Tag Archives: hearsay social

The Start-Ups That Are Innovating in Life

In my last post, I provided categories within which to organize the innovation players within life insurance. Both start-ups and legacy businesses are pursuing solutions to industry pain points. Attention is being paid to distribution, product, client experience, speed, productivity, big data, compliance and other areas within the life category where inefficiency exists or where client needs are not met today.

The very complexity of life insurance will be a deterrent, at least in the near term, to the volume of innovations versus what we have seen in other areas of InsurTech. Much of the innovation, including the examples presented here in my April post, aim at specific issues with the current model for life insurance, versus taking a clean-sheet approach.

Entrants into the space aim to solve adviser problems, become the new intermediaries between the carriers and the client or assist the carriers themselves. For their part, carriers are funding and leading transformation efforts. They know they must adapt, but because it’s almost impossible to drive massive change from within an established business model and culture, it is likely that start-ups creating differentiated value that avoid becoming mired in complexity can do well.

Here are examples of opportunities:

Adviser conversations will move from the kitchen table to digital channels.

The Global Insurance Accelerator aims to drive innovation in the insurance industry. Of note in GIA’s 2016 cohort is InsuranceSocial.Media, a tiered offering that automates adviser participation in social media. Based on a user-defined profile, advisers are provided with algorithm-driven content that they can distribute via their social media identities.

Hearsay Social is a more evolved startup also enabling adviser social media. The company boasts relationships with seven out of 10 of the largest global financial services companies, among these New York Life, Pacific Life, Farmers and AXA. Hearsay addresses the compliance requirements that carriers have so their advisers can participate in social media: (1) archiving every instance of social media communication and (2) monitoring all adviser social conversations, intercepting compliance breaches. While not sexy, this capability is critical and commands C-suite attention.

An early-days market entrant also targeting adviser digital presence, LifeDrip claims to offer an automated marketing platform, including a personalized agent site, targeted content, signals on client readiness to buy and product recommendations.

Advisers as intermediaries are unlikely to disappear any time soon, but their role, engagement approach and capabilities must be more tech-savvy to appeal to virtually any consumer segment in this market with buying power. Expect additional new entrants that continue not to write off live intermediaries, and bring to market solutions to reshape the adviser relationship.

See also: How to Turn ‘Inno-va-SHUN’ Into Innovation

The new intermediaries are digital.

Smart Asset promises to simplify big financial decisions, including the purchase of life insurance, with an orientation toward how people make these decisions vs. pushing product. Shoppers can input data to a calculator and determine a coverage target; they are then encouraged to request a quote from New York Life. Smart Asset’s experience will be more credible when it includes multiple providers. It will require marketing investment to scale participation. Its basic approach could appeal to a large segment that will demand simple, low-cost product.

PolicyGenius has developed a consumer-friendly interface including instant quotes for life, as well as pet, renters and long-term disability insurance, following completion of an “insurance checkup.” As with other start-ups, this is a data-gathering exercise undoubtedly important to the company’s business model. AXA is an investor in PolicyGenius; the site promotes several major carriers as product providers.

Slice Labs is worth calling out because it is a direct-to-consumer play defining itself against a specific, important market segment – the 1099 workforce whose growth is being stimulated by the “on-demand economy.” Think not only about the Uber and Airbnb phenomena, but also the reality of more Americans moving away from traditional employer relationships where automatic access to benefits was a given.

Carriers will be viewed as start-up clients.

All of the companies mentioned already focus in and around the acquisition of new clients. InforcePro offers an automated solution for agents and carriers providing insights into sales opportunities and potential risks that exist within their current books.

Why does this matter? Insurance contracts are inordinately complex – even for the experts. Carriers and agents, particularly in recent years, have been forced to focus more heavily on maximizing the performance of the policies they have issued, versus just trying to sell more. The focus on the relationship with the policyholder has been skimpy. Life insurance policyholders can cancel a policy but cannot be “fired,” and represent continuing exposure, as their future claims can be on the carrier’s balance sheet for decades. With the risks and potential value now more obvious, in-force management has become a priority for focus and investment.

See also: Start-Ups Set Sights on Small Businesses

Carriers will drive efforts to innovate beyond incremental moves.

Haven Life owned by Mass Mutual but operated separately is a digital business whose product line is term life up to a $1 million benefit. The company operates in more than 40 states and represents a bold move for a 165-year old carrier. Nerdwallet rates Haven’s pricing as “competitive” – not the cheapest but well within range.

What is interesting about Haven is that it is not just implementing a shift of the same old approach to digital channels: Quotes are available in minutes, and coverage can become effective immediately, with the proviso that medical testing be completed within 90 days of policy issuance. In this space, this approach represents meaningful experience innovation.

