Financial Marketers Not Ready For The Future

The 6th annual analysis of financial industry marketing trends reveals bank and credit union strategies, priorities and challenges in 2017. Despite access to data and analytic tools, the industry continues to fall behind in targeting, personalization, digital communication and ROI measurement.

The “2017 Financial Marketing Trends” study, sponsored by Deluxe and published by the Digital Banking Report, provides global insights into the priorities, challenges, product focus, communication channel use, budget allocations and marketing effectiveness of bank and credit union initiatives. The report also provides analysis of branding and branching trends and the marketing technologies being used by financial institutions..

The 78-page report breaks down an array of trends, analyzing over 25 different parameters and including 43 charts. For comparison purposes, the report segments respondents by size and type of organization (national/regional bank, community bank, credit union).

Eye To the Future, Foot in the Past

As we saw in our Retail Banking Trends and Predictions report, every financial organization is trying to find ways to become more efficient and more effective in their marketing efforts. This includes investing in new technology to assist in the implementation of marketing strategies as well as trying to leverage internal and external data to improve personalization and overall results, including new customer acquisition, onboarding, cross-sales and loyalty.

This year’s research into marketing trends found an increased desire to support mobile devices, use interactive content, implement website-based selling and enhance brand development. To achieve these goals, financial marketers will need to shift their strategies and investments to include these trends (as opposed to simply saying these will be their focus).

The research also found a strong focus on new customer/member acquisition as well as a desire to cross-sell and up-sell services and a continued emphasis on branch expansion. Unfortunately, when comparing results of this year’s survey with those of previous years, we continue to see a lack of commitment to funding advanced analytics for improved targeting and enhanced measurement of results.

Financial Marketing Challenges

The best way to summarize the financial marketing trends for 2017 is to view the challenges that financial marketers globally said they faced. From budget constraints and the inability to measure performance, to the challenges of silos and lack of needed technology, the top 5 challenges faced by marketers tells us a great deal about the preparedness of FIs for the future.

1. Difficulty in Measuring ROI

As in 2016, the biggest challenge for financial marketers is the ability to measure performance and prove results. Only 8% of financial organizations believed this was not a challenge.

This challenge is also reflected in the view of marketing in the C-Suite and the inability to provide meaningful ROI metrics required throughout any organization. For a financial organization to succeed in the future, measurement of results will be a foundational requirement.

2. Limited Manpower/Skill Sets

The demand for qualified personnel who understand advanced data analytics and new marketing technologies are in short supply. This is impacting the ability of all industries to move to the ‘digital future’, providing the level of personalized experience expected by consumers.

Without the required skillsets, financial services organizations will have a difficult time breaking down silos, leveraging marketing automation, implementing programmatic initiatives and measuring results. Unfortunately, the current marketing teams at most organizations do not include data professionals.

3. Insufficient Data Analytics

While the largest financial institutions appear to be doing a better job in using advanced data analytics compared to their smaller counterparts, virtually no firm is out of the big data woods. In fact, only 11% of organizations said that data analytics was not a problem.

This year’s report found an inability to provide multichannel attribution and customer journey measurements, which result in a negative impact on measuring the impact of digital channels. On the front end, the inability to analyze internal and external data limits the ability to deliver personalized and contextual offers at the most opportune time.

Part of this challenge is caused by data silos that financial organizations have lived with for decades. While financial marketers are usually not at the IT meetings where investment decisions regarding new back office systems are being made, new advanced data tools can help bridge these internal silos.

4. Lack of Marketing Automation and Personalization

The ability to take advantage of the benefits of marketing automation and personalization is a top 5 challenge for all sized organizations according to this year’s financial marketing survey. As with the challenge of managing results, however, this ranks low compared to other priorities.

As we mentioned in 2016, this represents a customer experience ‘perfect storm’ as consumers are demanding that partners in their daily lives know them as individuals, yet most banks and credit unions are not budgeting for this requirement.

Just as importantly, not investing in marketing automation software limits the marketing initiatives that can be undertaken at once, the ability to respond to customer needs in real-time and the ability to alter programs in an agile manner to maximize ROI.

5. Overwhelming Initiatives and Expectations

Not surprising to any marketer in financial services, the constant, rapid changes experienced by marketing staff, digital marketing professionals and consumers alike are outpacing the ability to stay up to date, staff, budget for and respond to the organizational needs of today’s digital bank or credit union.
As reinforced in the 2017 Financial Marketing Trends report, most financial marketers have little confidence in their own or their organization’s ability to address the unique challenges of digital marketing. The confidence gap extends to specific skills, as well as the ability to meet company and brand goals as budgets and expectations are all raised around digital activities.

Most financial marketers are not sure if their marketing programs are effective, with few having confidence in their digital proficiency. Adding to the stress is that virtually all marketers would identify digital capabilities as critical to their individual and company’s success.

Our survey found that additional funding was listed as the top challenge in 2017, but given the results of the rest of the survey, there is a belief that increased budget will most likely be used to replicate previous behaviors. Throwing more money at new challenges, because we don’t have time or the appropriate personnel in place to change strategies, tools and processes, is simply financial marketing insanity.

Where Do We Go from Here?

The 2017 Financial Marketing Trends report found that most marketers are acutely aware of what needs to be accomplished, but have not made the required changes to their marketing organization or their priorities to succeed. Instead of making the evolutionary adjustments to marketing plans, most organizations need to start from scratch and completely rebuild their marketing plans.

Until Financial marketers can put it all together with confidence, they will continue to feel overwhelmed and digital opportunities will not be optimized. Until the available tools for advanced data analytics and marketing automation are purchased (and used), it will be close to impossible to keep pace with marketplace changes.

Organizations that recognize the need to change past behaviors and respond to the challenges by investing in digital tools, training, staffing and inside/outside support for digital activities will be rewarded with better results and more satisfied customers.

Financial services organizations must invest in digital tools to succeed in the future.

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