The 5 Biggest Mistakes Financial Marketers Make in Digital Channels

Banking providers continue to struggle with digital marketing — everything from how much budget to allocate to digital channels and how results should be measured. The Financial Brand asked digital marketing experts in the banking industry what they see as the biggest mistakes financial marketers make most often. Here are the top five.

Mistake #1: Taking the Same Approach on Every Channel

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube are all radically different social media platforms, each with its own norms. The same thing applies to traditional media channels — TV, radio, billboards, direct mail, etc. Each has a different strength that will have different appeal to specific and unique segments of the audience. There are times that the message and/or campaign objective lends itself perfectly to one channel (or more), while other channels might be completely inappropriate or ineffective.

But banks and credit unions will frequently lump multiple channels together (e.g., “social media”) and treat each the same — same message, same style, same tone, same approach. However, a marketing message that gets great results on Twitter may fall flat on its face on Facebook.

Similarly on the strategy side, you wouldn’t typically use direct mail for building name awareness. Direct mail usually works best for targeted product promotions, not raising your brand’s profile. If you want to build name awareness, a campaign involving channels like TV and billboards are more likely to be effective. And yet you will often see financial marketers blanketing all media with the same campaign creative.

The mistake, says Lily Harder, VP of Research at Mintel, is thinking about marketing in a silo without taking into account the inherent characteristics of each individual channel.

Gina Bleedorn, Chief Experience Officer at Adrenaline, agrees. “A bank or credit union might have a strong brand, but many are not successfully telling their brand stories across channels. That’s why so many of their marketing messages fall flat.”

You must adjust your tone, tactics and message to each channel.

Mistake #2: Not Using Data Analytics for Targeted Offers

Jonathan Rowe, Chief Marketing Officer for nCino, says that few banks and credit unions are using advanced analytics to drive their digital marketing campaigns. Most are stuck he says.

“Digital marketing involves leveraging data analytics that allow marketers to clearly define and reach their target audience with engaging content and a clear call to action,” says Rowe, citing research from McKinsey & Company.

The result of not using data analytics is a marketing misstep that mars the consumer experience — e.g., promoting a fixed-income retirement campaign to a college student.

One financial institution used data analytics to lower servicing costs and improve profitability by identifying customers depositing checks at a branch and designing a marketing campaign to educate these customers on remote deposit capture. To encourage customers to try it, they included a check for a nominal amount. The campaign got 7% of customers to permanently switch to remote deposit capture.

Another major Australian bank used data analytics to make more targeted offers and succeeded in cross selling to 37% of customers who visited a branch and 60% of customers who engaged with the call center.

Rowe says one regional bank that has been using data analytics to prioritize marketing campaigns and better allocate marketing resources has seen a 600% return on investment over a 10-year period.

Mistake #3: Using Jargon and Leading with Product

Banking is full of jargon — but that doesn’t mean that banks and credit unions have to use that language in their marketing campaigns. That’s not to say to dumb it down — there are definitely technical terms that legitimately describes the product or how to use it. Jargon refers to language that is more complicated than it needs to be.

Nevertheless, banks and credit unions still use lingo like “HELOCs” with consumers who don’t have the foggiest clue what the difference is between “APR” and “APY”. Financial marketers often fall back on safe, undifferentiated claims — positioning their products and services around ‘great rates’ and ‘amazing service’ while listing a cacophony of product features in a bullet list.

In a commoditized market like financial services, that’s a huge mistake, says James Robert Lay, Founder and CEO of Digital Growth Institute. He suggests leading with a purpose rather than a product — to help first and sell second.

“Financial brands should start viewing themselves as the helpful guide in the narratives they tell, not the hero,” says Lay. “If banking was a Star Wars movie, the consumer should be Luke Skywalker — the hero — and the bank or credit union should strive to be Obi-wan Kenobi — the helpful guide.”

