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Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Embracing the Hybrid — Digital Engagement For a Post-Covid World
Guest Column by: Bill Finnegan

Despite the urge that many of us may have to run screaming from our home "offices" after the last eighteen months, a majority of companies are poised to employ a hybrid model that combines work-from-home with time in the office. The digital engagement that became a lifeline for wholesalers and advisors during the pandemic is not going away.

William H. "Bill" Finnegan
Managing Director, Financial Services Marketing
Nor should it. We will go back to the office, but it will not be the same as before. And as many of us keep one foot in WFH and one foot in the office, wholesalers must leverage the best aspects of the new digital model — different social channels, content platforms and even AI — to emerge from the pandemic more active, engaged, and better positioned to leverage in-person opportunities with clients as conferences and other live events return to our calendars.

The primary questions wholesalers need to ask themselves are: How will you leverage digital engagement to make yourself more efficient? And how do digital tools complement the needs of your clients? In addition, understanding how the largest social channels are different — and what and where the opportunity for each lies — will be critical to devising a strategy that successfully leverages all the tools that are available in the market.

In the first case, employing a range of social media platforms allows you to reach your advisor contacts where they are engaging with their investor clients. And each social channel offers distinct content forms that can be utilized in a variety of ways to engage.

Having a strong LinkedIn presence, for instance, might appeal to one advisor client segment, while creating short video content to educate and inform might be better utilized for clients who are more regularly on Twitter, TikTok, or Facebook. As cold-calling and more archaic methods of prospecting continue to be phased out, the efficiency and utility of having a substantive, authentic digital persona cannot be overstated.

Social channels also help you learn how your message is resonating with clients. Not only through the number of likes, engagements and direct replies to different posts, but when combined with robust social listening tools and the use of AI, technology can now provide precise targeting of clients that tells you what solutions to offer and even when might be the best time to offer them.

Understanding the ebb and flow of what people want is a critical insight that many wholesalers — or anyone involved in the sales process in general — have been in constant search of throughout our careers. Information on behavioral buying patterns and online decision-making is right at our fingertips, allowing us to really segment the marketplace and serve clients the highly tailored solutions they need, sometimes before they know they need them.

As mentioned earlier, the second key aspect for any successful wholesaler digital strategy is one that enhances and complements the needs of your advisor clients. Employing the right strategy means that you are helping to market yourself while also helping your clients market themselves. Having the client top of mind while mapping out your online strategy is also vital to developing loyal advocates that can support your business through word of mouth, both online and in-person.

Returning to our new hybrid model of engagement, having a strong social presence also helps in person meetings. As we return to in-person conferences, organizers are employing a variety of digital tools to help attendees better engage at events, so that potential clients already know what you do and introductions can successfully be skipped. Developing an online persona allows your potential client base to already know who you are and what you do before they meet you, so your prospects can feel like they already "know" you and not just put a face to a name, but put a face to an entire way of thinking that you've already shared with the world.

As we have seen in retail, restaurants and virtually every other sector of our economy, the pandemic has crystallized and accelerated the use of digital approaches, and wholesaling and financial advisory is no different. Wholesalers who don't embrace the digital revolution will find themselves far behind those who utilize digital to help their clients provide advice — including relevant content and highly tailored solutions — more efficiently and effectively.

Bill Finnegan is managing director of financial services marketing with Seismic. 

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