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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.


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?

Customer expectations continue to evolve, and financial services organizations are forced to keep pace. Financial services companies are tasked with communicating a consistent value message across email, direct mail, print and digital ads, social media, press releases, websites, blogs, events, and resource portals.


And with the multiplication of these channels comes an increased complexity in audiences like customers, prospects, influencers, advisors, brokers, and agents.  Because these segments and corresponding demographics are changing, so must communication strategies.  It?s necessary for firms to implement a multichannel marketing approach to their communications.  Marketers must launch these multichannel programs to develop a universal profile and understanding of their clients. 33-06tqsdataclean_wash_seconda-100407779-orig.jpg


But none of this is possible without accurate data.  According to the Data Warehouse Institute, poor data costs US businesses more than $600 billion annually.  This can have an effect on segmentation, targeting, conversion, and ultimately business growth.  Now, companies like Dun & Bradstreet are providing the data required to execute a multichannel strategy.


Conversion and Opportunity Routing

Improved segmentation and targeting results in higher conversion rates.  Shortened web forms can also increase lead conversion.  Web forms with only 3 fields have a 10% higher conversion rate.  Integrating that D&B cloud connector with a marketing automation tool allows firms to pre-populate forms.  Companies can reduce the number of form fields, and because of the firmographic data imported, they can use those form fields to capture information for further sales qualification like investment experience and bank affiliations.


Additionally, you can focus sales efforts.  D&B provides a marketing pre-screen score based on a company?s credit risk ranked as low, medium, and high.  This data can be factored into scoring so sales focuses on only those opportunities that are fiscally viable.  This data enhances opportunity scoring.  And because D&B provides firmographic data, companies can also map corporate ties and improve lead routing.


Data Segmentation

Once that data is cleansed, companies can begin to segment and target communications tied to email, events, social media, and data modeling tied to display advertising.  Firms can segment around revenue and industry.  And this industry segmentation can extend beyond primary industry codes because D&B provides 6 levels of industry breakdown.  This really allows for targeted messaging and content development.

Companies can further enrich data for segmentation and nurturing through the use of D-U-N-S numbers, financials, market segmentation clusters, competitors, and family tree data.


Data Quality and Hygiene

Companies must develop a clear picture of their business universe and identify profitable opportunities in order to fuel growth and realize positive bottom-line and top-line results. This can only be accomplished with quality business information.  Inaccurate data is risky and manual processes are time consuming and run a high risk of error.  D&B allows companies to correct missing data, merge duplicates, and add critical fields pulling from over 100 data points.


D&B also enables companies to build out their database.  Companies can identify additional contacts by using email addresses and can also pull additional contact information by searching for data, like titles. Companies can also identify new contacts by role by selecting specific job roles to pull back additional contact information.


The first step in a customer-centric multichannel strategy is good data.  How are you enhancing your contact data and what results have you seen in engagement performance?

The Recruiting Crisis in Wealth Management


I had the privilege of sitting down over lunch with Bryan Lieungh, VP in charge of new financial advisor recruiting at one of the world's largest and best known wealth management firms, Merrill Lynch, B of A.

We discussed the challenges all wealth management firms face these days around recruitment and onboarding of new financial advisors. Many of the challenges fall under the items my partner, Marilyn Cox, wrote about in her article How to Drive Financial Services Recruitment Results, but a few of the highlights from our conversation were:

  • Financial advisors are getting old. The average age of a financial planner is 55 and nearly a third are over 60 (Jeff Opdyke, WSJ, 10/09/07).
  • Firms are seeing fewer college students and grads choosing wealth management as a career. Many students and grads are targeting "cool" jobs in tech companies such as Facebook or Google.
  • The market crash of '08 is still a recent memory and has soured many college students, grads and other potential prospects on the idea of working in wealth management. Millennials recall how much money their parents lost in the crash of 08 and all of the associated stress with those losses.
  • The shrinking talent pool has pushed wealth management firms to find ways to improve recruiting efforts but it?s proving to be an expensive, time consuming process and unfortunately it?s not yielding the desired results.

So, what can firms do to overcome these challenges?


The solution to the first challenge seems rather obvious. Firms need to redouble their recruiting efforts and they need to jump on this immediately. But what about the challenge of this less-than-ideal perception of a career in wealth management? Wealth management firms need to convince prospective advisors that working in the financial industry can be fun, challenging and cool. No easy task.


Let's quickly address the least likely item to change quickly; company culture. Wealth management firms need to shed the perception of grandpa's place to work. The simplest (yet admittedly least likely to occur quickly) concept would be to lose the suits. Take a look at the daily attire of tech company icons such as Mark Zuckerberg or Evan Spiegel. They do not wear suits and ties. Even Steve Jobs who is held in the minds and hearts of millennials at a nearly deity status was known for his jeans and turtle necks. If wealth management firms want to shed this grandpa's workplace perception, they're going to have to lose, at the very least, the ties. *steps off soap-box*


In addition to the attire changes, to truly compete with these tech companies, firms really need to start acting more like them. Flexible work arrangements and much more fun, comfortable offices would be a great start. I can't tell you how often I've gone into the offices of these companies and thought, wow, this is remarkably like Neo's office building in the first Matrix movie. Very old, very depressing. Not so good for attracting a young, talented workforce who know what offices at google look like thanks to movies like The Interns.


Lastly, wealth management firms need to do a much better job at communicating one of the most compelling reasons to be a financial advisor ? no fixed income ceiling. There are very, very few careers in the world that do not have a fixed salary cap. Wealth management advisor is one of those jobs. However, firms have done an abysmal job at communicating this to prospective advisors.


Now, we all realize making these changes at these major firms can be difficult (if not downright impossible if senior leadership isn't all on board) but a far easier task would be to simply work on the perception (even if that perception doesn't quite meet reality) that your firm is the best place anyone could work. How? Yep, you guessed it, marketing!


