Sifting through the dozens of options for business intelligence platforms, especially those that can inform marketing decisions, is daunting. Some financial institutions default to the major, trusted players — Salesforce, Oracle, IBM, global marketing agencies.
Others grab an off-the-shelf software-as-a-service tool like HubSpot and adapt it to their needs. Still more use features of their core processor, or banking industry-specific analytics platforms that promise to let you analyze your data in any way you like.
Any way you slice it, choosing the right analytics platform is the easy part — actually getting ROI and adoption after you sign is a long-term initiative — one that banks and credit unions must think ahead for as they’re shopping.
There are a few things that financial institutions must keep in mind when making analytics tool investment decisions. It’s hard to see past the platforms’ marketing messages, but keep in mind these three common myths:
Myth 1: The Tools Are Easy to Use
It’s in the best interest of any software platform to talk about itself as being easy to implement, adopt, and utilize over time. The reality is that it often takes far more people-power to get the most out of these tools than expected — meaning you either have to hire more staff, or pay the tool’s service department (if they have one) to utilize the tool for you.
Even with technology, answering hard analytics questions is still going to require some time and learning. Over time, you can develop processes and you’ll likely be going back to the tool with the same questions. But there’ll be outsized needs at the start.
When you’re doing your due diligence, ask other customers using the tool if they’re using all the features, what staff they have supporting it, and how much time they’re each spending in the tool per month. Can you support that with your current staff, and current skillset?
Keep in Mind:
Don't stop asking questions when it comes to integrating new tech platforms. Check with other users to see how much staff time it requires.
Myth 2: They’ll Unify Your Data, Rapidly
Getting that 360 degree view of your customers is harder than it sounds. Many platforms overlook the difficulty in gathering data from across your institution. It’s often a months- or even years-long initiative. There may be other tools available that can solve problems more quickly, while you work through the larger data unification project.
Data from different departments needs to be “tied together” using a common identifier, such as an account number — which may be different in mortgage versus retail versus commercial. And householding is another layer on top of that — is there an ID that lets you know who lives together or shares financial responsibility for a business?
Even if there is, a student account may require different analysis, and different marketing messages than an adult’s account. You could tie accounts together via address, but what if there’s a small typo or difference (e.g. Avenue versus Street versus Road)?
Beyond the data itself, there are myriad cultural issues you may run into. Your business lending department may not want to give up prospecting info, for fear of the marketing or IT teams restricting their access or meddling in their sales pipeline (and commissions!). The mortgage team may have their own CRM system — or worse, a lack thereof — and which may be difficult to integrate with your marketing automation platform.
And neither of these things are really related to the platform itself. The platform provider can likely guide you through fixing these issues (data or cultural) but most of that work will rest on your shoulders, and these problems can take months or more to solve, even at institutions that are motivated to become data-driven.
Myth 3: Insights Enable Ultra-Targeted Campaigns With Little Effort
Many analytics platforms have well-designed dashboards where you can dive deep into any aspect of their findings. And these dashboards are often what’s shown off first in demos and sales pitches. They’re what convince your senior leaders to sign on the dotted line.
It’s not that these dashboards aren’t useful — but you need to stop and think about how you’ll actually be able to use that data in your marketing campaigns. Is it possible to pull a list of customers that meet certain criteria, and import them into your marketing automation platforms? Or to pull a list of addresses for a direct mail campaign? Or an email list for a social media campaign?
Go The Extra Mile:
It's not always about the look of the dashboard (which usually gets financial marketers hooked). It's also about whether the data provided is actually usable.
Further, how do you send performance data back from these external channels so the analytics tool knows who responded and actually became a customer, and therefore can remove the person from the list and report back to you the holistic campaign performance?
Often, from platform company websites and demos, it’s unclear how the insights from the tool can actually be used in your campaigns. It’s another good area to dive into with existing customers of the tools before you buy.
Bonus Myth: You Need All Your Data Unified to Get Good Insights
This isn’t so much a myth, but more something many financial institutions overlook. If the end goal is running marketing campaigns, do you really need the 360 degree view on all your customers?
Often a bank or credit union may only have emails for 60% or 70% of customers. Many often don’t have birthdates, or the ability to know if a customer has their mortgage through you, or a way to see debit card utilization on the individual customer level. Is this a problem?
It will definitely restrict what you can do, and hamper your goals to becoming a fully data-driven organization. These are long-term problems that you will want to work on solving, but it could take months or years to clean up that data.
It doesn’t mean you can’t run some compelling marketing campaigns in the meantime. What are some insights you can gain from the data you do have? Can you access transactional deposit account data, and mine just that for insights? There’s a lot you can learn by looking at how spending habits change over time, where direct deposits are coming from, and where payments out of the bank are going (to competing credit card vendors, mortgage banks, etc.).
The platforms you’re researching may have some features you can use while you’re unifying your overall dataset, or you may even be able to do some of this analysis on your own (via a spreadsheet or visualization tool).
Choosing the Right Marketing Analytics Platform
With any large investment, it’s imperative to avoid shiny object syndrome — specifically, purchasing a tool based on it’s promises, rather than it’s ability to solve a real-life problem that you actually have. Yes, the promises of these platforms are great, but if you don’t have the staff to use them, or the extra budget to pay the platform company to run it for you, are you getting anything out of the tool, or is it just collecting dust?
Instead, start with a clear documentation of your end goals. Where does your bank want to be in five years? Does your executive team and board really support a transformation to becoming data and digitally-driven? If so, you’ll need some technology for that. But make sure you pick something that also solves today’s problems, not a generic bucket of things you think you might run into down the line.