Monday, January 6, 2014

Top 8 Financial Marketing Resolutions For a Successful 2014

For the past three years, I have published an article on resolutions bank and credit union marketers should make for the upcoming year. While these posts have always been extremely popular and well read, many marketers still have difficulty achieving some of the most important resolutions.


Despite this lack of success by some, I am again providing suggested resolutions for financial marketers since research shows that people who make resolutions are ten times more likely to attain their goals.


When I published my first financial marketing resolution post in 2011(Ten Bank Marketer Resolutions for 2011), the primary emphasis was on replacing lost fee income caused by the Card Act, Reg. E and the Durbin Amendment. Most of the other resolutions addressed ways to either generate new revenues or reduce costs. I did discuss the need to test social media marketing, deliver on the mobile banking promise and reconfigure the branch model, but these were not the highest priorities in 2011.

My resolution post for 2012 (10 Resolutions Bank Marketers Can't Ignore in 2012) enlisted the support of more than 20 global banking industry leaders to help develop suggested strategies for the upcoming year. While the focus of many of the resolutions were similar to the prior year (communication channel mix, customer centricity, social media testing and building share of wallet), discussion expanded to include the importance of leveraging big data and embracing innovation.

As with any list of resolutions, last year's banking industry leader crowdsourcing post (22 Industry Leaders Provide New Years Resolutions for Bank Marketers) included several resolutions from prior years that still presented a challenge, such as enhancing the customer experience, improving measurement of results, integrating the mobile channel and continuing to innovate. The major difference last year was the increasing importance of focus and grabbing the lower hanging fruit due to all of the distractions caused by new regulations and compliance initiatives.

This year, I again collected ideas from some of the most prominent names in the banking industry in the development of my top resolutions for financial marketers. I also researched trends in other industries that are served by my firm, New Control. While some of the suggested resolutions are similar to those in the past, the impact of digital shopping, big data, the mobile channel and a contextual customer experience is evident.
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Resolutions are intended to represent major transformational shifts in behavior that will impact personal or professional success in the future. With that in mind, the following resolutions are what some of the best global marketers believe are important for financial institution marketers in 2014.

1. I will move some budget from offline channels to digital channels.


With limited budgets and reduced response rates for almost all traditional marketing channels, there has never been a greater need to optimize marketing spend for bank and credit union marketers. One way to improve results is to supplement your investment in offline channels like direct mail, email and mass media with online tools that can improve results while decreasing costs.

One highly effective way to take advantage of the shift in the consumer's purchase funnel, where they begin their shopping experience online as opposed to in the branch, is to leverage digital retargeting. First discussed in a Bank Marketing Strategy article entitled, 'Banks Include Retargeting as Part of Digital Marketing Strategy' and also written about in a guest post for The Financial Brand, retargeting allows a financial marketer to improve the results of traditional marketing by reaching customers and prospects across their digital footprint in real time as they search the web on their computer or mobile device.

Providing additional touches at a fraction of the cost of traditional media, retargeting allows financial marketers to improve the results of direct mail acquisition or cross-sell campaigns, email programs, social media initiatives or other digital marketing programs while also reaching those prospects and customers who visit your web site or do searches in the financial services category.

While not stopping traditional direct mailings, customers of New Control have moved as much as half of their direct marketing budget to digital channels for one reason . . . it works in conjunction with offline media. That is why this is the first resolution for financial marketers in 2014.

2. I will engage with my customers on mobile channels. 


While referenced in previous resolution posts, the need to engage customers on both web and mobile channels has usually been more talk than action. Another relatively inexpensive initiative for bank and credit union marketers, the need to build engagement and sales across mobile touchpoints is akin to the first resolution regarding retargeting. 

Financial marketers need to leverage the mobile banking platform they already control to reach out to customers with contextual offers that reflect their current relationship, transactional behavior and potentially even their location. With the advanced tools and technologies available, banks and credit unions are in a position to integrate highly personalized offers within mobile banking applications that reflect the next most likely product or service needed by a customer.

As discussed in my post entitled, 'Banks Accelerate Mobile Banking Innovation', the most progressive banks are already monetizing their mobile channel by including custom product offers within their mobile banking application. In 2014, we will begin to see many more financial institutions enhance their merchant funded reward programs by taking advantage of location optimized offers that reflect both the customer's buying behavior as well as their specific location. 

3. I won't get distracted by 'big data'.


Thankfully, much of the hype has died down over the past 12 months, but there are still those who want to chase the next shiny object around big data. The key for 2014 is to capitalize on the ever growing silo of data already available within your organization. Sometimes referred to as structured data, this includes customer demographics, product ownership insight, transactional data, channel usage behavior as well as digital and social interactions with your organization.

In addition to narrowing the scope of data to more easily accessible insights within your firewalls, the importance of moving from data manipulation and reporting to data usage and application has never been more important. As I mentioned in my BankDirector.Com article entitled, 'When It Comes to Big Data, Start Small', competitive advantage is achievable through the better use of data in the development of lifestage trigger cross-sell programs, optimal branch configuration, pricing decisions and risk and fraud monitoring.

In my travels, I have seen that only the very largest of financial institutions are effectively using unstructured (big) data in the development and implementation of marketing programs. For the rest of us, it is better to focus on using the data at our fingertips to improve targeting, communicating, building offers and measurement of results on a real-time (vs. campaign-based) basis.

