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2015-09-18_16-49-59.jpgLike so many other industries, the financial services industry is overflowing with terrible, brand-centric content and every day it is only getting worse. Companies are churning out content at an unprecedented rate and sadly, their customers and prospects are just tuning most of it out as the noise that it is.

 

Even companies who claim to understand content marketing seem to be demonstrating content failures on a consistent basis. Rather than producing information tools or resources that bring value to the lives of their consumers, they seem to be unable to stop themselves from making every piece into a product or brand advertisement.

 

Not the case for the marketers over at John Hancock as demonstrated by their Life Comes Next campaign. If you haven’t seen it, go check it out. We’ll wait.

 

Ah, you’re back. Great! What did you think? There are so many things to love about this campaign. Let’s take a look at a few.

 

The biggest reason for this being a great example of fantastic content marketing is that the content is entirely about the customer. In an incredibly creative way, they take real life concerns that everyone has to deal with (in one way or another) and address them. It’s real, it’s human and truly hits people on an emotional level.

 

Also, although each of the scenarios have a financial aspect to them (which John Hancock can help people with by the way), they don’t dwell on the finances. Nor do they ever mention a John Hancock product or service. They focus on the customer and how it feels to be going through each situation. They recognize that these situations have a strong emotional aspect to them and makes people think about it.

 

The next thing I love about the campaign is that it checks-off another important check box for good content marketing and that is making the content engaging. This content is highly engaging on multiple levels. First, the obvious. The format is video. As most of us know, video is the best format for creating engaging content.

 

More importantly however, through this campaign, they are able to own the second screen. They do this by showing the first part of the video in a TV commercial, which tells viewers to visit the website to see how the scenario ended. John Hancock did this because they understand the statistics around people watching TV with their phones or tablets in hand.

And of course, the nature of the videos in terms of showing the first part, which compels you to watch not just one but all of the potential outcomes is pure brilliance. I’ve watched every single one. I had to!

 

The last thing I love about the campaign that I’ll mention here is that it’s a true, cross-channel campaign. They’ve integrated this campaign into email, social, web, print, TV and events and they orchestrated it so that each channel flows naturally into the next. That sounds a lot like modern marketing to me.

 

Again, the reason why this campaign is such a success is that it is customer-centric. The content doesn’t talk about investment vehicles, or financial performance or any John Hancock products or services. It talks about the very things that their customers and prospects care about. That’s great content marketing!

 

Do you have a great example of content marketing brilliance in financial services? I have a few more that I’ll share but I’d love to hear about yours.

2015-08-21_15-38-11.jpgLast week I had a planning session with the leaders of the marketing org in charge of marketing automation in a major financial institution and one of the biggest conclusions we reached from that meeting was that they didn’t have the right team in place to support the modern marketing campaigns and programs they needed to execute over the next year. As a result, they asked me for some staffing recommendations for a financial services organization like them.


In case there are other financial services organizations out there that are looking to better understand how they might be staffed, I thought I’d share what I provided for this company. A caveat I’ll mention first is that this doesn't include the leader of this team who is traditionally a director or senior director, in charge of bringing all of these resources to bear in achieving their goals. Also, these recommendations are very specific to the needs of this particular org. This won't fit all marketing automation teams within financial services companies but it should be pretty close to most.

 

Role: Marketing Manager

Count: 1 or more per LOB

Responsibilities: Campaign Strategy and Execution

Description: These marketers are in charge of working with the LOBs to map out the demand generation strategies and tactics, then execute those strategies and tactics. They aren’t highly technical but they understand modern marketing and can build automated, multi-channel, triggered communication streams with prospects and customers. This person should be well versed in marketing automation and modern marketing strategies and tactics. Successful orgs ensure that there is one of these managers mapped to each major LOB. Where we see orgs struggling is when they try to overload a person in this position with campaign execution from too many LOBs. When this happens, the marketing manager is reduced to a basic execution role, with no time for strategy.  If it’s a particularly large LOB, there is often multiple marketing managers dedicated. A best practice in that instance is to have a senior manager who can do some tactical execution but primarily works with the LOBs on strategy, while a marketing manager under them focuses on the tactical execution. This role may be on one central team (such as a demand center) but more often this role is distributed throughout the marketing organization.

 

Role: Marketing Technologist

Count: 1 or more

Responsibilities: Technical Resource for Digital Marketing

Description: In most organizations the person in this role was either cannibalized from IT or hired straight into marketing from an IT or development role at another organization. They have a background in coding at least client-side scripting languages such as JavaScript and HTML, if not server-side or compiled/interpreted languages such as C#, JSP or ASP .NET. This technologist can take a marketing automation tool and push the campaigns within it to the next level because they are able to fully exploit digital channels as they are based on web architecture and platforms. This person is a Jill/Jack of all high-tech trades and can help organizations with dynamic emails and landing pages, integrations into 3rd party marketing platforms and analytics. In most orgs, they spend about 40-60% of the time in asset (email, landing pages, microsites, etc.) production and the remainder with integrations and architecture changes and support. They should be ready and able to take full advantage of API integrations in their marketing automation platform.


Many organizations have difficulties in trying to fill this position. Partially because it can be difficult to find someone to fit the bill of the demanding job listings that orgs tend to post and partially because orgs undervalue the position in terms of the compensation they offer. I can’t tell you how many job postings I’ve seen where they want someone with amazing technical skills, who holds certifications for MA platforms but only wants to pay these people $40k per year. It’s laughable. People who do fit the requirements are indeed hard to find but through the right channels, they can indeed be found. Be prepared to offer a strong compensation package - or it might be your competition who scoops them up instead of you.


If you are unable to find someone in a reasonable time-frame, consider hiring (either from within or without) a web developer. Web developers have an intrinsic understanding of not only the web technologies and design principals you’ll need to leverage but they’re used to having to integrate disparate databases and systems to create a great web experience. If you can find a good web developer, you can train them on marketing automation VERY easily. They’ll pick it up twice as fast as your average user.

 

Role: Marketing Database Manager/Analyst  (sometimes just called Operations Manager)

Count: 1

Responsibilities: Data Governance, Architecture

Description:  If this role sits in IT, they should be completely dedicated to marketing and shouldn’t be pulled off on other, non- marketing related efforts. If it sits in Marketing, they are absolute BFFs with IT. They have a solid understanding of all of the systems that marketing uses and all of the data that flows between them. In many orgs, this person can be perceived as the bad-cop because it’s their responsibility to develop and enforce a data governance policy that is most conducive to allowing marketing to reach its revenue generation goals. This is often a tough job because they have to be the go-between for sales, marketing and IT and occasionally have to step in and stop an executive from one of these teams from heading down a self-destructive path. This person sees all data entry and exit points and understands how marketing automation, CRM and other systems have to be configured. So they often have to educate the siloed orgs in an effort to make them understand that the data decisions they make effect the entire org. This person might not need to have been a DBA in previous lives but often does have that background. They should at least a basic familiarity with relational database structure, design and architecture. They usually can write their own SQL queries although it’s not an absolute requirement of the job.

