5 Digital Marketing Tips for Financial Institutions on a Shoestring Budget

Many financial marketers wistfully admire how megabanks and big credit unions manage their digital channels — from their corporate website and social media to email and online advertising. These large institutions have the luxury of gigantic budgets, ample staff and numerous supporting agencies, all helping them become the digital “belles of the ball.”

Meanwhile, thousands of other financial institutions struggle. How can they compete without the same deep pockets and resources? If your institution has champagne marketing dreams but is faced with the reality of a domestic beer budget, don’t get discouraged about all the things you can’t do. Instead plan for what you can do that may be just as awesome. Here are some ideas.

1. Invest in Great Content

For a while now, content marketing has been all the rage. It helps you to draw in key audiences by feeding the search engine beast. For most banks and credit unions, serving as a trusted source of financial education for customers and members is a key goal. But building a robust library of articles is an ambitious proposition, and even the thought if it can result in anxious hand-wringing for most financial marketers — Where will the content come from? Who will write it? Rather than drop content marketing down to your “rainy day/maybe I’ll get to it” to-do list, develop a content plan that allows you to start small but gives you room to grow if/when it shows promise.

Determine what your most important topics are, and start building a list of must-have vs. nice-to-have resources. If mortgages represent a great growth opportunity for your institution, write a few articles in that vein with broad appeal — e.g., 5 Reasons Why Buying a Home is Better than Renting. If your time or budget allows, mix it up with different types of content types: articles, calculators, infographics and video.

Custom content is always preferable because (1) it will be written for your specific audience and (2) it’s better for SEO purposes. However, there are plenty of good third-party content providers that can help you get your content marketing efforts off the ground without breaking the bank (pun intended).

Whether you produce original material or buy it from a third party, make sure you have a plan to drive visitors to your content. Email marketing is a popular inbound marketing tactic, as is social media marketing.

2. Reevaluate Email Marketing

Email marketing is a strategic way to reach your audience. But, if you are like many institutions, you aren’t certain why your current plan isn’t working. With a few relatively painless steps, you can breathe new life into your email marketing program, and take some strides toward inbound marketing success.

Clean up your list. Many institutions aren’t successful with email because they have bad email distribution lists. Spend some time looking through your lists and doing any necessary clean up to maximize deliverability.

Take a fresh look at your email templates. If they look dated or cluttered or don’t render well on mobile devices, they probably won’t get read. Investing in a few new email templates generally comes at a modest cost that can pay off big time over the long term.

Obsess over subject lines. Your email subject line is vital to cutting through inbox clutter. Spend some time researching words that are known to trigger spam filters, keep your subject lines short, and even try out newer tactics that have been proven to increase open rates, such as using emojis.

Split test. Many email marketing programs offer A/B testing built-in to their platforms. With a few simple steps, you can make minor changes to your emails and automatically test which performs better. The most effective email will then be chosen for distribution, and you just get to monitor open and click rates.

Personalization. While fancier approaches like remarketing and personalization help target emails to the right audience at the right time, those tactics are typically out of reach for most marketers. Instead, use what you know to give the illusion of personalization. Do you know the recipient’s first name? Use it in the email so it gets a little more attention in a sea of non-personalized emails recipients receive. Do you know where the recipient lives or works? Segment your emails accordingly so you can make messaging more applicable.

3. Leverage Geographic Information

Most visitors are willing to share their location with you from their mobile phone and even desktop devices if they feel that by doing so, they will have a more relevant experience. The technology behind this isn’t complicated or expensive, and by implementing location detection, it can help you deliver a much better experience for your site visitors.

Many visitors to bank or credit union sites just want to find the nearest branch or ATM. Through automatic location detection, you can narrow the choices down for them and make this search process a lot more pleasant. And a pleasant interaction with an institution site equals a happy customer.

Eventually when your budget allows, you can utilize more sophisticated CMS solutions to target your promotional offers and content based on the location of your visitors.

4. Targeted Paid Search

While high organic ranking on search engines is a priority for every financial institution, the reality is that institutions are all competing for the same keywords on topics that are among the most competitive across all search engines. Did you know that after “Insurance”, “Loans” and “Mortgage” terms are among the most expensive categories? So why is paid search still recommended with all of these headwinds against it? Because it can attract incredibly targeted, engaged visitors, when executed properly.

Your budget may not afford bidding against the big banks for big, broad terms like “mortgage,” but if your institution should still pay to play. You can start by limiting your paid search campaign to a limited geographic area that matches your market footprint — why pay to have your ads shown to people in Peoria if you are based in Pougkeepsie? Also, bidding on terms like “zero down” and “refinance mortgage broker” are much less expensive and may attract the same quality visitor as some of the more obvious, pricey terms.

The quality and relevance of your ad will key to encouraging visitors to click on it. Well-written ads are part art and part science, and are incredibly important to the success of paid search. Don’t cut corners here; invest the time to research and write engaging ads. There are hundreds of articles out there offering advice and providing statistics on what works… and what doesn’t.

Many institutions invest in paid search but don’t have great conversion rates. One of the primary reasons is a poor-quality landing page. Institutions often forget to invest in the end game, and then scramble wondering what things didn’t work out. Which leads us to…

5. Improve Conversion Through Landing Pages

If you aren’t investing in dedicated landing pages for your campaigns, then you are missing out on some big conversion opportunities. Many institutions link to their home page or product subpage of their website for offer details. This is a HUGE mistake. Since these boilerplate pages are generic and are often stuffed with information, visitors quickly lose focus and will likely leave.

Investing in proper landing pages will maximize your website’s ability to convert. A properly designed landing page will strip out all those non-essential elements, including site navigation, site search, social media sharing and cross-promotions. Its sole job is to focus on the offer details and draw the visitor into action. Once you have a landing page template designed, it can be repurposed for many offers, allowing for minimal ongoing investment by your team.

Investing in basic tracking on your key calls to action will allow to you to begin evaluating success. While more sophisticated tracking investments will allow you to monitor true conversions, minimally knowing what tactics drove visitors to your page, and which worked, is better than hoping that visitors will somehow find and respond to your offer on another site page.

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