Firms can leverage today's marketing cloud technologies to build automated campaigns that target perspective advisors through all of the digital channels in which they interact. These campaigns could involve something as simple as drip/nurture email campaigns to display ads on Facebook or even leveraging ATMs on college campuses to deliver key messaging to prospective advisors. Without a huge investment in technologies and personnel, firms can launch these campaigns in a highly focused effort, targeting only the best prospects.


However, just like anything else, these firms have to want to change. For better or worse, over the next decade, the firms who embrace this change will be strong players in the market and the ones who do not will at the very least, struggle. The key characteristic of the successful firms will be those who start treating their recruiting just like their other best practice marketing campaigns.


What challenges are you seeing around recruiting at your firm? What innovative processes or technologies are you leveraging to meet these challenges?

To select core banking partners, about half of businesses conduct a formal request for proposal process.  But what about the other 50% of opportunities that don't issue RFPs?  Converting that 50% of potential business relies heavily on the skills of a financial services'sales force.  And with the financial upheaval of 2008, many firms have spent the last 8 years regrouping.


With the market steadily improving, firms can once again focus on profitability.  But McKinsey states "With growth expected to continue to be slow in developed countries, banks must rely more heavily on excellence in sales ? retaining and increasing share with current customers as well as luring customer from competitors".


This places added pressure on financial services marketers to identify and engage with those companies that offer the greatest opportunity to drive revenue growth. Now, tools like Lattice Engines enable the marketing organization by identifying which accounts to engage for selling and retention.  32-2776.jpg


Predict Corporate Banking Engagement

McKinsey advises "Leading institutions have been able to balance growth and profitably by taking a more granular view based on insights into macro- and micro-trends and analysis by geography, sector, customer segments, and products."


Marketing can now evaluate both the micro- and macro-view.  By incorporating a predictive scoring approach based on explicit data (who they are), implicit data (what they're doing), and historic behavior and trends, financial firms can now identify which companies they should target.  This alleviates the burden on the marketing teams to guess what targets are most likely to engage.


This also allows financial institutions to develop value-based account targeting and segmentation. And this targeting approach can also lead to increased client penetration.


Identify New Asset Opportunity

By scoring the behavior of contacts, companies can improve their "penetrate and radiate" strategy by attracting new divisions.  Let's say the banking division of a financial services firm has as an established corporate banking relationship.  Financial organizations can score penetration opportunity by evaluating the information they already have on the account, like website traffic, sales interactions, marketing response, purchase history, etc. They can also score external attribute data like growth indicators, executive change, news events, business change, and outside firewall technologies.  Lattice predictive sales enablement also assembles a wealth of account information such as company information and financial transactions.


The asset management division of the financial institution can now leverage this scoring and insight to engage with the company's plan sponsors. Asset managers also spend a great deal of time working with the plan sponsor to define fund line-ups. Predictive analytics can guide asset managers in their asset recommendations. By evaluating corporate behavior, like hiring activity, asset managers can identify new asset opportunities. If a company is hiring for specific roles, this tool can alert the asset manager to recommend specific assets.


Predictive analytics is allowing financial services firms to identify the best revenue opportunities, to grow existing business within an account, and to enable sales and asset managers to develop more valuable customer relationships.


How is your firm adjusting to this changing model?

Financial Services carries the stereotype of a very formal and risk-adverse industry. But the last couple of years have demonstrated that this industry, once thought to be stuck in their traditional ways, is making forward progress.  Investment firms, banks, and insurance companies are engaging with clients, advisors, and agents through interactive content and smart social media initiatives.

Gamification is one interactive platform that most industries are still trying to understand.  Gamification enhances customer engagement by collecting additional data, crowdsourcing ideas, and educating in a fun interactive way.  Some companies cite a 100% to 150% pickup in engagement metrics including unique views, page views, community activities, and time on site.


But because gamification remains a mystery for most companies, my attention was certainly sparked when I read about the success Sun Life Financial has had with their gamification program.  Sun Life Financial wanted to drive increased participation in retirement savings programs.  To do this effectively, Sun Life recognized they needed to combine learning and action.  Since the launch in December 2013 , the game has attracted over 11,000 participants, who have complete more than 100,000 missions. In the first six months, 33% of employees who finished Level 1 increased their contributions and/or added a new product.


So, is this an anomaly?  Surprisingly, no.  After conducting research in the financial services space I uncovered many examples of effective gamification programs in the financial services space.  Below are 10 gamification programs delivering positive results for financial institutions.


