The Personalization Movement
In the hyper-competitive world of financial services, data is the most important strategic asset that any firm can have. Learning to effectively collect, corral and leverage this data is the key for financial services companies seeking to find, attract and retain clients.
The days of one-to-many messaging for marketing, sales and service professionals are long gone in most sectors of the economy—but all too common in certain corners of the financial services industry. According to a 2019 McKinsey report, by 2024 “personalization will be the prime driver of marketing success.” The report also noted that “today’s personalization leaders have found proven ways to drive 5 to 15 percent increases in revenue and 10 to 30 percent increases in marketing-spend efficiency.”
With this in mind, it is reasonable to wonder why so many companies still find themselves behind the data and personalization curves—particularly in a data-heavy industry like financial services. As we shall see, the reasons for this are as numerous as the issues they cause for organizations struggling to make themselves heard in a crowded marketplace.
However, the good news is that the solutions needed to tackle all of these problems already exist—equipping your firm for the battlefield of tomorrow is as simple as embracing tools and techniques that have been developed specifically for these use cases. Put another way: the wheel has already been invented; your job is simply to hitch your load to it and let it do the hard work for you.
The Marketing Challenges Facing Financial Services Organizations
Of the many reasons why otherwise forward-looking, data-focused companies find themselves behind the curve on data-driven marketing, one stands above all else: change is hard. Legacy companies in the financial services sector are faced with the twin challenges of competing against nimble upstarts, while also struggling to adjust institutional structures and processes that provided success in the recent past—and are still working well enough to make the prospect of change an uncomfortable one.
However, within any system, entropy invariably increases over time, leading to disorder and eventual collapse. Within financial services, the symptoms of this disorder are numerous:
With legacy systems, marketing, sales and service teams tend to have their own tools and data sets, leading to complications in sharing information across the organization. While this inevitably causes issues when handing off leads and clients to new teams, the issue for marketers is particularly acute.
For example, consider the experience of a bank customer who is consistently served ads and calls to action to sign up for the same credit card they already hold, when an ad for a personal loan or even a mortgage could lead to an upsell. This experience is all too common, and is typically the result of data silos: marketing not having access to data from their own sales and service teams that would help to provide a more personalized experience to an existing customer.
Long Nurturing Processes
Compared to many other industries, the B2B nurturing process in financial services tends to be significantly longer—and for good reason. Financial services organizations have a significantly higher number of stakeholders, including risk and compliance professionals, involved in the decision-making process, which both lengthens sales cycles and increases the need for persona-driven content development and personalized outreach.
Focus on the Wrong Metrics
Many institutions still rely on outdated metrics such as customer acquisition, despite clear evidence showing lower costs and higher lifetime value when retaining and upselling existing clients. In a world where “what gets measured gets managed”, it is vital to create KPIs that not only measure how your business is performing, but that can attribute success where it belongs. For marketers, that means a shift from being incentivized solely for attracting new customers, in favor of smarter KPIs around retention and upselling—an approach that again necessitates the ability to effectively share data across the organization.
One key reason for the survival of one-to-many marketing in the financial service industry is the volume of work involved in creating campaigns that are compliant with financial marketing rules and regulations. Tasked with overwhelming demand for new forms and uses of content, both creators and reviewers are overloaded. With legacy tools and processes, reviewing and approving drafts of reports, collateral, emails and more is a time-consuming process beset with versioning issues, and even complicated by siloed tools and work management technology that slow down workflows and increase compliance-related rework.
Maintaining trust and security
In addition to regulatory compliance, consumer trust is all-important in financial services—a fact that not only makes data security of paramount importance, but also impacts vendor buying decisions. Put simply, financial services organizations will not do business with any vendor that cannot guarantee top-tier data security protocols are in place. While this represents a hurdle that can be costly and time-consuming to clear, it is also an opportunity for vendors with appropriate solutions in place to stand out within their marketing and sales outreach.
Where do Financial Services Organizations Go From Here?
While traditional approaches to marketing in the financial services sector are increasingly being found wanting, the good news is that the tools, knowledge and skills required to fully leverage this data-rich sector already exist--it’s simply a matter of harnessing them for your business.
Here are a few of the benefits you can gain by committing to providing, nurturing and learning from a single source of truth for your organization’s contact data:
Personalization at Scale
As noted at the outset, there’s no question that personalization is an effective driver of improvements in revenue and retention. And even simple personalization can pay major dividends. For example: many financial services customers still prefer paper statements and marketing materials over digital copies. While paper delivery is significantly more expensive to produce, it can also lead to higher conversion rates among consumers who specifically show a preference for it, as well as fewer service calls related to lost passwords, difficulty navigating sites, and more—all powered by a single data field.
For more complex use cases, meanwhile, organizations have the ability to leverage customer data to show different content at different stages of the buyer’s journey across a number of different channels—again, driven by a single source of data that updates in real-time.
Change Your Mindset
As mentioned, smart KPIs can help organizations shift from focusing on acquisition to building in retention and upselling as part of their overall marketing strategy.
A similar mindset shift is also possible around identifying and selling to ideal customers. By leveraging data to create and market to a range of different buyer personas, financial services companies can move beyond the concept of an individual consumer’s financial ability—the traditional means for targeting--and meet the needs of a much wider range of customers at different points in their financial lives.
This persona-driven approach also enables companies to align sales and marketing functions much more closely. The ability for marketers to learn from the journeys that brought your existing best-fit clients through the door is the beginning of a virtuous growth cycle that continues when sales teams can leverage deep insights gained from a lead’s interaction with specific marketing materials to close more deals, which in turn strengthens marketing’s understanding of their most valuable assets and outreach strategies.
Delight Your Customers
While retention and upselling are the engines that will improve financial performance, data is the lubricant that ensures smooth acceleration. By eliminating data silos and providing a single source of truth across the organization, teams can gain a more complete picture of each customer’s journey and needs. That leads to improved customer experiences, better handoffs between teams, and the opportunity to create offers, benefits and even loyalty rewards that will help to retain customers and improve lifetime value.
One concrete example of this approach in action is the ability to feed customer satisfaction ratings back into marketing channels, ensuring that dissatisfied customers are not presented with sales-related messaging until their issues are resolved. This same approach also helps organizations to reach out to customers at the optimum moment with relevant offers, and even to request reviews and referrals from the most satisfied individuals.
Big-picture strategies are all well and good, but what about the specific tactics and strategies needed to make them work? Here are a selection of tried-and-tested tactics that have proved successful across the financial services sector:
How to Choose a Data Driven
Choosing a partner to help drive the growth and integration of your marketing efforts across your organization is a critical business decision. Here are a few success factors to weigh in any potential partner:
Industry knowledge - It is vital that your partner not only understands business processes, but how those processes pertain specifically to the financial services industry. In a sector with knowledgeable, highly specialized buyers, and a range of product types not found in any other industry, a partner that knows the terrain is a must.
Customer knowledge - A strong partner will be able to assist on everything from persona development to personalization of messaging, and bring value to the table at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Compliance - Put simply, there is no room for any partner to learn about regulatory and reporting requirements within financial services on the job. Simple mistakes can have devastating financial consequences, making a seasoned industry partner a must.
Educational ability - Every buyer’s journey has touchpoints that require teaching a prospect about aspects of their role, potential solutions, and more. A partner with a background in educating buyers will be a strong asset.