Last year, John Hancock initiated an exclusive relationship in the U.S. with Vitality, marketing a program that gives rewards to clients who demonstrate healthy habits such as having health screenings, demonstrating nutritious eating habits, getting flu shots and engaging in regular exercise. Rewards range from cash back on groceries to premium reductions. This program is strategically significant because it aims at prevention, not just protection, linking preventative behaviors that clients control to cost savings.

Numerous carriers are participating in innovation accelerators, establishing their own incubators or forming dedicated venturing and innovation units. It remains to be seen which of these are what a colleague refers to as “innovation theater” and which are for real — drivers of new business opportunity. As with any early-stage plays, their stories will emerge over years, not quarters.

2015: The Year ‘Social’ Breaks Out of the Silo

Last December, I predicted social business would grow up this year, with real use cases and measurable return on investment (ROI) emerging across the enterprise. Looking back at the last 12 months, I’d say we’re right on track.

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 share content that shows off the company’s unique style and culture. Retailers from Burberry to Starbucks (where I’m proud to serve on the board) not only shine through creative campaigns and audience engagement but have also made cutting-edge social- and mobile-enabled technology their core business.

Above: Starbucks’ Tweet A Coffee campaign on Twitter.

Below: Burberry connecting with its audience on Instagram.

Even in financial services, an industry sometimes perceived as slow and sluggish because of the regulatory environment, the world’s largest banks, insurers and financial firms are “getting social.” At Hearsay Social, we now support more than 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, 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 toward 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 advisers 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.

Four steps to successful social business: Establish a presence, grow your network, listen to your network (“Hear”) and share content (“Say”).

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 start-ups by adopting a mentality of ruthless focus. In other words, you need to decide what you’re not going to do 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 advisers across the country to share ideas about how they do business today. Time and time again, we hear anecdotes of social-savvy advisers sharing their success stories and ROI proof points, which serve to sway even the most skeptical advisers 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.

4 Reasons Why Insurance Must Embrace Social Business in 2014

The past several years provide ample perspective on what it means to grow a business via social media, teaching us what works and, perhaps more importantly, what doesn’t. Early adopters are getting their social strategies down to a science; insurance companies commonly generate significant business value by enhancing existing customer relationships and expanding business  through social channels.

Research shows that the initial rush to get customers to simply “like” corporate pages on Facebook was misguided––“likes” for a brand have little value when compared with interactions between agents or reps and customers on an individual level through social media. Personal interactions can lead directly to sales, whereas a “like” rarely translates to dollars. Our own data at Hearsay Social supports this. One major insurance client shared that its agents who used social media to personally connect with customers and prospects had an average of greater than 20% more sales than those who don’t. Customer retention also improves drastically.

Based on our experiences working with numerous large, multi-line companies, I want to share four simple reasons why insurers need to become “social” businesses.

You will notice that these four principles have always applied to successful agencies and businesses; the communication channels are simply evolving.

1. To get found

Being “findable” used to require significant up-front marketing effort and spending. Agencies often invested heavily in ads, sponsorships, and prime real estate to be discovered and considered by prospects. But the way people research has fundamentally changed. Today’s buyers go online to research products or services before purchasing. Whether people are buying a book or a complex financial product, it’s safe to assume that digital research factors into the purchase process. Today, social media is one of the most powerful ways to help an agent or business get found. If a customer searches on Google, social media pages and profiles are typically at the top of their results.

Google Search Results
In this example, 3 of the top 4 results in a Google search for the name of a Thrivent Financial Advisor are for his social media pages, demonstrating how a social media presence greatly improves “findability.”

Additionally, with complex products like insurance or financial services, where the decision-maker relies on expert advice, they look for people whom their friends or colleagues recommend. Where one might have previously called friends and colleagues about where to take their business, people increasingly turn to social networks as the easiest way to find the right expert.

2. To grow networks

An extensive network has always been a key indicator of a good businessperson. Historically, new agents were trained to continually build and maintain strong personal networks. The same is true today, and the rise of social networks has made this entire process more efficient and powerful. Social networks online act just like shared connections in the physical world– online social networks provide the context, familiarity, and trust that allow good sales people to effectively establish a credible rapport to represent themselves and their brand.

Building and maintaining long-term personal relationships is also essential to gaining referrals and repeat sales. On social media, this means connecting with all your friends, colleagues, and business contacts from the offline world. Successful social sales representatives then use social media to connect with customers and continually engage before, during, and after a sales cycle.

3. To “hear” customers and start meetings warm

Listening to and understanding clients is a key characteristic that separates successful relationship managers from the pack. People share valuable information and buying signals on social networks, and gathering insights from posts makes it easy to identify and understand customer needs so that sales reps can truly go into meetings “warm.”