  1. Extraco Bank:  This U.S. bank achieved success with their educational gamification program.  They wanted to remove free checking accounts in 2011, and used an online gamified application to explain the new proposition to customers. To address customer concerns and increase retention rates, the game walked customers through the key reasons and benefits of the account changes. As a result, conversion rates jumped from 2% to 14%1 on the platform. (via InformationWeek)
  2. PNC Bank:  When someone is banking online, they just "punch" the piggy bank whenever it pops up and money - in an amount of the user's choosing - will transfer from their Spend account to their Growth account.  Users decide how often the pig pops up, or for more spontaneous types, PNC will surprise users by throwing it out there at random moments. (via The Financial Brand31-04_1400.jpg
  3. Citi Singapore:  Citi has been using a social media game to increase use of its Citibank Clear Platinum Card and build a social media community among its card holders. Customers earn points by checking in to the Facebook game and by using their card. Points earned from check-ins and card usage are posted on the site so players can compete with each other to earn prizes with their points. (via Citi Group)
  4. BBVA: The "BBVA Game" is a customer rewards application aimed to increase engagement with the internet bank. Customers earn points by using e-banking, which can be redeemed for gifts or for prize draws. The initiative attracted over 100,000 registered users in its first six months. The resulted in an increased usage of online services, increased transactions, and stronger brand loyalty. (via InformationWeek)
  5. Commonwealth Bank in Australia:  Commonwealth Bank has 2 gamification initiatives, Coinland and Investorville. While Coinland is used to raise financial literacy of children and Investorville is aimed at adults. This online simulator let players try their hand at property investing without risking your their equity. By choosing an investor-profile players learn about investment strategies, rental returns, and interest rates. (via Enterprise Gamification Consultancy)
  6. American Family Insurance:  The iAmFam application provides a game, very similar to The Sims, where customers learn about the importance of insurance.  By giving customers practical scenarios, it encourages them to think about where they may have gaps in their insurance coverage. This gives leads to the identification of potential product needs - and then to sales. (via InformationWeek)
  7. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage:  To engage this audience, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage used a series of physical game-based activities to deliver messaging to realtors and extend time spent in the booth. By completing a survey that served as a lead retrieval form, attendees received the first of three tokens needed to qualify to play "Lucky Duck".  They earned a second token by playing a fun, interactive iPad game and answering questions about Wells Fargo products and services. The last token was earned at a game show led by a professional presenter that used audience response systems to answer questions.  Nearly 50% of Wells Fargo's target audience visited the booth and just as important, the time spent in the booth by attendees averaged 25-35 minutes. (via Live Marketing)
  8. Fidelity:   Fidelity Labs - the R&D arm of Fidelity Investments - launched the first version of a new educational game for investors called "Beat the Benchmark".  Fidelity Labs started building a game to engage college students where students chose stocks to "buy".  By testing game components with their target audience, Fidelity Labs refined a game program that stresses long-term investing, educates on investing vs. gambling, and emphasizes the importance of strategy versus luck. (via Fidelity Labs31-screen-shot-2012-02-16-at-2.26.13-pm.png
  9. AXA: AXA released an online game, Pass it On, which uses a traditional video game "journey" as a metaphor for the journey of life and the opportunities to purchase insurance coverage for loved ones after death. Players create avatars and guide their virtual families to a better financial future by saving game currency, managing expenses, and making important decisions about life insurance, the company says. There are also sweepstakes and charitable components. (via InformationWeek)
  10. Progressive:  Progressive has their superstore character ?Flo? take The Sims Social users through a series of actions within the game that exemplified their brand but still maintained the integrity of the user experience. Players could complete tasks like "getting an insurance quote" on the computer in the virtual world and were rewarded with a Progressive themed Unicorn. (via iab)


  Gamification is certainly opening new doors for financial services engagement, especially with the coveted Gen-X and Millenials.  But it's important to remember that gamification should serve purpose to the participant.  Providing an opportunity to self-educate is key.  Additionally,

Gartner analyst Stessa.

Your industry and changing, thanks to companies like Amazon, Zappos, Nordstrom, Virgin Atlantic, and Disney that have redefined the customer experience.  And when I refer to "customer", I'm referring to anyone that is a consumer or advocate of your content and services. That could be a client, an advisor, a broker, or an agent, or even a thought leader in your space.


And yes, these company's aren't in your industry, but an individual's expectation of engagement is constant across industry.  It doesn't matter if they're shopping for shoes online or managing their personal finances; they want and expect consistency in their experience.


And yes this does cause a huge challenge for the financial services industry.  You're competing for business, talent, and awareness.  But this is also where you have a tremendous opportunity because you can now set your set yourself apart.  Whether you're an independent advisor developing a personal brand, or a large firm redefining its image content marketing allows you to take control of that message.


Below are 10 Tweetable takeaways when considering your financial services content strategy.


Tweetable Takeaway #1: Your industry is changing. Evolve or implode. If you don't decide, the market will decide for you.


Tweetable Takeaway #2:  A customer is a consumer or advocate of your content and services like a client, an advisor, a broker, an agent or even a thought leader.


Tweetable Takeaway #3:  Don't just identify a problem, provide a solution that is engaging, entertaining, and is communicated by your customer.


Tweetable Takeaway #4: Define a trend, like the shift in traditional sales to social sales, and use that as to develop an industry relevant content piece.


Tweetable Takeaway #5: Leverage social media to extend the reach of your traditional communications. Move beyond content delivery and engage in conversation.


Tweetable Takeaway #6:  Don't just push content for consumption, ask for community input. Be relatable and relational. Show the human side of your organization.


Tweetable Takeaway #7: Invest in consumer collaboration and make a commitment to your social community through an emphasis on your social publishing.


Tweetable Takeaway #8:  Be socially relevant, and FINRA compliant, while also providing context to your content.


Tweetable Takeaway #9: Leverage videos, experiments, expert articles and interactive pieces to service your customers and understand what matters to them.


Tweetable Takeaway #10: Provide sales with more than just a list of names. Deliver insight around the Digital Body Language, motivations, and behaviors of contacts.


Tweetable Takeaway #11: Analyze event engagement to reduce unnecessary events, increase attendance to premiere events, and reduce spend.


Tweetable Takeaway #12: Develop strong content, unify channels, focus on data forensics to grow revenue,recruit & retain talent and make smarter decisions.





What tactics would you include?

How do you define the mobile strategy for your business?  I believe most companies immediately think about how they're adjusting communications to better meet the needs of smartphone users. Some companies are focused on responsive design, others on app development, and some organizations are arming their field employees with smarthphone devices.


While these are all necessary tactics, they're also table stakes.  Frost & Sullivan states "Handing a smart phone to every agent does not constitute a mobile strategy". Mobile strategy is rapidly evolving in the insurance space.


This mobile evolution has been occurring in the healthcare space with the emergence of wearable devices. The definition of "mobile" in insurance has also grown in scope.  It's important for insurance companies to understand these trends and how they impact the agent and customer journeys.  It also adds a new perspective to cross-industry relationships when analyzing the partnerships developing between insurance and communications carriers.


Frost & Sullivan identifies 4 key reasons why insurers need a mobile strategy and they all lead to developing a competitive edge.

