8 Critical Digital Marketing Skills for Banks and Credit Unions

At The Financial Brand Forum 2014, Matt Wilcox from Fiserv outlined eight of the most important online skills financial marketers need today — everything from mobile and social to SEO and SEM.

By Bryan Ochalla

Thanks to the constantly evolving ways in which people consume or otherwise make use of digital media, it’s clear to Matt Wilcox, managing director of marketing strategy and innovation at Fiserv, that today’s financial institution marketers can’t expect to see the same results they used to see from traditional media channels.

At The Financial Brand Forum 2014 in Las Vegas, Wilcox told bank and credit union marketing executives from around the world that they “need to find new ways and techniques of engaging with not only young consumers but older ones, too.”

Wilcox says marketers in banking have to hone a wide spectrum of digital skills to drive new business and grow relationships. During his session, Wilcox outlined eight specifically.

“And you can’t be good at just one or two of these things anymore,” he stresses. “They’re all interconnected, so you have to at least have a foundation in all eight of them if you want to properly and fully engage with your audience via digital, because they play off of each other so well.”

1. Retargeting

You don’t have to be one of the “big boys” to take advantage of retargeting, an online marketing tactic that helps you keep your brand in front of consumers after they leave your financial institution’s website. Nor do you need an ad agency for deployment. “This is something you can do today,” Wilcox assures.

For the most effective retargeting campaigns, Wilcox recommends you match your creative to your target audience, and align your ads with what he calls the “buyer journey. In simplified terms, if a person searches your website for home loans, your retargeted ads for that person should subsequently focus on home loans.

Also, “be sure you test this stuff,” Wilcox says. Develop multiple versions of your ads and multiple versions of your landing pages, in particular. “Don’t sell yourself short and just have one deployment of your online copy or ad.”

( Read More: A Comprehensive Guide to Retargeting for Banks and Credit Unions )

2. Search Engine Marketing

Wilcox says he’s a big believer in search engine marketing because it can help financial marketers see immediate results if they utilize the right techniques and tactics — tapping vendors like SpyFu.com.

“You can implement a search ad campaign in a matter of minutes, as opposed to TV or newspaper ads which usually take weeks — even months — to get together and produce results.”

One of Wilcox’s biggest recommendations with SEM is to take advantage of the real-time tracking that’s often associated with it. “Look at this information every day, or at least every week. Are people behaving in the way you want them to behave? If not, tweak things so they do.”

( Read More: 10 Tips to Maximize Your Bank’s Google Adwords Campaign )

3. Online Advertising

Although Wilcox says many financial institutions “skipped over online advertising and went right to social media,” he’s a firm believer that they should invest in both.

For banks or credit unions, Wilcox points out that “there are a lot of local opportunities — such as on local news sites — out there. Many of you already advertise in local newspapers or on local radio stations. Well, most of [those businesses] have websites, too, and a lot of them will give you online ad placements for free or for very little extra.”

Two additional pieces of advice shared by Wilcox: adjust ad placements based on daily and weekly goals. “Don’t just put them out there and forget about them,” he says.

And make sure you optimize your creative for the online channel. “Don’t let your offline creative drive your online creative. If anything, let your online drive your offline.”

4. Social Media Advertising

“Social should not be an afterthought,” Wilcox says. “Keep it at the forefront.”

Not only can a properly calibrated social-media strategy boost brand awareness and “create a community feel” for your financial institution, he adds, but it can help “give you flavor and reach that your website or brick-and-mortar presence probably never deliver.”

“Social — when done right — can be more personal than your website, because it allows people to see your employees, see your community support and other aspects of your brand the public doesn’t often get to see.”

( Read More: Facebook Advertising and the Future of Financial Marketing )

5. Marketing on Mobile Devices

There are a host of reasons banks and credit unions need to be investing marketing capital in the mobile channel now, Wilcox says. For starters, the average consumer looks at their cellphone almost 150 times per day.

As for how financial institution marketers can make the most of this particular channel, Wilcox suggests they shouldn’t think of mobile as “a smaller mirror of the online channel.”

“Don’t just funnel everything you’re doing online into mobile. It doesn’t work,” he says. “You have to have a specific strategy for mobile, and you have to optimize for mobile, too, which likely means you have to come up with different creative, different content and possibly an entirely different strategy.”

( Read More: Mobile Channels Are Turning Financial Marketing Upside Down )

6. SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is another critical component to financial marketing, according to Wilcox, as it can “bring a tremendous amount of traffic to your landing pages and your website, and most of the time it’s free.”

Just be sure your web copy is “clean,” he advises. “Search engines like Google pick up on errors, and they’ll penalize you for them. You also get penalized for 404 pages and broken links, so take care of those as much as you can.”

Keeping up on your site’s most popular pages is similarly important, Wilcox says. “Study your most popular pages closely,” Wilcox says. “They may not be pushing people to take an action you want them to take. If that’s the case, or if some of your most popular pages aren’t the pages you want to be most popular, go in and change them and try to change consumers’ behaviors to yield your desired outcomes.”

( Read More: 12 Common SEO Mistakes Financial Marketers Make )

7. Email Marketing

Some financial institutions have promised their customers (or members) that they would never send them e-mails because of phishing concerns and such. Wilcox says this is a huge mistake. If you do this, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.

In his experience, email marketing is “a great selling channel union. Sure there are issues with it, and security concerns related to it, of course, but none of those things are reasons to shut it down forever as a potential sales tool.”

Also, don’t forget to tie any e-mail campaigns you come up with into your organization’s direct-mail program.

“You don’t have to lead with direct,” Wilcox says. “You can learn a lot by leading with e-mail. Start by sending the e-mail first to test the waters and see if the creative is good or the offer’s good, and then follow it up with direct.” That’s great advice. Figure out what works in the cheaper digital channel before moving your message to the more expensive offline channel.

8. Landing Pages

“Don’t take people to your home page” as part of your search campaigns, Wilcox says. “People get lost in that purchasing pattern.” Instead, direct them to a specific, finely tuned landing page.

“Landing pages should never be an afterthought,” Wilcox notes. Instead, you should start building your campaigns with the landing page first. “Spend a good amount of time and energy on those landing pages,” he adds. “They should be your bread and butter, because they’re the main point of contact in the sales funnel these days.”

Wilcox recommends being “thoughtful about the content” on any landing pages you create. “Keep them focused on the one product you’re trying to sell. Don’t lose people by cross-selling other unrelated products, too. Remember, these pages don’t have to contain all of that content.”

( Read More: 7 Tips to Building Campaign Landing Pages That Work Harder )

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