Financial Marketers Not Ready for the Future?

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Financial Marketers Not Ready for the Future?

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.