  1. Manage risk:  Insurers want to shed risky customers and focus on profitable ones.
  2. Control expenses:  Regulations are forcing insurers to find new ways to increase operational efficiencies and decrease expenses.
  3. Create new products: With the new data available, new programs and services can be developed to better the service the customer.
  4. Enhance the customer experience:  Insurance companies must be proactive with payment notifications, status of claims, and new targeted offers.


In-vehicle telematics  30-telematics.jpg

Technology is allowing insurance companies to better understand the customer as well as customer behavior.  Carriers can now analyze vehicle location, vehicle diagnostics, and driver performance analytics.  This is allowing insurers to understand more than just how many miles people drive, but also how and when they drive.


Progressive Insurance Company and GMAC offer mileage-linked discounts through combined GPS technology and cellular systems that track miles driven. These discounts are often combined with additional benefits like roadside assistance and vehicle theft recovery. Using telematics, Progressive has introduced new programs like Pay-As-You-Drive (PAYD), Pay-How-You-Drive (PHYD), Pay-As-You-Go, and Distance-Based Insurance.


Networks on demand

Mobile tools are now allowing field agents to proactively communicate. They're creating an office-in-a-box.  Companies are providing agents with information on things like policy servicing questions, the status of claims payment, and information on customers' existing or past policies.


Aflac created their AflacAnywhere tool.  It's a subscription-based Web portal that lets agents sign up for alerts and notifications like fax submission and receipt status, payroll account changes, policy modifications, and pending business alerts that may require action on their part.  These alerts can be delivered to their notebook PCs or smartphones via e-mail, portal notification, automated voice alerts or SMS text messages.


Agents can also customize the alerts to streamline communications in the ways that best suit them. About 4,000 Aflac field agents currently use AflacAnywhere.  On average, Aflac agents use five of the dozen available notifications. The company also launched a smartphone-specific application that?s part of its Mobile.Aflac initiative.


Mobile handheld devices

Smartphone apps are tools that can be used by both the agent and the customer.  These apps allow for call alerts, photo capture, GPS location, and live chats.  And by now, every company has one.


I use one for my insurance with USAA. I manage my payments, alerts, and changes to policies with the app.  I also use it to request roadside assistance (happens more than I care to admit).  When I was involved in a fender-bender (not my fault that time) I captured photos of the accident and filed the claim directly from the accident site.


Digital signage solutions

This is certainly and emerging trend.  Insurance companies are working to develop mobile capabilities that would allow for agents to go on site in an emergency zone, set up claims kiosks and boards, and assist customers in filing claims.  Currently insurance companies rely on companies like Rentsys that will set up mobile command centers on site.  Independent digital signage solutions are a future objective of many companies.


How are you adjusting your strategy to meet the evolving scope of mobile?

Stop me if you've heard this one before; "A man walks into a bar".?


Ok, in this instance a woman walks into a bank. She enters the banks to execute a series of transactions. The bank pulls up her profile and sees previous school loans and a rather non-existent income. She's just another customer. As she begins to explain the transactions needed, they quickly learn she works for a company that recently went public and is now going to be acquired. Her share of wallet contribution increased. The problem is the profile the bank has on file is about 15-years old and it represents her life as someone just entering college. 29-Dilbert_Bank_Phishing.GIF


The Truth

This is a very true and very relatable story. It's very difficult for financial institutions to capture a 360-view of the customer. But that's just the start. FinServ organizations must move beyond the 360-view because that view only demonstrates the profile of that individual at that time. Life events, like getting married and having children, and life stages, like retirement, skew that profile on record. Financial organizations must work towards developing a 720-degree view of their customers.


The Challenge

Of course, this is easier said than done. Most individuals diversify their money and investments across multiple institutions. This makes it extremely difficult for financial companies to understand the value and financial objectives of individual clients. It's also a challenge to understand when life events and life stages are occurring or better yet, about to occur. And finally, tack on the fractured infrastructure found in most institutions and you can see why universal profiles are so difficult to develop.


It's not that institutions are ignorant. There's a recognized need to be customer-centric. They desire that universal profile but they're challenged by the silos that exist between LOBs. There's very little, if anything at all, shared internal or external of the LOB. Additionally, regulation requirements add another crimp in the process. Certifications limit what can be sold so systems must have role-based security measures in place.


The Role of the Branch

The branch certainly plays a major role in capturing customer information. In a report by the ABA they found, "despite regular reports of its demise, the branch appears to be making a comeback, picked as the preferred banking method by 21% of respondents, up from 18% the previous year".


Nessa Feddis, SVP, ABA, says: "When people are conducting a complex transaction like opening an account or applying for a home or business loan, they often prefer to do it in person. We're seeing a branch renaissance in some areas, with many banks transforming their branches to become more efficient and customer-friendly."  This is especially true given the multichannel structure in most financial services organizations.


Customers cannot start and complete the same transaction across the same channel. And with this increase in channels comes an increase in issues and regulations. But how you choose to engage your customers, and the customer experience you offer, become your competitive differentiator.


Old Culture vs. New Capabilities

Financial Services is starting to see "old culture vs. new culture".  Actually, it's more like "old culture vs. new capabilities".  Financial Services companies are recognizing that they need to shift the conversation from capabilities to possibilities. This shift must happen if institutions want to streamline the customer experience and develop that 720-degree view.


Financial organizations can be proactive in capturing explicit information through outbound communications, forms, surveys, and information captured in a CRM. They can then segment, target and personalize communications around net worth, tax bracket, asset type, portfolio value, investments with competitors, and investment objectives.

And now, institutions can move from proactive to predictive. Companies can analyze the digital body language against content associated with life events and life stages. Is the customer engaging with content about college savings programs, the merging and protection of assets, or investment strategies? Analyzing a broader digital footprint is now also possible. By pulling from 3rd party data providers companies can supplement what is known about their customers.


Unifying data and systems, as well as analyzing and acting on the insight, is still a work in progress. However, these new capabilities are allowing companies to move beyond the "old culture" and focus on the new customer-centric possibilities.