 

Role: Reporting Analyst

Count:   .5 to 1

Responsibilities: Report Development, Design and Distribution

Description:  The caveat on this role is that rarely do marketing orgs (at least on the demand gen side) have a full headcount for this position, although it is a best practice to do so. Often, this is a shared resource for the entire marketing (and sometimes other) org and thus ends up doing web analytics in addition to campaign reporting. Ideally, this person should have done some reporting in at least one of the major marketing automation platforms as well as web analytics and consolidated reporting platforms like Tableau. The day-to-day responsibilities of this role usually include executive marketing dashboard report design and distribution, marketing campaign tactical reporting  and web/asset reporting. If this resource is a good one, they’ll do more than just distribute reports. Because they’re neck-deep in reporting all day, every day, they can (and should) start at some point to draw conclusions based on the reporting. They should be able to tell an executive what types of campaigns, channels and assets are performing best, which regions or LOBs are struggling or killing it and be able to make recommendations for course corrections. Unfortunately, very few orgs have made it a priority to create and nurture such roles.

 

If orgs put this kind of team together, they’ll be in a great position for success. However, I cannot over emphasize the importance of nurturing strong relationships with your business partners in IT and sales operations. You will invariably come across a situation where there is a problem with a data field or process in a system that your team does not control and when that happens, you need strong partners in the organizations that do control those systems to facilitate the necessary changes. I’ve lost count of the stores I’ve heard from fortune 500 companies where they can’t do closed loop reporting or can’t do proper lead distribution because there’s a problem in a CRM or ERP that they cannot correct because they don’t own that system. 


Lastly, in nearly every inspiring modern marketing success story I’ve heard, there was a consultant company helping them (if not outright doing all the work) to achieve their success. Smart organizations will augment their staff with help from expert consultants because there’s a serious multiplier involved in these cases. When it comes to marketing automation, these consultants (at least the best ones) have truly seen it all. It’s pretty much a given that whatever it is that your trying to do, they’ve not only done it but they’ve done it dozens and dozens of times and they can do it more quickly and correctly than your team can. Just as valuable, if there’s something you want to do that they’ve never done, that should be a red flag because you very well may be venturing outside the realm of best practices. A good consultant firm will not just execute what you ask but should challenge you if there’s something you want to do that is detrimental to your overall marketing goals. (this happens ALL the time)


That said, I would never condone relying completely on one of these firms to do everything, indefinitely for a company. Smart organizations will work with these consultants, and while building out their programs, learn from the consultants in an effort to eventually be able to take all (or most) of it over. Additionally, these consultant firms come and go. Sometimes it’s a shift in priorities or a change in staff that causes their level of support to plummet. Alternatively, you may get a new executive in your org who has a relationship with another consultant and you are forced to switch. In either of those cases, you don’t want to be in a situation where the current consultant is the only one who knows how your programs are built executed. 


What do you think? Did I miss the mark or does this staffing model look like what you've seen for marketing automation teams in financial services?

Untitled-1.jpgNo one wakes up one morning and says, you know, I really want an insurance policy. No one says, I'd just love a 529 College Savings Account. Nor does anyone say I really want some stocks and bonds.


If this is true, then why do so many financial services companies spend so much time and money crafting their marketing content around things like umbrella policies or fund performance or account features?


People DO wake up in the morning and say, I really want a new car. They do worry about what would happen if there were some sort of flood or fire in their house. They do look down at their beautiful newborn and say, I really want her to go to the best college. And they do sit and visualize the lifestyle they'll have once they reach retirement.


To be fair, many banks, insurance companies and wealth management firms do understand this concept. The best ones do anyway. You will see some brilliant advertisements that reach through to the core of their consumer's needs, desires and fears.


However, there is something that most of these companies still haven't truly mastered. They aren't leveraging this messaging through true modern marketing best practices. Let me explain. To truly excel at modern marketing, you have to deliver the right content to the right person, at the right time. I'd argue that the front-runners in this space have a lot of the right content, but they're missing the mark in terms of delivering this content to the right person at the right time. In general, the content is distributed in a spray-and-pray fashion that results in prospects & customers receiving impersonal and irrelevant content.


Some of the better financial services companies might argue that they do a good job of targeting with their display advertising. Many of the display networks have some decent segmentation capabilities but I'd say that most of those segments are still pretty basic or infantile in terms of maturity. The depth and complexity of their targeting generally boils down to basic demographic and geographic data. For example, they might target women between the ages of 33 to 65 who live in the united states. Or if they get super fancy and their display tools/partners can take do it, they might include data on home or car ownership or other more personal data.


Even if they are killing it with their targeting and segmentation, almost none of these top financial services companies finish off the trifecta by delivering the content at the right time. The vast majority of companies in this space have yet to crack the timing nut.

 

Let me paint a picture. Call it the art of the possible.

 

Above, we talked about how consumers don't dream of a new auto policy, they dream of a new car. They don't dream of a sweet 30-year fixed rate, they dream of living in the perfect house. They don't dream of a college savings account, they dream of their baby growing up and going to the best school. They don't dream of an IRA Roll-over account, they dream of being able to retire and tour the world.


People think about these things from time to time in their lives but what is it that causes these thoughts and feelings to surface? Life events. Graduations, New Jobs, Weddings, Newborn Children, and sadly, Divorce and Death. It's the major events in our lives that really make us think about what we really want and need.


So, let's dream. What if, just what if a financial services company could know when one of these life events occur for a prospect or customer? And what if they had some engaging and valuable content (guides, handbooks, tools, training, etc.) that was aligned to this life event and once they were alerted to the prospect's life event, they could trigger a campaign that would provide this valuable content via email, display, social, mobile and physical(branch) and print to create a truly compelling customer experience?


What would that be like?


Tell you what. Let's make this more real with an example. There are dozens of potential examples but let me pick just one. How about an insurance example?


finserv1.jpgMeet Jen and Bryan Williams. Jen's 28 and Bryan is 32 and both are in promising careers. Because they look a lot like Acme Insurance's most profitable customers (or will likely be in the future), people like Jen and Bryan are on Acme Insurance's radar. Now, what if Acme caught wind that Jen and Bryan are shopping for a home? And then, automatically triggered a multichannel (display, social, email, print, mobile, etc.) marketing campaign that offered several valuable content items such as a home buying for dummies eBook, an infographic on the top things to consider when buying a home and lastly a no-nonsense guide to home closings? All the while, peppering-in content on why Acme Insurance is the best option for insuring their new home.


