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Crucial insights for financial marketers from Financial Brand Forum 2017

Matt Cunard, Sr. Digital Marketer

In the old days of Las Vegas, having the inside scoop on a “sure thing” was profitable. That is, unless the wrong people found out, in which case you may end up without knee caps or taking a one-way trip to the desert.

But now that betting and Vegas itself have “gone legit”, there’s no room for sure things. Rules and regulations are in place to guarantee that there are no guarantees. After all, nothing is certain except death and taxes, right?

If you’re a financial marketer, there is another certainty to add to the list: if your marketing efforts still revolve around offline channels, focus on products over experience or classify your website as simply a portal to online banking, you are on your way to the financial marketing desert.

This idea was confirmed recently at the Financial Brand’s Forum 2017 in Las Vegas, the premier event for financial marketers. We spoke with your fellow marketing folks from across the country, and gained some great insights into the challenges they are facing and how they are conquering them.

 

Insight #1- The banking community needs to embrace technology and wake up to the realization that digital marketing channels, websites and operational technology all need to work together.

Simply having a website, a few social media profiles and an online loan application is no longer enough. To break through and incite action (i.e., growth in business), all of these different technologies have to play well together. This concept was echoed in a number of educational sessions and in conversations we had with attendees.

The ideal flow is to target the most qualified individuals through digital marketing channels (social media, social advertising, paid search, mobile ads, email, etc.), guide them to the most relevant page on the website and have the technology (online account opening, switch kit, loan application, etc.) provide an easy enough experience to get the conversion.

Additionally, analytics capabilities to measure and analyze the data produced by this ideal process is crucial to understand what’s working, what’s not and to make the necessary adjustments.

 

Insight #2- Website accessibility continues to be a thorn in the side for many financial marketers.

Website accessibility and the work we do in regards to the current WCAG 2.0 standards was a huge concern of attendees we spoke to. While it is not specifically a “marketing” concern, website accessibility does affect the chief online presence for banks: their website, which often falls under the responsibilities of the marketing department.

Even though executives, legal teams and compliance officers pressure them to find a fix, financial marketers face an array of half-truths and inconsistencies when it comes to information and tools to address accessibility issues. Worse yet, their current website provider may not know anything about website accessibility and how important it is. This leads nicely to our next point…

 

Insight #3- Financial institutions must improve their vetting and vendor management processes to avoid horror stories.

“Our current vendor didn’t seem to know anything about (fill in the blank).” From website accessibility or search engine optimization to design and developing for mobile, we heard horror stories about web development vendors not knowing what are considered “the basics” or “essentials.”

Two conversations stick out in particular:

  1. “We just got a new website a couple of months ago, yet it has thousands of accessibility issues.”
  2. “We’ve been working on a new website for about 20 months now, and they don’t seem to have a clue about accessibility, SEO or writing website content.”

Heighten your expectations for your web development partners!

To say that this lack of knowledge is inexcusable in this day and age is an understatement. Therefore, banks and credit unions need to beef up their vetting process for vendors, especially when it comes to website development and accompanying technology.

Sticking with your core provider or with your current provider who throws in a website for cheap may seem like the easy way out. However, you get what you pay for and demand. If they don’t know about WCAG 2.0 and modern SEO techniques, that’s a warning sign. Ditto for not being able to speak to or show their process or typical timeline.

You deserve better. Demand it.

 

Insight #4- Customers everywhere are becoming more technologically savvy (yes, even your customers).

There’s often a hesitancy by financial marketers to accept what data tells them. Surely that groundbreaking new study you just read about digital banking habits doesn’t include your customers, right?

There are just some pieces of data that cannot be debated. For example, internet usage is at its highest peak ever regardless of age, race, gender, income, level of education and community type (rural, suburban, urban).  Likewise, consumers expect their financial institution to provide the tools to make financial management easier, simpler and less time consuming.

So what does that mean for you? It means you have to take a long, hard look at your entire digital experience (your marketing channels, website, mobile app and any technology such as online loan applications) to answer two questions: 1) Can customers do what they need to do? 2) Can they do it quickly, easily and painlessly?

 

Moving Forward: Turning Ideas into Action

We went to the Financial Brand Forum as exhibitors, yes. But we also got a firsthand look into what issues your fellow financial marketers from all corners of the country and in all sizes of institutions are encountering and how they are approaching these challenges.

The above insights are only our observations that have hopefully generated a few ideas in your head. Now, they need action on your part to become something real. But if you’re worried about going it alone, you don’t have to.

Just get in touch with us to start a conversation about how we can help you and your institution rock your marketing plan and provide your customers the smooth digital experience they deserve.

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