Banks & Credit Unions Must Get Serious About Marketing Automation Now

Marketing technology — 'martech' — holds out so much promise to financial institutions but it often fails to produce. Does the fault lie in the software that banks and credit unions acquire? Or is the problem in how they attempt to use the packages they purchase? Money's wasted when bad buying decisions are made.

Prior to the pandemic, marketing automation was a clear strategic choice. Now, if your financial institution wants to communicate with its audience consciously and effectively, it’s an absolute necessity. The quarantine period brought some major behavioral shifts for consumers — shifts that brought with them a new set of expectations around remote access, online services and personalization. And now that these expectations are in place they will not lift alongside the lifting of lockdown restrictions.

Personalization in marketing will not go back to being optional. Instead it will become a driving force that can ensure growth within your organization, be a key to managing your current relationships with consumers, and prove an essential tool for improving retention. For your bank or credit union to remain relevant, marketing automation platforms must be a priority.

When it comes to marketing automation, financial institutions fall into three categories: those with a marketing automation platform, those without one, and those with a collection of different systems (more on that later).

If you already have a marketing automation platform, great — now is the time to empower your marketing department to buckle down and really develop a strategy makes the tech serve your customers and improve your bottom line.

If you don’t have a marketing automation platform, it’s time to buy one, intelligently and with reasonable expectations.

Marketing Automation Doesn’t Have to End in Costly Failure

Often, the martech industry presents itself as a confusing, ethereal entity, a wonderful world far out of reach for small community banks or credit unions. Don’t let jargon and heady promises sweep you off your feet. Go in with set realistic expectations and you’ll be fine. You must keep your eyes open and your feet on the ground.

A word of warning: Some financial institutions are so eager to enter the martech world that they let themselves be sold deluxe software packages and empty promises. Many such teams sign on with tech-giant platforms that charge monstrous upfront costs and require exhaustive training. Months later — sometimes longer — these institutions still won’t have the software up and running.

“The right software is out there — you just may need to poke around before you find it.”

Without the right support, these once enthusiastic folks find themselves stuck wading through massive “bloatware” platforms. No one on their teams has the bandwidth to train new users on properly, let alone manage. Worst of all, they find themselves no closer to their goals and can’t demonstrate any ROI to their key stakeholders.

If yours is a smaller bank or credit union, you’re likely balking at the thought that you could be that team above. You’re thinking that your resources are already spread thin, that you don’t have the scalability, that your marketing department isn’t qualified or staffed to run complicated platforms.

Those are all valid concerns. Not to mention, we all know that set up can be costly. If not done correctly, it can present a drain on human, technological, and financial resources.

That is why when choosing a platform and package, you must not only consider your marketing needs, but also ensure that meeting them with martech falls within the scope of your department’s capabilities. Throughout the selection process, remember your end goal: You are aiming for better, personalized communication and smarter use of your team’s capabilities. The right software is out there — you just may need to poke around before you find it.

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How to Start When You’re a Martech Newbie

Two key concepts should guide institutions just starting out with marketing technology.

First, start small.

You do not need to go full bore to see deliverable results. Think of it this way: When you got your license and bought your first car, did you jump right behind the wheel of a Lamborghini? Doubtful. A supercar would have been too powerful … creating too much undue anxiety and, perhaps, crippling fear. (Not to mention the maintenance!)

The same principle applies here. An easy to operate, conservative, reliable product will take you farther in the long run than that flashy racecar of a software package.

“An easy to operate, conservative, reliable product will take you farther in the long run than that flashy racecar of a software package.”

Realistically, regardless of your platform of choice, you don’t need to go for the premium package with the crazy 3-D dashboard and bells and whistles. To help narrow your choice, think about how you are going to use the product out of the gate — carefully and thoughtfully.

For a smooth entry point into any system, start by identifying the low-hanging fruit. What do you need? What data do you have access to that you can easily use as a test case for the product?

You want your team to grow familiar with the software while still providing helpful, usable results. Once your team succeeds on a small scale, they will gain the confidence and the ability to try out new, more sophisticated tools within the system.

Second, go for better segmentation and personalization.

Along with navigating the stresses from these uncertain times, marketing departments face immense pressure to push meaningful content that encourages quality engagement. While on the flip-side, consumers do not want to be flooded with generic content, yet they also do not want to be stranded in the dark by their financial institution. Marketing automation can help strike that delicate balance of serving the consumers’ need for personal attention while helping you achieve your objectives.

Start by using your platform to identify current and prospective prospects. The platform should automatically segment them for you. Once segments are identified, personas can be created and layered on to help with the delivery of hyper-personalized content. These personas don’t need to be overly complicated. Pinpoint a few distinct attributes that set your target consumers apart and are relevant to your key messaging. From there, you can begin to speak to your targets personally, not with a one-size-fits-all approach.

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Overcoming Martech Déjà Vu

We hear it all the time when the conversation turns to martech, a defeated “So what? We already have (insert list of platforms here)!”

Does any of this frustration sound familiar? You have five different marketing tools that “help” you achieve various tasks — social media posting and monitoring, email marketing, landing page development, the list goes on. All these platforms produce their own reports, datasets, and quirks to deal with. You’re so bogged down trying to juggle them all that it never feels like any one system works to your advantage.

You are not alone. Often, we find that financial institutions have purchased various platforms that are siloed and disconnected. As a result, their marketing departments become a jumbled martech stack of different platforms, reps, contacts, APIs, compliance … It’s not only nearly impossible to manage. It becomes a nightmare.

What’s worse, Marketing is left wading knee-deep through all the data that each of the different platforms export, with no time to draw meaningful conclusions.

Now is time to step back and look at your DIY-bundle of services. Does this collection of software actually provide a viable solution to your needs? Chances are, it’s adding to the problem, especially when it comes to data.

At the end of the day, it’s not how much data you have, but how you use it that matters.

Has your data been collected in a meaningful way? Can you easily leverage it to your advantage? Or are you trying to make sense of piecemeal analytics from piecemeal programs?

In an ideal world, you’d be able to utilize your data to create meaningful relationships and drive results, engagement, and actions. A consolidated marketing automation platform, with a simple suite of tools including an integrated customer relationship management system, could be the solution.

You want a product that can reinforce your marketing team’s efforts, generate leads, drive sales, and produce measurable results; one that will make life simpler and your marketing more effective.

Integrating the right marketing platform at the right scale for your team will be the key to success. When adopted properly, it will aid in streamlining the marketing processes. The right platform should help empower your marketing department to develop innovative campaigns, and ultimately, strengthen your personalized communication with your current and prospective members.

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