Financial Services Marketing Strategy
In the age of digital transformation, financial organizations are faced with both challenges and opportunities when it comes to staying on top of their game. The financial space is only getting more crowded with the emergence of digital-first banks, FinTech companies, and cryptocurrencies. Differentiating their brand from competitors, especially in an industry as crowded as financial services, is paramount. Whether it’s with engaging social media tactics, attention-grabbing content, or excellent customer service, financial organizations must put in the work in order to stand out to potential customers and retain current ones.
With years of experience working with banks, credit unions, and other financial organizations, our team of marketers has gained a wealth of knowledge. We’ve gathered six actionable insights that you can take away to strengthen your own financial services marketing strategy:
- Define & Differentiate Your Brand Identity
- Know Your Audience
- Embrace Digital Transformation
- Educate Your Audience
- Invest in Social Media
- Prioritize Customer Service
“Banks have to figure out who they are and why they’re different. And if you’re not different, you just become part of the noise.”
Before you can secure a place in the crowded banking industry, you have to determine who your brand is and what makes it different. Cristina Parsons, Account Strategist at Saltwater, says, “Standing out is really about leaning into what your brand stands for.” The key to standing out in a crowded industry is bringing through your brand identity, what makes your financial organization unique and putting it into everything you do: your products, services and messaging must be consistent and showcase your personality and values. Cristina adds, “Anybody can throw up a rate, but when you have a certain image and message that really reflects who you are and what you’re trying to achieve, I think that really draws in new customers and helps to make you stand out a little bit more.”
According to Tish Malloy, Senior Media Strategist at Saltwater, “Financial organizations should own an attribute space — one that is authentic to who you are as a brand and what you stand for. Whether it is a mission statement, vision, or purpose, establish what you want your brand to be known for.”
The strongest brand identities will clearly differentiate your organization. “The biggest challenge is differentiation. Some small banks seem to really have a good feel for what truly does make them different. If a bank doesn't know that, then there is an inherent challenge,” according to Mike “Sully” Sullivan, VP of Creative Services at Saltwater. Whether it’s your strong customer service, attractive rates, or your unique social media presence, it’s important to differentiate yourself from competitors in a tangible way.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that your brand identity is not always received by your audience how you think it is. Sully adds, “It goes back to who you are. But there’s an important distinction between who you think you are and how your audience perceives you. It’s important to make sure those two are in sync.” You must be aware of how your brand is understood by your various audiences and ensure it is being communicated properly and consistently so that your audience can appropriately judge who you are and the value you may provide to them.
“Make sure you know your audience. Understand your audience, how they are consuming their information, and where the best opportunities are to connect with them.”
Before you can successfully reach your audience, you must fully understand them. Sully says, “Just knowing what makes you different isn’t quite enough. You have to figure out the best way to convey that to your target audience.” Once you fully know your audience, what makes them tick, when and where you have an opportunity to reach them, only then can you connect with them.
This may look different for different audiences. Sully says, “Targeting your audience is always tricky because your tactics depend so much on the demographic. You’re going to reach 22-year-olds differently than how you would reach 62-year-olds.” Understanding that distinction and putting in the work to target different audiences rather than implementing a one-size-fits-all approach is key to effectively connecting with your audience.
But how can you better understand your audience? “I’m a huge advocate for surveying. There is no better way to understand your customers than to ask them themselves. It gives you a deeper understanding of how your brand is being perceived. You can identify current gaps and any future opportunities,” says Cristina.
Tish adds, “Conduct brand studies and customer surveys to understand where you stand in the eyes of your prospects and customers. There’s a huge opportunity for banks to acquire people who are willing to switch banks. Make sure you understand what will motivate them.”
In addition, Cristina says that reflecting on the previous year is crucial to understanding what your customers went through, how consumer trends may have shifted, identifying any new trends and then starting early for building your plan for the following year. She says, “The earlier you start to plan, the earlier you start to dig through data and determine why things are performing one way or another will give you better insights and takeaways for developing strong and strategic upcoming goals.”
“Financial institutions should be investing more into digital tools and making sure things are streamlined for their customers to ensure a positive user experience.”
It’s no secret that digital transformation is accelerating across all industries. It’s important for financial organizations to stay on top of digital trends and do their best to embrace digital transformation so they can not only keep up, but also stay ahead of the curve. This includes implementing new digital tools and digitizing the way you reach your target audiences. “With digital transformation comes a change in consumption habits to a more digitally native world, so banks need to deliver cross-channel plans to ensure they can reach them wherever,” according to Tish.
While going digital can cause some challenges, it also brings many opportunities. “When you go digital you have an opportunity to be more personal with your customers and customize certain tools, services, and products,” according to Cristina.