Because Acme Insurance has created a valuable, relevant, contextual experience, Jen and Bryan not only sign up with Acme for their home insurance policy, they also switch over their auto policies over to Acme as well. And they’re even considering other insurance products with Acme. All because they feel that Acme understands and values them and treats them like family, rather than as a number.


What would that be like?



Now, if you think this all sounds like science fiction, I can’t blame you for thinking that. But let me tell you, this is not only a real scenario, but it’s a modern marketing best practice for new client acquisition. What’s more, it’s just one example of what’s possible. I could give you a dozen more within the frameworks of retail banking, wealth management and more. Companies are doing this stuff right now. Admittedly, not too many companies in the finserv space are pulling it off but some are getting close.


So how would a company pull this off? What would they need?


Well, they’d need a best-of-breed data management platform (DMP). This would allow them  to perform look-alike modeling and orchestrate targeted display media buys. The DMP would need to have seamless integrations into their multichannel marketing platform, which would allow them to orchestrate targeted, multistep, trigger-based communications via display, email, web, social, print and more.


They’d also need an integration into a solid content marketing platform to facilitate the content creation and distribution. And lastly, they’d need a commitment to ensuring that their content is centered around benefiting the lives of their prospects and customers – as opposed to spewing product or brand-centric propaganda as so many companies do.


With these tools in place and the right teams and strategies behind them, an organization could become unstoppable in terms of being able create amazing customer experiences that result in exponential revenue growth for the organizations.


What do you think? Is your organization close to pulling this off? What did I miss? Please share your thoughts.

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45-2015-06-08_9-20-44.jpgThe other day, I stopped by the office cafeteria after my workout and on the menu outside, I saw that they had a barbeque entree that would work perfect for my high-protein, low-carb diet. So, I went in and sidled up to the counter to inquire about the dish. The BBQ came with a bunch of high-carb items (such as potato salad & pasta) which I didn't want so I asked if I could just get some of the meat. The lady behind the counter said that it only came as a complete meal. I told her that I didn't mind paying the full meal price but didn't want to waste the rest of the food as I wasn't going to eat it. She apologized and said that she wasn't allowed to do that so I walked away and skipped the cafeteria all together.

 

This whole interaction annoyed me but more than that, it confounded me. Here I was, a customer, willing to pay whatever (I'd have paid four times the price for the meal as hungry as I was) for some food they were selling but they didn't want to sell it to me unless I took it in the package they offered. I thought, if this were my cafe, I'd be ecstatic to sell someone a full price meal but only give them a portion of it. I'd make the sale and I'd have surplus product that I could sell to other customers. Win, win, win. However, for these guys, because of a rule/policy, they let a sale walk right out the door.


Thinking about what transpired here, I realized that similar things happen in the marketing world all the time? especially in large banks and wealth/asset management firms. Policies and procedures are created over the years to solve one problem or another and only rarely do employees question them.


While working for Merrill Lynch, I saw more examples of this than I could possibly count. People blindly following orders, regardless of whether or not it made sense and quite often the policy would be detrimental to the firm and more often than not, client relations.


In this era, technologies and engagement paradigms are changing constantly and firms that don't change their policies and procedures accordingly can find themselves in a bad place without knowing it. They'll likely be doing something to inconvenience or alienate their clients and in some cases, be wasting the firm's money or creating further exposure to the firm.


We see this sort of thing all the time in the marketing world. Many banks, wealth management and asset management firms severely limit their ability to create the ideal client experience due to following old, invalid policies around client communications.


One example I heard recently came from an asset management company executive who said ?we don?t use cloud marketing technologies. It?s a firm policy.? When asked why this policy was in place, this executive gave a vague answer about data security and regulatory compliance. Out of respect for this executive (and since I didn?t know him that well yet), I refrained from telling him that the majority of his competitors were heavily leveraging cloud marketing technologies every day.


This firm, and it's employees are obstinately upholding  a policy that not only doesn't make sense, it's preventing them from executing on marketing campaigns as effectively and efficiently as their competitors are doing. What's more, because their on premise and home-grown systems are so antiquated, they're unable to deliver a positive, consistent, multichannel customer experience.


The reason this problem is so pervasive within financial institutions is that most of them are extremely risk adverse. Far too often, they'll go far out of their way (and sacrifice good business practices) to avoid risk. Usually all it takes is one (even small) exposure to the firm, some sort of litigation that causes a knee-jerk reaction and in-turn, firm-wide policies. The problem is that in our ever-changing technological and legal landscape, often, the contributing factors that led to the exposure change or are eliminated altogether; but the policy remains in place.


So how can financial institutions avoid this problem?


Challenge the system! OK, don't go all anarchy on me. Financial services marketers still need to ensure that they're following industry regulations (FINRA, SEC, Etc.) to reduce exposure. But they should constantly question the policies and procedures in their firm. Especially around marketing communications. If they've got a policy in place that is preventing them from delivering a great customer experience, they need to challenge it. They need to ask why it's in place.


The other thing they can do (and I've seen this done in firms with great success) is to get to know their compliance officers. They can go grab a coffee with them and talk about the business case. If they've done their research and provided their compliance friends with examples of their competitors doing the very thing they're attempting, this will make it a lot easier.


Also, if there's a vendor that provides the technology that they're trying to leverage for this customer experience, they should definitely make the vendor do the heavy lifting. All the marketer would have to do is facilitate the meetings. I know it sounds like a lot of work but if finserv marketers really want to move the needle for their firm, and they have ridiculous policies in the way, this is something I'd highly recommend.


Tell me. What policies have you run across in your firm that are keeping you from delivering the ultimate customer experience?

44-2015-05-11_17-06-14b.jpgA few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of presenting at the Net Finance conference in Miami to a packed room of some very savvy financial services marketers. In that presentation, I shared an amazing story of the struggles and success of a recent Markie award winner in the wealth management space.


I won't go too deep into that story at this time (you'll have to come see the presentation in the future) but I would like to share with you the main keys to their recent success. First, for you to fully appreciate what they've done, let's look at where they started and what they've accomplished.


Over the last decade, this company had experienced some respectable success. They managed to become the second largest network of financial advisors in the US. Not bad at all. However, in 2013, they started to see a decrease in organic growth and they were at a bit of a stand still. They purchased Eloqua to kick-start their digital marketing efforts but like so many other companies, in the beginning, it was just being leveraged for batch and blast emails.


