10 Big Trends Reshaping Financial Marketing Today

Financial marketing used to involve little more than brochures, print ads and a couple promotion per year. Now, it is about social media, shared experiences and interactive digital engagement. It's time banks and credit unions get savvy about their use of mobile channels, content marketing and personalization.

1. (More) Respect For Digital

For decades, financial institutions haven’t thought much about marketing and have expected little in return. Over the past several years, banks and credit unions have learned how effective an online or mobile presence can be at selling two or three times even the best branch. In 2015, financial marketers will get around to updating their website and will figure out how to turn their digital properties into selling machines. Email address collection, promotions, tools, educational videos, forms and business resources will all serve to promote the organization better than anything that has come before. Search and search engine optimization (SEO) will finally get the resources and effort it needs to become an effective marketing tool. Financial marketers will embrace A/B testing, use more landing pages and start paying attention to their site analytics to drive content.

2. Lead Generation

Conversion has become king, and financial institutions are becoming less shy about asking for action. Maybe, it’s a sign-up for a newsletter or coming to an educational webinar about wealth management, but whatever the call-to-action, financial marketers are getting the hang of it. For 2015, banks and credit unions will get better at leveraging their knowledge, content, partnerships and events to produce qualified leads for their lending and deposits officers. Instead of just advertising, think more in terms of generating potential sales prospects. The metric “cost per lead” will become important, with content and promotions being judged on how low they can get the cost per lead.

3. The Story and Personality

2014 was a throwback to the 1950’s, where many organizations built their entire brand off the ability to tell a story. Back in the 1950’s, various banks told the story about the wealthy businessman, the young couple looking to buy a home, or the active socialite looking to use a Christmas savings account. Next year, stories will be everywhere, as bank marketers design a targeted story to resonate with a particular customer set in a personalized manner. Financial marketers are on the verge of telling the omni-media story, where bits of the narrative are told through different channels to immerse the customer in the emotion of the experience. You will see a snippet online … then on mobile … followed up in the branch and at events.

In addition to telling a story, banks and credit unions will let their brand personality show more often in their marketing in order to establish an emotional connection with the public. Greater use of the individual voice will highlight staff members, and organizations will step forward to make themselves vulnerable in an effort to increase transparency and authenticity. Look for more staff involvement in marketing that will include community engagement promotions and more employee-driven marketing ideas.

4. Personalization

For years, banking organizations threw marketing at the wall to see what stuck. Now, we know more about our customers and members because of digital channel and external data insight. We can go beyond age and income to include lifestyle, education, hobbies, profession and brands that the consumer relates to. In 2014, financial marketers experimented with mining internal (structured) and external (unstructured) data to create targeted approaches … and it worked. Marketing efforts were 10% to 30% more effective, and in 2015, we are just going to get better. ‘Lazy marketing’ hurts a brand, whereas personalized marketing keyed off events, lifestyle or trait mapping makes the recipient feel a stronger connection. Look for banks and credit unions to finally make use of more of their available data and get better at micro-targeting ads and promotions. Next year, more financial institutions will undertake customer persona exercises to better understand who the best targets are in order to make both sales and marketing more effective.

5. Product Development

Like finding a new superpower you never know you had, financial marketers have discovered that they are fully capable of developing their own technical solutions. Examples include how CenterState Bank or Citizens Bank of Edmonds have developed their own interactive ATM or how C1 Bank has developed their own mobile customer service platform. Institutions are finding that by developing innovative products, they are controlling the experience while also creating intellectual property that will help in the future. This not only has product implications, but marketing and branding ones as well.

6. Picture Perfect

Visuals have surpassed text as the language of choice in the digital universe. Bankers only have to look at the huge growth in image-based networks like Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat, Vine and Tumblr. Not only will stories be told, but they will be told in a visual format complete with photos, graphics, gifs and videos. The coming Oculus Rift and our favorite, Magic Leap, will open up a new paradigm of experiences and will push the marketing envelope. The envelope will sufficiently be pushed where we will finally get comfortable with more images in marketing. Take visuals and combine them with storytelling to further engage the audience. This will be done online, but even more so through mobile devices.

7) Content

You’ll see community banks and credit unions get more involved in producing quality content that can be used by their small business customers. You can leverage economic forecasts, real estate information, risk management, finance and business performance information to help their small business customers while promoting the bank as thought leaders. Equally important will be the fact that content will help drive traffic through search and partnership links to further promote the bank. More traffic will allow you to grow your newsletter efforts, and will leverage content to further fuel inbound marketing and sales.

8) Speed

The use of mobile devices has increased the speed of transactions for everyone. You can now order ahead from Starbucks, Taco Bell and many other food outlets, while Starwood now has your hotel check in, room key, room service, checkout and statement all on your phone in order ease the transaction friction. Some SBA platforms give banks and credit unions the ability to offer small businesses a loan decision in 5 minutes and funding in 5 days — that’s fast. Financial institutions will speed up their account opening, loan decisioning and other processes in order to deliver — and market — speed.

9) Marketing ROI

Knowing your return on your marketing effort is a big plus, so digital advertising and marketing will get more resources. Email campaigns and webinars will remain equally popular, but financial institutions will try greater digital partnerships online and via mobile. Financial marketers will soon move away from thinking in terms of marketing “channels’ and leverage mobile to unify the branch and the online world. Walk into a car dealership and users will get the latest rates for auto loans with a quick application. Banks will soon sponsor advertisements for financing and cash management services that are location specific to the booth or type of equipment that customers are looking at.

10) Wearables

The Apple Watch, the next version of Google Glass and other wearable products will further the digital/mobile trend. The attraction here is the presentation of data and functionality against the real world in order to create a virtual financial application. Property data for real estate investors will be fed to wearable by financial and real estate companies looking to pick up new customers at the point of inflection.

More than marketing, financial institutions will move more of its processes to mobile so that loans, deposits and fee service transactions can all be initiated on the move instead of in a branch.

A Brave New World

Up to this point, few financial institutions seem to give marketing and branding the respect it deserves. Any bank that faces price competition will realize that by investing in their brand, the bank can differentiate them and highlight their value proposition in order to better maintain margins and loyalty. The trends above make financial marketing more effective and give CFOs a quantifiable return.

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