In the financial services industry, marketers are faced with significant challenges every day. Your marketing messages can get quickly drowned out and watered down in the heavily regulated and highly competitive financial services industry.
Internal processes and operations add more barriers. Complex, redundant marketing tasks often slow you down as you navigate approval processes, fulfill sales requests or order and manage printed materials.
As if that weren’t enough to bring on a migraine, there’s also the need to manage and oversee local marketing efforts. Branches, managers and employees are reaching out to local audiences — sometimes with the branded marketing materials supplied by corporate, other times with materials they create on their own.
Fortunately, it is possible to find that right balance that allows you to maintain control and simplify workflows so you can focus on big picture, strategic initiatives.
Changing Your Ways
Reviewing inefficient internal processes may not sound exciting — especially when compared with so many of today’s digital marketing initiatives — but it can yield the clarity financial marketers need to achieve greater simplicity with branch-level activities. With a few process adjustments, you can outline a clear path that will accomplish a wide range of goals:
- Reaching more consumers
- Saving money on marketing operations and printing costs
- Personalizing local marketing materials
- Empowering local branches to share consistent and compliant messages
- Reducing print waste
- Developing new and compelling marketing campaigns
- Supporting business and department goals
- Focusing on strategic, important and business-critical initiatives
Before you assess internal challenges and processes, it’s important to first identify where the pain points exist. Let’s take a look at seven common areas that can become overly complex, and examine some key questions you’ll need to ask yourself to address each of these areas in a way that will simplify your marketing operations.
1. Approval Process
Reviewing, approving and requesting changes can be a big challenge for marketers in financial services. That’s no surprise when you consider the number of branches, lenders and officers you support every single day. Compliance adds another layer to an already complicated process. Banks and credit unions face real consequences — hefty fines, fees and other business setbacks — if they do not strictly comply with the letter of the law.
A streamlined, simplified approval process is critical for ensuring all relevant individuals and departments review materials to confirm they meet compliance regulations and brand consistency standards. Simplify your process and you’ll reduce time spent tracking down emails, finding correct versions and verifying approvals.
When you review your own approval process, work to identify gaps, bottlenecks and ways to make getting materials approved easier. Questions to consider include:
- How long does it take to get marketing materials approved?
- Are you missing opportunities to share timely, relevant information with consumers?
- How many people must review marketing materials?
- Where does a backlog of approvals usually happen?
- Do items get lost in email chains?
- Do you have difficulty keeping track of the latest versions?
- Do you keep records of the approval process to use in case of an audit?
Today’s technology makes it possible to route materials and notify users when items are available for review. One central, web-based location can make it easy to track progress and quickly find the latest materials when needed.
2. Compliance Management
A streamlined approval process is a good place to start to better manage compliance requirements, but there is still work to be done to effectively minimize risk and exposure.
Always-changing regulations, disclosures and rates can quickly become unmanageable. Not only do you need to ensure marketing materials are compliant, you must also make sure you are following the most recent regulations and sharing accurate disclosure statements and the latest rates. Get a better grasp on compliance management by asking yourself these questions:
- How do you stay up-to-date on the most recent compliance regulations?
- How do you ensure local branches are using the most recent and compliant marketing materials?
- How do you communicate the importance and impact of following compliance regulations to local branches and officers?
- What proof of compliance are you able to offer in case of an audit?
- How much time would you have to spend managing those materials for an auditor’s review?
- How do you share those recent changes with local branches?
You can minimize compliance risk with an electronic approval process and data management. The electronic paper trail is saved and stored within the system for up to seven years to help demonstrate compliance during audits. And strong data management programs help ensure distribution meets regulations specific to your industry and channel.
3. Managing Disclosure and Rates
Another challenge for financial services marketers is effectively managing and updating disclosures and rates. These can change daily — and even have different updates depending on branch locations and marketing pieces. Managing this can quickly become a complicated maze of identifying pieces impacted, uploading the correct information and pushing out the most recent materials to local branches. When reviewing the process of updating disclosures and rates, consider:
- How do you currently update and share this information?
- Are branches able to receive timely, accurate and compliant pieces that best meet their consumers’ needs?
- How much time does it take to review, update and provide pieces to impacted branches and officers?
