Loan Acquisition Marketing in a Digital Advertising World

Here are six tips you can use to build an online display advertising strategy that supports your consumer lending and mortgage product lines.

If you haven’t already made online display a central part of your digital marketing plan when promoting loans and other credit products, consider this:

Your customers are spending more time on digital devices. Millennials are now spending more time consuming media on desktop and mobile devices than on TV.

Your competitors are advertising there. Digital ad spending in the financial industry is projected to grow 14.5% in 2016 to an estimated $8.4billion. 44% of this will be in online display advertising.

You can target both customers and prospects with personalized experiences. More companies (e.g., Amazon, AOL, LiveIntent, etc.) have built addressable platforms to reach consumers across multiple devices.

Getting started with an digital display advertising strategy can be tricky, but here are six steps that will prepare you to effectively integrate online media into your existing marketing plan and move toward leveraging display at a higher capacity.

1. Define the Scope and Role of Digital

Marketing dollars allocated to lending products require a return on investment. All digital media should generate or support response, whether used at the top of the funnel to generate awareness or toward the bottom to convert website visitors to leads.

Develop a longer term plan for how you are going to involve digital channels. Build testing plans and give each media time to develop over numerous learning cycles. Don’t abandon one after a few unsuccessful tests.

Read More: 10 Digital Marketing Strategies For Your Next Mortgage Campaign

2. Develop a Measurement Plan That Works for All Media

Most companies take a crude approach to attribution, so they think it’s easy to prove value for their paid search and online display advertising. But more often than not, the wrong medium or tactics gets credit where it isn’t due. This is frequently the case for many low-funnel media tactics (e.g., last click, last touch attribution models).

For instance, you could be heavily invested in direct mail, search, TV and other media. Then when you initiate a test to measure the incremental value of online display ads, you don’t see any lift when you get your results back. This is a likely scenario if your target audience is already highly exposed to your messages in other media.

You should be asking, “What is right level of spend for each media?” This question can be difficult to answer if you don’t have a robust measurement system in place — one that helps you prove the value of every media dollar, including those invested in the upper part of the marketing funnel (e.g., online display ads intended to generate awareness).

An attribution system that allocates 100% of credit to a given medium or some arbitrary percentage across various media investments won’t give you the right answers. You must invest in an attribution system — the technology, the data, the people — that will work for all media. You need an algorithmic approach is a great start – and set it up early so you can have the insights in place as you expand your marketing budget.

3. Build Modeled Audiences for Display

The most effective marketing programs for lending products target audiences that have some balance of eligibility and need (e.g., credit and collateral). Here are some tactics you can use to effectively generate leads.

Expand frequency with existing prescreen lists. You are probably already using prescreen data in your direct mail programs. Those same prescreen lists can increase exposure in digital channels while your direct mail campaigns are running, or they can be leveraged to extend media exposure when direct mail is off. Start with Facebook Custom Audiences and move into other people-based platforms like Google Customer Match or Publisher Addressable Marketplaces (a consortium of premium publishers including AOL,, News Corp, and others.). These platforms can provide additional scale and reach on top of paid social platforms, and in many cases offer greater transparency.

Build look-alike audiences with non-credit data. While prescreen data is the most accurate and efficient in targeting for most lending products, it has coverage gaps due to prescreen opt-outs. Real property, mortgage, and other demographic data can be used to expand your audience beyond prescreen and offer more flexible media options. If you start with building your look-alikes with offline data you can build more effective audiences and have greater transparency into the modeling process, which is also key for a Fair Lending compliance approval.

Build look-alikes with online data. If you need more reach for new customer acquisition, then also build look-alikes with third-party online data. A data management platform (DMP) gives you the ability to build online models across large prospect pools. These pools include data from multiple third-party data providers, where you can target prospects that look like your qualified customers or site visitors. Unlike the other tactics above, there is no loss in your prospect pool from onboarding match rates.

Read More: 4 Digital Marketing Strategies to Drive Mortgage Lending

4. Use Digital Information to Provide More Relevant Content>

To get the most value out of digital marketing, you have to use your data to gain insights into various customer segments, enabling you to deliver increasingly relevant content as they progress through the sales process. When digital is a big part of your marketing budget, providing relevant communications and offers in your ads and on your web site will greatly improve your results.

A DMP is the foundation for this data-driven, people-based approach. Centralizing online data in a DMP enables scaled prospect discovery, customer insights, audience development, and cross-channel orchestration — all critical to your personalization efforts. However, a DMP by itself will not completely solve your personalization challenges. You also need a content management system (CMS) to manage your marketing (the product, message and offer), and an automated, algorithmic engine to determine what content is most appropriate for any given audience.

5. Don’t Abandon Direct Mail… Yet

Direct mail has been a mainstay in marketing lending products for decades — a proven and perennial source of new business. Direct mail for consumer loans and mortgages increased 26% in the first half of 2016. And it’s not just the usual suspects like Capital One and Discover fueling this growth. It’s also from fintech companies. You might think these digitally-oriented fintechs would reject direct mail out of hand. Not at all. Fintechs mailed over 650 million pieces for personal loans alone in the last 12 months. Why? Because direct mail works. It can provide some credibility for those who lack brand awareness. It can quickly communicate your product benefits, and do so at a glance. Most importantly for lending products, it is a necessity if you are going to fully leverage prescreen data. There may come a time in the future when your compliance team gets comfortable with online display prescreened marketing, but we aren’t there yet. Which brings us to…

6. Consider Key Compliance Requirements

When using prescreen data for digital marketing, there are several things to consider as it relates to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The challenge is when a prescreen list is being used as an additional marketing touchpoint — e.g., display ads for customers that have been authenticated on your website, or reached via a platform like Facebook Custom Audiences. In these cases, serious consideration needs to be given to the offer itself and particularly the use of “pre-approved” language. In most cases, unless you have a process to verify the user’s identity, you are better off staying away from “pre-approved” language in your online display ads, and instead opt for general product messages.

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