Look at banking websites today and you’ll see four common — and deadly — mistakes financial institutions tend to make.
By Tony Quin, CEO of IQ and Chairman of the Society of Digital Agencies
According to the latest Nielsen “Trust in Advertising” report, corporate websites are now the second most trusted form of advertising, second only to “recommendations from people I know.”
This is a wake-up call for the entire financial industry: It’s time for banks and credit unions to get their websites up to snuff.
Consumers will simply no longer tolerate a website that’s not easy and intuitive, delivering a delightful and valuable experience. They will not invest the time and effort to figure it out, especially when one of your competitor’s has gone out of its way to make it easy for them. While these maxims are true for any brand in any industry, it is particularly true with the easily confused and overwhelmed financial consumer.
As the Nielsen study makes clear, it is time to catch up with the marketplace. Banks and credit unions need to align their online experience with consumer expectations and elevate their websites with best practices.
1. Not part of an integrated strategy
The problems with financial websites often start with having too many goals (or the wrong ones). This is usually because of an unfocused digital strategy or no strategy at all. That may be why so many financial institutions tuck the website under IT’s control rather than marketing — “It’s a functional IT delivery channel, not a central component supporting our brand or marketing strategy.”
A website with no real underlying strategy is like a car without gas. No matter what it looks like, it’s not going to get you very far. Your website needs to be the center of a carefully thought out marketing system. This should tie together all your marketing into an integrated system, which connects, cultivates and converts. This is particularly important with financial websites because the process of taking a consumer from “curious” to “customer” is a journey that involves many steps and influences. That’s why an integrated strategy needs to incorporate social media, content syndication, paid media, SEO/SEM and other digital distribution channels cohesively.
2. Inadequate analytics, insufficient analysis
Site metrics tell you about clicks… but not a great deal more. What you really need to know is who is visiting the site, where they are coming from, what they’ve seen or done before, and then where they go. All these bits of data can give can you the insights you need to successfully cultivate and convert prospects when interpreted by a skilled analyst.
The good news is that marketing automation and CRM software makes this easier than ever before. The integration of these new technologies connects marketing directly to sales for the first time and can deliver a stream of qualified leads to financial advisors and sales professionals.
3. Operating in a vacuum
Your site is a critical part of the process of converting new customers and growing existing customers. But for it to perform its essential piece of the puzzle, it has to reflect an understanding of the entire consumer journey, not just what happens on the site.
This comes from surveying the competitive landscape, defining audience segments and their corresponding personas, then mapping the consumer decision journey across channels. With these insights in hand you can see which interaction points are critical, how to influence them and how to use the website to maximum effect.
4. You aren’t really sure what to say
Your website messaging is the critical last mile of your online marketing effort. No matter how good your planning and technology, if the messaging does not resonate with your consumers, it is all for naught.
Once you know who your audience is and what their path to purchase looks like, you need to know when to talk to them, what to say, and how to say it. You may think you know, but real answers only come from the serious work of developing a content strategy. This becomes the bible for your creative team. A complete content strategy gives your team the messaging priorities it needs for each segment, which direct the creation of content for advertising and more importantly thought-leadership.
The Nielsen study gives the marketing world high marks for brand websites. That means that a lot of brands have stepped up and are ready to compete online. If your brand is not one of them then perhaps you should consider this study the wake up call you need.