How are you working to better understand the customer?

There's no denying the value of social media. In financial services, social media can be used to obtain new clients, and connect and educate existing ones. Social initiatives can assist in developing customer satisfaction and relationship development. And as clients seek out thought leaders and specialists in their advisors and agents, personal branding must become a focus of all client facing employees. Social media provides an excellent opportunity to engage with clients, prospects, centers of influence, and thought leaders. Social media also allows for clients with similar interests to engage with each other. It provides a community development platform. 28-Social-Media-and-Banks-e1297936904519.png

The Future of FinServ Social

But the future of social media offers so much more. PWC published a paper on Asset Management 2020: A Brave New World. They paint a picture where other industries could enter financial services and disrupt the business status quo.  PWC suggests that technology companies, specifically those with experience in social, could align with banking. By leveraging their reach, knowledge and influence, these tech companies could influence things like portfolio development and distribution models. 

One example cited by PWC states "A social media firm such as Facebook or Twitter could, for example, provide distribution services, and partner with a bank or buy a back-office servicing firm to create an integrated AM structure."

Brand awareness and niche expertise will also evolve.  The importance of brand awareness will extend beyond client growth and will also impact capital growth. In order to fund expansion, firms will have to tap into capital markets. To do this, building a trusted brand and finding a way to stand out in the crowd will mean focusing and personalizing a message for a targeted group of clients. It also means reaching that audience where they're most likely to listen, at proven stages of engagement, when life events occur, and using all of the technology you need to get the message across.

Addressing Present Day FinServ Social

Of course, to achieve what is possible, financial services companies must begin to embrace social, not turn away from it. But in a highly regulated industry, executing social media programs can be challenging and confusing. Because financial services is, by nature, risk adverse many choose to avoid social media altogether. Several months ago the FFIEC released a publication on social media guidance. Last week the FCA (The Financial Conduct Authority), located in the UK, issued their guidance with regards to Social Media guidelines.

The FCA recommendations align closely with FFIEC guidelines. Both address the use of hashtags, such as #ad, to address compliance with financial promotional rules. They also discuss the process for keeping adequate records of social media communications. Which social communications need to be documented still seems to be in question.

Suggestions for Remaining Compliant

The FCA explicitly states that firms should have an adequate system in place to sign off social media communications, which must be done by a person of "appropriate competence and seniority". The FFEIC reminds firms to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to social, regularly review compliance and risk procedures, develop a social media response plan, track and monitor social analytics, and clearly define and communicate internal policies on employee social media use.

But what I find to be the most profound statement is one made by the FCA director of supervision Clive Adamson:

"The FCA sees positive benefits from using social media but there has to be an element of compliance. Primarily, what firms do on social media must ensure customers are at the heart of their business."

This is the essence of social media, to benefit the customer.

Advisor service models are changing, and this change is driven by the Gen X and Y advisors. Observing the retiring Baby Boomer advisors, Gen X and Y don't want to work the same 60-70 hour weeks as their predecessors. They are driven by a desire for work-life balance. Work-life balance ranks at the top of the list when younger advisors are considering employment opportunities. They are also looking for firms that are willing to adapt and evolve.  27-158638400.jpg


Recognizing this shift is important for talent recruitment and retention in the financial services field. Young advisors are planning for the life they want to live, and adjusting their work to meet those requirements. This is change in mindset is resulting in new service models.


Service Model of the Future

The life-planning model, and customized advice based on a client's goals, is still valid. The change is occurring around traditional client portfolio management. These advisors see the value in customized advice and want to leverage niche expertise. Advisors are starting to focus their service expertise on anything from discount brokerage advice and traditional life planning, to credit card bonus points counseling and travel/ frequent flyer portfolio management.


As advisors identify and target their niche, it's important that communications follow suit. They must personalize communications, test social channel responsiveness, and deliver content that educates the client. Traditionally, doing all of that would require more resources and time than most have available. Technology can now help maximize time, personalize messaging, and put advisors in front of their clients and potential clients in an effective and efficient way. All of that can help establish them as a thought leader in the sector, create a personal brand that gets them noticed, and keeps them front and center once eyes turn their way.


Clients of the Future

Typically, planning firms are geographically relevant to the intended client target. But now younger advisors are location-independent. Their clients also place less emphasis on the location of the advisor. Client meetings now occur through Skype or Google Hangout. This is allowing advisors to expand the reach of their niche focus and refer clients outside their niche to the appropriate advisors.


As advisors build out their client book of business it's necessary that regular engagement become a priority.  Because clients are geographically scattered, maintaining contact through the use of relevant content and channels is a must. Advisors must optimize preference centers, deliver on KYC policies, address the client relationship stage, and meet regs and legs requirements. They must remember to deliver content based on behavior and use analytics as a barometer for existing engagement and as a tool for uncovering new engagement opportunities.

Communication Techniques of the Future

As service model and client expectations evolve, so must communications. Advisors must enhance financial services events to inform, educate, and engage with clients. They need to extend the reach of more traditional communications across those channels accessed by Gen Y clients, like digital advertising and social media. Advisors should also develop relevant and engaging content that educates and emotionally draws in their clients.


Finally, advisors must learn to decode client engagement by capturing and analyzing an individual's Digital Body Language across all channels.


How are you adjusting for the service model of the future?

Financial Services organizations are often challenged not just with the creation of content, but also the distribution. Firms will invest money and resources into developing strong content, but it's only as effective as the audience it reaches. This is why FinServ will also invest money into the distribution of their content through media sources. But are companies demonstrating a viable return on the content development and distribution?


