"We've just always done things this way" doesn't mean it's the best way to market your financial institution.
Banks and credit unions must sometimes walk a tightrope when it comes to marketing in the new digital landscape. They want to stay competitive on a corporate level in an industry that is heavily regulated, which presents a unique challenge for promotion.
Financial institutions want to keep their names highly visible, they want to protect their reputation, and they want to impress and engage prospective customers. That’s a tall order for any marketing department! At a macro-level, the goal of any banking institution in today’s digital world should be to seamlessly weave its existing traditional bank marketing plan (TV ads, print ads, billboards, radio, etc.) into a measurable digital strategy. As you’re likely well aware of, this presents a significant challenge for bank marketers seeking to earn buy-in from their financial institution’s executives.
Why You Need a Comprehensive Bank Marketing Plan
Earning buy-in for your marketing strategy won’t happen without extensive planning. And let’s be clear, a list of planned marketing ideas is not an effective bank marketing plan. A real plan starts by tying the bank’s vision and goals to its branding and selling objectives. It’s crucial to begin your planning process by reviewing how your FI has traditionally done this. There are likely many existing marketing expenditures wasted on avenues which are no longer relevant, or profitable. Like most logic-defying decisions, these are based on the age-old principle, “That’s the way we’ve always done it!” Banks often advertise in yellow pages, local newspapers, radio, and elsewhere without knowing how effective these channels actually are. In this day and age, measuring the results of marketing strategies is not only important, it’s crucial to growth. Step one is to put your current marketing expenditures under the microscope to ensure funds are allocated to the most effective channels. If you’re not sure of how effective your existing marketing campaigns are, implement digital tactics to begin measuring results.
A comprehensive bank marketing plan is your roadmap to success, so make all team members aware of the importance of your institutions goals along with the how you plan to achieve them. A successful bank marketing plan example should include a two-pronged approach to the future – a long-term vision and a short-term strategy designed to reach that vision. Your short-term bank marketing plan should focus on the coming 12 months.
An Effective Bank Marketing Strategy Keeps Customers Educated
A bank marketing strategy that relies heavily on advertising to inform and educate its customers is likely to overlook the most fertile education opportunity available to financial institutions – their employees. By having your employees inform and educate your customers, you are building trust with your bank’s greatest asset. When consumers feel confident approaching your institution for guidance and advice, they will be more inclined to use additional services, and recommend them to others.
There is, however, one hitch in this one-on-one marketing strategy. Your employees absolutely must be knowledgeable and attentive, so that they can provide real solutions for clients’ problems. Nothing is more irritating to your customer than a hard sales pitch by someone who’s not completely sure of the product or service they’re pushing. It kills the trust between your target customer and your employee, and that includes the trust between the prospective customer and your bank. Dedicate the time and resources necessary to educate your staff about your products and services, and also about current trends in the banking industry in general so they can make the most of every consumer encounter. Instead of dismissing your customers with a blurb about “exceeding their expectations,” let your employees present helpful solutions and demonstrate how your banking institution is better than the competition. The most opportune time to toot your own horn is when you have a captive audience, so train your staff in both hard-sell and subtle-sell techniques. Consider education of your employees as an important part of your bank marketing plan, and not strictly as a function of customer service. Moreover, continuing education should not be limited to front-line employees; make sure your marketing team continues to grow capacity by sending them to educational events and conferences specifically for financial marketers or by joining a banker / credit union association group.
Your employees aren’t your only outlet for client education. Put your website to work by producing some unique educational articles that are designed to help current and potential customers learn more about your services. In addition, creating a blog or resource hub on your website provides significant SEO value.
A continual source of educational content helps to keep your site fresh and provides ongoing keyword-focused content that can help you show up in the search engine results for a greater variety of search terms. Content marketing is a cornerstone of SEO, but it is also a great way to deliver an ongoing educational resource to your customers. Creating unique educational material on a consistent basis is a time-consuming task, but the potential benefits are certainly worth your effort.
Traditional Bank Marketing Considerations
Many people believe that traditional bank marketing is going the way of matchbook advertising, but there will always be a place in society for hard-copy advertising. Business cards, newspaper ads, and billboards have been around for more than a hundred years for a reason, and they aren’t likely to disappear overnight.
