Digital Marketing for Financial Institutions

Digital Marketing SM-975746-edited.jpg Editor's Note: Marketing is an important component to every business. In a majority of businesses, digital marketing has become the primary focus of any marketing campaign. In this 270° Blog, we focus on digital marketing and the components that financial institutions need to include if they want to be successful in building trust and relationships with current and prospective customers/users.

The best way to sell something: don't sell anything. Earn the awareness, respect, and trust of those who might buy." - Rand Fishkin, Moz.

Today, earning the awareness, respect and trust of someone is primarily a digital experience. Thanks to the Internet, an abundant amount of information is available for people to review before making a purchase. However, earning the awareness, respect, and trust that is required to convert the consumer from a 'shopper' to a 'customer' online is challenging. If banks and credit unions want to continue to succeed and grow, they must avail themselves to the full spectrum of channels available for reaching members and customers, and they must align their digital marketing and SEO practices. To achieve this, financial institutions need to understand the distinct components that make up a digital marketing and SEO strategy in order to execute both in a way that helps them build the trust and relationships that will attract consumers to their brand. 

Content Is King

When thinking about a content strategy, there are two primary types of content to consider:

  1. Page Content - Page content provides more information for someone who might be evaluating product details: e.g. someone looking for a small business loan. Typically, the page content on a website will be the first opportunity to build rapport with a prospective customer or member. When creating website page content, it is important to consider the needs and interests of the audience first; i.e., talk about the challenges a small business or family faces when managing finances. Once it is clear to the visitor of your website that you understand their situation, then explain how your financial institution can help them.
  2. Revolving Content - To keep website content fresh, too many banks and credit unions rely on just blogs or social media. While blog posts and social media are an important component in building the trust on which to build a relationship with a consumer (and yet many institutions still do not do either at all or adequately), other mediums such as video have gained significant traction with B2C brands. Also, consider changing content on key website pages - e.g., all the pages linked to in the main navigation - to convey that your institution is invested in customers or members enough to spend time improving the value of the information to be shared with consumers. Refreshing content in the age of diminishing attention spans can no longer be left as "nice to have."

Social Media

In 2017, saying that social media needs to be included in a digital marketing strategy seems obvious. Unfortunately, far too many banks and credit unions haven't made social media a priority in their marketing/SEO efforts. For financial institutions, implementing a social media strategy will pay dividends when trying to build trust with current and future customers. While the specifics for each bank or credit union will be different, there are some fundamental best practices all institutions should consider:

  1. Be Relevant - For banks and credit unions, social media is a great way to get revolving content in front of users on a consistent basis. It is important that the information being shared is relevant to your followers because if not, your brand can becoming "white noise" to the audience you are trying to reach. In today's information age, users are bombarded with content. Most of that content is designed for providers rather than for the consumers they are trying to reach. This fact gives financial institutions with a savvy approach to social media an excellent opportunity to make their brand stand out.
  2. Be Regular - There are well-documented cases that demonstrate how social media can damage a brand. Typically, these are sins of commission; e.g., someone at the company writes a post that is inappropriate in some way. However, the most pervasive damage done to brands on social media is the result of sins of omission, i.e., the social media channels the company uses are inactive, sending a message that either their brand is in trouble or incompetent when it comes to digital marketing. It is far worse to open social media accounts for your financial institutions that lay dormant than it is to have no social media presence at all. So, before starting a social media program, decide who will have the primary responsibility for it and how frequently your bank or credit union will tweet, blog, Instagram, or post something on LinkedIn. A rule of thumb many organizations follow is to post daily on their target social media channels and create one blog a week for their website. There are a number of tools designed to make this process easier that should be evaluated as part of an institution's planning to increase its social media profile. 
  3. Know the Audience - Each social media platform (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) has its own unique characteristics and audiences. Because of these differences, the way users interact with the content they receive on each is different. That's why a post on LinkedIn will perform differently than from Twitter or Facebook. Therefore, it's important to have a plan for each platform that insures your bank or credit union's content in each environment has the most impact.
  4. Be Prepared - When people are upset, they may be tempted to use social media as an outlet to express their displeasure. This is not only true for your members and customers but also for the executives at banks and credit unions, especially if they perceive their institutions have been unfairly criticized. Those individuals responsible for the social media programs at financial institutions must prepare for this possibility. Executives should be media trained and that training should include best practices for social media. As for customer and members, think through the possible events that could create social media storm for your institution - e.g., system outage, IT breach, etc. - then develop a plan for each. A plan in place for these types of crises allows those responding to them to react sooner and more effectively, ultimately protecting the brand. 

Master the SEO Basics

Developing an SEO strategy for any organization can be daunting. SEO with all its nuances can be extremely complex. That's why there are hundreds, if not thousands, of firms that provide SEO services. However, digital marketing professionals within banks and credit unions can deploy a successful SEO strategy by utilizing a basic set of tactics:

  1. Analytics - If you can't measure something, you cannot know how effective it is. For years, it was accepted that marketing, unlike sales, was too subjective to accommodate quantifiable analysis. Those days are gone. Today, there are a number of ways a marketing professional can access and analyze data related to how the various aspects of their digital marketing efforts - e.g., website, social media, content marketing, blogs - are performing. Marketers are now expected to interpret the meaning of that data and correlate it to the benchmarks and goals of their organizations.
  2. Local Listings - Since mobile search has now surpassed desktop, local search has become paramount. While on-the-go, more and more search results are being returned based on where the user is standing at the time of the search. For financial institutions, especially those with multiple locations, it is vital that this information is consistent for every location. Services such as Moz Local or Yext can help manage multiple locations on a single platform. 
  3. Search Engine Interaction - Understanding how people interact with search engines is a crucial element of a successful SEO plan. What seems like forever ago, a Google search would have looked like something "Bank+Omaha". Today, users simply tap a button on the phone and say, "Where is the closest ATM to me?" As the user's interaction evolves to utilize the new features on their phones and tablets, marketers at financial institutions also must evolve to ensure their brands are not marginalized in the process.

No one disputes that the connectivity possible via the Internet means buyers are better informed than ever before. In many instances, the purchasing process has all but been completed before a person-to-person conversation takes place. This may seem like a difficult hurdle to clear, especially for financial institutions that do not employ all the resources available to them for reaching the consumer. To succeed in the current environment, leading institutions are no longer treating digital marketing as an afterthought. We would love to hear about how your institution is responding to these marketing conditions. Don't be shy about posting your comments below.