Mistake #4: Ignoring Branding

In the Digital Age, it’s easy for financial marketers to get lost in data-driven campaigns that focus solely on generating more loans and checking accounts. With all the attention going to data+digital, the importance of branding can be quickly forgotten.

“In the Digital Age, banks and credit unions still need to build their brand by telling relevant stories and delivering exceptional experiences.”
— John Mathes, Director of Brand Strategy at Weber Marketing Group

John Mathes, Director of Brand Strategy for Weber Marketing Group, says this is a huge mistake. He believes many financial marketers are simply looking for that ‘quick hit’ to help them hit sales goals. They rush from one product campaign to the next without ever stopping to assess their brand. Do staff even know what our brand stands for? Is the brand still relevant? Does our brand support our strategic objectives? Or are we overdue for a brand refresh? After all, it can be very challenging positioning your institution as “digitally savvy” and promoting digital banking solutions when you have a crusty, tired, dated brand. You have to ask whether you have a brand strategy that’s appropriate for the 21st century consumer.

“A brand assessment requires complete immersion and careful due diligence to uncover the current ‘state of the brand’ across a range of touchpoints, communications, perceptions, cultural perspectives and competitive positioning,” explains Mathes.

Mathes says another mistake banks and credit unions make is focusing solely on the visual identity without looking at the rest of the organization, resulting in big brand gaps and lackluster results.

“You can redesign your brand identity — a new look and feel with a new logo, new colors and a new website — that makes you look digitally sophisticated, but if you haven’t revamped your backend systems and retooled your products and processes accordingly, you could be in big trouble,” Mathes warns.

Rowe with nCino shares the same concerns as Mathes. According to Rowe, today’s consumer doesn’t just look at the pros and cons of the financial product or service they are considering, they want to evaluate the bank or credit union they might be buying it from.

“You need to promote your cultural brand within your community, and highlight the cultural values you and your employees represent,” Rowe says.

Mistake #5: Not Having a Goal or a Plan

Rowe at nCinco also says he often sees banks and credit unions develop and execute their marketing campaigns without clearly defined goals such as anticipated click through rates, or setting targets for the number of leads they expect to generate, or spelling out revenue objectives. Compounding the problem, they don’t have the ability compare results to measure the success — or failure — between one campaign and the next. How can you possibly know what you should do again (or never again) if you don’t know what works (or doesn’t)?

According to BAI, only 29% of community banks can make the “digital-to-physical” connection between consumers who get information about a product from the bank’s website and then opened that product in a branch. And only 70% of the biggest, most technically sophisticated banks can track this web-to-branch consumer journey, says BAI.

James Robert Lay at Digital Growth Institute is quick to point out that not all measurements are worthwhile. He warns against using “vanity metrics” that don’t translate into tangible business results. There’s a big difference between Facebook “Likes” and conversion rates.

“We still see banks and credit unions reporting on clicks, likes and follows but these metrics don’t matter to the CEO or the CFO,” he notes.

Instead, Lay encourages clients to use Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) tagging on all digital ads along with setting goals in Google Analytics and lead generation workflows on websites.

Even being atop search engine results is not necessarily a wise objective. It takes time, money and resources to get to the top and then hold that position.

“Looking at results that translate into actual dollars such as conversion rates is the only way to determine if being number one is worth the investment,” Lay says.

In its most recent study, Digital Growth Institute found that 85% of banks and credit unions do not have a defined digital growth strategy.

“Sure, everyone has websites, email marketing, ads and social media posts but they are not getting the results they had hoped for,” says Lay. “The problem is lack of a plan. It’s like hiking through the woods without a map. You’re going to get lost. You’re going to go in circles. And eventually, you’re going to tire and burn out.”

But Lay says that those banks and credit unions that stop, pause, think and plan are able to approach marketing with new courage and commitment.

“They know what they need to do next even if that means taking a few steps back to establish a strong foundation,” Lay explains. He also recommends assessing the plan every 12 to 18 months since consumers, technology and operating environment are in a continual state of flux.

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