In 2014, they regrouped and built their first, multi-touch, activity-driven, nurture campaign. But they didn't stop there. They also revamped their content creation and delivery strategy to the point of being a beacon of best practice content marketing. Additionally, they didn't just use email to reach their audience. They leveraged a true multi-channel approach to connect with advisors via display, email, direct mail and inbound.


And the result? How does an eight-digit increase in pipeline sound? Not impressed? Then how about a seven-digit increase in marketing-attributable revenue? Well, that's what they did. All while improving sales and marketing alignment, improving efficiencies in marketing and improving connections with advisors.


So, how'd they do it?


There were too many components involved in their success to name but there are five big ones that stood out to me.

 

Commitment to Transitioning to Best Practice, Modern Marketing

Far too many companies pick up a MA platform and just end up doing batch and blast with it. It takes a solid commitment to transition to a modern marketing strategy. The commitment needs to be throughout the whole marketing organization, from the execs, all the way down to the specialists. This commitment is required because when sales managers are demanding the last-minute, ad-hoc tactics, the team can stay true to course and deliver a long-term and far more fruitful strategy for filling the pipeline.


Best Multichannel Marketing Platform on the Planet

As I said in my presentation, saying that they had the best multichannel marketing platform on the planet doesn't have quite the effect it had prior to me working for the OMC but I've been drinking the Kool-Aid since 2005 and I still love the taste. I believe more strongly than ever that a company armed with the tools in the OMC, combined with the power of app cloud partners has absolutely everything they need to achieve modern marketing greatness.


Delivering Client-Centric Content

Prior to overhauling their content strategy, their content was like so much of the content out there. It was product (in this case, their product is their brand) centric and thus garnered very low engagement. To remedy this, they produced over 100 pieces of advisor-centric content. This content was entirely about what advisors cared about and had little to do with their brand. This strategy paid off big time as their content engagement shot through the roof.


Engaging Content Delivery

Even if a company makes a commitment to delivering client centric content, if they keep that content in the old, tried & true delivery methods of white papers and datasheets and the like, they're missing a huge opportunity. With tools like LookBook HQ and Vidyard out there, there's no excuse for doing the flat, boring content presentation and delivery. This company saw huge engagement gains when they moved to these dynamic platforms.


Integration Innovation

This happens to be the title of one of our Markie categories of old but I think it captures one of the keys to success quite well. Much of the success of this particular wealth management company came from the ease of integrating their MA platform with not only their CRM but with several other 3rd party systems such as LinkedIn (formerly Bizo) for display and even direct mail providers like MailLift. Folks in the Eloqua world have been saying this for years: If there's a business use case that the core application doesn't take care of, there's an app for that. And it's so true. Having an easy, seamless integration between all of your marketing systems is in my opinion, a huge component of their success.


What do you think? If you've worked out who I'm talking about here, were there other keys to success that I've missed? Better yet, if your organization has been killing it, what are your top keys? Please weigh in.

43-leak-repairs.jpgThis weekend I finally completed the arduous process of buying and selling a home and was sharply reminded of how much work is involved in moving the contents of an entire house. Ever been too exhausted to sleep? I can relate.

 

The other night, in preparation for the impending move, I disconnected my washing machine and it turned out to be a far messier project than I could have ever guessed. I had done this several times in the past so it was seriously not a bit deal in my mind. I turned off the taps and grabbed my monkey wrench and unhooked the hot hose. All good. Then I started loosening the cold hose and that?s when things went down-hill.

 

As I loosened the hose, water started coming out. I thought to myself, no big deal, there's probably just some built-up pressure in the line and I'll just drain it out. But as I kept loosening it, the more the water started spraying. Water, everywhere.

 

Now, the smart thing to do at this point would be tighten the hose back up and reassess the situation. But I wasn't so smart that night. I just kept trying to loosen the hose, while trying to funnel the spraying water away from my face and into the drain with my free, cupped hand. All the while, saying to myself the cold tap is off. I even reached up again and tried the tap and sure enough. It seemed tightly closed.

 

After spending a few minutes being stubborn like this, I finally relented and said to myself, dude, the tap is still on. There's NO WAY there was this much water in the hose. So I stopped trying to fight the water, took some more water to the face and cranked on the tap and with some serious elbow grease, sure enough, it gave. It was just stuck. So, I proceeded to close it off and finish the disconnection and then set about cleaning up my mess.

 

Later that day I got to thinking about how ridiculous all of this was.  Due to my stubborn belief that the tap was closed (and I was completely positive that it was closed), I kept pursuing a course of action that was not only unproductive but was also detrimental. I got to thinking and realized that marketers, especially in the financial services space do this sort of thing all the time. Specifically, they take actions with, or based on faulty data and barrel ahead, despite evidence that they're headed in the wrong direction.

 

On a corporate project level, this happens all the time. You've seen the headlines. All the big banks and wealth management firms have done it. They spend millions and in a few cases billions on a project, just to realize that it's not going to work and scrap it. On a marketing campaign level, it may not be to that scale but throwing money away due to inaccurate data can indeed get up into the seven-figure range on occasion.

 

The most common example of this is when finservs put together a product-based marketing campaign and send it out to everyone, including the customers who already have that exact product. A couple of the biggest offenders of this are Citi and Capitol One with their credit card products. One day I received three direct mail pieces (all on the same day) from Citi, all for the same, exact credit card; a credit card I already owned. All three were sent to a slight derivation of my name at my address. When you consider the cost of direct mail and think about how many of these pieces are sent to either people who already have this product or to people who don't even exist, the price tag for dirty data can be staggering.

 

It's not just direct mail. Financial services companies are flushing millions down the drain in display advertising as well. The money they're spending on display in 2015 is projected to be over $7 billion and I have to ask how much of that is being spent to market to existing customers, or competitors, or other segments or audiences who will never buy the product or service that they're being offered in these ads.

 

It is of course happening also in the traditional email channel as well. How many email campaigns that financial institutions are deploying are being sent out to upstanding investors like Mickey Mouse or Bruce Wayne? I promise you, it's a frighteningly large portion of the campaigns.

 

So to get back to the water-in-the-face subject of proceeding on faulty data, why does it happen so often in digital marketing? After all, the tools to create a contact washing machine have been around for over a decade. On the display advertising front, there are data tools out there that solve the exact problem of marketing to prospects with an extremely low propensity to buy. So with all of these tools at their disposal, why is it still happening so much? especially in the financial services space?

 

My opinion is that even though these institutions have been around longer than most companies and know the financial services world through and through, they're generally not on the bleeding edge of change and technologies. They're traditionally slow to adopt change and marketing is no exception. Another reason would be the siloed nature of these organizations. The marketing operations folks in these orgs who are getting good at leveraging current technologies and strategies generally don't own the process or budget for display advertising, direct mail or other channels. These functions and budgets are usually siloed within business units or product marketing.

