution. Most executives recognize that the financial industry is in flux, so we are likewise seeing a challenge to the traditional distribution models. Driving agent success through social business will be essential to compete in today’s market. (See full session details below.)

Tonight and for the rest of the week, conference attendees will also hear executives from Prudential, Sun Life, and Thrivent Financial discuss how to adapt field reps to the new age of marketing and sales. It’s sure to be a very informative week!


Social Media and the Future of Agency Distribution

WHEN: 9:30 am on Friday, February 21

WHO: Clara Shih (CEO of Hearsay Social and Board Director, Starbucks Corporation) will be joined by Greg Bailey (VP, Marketing, Pacific Life Insurance Company), Knut A. Olson (CLU, FIC, Chief Distribution Officer, Thrivent Financial), and Maurice B. Springer (CLF, CVP Manage Development, New York Life Insurance Company).

WHAT: The financial industry is in the midst of seismic change. Shifting customer demographics and buyer expectations, paired with an aging advisor population and the unprecedented pace of technological change, are challenging the effectiveness of traditional distribution models.  The solution, however, isn’t to bet everything on direct channels.  Rather, the agency distribution leaders of today and tomorrow must empower their field organizations with the latest social media, digital, and mobile technologies to stay relevant, stay competitive, and appeal to younger generations of advisors and customers alike.  Silicon Valley innovation leader Clara Shih will share her insights on how social business is transforming how agents sell. Distribution leaders from two leading firms will join Ms. Shih to discuss how they are driving these programs at their respective organizations and the key role that field management must play to ensure the success of Agent Social Business initiatives.

See you there, or check back on our blog to see live notes and tweets from the event at #distconf!

Also, read our updates from the 2013 LIMRA Distribution Conference.