Vertical Deep Dive: Demand Generation Strategies For Financial Services Marketers

Published: February 23, 2011

“The lack of customer knowledge, coupled with disparate data sources and a barrage of industry marketing, make it difficult for a customer to find applicable offers and act upon them,” said Mike Callahan, Manager, Financial Services at Neolane. “The financial services industry needs to embrace conversational marketing by building and sustaining one-to-one personalized lifetime dialogues across all marketing channels to drive revenue and increase marketing effectiveness.”

While the marketing and selling process for financial services is considered to be more complex than other industries, the bigger challenges lie within government and industry regulations, which dictate what marketers can and cannot message to prospects.

“Marketing automation platforms must protect the uniquely identifiable customer information with the appropriate security standards,” said Jeff Erramouspe, President of Manticore Technology. “One interesting nuance is that when it comes to launching the initial programs on a marketing automation platform, the process takes much longer than in other industries. This is because the compliance team is watching every step of the way to ensure that no regulations are being violated. Once everything passes, however, new programs are launched at a rapid rate.”

Nurturing Relationships
“Most financial services segments focus on relationship-based marketing,” Erramouspe said. “Even in their most commodity-oriented segments, consumer credit cards for example, the financial institution wants to establish at least the impression of a 1:1 relationship with their customers. How and when these relationships are established varies by segment, but overall, this is the basis of the core relationship between the financial institution and their customers.”

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Neolane’s Callahan noted the need for financial services companies to progress from direct, outbound marketing to conversational marketing. “Financial services firms need to meet the expectations of their customers and communicate across channels, or exclusively by the customer’s preferred channel.”

The financial services industry also needs to improve the quality of demand generation and focus on high-value opportunities, according to Callahan. “Conversational marketing technology can help improve acquisition practices by creating rigid lead-scoring procedures to segment high-value opportunities from long-term nurturing opportunities,” he said.

Utilizing Automation To Grab Share of Wallet
While automation technology is helping many marketing and sales teams fuel revenue and growth, industry insiders point to specific features and functions to help address some of the bigger challenges for financial services marketers, including customer acquisition and retention.

Getting, keeping, and growing customers presents a unique challenge in the financial services vertical because so many companies offer a wide variety of products within their own organization, and many customers utilize multiple financial institutions so it becomes more difficult to increase your share of the wallet with each customer,” said Jon Miller,  VP Marketing at Marketo.

Miller noted that automation technology can help marketers hone in on specific customer segments to target with relevant information and calls to action. “Event triggered marketing automation becomes critical in identifying potential new customers, cross selling new products or even to identify potential churn risks and make retention offers,” he said. “There are so many events you can draw from. For example, if a customer makes a large deposit this would identify a potential cross sell opportunity for a CD. On the other hand, if a customer makes a large withdraw, this may indicate a possible churn risk and identifies the need for a retention offer.”

“Marketing automation also helps bridge the divide between Sales and Marketing by making data and sales information easily available, allowing sales to engage in a higher quality conversation with prospects, which results in higher conversion rates,” noted Callahan.

Manticore’s Erramouspe noted the growing deployment of automation technologies in the Mutual Funds sector, where managers must work closely with distribution groups to market funds to registered investment advisors (RIAs) and broker/dealers (B/Ds) who then sell the investment products to consumers. “The process of getting an RIA or B/D to represent your products involved building relationships and ensuring that the RIA or B/D has the right information at the right time,” he said. “Traditionally, this involved many face-to-face meetings and the delivery of physical marketing collateral about the products. Today, Wholesale Distribution Groups want to automate this, and are doing so using nurturing processes managed by marketing automation platforms. We see similar marketing needs in other BtoB financial services segments.”

The marketing automation community continues to build on the “revenue conversation,” emphasizing the importance of a shared responsibility between marketing and sales to manage revenue performance. This can be a challenge for the Financial Services vertical due to their business model, according to Laura Cross, Best Practices Consultant at Eloqua.

“Some financial services firms have direct agents and brokers who market and sell their products and services, while others have a hybrid approach with an indirect sales model with independent agents and brokers,” she noted. “Ultimately the financial services companies have to manage all of their go-to-market strategies — direct agents and brokers, independent agents and brokers and the consumer — as well as other audiences like financial analysts, media and investors.”

Eloqua’s Cross noted that marketing automation can help financial services marketers to scale high-touch, relevant and timely communications with their buyers. Cross pointed to the following four functions within automation to help Financial Services marketers make the most of campaigns.

1.    Tracking digital body language: By understanding which content is of most interest to a prospective buyer, the marketer can understand where that buyer is in their decision-making process, what product is of most interest and why. This allows for rich segmentation and targeting insights. Furthermore, the marketer can use each interaction with the buyer to learn more about their preferences and interests to keep the dialogue as highly relevant as possible, Cross said.

2.    Best practice campaign templates: Marketing automation platforms allow disparate marketing teams to act and engage with the buyer using easy to modify templates that support personalization and dynamic offer promotion – but all adhere to the best practices and corporate brand standards. This minimizes time to market and ensures consistent reporting.

3.    Dynamic content: While it may be difficult to manage and scale content, Cross said aligning content to audience type is a powerful way to ensure a high level of engagement with specific offer. Content allows marketers to use common campaign infrastructure to increase productivity and efficiency, while still allowing them to target their message, call to action, imagery and tone based on where the prospect is in their buying cycle, what product or service they are interested in or by their audience type.

4.    Data Quality: A high degree of data quality ensures that campaigns will be delivered at the right time to the right targets. Automation helps to standardize data sets at the point they are being entered into the system, append and verify data sets that already exist in the system, as well as suppress data sets that are invalid, inactive, or duplicate, Cross said.

“It’s all about staying “top of mind” with your prospects,” Erramouspe said. “For instance, a broker can only represent so many mutual funds at a time and if you’re not currently in their mix, you need to be prepared for the inflection points when they might want to change out some products. Monitoring the performance of the competitive products you know are in their portfolio and then hitting the broker with an email when you see poor performance of one of those products is the type of call to action that can have significant results.”

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