5 Ways Financial Institutions Can Squeeze More from Marketing Budgets

The further banks and credit unions get from using traditional media, the more they need to pay constant attention not only to their messages' reach, but to how well their aim holds over time. With more channels than ever to spend on, and consumers using more of them, financial marketers must seek efficiency and fight waste.

Typical Americans today are exposed to thousands of marketing messages daily, from the subtlest product placement to the in-your-face tweet that activates an ear-splitting video. In 2007 Yankelovich pegged the daily feed at 5,000 messages, and given that the estimate came out around the same time as the iPhone, it’s hardly likely the number has gone down.

Banks and credit unions have no choice but to learn how to punch through all that noise, says C.W. Warwick, Vice President for B2C Marketing and Design at Kasasa.

“The messages are everywhere and it’s important that financial institutions embrace technology in order to meet the challenge,” says Warwick. She and her associate Star Exton-Raymor, the firm’s Senior Digital Marketing Manager, speaking during a webinar presented by The Financial Brand, outlined five strategies to help financial institutions navigate today’s marketing maze.

1. Leverage Data That’s Right Under Your Nose

Banking institutions are gold mines to the data savvy.

“You are sitting on data that you can access immediately and use it to see who your customers are and how you can better serve them,” says Warwick. Using the right technology to extract and analyze the institution’s own records can enable marketing staff to evaluate both transaction history and behavioral patterns. The more detailed and precise the data, and the more sophisticated the analytical tools, the more that can be discovered.

According to an online poll, financial institutions are catching onto the necessity to exploit big data. 74% of the listeners say they use data for personalization of services, 56% tap the information to facilitate marketing automation, and 37% use the data to fuel marketing models in some form. All those numbers represent major increases from a similar poll Kasasa conducted a year earlier.

“Programmatic shows your ads on the right sites at the right times to the right people.”
— Star Exton-Raymor, Kasasa

When the marketing department has a firm handle on the institution’s own data, it can begin using outside data better and use data-driven marketing techniques more effectively.

Programmatic digital advertising is one such technique. Through this method algorithms use the institution’s data to select how to deliver digital ads most effectively and efficiently. “It shows your ads on the right sites at the right times to the right people,” explains Exton-Raymor. It’s not only smarter than a direct buy made by a person, she adds, but it saves labor. “Programmatic advertising can eliminate the need for Requests for Proposals, for negotiating and even insertion orders.” She notes that one projection holds that 84% of digital display ad purchases will be made programmatically in 2019.

Another key use of an institution’s data is predictive analytics — basically, figuring out what consumers will do next, based on past behavior and on the behavior of similar consumers.

“This can tell you the right time to have a discussion about adding to a savings account or when it is optimal to talk to someone about switching to e-statements,” says Warwick.

Market analysis is another practical use of financial institution data. A more precise appreciation of a market can help an institution save marketing money through avoidance of waste. Direct mail, for example, while still one of the most effective marketing mechanisms, is pricey and should be sent to only the best prospects. Market analysis can also help drive the ideal marketing mix for an institution, and guide spending towards high-potential segments.

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2. Multi-Channel Marketing Follows Today’s Funnel

At least 70% of consumers use three or more channels when researching a purchase, according to Warwick. Indeed, a senior direct bank marketer once observed that Americans don’t go out to a taco stand without checking online reviews and ratings.

Warwick suggests that because consumers will encounter a financial institution’s brand on multiple channels — the mix depending on demographic, psychographic, and economic factors — that firms should ensure that their messaging is consistent from one to another. That consistency and clarity, married to frequency to chase the conversion down the sales funnel, can be summarized as “always on, always strong,” according to Warwick.

( Read More: How Financial Brands Can Master Multi-Channel Marketing )

“If you’re not in social media today, go back to your office and launch your Facebook page.”
— C.W. Warwick, Kasasa

Of all the channels out there, both experts stress the need to establish a strong presence on social media.

“If you’re not in social media today,” advises Warwick, “go back to your office and launch your Facebook page. It’s so important, and we have been seeing increasing traction.”

Exton-Raymor, using a military term, compares digital media buys to “air cover.” Once that is provided, social media marketing can help chase consumers down the sales funnel.

“You want to be part of the conversation,” says Exton-Raymor.

Another wrinkle: “Video is beginning to have a huge place in the overall media mix,” according to Warwick. “You can use it with social media, digital display ads, and on your website.” She notes that YouTube reports that online video usage has been growing at a rate of 100% annually in recent years.

“For community banks and credit unions, it’s a great opportunity for storytelling,” says Warwick. She adds that this is an example of using channels in collaboration, which tends to produce better results.

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3. Looking Current isn’t Optional. Websites Must Maintain Appeal

Some financial institution websites can be so leading edge that they outstretch consumers’ ability to navigate them. More likely, however, is the risk that a bank or credit union has allowed its website to get stale.

“If your site looks old, so does your institution,” warns Warwick. “I don’t know how else to say it — young people will see your old site and think, ‘This is not someplace that I am ever going to engage with — it is so old’.”

Warwick suggests that traditional financial institutions look at the websites of fintech players for inspiration — such as Varo, Prosper and SoFi. They stress large graphics, smooth scrolling, and a friendliness of look that many banking sites lack.

4. Optimize, Optimize, Optimize. The Job is Never Done

“Pay attention to how your digital assets are performing,” suggests Warwick. “Know what’s working and what’s not.” Issues like the speed of an institution’s website must be monitored and tweaked to keep them attractive to consumers. Pages that don’t download quickly are nonstarters for consumers who have more and more choices.

“Pay attention to how your digital assets are performing. Know what’s working and what’s not.”
— C.W. Warwick, Kasasa

Another factor that must be tracked and tinkered with is the institution’s cost per acquisition. Understanding what produces conversions and what the return on investment is must be understood both by channel and by each program maintained by the institution, according to Warwick.

For some elements of a marketing effort, this requires frequent checking and changing. Paid search — pay per click (PPC) marketing, it’s also called — can slip out of tune quickly, because it has so many moving parts. Exton-Raymor says she and her team, when handling digital marketing for clients, review key word choices and other PPC settings once a week.

5. Measure Success in All That You Do

With so many channels now available, and different target groups potentially being exposed to very different media mixes, figuring out how well individual parts of marketing are delivering can be a challenge. There are techniques specific to more anonymous, inbound marketing techniques, such as marketing tags, and others that work best when the institution knows to whom it reached out.

Regarding the latter, Warwick likes the use of “PURLs.” These are “Personal Uniform Resource Locators.” When these are used each recipient of the institution’s marketing outreach receives a unique URL. The instant they access it, as a result of the institution’s marketing, the marketer receives a signal. They then know that a consumer has at least begun the customer journey.

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