2017 State of Digital Marketing [Infographic]

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Between social media, SEO, email marketing, analytics and, creating content, digital marketers have a lot to do these days. Digital marketing moves and evolves very quickly. It can be hard to understand what is important and what needs to be improved.

The Search Engine Journal has an annual survey where they ask digital marketers what they plan to do in the coming year. The survey asks how digital marketers set timelines for various activities, where they allocate their budgets, and how they define success.

This infographic summarizes the results of their findings in a fantastic way. There are several noteworthy results from the survey,  but one, in particular, jumps out to me. It’s interesting how inexpensive content marketing can be; 44% of respondents spend less than $300 per month on marketing their content.

2017 State of Digital Marketing

 

If you liked this infographic, you should follow us on Twitter @VeridayHQ. We share high-quality content like this infographic all the time. We’re always on the lookout for the latest trends in digital marketing, technology and increasing customer engagement and loyalty. Thanks for reading, have a great day!

Financial Marketers Not Ready for the Future?

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The financial services industry spends $8.37 billion (USD) per year on digital advertising. But with 615 million devices blocking ads worldwide, marketers need to adopt an inbound marketing strategy if they want to improve the success rate of their digital marketing efforts.

Every financial services organization is attempting to become more efficient and effective in their digital marketing efforts. From investing in new technologies to leveraging data to improve personalization, financial services organizations are working to drive more engagement in their marketing campaigns.

Trends in financial services marketing include increasing efforts in developing their brands, utilizing web-based selling, developing interactive content, and doing a better job of targeting individuals using mobile channels. The business goals associated with these marketing trends are to improve their capacity to up-sell and cross-sell while growing their overall client base.

These goals prove that the industry as a whole is embracing the digital age. There are a few difficulties financial marketers face, including difficulties in measuring ROI, an inability to get the most from their data, an inability to efficiently personalize their marketing efforts and overwhelming expectations from upper management. All of these difficulties come coupled with a systematic lack of funding for digital transformation efforts.

How are these difficulties hampering financial marketers? Let’s examine 6 of the challenges faced by financial marketers:

1. Measuring ROI

92% of organizations in financial services believe that measuring marketing performance and proving results are a challenge. As you can see in the graph below, more than half of financial executives believe their organization could do a better job of establishing marketing ROI. This number increases even more when focusing on marketing executives.

Financial Services Marketers Not Ready for the Future

Why do financial service providers struggle to quantify marketing ROI? The answer may lie in the fact that financial service organizations were slow to adopt digital marketing tactics. This late adoption meant that financial service providers are still playing catch up. Especially when it comes to digital marketing analytics.

Even though digital marketing produces an insane amount of data (click-through-rate, engagement, reach, etc.), they are of little interest to those outside of marketing. Non-marketing stakeholders are generally more concerned with ROI and sales. If an activity does not drive revenue, it is hard to justify the expense. Marketers in financial services (and other industries as well), must work to prove their value in dollars and cents.

2. Limited Skillsets and Insufficient Use of Data

These two challenges are very closely related to each other. Many marketing departments in financial services lack the skills required to effectively draw conclusions from data. By no means is this problem solely experienced in financial services. Every industry is facing a similar challenge. To offer personalized experiences to your audience, you need to be able to draw conclusions from data. Data silos need to be broken down, results need to be measured and insights need to be drawn. These activities can only be accomplished if marketing departments have the required data skills, this can be done by hiring personnel with adequate data skills.

Only 11% of organizations in financial services said that data analytics was not a problem. This shows the widespread need for data professionals with robust analytical skills in marketing. Without these skills, marketers cannot draw accurate conclusions about their audience. Without an accurate view of your audience, how can you produce content that speaks to their interests, pain points, challenges, and questions?

These missing skills also factor into why financial services companies struggle to calculate ROI from marketing. The department simply does not have the skills available to calculate these stats. In order for financial marketers to make better use of data, investments need to be made in human resources that can break down data silos and draw conclusions from available data.

3. Lack of Personalization

Personalized marketing is one of the goals of most, if not all, digital marketers. An increasing percentage of marketing budgets in financial services are going towards digital channels. This has made mass media buys a less popular option for marketers. One way to succeed in digital marketing is through producing content that is relevant to your target audience.

Offering personalized content and communications increase the rate of success for content marketing. 71% of respondents cited brand awareness and thought leadership as the most common objectives for content marketing in financial services. Customer retention/loyalty was a close third, cited by 69% of respondents.

The lack of personalization in financial services can be attributed to two main factors:

  1. The first factor preventing greater personalization in financial services is that thought leadership and brand awareness do not have a tangible, easily calculated impact on ROI. Since financial services executives are heavily focused on increasing profits and ROI, content marketing budgets can be difficult to justify.
  2. The second, more systematic reason that financial services marketers struggle to offer personalized content and communications can be attributed to the constraints surrounding regulations. All content and communications from financial service providers must be recorded and pass a compliance review. It does not matter if it is a blog post or direct email. If it is a marketing activity, it must be reviewed for compliance. The delay between drafting communications and gaining approval hamstrings the ability for marketers to personalize communications.

If financial services marketers could pass content and communications through compliance without massive delays, personalized content and communications could be produced and published more effectively.

4. Inability to Effectively Automate 

A major difficulty for marketers in financial services is the inability to effectively automate marketing functions. Marketing automation can be used in many ways and is a very valuable tool for any digital marketer. So why hasn’t automation been used to its full potential by financial services marketing teams?

In financial services, there are many rules regulating communications between organizations and individuals. Regulations are also in place to protect customer data, and to regulate branding and marketing All these regulations must be considered by financial marketers when creating and distributing content. Because of these regulations, marketers may be hesitant to employ automation. The penalties for non-compliance are so high that marketers may not trust automation with following the rules. The risk simply is too high to justify the reward. Another reason why financial marketers might be hesitant to adopt marketing automation technologies are the existing legacy systems. The legacy systems in place at financial institutions might not have the technological ability to automate their processes.

Without the ability to effectively automate certain processes, a limited number of initiatives can be undertaken at once. Automation can improve a company’s ability to:

  • respond to customer requests in real-time,
  • help the company alter details of a program in an agile manner,
  • make scheduling social media posts, emails, and content more efficient,
  • marketing in real time,
  • reactive marketing,
  • event marketing.