Financial Services firms are trying, but it can often lead to a time consuming and fractured exercise. Sometimes opportunities take place on a firm's own website, making it easier to capture the data quickly and take action on it. Other times, these potential prospects are driven to lead forms and landing pages hosted by outside media outlets and the prospect data then needs to be transferred to the firm. This can happen through a variety of means: automatic posting into the firms' database; individual email transmission as opportunities are discovered, delivery through excel spreadsheets on a daily or weekly basis. In short, media sources manage their data differently which places the burden of data attribution on the financial services company. 26-Financial+Services.jpg


I reached out to Triniti Burton and David Crane over at Integrate to understand how companies can better manage their media activity. They stressed that firms can't create data out of thin air. They must create and capture interest and these multiple media sources are a great method for doing that. However, they must have several practices in place to do this effectively.


  1. Move to organize media sources into a single dashboard. This will allow financial services to not only measure the effectiveness of current media sources, but also find new relevant sources that can be integrated.
  2. Focus on scalability. Time is a commodity and eliminating redundancies and manual processes is a must. Solutions are available that allow firms to create a single campaign for all media sources, and integrate with a onetime set-up with the media partner.
  3. Build media campaigns into the larger communication strategy. Data generated by all media sources must be pulled into a marketing automation system to build out a Universal Profile and that Digital Body Language must drive future communications to that individual.
  4. Place the burden of data standardization on the media sources, not the financial firms. Incorporate digital tools that align with internal governance and ensure that data is standardized per the parameters of the campaign. If an asset management firm is targeting HNW clients with a particular monetary threshold, digital tools can evaluate the data delivered by the media source and make sure data meets those criteria. If it doesn't, the tools will push the data back for correction or deletion.
  5. Measure content and media effectiveness. For example, firms can see, and compare, the performance of a white paper on media sources A, B, and C at the placement level. Evaluate aggregate data to determine which consumer profiles deliver opportunities with the highest lifetime value. They can begin to understand what the return against each media source looks like, and adjust resource and budget allocation accordingly.


As David Crane pointed out;

"Actionable customer insights are stymied by the rift between marketing tech and media investment. At a time when reaching audiences gets tougher by the day, marketers must ensure they're generating maximal efficiency from all available resources. And if your marketing stack isn't linked to your media investment, you're wasting valuable resources. We must take the next step: marketers need to close the loop with marketing and media systems integrations."

Through their work, Integrate has seen companies recognize a 25% savings in execution resources which has allowed staff to focus on additional programs, planning, and optimization. Others have reduced marketing costs by 35% through the elimination of manual data processes. By integrating data governance into their media tactics some companies have recognized up to a 40% increase in data and engagement quality.


How are you measuring a return on your media programs?


Check out their app on the Oracle Marketing Cloud!

Your industry is changing, and it's companies like Amazon, Zappos, Nordstrom, Virgin Atlantic, and Disney that are to blame.  They have redefined the customer experience.  And when I refer to "customer" I'm referring to anyone that is a consumer or advocate of your content and services. That could be a client, an advisor, a broker, an agent, an employee, or even a thought leader in your space.

Yes, these company's aren't in your industry, but an individual's expectation of engagement is constant across industries.  It doesn't matter if they?re shopping for shoes online or managing finances; they want and expect consistency in their experience.  And yes this does cause a huge challenge for the financial services industry.  You're competing for business, talent, and awareness.

But this is also where you have a tremendous opportunity.  You can now set your set yourself apart.  Whether you're an independent advisor developing a personal brand, or a large firm redefining its image, content marketing allows you to take control of that message.

Engage, Educate, and Entertain With Content

T.Rowe Price is positively brilliant with their "College Savings Chillout" program.  Why is this program brilliant?  First of all, T.Rowe Price taps into emotion.  The anxiety of saving for college is a very relatable and stress-inducing feeling.  They capture this experience perfectly.  T.Rowe Price also tells a story.  Actually, they have parents tell their freakout story, and they use imagery to do this.  It's not just the videos that capture your attention, they have each storyteller sketch a picture of their freakout moment.

T.Rowe Price doesn't just communicate a problem, they provide a solution.  And the solution is not a product, it's a children's book called "Everybody Freaks Out!".  Well, it's a book about college savings formatted as a children's book.  They take a very complicated and overwhelming experience and boil it down to a humorous and digestible offer.  Lastly, they've developed a program rather than a campaign.  Their program extends across all digital channels like websites, social media, and advertising and all proceeds from "Everybody Freaks Out!" go to Junior Achievement.


Extend Content Delivery Beyond Traditional Channels

And now this helpful content can be shared beyond traditional mailers and word of mouth. There is no doubt that social media is changing how we communicate.  Social media is allowing financial services organizations to extend beyond content delivery, and is becoming a platform for real conversation.  Several months ago I conducted a social media study of 5 FinServ companies.  My hypothesis was that financial services would be laggard compared to other industries. I was wrong.  FinServ companies are socially aware and discovering new ways to converse.

Don't Just Push Content for Consumption

New York Life is a great example of a company do this.  They focus on the human element of their social community.  They pose questions that garner an emotional response and drive the community to share positive and fond memories.  Because many of these experiences are shared across communities other social followers comment and "like" the status.  It really drives positive interaction.  By doing this, New York Financial added 6,289 new Facebook followers in just 10 days.

When it comes to social, don't just push content for consumption, ask for community input.  Run polls, ask people to vote on scholarship or nonprofit donations.  Get topical, not just with current events, but find out what personally motivates your community and gets them excited and talking.  Probably a no-brainer, but use images.  People engage with photos.  Be relatable and relational.  Don't be afraid to show the human side of your organization.  Let your community know who the people are that they interface with, and what those people are doing to contribute to the community and the business.

Educate and Enable Sales with Data and Insight

And while social is a growing trend, it's important not to overlook the more tried and true communications channels as well.  Email campaigns, delivering personalized 1:1 communications can be some of your most effective tools.  Fifth-Third Bank saw great success with this when driving trial interest of Fifth Third's image processing solutions.

They launched a program to deliver 1:1 communications to each contact.  They automated this program to incorporate multiple touches and channels to increase conversions.  They tied together emails, hypersites, forms, purl pages, direct mail, and an online resource center.