This digital personalization can take many forms. For example, a digital tool that more and more companies have been using on their websites to connect with users is the Chatbot. Cristina says, “When you’re creating a chatbot, you’re creating a persona. You’re developing something very personal to the brand and something that the customer can relate to. All these brands' chatbot personalities are somehow tied to the organization.” In addition to being able to connect further with users, the Chatbot tool allows brands to showcase their identity and personality in a new way by personifying their brand as the “responder” in this Chatbot scenario. Chatbots can bring your brand to life and allows you to directly communicate with consumers in a faster and more effective way.
In addition to connecting with consumers, digital tools also bring a new opportunity to target your audience and gain deeper insight into your performance. Cristina says, “You can become more customized with who you want to target, how you want to target them, and what products and services that customer may need depending on where they are within their customer journey. It gives you more opportunities to cross-sell your products and deepen a relationship with your customers.” Cristina also adds that you can gather more data and insights with being more digital so you can begin to customize the customer experience.
The moral of the story: don’t be intimidated by digital transformation. Instead, embrace it. You will find that there are plenty of unlocked opportunities waiting for you.
“Financial literacy plays into the personalization side of digital transformation. As financial organizations are putting together a digital plan, they should be thoughtful about the content they’re putting out to educate and engage with their customers.”
Financial organizations have a unique opportunity to connect with their customers by producing and sharing educational content. Though most people utilize financial organizations to manage their money, not everyone is fully literate when it comes to financial jargon, tools, and services. In addition, with banking going more and more digital, the older demographic of customers may not be fully comfortable with using digital tools when it comes to managing their finances.
Cristina says, “Customers’ behaviors are changing. They are getting more comfortable online, especially an older audience. So being able to have that customized experience with the customer through digital channels or offering certain digital tools and educational content to help educate your older audience to be more comfortable with digital is super important.” You can differentiate yourself from your competitors by putting out educational content, posting on a blog, holding seminars and webinars, sharing “expert” videos and tapping into your employees' expertise. Educational content that builds financial literacy can be a sales tool and provides you with an opportunity to connect with your customers and showcase your personality through the content you are producing.
This not only helps your customers to better navigate their financial journey, but it also helps to build trust between your brand and your customer base. Sully adds, “Financial education content should definitely come from thought leaders within these financial institutions. It’s important for banks to be the face of what they offer. And while you are putting out this educational content be sure to showcase your brand’s personality to connect further with the consumer.”
Ensure that you are using your own employees and leaders in the educational content you are sharing to foster the relationship and trust between your brand and your customers, both old and new.
“Social media is not new, but it is by far the most cost-effective way to advertise.”
In the age of digital transformation, it is imperative that financial institutions invest in social media. Sully says, “Educating customers via social media is super important and creates an opportunity to connect with consumers further.” Investing time and energy into social media is a cost-effective way to showcase your brand and communicate directly with customers.
Cristina adds, “Social media is a great opportunity to connect with the customer one-on-one. You have the opportunity to give your audience certain pieces of content that help make their financial lives a little bit better. Whether it’s education or talking about different products and services, it’s a great way to deepen your relationship with your customers.” Social media is a great way to tie in the content marketing and financial education piece mentioned earlier. Social channels allow you to reach your existing audience and amplify your voice to a broader audience as well.
While social media is a great tool to take advantage of, financial organizations must put in the work to ensure that their platforms are regularly updated. Cristina says, “Financial brands should also focus on their social channels to make sure that those platforms are up-to-date and relevant and that they’re speaking to the right audience. Making sure that social channels are prioritized and that customers are getting the information they need.” People are relying on social media now more than ever, so it is important to constantly update and manage your social platforms, creating a two-way conversation with your audiences.
“In the digital world, that expectation for customer service is even more prevalent.”
Whatever new digital tools you implement, nothing will be as impactful as good service. Customer service should be prioritized across all channels and in every customer interaction. Ensuring strong customer services allows you to foster a positive, trusting relationship between your brand and your customers. Customer service is the cornerstone of maintaining a loyal customer base.
Cristina says, “It’s really all about accessibility. You should be accessible to your customers by answering phones, not putting customers on hold, not dropping or transferring calls, and being responsive on social media especially if customers have questions or are leaving comments.” Being engaged and interactive with people on all digital touchpoints is super important to developing a strong relationship with your customers.
Now that we’ve shared with you the insights we’ve learned after years of experience in financial marketing, it’s time to put these insights into action. Here are our actionable key tips you can leverage to improve your marketing efforts right away:
- Define your brand identity and what you stand for to differentiate yourself in the financial industry.
- Conduct market research and customer surveys to know your audience and how you can reach them.
- Embrace digital transformation to take advantage of tools and tactics to personalize and customize your customer’s experience.
- Educate your audience using educational content marketing to establish yourself as a thought leader in the financial space.
- Invest in social media to connect with your audience on a more personal level.
- And lastly, practice excellent customer service in everything you do to build trust and loyalty with your customer base.