5. Overwhelming Expectations, Underwhelming Budgets

It appears that the final, and potentially most impactful challenge that financial marketers face is overwhelming expectations from leadership. Thanks to the increased popularity of digital marketing over the last few years, there are many areas that marketing departments need to quickly improve upon. Financial marketers need to develop skill sets for dealing with data, they need to find ways to quantify their impact on the bottom line, and they also need to revamp their marketing plans to make better use of digital channels.

Since marketing has changed so much, there are many changes that marketing departments need to undergo in order to overcome digital marketing challenges. These changes need to occur in short order, as there is still a “race” to capture digital marketing authority amongst financial service providers. The amount of change that needs to occur relatively quickly has lead to high expectations from leadership.

The graph by The Financial Brand (below), shows the biggest challenges for marketers in 2017.

Financial Services Marketers Not Ready for the Future

The main challenge for marketing departments in financial services is due to budget constraints. The quantity of change that needs to occur in a tight timeframe, along with tight budgets, has lead to some financial marketers feeling overwhelmed. They are simply being asked to do too much with too little.

Takeaways for Financial Services Marketers

To all the financial services marketers reading this, I feel your pain. Due to the increasing ubiquity of the internet, we have seen an unprecedented change in the way goods and services are marketed over the past decade. Because of the complex, far-reaching regulations that affect marketing financial services, this change has been especially difficult for financial marketers.

All the problems discussed in this article are interrelated. You cannot properly utilize your data unless you have the skill set to analyze it and break down silos. If you cannot analyze the data to draw conclusions, you cannot prove the ROI of marketing efforts. If you cannot prove ROI to executives, they will not increase your marketing budget. Without an increased budget, you cannot hire people with the skills to break down silos and analyze data.

It’s a vicious cycle that will be very difficult to break out of. To break the cycle, marketers will need to gain buy-in from non-marketing leaders. The key to everything is proving the value of digital marketing in terms executives can understand: dollars and cents.

Do you want to get more out of your digital marketing efforts? Do you want to expand your content marketing strategy through your affiliate marketing channels? We might have the product for you. Digital Agent is a marketing compliance platform, built specifically for financial service providers. It can help your agent network create personalized content that can be easily approved by compliance for publication. For more information, you can go to www.digitalagent.com. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us. Follow us on Twitter @VeridayHQ.

Financial Services: A Case for Industry Disruption

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The number of community banks (those with less than $10 billion in assets) shrank 14% between 2010 and late 2014. Why have community banks been disappearing? The same reason that traditional taxi drivers have been struggling over the last few years. Disruption from technology enabled challengers. Even larger financial institutions need to be concerned about the threat of disruption. They too are at risk of losing business to technology enabled challengers.

These competitors follow a standard archetype regardless of the industry. Technology enabled challengers look to provide a more convenient and frictionless experience to consumers by reimagining the industry-standard business model. Challengers can provide these improved experiences by leveraging consumer technology to provide convenient, low-cost solutions. Today we will examine how Uber disrupted the taxi industry, and why financial services are at risk of disruption.

Uber: A Case Study

What does Uber have in common with FinTech firms?  A willingness to disrupt an industry by utilizing innovative technology solutions.

Uber disrupted the taxi industry by using technology solutions to provide a more convenient, lower cost experience to consumers. The taxi industry carried high costs from ownership of vehicles, an inconvenient and inefficient system for hailing rides, and relied on regulation to protect the industry from competition. Uber managed to win a substantial portion of the market share from traditional taxi drivers. Their rides cost less, arrive faster, and are simply more convenient to use.

Consumers quickly saw the benefits of Uber’s business model. They were attracted to the convenience of ordering a ride from their smartphone, and the fact that ordering an Uber cost less than taking a taxi. Uber is both more convenient and cheaper than a ride in a traditional taxi. Many consumers quickly abandoned taxi rides and began Ubering instead. The marriage of technology and convenience was too much for the taxi industry to compete. Worldwide, Uber took $6.5 billion of revenue from the taxi industry in 2016 alone.

The financial services industry can learn lessons from what happened to the taxi industry. If banks and other financial service providers do not change their business models, their industry will be disrupted as well.

Similarities in Financial Services

The financial services sector has many things in common with the taxi industry. Some of the biggest similarities that financial services have with the taxi industry are:

  • legacy systems,
  • a lack of integration with consumer technology,
  • reliance on regulatory barriers to protect the industry from competition,
  • inconvenient service offerings.

These similarities mean that the banking industry is vulnerable to the same type of disruption that turned the taxi industry on its head.

Consumers want convenient and competitively priced solutions to their problems. Those same factors are important when selecting a financial service provider. Three main factors stop financial institutions from offering a solution with those attributes, and they happen to be the similarities that financial services share with the taxi industry.

1. Legacy Systems

Financial services institutions, especially large banks, are known to have outdated legacy systems that hinder the ability to alter or add to their technology suite. These legacy systems have been in place for years, and many legacy systems are outdated due to the pace of technological change over the last decade. Outdated and expensive legacy systems represent significant costs to financial institutions. They are one of the primary reasons that the financial services industry are at risk of disruption from FinTech firms.

Legacy systems are a reason that financial institutions cannot offer low-cost, convenient, technology-enabled features to consumers. While features that fully integrate financial services with their everyday devices would be greatly appreciated by consumers, they are difficult for financial services institutions to implement because of legacy technology. The existing technologies already in place simply do not have the capabilities that customers need.

2. Lack of Integration with Consumer Technology

Legacy systems might play a part in preventing FinServ firms from adopting technology solutions that integrate with consumer technology. Regardless, FinServ firms need to integrate their services with consumer technologies. People want to use their smartphone to transfer money or check on a payment. Mobile and online banking is no longer something that adds value; it is now a requirement. The next steps for integrating financial services with consumer technology will be to prepare for virtual assistants, artificial intelligence and a hyperconnected world where the smartphone is central to all the activities in a person’s life.  

People want convenience. The best way to provide that is by making your services accessible to those using popular consumer technologies.