 

What are your thoughts? What do you see is the main reason these companies continue to waste so many marketing dollars by proceeding with (or based on) inaccurate data?


42-brandshare_animated.jpgLydia Dishman from Adweek wrote a great article last month; in which she interviewed Kevin Akeroyd, SVP and GM from Oracle Marketing Cloud. In that interview, Kevin talks about the dilemma that CMOs all of publicly traded companies struggle with all the time. It's the balance of Wall Street and Main Street.


The gist of the article is that within publicly traded companies, CMOs are under great pressure from the CEO and board (Wall Street) to drive performance for the current quarter, while customers (Main Street) demand a continuous, consistent, customer-centric experience; which requires long-term vision and commitment.


Now, the article is a bit salesy (it's a sponsored article after all) but I found one point in particular that really hit home for me, especially in the financial services space where I spend the bulk of my time these days. One thing that Kevin says in this article made me yell (which I don't think the corporate guys in the office appreciated) out "amen brother! preach it!" here in my Denver Oracle office.


The point Kevin made that had me pumping my fist was this:


"You have a board that is pushing for profitable growth and predictable performance quarter over quarter. That can force a CMO to adopt a short-term mindset focused on financial measurements to prove value that translates to "batch-and-blast" marketing style tactics. On the other, you have customers who demand pervasive personalization, customized and dazzling digital experiences and one-to-one marketing at massive scale. CMOs have to play the long game here, building relationships that will captivate customers through the years."


The reason this statement had me fanboying over Kevin (again) is that it precisely outlines what companies in the financial services space are doing, and what they need to do to eventually succeed.


Every company in the space that I speak with, it's the same story. Whether it's an asset management company, a commercial bank or a money transfer/payment company, they all tend to adopt the short-term, batch-and-blast mentality in an attempt to show quick results. The problem, as outlined in the article is that this approach doesn't work. It's not modern marketing and more importantly it's not how customers and clients want to be communicated with.


The second part of Kevin's statement here is the step that the brave few CMOs in the financial services world need to take. It is indeed a long game. A commitment to an ongoing, continuous, valuable and interactive dialog with customers and clients. However, even though it is a long term play, it doesn't mean that CMOs have to miss out on the short term gains. That's where multichannel marketing automation comes in. With the right technologies and strategies in place, marketing can take care of the short term campaigns while focusing on the rewarding long term relationships with clients and customers.


Don't believe marketing leaders can do both? Go ask Meagan Eisenberg if it's possible. I mention Meagan because she has done it. She's leveraged her best practice expertise and the best marketing technologies to execute on both short term and long term gains with ridiculously impressive results.


So what about marketing leaders in the financial services space? Is their environment so different, so regulated that they can't do what Meagan has done. I'd say absolutely not. As Kevin mentioned in the interview, CMOs (even in the financial services space) already have the tools at their disposal to succeed. It's just a matter of bringing all of their resources together with a solid strategy for modern marketing and they'll see success.


Let me hear your opinion on it. Can they do it or is there an insurmountable obstacle in their way?

40-3267dde6-109a-4fab-b9fe-bea.pngOne of the core tenants of modern marketing is to deliver the right content, to the right people, at the right time. It seems that most modern marketers are totally down with this concept and everyone I speak with seems to understand it. But if that's the case, why are so few companies actually pulling it off?

 

According to SiriusDecisions, 60 to 70 percent of the content created by the B2B orgs goes unused. And the primary reason for this is because the topics of this content are not relevant to buyer audiences.


Think about it. Look at all of the marketing material you're bombarded with (at work and at home) and ask yourself how much of it really hits you where you live. Whether we're talking about emails, social adds, display advertising or even old-school direct mail, the vast majority of the content we see is simply not relevant to us. From my experience and the folks I've been discussing this with lately, I'd estimate that somewhere around 95% of the content we see is irrelevant.


Sadly, the companies we expect to have this nailed; companies we do repeated business with, tend to fail time and time again at delivering relevant content to customers they should know pretty well. Whether it's a promotion for a product you already own, or a service that doesn't fit your business, it happens all the time. But why?


We could go into the rabbit hole discussion of big data and disparate systems, but that would be a blog article (or better yet a book) all on its own. We all know that companies have customer data in soloed systems and this is a big part of the problem. However, let's just tackle what a marketer in an average enterprise B2B company has to work with. Better yet, let's look at a live example from a company in the financial services sector.


Let me tell one of the many success stories we're hearing from Cetera Financial. First, a little about this impressive organization. Cetera Financial Group is the second largest independent financial advisor network in the United States. Cetera provides award-winning wealth management and advisory platforms, comprehensive broker-dealer and registered investment adviser services, and innovative technology for more than 9,700 RIAs and over 500 financial institutions nationwide.


Cetera has been a front-runner in the marketing automation world for some time - especially in the financial services space. However in the early days of their modern marketing journey, they had some definite difficulties in engaging with their target audience within the wealth management space. The difficulties weren't so much around the commonly discussed regulations (SEC, FINRA, etc.) in the wealth management world but really around the uniqueness of their audience.


Cetera's audience is by and large financial advisors. These people are limited on time, they're highly educated, and highly critical of the content they engage with. The traditional white papers, and datasheets that Cetera had been using for demand gen were just not cutting it with these guys.


One channel that did stand out above the others in terms of success was webinars. The reason for their success here is that they realized that in order to get the attention of their audience, they'd need to provide the audience with something they desperately needed; which was help in understanding the complex and ever-changing nuances of managing and selling within the wealth management space. They brought in leading industry experts to demystify issues around topics such as social selling, career planning, future proofing a client practice and more.


Now, as effective as this was, it's not the webinars themselves that I'd like to point out, but rather how they used them.


As I mentioned above, one of the most difficult challenges that marketers face is determining what content their audience really wants when the only info they have on their customers is basic content data. Check out what Cetera did to fill this gap. Since their webinars were quite successful, they came to the realization that they could leverage the registration process, as well as polling questions during the events themselves to get extremely detailed and priceless information from their customers.


Since they knew these contacts were highly interested in the webinars, they knew they could go beyond just asking for basic contact info on the registration forms. They could ask qualifying questions on the pain-points of the registrants. Now, this doesn't mean Cetera presented them with a monster form, they're smarter than that. They know that leveraging the best marketing automation tools, marketers can use tactics such as progressive profiling, to ensure that they only ask the questions they need. Additionally, during the webinars they could ask probing questions in the form of a poll to gain even deeper insights into what their audience cares about.


