Using Social to Solve Advisors’ Digital Sales Crisis

A quick scroll of your LinkedIn feed will inevitably turn up at least one article advocating the benefits of a digitally savvy advisor, in both wealth management and insurance. A LinkedIn survey found that advisors who use social media outperform their peers by 200% in key metrics, and that clients and prospects are far more digitally savvy than their advisors, according to an article by Brendan Kenalty. Any advisor who reads these articles typically reacts with the (panicked) thought, “How do I do this?” Any marketing team that reads these articles will react with a similar thought (also somewhat panicked), “How can I enable this?”

To have a socially and digitally savvy sales organization is often a challenge, and even more so in the financial services space. Regulations in financial services have forced many marketing organizations into the ostrich position, where it’s better to bury your figurative head in the sand rather than deal with the tangle of regulations, policies and risks that could be associated with unleashing your advisors on social.

However, it is becoming very clear that organizations that embrace social will rise to the top. Digital is a key channel in an omnichannel sales approach, and one that should not be ignored. The risks of ignoring an integrated social selling program in any go-to-market strategy are vast. Top risks include the inability to attract and retain top talent. Savvy advisors know this is an effective channel for reaching clients and building relationships; if you aren’t enabling those advisors, competitors are. A further risk is that advisors will simply go rogue and start publishing on digital channels unbeknownst to their organization. This is a can of worms that no organization wants to deal with, as the risk of not being aware of advisors on social is massive.

So, what’s a financial services organization to do? As Kenalty pointed out in his article, the first step is to “digitally activate” your advisors so that they are free to “acquire leads, build relationships, monitor buying signals and close more business faster”. But how? A few pieces of infrastructure are key, but there are fundamentally three aspects to a solid advisor digital strategy: listening, publishing, engaging (and measuring, if you really want to be particular).

Before an advisor even thinks about publishing content, he or she should leverage tools to listen to what’s happening. What are clients and prospects doing and saying on social? What is the market buzz? You wouldn’t walk into a networking event and just start talking; instead you would typically scope out the room, listen to what’s going on and find an opportunity to engage. Social media is the same.

The next step is to start publishing — this is the scary part, and where marketing and tools can play a key role. An easy-to-use platform for publishing content is a must. The hard part, or perceived hard part, is the content. A solid social strategy includes both corporate content and curated articles. Content is king in this space, and there is no shortage out there. For example, social relationship platforms, such as Hootsuite, have app integrations dedicated to finding and curating content. Companies like Vestorly and Right Relevance allow advisors and marketing teams to find content relevant to their client base, and easily bring that into their social relationship platform through APIs to distribute to their clients. Browser plugins for social relationship platforms enable advisors (and marketing teams) to publish content on the fly - no more copying and pasting from the web to your publishing tool.

Content does not need to be the roadblock to success; there are many solutions out there that allow both marketing teams and advisors to create and represent their brand and approach on social. Authenticity on social is a major key to success — showing who you are, outside of your corporate brand, enables the relationship building aspect of social. Content is readily available, however, successful digital advisors know that publishing robo-content only is not a successful strategy. A blend of corporate, curated and (down the road) original content is what showcases who you are as an advisor and why clients will want to do business with you.

Finally, engaging — what’s the point in listening and publishing if you can’t engage in a discussion? Ultimately, having a central platform to do all of these tasks can make life easier for both marketing and sales, which is absolutely the key to ensuring that your efforts are fruitful.

The elephant in the room here is compliance, however, there are plenty of solutions in the market to ensure that your organization is protected. Tools such as those offered by Proofpoint and Smarsh are two of the top ones. Compliance concerns need no longer restrict activities on social.

The bottom line is that a digitally savvy advisor is the norm now, and organizations need to find a way to support this channel. Advisors cannot do it on their own; this needs to be a collaborative effort between marketing and sales. The great news is that the market is mature, and able to support both sides of this equation with platforms that satisfy everyone’s needs. The burden of finding relevant content is no longer a burden — both marketing and sales can find bucketloads of relevant content, and easily pull it into to a single platform for management and distribution.

--- Read Clara Shih: How to ‘Work Smarter’ on Social Media on ThinkAdvisor. 

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