3. Reliance on Regulatory Barriers

The financial services industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries on Earth. These regulations increase costs for financial institutions and add steps to a variety of financial services workflows. The additional steps created by compliance can dramatically slow down business processes. Regulations also represent a significant barrier to entry for FinTech firms due to the significant costs associated with maintaining compliance. Some regulatory requirements that limit competition in financial services include minimum capital requirements, multiple points of oversight and particular requirements regarding oversight of information assets. These barriers are difficult for any new challenger to overcome.

Existing financial institutions have relied on these barriers of entry to protect themselves from the competition. Without these regulations FinTech firms, challenger banks and other technology companies would be able to enter the financial services industry and compete with traditional financial service providers.

Regulations Won’t Protect Financial Services Forever

As Uber began taking market share from taxi drivers, the taxi drivers pushed back. They called on governments around the world to regulate ride-sharing services. In some jurisdictions, ride-sharing services were regulated by government bodies. In many others, they were not.

Relying on regulation to avoid competition did not work well for the taxi industry. Politicians tasked with regulating ride-sharing services realized the benefits companies, like Uber, bring to consumers, and therefore are unlikely to ban them completely. The same thinking goes for FinTech firms. If a service is a net positive to society, politicians will allow that service to continue. They will remove regulations, opening the industry to new competitors to better serve their constituents.

Financial service providers cannot rely on the same regulatory landscape forever. In 2017, the United States government made plans to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act, a lynchpin of financial regulation for the past decade.

As FinTech becomes more refined and builds trust with consumers, regulations will inevitably be loosened. If traditional providers of financial services do not prepare to compete head-to-head with these innovative challengers, they may face the same fate that the taxi industry did in their battle with ride-sharing services.

Culture of Innovation

The biggest reason that banks and traditional financial services firms are at risk of disruption is that they lack a culture of innovation.

Financial technology firms were born out of innovation. Innovation is embedded in the fabric of these companies. Their whole purpose was to disrupt the financial services industry through innovation, and to date, they have done an excellent job of achieving that disruption.

To avoid losing market share, traditional financial institutions will need to change their culture. They will need to embrace change and be more willing to change their ways. Just because a process has worked for 50 years does not mean that it will work for 50 more.

The taxi industry did not embrace innovation. Ride-sharing services changed the way the industry worked, and it severely affected taxi drivers everywhere. A taxi license used to cost over $1,000,000 in New York City. Today, that price has dropped to around $600,000. The value of a license has dropped substantially because nearly anybody can become an Uber driver.

Financial Services needs to invest in modern technology solutions or risk disruption from FinTech firms. Be more like Uber and less like the taxi industry. Only adopting a culture of innovation can help financial institutions retain their market share.

Disruption: Unavoidable

Over the course of history, many industries have been disrupted because of technology. The introduction of paper money disrupted finance once already. There is no reason why the industry cannot be disrupted again. The internet and improved methods of communication have disrupted many industries over time, showing that change is inevitable.

Today, technology solutions make industries with seemingly insurmountable barriers to entry accessible to smaller competitors. Finance is no exception. Major banks and other financial institutions should begin to adopt FinTech solutions to get ahead of the competition. As consumers become more comfortable with digital payments, blockchain based ledgers and other innovative technology solutions (including some we have yet to imagine), firms that specialize in these technologies will gain a large competitive advantage. The financial services industry can reduce the threat of disruption by listening to their customers and evolve with their wants and needs.

 

Engage Your Clients With Top-Notch Customer Service

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In 2017, financial agents are competing, tooth and nail, to attract and retain their client base. How can you offer an experience that makes your clients want to continue doing business with you? If you’re thinking “create a killer social media strategy and offer the best combination of products, service, and advice on the market”, you’re not wrong. But, there is a critical aspect of fostering customer engagement, which leads to loyalty, that you may have forgotten in the increasingly digital world. That is offering top-notch customer service.

Even the most professional and engaging digital presence will be rendered ineffective if you can’t make your clients feel at home. If your clients meet you in person, they need to feel like they are the center of your world for the brief time they are with you. Remember, your customer’s experience transcends all channels. Offering amazing in-person service is a great way to ensure your clients have an excellent experience with your business.

Here are 4 factors you need to consider when planning an excellent customer experience:

1) Customer Insights

Creating an excellent customer experience is a very difficult task. You need a well-researched, comprehensive understanding of your target audience to create a customer engagement plan that will speak to that particular audience. Competitive analysis, market research, and customer insights are all required to craft your engagement strategy.

To offer an excellent experience, you must plan the “buyer’s journey” from discovery to purchase. To do this, you will have to identify the prospective customer’s pain points and plan the touchpoints in which you will interact with that customer.

If you have been struggling to collect the requisite data about your customers, you should check out our article: You don’t know your customer…. because you haven’t asked. In that article, we discuss the intricacies behind gathering the customer data needed to plan a comprehensive marketing strategy.

If you have all the information about your customers, you can plan experiences and content that will speak to their unique needs and interests. If you attempt to craft a plan without that information, your content and experiences might not be engaging to your customer. Your content needs to be targeted to the specific stage of their buyer journey.

2) Positive Environment

Part of crafting the ultimate customer experience involves ensuring your customers feel comfortable when they come visit you. As a financial agent, you are dealing with some of your client’s most sensitive issues and information. To offer an excellent customer experience, you should ensure that your clients feel comfortable talking to you about anything.

How can you set a positive environment in your business? It’s easy. First, focus on providing a clean, organized, welcoming space to meet clients. It’s human nature to want to be somewhere clean and organized, so ensure that your office is tidy. Every space, from the entrance to your desk, should be immaculate.

There are other factors to consider when creating a positive environment. Always make eye contact and use friendly words to promote a relationship with your clients. This level of respect should be used in all aspects of your business. Ensure that your web presence conveys the same friendliness and willingness to help. If you set a positive tone at every touchpoint, your customers will feel welcome when engaging with your business.

Creating a space where your clients feel comfortable reduces a significant amount of friction in your relationship. If your client feels respected, well looked after and maybe even pampered (a little bit), they will remember. The feeling of quality service will stick with them, giving them an increased sense of loyalty to your business.

