Why Banks Should Add Partner Marketing to Their Digital Playbook

Third-party marketing partners can play a key role in how prospects find, understand and engage with a financial institution and its products. Here is how these marketing partnerships can help build awareness, trust and new customer growth.
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The concept of marketing partnerships remains one of the most underutilized digital marketing tactics in banking. Much of the reason comes down to awareness, access and having the right strategy in place to make the most of the channel.

It’s a significant oversight because those financial brands that have leveraged partnership marketing have seen it drive growth representing as much as 40% of their customer acquisition funnels.

When most think of a third-party partnership, they think of leading websites like Bankrate or NerdWallet — sites that offer strategic placements and wide exposure. As the industry has evolved, so too has the variety of players in the space, from targeted blogs and websites to YouTubers and TikTokers and everywhere in between. This is what makes the channel more accessible than ever for financial brands of all shapes and sizes.

The timing could not be better for financial brands to double down on marketing partnerships. When done right, they play a powerful role in not only building awareness, credibility and growth, but in delivering valuable insights and enhancing overall marketing strategies. Here’s what financial marketers need to know about the power of marketing partnerships.

Do More With Less

Whether your marketing department is a team of one or 50, budgets and resources are always limited, and more than ever, marketers are facing increased pressure to deliver more with less.

Often financial institutions or their agencies will turn to lower-funnel channels like paid search, which deliver high-intent traffic. In fact, 44% of bank marketing executives in a survey conducted by Fintel Connect in June 2021 indicated paid search as a primary channel for user acquisition. The challenge is pay-per-click campaigns are becoming increasingly expensive as more brands compete for the same exposure and keywords, with no guarantee the traffic will convert.

Financial institutions’ digital marketing preferences

Partnering with targeted third-party websites and marketers allows banks and credit unions to reach high-intent audiences often at a fraction of the cost, particularly as they partner on a results basis (cost per acquisition) rather than charge by impression or click. This means delivering valuable exposure, brand endorsements and conversions.

Lack of resources also poses a threat to growth. In the same study, 40% of the bankers surveyed indicated limited resources as the primary factor inhibiting growth.

Growth Inhibitor:

Number of bankers who say limited marketing resources are restricting their institution's growth
40%

Enter marketing partnerships. These influencers and affiliates are strategic marketers themselves, leveraging a range of engagement and conversion tactics with audiences, including organic content, paid search, social, emails and video. Where it may take your team or agency time to develop targeted organic content, it will likely not drive incremental results immediately. Instead, publishers can quickly produce high-quality, relevant content and reach a broader audience. They’ll also help you build credibility and trust in new markets.

Stay On Top of Changing Trends

With an ever-changing industry like banking, it can be challenging to stay on top of the latest trends, competitor offers and market conditions. When your offers and competitive advantages go beyond just rates or fees, it can also be difficult to convey this value effectively within the confines of a banner or ad.

Marketing partners can become brand advocates for your financial institution and help to tell your story. They will be able to educate their audiences on the value of your products and services, which creates greater intent when those future customers are directed onto your website or app to sign-up or make a purchase.

Consumers may also not be forthcoming or aware of solutions for their financial needs, and may be less willing to provide direct feedback. Publishers can deliver the insights needed to stay competitive, including data on brand sentiment and anecdotal feedback on areas like customer experience. They can also identify potential threats or consumer trends. You can then apply these insights to other channels to enhance performance and improve conversion rates.

Take it a step further by sharing the insights you’ve found on your end with your marketing partners driving the initial traffic, which can ultimately drive even greater mutual performance improvements.

Reach New Segments

Are you confident your institution is leveraging the right mix of channels to reach targeted consumers, and are these potential customers clearly defined? These questions are especially important if you’re launching a new product or expanding your geographic footprint.

Get Creative:

Marketing partners can expand the reach of your institution’s marketing message to consumers you don’t interact with directly.

Many financial institutions investing in technology as part of digital transformation are looking to expand into new territories where they may have less brand recognition. The same goes for launching new products or for fintechs that have carved out white spaces in the market with unique, not yet seen before offerings. It can be a challenge to educate consumers on the value of products like hybrid savings accounts or highly specialized lending products.

Marketing partnerships can play a key role in helping financial brands break into new markets, build up brand integrity with various target audiences through education, and provide validation for a product or solution. Implementing this tactic helps win the trust of these consumers, and may point to an entirely new audience segment with a high affinity for what you have to offer. These insights can then be incorporated into your broader strategy to deliver even greater results.

Achieve Cost-Effective Growth

Beyond anything else, cost-effective growth is a critical metric for any marketing strategy. The majority (70%) of bank marketing executives surveyed in the 2021 study reported that they prioritize new customer growth in their 2022 strategies. Similarly, 77% are expecting to allocate an increased proportion of their budget to digital. The key is allocating the digital mix of tactics that will deliver the greatest return.

What financial institutions want digital marketing to achieve

One of the major benefits in working with influencers and affiliates is the targeted, high-intent audiences your brand will reach. As a typically lower-funnel tactic, audiences engaging with third-party marketers are often doing research or actively seeking information to drive their purchase decisions, which can allow your brand to compete on factors other than just rates. Through tactics like product comparisons, reviews, how-tos, and more, your marketing partners can start to convert consumers before they even enter your own marketing funnel.

Marketing partnerships also give your institution a distinct advantage in scalability. Traditional affiliates, publishers or marketing outlets that have been around before social media are often willing to partner with viable brands on a results basis, which gives marketing teams a better control of their budget and the ability to optimize results based on lower-funnel metrics like applications completed, opened accounts, or even funded accounts.

Moreover, as you identify new user segments to target, you may want to expand the number of marketing partners in your mix or seek out publishers with more sizeable audiences. By applying the CPA commission model for all partners, you’ll be able to manage costs while scaling your customer referrals and customer acquisition rates.

Getting Started with Partner Marketing

To maximize the impact marketing partnerships can have for financial institutions, there are several key steps to take before getting started.

  1. First, having a clear customer journey is important. Ideally, high-intent customers will be able to convert completely online, so consider investing in technologies that enable this capability.
  2. End-to-end tracking is also key to be able to measure bottom-line impact and take advantage of the true value of the partnership channel. Ask your suppliers what capabilities they offer to allow for complete user-journey measurement.
  3. Lastly, have a clear understanding of what you are willing to pay for a customer — and know whether it is in line with marketplace rates.

With all this in mind, the next step is knowing how to find the right partners for your brand. They must have shared values, an audience that aligns with your targets, and can support your brand’s specific needs. A good place to start is to look at aspirational brands in a similar space. If your target audience is within a specific region, you may also be able to find local voices that speak to your niche.

To ease into the channel, a flat-fee sponsorship can be used for initial testing and learning, as well as for building relationships with partners at a lower risk. With a limited, controlled budget you’ll be able to test messaging and audience targeting with knowledgeable partners before starting up a full affiliate program for your brand.

If you’re new to partner marketing and keen to learn more, Fintel Connect can provide guidance on whether you’re ready to step into the mix. Learn more about scaling your customer acquisition through publisher partners.

Or check out our expert guide on boosting customer acquisition, featuring insights from top financial publishers, influencers and financial brands.

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