Leveraging Marketing to Achieve Growth in the Financial Services Industry

Financial services companies are struggling to drive growth. As a more traditional industry heavily confined by outside regulations, it can feel like an uphill battle to manage the market’s evolution. Service offerings are expanding and customer demands are becoming more intense, but at the same time data management and governance has become a bigger albatross. Balancing the needs of the business with the needs of the customer while rigorously adhering to regulations like know-your-customer (KYC) is the new reality for financial services.

So how can a financial services company grow under these conditions? How can it scale, increase efficiency, create better customer experiences, and have better line of sight into ROI? By moving to a strategic demand state.

The current state of affairs

The sheer amount of up-front data collection required by KYC alone is enough to put off many potential new clients. But even after clients do provide that information, financial companies are far too dependent on the sales teams’ relationships to do the heavy lifting in order to expand accounts. These companies can’t create scalable, predictable patterns of demand.

To try and counter these challenges leadership turns to marketing. In recent years marketing departments have done a good job shifting focus away from facts, figures, and product features and towards establishing a value-add message that resonates with audiences. But they’re still struggling to target these buyers with valuable content in the right place and at the right time.

For example, when marketing targets someone looking for high-level thought leadership information with a brochure about the latest product features, the results are counterproductive. Instead of self-educating, the prospect is frustrated and leaves to look for information from a different source altogether. Companies have felt the pain of these “random acts of marketing” for years, and they’ve used technology as a band-aid, which has only further complicated the problem.

CRM systems, ABM platforms, content management systems, and marketing automation platforms are all used daily, but in most cases these systems offer no end-to-end visibility from first touch to closed-won. There’s no way to track a prospect through his or her buying process, no way to offer relevant content along the way, and no way to provide sales with valuable information before the first call is made. Instead, you have multiple, disjointed, expensive systems and a leadership team that is frustrated with marketing’s inability to provide the full picture.

The role of relationships

Building trust is the number one priority in financial services and, historically, that need has been met by boots-on-the-ground salespeople. Even as companies attempt to become more efficient, technology-driven marketers, they still fall back on relationship selling.

Relying on sales teams to close both new deals and expand existing accounts has been the backbone of financial services organizations for years, but “increase headcount” is not a strategy – it’s expensive, inefficient, and un-scalable.

Even worse is when these companies rely on referrals. When that happens, a company enters a reactive state. There’s no way to predict what will or won’t close and so leaders are left to constantly pivot, scrambling to try and achieve aggressive growth targets.

This is the current state of marketing in financial institutions. Right now, it’s extremely difficult to increase product and solution usage, lower service costs, empower sales, focus on positive marketing investments, and manage the amount of customer data. It’s nearly impossible to drive predictable growth.

Getting to best practice

Becoming buyer-centric

To truly achieve a level of strategic demand that drives growth, you absolutely must start by putting the buyer at the center of your entire business strategy. At their core, financial services companies are focused on the customer. Building trust between provider and client has always been the most important key to success for a financial institution. But these companies struggle to efficiently build trust in the age of regulations like KYC. These types of regulations were built to protect consumers and financial institutions alike, but they’re often viewed by prospects as overly invasive. Naturally, prospects are hesitant to share sensitive information with a vendor, but they’re even more hesitant when a vendor isn’t aligned with their buying journey.

Strategic demand marketing puts the buyer in control of his or her buying journey by creating an experience that responds to a prospect’s engagement and collects information gradually when it makes sense. Mapping out the buyer journey and aligning content and cadence logically with each step in the process not only provides valuable resources for the prospect, thus building trust, it also gathers critical profile information that can be used to better qualify prospects and improve sales efficiencies while still adhering to regulatory requirements. Now, instead of viewing data collection as an invasive marketing tactic, businesses can start to build relationships with their clients before a salesperson ever picks up the phone.

Fully leveraging and integrating technology investments

Prospect engagement is only valuable if you can track it. You may have purchased and built out a great strategy for your CMS, but if that stands alone from your marketing automation platform and CRM system then it’s impossible for you to have end-to-end visibility into your buyer’s journey. There needs to be internal alignment among key stakeholders in marketing, sales and IT to create a strategy that leverages the entire tech stack so that everyone can clearly track engagement from first touch to closed-won.

This is an area where many financial institutions are discovering they have a talent gap. Suddenly, the CFO has technology responsibilities or the CMO is responsible for some aspects of data security. Read “How Your Org Chart Can Make or Break Your Digital Demand Transformation” to learn more about how to approach a modern organizational strategy.

Optimizing against outcomes 

One of the biggest advantages of a strategic demand marketing state is the ability to optimize against outcomes. End-to-end visibility allows you to see in real time which combinations of channel and content are performing the best so that you can quickly pivot and adjust investments accordingly. This is how your team can move away from vanity metrics like clicks, open rates, and number of subscribers and start focusing on data that supports sales lift. You’ll want to measure KPIs like elasticity, impact expectation, channel ROI, conversion rates by stage, and revenue outcome to truly understand what is driving growth.

Shifting to a perpetual state of demand

A relationship with a financial services provider is usually a heavily considered purchase. The decision to choose your company can take a long time and is highly dependent on a strong need for specific services. With tactical, one-and-done campaigns you’re hoping to reach someone who is ready to buy at the exact instant they see your online ad. That’s not predictable or scalable. When your demand marketing is always-on it means not only that you can meet the buyer wherever he or she is in the purchasing journey but that you’re with the buyer every step of the way. And so, when that buyer is ready to purchase your demand marketing is ready too.

Where to start?

Making the shift from tactical demand generation to strategic demand marketing is a fundamental change in how we approach marketing today. It requires all of your stakeholders to be aligned and on-board with the decision to make the transformation. The financial services industry is evolving and the only way to meet customer expectations and drive growth is through better managing demand. The problem is, not all financial services organizations have the internal expertise to achieve a strategic demand marketing state on their own. In fact, even marketing teams in the most innovative and forward-thinking industries can miss the mark. For a comprehensive view on the benefits of this approach and tips for achieving it with limited internal resources, read “Why Make the Shift from Tactical to Strategic Demand.”

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