3) Transparency

Transparency is a key facet of customer engagement, especially in financial services. If you are transparent with your customers, it will aid your efforts creating a positive environment and garnering trust. 56 percent of participants surveyed by Label Insights said that more product information inspires more trust in a brand. Additionally, 94 percent of participants said they would be loyal to a brand that offers complete transparency.

If you are open and honest with your clients, they will grow to trust you. This is very important if you want to develop long-term relationships with your clients.

Being totally transparent while staying compliant can be difficult. A lack of transparency is usually attributed to poor communication, rather than malice. That won’t matter to customers. To maintain healthy relationships with your client base you must prioritize transparency in all your communications. How can you do that?

Be upfront and honest when answering questions from clients. Be straightforward about your fees, and explain what benefits you will provide (and how you will provide those benefits). Nobody wants to be surprised with an unexpected fee. If you are forthcoming about how each party will profit from the relationship, you can gain your client’s trust.

If you can make transparency a goal, especially in financial services, you can differentiate yourself from the competition and become a trusted source of information for your clients. This will help engage your client base, leading to a more fruitful relationship for both parties.

4) Availability

To foster customer loyalty through engagement, you should be available for your clients (nearly) around the clock. Even if they cannot make direct contact with you, your business should offer channels in which customers can look for information any hour of the day. If you are not available when your client base needs you to be, there will be friction between you and your client base.

In order to be readily available for your clients, you should have a web presence with informational content available on demand. This content could be in the form of video, audio, blog posts, white papers, ebooks or any other type of content you can use to convey accurate information. We wrote an article about 5 Types of Content to Boost Your Advisor Website Traffic. If you’re looking for content ideas, I highly recommend taking a look!

If your website has informational content that speaks to the needs of your client base, you can keep your audience engaged. In fact, creating content for your website is beneficial to both your clients and prospective clients. After all, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads.

By creating informational content, you offer your current clients information when they want it while demonstrating your knowledge to prospective clients. It’s a great method to engage your current customers while growing your client base.

For more information on creating excellent content check out our article: Introduction to Content Marketing for Financial Advisors

Or read our ebook:  How Financial Advisors can use Content Marketing to Boost Website Traffic

Are you using any of these tactics to engage your clients? If you are let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ. As always, thank you for reading. Have an excellent day!

 

6 Things We Can Learn About Customer Engagement From Netflix

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Netflix is one of the most successful companies in the world, with over 94,000,000 subscribers. One of the reasons for Netflix’ success is the way they have engaged their customers at a level never-before-seen. The video streaming service has become a cultural touchstone. They have reached these heights because they do an excellent job of focusing on customer engagement. They can do this thanks to a nearly unprecedented amount of data available to analyze regarding their customers viewing habits. The interesting thing about Netflix is that none of their processes are impossible to emulate. If you commit to making customer engagement your highest priority, you can achieve similar results.

In this article, we will examine 6 areas that Netflix excels in and how those areas contribute to effective customer engagement. We will also relate those lessons back to the financial services industry.

1) Use Data To Learn Customer Preferences

Every person in the world has unique interests, wants and needs. Every action an individual takes is purposeful. Netflix clearly believes this and uses data to help inform every decision they make. Their commitment to data is a major contributor to their success. Netflix looks at factors such as:

  • When you pause, rewind, or fast forward
  • What day you watch content (Netflix has found people watch TV shows during the week and movies during the weekend.)
  • The date you watch
  • What time you watch content
  • Where you watch
  • What device you use to watch (Do you like to use your tablet for TV shows? Do people access the Just for Kids feature more on their iPads, etc.?)
  • When you pause and leave content (and if you ever come back)
  • The ratings that are given (~4 million per day)
  • Searches (~3 million per day)

With the data at their disposal, Netflix ensures that it knows as much as it can about their customers’ streaming preferences so they can offer a better service. Netflix has an algorithm that parses this data to recommend content. 70% of content watched on Netflix comes from these suggestions.

Takeaways for Financial Services: As a financial service provider, data can be harder to come by. The sensitivity of the required data means that people might not be willing to provide it for security reasons. This may be due to a lack of trust in the technology that will collect and store the data. It could also be for a number of personal reasons. Whatever data you have available can be used to match the client with content (and other information) that can engage them. You can use data to find your clients’ pain points and provide information that they will find useful and interesting. This has the opportunity to elevate the level of trust your client base has in your knowledge.

2) Communicate and Listen

If you want to use data to inform yourself about what your customers want and need, you should communicate with (and listen to) your customers. People generally know what they want, especially when given a set of options. Netflix has learned this lesson the hard way thanks to a 2011 communications gaffe. The company announced that it would increase prices while no longer supporting mail-order DVD services. They did not explain why the price was increasing and the explanation of splitting the mail-order service from streaming was underwhelming. Customers were outraged. The company suffered by losing hundreds of thousands of subscribers, leading to their stock price plummeting.

They heard the complaints and after seeing what happened, reversed the decision and made it a priority to listen and properly communicate with their customers. Now, every month Netflix announces new titles and original releases as well as other relevant information.

Takeaways for Financial Services: As a financial service provider, it should be even easier to listen and communicate with your customers. Most clients will come visit your practice on a semi-regular basis, giving you the opportunity to have conversations with them. You should use these conversations for communicating relevant information and taking suggestions. It will improve your business if you can provide clients with services they want and need. By providing targeted, relevant content, you can better engage your client base, having them become more active and interested in your services.

3) Give Your Audience What They Want

There is a song, written in 1975 and performed by The O’Jays, called “Give the People What They Want”. That song should be the anthem for all marketers and product development teams. Simply give your customers what they want. Netflix definitely follows this advice. Here is just one (of the many) examples where Netflix “gave the people what they want”.

In 2011, Netflix announced they were splitting their DVD-by-mail service and their streaming service into two separate businesses. This would have resulted in a 60% increase in price if a consumer wanted to keep both services. Splitting their two services lost them 800,000 subscribers over the summer of 2011. Their stock price tanked, and before it was too late, they canceled their plans. They never stopped supporting the DVD-by-mail service. In January 2017, the company announced that 4.1 million people still get DVDs by mail.

At the time, Netflix was set on splitting up the two services but decided against it because their customer base did not like the idea. They have clearly recovered from the fiasco, and this situation can serve as a reminder to any business: listen to your customers.

