Last week we participated in the first Digital Marketing for Financial Services Summit held in New York. Although the organization has held successful events in Canada, this was the first time it had brought the Summit to the U.S. as well as the first time that Hearsay Social participated as a sponsor.
The two-day event focused on challenges, opportunities and trends facing marketing professionals in financial services. Attendees representing wealth management, asset management, banking and insurance heard from industry thought leaders, influencers, and their peers in a number of sessions covering everything from 2015 trends to social media to gamification. Zeroing in on the marketer’s experience, the Summit brought to light the value of digital technologies to promote the brand and build awareness. Compared to other conferences I’ve attended, I found the conversations and themes more macro and strategic than tactical and field oriented.
Here were some of the main themes from the Summit:
The key word of 2014 and this summit was disruption. It’s become clear to marketers today that the increased volume of potential marketing channels is challenging the way brands position their products and services to address their market. With the increasing number of mediums, cutting through the clutter of white noise is getting more and more difficult, and attracting consumer attention is requiring more creative approaches.
In his presentation, “Blending Heritage and Innovation,” Bryan VanDyke (Executive Director, Head of Digital Strategy, Morgan Stanley) shared that digital disruption shows no sign of slowing, affecting everything from how we buy travel and pay our bills to how we consume media (newspapers, music, movies, and television). The financial services industry will not be immune to these digital disruptions and are being challenged to adapt. He suggested that firms consider adjusting by providing the following:
- Global presence: Be everywhere, always on, on all devices, service all needs.
- Be personal: Be relevant, actionable, and clear respective of your audience.
- Be insightful: Be thoughtful, holistic, visual and easy to grasp.
Digital is not just about technology
Digital is not just about technology because it’s more importantly about building connections with your customers. Firms getting caught up in technology challenges are overlooking the value in establishing a strong strategy first and then proceeding with a methodical approach that’s aimed at strengthening relationships.
In his presentation, “Strategy Considerations for Digital Marketing Transformation and Innovation in Financial Services,” Bill Barrett (Managing Director and Global Head of Digital Marketing, BNY Mellon) challenged participants to be disciplined in their digital adoption, and suggested 10 tips to follow:
- Develop an achievable strategy
- Ensure executive sponsorship
- Socialize with key internal stakeholders
- Seek out advocates in all areas of the company
- Listen to your audience
- Start from scratch if necessary
- Avoid “design by committee”
- Don’t believe everything you hear
- Don’t take on too much at once
- Keep experimenting
In essence, Bill provided a blueprint for the process marketing teams should follow when carefully adopting digital strategy: note, for example, that he specifically says in step one to develop an achievable strategy, taking into account the challenges an organization may have at the onset wanting to tackle too much at once.
Bill also reinforced how marketing teams must be mindful that their strategy needs to be flexible and nimble in order to adapt to changes recommended by consumers and internal stakeholders. If your brand is everywhere, especially in the minds of your consumers, you might as well take advantage of that by listening to their feedback and experimenting.
The buyer journey
Consumer buying behaviors are changing, and the products and services they buy are being influenced more and more by marketing and front of the funnel activities. In her presentation, “Content Marketing for Financial Brands as Publishers,” Alicianne Rand (VP Marketing, NewsCred, @aliciannerand) shared how content is core to who we are and how we live our lives. On average, we are exposed to 5,000 marketing messages every day, and we are being conditioned to tune out the noise. When you consider that only 0.01% of banner ads are ever clicked and 85% of TV ads go unwatched, how can you compete for the attention of consumers?
The fact is we choose what matters and is relevant to our lives, and today 70% of B2C and B2B purchase decisions are made before a buyer even speaks with a sales representative, according to Alicianne. As a result marketing departments are taking on more responsibility and accountability in the buying journey than ever before.
To cut through the noise, marketing departments must modify their approach with social media and other scalable digital technologies to personalize the experience and make the content more relevant to the individual consumer. Alicianne suggested that we challenge the old way of doing things with a new approach:
- From brand-led to value-driven: It’s all about consumers’ needs and the value proposition the brand can provide. Don’t constantly talk about who your company is and why it matters; instead position your products and services around the challenges they solve and the time or money it saves.
- From ad campaigns to always-on brand newsrooms: The 24/7 digital cycle is forcing brands to let go of traditional campaigns and instead leave the digital door open at all times. This is especially true for global brands that have consumers in every time zone. Social is always on, so having a presence isn’t enough if you don’t have the resources to support the ongoing conversation that is taking place. Airlines have been some of the fastest to adapt to their global customer needs both in availability and support in real-time
- From demographics and target audiences to the individual: Access to big data and insight data is making it easy for the brand message to be personalized to the individual needs of consumers as opposed to the general messaging to a single demographic. Targeted digital advertising platforms such as Facebook Ads has made this process much easier leveraging the data users provide to provide a more laser-focused delivery.
To conclude, we are undergoing a digital transformation that is affecting how we market and position the value that brands add to the market and to individual consumers. This is forcing brands to question their traditional methods and embrace the opportunities that digital technologies provide to connect with the right customer, at the right time, with the right message.