Oct 19, 2018

A Digital Marketing Strategic Blueprint for the Banking and Financial Services Sector

by Digital Marketing Institute

Digital marketing professionals working in specific industries must have a thorough understanding of the challenges and benefits within a given landscape, as well as the important economic and consumer trends. Anyone marketing in a particular industry must also have a clear vision of the brand, goals and needs of the specific organization they are involved with.

Marketing professionals who are tasked with building digital campaigns for banking and financial services face a number of challenges – but the good news is that, in these particular areas, there is generally a consistent demand for such services.

So, what’s the best way to direct digital marketing activities in large and small companies in the financial sphere? Read on for an overview and some recommendations.

Overview: Digital Marketing Trends and Challenges in Finance

As regards what to focus on in terms of marketing activities, survey results reported in The Financial Brand show that finance professionals are seeing the most promise in optimizing customer experience. Furthermore, 28% of organizations claim that creating accessible and valuable experiences is crucial in differentiating themselves in the marketplace, a number that even surpasses data-driven marketing.

While the two, of course, can (and should) go hand-in-hand, it’s clear that the digital revolution brings with it a strong need for customer-centric marketing and a more consistent focus on the customer journey. Marketers also need to bear this in mind because, for most financial institutions, they’ll be shifting their focus to those who are Millennial-aged and younger. As Generation Z is now about to start graduating college and entering the workforce, they will obviously be needing financial services.   

Using AI-Based Services

Artificial intelligence (AI)-based services are already starting to feature prominently at a number of levels and are particularly useful in the financial sector.

Predictive analytics, which is a general term for collecting data to predict future outcomes, is becoming stronger and stronger as directed by AI, and this will be key to understanding and predicting conversion-related actions for financial marketers.

AI has the capacity to gather data over numerous platforms and generate lead scores based on this information, allowing marketing professionals to identify purchasing patterns and predict response curves of specific demographics.

To this end, companies should keep an eye out for automated software that helps them track and analyze customer data. This (demographic) data can then be incorporated into marketing plans over the long-term.  

AI is also extremely useful when it comes to personalization, offering personal points from apps to chatbots, to recommended services and more. Chatbots are becoming a key part of customer service and are estimated to make up some 85% of consumer interactions by 2020.

Content and Social Media

Content marketing is a challenge for banks for the simple reason that it’s not typically easy to find the ‘emotion’ under all the numbers. For people trying to do a bit of research, they’re probably not going to sift their way through onerous financial reports to find what they’re looking for. Thus, content should be focused on accessible and needs-based outcomes and targeted towards appropriate groups.

Social content should also encourage awareness and conversation. Highly curated, value-based content and social posts can go a long way towards educating average-income earners as to how to manage their money. Keeping things in simple language and offering useful tools such as mortgage calculators may be great lead generators.

For this industry in particular, you’ll want to ensure quality and accuracy in your content and build some central pieces of long-form content (such as case studies) to work from as you share on social.

Blog posts, how-to guides, eBooks, infographics and videos are all on the table as valuable and effective forms of content. Email marketing is too, so long as campaigns are well-executed and personalized. Be sure to balance out facts and figures with a ‘human’ language and tone.

One key to personalizing digital marketing in the financial sector is to bring in qualified writers who are excellent storytellers and are able to put a face on the data. Therefore, part of a marketer’s role will be to encourage banks to invest in content specialists over the longer term.

As far as social media goes, financial institutions can leverage this in one fundamental way: listening to their audience. Traditional ads that are only focused on large-scale investments are no longer going to be effective, and they probably already aren’t. Banks can get a better return on investment (ROI) on ads by merely tuning into social channels to investigate and analyze conversations and behavior, and then creating simple, short videos that highlight benefits, even on seemingly small types of investments.

Customer service is an integral part of this, and that includes paying attention to negative feedback from customers and using that to publicly solve problems rather than ‘spinning’ a PR story to satisfy news channels.

Suggestions for social media in this area include:

  • Personal user testimonials made into videos or simply shared over Twitter feeds
  • Educational blog posts, which also function as mini case studies featuring real customers
  • Lower-income people sharing their success stories with saving and investing
  • Video series showing different ways people used a bank to finance the home or vacation of their dreams   

An Integrated Marketing Approach

One of the challenges in this industry is that information is coming from – and going towards – various companies and organizations. Therefore, it can be hard to coordinate and distribute branding messages in a consistent way. This challenge is further compounded by the fact that consumers are continually bombarded with content from different sources, which leads to information overload and even ‘shutting down’.

One way of avoiding this is to coordinate various channels and use them for a single promotion. Website landing pages may be integral to this process, as will paid search and social marketing. The idea here is to focus on either multiple channels or one that you know is your strongest suit and lead from there.

Third-party content is another option for brands looking to integrate new sources of information. You can use it to supplement and backlink to your informative website content, which can help boost your own search engine optimization (SEO) value while contributing to customer interest and engagement.

Data-Driven Marketing

AI can play a key role in data-driven marketing, whereby financial professionals can use AI technology to collect, synthesize and report larger and larger amounts of data. They will need to understand customer needs at a far more sophisticated level than they currently are, and this is particularly true with in-person services.

While more and more people are banking online, there is still a strong need for banks to build trust and loyalty with both individual customers and major business clients. Most consumers don’t really trust banks and resent it when they have to actually go in and wait in line.

Thus, banks will benefit from using data-driven marketing to drive better customer experience and therefore trust. AI has the capacity to compile vast amounts of data to create a personalized automated experience (think in terms of Netflix’s recommendation system or Spotify’s custom playlists).  

Prioritizing Mobile

Financial services should absolutely optimize mobile as a primary marketing and engagement activity with customers from a range of demographics, with a particular focus on Millennials and even younger clients. Research shows that almost 40% of people in this age bracket are more engaged with their mobile devices than any other segment.

Factor that in with the rise of the app and sharing economy, and you’ve got a cohort of people who quite frankly are likely do anything they can to avoid physically going into a bank or even an insurance agency.

When considering mobile marketing, marketers in this space will need to hammer home the importance of responsive design for SEO rankings. Beyond that, mobile apps should be entirely user-friendly, aiming to provide an optimal experience that surpasses those of competitors. Social marketing may then focus on metrics and behaviors that occur over these platforms, including testimonials, customer service and peer-to-peer interactions.

Forming an Action Plan

Banks and other financial service firms can benefit greatly from understanding how to collect and use quantitative data in order to push for qualitative customer and client experiences.

To this end, it’s important that they approach marketing at three different levels:

1. Optimizing marketing activities by using automated software programs, predictive analysis and A/B testing to understand customer activities and retarget on an ongoing basis.  

2. Segmenting appropriately, with a specific focus on the needs of younger generations and groups with less financial security.  

3. Using data and AI to drive greater personalization and quality customer experiences.

It’s no secret that customers need to feel like more than just a ‘number’. The financial industry is certainly booming, but the most significant challenge banks and other financial service companies face is finding a balance between the numbers behind the marketplace and genuinely acknowledging customer needs.

Traditional advertising will make way for more personalized and emotion-centered messaging that is highly segmented and offers unique service packages to targeted groups.  

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