Takeaways for Financial Services: If your clients are vocal about wanting something, you should listen to them. Clients may really like a certain package of products that, due to lack of interest, you were considering giving up on. You won’t know if you don’t ask. You don’t have to lose 800,000 customers like Netflix did, but be willing to listen to your customers and communicate changes before they are made. Not listening to upset or angry customers will result in you losing clients, with even more becoming disengaged.

4) Test New Ideas

Netflix is constantly A/B testing new features, usually rolling them out to 10,000 customers at a time. They test what features improve engagement and motivate people to watch longer. The features that are popular are then rolled out to the rest of the user base. This was done recently with their new “thumbs up” button replacing a 5-star rating system. Netflix has also significantly tweaked its recommendation algorithm so the company can provide more accurate suggestions.

Another innovation that Netflix has spearheaded through a series of tests, is the streaming functionality of the website. At first, Netflix was built around the mail-order model. As new technologies were tested, they realized how easy it was becoming to stream video, shifting the company towards a streaming service business model. Netflix is constantly testing features and ideas. This idea can apply to all industries.

Takeaways for Financial Services: You can A/B test various marketing functions such as direct mail, email, social media and many other digital marketing functions. Try different copy, different imagery, and different buttons. See what tactics work best for motivating customers to engage with you. You can also test various personalization tactics. What methods work best for personalizing products and services to specific clients? Testing to see what methods, technologies, and communications methods are the most cost effective and easiest to implement while remaining compliant is yet another test you can carry out.

You might not be able to roll out your tests 10,000 people at a time, but any testing that leads to improvement is worth it. After all, any improvement is an improvement. Every little bit counts.

5) Be Available “On Demand”

Netflix is easily accessible 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Whenever somebody wants to watch a movie, or whenever they have some free time, Netflix is there. The constant availability of Netflix is one of the main draws to the service. Can’t sleep, and want to watch old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer at 4:45 in the morning? Netflix has you covered. There is a reason that nearly 100 million people worldwide subscribe to Netflix.

Takeaways for Financial Services: Every business should strive to be as available to their customers as Netflix is. Although you likely won’t be available around the clock, your digital properties (website, client portals, etc.) should be high quality and accessible, regardless of where the client is in the world at any given time.

You should also strive to have enough content available to satisfy people’s thirst for knowledge. 67% of the buyer’s journey now takes place digitally. By providing high-quality content, you can educate your buyers, hopefully showing them how to solve their financial challenges. This gives you an opportunity to prove your value to the reader. This will engage their interests and motivate them to do business with you.

6) Personalize

The main factor contributing to the success of Netflix might be the company’s ability to personalize every experience. Netflix has used data to segment its library into 76,897 different genres. These genres are only recommended to people who (based on data) might be interested. A few examples of super-specific genres created by Netflix are:

  • Oscar-winning, visually-striking movies from the 1970s
  • Critically acclaimed animal tales
  • Witty dysfunctional-family TV shows
  • Emotional Fight-the-System Documentaries

Netflix has used data to analyze and categorize more movies and TV shows than any other entity. They know which movies are similar and why, as well as which categories a specific group of people will enjoy.

Takeaways for Financial Services: While your business might not be able to customize your offerings to the extent Netflix has, you should try to offer personalized experiences for your client whenever possible. You should offer products and services that will appeal to your customers’ needs and interests.

How can you find out what content, products, and services will appeal to specific clients? Start gathering data about what your customers want, what their goals are, what life stage are they in and anything else you think will help match clients with a perfect combination of information and guidance.

In the financial service industry, you might need to meet with people in person or email them a (secure) survey due to the sensitivity of the data you need. Use your CMS to see who is visiting your website, what they are looking at, and any information they provide. With this data, you can cater content specifically to the customer.

Help students learn how to save for school, help young adults learn how to save for a home, help prepare older clients for retirement. Ensure that whatever solutions your clients adopt are right for them, meeting their specific wants and needs.  

By providing quality, relevant content you can better engage with your audience. This will allow you to build your relationships with them, which will motivate action.

What Can We Learn From Netflix About Customer Engagement

Netflix offers personalized, engaging experiences to a wide variety of people worldwide. They are constantly working on improving their service by testing everything and making assumptions using a vast amount of data. There is nothing they do that your business cannot do. By using data acquired by listening to customers you can give your audience what they want. Testing new ideas will help you discover what activities generate the best returns. We can all improve our processes by adopting the lessons we learn from Netflix.

Did you learn anything else about customer engagement from Netflix? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ or on LinkedIn here.

Generation Z: The Next Frontier for Financial Marketing

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There has been a lot of talk over the last few years about millennials. They are seen as a group that is quite different from previous generations in many ways. The differences come in how they consume media, how they shop, and how they make decisions. Many financial service providers have changed the way they operate in an attempt to cater to this particular demographic.

Financial agents have joined social media in order to have their voices heard by millennials. Robo-advisors have been developed to meet the instant service expectations of millennials. Mobile apps and websites have been developed, in all industries, to meet the needs of millennials. Millennials want to be able to do their business digitally.

The financial service industry has been altered greatly to meet the demand for a seamless experience, instant service, and unlimited control. It will have to shift again to live up to the expectations of the next big demographic: Generation Z.

Financial service providers have already begun shifting their strategy, modernizing operations to meet the needs of millennials. Those efforts will prove beneficial because Gen Z expects the technology solutions that millennials enjoy. Even though some solutions have already been put in place, financial service providers will have to move towards providing a true omnichannel experience to capture the next generation of consumers.

Characteristics of Gen Z

Gen Z consists of individuals born in the mid-1990s and beyond. Eventually, when this generation ages, a line will be drawn (between Gen Z and the next generational cohort), but today Gen Z consists of consumers who are aged 23 and under. This means that while older members of Gen Z are just finishing college, the youngest may still be in diapers. It is very hard (and quite unethical) to market your financial services to literal infants. So, we will focus on the consumer habits of the older members of this group, the members who have already developed some sense of self.

Gen Z is projected to be 2.5 billion people strong, and are already spending around $200 Billion annually, including their influence on household spending. That number will only grow as they enter the workforce, inherit wealth, and begin to invest their own assets.

