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Disrupting the buyer journey at the Digital Marketing for Financial Services Summit

Digital Marketing SummitLast 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:

  1. Global presence: Be everywhere, always on, on all devices, service all needs.
  2. Be personal: Be relevant, actionable, and clear respective of your audience.
  3. Be insightful: Be thoughtful, holistic, visual and easy to grasp.
Hearsay Social booth at Digital Marketing Summit
Michael Gardineer manning the Hearsay Social booth at the Digital Marketing for Financial Services Summit

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:

  1. Develop an achievable strategy
  2. Ensure executive sponsorship
  3. Socialize with key internal stakeholders
  4. Seek out advocates in all areas of the company
  5. Listen to your audience
  6. Start from scratch if necessary
  7. Avoid “design by committee”
  8. Don’t believe everything you hear
  9. Don’t take on too much at once
  10. 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.

Alicianne RandThe 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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.

Social business: Bridging the gap between strategy and governance

Altimeter Social Business Governance Figure 1As more and more businesses continue to implement social business into their overall strategy, the issue of social business governance is becoming a hot topic. What is social business governance? It’s the set of people, policies and processes that define how an organization executes its social business strategy.
Last week Altimeter Group published a new report on social business governance, exploring the relationship between governance and strategy while outlining some best practices for social business. It’s an illuminating report and I’d like to highlight some of the key findings on how this relates to our customers in financial services.

The gap between strategy and governance

One of the report’s more startling findings was the fact that, while social business strategy is well-developed and recognized as important, most survey respondents don’t believe that governance is well-defined and communicated across their organizations:

  • 53% of survey respondents agree that social business strategy forms the basis for governance
  • Only 16% of respondents believe that governance is well understood and deployed throughout the organization

In short, we still have a long way to go in terms of developing governance that is well-defined and fully supports an organization’s social business strategy. This is an even more critical issue for financial services organizations that operate in high-risk environments, as governance plays a critical role in preventing and mitigating risk.

Why we need governance

So why is it important to have governance that is clear, consistent, and understood throughout the organization? Altimeter lists several key drivers of governance within the report, but I’d like to call out a few that are particularly important to our customers:

  • Empower Employees: As consumer expectations shift, allowing employees to to engage in social channels to grow their business is a critical new piece of business strategy. Proper governance allows these employees to represent their firm and brand in an appropriate and safe manner.
  • Employee Use of Social: Recruiting the next generation of financial professionals is another important issue for many of our customers. Employees now expect to be able to utilize social media to communicate and work, as illustrated by this quote from Shel Holtz (principal of Holtz Communication + Technology, @shelholtz): “Telling a Millennial to use email is like telling someone 10 years ago to type up a memo and drop it off in the mailroom.” Social business governance enables employees to use the social tools that they want to, which in turn helps organizations recruit Millennials and beyond.
  • Regulations: Particularly for our customers within financial services, regulatory and compliance requirements drive a need for strong governance within those organizations. Without well-defined governance in place, organizations risk running afoul of both existing and emerging regulations.

Improving your governance

The report presented a system for social business governance called the 4 P’s: People, Policy, Process and Practice. It’s a great framework for thinking holistically about your governance; below is a high-level overview of the various components:
Altimeter Social Business Governance Four P's
For a more in-depth exploration of each of the “4 P’s” check out the full report.

The evolution of governance

I’d like to leave you with a great chart from the report, showcasing how an organization evolves its social business governance from a decentralized model to a hub & spoke model.
Altimeter Social Business Governance Evolution
Where is your organization along in its social business evolution? What issues are you grappling with as you build and refine your social business strategy? Let us know in the comments below.

Interview with Ron Piovesan of Hearsay Social: #HSonAir Episode 8

ron the air
In episode 8 of Hearsay Social On the Air we launch our employee spotlight series by having a conversation with Ron Piovesan (VP of Strategic Alliances, Hearsay Social, @ronpiovesan).  
In our discussion, we learn more about the work Ron does at Hearsay Social, what he learned from living in India, his thoughts on social media as part of the fundamental human experience, and how our partner development strategy adds value for our customers. 
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Finally, join @VictorGaxiola and @ronnykerr on Twitter to participate in the conversation using hashtag #HSonAir.