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7 Steps to Acquiring New Checking Accounts in Digital Channels

It’s easy to acquire new checking customers online... that is, if you don't care about quality. Just run some display ads and a paid search campaign offering $500. If you are not concerned with the cost or the lifetime value of these new relationships, then read no further.

Let’s get this out of the way upfront: there is no one-size-fits-all solution; you need to tailor your strategies and tactics based on who you are trying to reach and your digital capabilities. But regardless of the specifics of your situation and goals, you should still be asking some critical questions. Can you offer a range of varying incentives, then track and manage these on the back end? Can you integrate your digital branding efforts with your targeted advertising campaigns? Are you set up to leverage what you learn from your offline and online programs to maximize the results in each medium?

What’s the best approach? Here’s a starting point outlining seven best practices to ensure marketing success.

1. Understanding and Choosing the Best Digital Platforms

You may have seen the cartoon with a dog sitting at a computer and the caption that reads, “On the internet no one knows you’re a dog.” It’s funny, but there’s real truth in it. Knowing who sees your ad — and controlling who doesn’t — is not simple. As people use multiple browsers and devices, they will have multiple cookies and device IDs that cannot always be tied together. As hard as you may try, you cannot totally ensure that your prospects will always see the same message that you intended for them.

With online display ads that are tracked via a server, you have greater visibility into who was presented an ad. Moreover, if a user decides not to click on the ad and instead goes directly to your home page, you can still customize your landing to match your offer using an approach known as “view-through.”

With social media and other “walled gardens,” your ability to target is improved, but you lose visibility. You do not know who was presented an ad; rather, you see group statistics. Additionally, because third-party tracking is limited on Facebook, you can’t really utilize the “view-through” strategy and customize your landing page(s) for those who didn’t click on your ad but nevertheless ended up on your site.

As more publishers enable you to target their audiences on a one-to-one, addressable basis, you can gain the best of both worlds — excellent visibility and targeting. As these publishers continue to become grouped together on media buying platforms, they will provide an extremely effective tool.

Your best bet is to use a combination of these platforms and leverage data to optimize where and how you allocate your advertising dollars.

2. Addressable vs. Look-alike Targeting

With addressable targeting, you upload a file of checking prospects and then optimize your campaign based on those who take a desired action (e.g., open an account online or offline, or reach an account application page, etc.). It’s best to use a database that prioritizes prospects’ distance to a branch and has favorable indicators of future profitability (e.g., investable assets).

The advantage of this approach is that it enables you to target specific messages and offers that align with your offline efforts — or offers that you don’t want to extend to a much broader audience. For example, you might want to offer a higher incentive to prospects who have a higher net worth. But the disadvantage with this approach is that only a portion (usually no more than 30-40%) of those on your original list can be matched with cookies and ultimately served an ad. Therefore, it helps to start with as large list as possible.

Unlike addressable targeting, look-alike campaigns enable you to target at scale. Not only can you reach more of the prospects who likely were on your original list, you can reach them in more ways (through additional devices and browsers). And, of course, you can target a vast number of additional prospects who have qualities and attributes resembling the criteria you defined when you built your original list.

The best approach is to use a combination of both addressable and look-alike targeting. By coordinating your efforts — audiences, offers, and messaging — you can display specific offers to highly targeted groups, while also enjoying the economies of scale afforded by each approach.

3. Improving Your Targeting

Optimizing your digital advertising requires data. Since your end goal is new checking customers, you should start by tagging the completion page of your online application (tagging your initial landing page will just give you “tire-kickers”). Then, as you begin tracking new customers who open accounts through offline channels (see #4 Measuring Effectiveness), feed them back into your media buying bidding engine as those whom you want to target.

4. Measuring Effectiveness

Response attribution is a very difficult task — a topic worth its own series of articles. That said, it is still relatively easy to (1) track prospects who click on ads, then (2) go to your landing page, and ultimately (3) open an account online.

But what about those who hit your website then visit a branch, for instance? Or contact your call center? This is where it gets a bit trickier. If you use a unique offer code that the customer can present or mention to a rep, then it’s much easier to tie it all back to your original ad. While that solution is by no means foolproof (codes are forgotten, or used by unintended targets, for instance), using a code to track the effectiveness of your digital checking acquisition program is nevertheless still a reasonable and effective proxy.

5. Indexed vs. Non-Indexed Landing Pages

Typically a marketer’s instinct is to have every page on their website indexed and visible to Google. But if you allow your landing page to be indexed by search engines, then pretty much anyone on the planet will be able to find it. That can be a good thing if you are willing to extend a particular offer to the masses. But if your offer is meant for a specific audience (e.g., a high incentive for high-value prospects), or you want to isolate traffic generated by your digital ad campaign, then you may not want to have the page indexed.

There is one downside to hiding your targeted promotional pages from search engines: some prospects will never see the full details of your offer. If they never click on one of your online ads, for example, they have no way to reach the promotion’s landing page. You can, however, retarget them on your website with customized marketing messages — e.g., banner ads tied to the promotion (see #7 Website Personalization and Remarketing).

6. Designing the Right Call-to-Action

Yes, you are using a digital medium to attract checking prospects. But should your landing page direct them to open the account online, at a branch, via phone, or all of the above? Online account opening provides immediacy and helps ensure the prospect doesn’t “wander off” to some other bank. However, it lacks the ability to overcome any objections, and you can’t cross-sell like you can in branches and call centers. If you are going to send prospects to a branch, be sure to capture their email so you can send them a “coupon” and follow-up emails.

Because so much depends on your actual landing page design and the ease of opening an account online, you should include multiple options and test how you present them. See what works, and use data from your results to refine your strategy.

7. Website Personalization and Remarketing

Not only is it possible to customize your landing page with banners and other messages that align with your digital display ads… it’s imperative. Since many prospects will go directly to your home page without ever clicking on your ads, you want to ensure they can still navigate to the appropriate landing page. And don’t forget to remarket to those who leave your landing page without taking the desired action — perhaps with another campaign tailored specifically for them. This can be a highly effective way of increasing conversions at a relatively low cost.

Beyond these seven best practices, other things you should consider include the use of dynamic landing pages, landing pages for offline checking programs, creative messaging, and measuring incremental lift. Taking a step-wise approach rather than trying to solve everything at once is the key to a successful online checking acquisition program.

All content © 2017 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.

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