4. I will innovate through simplification.


According to Siegel + Gale's Fourth Annual Brand Simplicity Index, 75% of customers will recommend brands that provide a simple experience and use simple communications. In other words, if you offer products and services that make it easy to do business with you, your customers will spread the word.

Unfortunately, banks and credit unions sometimes equate innovation with 'adding on new bells and whistles'. Instead, 2014 should be the year we eliminate steps, simplify communication, and even simplify processes within your organization that can foster simplification and innovation.

Over the past few months, I referenced important innovations that simplified the customer experience when I reviewed the way Mitek Systems has leveraged the picture taking capability of a smartphone to remove steps from depositing checks, opening an account, transferring a credit card balance or completing forms ('Banking Innovation for the Fat-Fingered'). I also discussed research by A.T. Kearney and how Fifth Third increased sales and revenue by reducing their deposit services portfolio from 42 to 8 products ('Bank Product Proliferation: Too Much of a Good Thing'). 

Innovating through simplification is not simple. It just takes a dedication to stripping away legacy steps and messages, leaving behind only key elements. But it is a necessary role for financial CMOs in the future as we try to respond to the needs of the digital consumer.

5. I will maximize the value of my current customers.


Similar to the resolutions that most people have around losing weight or getting fit, the financial marketing resolution of maximizing the value of current customers needs to appear on each year's list of resolutions. This is not because bank and credit union marketers don't already make attempts in this area. It is because so many of the basic tenets of success are either missed or not allocated the appropriate human and/or financial resources.

In 2010, 2011, 2012 and again in 2013, I provided the business case and steps required to implement a successful new customer onboarding program. In the next few weeks, I will update some of my recommendations to include digital and mobile components that can improve the important welcome process. Despite this emphasis (and documented financial success in the marketplace), more than half of the financial institutions still haven't introduced a multitouch, multichannel onboarding program that encourages engagement in the first 90 days of the relationship.

In addition, many financial institutions are not leveraging the customer insight they have at their disposal to build a real-time cross-sell process that is based on customer insight as opposed to product goals. It's time to break down the product silos at your organization and use trigger marketing to communicate to customers when their needs are highest as opposed to when your institution's needs are highest.

6. I will get actively involved in branch transformation efforts.


As noted in my Top 10 Retail Banking Trends and Predictions for 2014, while we may not be moving to a branchless banking environment anytime soon, it is clear we are moving to a 'less-branch' distribution structure due to the rapid acceptance of online and mobile banking and the resultant reduction in branch-based transactions.

Bank and credit union marketers may or may not be at the table during the discussions around branch transformation, but the outcome of these discussions will definitely impact customer communications. So make a resolution to get involved.

In the future, a customer will engage with our bank or credit union using multiple channels based on their needs and channel preferences. As noted in two 2013 posts entitled, 'Migrating Banking Customers to Digital Channels' and 'Rethinking the Multichannel Banking Experience', it is not a good strategy to 'force' a customer to use a specific channel. It is also clear that as a customer uses multiple channels (including digital channels within a physical branch), they will expect marketing communications to be consistent across channels.

Its time to become a holistic financial marketer, moving from developing programs for specific channels to supporting real-time marketing experience across all channels the customer may use.

7. I will increase my use of email.


I realize that my resolution of moving budget from offline channels like direct mail, email, and other traditional channels to digital channels may sound counter to a resolution of increasing email, but it comes down to segmenting lists and improving the content of email, resulting in better leads. As one of the most important tactics in achieving the share of wallet goal in resolution 5, personalized emails can improve open rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10% according to recent research by Hubspot.

Despite Google's assault on email last year, the power of personalization, improved segmentation, linked videos ('Improving Bank Onboarding, Cross-Selling and Retention With Personalized Video') and improved response tools positions email as one of the strongest marketing tools for communicating to current customers.

It is time for financial marketing CMOs to demand the ability to effectively leverage the email channel at those institutions that have either restricted or severely limited the use of this channel.

8. I will assume the role of Chief Experience Officer.


At the end of the day, all of the above resolutions will fail if your customer has a poor experience when engaging with your bank or credit union. Unfortunately, as technology has advanced, communication channels have multiplied and the customer has assumed control of the sales and engagement processes, the ability to 'manage' the customer experience is no longer viable. Instead, it becomes the CMOs role (or a designated team) to view your organization from the customer's perspective.

The good news is that the customer has the ability to share their (good or bad) feelings about your organization whenever they desire through a vast array of social channels or using various channels we have developed for transacting and communicating. The bad news is that most of this sharing is now done in public where the interaction can be viewed by hundreds of thousands of other unrelated people.

While the ultimate responsibility for the customer experience needs to reside in one place, the ongoing responsibility needs to be shared with everyone within the organization. When everyone feels empowered to 'make things right' with the customer, the customer usually wins.

My Resolution


Resolutions are usually only successful when they are embraced and measured. I only scratched the surface on resolutions I believe are important for 2014. I may have listed too many and I am sure I missed several.

The key is to make whatever resolutions you set central to what you want to achieve in the new year. In the meantime, I will be collecting research and insights on all of the resolutions above to help readers achieve the above goals using the experiences and findings of others.

My resolution (beyond losing weight and becoming more fit) is:


I will be the 'go to' resource needed by C-level executives and their teams for insights into the constantly changing retail banking marketplace.


Good luck on your resolutions in 2014 and feel free to provide input into how I am doing on my resolution.


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