May 28, 2009
Case Study

Interactive Channel for Sales Support Materials: 6 Strategies to Cut Costs and Improve Measurability

SUMMARY: Ever have trouble determining whether a sales team was using the marketing collateral and other sales enablement materials you’ve created for them?

Read how a mutual funds company reinvented the way they delivered sales support and business development content to its team of independent financial advisors. They scrapped their outdated practice of mailing CD-ROMs of important documents in exchange for a desktop application that provided an interactive channel for important documents, sales support materials, and ongoing training. Savings topped 80%, and they can see which types of content are most popular with advisors.

Jennifer Castri, Relationship Manager, E-Business, OppenheimerFunds, got a special request from her company’s IRA group: They needed a new way to provide important IRA documents and sales support materials to their independent advisors, who used those resources to open new IRAs for their clients.

Their existing process involved mailing CD-ROMs to advisors, which had several drawbacks.

“The moment that CD went out, if there were any changes to the application forms, or any legislation changes around IRAs, everything on there was obsolete,” says Castri. “Furthermore, we weren’t able to get usage metrics on the tool. We never knew if someone was putting that CD in their drive and viewing the material on there.”

Castri and her team wanted to reduce the expense associated with mailing CD ROMs. They also wanted a system that allowed them to easily update enrollment documents and sales support materials, and provided more interaction with independent advisors.


The team found a solution in a desktop application for independent advisors. The tool created a new channel to deliver important documents and sales support materials, as well as additional educational materials for their independent advisors.

The channel also provided metrics that showed whether advisors were using the tool, and which types of content were accessed most often by their independent sales team.

Here are six strategies they used to guide the development and implementation of the desktop application:

Strategy #1. Choose the right mix of materials to deliver through the channel

Castri and her team first identified which materials were most important to provide through the desktop application. They looked for materials that IRA sellers would need at their fingertips to open new accounts.

They settled on four key areas for IRA support:

- IRA account forms
o Account applications
o Change of trustee
o Change of beneficiary
o Other IRA forms

- IRA support materials
o Eligibility requirements and contribution limits
o Advanced IRA strategies
o Suggested funds for IRAs

- Sales support documents to help advisors grow their business
o Prospecting materials, such as sample letters and postcards, which advisors could arrange to have printed for free (minus postage) through the website and sent to their clients
o Marketing campaign guidelines
o Sales ideas, such as how to promote IRA tax savings and additional products, such as Roth IRAs, Simple IRAs and rollovers

- Useful links to tax and financial information
o The Social Security Administration
o The IRS
o Bloomberg news

Strategy #2. Create alert policy

Desktop applications allow users who have downloaded the tool to receive alerts for important news or account activity. Castri’s team wanted to take advantage of this feature, but in a way that didn’t overwhelm their advisors.

With that goal in mind, the team established parameters for the type and frequency of alerts:

- Recent transaction alerts

They set up the channel to send advisors alerts whenever their clients had made a transaction in their IRA account, such as buying new shares.

Transaction alerts showed up as an orange box, detailing the total number of recent transactions and providing a link to see a detailed transaction history.

For users who had the application open on their desktop, the team limited transaction alerts to one per hour. Users who logged in to the application after a period of inactivity saw one alert listing all transactions that had occurred since their last visit.

- Oppenheimer newsletter alerts

The team also used the channel to send notices about new issues of a monthly newsletter. These alerts showed up in a blue box, to differentiate them from transaction alerts.

Newsletter alerts were delivered once a month

Strategy #3. Provide access to additional account management resources

Besides supporting advisors during tax season, when IRA enrollments and contributions are highest, the team created a section of links to additional resources on the website. They focused on resources to help advisors manage their businesses, keep track of accounts, and access additional Oppenheimer products.

“Here was our shot at keeping us top of mind through this tool on their desktop,” says Castri.

Advisor resources included:

- Up-to-date account status information, providing a tally of each advisor's total assets under management with Oppenheimer and year-to-date total sales.

- Money management tools and resources, such as asset allocation models and financial calculators.

- Weekly market commentary from the firm’s chief economist.

Strategy #4. Promote desktop application to advisors

The team launched the desktop application during IRA enrollment season -- the weeks leading up to the April 15 tax filing deadline.

They promoted the new channel in three ways:

- Email newsletters

The team included promotions for the new application in a weekly email newsletter delivered to its entire advisor base, and in periodic articles in the monthly newsletter specifically for IRA sellers.

- Direct mail

The team also sent a letter to their IRA sellers notifying them that they would no longer receive a CD, and pointing them toward the new desktop application.

- Online promotions

The team also promoted the application on their advisor homepage and in heavily trafficked areas throughout the Oppenheimer website during the campaign.

Strategy #5: Offer online training and education

The team incorporated ongoing advisor education resources into the tool. One tactic was to promote webinars to advisors through a special section on the bottom right of the application’s main screen.

For example, immediately following the April 15 tax deadline, the team shifted its educational focus toward ongoing retirement savings strategies advisors could recommend for clients.

They featured a webinar series for mastering IRA Rollover sales, which focused on educating advisors on rollover opportunities to build client relationships and build their businesses.

Strategy #6. Monitor metrics and use data to make content decisions

Once advisors had installed the desktop application, the team monitored usage statistics to determine whether advisors were accessing the tool, and which areas of the channel were most popular.

For example, they monitored which sections of the advisor site users accessed through the tool to determine which areas or types of content were most popular, and which weren’t receiving much attention and could be swapped for other resources.


The desktop application delivered the cost savings and measurability that the team needed:

- The desktop application saved 23% over the cost of delivering CD-ROMs the first year. The savings included the cost of developing the application.

- Savings jumped to 84% the second year.

- The size of the audience using the tool increased about 9% during the all-important IRA season.

“We’re definitely happy with it,” says Castri. “We didn’t know who was using the CD-ROM, and here we can see that people are using [the desktop application]. That was important to us.”

The team also tracked which pages of the IRA advisor site users accessed from links in the tool. The most popular links included:

- The monthly alert for the IRA advisor newsletter, which generated an average 8% clickthrough rate.

- The post-IRA season rollover training campaign, which included links to register for a series of webinars on IRA-related topics. That campaign achieved a 9% CTR.

“We were happy to see that, because it is something that concerned us. Will people continue to use this after IRA season?”

Useful links related to this article:

Creative Samples from OppenheimerFund’s desktop application campaign
OTOlabs -- helped OppenheimerFunds develop the desktop application:


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