There are online platforms that can really ease your pain here. You simply upload the latest rates and disclosures in one central location. Templates are tagged with relevant fields and codes to automatically pull pertinent information, helping make sure you share the most recent and compliant messages with consumers.
4. Brand Consistency
Your brand is one of your most valuable assets. Efficient marketing operations and processes can help protect brand equity and ensure employees are following brand standards. Here are a few questions to consider when assessing processes that ensure brand consistency:
- Do local branches know the importance of following brand standards?
- Are they aware of brand guidelines?
- How confident are you that local branches are sharing brand consistent messages?
- A seamless approval process coupled with easily accessible marketing templates helps ensure local branches and employees follow brand guidelines and properly represent your company in local marketing initiatives.
5. Engaging Local Branches
Engaging local branches and ensuring they use appropriately branded marketing material is a challenge that can seem insurmountable. Local teams need easily accessible materials, ongoing support and clear, constant communication about upcoming campaigns to effectively motivate them to participate.
Branches can’t always use the same number and sizes of banners, posters and other in-branch signage. Individual employees, such as mortgage loan officers, might also have specific needs when it comes to types and quantity of marketing materials: One may need a batch of postcards one month when another mortgage loan office needs flyers instead of postcards.
When assessing your local branches’ involvement in marketing campaigns, consider:
- How often do local branches participate in marketing campaigns?
- How much time do you spend fulfilling requests from local branches for marketing materials?
- How do local branches and teams access corporate marketing materials?
- Are branches able to customize messages that resonate with local audiences?
- How do you manage the approval process for customized materials?
- Do branches receive all the same in-branch signage, regardless of location size or restrictions?
- How do you handle individual print requests or are employees provided with the same type and quantity of materials, despite local needs and preferences?
Empower branches and local teams to select the materials that work best for their market, customers and locations with customizable templates. Set up an easy-to-access online repository that users can log into, select materials, update appropriately and order approved materials all within the system.
When branches and employees have access to materials that will resonate with their local audiences, and the opportunity to customize materials and print orders, they become an engaged partner in your marketing efforts.
6. Managing Local Marketing Budgets
Often, marketing budgets are assigned to branches to pay for and support local marketing initiatives. Additional budgets can be assigned as incentives to promote products and sell services.
It’s a critical avenue to support marketing initiatives but it can quickly add more work to a marketer’s already long to-do list. Assigning budgets, reviewing spend, approving requests and tracking budgets can quickly become complicated. When you start reviewing your local budget management process, consider:
- How are you currently assigning budgets?
- Is there a high-level overview of budgets, use and impact of marketing activities that helps influence marketing plans?
- How long does it take to review budget requests?
- How many resources are dedicated to managing local budgets — positions, time, budget, technology, etc?
Assign, review, approve and track local marketing budgets with a marketing resource management system. With the right system, you can help local branches better leverage funds, and reach more consumers, with easy to access budgets.
7. Data Management
Without question, data is one of today’s most powerful tools for marketers. It demon¬strates the effectiveness of campaigns, provides guidance for future plans and can tell a compelling story of ROI.
Data also plays an important role in helping financial organizations stay compliant. Properly managed, data can provide the guardrails your campaign needs to make sure regulations are met. The right systems can scrub mailing lists for duplicates, remove individuals on the Do Not Call list, ensure anti-spam requirements are met and much more.
- Here are a few questions to consider when assessing your data management operations:
- What numbers and statistics do you currently use to demonstrate the effectiveness of marketing campaigns?
- In a perfect world, what data and analytics would you want from marketing campaign evaluation and dashboards?
- How easy is it to prove ROI of campaigns executed?
- Do you currently use analysis to guide future marketing decisions and campaigns?
- Are dashboards intuitive and easy to use?
- How does current data management help keep campaigns compliant?
- Can local branches access or purchase the lists they need to reach local consumers?
- Can you be confident that purchased lists meet compliance standards?
Once you’ve reviewed and identified processes to streamline internally, you can begin assessing solutions that help simplify your marketing operations. By refining a few processes and implementing the right technologies, you can relieve many of the pain points across your branch marketing operations.
Kandi O’Connor is Chief Operations Officer at Vya, a provider of simplified marketing systems that solve local marketing challenges for marketers in banking and finance, insurance, franchising and manufacturing. She has worked with clients for more than 20 years, helping them identify and address their most common local marketing challenges.