Consumers are crying for help. According to research from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, four out of five U.S. adults say that they could use professional advice about basic financial issues, half lack confidence in their retirement savings, and almost a quarter do not pay all of their bills on time. Consumers need answers, but the broad landscape of digital apps and products actually compounds the problem — where can they turn?
Banks and credit unions are perfectly positioned to offer the kind of financial guidance consumers so desperately need. Providing these educational resources isn’t just about social corporate responsibility either. Yes, the goal should be to improve people’s financial capability, but savvy financial marketers also turn their educational initiatives into strategic programs that fuel growth and attract new consumers.
Nine out of ten financial institutions already use financial education in their marketing strategy. Why? Because most know that financial education can pull double duty as content marketing. Financial education delivered as content marketing allows banks and credit unions to improve product and service conversion rates while providing real value to their consumers along the way.
Financial education can play such a significant role in your organization’s growth and acquisition strategy that it should be wrapped into your annual marketing plan. As you start out, it’s important to keep your plan simple and concrete. The following six steps provide a quick overview of the process.
1. Goal-Setting: Not so Fast
Your financial marketing strategy is only as good as the goals you set out to achieve – how well they are aligned with your business objectives and product priorities, and how actionable and measureable they are. As a starting point, you should establish “SMART” goals for everything you do — Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. And be sure to include multiple stakeholders from across your institution so you don’t find yourself with cross-competing goals.
2. Target Audience: The Role of Personas
Your account holders are likely diverse, with disparate financial needs and goals. Segment your account holders into discrete buyer personas and identify the unique requirements for each one. Whether you’re targeting Millennials, seniors, or all the life stages in between, develop your knowledge about each of your personas by talking to existing and prospective consumers and deploying research surveys to learn more about each.
3. Content: Examine and Supplement
Financial institutions already have extensive content about their products and services. Evaluate how you can use existing content and where you may have gaps to improve your content library. For example, you may already have a website, a mobile app, and hard-copy brochures; however, to engage with your audience, consider supplementing this base with other types of content such as calculators, financial education, blogs, social media, co-marketing opportunities and more.
4. Distribution Channels: Reaching your Audience
Once you know who your audience is and what content you need to create to engage them, how should you deliver that content for the best reach? Should you choose email, a website, social media, direct mail, webinars, in-branch training, blogs, paid media, direct mail, face-to-face workshops, or outbound calling? Each channel can be highly effective if used with a receptive audience. That’s where research and data come in.
For example, the average email open rate in the financial services industry is 16%. But you can achieve much higher open rates when your emails promote financial education, and align consumer priorities to your content. Pacific Service Credit Union, for example, achieved a 30% email open rate when they promoted their new financial education program.
Similarly, social media platforms can be a useful channel, but they’re not all created equal. As an example, Facebook still remains the number one social network across Millennials, Baby Boomers, and Generation Xers; although Millennials are active on Instagram, SnapChat, and Twitter in a way that no other generation truly is. Learn about the potential effectiveness of all your distribution channel options, and leverage your marketing personas and current data to decide which platforms to use.
5. Employees: The Heart of your Strategy
Simply put, your employees are your greatest asset to any marketing campaign rollout, and engagement with financial education starts at the top. Choose an executive champion that has a passion for financial education and make sure their voice is heard across your financial institution. Then take time to incorporate employees into your strategy, and invite employees to participate in the same financial education program as your accountholders. Why? They will be stronger advocates for your financial education program if they understand it from the inside – as well as more knowledgeable financial advisors.
6. Planning and Delegating: Getting it off the Ground
Once you’ve outlined your goals, target audience, content needs, and distribution channels, and have engaged and motivated your employees, it’s time to pull it all together into an overarching strategy and editorial calendar. Remember to start small, and keep your plan concrete. Make sure that you’re using analytics so that you can monitor your program’s performance after launch: email open rates, website traffic, new accounts opened. What worked and what didn’t? Figure out what was successful — and do more of it.