Members of Gen Z are considered “digital natives”. Having grown up with technology, they feel very comfortable making purchases online and through mobile apps. Growing up with these technologies, they also have very high expectations of them. 60% of Gen Z will refuse to use an app or website that does not load fast enough.

This generation is constantly connected, they expect a seamless, truly omnichannel experience. They expect everything to be available, through any channel, whenever they want it.

Generation Z grew up with any answers they needed right at their fingertips. The availability of the internet has made them self-reliant. This self-reliance has enabled them to be smarter shoppers, comparing prices, rates and the overall offers with those of your competition.

You might be thinking: “wait, you just described millennials.” I know it seems that way, but despite their similarities, the two groups are fundamentally different in many ways.

Technology: Mobile-first

For one, generation Z are more mobile-centric than any previous generation. According to Vision Critical, Gen Z uses their smartphones 15.2 hours per week, more than any other device. This is more than the 14.8 hours millennials use their smartphones. Generation Z also watches less TV than any previous generation, consuming around 13 hours per week. The youngest generation is also desktop averse, using a laptop more frequently than desktops. 74% of generation Z spends their free time online, 73% of them use mobile devices to text and chat socially with family and friends.

An example of how much they enjoy using mobile devices, 39% of Gen Z respondents ranked mobile banking as a top day-to-day banking service or feature, compared to only 17% of overall Americans and 32% of Millennials.

In order to get your messaging to Gen Z, you should focus your digital efforts on creating ads and content that looks good on mobile devices. Invest in responsive design and ensure the website is quick to load. 

More In-Person Interactions

Believe it or not, Gen Z appears to be less interested in entirely digital experiences, preferring an omnichannel experience. Only 25% of Gen Z do more than half of their banking online or through a mobile app.

53% of Gen Z prefer in-person interactions over instant messaging or email. These preferences may have been developed after hearing about millennials struggling with in-person communications in professional situations. While they enjoy face-to-face interactions, technology solutions such as Skype, Hangouts, Facetime and Snapchat are still used to communicate digitally. These solutions allow them to utilize full sight, sound, and movement. They grew up with these solutions, which might be a reason they are more comfortable with in-person communications than millennials, who grew up with email and instant messaging (text-only mediums).

In order to attract generation Z to your practice, you will need to maintain a strong brick-and-mortar presence. Chatbots and other instant-messaging solutions will not be as appealing to generation Z as they are to millennials. However, solutions that allow for communication using sight and sound will be used and appreciated.

Social Responsibility

Much like their millennial counterparts, Gen Z has an interest in social and environmental responsibility. 76% of the generational cohort is concerned about humans impact on the environment, with 60% wanting to have an impact on the world (20% more than millennials). As a financial service provider, you will need to offer a variety of socially or environmentally responsible products and services for generation Z investors.

The social and environmental responsibility should not end there. Your business should have a cause that matters to you, something that you want to change. Make it a priority, giving employees time off to volunteer and partner with charities or causes. Do something to make the world a better place. Gen Z will notice and remember when it’s time to make their purchase decision. This generation may even be willing to give up a little bit of money to invest in social responsibility. 55% of online consumers are willing to pay more for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.

Financial Concerns

Generation Z grew up in a very different financial environment than millennials. They have grown up seeing social security funds depleting, individuals crushed by student debt, and the 2008 recession greatly diminishing the economy. These experiences have left them with a different mindset about finances than the last few generations.

Seeing the banking system collapse the way it did, requiring a bailout, generation Z is skeptical of financial service providers in general. This skepticism will lead to the generational cohort diversifying their assets more than previous generations, using multiple financial advisors, banks, and insurers.

Gen Z has many other concerns about the economy that will factor into their financial decisions. A major concern is that the (still very) young generation will not be able to afford to get a higher education, or that if they do, they will be buried in student debt. This concern may lead to fewer post-secondary students in the generation, which could affect their future earnings. This concern about education may lead to them starting RESPs or otherwise saving for their own children’s education sooner than ever before.

The generational cohort is also concerned about having to support their parents or guardians in old age, which again may make them more risk averse. Having grown up in turbulent times, Gen Z will be wary of financial service providers. They were still young and impressionable in the post-2008 recession. Sentiments expressed by the media during that time may cause them to never trust anyone in the financial service industry too much. This makes it all that much more important to draw this generation towards your business.

Takeaways About Generation Z

So now you know a little bit about generation Z. They are digital natives, expecting the best experience, regardless of the device they are using. They care about the environment, about social responsibility. The generation is less trusting of traditional banking systems, based on their experiences growing up.

Many members of Gen Z saw the struggles of family members during the great recession. Many have older siblings who still live at home, parents, and relatives who were laid off or fired, cousins and friends who couldn’t find a job. This experience is still fresh in their minds and is a motivation to look for financial security. Because of their young age, we do not have a detailed profile of how this generation invests. However, due to the world’s financial situation during their youth, it is likely that they will be risk-averse investors.

To sum it up, generation Z is complex. Gen Z has a familiarity with technology that has never been seen before. They want instant, omnichannel experiences, regardless of what they are doing. You still have plenty of time to prepare for capturing this demographic. However, it will be a challenge unlike any you have experienced before. The benefits of capturing this demographic, while small today, will be huge tomorrow.

Are you ready to the next generational cohort? Do you think Gen Z are just millennials “on steroids”? Even though they are still young, their market will be huge. Tonka trucks and algebra classes today will be F-150’s and engineering jobs tomorrow. Are you going to prepare for Gen Z? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ, we want to hear your opinions on this next generation.

What is Personalized Marketing?

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This post was authored by Corbin Murakami and originally appeared here on Liferay.com

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Personalization is and has always been effective. Dale Carnegie once said “a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” In a sense, he was making a case for adding a personal touch on our products and services. Personalization works because on some base human level, everyone looks for that personal attention.

Thanks to technology, personalization is more accessible than ever before. Now, any organization can implement personalization from digital printing to variable data and direct mailers. There’s the ability to produce thousands of mailers addressed to unique individuals with their first names on each one of them. That type of experience is available on the web at any digital touchpoint, which means organizations have the ability to provide unique customer experiences that weren’t previously possible.

What is Personalized Marketing?

