COVID Lessons: 3 Ways Financial Marketers Must Reboot Their Thinking

Getting out from under pandemic lockdown clouds may be a relief. But now begins the hard work of helping your financial institution to put its best foot forward as the 'new normal' begins to develop. Protecting reputation is a beginning, but the biggest challenge is deciding how your institution will serve people well going forward.

In the wake of the havoc wrought by COVID-19, banks and credit unions need a strong return to the market — or what Boston Consulting Group calls a “rapid rebound.” A key part of that rebound is preserving and even improving your brand’s reputation. But that’s not all.

We’re coming to a subtle threshold now. It’s been important to maintain a steady stream of communications pertaining to COVID-19. But the latter part of this “waiting period,” while your institution’s physical doors remain closed, is a time when financial institutions should be planning a marketing strategy that will differentiate them from competitors and move their organizations forward when the period of quarantine completely lifts.

Three key elements will help your institution make a start.

1. Learn from What You Are Seeing in the Market

The goal for your brand is to stand out from the rest — for the right reasons.

So take notes on what your competitors and the brands you admire are doing. Start by identifying the brands that are doing well and the ones that aren’t. Examine their marketing strategies closely:

  • How have their brands evolved from the beginning of the pandemic to their current standing in the market?
  • Was this evolution a positive or negative trend?
  • Why do you think they progressed in that direction?

Let’s consider some big brands’ experiences as examples. Some perceived declines in reputation have happened inadvertently, such as the case for Corona beer. They just happened to have the wrong name at the wrong time.

But other major brands — cruise lines, a major insurance company and others — have made poor choices. Some brands’ tone-deaf marketing, incorporating things like scenes in karaoke bars when society was in lockdown and talking about social distancing, serves as a reminder that our audiences are smart enough to recognize when your marketing is out of place in the current atmosphere. Even some public service announcements have backfired.

The answers to the bulleted questions above may be somewhat speculative and subjective. Nonetheless, you should be able to compare and contrast others’ efforts with the trajectory of your own organization’s marketing thus far. You should be able get some ideas for how your institution should — and shouldn’t — proceed.

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2. Improve Your Unique Selling Point

As a financial institution, your bank or credit union can enjoy the unique position of helping your businesses and consumers to navigate these tough financial times through direct, one-on-one relationships. And because you know these people so well, you should be able to anticipate their post-COVID needs.

The products and services they needed pre-COVID versus now may have become a vastly different list — or used differently— than in coming months. Financial marketers will be a key part of institutions meeting those changing needs.

Take the time while things are still somewhat in quiet mode to evaluate your current products and services. Decide what remains relevant and what needs updating based on current and projected trends.

And face the hard decisions of determining what just won’t work anymore.

In the COVID era, the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program loans have become a temporary staple to keep businesses afloat, whereas they weren’t even an offering before. While these particular loans may not be given out once the COVID period and the lagging economic effect have passed, the concept behind the PPP could develop into a new program that could help businesses longer term.

There is also a good deal to think about in the impact of the coronavirus on the use of digital banking channels.

( Read More: How to Keep Seniors Coming to Digital Banking After America Reopens )

Keep in mind that people will need some hand holding through the transition from lockdown to “new normal” life. Let them know that you’re there to provide them the products and services — and advice that they need.

For instance, a credit union we’re working with is promoting across all of their owned channels a financial literacy program they’ve created for kids to work through while school is out.

Your job as a financial marketer will be to find ways to bolster the unique qualities of your programs while rebuilding a level of trust and loyalty with clients. If you’re there to support them through potentially one of the toughest times of their lives, they will hopefully do the same for your organization for years to come.

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3. Prepare Messaging for a post-COVID ‘new normal’

In anticipation of beginning a new normal, start working on messaging tactics that will aid in a smooth transition. Think about what people might care about now that they wouldn’t have before the pandemic.

For example, they may have felt their finances and investments were completely secure with your institution and the markets as they were. But after the economic downturn, they will likely be more wary. Or they may care much more about branch cleanliness than before.

Overall, they will be looking for reassurance that your institution has their best interests in mind and will do all you can to protect their assets and their health. Make sure that shines through in every communication and every piece of content.

In addition, the tone of voice used in any audio messaging is more important than ever before. There is a lot of anxiety surrounding the crisis and how the economy will recuperate. Make sure your messaging is sensitive to that atmosphere. The worst way to come out of a crisis is to act like there never was one in the first place.

The key point to remember now: Consumers and businesses are probably feeling very vulnerable right now. They will be looking to you, as a trusted institution, to put up a strong front and lead them toward this new normal. Leverage that trust and some creative, intuitive messaging to carry your organization through with strength and resilience. In doing so, you may find that you not only rebound rapidly but begin to thrive once again.

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