Both the registration data and polling answers automatically flow into the marketing automation platforms which can then be leveraged to run highly targeted nurture campaigns but more importantly, the data can be used to determine what content to create. Thus allowing their target audience to truly dictate the kind of content that is created. Talk about creating the right content for the right person!


The webinar program that Cetera has in place is definitely what I'd call best practice and a lot of marketers can learn from this approach. If you'd like to hear more about that Cetera did, check out the podcast that Rob Woods did recently on our VerticalX Series. Now, a question for you (or maybe two). Have you done this with webinars and/or other offers? If so, what did you do and how successful was it?

After talking with a friend who's helping some marketers in the credit card world, I decided to delve into the depths of this interesting space. Like many of the industries and sub industries we cover, it's pretty interesting as it's a very different model (in terms of revenue generation) than the traditional marketing and sales models that we're are usually discussing. 38-2015-02-16_22-34-15.jpg

 

What makes this space so different is its take on the concept of risk and reward. On the reward side, there is tremendous potential for revenue. In 2013, the total revolving debt in the US was over $880 billion and since interest charges on this debt is the primary revenue generator for credit card issuers, that's some respectable reward. On the risk side, there's always the potential for a customer to default on their payments. Over the last few years, credit card issuers have been sitting around 3-4% for their charge-off rate. That's the percentage of dollars owed that issuers have written off as uncollectable.

 

The trick, for these companies is to find (and keep) customers who tend to carry a balance, yet pay their bills. However, there are definitely some challenges marketers need to overcome in order to succeed. Let's cover some of the top challenges.

 

Shrinking budgets are making traditional channels less feasible - Traditional channels such as direct mail have become more expensive, while marketing budgets for many issuers have been declining. Marketers need to increase their efforts in alternative, less-costly channels such as digital (email, display, social) and in-person branch/store offers.

 

Targeting low-risk, high-value prospects while still keeping acquisition costs low - Typically, marketers are given low target COA goals which generally tends to result in targeting lower-value, high-risk prospects, rather than the low-risk, balance-carrying customers they are really looking for.

 

Presenting relevant and attractive offers to target prospects - Far too often prospects are targeted with offers that do not fit their needs in a credit card. Most often these offers are simply irrelevant but can at times be offers for products they already own. It's 2015. There's never been more available data on customers and prospects. Smart issuers with leverage digital body language to gain valuable insights and present relevant offers.

 

Cutting through the clutter of competitive marketing to be seen by prospects - In today's marketing landscape, the noise that marketers have to contend with is at an all-time high. Getting a compelling offer in front of a prospect can be daunting - especially through traditional channels like direct mail. But even with digital, it's so difficult to be heard above the din. Marketers can find more success with super-tight targeting and segmentation while presenting relevant, personalized offers.

 

Leveraging Big Data for Intelligent Cross-Sell Opportunities - For many financial institutions, there is immense opportunity for cross-sell into credit products. However, presenting the right offer to the right existing customer at the right time can be difficult if not impossible for marketers due to the lack of connectivity between their disparate, internal systems. Smart issuers will do what it takes to make integrations happen from their MAP, CRM, ERP, LMS and other systems in order to take advantage of cross-sell opportunities.

 

To sum up, credit card marketers are challenged with identifying ideal customers and targeting them with relevant content and offers that stands out above the noise. Unless they're leveraging today's modern marketing strategies and tools, they'll have little chance at success.

 

I'm sure there are many other challenges that credit card marketers are facing. What other important challenges have I missed?

Measuring Social Media success in Financial Services poses a challenge to marketers. Those with little social media understanding, but who often hold the purse strings, expect strong ROI metrics. But tying revenue to social activity is no simple feat.  Much like any marketing revenue attribution model, no one tactic can take total ownership of revenue activity.

 

Within the marketing organization many companies still focus on impressions, reach, followers, likes, and retweets. While those are tangible metrics, and they can be baselined for future measurement, they typically don't align with the true objectives of the firm.

 

Financial organizations have recognized that social media provides a platform for engagement with current clients, and can also be an entry point for future clients. Below are 2 organizations that have honed in on the true value of social media.

 

T.Rowe Price Succeeds With Quality Content

T.Rowe Price has focused their social media efforts on advisor engagement and enablement, as well as client education. They generate surveys for advisors and then publish the advisor responses.  They work to understand the needs and interests of the advisor community. They also provide a plethora of best practice content for investors.

 

Their content directed to clients is fantastic. The College Savings Chill-out videos are a personal favorite.  Client education is a common theme.  They offer FAQs, and answers, on rolling over 401Ks.  T.Rowe offers advice on navigating the bond market and education on investment savings. Stock market predictions from equity leaders was one of their most engaged with pieces. "Savings vs. spending when ordering online" was hugely popular, and timely, around the holidays.

 

During the 10-day period I monitored T.Rowe's social activity, they grew following across all channels by 2.5% on average.  But, as stated earlier, it was the quality of content and quality of content that was most impressive. Even a more experiential tactic, tweetchats generated engagement.  Their tweetchat using #TRPoutlook had 41 engagements.

 

USAA Succeeds with Member Engagement 37-USAA-Facebook-Dec-20-530x506.png

USAA was an amazing company to follow.  They're also unique in that brand awareness and community development are what they target.  Becoming a member only comes through military service or being grandfathered in so there's not a lot of demand generation that needs to occur.  USAA develops a patriotic pride in all of their social media activity, and their content really speaks to military servicemen and women.  Because their targeting members, revenue objective focus more on growing business with existing members ("let us cover your life insurance and home loan along with your car insurance").

 

I was astounded at the quality and quantity of video posted.  "Thank you for your service" videos were published daily.  USAA drove member engagement through pride and #s like #ThoseWhoDared and #SalutetoService.  They ran contests during the fall using #MilitaryFan. Their content targeted the needs and common questions of the military audience like "8 Money Moves for the Military", advice on military separation planning, tips for driving after returning from deployment, and tips on moving.  And while they leverage traditional social channels, their use of Pinterest and Instagram was beautifully executed.

 

You can read more about USAA's social media practices here.

 

Final Words

I spoke with a social media expert and the provided the following advice.

"The only questions I ever get asked are "How long is this going to take?," "When should I post?" and "How do you get followers?" It only leads to insanely subjective responses. I've gotten the best response when I boil everything down by platform and focus completely on the audience that is present when telling people to tailor their posts accordingly. It's a lot of parsing data and asking people how they use different platforms for it to dawn on them that one-stop posting on all platforms through a third-party app like hootsuite is probably the absolute worst thing they can do (probably more so than never posting) on social media because there is no focus on the consumer."