Marketing also knew that they needed to provide the sales team with more than just a list of people who requested a trial.  Marketing created real-time alerts and visitor notifications that were segmented by territory and were emailed directly to the correct sales person. This allowed each sales person a view into their buyer's motivations and behaviors. In addition, Marketing worked with the internal CRM to monitor the results of opportunities related to this initiative. 

In the first 2 quarters influenced opportunities we're over $8 million and closed opportunities directly attributed to this campaign equaled over $2 million.  This initiative also contributed to building awareness for many other pipeline opportunities. More than 24% of opportunities created during this initiative, were also included in this program.  Having that data insight really empowered the organization to understand the return on their marketing investment.

Orchestrate Digital Channels Tied to Live Events

Zurich NA was tired of managing their data in spreadsheets. In order to better understand their broker events, they began to leverage digital marketing technology. By integrating various communication channels like their websites, registration forms, and emails Zurich gained insight into which brokers attended which events, and what their activity before and after the event looked like.  And they did that by simply pulling a dashboard report.  Much easier than managing multiple spreadsheets.  More importantly, this allowed them to better serve the customer because the content received after the event was driven by the digital body language of the broker.

Make Smarter Decisions Based on Collective Analytics

Financial Services organizations are finally obtaining that data insight to make smarter business decisions. By capturing and analyzing an individual?s Digital Body Language across all channel, companies cannot only develop that sought after universal profile but also understand things like cost of recruitment efforts and effectiveness of their communication outreach across regions.

Financial services organizations can also begin to understand advisor revenue potential. They can begin to see not only which advisors are driving the most revenue, but which are driving the most referrals. Companies can identify which advisors have the greatest potential to grown their book of business through referrals and existing client growth.  In short, you can begin to understand which advisors you should invest in.

Through the development of strong content, unification of digital channels, and focus on data forensics financial services companies can grow their book of business, recruit and retain talent, and make strategic business decisions based on fact, not opinion.

It's all Eloqua's fault, really. My VP of Marketing and I, a Creative Services Manager for a title software development company, attended an Eloqua road show where we were invited to join Eloqua's advocate program. So, we did. We're followers that way.


Within a few days we'd received a hand written note, stickers and a nifty pin. As we experienced this journey, we realized our own customers could benefit from a similar program. That's when everything changed. We stole. Everything. If Eloqua published it, we took it; we planned our very own advocate program. We began our life of crime new adventure with a four-phase approach. First, we'd conduct qualitative research to determine what our program would look like. From there we'd create a plan, try it out, and see how it went.


So, we commenced with very scientific research methods. Mostly, this consisted of asking the Internet to show us other programs and copying their work. We also discovered a number of white papers, from which we gleaned that, in the B2B world, advocate-generated leads are four-ten times more valuable than regular leads and that B2B buyers listen to word of mouth even more than consumers do. (The Advocate Marketing Playbook. We definitely needed to acquire some advocates! But specifically how should we go about it? To answer that, we set goals for the program: to increase our reference pool, gain interactions through social media and increase product/company feedback.


Once we digested all of the information the universe (aka Google) offered, we settled in to create our advocate program. True to form, we stole cultivated ideas from Eloqua. After naming our program Represent RamQuest, we brainstormed possible tasks that would be simple enough to create and allow our customers to execute, while also achieving our program's goals.



We called these tasks "Quests" and created a spreadsheet to track our bounty of ideas, all six of them. Seriously, we thought we wanted our customers to do so many things, until we tried to write them down. Still, we filled out that spreadsheet with each quest's copy, links, completion points and any badges they'd receive.



Next came the fun part. We outlined the journey, from initial invitation through registration and program participation, to tracking and reporting - with a focus on using as much of the Eloqua marketing cloud as possible.


Back in excel, we created a leader board to track each advocate?s progress. From here, we moved into Eloqua to create emails, forms, landing pages, auto-responders, and segments, automating all we could. We were proud thieves! We integrated Represent RamQuest into Sales Force so our sales and support teams could identify advocates easily, and we created a space in our website?s secured area. Title Agents frequent this space to update their software and find other resources, so this was a great way to remind them of advocate activities and invite new customers to join!


Finally, we were ready. Wondering if we'd risked imprisonment for nothing, we clicked send on our first batch of invitations. We sent 832 emails, which 55 customers opened, and by the end of the first week we had 16 advocates! Twice a month we send out Quest emails, reusing no more than two quests from a previous mailing. We update our leader board weekly, with plans to develop one board that updates automatically.


Now that we're a few months in, the program is running fairly smoothly, despite its rather nefarious beginning. We've received great feedback from customers involved in Represent RamQuest, and they have a fun rivalry going for the top position on the leader board each week. We learned that Title Agents respond most easily to liking social channels and form submits, especially if an industry-hot button drives the content. We're up to almost thirty advocates, who have increased our social media interaction by over 205%. We've even been able to add eight people to our references roster! Crime might not always pay, but we certainly advocate its success this time!

When clients are evaluating advisors to manage their finances they?ll often evaluate both financial advisors and Certified Financial Planners"Financial advisor" is a broad term that is generally used to reference professionals advising you on your finances, up to and including certified financial planners (CFPs).


Certified financial planners, on the other hand, have to be certified by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc., which is why you'll often see a registered mark after their designation (CFP�). To become a certified planner, advisors must complete the 4 Es; Education, examination, experience, and ethics.

So why a CFP?  CFPs carry a fiduciary responsibility.  With a CFP, you can be sure that not only do they have a base level of expertise backed up by a larger organization, but also that they don't have conflicting interests: They want what's best for your money, as do you.

Because of this, as financial companies evaluate marketing vendors they should want, and expect, the same level of qualifications. Whether you?re evaluating creative agencies, independent contractors, marketing cloud platforms, content management and curation tools, or implementation partners, remember to evaluate the 4 Es.



