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Marketing Briefing: Bank marketing during a time of financial uncertainty

  • How should banks go about showing their support during a time of financial distress? Marketing veteran Ruth Danielson dives into the nitty-gritty
  • Meanwhile, McKinsey releases some research on how banks can ace this whole personalization game

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Marketing Briefing: Bank marketing during a time of financial uncertainty

During times of financial uncertainty, banks need to take extra care to show their human, moral side. That means fully optimizing their outreach and marketing methods to fit the current needs of their consumers. That could include offering valuable financial advice and guidance, constantly staying in touch with the user, and learning how to make the most out of each channel of communication. 

Ruth Danielson is the founder and director of California-based marketing and public relations agency Mulberry Street Market Intel. In addition, she brings seventeen years’ worth of bank marketing experience to the table.

For this week’s briefing, Danielson shares her thoughts on what banks need to do to show their support for consumers when times are tough:

Being proactive

Successful bank marketing relies on a culture of client-first service and proactive relationship-building. Traditional bank marketing uses outdated channels and is product-focused. Modern bank marketing sees clients as crucial members in a thriving community. They see people and families with complex, immediate, and changing needs – and the bank holds the keys to many of those needs.

Rather than waiting for clients to arrive at a branch, a website, or a call center, smart bankers know what their clients are experiencing – the challenges and opportunities of each customer segment they serve – and offer timely guidance at regular times each month. They provide supplemental outreach in times of crisis and opportunity in a rapidly-changing market.

Maintaining regular communication with clients

Banks should be maintaining regular communication that goes beyond monthly statements and advertising. Real relationship-building is a two-way dialog: effective email marketing is the modern banker’s best friend. Email communications should allow replies to a monitored email address, with relationship managers assigned to respond with timely solutions the customer needs.

Demonstrating care

There should be a clear policy of caring about clients and their financial health. The smart banker doesn’t view customers as transactions, quotas, or profit margins. The health of your customer base is the health of your bank, of your larger community, and of the economy as a whole. And it starts with caring about people first.

Valuing strategy

Offering products and services that address clients’ financial needs in any market needs to be one of banks’ top priorities.

Banks that have qualified financial planners and investment advisors on staff have a real advantage here. They can serve clients more holistically than banks whose products are limited to demand deposit, certificate accounts, and loan products. But regardless of your bank’s charter, provide the most comprehensive and consistent financial guidance that you can.

Hiring the right people

Staff your bank with the right people and positions to guide customers through economic ups and downs.

Utilize your bank’s financial experts to provide timely guidance to different customer segments through workshops, webinars, social media lives, and articles published in business journals, on the bank’s blog, via direct email, and on social media.

Embracing a tech-savvy mindset

Smart bank marketers rely on the same tech tools as every effective 21st-Century business, starting with a CRM system that allows flexible market segmentation, profitability and needs analysis, campaign management, project and task management, and marketing channel integration.

For example, when inflation and interest rates rise, you may need to send an update to your mortgage clients with adjustable rate mortgages, not just that their interest rate is going up, but on ways to mitigate the increase in their monthly payments, such as paying every two weeks rather than monthly, or making an additional principal payment, even if it’s small. At the same time, you can offer debt management tips to your clients who own small and mid-sized businesses.

Ensuring that marketing is direct (outbound)

This strategy is critical during inflationary periods or when consumers feel there is a crisis looming.

Modern banks must use direct, outbound communication methods to proactively serve their clients. That includes offering more opportunities for accessible, two-way communication with clients. I advise banks to:

  • Keep social accounts active and relevant
  • Offer current, actionable, client-centric content on your social channels
  • Avoid the temptation to simply promote products and services, staff promotions, or charity events on your social channels. Offer real value and you’ll build deeper reliance and financial health among your customer base.

Mastering email marketing

Email marketing is the best channel for relationship-building in every industry. Banks are no exception. Be proactive with timely financial advice on investing, saving, retirement planning, estate planning, managing credit, starting, growing, or transitioning a business, and other crucial financial topics. Invite guest speakers to cover topics the bank doesn’t offer in-house.

The most sophisticated banks use segmented email marketing based on the demographics, products, and services used by different customer groups. Clients want to know that you know and care who they are. Generalized or mismatched communications can hurt more than they help.

Fostering an inclusive culture

Include assistive options to serve customers who have different vision, hearing, speaking, or mobility needs. Don’t leave out these critical members of your client base: Remember that they are members of each segment you serve.

Smart bank marketing is a long-term, “forever” strategy – and it is founded in a culture of commitment to customer success, financial health, and inclusion.

Five common hurdles banks face on the road to large-scale personalization, according to McKinsey 

Last week McKinsey published some findings on what banks can do to turn on the charm with consumers. 

Several obstacles still abound, however. In the report, McKinsey outlines some of the big challenges banks are currently facing in terms of mastering personalization. 

Source: McKinsey

Proper use of machine learning and campaign tracking tools are two of the top hurdles mentioned, with less than 10% of banks being able to master either of these types of tools.

Apart from that, proper data collection continues to make an appearance in banks’ top struggles, with only 28% being able to efficiently integrate data within their AI initiatives.

There seems to be a common thread of AI and machine learning in these challenges. For example, 86% of the banks surveyed don’t have a proper framework for managing AI-related risks. Meanwhile, only 16% have a standard protocol for delivering AI tools at scale.

In terms of actions banks should take to boost personalization, here are snippets of the points the report outlines:

Zero in on high-value opportunities

Starting with one or two high-impact customer journeys geared towards high-value segments could help banks get the ball rolling and focus on more specific journeys as they go along. 

Opt for ready-to-deploy algorithms and automated decision-making

These methods could help banks speed up data processing and get to the insight building stage quicker, which, in a nutshell, means being able to test ideas at a faster rate and get more insightful outputs.  

Learn how to fully leverage martech

According to McKinsey, banks shouldn’t just invest in a ton of marketing tech, wrap it up in a nice bow, and hope for the best. They need to actually make sure that they’re putting together a martech stack that properly aligns with the companies’ top priorities.

What we’re reading

On your martech, get set, go

Fintechs have a major advantage over banks when it comes to technology infrastructure, tracking customer journeys, and personalization. Banks’ best bet to catch up may involve a nice dose of marketing technology. (The Financial Brand)

There are somethings you can’t snap (or tweet) your way out of

Companies are cutting back on their ad spending, putting social media companies, as well as their stocks, in a pickle. (The Economic Times)

A message from fintok: Watch and learn

According to research by TikTok, almost 90% of TikTok users are actively taking steps to learn about finance but don’t want to be bogged down by heavy financial writing. Fintok strikes a cord with consumers looking for what’s being dubbed ‘edutainment’. (The Drum)

Six fintech startups that are nailing this whole content marketing game

Content marketing plays a major role in boosting organic reach, and developing authority in the industry. These companies are finding ways to ace their content marketing strategies. (Entrepreneur)

What we’re writing

The Acquire Podcast Ep. 14: Affirm’s Erika White on capturing Millennial humor, the flywheel effect, and marketing BNPL

From Sydney to New York: A day in the life of Joanna Lambert, president and GM of consumer at Yahoo 

‘When you have a community that’s engaged, your job as a CMO is being an editor’: 3 questions with Vineet Mehra, Chime’s new CMO 

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