What financial services social media examples would you add as "best in class"?

Prudential Shows Us How it?s Done


Financial services companies have gotten a bad rap for being behind the curve in leveraging innovative marketing automation and content marketing tools and techniques. However, we're starting to see some brilliant examples of companies in this space going way beyond what companies in bleeding-edge industries such as high tech are doing. In my last post I talked about how HSBC is leveraging LinkedIn to do some great content marketing and now I think I've found another finserv example that has moved the content marketing bar even higher.

 

Prudential was looking to change the way people thought about retirement. The average American has only put away roughly $38,000 for retirement and with people living longer than ever before, this amount won't scratch the surface of what will be needed. Even those people who are on track to have over $500k don't realize that they won't have enough to live their accustomed lifestyles for 20+ years once they reach retirement. 36-challenge-Lab-image.jpg


Prudential discovered that the challenge was in how people thought about retirement and the behaviors associated with those perceptions. In order to change people's thought process on investing for retirement (and indirectly to increase interest in the investment vehicles that Prudential offers), they built The Challenge Lab.


What is The Challenge Lab? Here's how Prudential explains it: "The Challenge Lab is a Website where we take on the human behaviors that get in the way of our financial future. To build it, we partnered with leading academic experts to help us understand why we do the things we do, and what we can do to change our behavior. Through videos, experiments, tools, expert articles and over 75 interactive pieces, the Challenge Lab has changed the national conversation about retirement and empowered people who may not know much about finance to start making a real difference in their financial futures."


The Challenge Lab is a wonderful example of great content marketing because it satisfies these core requirements for excellent content marketing:

  • Customer Focused
    • The Challenge Lab is entirely about the customer and has no mention of Prudential product

  • Helpful, Informational and Educational
    • The content within the Challenge Lab helps the customer understand the very real problem they face and educates them by providing the information they need to overcome this problem in very simple terms

  • Engaging, and Emotional Content
    • Prudential's content does pull on the emotions of the customers and then the tool itself allows them to go deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole. Customers spend a lot of time on this site because it is so easy to just look at one more story or one more component of the site.

  • Provocative
    • This site was all about being thought provoking. It was the absolute goal of the site. I think they nailed it because it got me thinking about my own retirement plans.

  • The Marketing in Content Marketing
    • The top 1% of content marketers will do all the things mentioned above while setting the idea in consumer's minds that they have a need for a product or service - without ever mentioning said products or services. Prudential does this deftly. They plant the seed in the visitor's mind that they aren't prepared for retirement and they need to change that. Though they never mention products or services, consumers of this content will make the logical next step and come to the conclusion that they'll need some solid investment vehicles in order to reach their retirement goals.

So how well did it work? Allow me to paraphrase an entry from the Tomorrow Awards:
In the first month, there was a 141% increase in social mentions about Prudential and The Challenge Lab campaign, resulting in 2.4 million earned impressions on Twitter alone - a 1000% increase from the month before launch. In an article by Andrew Aziz, Director of Financial Engineering & Research at IBM Risk Analytics, Andrew had this to say about the campaign, "Prudential has demonstrated an effective ability to articulate a complex concept and make it understandable so that the average investor gains insight."


Quite the success. And it shows very clearly that companies in the financial services industry can indeed accomplish great feats of content marketing. What about your company? We'd love to hear about how you've been able to raise the content marketing bar within your world. Please share your awesomeness in the comments below.

It seems that most companies have come to the realization that they need a solid content marketing strategy but few companies (especially in the financial services sector) seem to be able to get it right. 35-HSBC3.png


HSBC is one of the few. Their award-winning content marketing strategy has put them into the spotlight as the best practice model of how content marketing is done.


Before we get into what HSBC did to crack the content marketing nut, let's look at the challenge that all marketers face with content and why most fail.


The phrase "Content is King" might be old-hat to most marketers but that doesn't make it any less true. In fact, it's as true and important as the day the phrase was coined. Content is the key component to driving customer interactions and CMOs realize it. Companies are spending billions on content. According to the Content Marketing Institute, in 2013, B2B marketers spent 33% of their marketing budgets on content marketing.


Unfortunately for most of these companies, the bulk of that cash is going down the drain. SiriusDecisions tells us that 70% of B2B content goes completely unused. So what are these companies doing wrong? We could write a book (as many have) on this topic but let's break it down to the top problem.


The primary problem is that companies are churning out product-centric content that remains irrelevant to customers and prospects. This content is far too often a one-way spewing of narcissism, rather than an engaging two-way conversation with customers. On the occasion that the content isn't product centric, it still often performs poorly because there?s little analysis going into the decisions on what content to create.


So, how did HSBC avoids these pitfalls and go on to create such a successful content strategy? Firstly, they did their homework. They dove into the data to determine exactly who their audience was (i.e. persona research) and just what kind of content their audience wanted. Can you guess that their audience did not want product centric content? Their audience wanted content that would add value to their jobs and lives. Go figure, right?

 

From there, they determined the format of their content. Considering where the content would reside and how audiences would interact with it. They then used their employees, partners and customers to source new content. In addition to this, they made it very easy for their customers to create and engage in conversations about the content, which pushed crowd sourcing to the next level. Finally, they published the content to their web properties and then leveraged LinkedIn groups and LinkedIn sponsored posts to selectively promote content to people that the content was most likely to resonate with.


This approach of selective promotion was a bit of genius because it not only ensured that the content was promoted to the people who were most likely to consume it but also saved them heaps of advertising cash by having a laser focus on the right audience, rather than the traditional (and costly) shotgun approach.


And what was the result of this effort? How about over 40,000 new interactions with the content? Or a 1500% increase in organic update impressions and over 900% increase in social interactions? Also, adding over 3700 new followers to their LinkedIn page isn't such a bad thing.


Pretty impressive. Especially for one of the largest banking and financial services companies in the world. Even though there was a lot of work behind those numbers, it really all comes down to the simple concept of creating meaningful and valuable conversations with your customers and prospects.


So, how about you? What is your content marketing strategy? Have you cracked the nut or is your company still stuck in the product-zone?

Financial services companies are investing more and more in display advertising. According to an eMarketer report published last year, financial services companies are on track to spend over $7.3 billion on digital advertising by 2017. But how can they avoid the pitfalls that other industries have fallen into?


Before getting into the obstacles that these companies face in the display retargeting world, let's first take a look at what retargeting is and what these companies are doing with it.


Whether you know it or not, you are being retargeted all the time on the web. Put simply, retargeting is the science of serving display ads to someone who has visited a company's website and more often than not, the ad is relevant to the pages visited or product viewed on that site.


