By Eric Layland, Senior Digital Strategist with Confluence Digital
Banks and credit unions have earned their reputation for an approach to marketing that is less than cutting edge. The big guys have been in digital for years, ratcheting up their efforts to go beyond mere banner ads. The recent turmoil in the banking sector has pushed other financial institutions to embrace digital with more gusto than they have in the past. Regional and local banks don’t need to be left out. There are many options for progressive-minded marketing teams at smaller, more nimble players in the banking game.
Let’s first start with the idea of “digital marketing.” It’s more than just your main corporate website. Digital marketing extends through all online and mobile channels — any digitally-based activity that promotes services, drives customer acquisition or helps retain existing relationships.
Bottom line, digital marketing is still marketing! The channels may be different, but the concepts of creating awareness, interest, desire and action are unchanged.The only thing that’s different is that its execution involves greater use of technology.
We’ve been in a transient state for the better part of a decade. Technologies are fluid, evolving quickly. As consumers adopt new technologies, they expect the brands they use to do the same. Do we really need to say that “digital is here to stay” and that ignoring it will eventually (and inevitably) lead to obsolescence? No.
Without a doubt there are many types of digital marketing mistakes financial institutions can and do make. What follows is a list of five digital mistakes banks and credit unions should do their best to correct, or better yet, avoid in the first place. The good news is that all of these five reasons are relatively easy to address.
#1) Treating Digital Marketing As Traditional Marketing’s Little Brother
It’s surprising how many organizations have erected artificial barriers, particularly between departments. The silos need to be torn down. Marketing teams (digital and offline) need to collaborate with retail branch operations, compliance and information technology to synchronize and align efforts. Bringing together input from these functional areas will lead to better ideas of “what works” which can be injected into the digital effort.
As individuals outside of our jobs we are consumers. We embrace tools that deliver value and make our busy lives easier. We are our own market research data even if on a smaller scale. By breaking down silos, sharing ideas about how to deliver the best user experience and having aligned organizational goals, the digital strategy will be focused and receive cross-functional support.
#2) Not Supporting the Website As If It Were Your Flagship Branch
You have a maintenance budget for branches? Of course. How does it compare to the budget dedicated to the creation, maintenance and growth of the website?
Your website should be supported as if it was your #1 top new business closer, in-branch concierge and call-center rock star — because it is. The website’s job is to support all key groups simultaneously, enabling them to interact with the institution at their convenience.
An underfunded website (and support team) is a lost opportunity that compounds every day that slips by. Your website should be the first thing that gets updated, not the last. It provides an opportunity to interact through social channels with your customers in near real-time and can highlight your community involvement efforts. Everything that is quintessential about your institution’s brand should be brought to life online, and revered as your most valuable sales and marketing real estate.
Another reason why a state-of-the-art, user-friendly and engaging website is so critical has to do with the changing pace of banking. Being accessible 24/7 is no longer a “nice-to-have,” as mobile, remote and web-based banking has become an expectation and not a perk.
Customers will eventually leave if an institution misses the boat in digital channels. Yet we continually see financial websites that seem like an afterthought and are treated like an expense, rather than an investment.
#3) Not Utilizing Tools to Leverage Digital Data
It seems intuitive that a financial institution would adopt, disseminate and leverage data throughout their organization. And yet many banks and credit union struggle. Saying you’re data-driven is one thing, but not providing adequate tools for basic data acquisition is a major opportunity missed.
The majority of bank and credit union websites may have some sort of analytics tool implemented (for those that don’t, Google Analytics is free, easy to use and as powerful as any enterprise solution). But few make the most of their data. Visitor data is extremely valuable. Indeed, the data collected from website is the best tool to ensure your institution is meeting people’s expectations.
Start by establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) and monitoring them regularly. Key metrics to track the effectiveness of a bank or credit union website include:
- Percentage of new unique visitors to returning unique visitors
- Average page views per visit
- Average time spent on site by unique visitors
- Engagement with product detail pages by new unique visitors that indicate an interest in becoming a customer
- Top exit pages?
- Bounce rate?