Hearsay Social Signals
Agents and reps can “hear” what is going on in their networks with Social Signals alerts that highlight key life events, such as weddings or new babies, that could be opportunities to reach out.

Companies that embrace social business provide their teams with powerful ways to pay attention to what’s going on with customers, which increases productivity. Information shared by consumers via social networks also helps relationship managers understand the appropriate time to reach out, with exactly the right information.

4. To build credibility

In the insurance industry, customers must rely on their agent, advisor, or wholesaler as an expert. Buyers don’t have the time to do their own research and stay up-to-date. Social media makes an enormously powerful and effective tool for sales reps to demonstrate expertise and consequently build trust. Industry-leading relationship managers share content via social channels to build credibility and educate customers. In addition, sharing content on social networks helps relationship managers stay top of mind with prospects with whom they haven’t yet engaged. When the prospect is ready to move forward, they know exactly who to contact to initiate sales conversations.

Insurers Win Big With Social Media

Insurance agents have long understood the need to be social as a part of their sales process: the best agents have always been those who build strong relationships with and educate customers, keep in touch and ask for referrals. But new ways of communicating have resulted in new expectations buyers have, such as being able to Google an agent and check out his or her LinkedIn profile before deciding to proceed. This means that insurers need to rethink the sales process and the tools that they provide to their agents, so agents can take full advantage of the power of social media.

The profile information and status updates that more than one billion people share each day on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn offer agents incredible insights into what is happening in the lives of current and potential policyholders. These insights signal to agents what types of insurance are needed by the customer and generally allow the agent to build trust through personal connection and personalized service. As a result, agents can now be smarter about when they contact customers and prospects and more directed in their communications, saving agents time and improving business results. Researching prospects on social media and understanding what's happening in their lives ensures that every call will be warm. In the era of social media, the cold call is dead.

The insurance industry has been an early adopter of social technology. While regulated industries, including financial services and insurance, tend to be cautious because of compliance concerns, a study by International Data Corp. found that the insurance industry has actually blazed the trail with social media. Farmers, Nationwide, Thrivent Financial, Northwestern Mutual and other Fortune 500 insurance organizations have instituted forward-thinking initiatives on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter that have demonstrated social success that other industries are attempting to replicate.

But it's time for all insurers to move to the second wave with social. In the first wave, many companies rushed to get as many “likes” as possible on their Facebook pages. But research shows that these “likes” have failed to convert into lasting value and tangible return on investment. In the second wave of social, insurers are realizing that they need to focus on results achieved through true engagement and authentic relationships. Just as it has always been, since long before the digital age, developing long-standing relationships is key to building a successful business in the social era.

For insurers, moving on to the second wave means two main things:

First, insurers need to provide unique and relevant content that agents can use on their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds. For an agent, sharing relevant content via social channels builds credibility and helps establish them as a trusted expert that their connections will turn to when they need insurance. Marketing departments already know the type of content that resonates with customers and are typically producing professional content used in other online and offline channels. For example, success stories about the value of insurance or financial planning tools are valuable pieces of content for agents to share socially.

Second, insurers must empower the field. As an example, Thrivent Financial, a Hearsay Social client, has hundreds of agents actively managing their own local Facebook pages. As financial experts, Thrivent Financial representatives share value with their close-knit communities by consistently posting relevant content, like IRA calculators and market analyses. In addition, Thrivent reps share personal updates and plan community events, building an authentic social presence while still appropriately representing brand.

Organizations that empower agents to create their own local social-media presences are many times more effective than when the same messages are shared from a corporate page. While having five million fans wins bragging rights for any brand marketer, from the consumer's perspective, it can be much more powerful to hear the story from a local representative that you know and trust.

A local insurance agent's Facebook page

Savvy chief marketing officers at insurers have done a great job of making a relatively abstract product tangible by creating some of the most interesting and memorable personas in the history of marketing — Mayhem the Allstate villain, Flo the Progressive Girl, Snoopy representing MetLife and the GEICO gecko. For an industry that sells a product you can't hear, see, smell, taste or touch, this is impressive. And the characters can drive social-media strategies, allowing a company to create a social-media asset for a character (e.g., the Facebook page for Mayhem). Getting consumers to “like” the page can provide yet another entry point into the News Feed, increasing engagement for the brand and driving sales. When your local MetLife agent posts a picture of a sleeping Snoopy with the text “TGIF,” how can you not click “like”?

While insurers are off to a great start with social marketing, there is so much more that they can do to leverage the power of social media into sales. By coordinating enterprise-wide social selling programs, insurance companies can empower agents to attract more prospects and build stronger relationships, leading the way by selling socially.