To apply a specific analogy, personalized marketing is like a shopping experience at Nordstrom. When a shopper is looking for a specific pair of shoes, she’s usually approached by a sales rep who will try to assist her in getting the exact pair. She can talk with the rep, tell him what she prefers in terms of style and color, and have a real interaction. Information is exchanged in the context of getting to know someone, and both parties would benefit: the shopper receives a product she wants while Nordstrom wins new business.

In the same manner, personalized marketing is the ability to create content that specifically caters to each individual consumer. It involves an understanding of who your audience is, having captured certain pieces of information about them and leveraging that data to provide each visitor a unique user experience. Often times, web personalization will necessitate using automation and integrated channels to help with the process.

What Does Personalization Promise?

The appeal of personalized marketing is three-fold:

  • Increase conversions – Websites that employ web personalization tend to see a bump in conversions (whether that’s a basic form submission or an actual closed deal / purchase). Higher conversion rates are often tied to the fact that offers take into consideration factors such as age, gender, job role and buyer stage.
  • Lift sales figures – Companies that excel in personalized marketing tend to spend less time focusing on the quantity of leads, and more time on targeting the right leads at the right times. This would invariably lead to an increase in sales.
  • Keep more customers (retention) – Arguably as important as winning new customers and conversions, personalized marketing allows brands to keep their current customers happy and loyal. Devoting attention to a customer’s preferences builds up familiarity and comfort, which in turn translates into customer satisfaction.

The State of Personalization

Even though many companies acknowledge the necessity of personalized marketing, not many of them are pulling it off successfully. Seventy-seven percent of marketers believe that real-time personalization is crucial to their success, but only 29% of marketers are actually delivering dynamic content on their websites.

The Personalization Gap

There seems to be a gap between what they’re doing and what they want to be doing. “It is quite clear that personalization is seen as mission critical to the success of online business, but too many organizations have yet to implement a well thought-out and tested approach,” said Linus Gregoriadis, Research Director at Econsultancy.

There are various reasons for this disparity. One major reason is the roadblocks encountered when it comes to adopting new technology. According to a report by Monetate, almost half of all companies surveyed report IT roadblocks and legacy technology as major barriers to web personalization. Moreover, many organizations lack the proper resources to run tests and leverage data into personalized experiences. While many departments are making a push for advanced marketing, there is clear indication that some companies (in particular, big enterprises) rather settle than shift their entire marketing strategy.

A Web Personalization Maturity Model

Web Personalization Maturity Model

When it comes to creating content for customers, every company deals with personalization to a varying degree. Some companies might have advanced orchestration in place, while most tend to be implementing certain rules-based methods. In short, there are generally five types of personalized marketing:

  • One-to-all: Campaigns are static with no personalization. The content is created on a broad level and pushed out to everyone uniformly. There is no segmentation or optimization.
  • One-to-many: Rules-based campaigns in which rules are developed and then applied to personalization. Mostly batch campaigns with various levels of A/B testing. Rules determine the next interaction.
  • One-to-some: Models are developed for how to think about segments and audience, then used to personalize content to users. Some channels are starting to integrate personalized messaging. 
  • One-to-few: Multiple channels are integrated and moving towards a single view of customer. There is some level of continuity between online and offline messaging. Interactive marketing elements go hand-in-hand with automated segmentation.
  • One-to-one: No longer based on just models, but technology like machine learning and algorithms to make precise personalization. Communications are specifically defined by interest, interactions and auto-decisions which are delivered at the right time.

For most companies, the hardest challenge tends to be migrating from one-to-some to one-to-few. This involves moving from single offers and campaign flows to technical solutions that can handle true interactive marketing. It also means having to ensure alignment across the entire company, which could often mean a reformation of legacy systems, processes and/or staff.

As a whole, the market seems to be moving towards one-to-one personalization. This would include a knowledge of the visitor as defined by their preferences and interactions on the site. On a broader scale, it means adapting the overall customer experience to become more technologically enhanced and data-driven.

However, organizations shouldn’t feel pressured to implement one-to-one immediately. Teams may not always have the proper resources or channels in place to effectively carry out some of these advanced marketing tactics. In fact, a bad personalization experience is much worse than having no personalization. Instead, the goal should be trying to incrementally improve personalization deliverability and eventually moving up the maturity model. (In other words, progress.)

Final Thoughts

All enterprises should know that personalization is an imperative. It’s no longer good enough to send or blast messages to entire groups of people. Regardless of personalization stage, every organization should make it a point to move towards more interactive channels of marketing. The more people feel comfortable and familiar with a brand, the more they will give their loyalty and respect.

Advisors: Get to Know Evergreen Content

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You’re a Financial Advisor, looking to use content marketing to expand your client base. You’re a busy person, always in a meeting, or at least on your way to one. You are already working more hours per week than you’d like to. You aren’t able to spend hours a day writing or producing new content for your marketing efforts. There simply is not enough time.

Content marketing can be difficult at times. You spend hours creating the perfect piece of content. You’re hoping it will provide value to your target audience; entertaining and educating them using their favorite form of media. The downside of content marketing: you spend hours creating this content and it doesn’t get seen by as many people as you were hoping.

I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. I would spend hours (weeks) writing the perfect essay, crafting the perfect presentation. I would create great work but I always felt somewhat disappointed, knowing that only a few people would ever see my work (and care). The feeling is frustrating. Today, I’m here to tell you that you never need to feel that way as a content marketer. There are methods of creating content that allow you to use and reuse content in order to get the most mileage out of your content efforts.

I’m here to introduce you to the best type of content for reuse and social sharing. It is called “evergreen” content. It will save you time and energy creating content that becomes outdated once the market or trend shifts, or the regulatory landscape changes. Evergreen content has the longest lifespan of content, generating traffic and leads for a very long time after it is published.  This type of content is called “evergreen” because, like a coniferous tree, it is not beholden to the seasons. Evergreen content stays “green” all year round, having nothing to do with current events or current industry landscapes. It will be useful to a reader whenever they come across it, whether tomorrow or a couple of years from now.

