Solving the Marketing & Sales Attribution Dilemma in Banking

Multiple banking channels make it increasingly difficult to determine sales and marketing attribution accurately. This leads to situations where employees are more concerned about getting sales credit than directing customers to the right channels. New data tools offer some hope.
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Sales and marketing attribution has been a headache for banks and credit unions even before they even talking about “sales.” It’s full of potential pitfalls — economic, emotional and legal, as the massive Wells Fargo sales scandal made clear.

Now that consumers can connect with their banking provider through any number of digital channels, call centers or even the trusty old physical branch, the attribution pain point has intensified. How sales credit should be attributed in a multichannel customer journey is still largely yet to be resolved.

Let’s say, for example, a customer walks into a branch to speak to a specialist about refinancing their home loan. The in-branch specialist convinces the customer that would be a good option for them, but then the person goes home and applies online. Whether the sales attribution goes to the branch or digital channel is a murky area.

Furthermore, if the branch staff does not receive the credit, it is possible that in the future staff will discourage the use of digital channels, if they mention them at all.

Recipe for Disaster:

Sales attribution – and the compensation tied to it – can create conflicts of interest in employees recommending certain products or channels.

Such a scenario is not uncommon due to the “inherent conflict” when it comes to sales attribution, Jim Burson, managing director at Cornerstone Advisors tells The Financial Brand. Burson adds that for all industries, not just banks and credit unions, both marketing and sales attribution is “painfully difficult to track.”

“The importance of accurate marketing attribution becomes perfectly clear when organizations embark on a multi-channel marketing strategy,” says martech company Marketing Evolution. “A growing number of channels makes it increasingly difficult to determine which message triggered a specific response from a customer.”

Limits of Multi-Channel Attribution

Many financial institutions try and use a multichannel attribution model to solve this issue. This can be broadly described as a model that attempts to credit each channel for how it interacted with the customer during the sales journey — perhaps even tracking the number of touchpoints made along the way.

“Although widely used across industries, multi-channel attribution has its limitations,” notes Treasure Data, a data analytics vendor. These include the potential for duplicate reporting, presenting the wrong content or experience to prospects, misallocated resources, and a lack of insight into what’s actually driving revenue, the firm says.

Other pitfalls of poorly set up sales and marketing attribution include overreliance on last-click and first-click attribution (because these are often the easiest models), as well as irrelevant retargeting, Treasure Data notes.

Having the right attribution model is vital for banks and credit unions to not only reward the right people, but to know where and how to best spend their marketing dollars. According to estimates by HubSpot and others, the cost of customer acquisition in banking is just over $300 per customer. The marketing company says that figure could be lower were it not for poor attribution models.

This is increasingly important because research shows that most banking customers do not stay in one single channel, says Burson.

“There are some who will use digital banking for most things but still like having a branch nearby,” he adds. “Some people would never open an account online — they want to talk to someone beforehand — but will do all their day-to-day money movement digitally.

Read More: How to Fix Banking’s Broken Sales Model

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Using New Data Tools to Improve Attribution

For many banks and credit unions sales attribution is often credited to the last channel the customer interacted with — known as last-touch attribution. But this methodology is flawed. Bain advisor Payman Sadegh, in a webinar, uses an election metaphor to illustrate.

“So, imagine that there is a state where you have one candidate who wins by a single vote,” he says. “Now whose one vote actually contributed to the win? Can you say the last person who voted? Well, maybe. That’s kind of logical. But, you know, if the first person didn’t vote, you would also have to flip the election.”

Burson says that in order to more accurately assess sales attribution banks and credit unions need to prioritize usability in customer relationship management systems. Often, many of the CRM systems banks use are overly complex and make it hard to track and assess the impact of each touchpoint across the journey.

Financial institutions can also utilize business intelligence and data analytics tools to better connect the dots and gain insight into how a sale was influenced.

“Let’s say a customer came in to a branch to talk to someone about an IRA, but that person also spoke to the customer about a home equity loan,” says Burson. “Then the customer applies for a loan two weeks later. AI and business intelligence can help make those connections.”

AI can also help banks and credit unions make sense of the massive amount of data they have and attribute sales and marketing results more accurately. It can do this by connecting data from disparate sources. For example, sometimes a rep forgets to log an activity or action that was taken into the CRM system, says AI technology firm Dialpad.

“This is where AI technology can help, by automatically logging all of a rep’s activities, and then intelligently matching them to the right opportunity,” the firm states.

Data Sheds Light:

Data analytics, AI and business intelligence can help banks connect the dots in the customer sales journey, not only for good CX, but for accurate attribution.

It’s also important for financial institutions to break down departmental barriers.

“Organizational silos disrupt communication and hinder collaboration across various departments,” notes a Marketing Evolution blog. “Silos develop naturally in an organization unless special care is taken to prevent them — people tend to stay loyal to their given group and may not share information or datasets with people outside of their team without prompting.”

Understanding the buyer journey better can also make a big difference in more accurately assigning sales and marketing attribution, according to an article on Chief Marketer. Not all touchpoints are equal, however. “Look for the ‘tipping point’ tactics. Clear buying signals will emerge.”

Focus on the touchpoints which disproportionately impact performance: improved win rates and optimizing your sales and marketing resources.

Read More:

Changing the Sales Compensation Structure

Besides the technology aspect of it, the inherent conflicts of interest when it comes to sales attribution can be difficult to overcome. For example, bank CEOs may not particularly care where a new home loan originated from; they are just happy to get the sale. For employees, it is much different.

“It’s just human nature to want to get credit,” says Burson. “For the employee, it comes down to getting paid. They want to get the source credit so they can be compensated.”

One way to make sales attribution easier is to change the entire compensation structure, Burson adds. For example, employees could receive their base pay plus a bonus based on the collective performance of the organization, or regional performance, he says.

But even that avenue is not easy, says Burson, as it requires re-working or eliminating existing sales compensation plans that have been in place for many years.

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix.

“Most organizations today have a hard time with this, they’ve been trying to crack this nut for years.”

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