Living up to his reputation as one of the world’s great keynote speakers, digital marketing mastermind Gary Vaynerchuk electrified the packed auditorium at The Financial Brand Forum’s opening general session. The founder and head of Vaynermedia, and an entrepreneur since about the age of five, Vaynerchuk’s presentation, judging by many comments on Twitter, was riveting, inspiring, sobering, and practical.
His goal, he said, was not to predict the future but to help financial marketers understand how to stop wasting their budgets to reach consumers. And right now, based on his assessment, a ton of money is being flushed down the toilet as marketers, or the people they report to, cling to old ideas that used to work. “They put the past on a pedestal and demonize the present,” he stated.
What really sets Vaynerchuk apart, is that his insights are based entirely on his own experience and on what he sees and hears working with clients. “I don’t guess,” he said. “What I say I’ve seen.” One of the key points he stressed to the intently listening crowd was the importance of content — real content, with value — presented in context.
He learned that lesson one minute into his first-ever YouTube video promoting his father’s wine store. “I suddenly realized, I can’t sell. I have to give my opinion of this wine.” In a flash he knew the message had to be editorial, not transactional and he switched gears on the spot offering his candid opinion of the wines he was tasting, including panning some of them. That realization was key to growing his family’s local wine business from $3.8 million to $60 million in a just a few years without capital and no credit lines.
It’s a lesson for every financial marketer. “The reason most people struggle with contemporary digital marketing is they are sales-focused versus offering value — information,” Vaynerchuk stated.
Brand Will Be The Last Man Standing
A theme running through his presentation, his books, and the staggering amount of audio, video and written content he produces daily is common sense — or the lack of it. In banking, management too often clings to what made the business successful earlier, refusing to recognize just how much and how quickly things have changed.
“We’re going through major, major consumer shifts. This industry is on precipice of being disrupted dramatically.” Vaynerchuk stated. “Forget about macro technology trends, just focus on competitors like Amazon because banking services continue to be commoditized.” Just look at what has been happening in politics, transportation, and book stores, he said, and in the wine business, which he disrupted himself. “I believe if you play out the chess moves of the internet and technology the only thing you’re left with is brand.”
Here are nine specific suggestions Vaynerchuk made during an hour-long presentation, given without a single slide or any notes.
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9 Essential Gary V Recommendations For Financial Marketers
1. Facebook Is The Best Place To Be. Vaynerchuk doesn’t beat around the bush. “Facebook is the best platform in the world to spend money on,” he said. “Every marketer who’s life depends on results is spending on Facebook.” People say they’ve tried it and it doesn’t work, but the marketing expert says they haven’t done it right. “Have you run localized, Facebook ads with valuable creative?” Most people haven’t or if they did, they used the same photo in all the different local segments, he said. “They don’t understand that they have to use 87 pictures not just one.”
“You will be blown away” what happens when you run a digital ad with an image of an Asian-American in a picture or video and then target Asian-Americans in neighborhoods near your branch where they live, and then do the same with African-American women and other demos, Vaynerchuk explained.
2. LinkedIn is a good fit for financial institutions. LinkedIn is natural for banking, Vaynerchuk maintains. Only 24 months ago LinkedIn was irrelevant, he added, but it’s been transformed into a content platform. It’s become the Facebook of six-seven years ago. Every financial institution needs a significant LinkedIn strategy, which means you have to have a content strategy — content that brings awareness and value to people, like “6 ways to hack a home.”
“If everybody here knew how to be a Facebook or LinkedIn marketer, your business would be dramatically different,” said Vaynerchuk. There is no radio or local television or outdoor or direct mail campaign that fires better than those two places when you understand creatively what to do.”
3. It’s all about content and context. The most important word in today’s digital marketing is context. First you need good content, said Vaynerchuk — a lot of it, so that it can be matched to the right context. Banks and credit unions have to have enough content to “match the 30 different psychographic and demographic cohorts that are potentially doing business with you,” he stated. “What we have not committed to in marketing is spending enough money properly to create enough decent content.”
4. Marketing is easier to change than technology. Vaynerchuk said that upgrading a bank or credit union’s technology is a long, complex process. While the tech is important, he urged financial marketers not to wait on that, but to change their marketing strategy and spend now. Those adjustments can be made much more quickly and are a practical way to quickly respond to changing consumer interests and habits.
One quick change he recommends: Stop spending money on TV, direct mail and billboards. Use social media platforms. They’re underpriced and much more effective.
5. If you don’t change, you’ll be gone. “Clients say to me, ‘Gary, I don’t get social media,'” says Vaynerchuk. “I say, sure, because you’re a 68 year-old white dude, but your selling to 24 year-olds. You’re making decisions based on how the world was, versus what consumers are doing.” In situations like that , Vaynerchuk urged marketers to not be afraid to speak up in meetings with executives who don’t “get it.” The ROI of doing that is good, he said.
“If you’re in a meeting talking about Facebook and have an opinion different from the others, say it. Don’t pander to what’s convenient. Everybody will know you said it and when things hit the fan, the people who spoke up will get the good jobs.”
6. Podcasts are a big opportunity. Podcasts are one of the most interesting places to market right now even though some of the metrics are “murky,” Vaynerchuk stated. Buying pre-roll on podcasts of shows that fit your demographic is a good move. There is great misunderstanding now about the worth of podcasts, he said, “but I know people are listening to podcasts at scale. I know that companies that have been actively marketing on podcasts are growing rapidly.” The marketing expert is a big proponent of moving early and quickly.
7. Don’t lead a double life as a marketer. “You don’t carefully examine direct mail that comes to your home, so why recommend it at the office?” Vaynerchuk asked. Don’t be afraid to buck the easy, tried-and-true answers. Another example: people now increasingly watch video on Netflix or other streaming services. (At the The Financial Brand Forum easily 95% of the audience raised their hands indicating they did this.) “So why would you run ads on TV when nobody is seeing them?” said Vaynerchuk. Common sense, again.
8. Voice is the next big thing. “We’re only a decade away from people making financial decisions through Alexa and other voice assistants at scale,” Vaynerchuk maintains. “It will make Google search look like child’s play.” He added that people don’t really care about privacy despite all the breaches and hand wringing. “We care about faster. And it’s faster to say ‘Hey Alexa,’ than to go to a website and order something.”
9. Stop using direct mail and billboards. Sure they work, but it’s all about alternatives for those dollars. “I literally have clients spending more on billboards than Facebook,” says Vaynerchuk. “Have you ever noticed that every single person who are passengers in a car — and even a lot of drivers! — are looking at their phones? They’re not seeing billboards.”
Gary Vaynerchuk’s mantra: “The only thing I care about every day is consumers’ attention — how to reach them.”