Evergreen content can come from any asset you create for any purpose. Creativity is the only hindrance. Do you have a pitch book? Turn it into a series of blog posts. You are an expert. Use your experience and knowledge to benefit the people consuming your content (and in turn, help you become a thought leader). Some examples of evergreen content for financial advisors could be: 

  1. How to Start a Retirement Plan
  2. 10 Ways to Become Financially Independent
  3. Frequently Asked Questions About (Insert product/service/offering here)
  4. Interview with (member of your team, influencer, industry expert, really anyone)
  5. 10 Reasons Why You Need an Advisor to Manage your Retirement Fund

Really any “How-to”, List, FAQ, Interview, or case study that does not revolve around the current industry landscape can be considered evergreen content. It can either be repurposed material or brand new content.

Whether you realize it or not, you already have plenty of starting points for creating evergreen content. Your pitch book, training materials and other existing documents in your business (that does not contain confidential or proprietary information) can be easily transformed into a piece of content to share. You can explain why your mission statement is the way it is, an explanation of various types of investments, advice columns, what you have helped others accomplish, or any other subject in which you have expertise.

You don’t need to stay on top of industry news or events for those type of articles. Simply create a version of your material that visitors to your website can consume in an easy way. The material should help them learn more about you, your business, or a topic that might affect them. Any subject which could establish you as a thought leader and will still be relevant in a few years is fair game. It is commonly considered best practice to update your articles as regulations or industry landscapes change. This will ensure that the information you are providing is always up-to-date and accurate.

Evergreen content remains fresh over time. It can be reused, shared repeatedly on social media and repurposed into another format. It is an extremely valuable tool to grow your reach and influence without spending an unnatural amount of effort.

One important tip to consider when creating and sharing your evergreen content is:

Update the content when new information becomes available!

Keeping your content fresh will ensure that someone viewing the piece will know that your business is up to date. Without a modern website you will appear to be “behind the times”. This will lead to some consumers thinking you are an outdated relic of an older time and taking their business elsewhere.

If you don’t believe having a website is critically important please check out the following articles:

7 Things People Hate About Your Website
Advisors: Why just having a Website isn’t enough
How Financial Advisors can use Content Marketing to Boost Website Traffic

Do you create evergreen content for your marketing efforts? Do you find evergreen content generates a high-level of engagement? Is timely information more effective for your blog or website? Let us know over on Twitter @VeridayHQ.

Compliance and Marketing Shouldn’t be at Odds – The Goal of Both is to be Successful

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In the world of Financial Marketing, compliance is often seen as the wall that stops things from getting to market quickly. It can be seen as the bureaucratic mess that can impede time sensitive content from being circulated. Although, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Regulations in financial services marketing can change fairly rapidly and result in regulators fining companies millions. Compliance keeps up with all these regulations to ensure that there is no backlash to anything that the organizing is putting out. This process can take a lot of time when there is a disconnect.

This disconnect is why compliance is sometimes regarded as the bad guy from the marketing department. Although, they’re only ensuring that there is no negative backlash – even if it’s in a slow and less engaging way. The marketing department may not know what specific regulations have been put in place or the recent developments and in the industry. There could be several gray areas that compliance can better interpret. For example, compliance can ensure that businesses do not get fined due to the ASC issuing penalties for social media endorsements. When it comes to this type of development, marketing may be too focused on their project to realize that it could be in a grey area – which is where compliance comes in and can assist.

If that’s all that compliance is doing, then why are they the “bad guys”? It’s because, in the marketer’s eyes, they stop, delay, or completely change their efforts. They stifle creativity.

In the compliance department’s eyes, they’re just protecting the firm as a whole. It’s not like they don’t want creativity, but they also don’t want backlash.

Given the tricky relationship between marketing and compliance, what’s a good solution? Some ideas to think about:

  • Establish a working relationship and use the right tools to combine marketing and compliance into one automated system
  • Create a platform to allow back and forth communication between compliance and marketing
  • Use the right tools to automate and personalize workflow management to streamline processes and make compliance quicker
  • Make it easy for compliance to approve, track, and review content
  • Have built in consistent branding and messaging across all channels with one platform

At the end of the day, both departments want the company to succeed. Marketing wants to expand their consumer base and help sales increase revenue while compliance wants to ensure that the revenue isn’t taken away due to fines. Building a close-knit relationship helps marketers gain the necessary knowledge to avoid spending unnecessary time and effort for things that may not get a good ROI or incur fines. The consequences for slow compliance result in sunken marketing costs as content may no longer be timely enough to react to current news and trends. The worst thing that can happen by not building a close relationship between the two is the blemish of deceptive marketing on a businesses reputation.

There will always be disagreements. With quick communications, compromise, and the right tools, the two departments can both reach their goal of success. For more information on Compliance and Marketing automation, take a look at The Business Case for: A Digital Marketing & Compliance Platform in Financial Services. Don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us if you have any questions!

Where should you start with your next Software Upgrade?

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Like most firms, our team at Veriday does not particularly enjoy software upgrades. When simple upgrades turn into projects it usually means some pain is coming associated with aging software, or significant changes to an existing platform. So, while we highly recommend investing in your software applications throughout their lifecycle, we have some tips from our experience, for how to successfully complete an upgrade to a more updated version of software.

Where to start? First off, you should create a “Sandbox” environment to get familiar with the new software. This will help you assess the benefits of moving and the potential change impacts associated with the move. A primary output should be documenting perceived changes that may have an impact on your team.

The second step to evaluate your upgrade is building your strategy and plan to complete the upgrade. Your strategy may need to consider whether you are going to consider making functional changes to your software to gain additional benefits from the upgrade. While this can be a very effective and timely strategy, it may add risk to your project since you are not able to directly compare old and new versions. For this reason, we often suggest planning a secondary project after the upgrade to add or change functions after the upgrade is complete. Creating your plan includes documenting tasks, effort, required resources, and a schedule. Finally, preparing your business case and budget request for the project using similar projects or customer experiences as your guide. There are many factors that should be considered in building a budget for upgrades and variability for risks, which can be considerable.

The last and very important step before proceeding with the upgrade is ensuring you have the right dedicated team and skills in place to meet your business case commitments. Leaping forward without validating this is a sure way to add risk and stress to your project.

Upgrading is not a stress free activity but with the right combination of approach, planning, and management you can minimize disruption and maybe just maybe end up with enhanced features and room to grow.