The biggest drawback to traditional marketing today is that its results are not easy to measure, if they can be measured at all. In almost all cases, traditional bank marketing is considerably more expensive than digital marketing, despite its limited reach. Worst of all, traditional marketing is not interactive; it just sits there. It’s akin to giving out wall calendars, and hoping people hang them up and keep staring at the advertising portion (they won’t). While budgets for traditional marketing are shrinking, the importance of digital marketing is quickly overshadowing the “way we’ve always done it” approach. According to AdvertisingAge, 80% of companies plan to increase their digital marketing budgets.
Digital Bank Marketing Considerations
A marketing plan that utilizes digital channels to support your financial institution offers the double-edged sword of unparalleled reach. While it’s never been easier to reach so many people with your messaging, it’s important to contain the enormous reach of digital platforms to ensure you’re only targeting specific segments in your geographic service areas. Not only does digital marketing improve your brand’s potential reach, but nearly all aspects of online marketing can be effectively measured using data analytics. Digital marketing is also fast marketing; as data immediately accumulates from your campaigns, adjustments can be made in real-time to refine targeting and improve results. ROI tracking is no longer an enormous challenge given the amount of data analytics available for nearly every aspect of digital marketing. Lastly, digital marketing is much less expensive than traditional advertising, and provides your FI with the flexibility to cancel or extend campaigns as you see fit without a large upfront investment.
Digital Marketing Strategies for FIs
Contrary to popular belief, the internet is a fantastic opportunity for your community bank or credit union. People enter the name of your financial institution in Google’s search box, and up comes your address, phone number, and website. Unfortunately, most people online won’t be searching for your bank by name; they’ll be searching for specific banking services and related products. You will need to master or hire a master of these digital marketing tactics to ensure users are finding your institution instead of a competitor:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): by boosting the visibility of your website, you will cast a wider net for consumers searching the internet for banking services. Using SEO properly is still one of the most effective ways to generate website traffic and leads organically, that is, without the use of paid advertisements.
Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC): Unlike organic SEO, pay-per-click ads can be launched quickly and generate immediate results. They help bring in highly-targeted traffic in exchange for a small fee each time someone clicks your advertisements. Since you only pay when a PPC ad is clicked, it’s easy to monitor costs, conversion rates, and your ROI in real-time.
Content Marketing: An effective content marketing strategy for your FI allows your website to work tirelessly 24/7, bringing in new visitors, engaging current customers, growing social media followers, and establishing trust. Make it clear that people can trust your brand to find sound advice for reaching their financial goals.
Staying Ahead of Industry Trends
Bank marketing has changed dramatically over the course of the last 24 months, with traditional in-branch brochures and print advertising taking a backseat to the power of social media, particularly on mobile platforms. 2019 brings with it the promise of accelerated financial technology change and increased competition from digital lenders. Bank customers will be seeking answers, and your website is the perfect place to become a trustworthy source of information, advice, and solutions. After all, many of your account holders likely visit the website daily to login to online banking.
Use your site to educate your prospects and customers about how you can help them achieve their financial goals. In the coming year, banks are expected to spend 6% more than last year on marketing, and much of that will go directly into digital resources. In fact, many experts predict that financial institutions will spend more on internet marketing than on traditional marketing in 2019.
Marketing Outsourcing Considerations
It is common for banks to outsource various aspects of IT and customer service, mainly because it saves overhead. You get the benefits of acknowledged experts in the field without all the expense associated with full-time employees. Likewise, outsourcing your marketing efforts can free-up resources and time while also mitigating risk. This is especially true in digital marketing given the dynamic nature of the industry.
Outsourcing various components of your bank’s marketing plan will certainly come with a cost, but an outside agency is well positioned to stay ahead of industry best practices and make sure you’re getting results (how else will they convince you to keep paying them for marketing services?).
Final Thoughts on Bank Marketing Planning
If you’re not seeing the results you want, it’s time to rethink your bank’s marketing strategy. Are you hesitant to try something new? Digital marketing for financial institutions isn’t exactly new; it’s a tried and true formula for banks and credit unions to sell additional services and products to their existing account holders and new prospects. Perhaps you’ve enlisted the services of a bank marketing agency before, and you found the results hard to measure, and even harder to see. Chances are, your previous agency lacked an exclusive focus on the banking industry, and failed to keep up with the changing landscape of digital marketing.
BankBound is a digital marketing agency focused exclusively on financial institutions seeking measurable growth. We know the banking industry, and the challenges bank marketers face. Our experienced team is ready to create a custom bank marketing plan for your FI that provides real results.