Think about it, you went on your favorite online shoe website and spent some time looking at a particular pair of shoes. You leave the site without purchasing and for the next several weeks you see ads all over the web for those shoes you looked at. You've been retargeted.


But what are financial services companies doing with this technology? Generally speaking, just like the retail example above, their goal is to get people to convert on their site, whether that conversion is a loan application, an insurance quote request or a simple inquiry form. The difference with retargeting is that they are working to convert people who have already expressed interest in their products and services by viewing those products/services their website.


A good example of a financial services company who leads the pack in retargeting is Cetera Financial Group. Cetera is leveraging the latest in retargeting technologies to reach their niche segment of finance professionals with highly specific and relevant ads. This has allowed Cetera to increase visitors on their site by 13%, pageviews by 27% and they drove an 8% conversion rate. Pretty impressive numbers - especially when compared to traditional display advertising. You can read more about what Cetera is doing with retargeting in this article by Marilyn Cox.


Now we've looked at what retargeting is and looked at a good example of what financial services companies are doing with it, let's take a look at the problem.


About 2 months ago, I went online to look for a hotel in Downtown LA. I checked out the Luxe City Center hotel which someone had recommended. I browsed their site and booked a room. All good right? Here's where things went wrong. For the next 6 weeks, up to the point of my reservation (and past that date) I'm seeing ads for this hotel everywhere I go online. The ads I'm being served are for the exact room I booked.


See the problem? These guys are spending display dollars, trying to sell me something I've already purchased. You've seen it, haven't you? You bought something online and then afterward, you saw ads all over the web for that exact product. Now, it would be another thing entirely if after my purchase, the display ads were offering a deal at the hotel restaurant or perhaps a discount for the spa. That would actually be a great cross-sell strategy. But nope, they were trying to sell me something I had already purchased.


So how does this happen? If you're thinking that it's because the display retargeting team doesn't know what they're doing, although that's potentially possible, I don't think that's the case. I believe it's more indicative of a much larger problem.


Disparate, disconnected systems are probably one of the largest problems that plague marketers and it's most likely the culprit here. In the hotel example, we've got at least two separate systems. The hotel is using its retargeting system to serve up the ads, and then the reservation system to book the rooms. It's obvious that the segmentation they're doing in the retargeting system does not pull in contacts from the reservation system to exclude them from the program.


This problem can actually be solved without excessive cost or brain damage. In a best case scenario, the hotel could set up an automated data feed to send reservation data to the retargeting system to remove those contacts. In a less ideal scenario, someone on the team could at a minimum, download the reservations and manually load them into the retargeting system to exclude them.


If you're using cutting edge marketing automation tools such as Eloqua, Bizo or BlueKai for your retargeting campaigns, it's super easy to set up an exclude filter in your segment to remove people you don't want included in the campaign, this could easily include those who have submitted a reservation form or those who have purchased a specific product. The problem is that this isn't happening a lot out there in the display retargeting world. There are a few companies like Cetera who are getting it right, but not many.


How about your company? If you've got retargeting campaigns running, are you filtering out those who've already converted or are you flushing that money down the drain?

How Modern Marketers in Financial Services are Taking the Next Step to Win the Channel Marketing Game

 

Have you ever played the game (as a child or an adult with kids) where you sit in a circle and whisper a phrase in the ear of the person next to you and then they do the same and it spreads all around the circle until it comes back to the person who started it? If you have, you know that almost invariably, by the time the phrase comes all the way back around to the originator, it has changed significantly.

34-2014-10-24_15-23-49.jpg

As a teacher of martial arts and Asian studies I've played this game with the youth students as a vehicle to explore the topic of communication and to demonstrate how quickly information can change when it's passed from person, to person.


I was reminded of the game this week when I read about the interesting things that BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, is doing to maintain consistent branding and messaging through their reseller channel.


Similar to the game, as messaging and branding makes its way from a company out to its reseller channel, it has a way of changing and becoming stale. As with any company that sells through a distribution or reseller channel, it's a constant challenge to ensure that resellers are using your current branding, messaging and relevant promotions in their campaigns and communications.


It's not that the resellers are trying to be difficult to work with. It's just the nature of the beast. The bulk of resellers, whether we're talking RIAs in the financial industry or technology resellers, rarely have significant resources to put towards keeping completely up to date with the branding and messaging from the companies of the products they sell. What's more, these resellers usually represent a plethora of brands, which makes it extremely difficult to stay current with each one.


Let's take a look at the types of communications that financial services companies like BlackRock would send to their distribution network. First, we have sales materials that help the advisors sell their products and services more effectively. This might include custom sales tools and calculators or resources for advisor education. Secondly, we have customer facing content such as current promotions for featured products or services.


How do most financial institutions currently keep their channel up to date? Usually there's a channel marketing team that is providing content to the channel on a regular basis. This would include a few aspects. First, pushing content out via email campaigns. The more savvy channel marketing teams will use marketing automation to achieve this at scale, while the less so end up doing a lot of one-off emails and phone calls with resellers. Secondly, these teams usually have some sort of partner portal which allows resellers to self-serve for current content.


The problems with the first approach are that it?s fairly resource intensive (especially if they?re using the one-off approach) and it requires that the resellers are reading and leveraging the content within the emails. The main problem inherent with the second approach is that it requires the resellers to come to yet another portal to get the latest and greatest.


So what to do? Let's take a look at how BlackRock is tackling this problem. In their iShares division, they have invested in a technology platform called Zift. With Zift, they were able to take branded content and promotions and syndicate them throughout their entire reseller network. Just by providing a single line of code to their channel, the resellers simply embed the latest content from BlackRock within their own communications. From then on, the resellers need to do nothing and the syndicated content on their own communication channels always contains the latest content from Blackrock.


This functionality alone is enough to be a game changer for FIs like BlackRock who sell through the channel. However, the next piece that gets the marketing geek inside me super excited is that this new technology integrates with marketing automation and CRM systems in a way that allows companies to not only syndicate content but actually send leads into a reseller's CRM and then receive lead disposition and other data back from that reseller's CRM.


I don't know about you, but after years of working in and around channel marketing, this sounds like the Holy Grail to me. The good news is that there are companies all over the world who are doing this right now. Predictably, financial services companies are slower to adopt this technology than others but they?re starting to see the vast benefits.


Holy grails aside, for a lot of financial institutions, taking that first step into syndicating their branded content and campaigns is going to make a world of difference in keeping the channel in synch with corporate content, promotions and branding. If this were the children's game I mentioned above, some might say companies leveraging this technology are almost cheating. I don't know about you, but in the game of modern marketing, I'll take any advantage I can get.  

 

What about your company? What technologies, methodologies are you leveraging to improve consistency with your channel?