Customer acquisition metrics by channel and product are easily established. New customer acquisition metrics include:
- Site conversion rate for product inquires or applications submitted to gauge efficiency of website to convert visitors
- The conversion rate of application submissions to new accounts is used to gauge effectiveness of the website to qualify visitors
- Branch locator look-up pages.
It is also recommended soft- or secondary conversions be tracked. These are the onsite activities that serve as leading indicators, signaling someone’s interest before they often take action. For example, downloading a form or brochure about a service is a “soft conversion” frequently preceding a desired action, such as submitting a new account application.
#4) Not Owning All of Your Website Generated Data
While retail banking institutions have raced into the digital sphere, IT teams have struggled to keep up. The rapidly expanding demands means not all institutions can support the necessary technological infrastructure internally, and therefore must outsource elements like online account opening. There are established, well-respected firms providing these services, but there can be a very serious downside if a few special considerations aren’t made upfront.
Service level agreements should include a clause that guarantees access and reporting of user data on the third party service platform. Once a website visitor takes an action (e.g. start an application process) that takes them offsite, it results in their activities no longer being trackable within your analytics tool. There needs to be accommodations for getting activity data about their behavior on third-party platforms. The data we’re talking about goes beyond basics such as application approvals and declines. The data your visitor generates while on the website is among the most valuable assets the bank marketing team has. Losing it once a visitor clicks on to third-party content creates a blind spot in your website analytics. Ideally the visitor is tracked through until their business is completed, or they exit.
The minimum data that should be included in usage reports from third parties include:
- Unique Visitors
- Page Views
- Time on third party content
- Bounce rate (single page visits to third party content)
- Exit pages
- Application starts
- Applications completed and submitted
- Application approvals
- Application declines
Additional metrics should be included such as calculated data points but the list above is a good starting point. This data should be available by way of an online interface, downloadable report or automated distribution. Report update any less frequently that weekly is not acceptable and suggest daily access at least be an option.
#5) Ignoring Paid Search For New Account Acquisition
If you read the recent article in The Financial Brand about the cost of Google AdWords, the data presented might have looked intimidating. When managed haphazardly by someone without the necessary knowledge or time, a paid-search campaign can be disastrous. But this isn’t usually what prevents financial institutions from pursuing paid search. What is it? Does bank management not think paid search can be effective? Well, the financial services vertical is Google’s largest source of revenue, of which 96% is paid search. Major financial services firms would not collectively spend $4.0 billion annually on paid search if there was not a solid return on the investment.
To be successful you will need to set aside a sufficient budget. This is a data-intensive channel, with searchers clicking on ads generating the data. The clicks are your cost, and can run from a few cents to a few dollars. The onsite visitor data generated from clicks becomes inputs used to refine and further optimize the program. Bottom line? Not enough dollars means you will not have enough data to make informed decisions.
You’ll need to develop landing pages. These are the pages visitors are directed to when they click on an ad. Your bank website’s home page is NOT a landing page. Sending traffic to the home page is what lazy advertisers do, and it’s one area where you can be smarter and win more new accounts than your competitors. (Check out this great presentation about the power of landing pages from digital research firm Marketing Experiments LLC.)
Paid search is a very powerful tool in the financial marketer’s arsenal. It is complementary to search engine optimization, and also can be used to integrate with display/banner ads, mobile marketing, and even support direct mail and other offline tactics.
Conclusion & Key Takeaways
We’ve covered a lot. Each of these 5 crucial mistakes could be their own article topic and some even a multiple part series. Your success with digital marketing begins at the top, with item #1. Your executive team needs to be fully committed to digital and the website as a serious asset in the marketing mix. Next be sure you have the proper tools in place and that you own and use the data generated from digital marketing. The website is your flagship branch, support it as such. And lastly, paid search gets you to the first page in search results and when managed correctly is a highly efficient new customer acquisition machine.
Eric Layland is Senior Digital Strategist with Confluence Digital. Confluence Digital is based in Seattle, Washington, with a team possessing a combined 60+ years of experience in digital marketing, advertising, branding, strategy and business management. Services also include strategic advising, search engine optimization and social media know-how since 1996.