In the age of digital transformation, financial institutions are faced with both challenges and opportunities when it comes to staying on top of their game. The financial space is only getting more crowded with the emergence of digital-first banks, fintech companies, and cryptocurrencies.
Differentiating your brand from competitors, especially in an industry as crowded as financial services, is paramount. Whether it’s with engaging social media tactics, attention-grabbing content, or excellent customer service, financial organizations must put in the work in order to stand out to potential consumers and retain current ones.
Based on their experience working with banks, credit unions and other financial organizations, Saltwater Collective’s team of marketers has gathered five actionable insights to strengthen your financial marketing strategy:
- Define & Differentiate Your Brand Identity
- Know Your Audience
- Embrace Digital Transformation
- Educate Your Audience
- Prioritize Customer Service
1. Define & Differentiate Your Brand Identity
Before you can secure a place in the crowded banking industry, you have to determine who your brand is and what makes it different. Standing out is really about leaning into what your brand stands for.
The key to standing out in a crowded industry is bringing through your brand identity, what makes your financial organization unique and putting it into everything you do: your products, services and messaging must be consistent and showcase your personality and values.
“Anybody can throw up a rate,” observes Cristina Parsons, Account Strategist at Saltwater Collective, “but when you have a certain image and message that really reflects who you are and what you’re trying to achieve, that really draws in new customers and helps to make you stand out a little bit more.”
The strongest brand identities will clearly differentiate your organization. “Some small banks seem to really have a good feel for what truly does make them different,” says Mike “Sully” Sullivan, VP of Creative Services at Saltwater. “If a bank doesn’t know that, then there is an inherent challenge.”
It’s important to remember your brand identity is not always received by your audience the way you think it is.
There’s a critical distinction between who you think you are and how your audience perceives you and it’s up to you to make sure those two are in sync.
There is no better way to understand your customers’ perception than to ask them directly through brand studies and surveying. This work can uncover potential disconnects between your intended brand and audience perception.
Once you’ve understood and identified those opportunities, you can remedy through tweaks to your content and brand approach and on-going surveying to track progress.
2. Know Your Audience
Before you can successfully reach your audience, you must fully understand them. “Just knowing what makes you different isn’t quite enough,” says Sullivan. “You have to figure out the best way to convey that to your target audience.”
Once you fully know your audience, what motivates them, what makes them tick, and when and where you have an opportunity to reach them, only then can you connect with them.
This may look different for different audiences. Sullivan states, “Targeting your audience is always tricky because your tactics depend so much on the demographic. You’re going to reach 22-year-olds differently than how you would reach 62-year-olds.” Understanding that distinction and putting in the work to target different audiences rather than implementing a one-size-fits-all approach is key to effectively connecting with your audience.
In addition, Parsons points out that reflecting on the previous year is crucial to understanding what people went through, how consumer trends may have shifted, identifying any new trends and then starting early for building your plan for the following year. “The earlier you start to plan,” she says, “the earlier you start to dig through data and determine why things are performing one way or another will give you better insights and takeaways for developing strong and strategic upcoming goals.”
This is another place brand studies and audience surveying can provide critical intelligence to inform your strategies.
3. Embrace Digital Transformation
It’s important for financial institutions to stay on top of digital trends and do their best to embrace digital transformation so they can not only keep up, but also stay ahead of the curve. This includes implementing new digital tools and digitizing the way you reach your target audiences.
“With digital transformation comes a change in consumption habits to a more digitally native world, so banks need to deliver cross-channel plans to ensure they can reach them wherever,” notes Tish Mallory, Media Strategist at Saltwater Collective.
While going digital can cause some challenges, it also brings many opportunities to be more personal with your customers and customize certain tools, services, and products. This digital personalization can take many forms. For example, a digital tool that more and more companies have been using on their websites to connect with users is the chatbot.
“When you’re creating a chatbot,” says Parsons, “you’re creating a persona. You’re developing something very personal to the brand and something that the consumer can relate to. All brands’ chatbot personalities are somehow tied to the organization.”
In addition to being able to connect further with users, the chatbot tool allows brands to showcase their identity and personality in a new way by personifying their brand as the “responder” in this chatbot scenario.
Digital Branding Tool:
Chatbots can bring your brand to life and allow you to directly communicate with consumers in a faster and more effective way.
In addition to connecting with consumers, digital tools also bring a new opportunity to target your audience and gain deeper insight into your performance via data and insights not readily available through traditional channels. You can become more customized with who you want to target, how you want to target them, and what products and services that people may need depending on where they are within their customer journey.
Leveraging targeting through digital tools gives you more opportunities to cross-sell your products and deepen a relationship with your customers.
4. Educate Your Audience
Speaking of deepening the connection with your customers, financial institutions have a unique opportunity to produce and share educational content that provides incredible value. Many of your customers are likely not fully literate when it comes to financial jargon, tools and services.
In addition, when you provide digital tools and enhancements, a certain segment of your audience may not initially or naturally be comfortable with how best to utilize them. This presents opportunity for your brand to educate and support — enhancing the customer experience and building loyalty and trust with your audiences.
You can differentiate yourself from your competitors by putting out educational content, posting on a blog, holding seminars and webinars, sharing expert videos and tapping into your employees’ expertise. Educational content that builds financial literacy can be a sales tool and provides you with an opportunity to connect with your customers and showcase your personality through the content you are producing.
Distributing your financial education content on your social media channels is also an opportunity to further connect with your customers one-on-one and ensure your social channels are active and engaged.
This type of content not only helps your customers to better navigate their financial journey, but also helps to build trust between your brand and your customer base. Financial education content should come from thought leaders within your institution. It’s important for banks and credit unions to be the face of what they offer. And when developing educational content be sure to authentically showcase your brand’s personality to connect further with the consumer.
Ensure that you are using your own employees and leaders in the educational content you are sharing to foster the relationship and trust between your brand and your customers, both old and new.
5. Prioritize Customer Service
Whatever new digital tools you implement, nothing will be as impactful as good service. Customer service should be prioritized across all channels and in every customer interaction. Ensuring strong customer services allows you to foster a positive, trusting relationship between your brand and your customers. Customer service is the cornerstone of maintaining a loyal customer base.
“It’s really all about accessibility,” Parsons emphasizes. “You should be accessible to your customers by answering phones, not putting people on hold, not dropping or transferring calls, and being responsive on social media especially if customers have questions or are leaving comments.”
Being engaged and interactive with people on all digital touchpoints is super important to developing a strong relationship with your customers.
Now it’s time to put these insights into action. Here are the actionable tips you can leverage to improve your marketing efforts right away:
- Define your brand identity and what you stand for to differentiate yourself in the financial industry.
- Conduct market research and consumer surveys to know your audience and how you can reach them.
- Embrace digital transformation to take advantage of tools and tactics to personalize and customize your customer’s experience.
- Educate your audience using educational content marketing to establish yourself as a thought leader in the financial space.
- And lastly, practice excellent customer service in everything you do to build trust and loyalty with your customer base.