  1. What programs do they have that exist around customer enablement?
  2. How will they help you achieve measurable business results?
  3. Will they assist in the development of a business success plan?
  4. What education courses, webinars, or workshops are available to you?
  5. What thought leadership and advocate content is accessible to you?  24-Meeting.jpg



  1. What analytics and insight can be found from these providers to support the financial services revenue development process? 
  2. Can you benchmark and measure client, advisor, and communication performance, engagement, improvement, and velocity?
  3. Are financial services marketing best practices available for review?
  4. How can you demonstrate a marketing return on investment with this data?
  5. What client and customer insight can be garnered?



  1. What financial services experience do they have on staff?
  2. Which other financial services companies have they serviced?
  3. What were the results of their other financial services projects?
  4. How well do they understand the business challenges and regulations found in the financial services industry?
  5. What financial services expertise and best practices are provided to help you execute on your financial services marketing strategy?



  1. How will they align with the compliance processes and systems within your firm?
  2. How will they assist you in meeting strict regulations like those defined by FINRA? 
  3. What tools are provided to ease the burned of global email policies and privacy policies?
  4. How will they contribute to the alignment and transparency across your organization?
  5. What forms of checks and balances are delivered through their products and services?


What qualifications are essential to you when vetting marketing resources for your financial services organization?

Cracking the content code is a huge challenge. And as channels continue to multiply, identify content that spans vast channels and audiences is an impossible feat. Financial Services is certainly not immune to this problem. 

Business Insider recently published a story around the odd tweets coming from Morgan Stanley brokers. In an effort to be socially relevant, but also FINRA compliant, Morgan Stanley created a series of auto-tweets that brokers could utilize. Not a terrible idea, however the content wasn't relevant.  The tweets of brokers ranged in topic from vacation planning and travel gear, to the World Cup, to cookbook recipes. 

Certainly regulations place an added creative strain on the financial space, but there are some companies executing some fantastic content.

Prudential's The Challenge Lab

Prudential set out to change how people prepare for retirement. They partnered with professors from leading universities to create The Challenge Lab, a destination where people can understand their behavioral challenges and learn how to overcome them. Through videos, experiments, expert articles and over 60 interactive pieces, the site breaks down five key challenges. It explains the science behind why we crave instant gratification. Why we put things off. Why we follow the herd. Why we misjudge risk. And what it means that we're living longer.

The Challenge Lab is a place where people who may not know anything about finance can understand something even more important: themselves.

Visit The Challenge Lab to experience a sticky website and relevant content. You can hear more about Prudential's case study in this video.


T.Rowe Price's "College Savings Chillout" program

Why is this program brilliant? First of all, T.Rowe Price taps into emotion. The anxiety of saving for college is a very relatable and stress-inducing feeling. They capture this experience perfectly. T.Rowe Price also tells a story. Actually, they have parents tell their freakout story, and they use imagery to do this. It's not just the videos that capture your attention, they have each storyteller sketch a picture of their freakout moment. 

T.Rowe Price doesn't just communicate a problem, they provide a solution.  And the solution is not a product, it's a children's book called "Everybody Freaks Out!? Well, it's a book about college savings formatted as a children's book. They take a very complicated and overwhelming experience and boil it down to a humorous and digestible offer. 23-index.jpg


Lastly, they've developed a program rather than a campaign. Their program extends across all digital channels like websites, social media, and advertising. Oh, and all proceeds from "Everybody Freaks Out!" go to Junior Achievement.

Become Santander

Kathy Klingler, SVP & CMO for Santander, contributes to the brand awareness program they launched after acquiring Sovereign Bank in the midst of a global recession. Despite the challenges, Santander successfully entered the U.S. market and continues to see positive results. The reason for their ongoing success can be attributed to the bank's strategic investment in consumer collaboration.

By collaborating directly with customers, prospects, and team members they saw great success with their "Become Santander" awareness program. Santander partnered with their customers to shift the focus away from products and onto the consumer. Through interviews and customer-centric programs they began to develop content and programs developed by the customer, for the customer.  An example of this is Santander's 123 program. Santander made a commitment to their social community and placed added emphasis on their social publishing.


Where have you seen engaging financial services content?

In a recent conversation with a financial services company the following question was asked by a Senior Vice President of Marketing.


"How can digital tools support marketing when sales is over protective of their "proven" personal relationship sales methodology?  We have a few lines of business that aren't right for digital marketing because the people we try to sell to rely solely on word-of-mouth and are (basically) digitally incompetent or apathetic."


My reaction, not in these exact words, was "That's a very dangerous and badly informed position to take".


Influencers Are Our Marketing Strategy

This is a very relevant, and effective, marketing strategy when managed correctly.  But there are some questions to consider.  Can you define these centers of influence?  Do you understand the behavior of the influencers?  What content is your intended audience receiving from these influencers that is so persuasive?  How do you inform those influencers?  Even if the digital apathy assumption about your audience is correct, I guarantee that those influencers certainly use digital tools.  22-baby_boomers_tech.jpg


Audiences are becoming more complicated.  It's not just communication channels that are becoming more complex, it's the human channels as well.  Identifying and understanding the motivators and behaviors of influencers are as important as the direct buyer.  It's those influencers that are carrying the message. Understand how you can leverage these influencers as advocates or sources of content.



Influencers Win Business But Do They Retain It?

If influencers are winning new business for your organization then you're very fortunate.  But are these influencers retaining these clients?  What do retention and turnover rates of these segments look like?  Do regulatory challenges like KYC policies affect these customers?  During the first year of a new relationship, advisors enjoy a "honeymoon" period during which they retain 95% of their clients, according to the report from PriceMetrix -- a Toronto-based practice management software and data services company. But between years two and four, retention declines dramatically, from 95% to just 74%.


Additionally, when not tracking the digital engagement of your audience and these influencers, it's very difficult to prove the value of your marketing initiatives.  Do you understand the cost of acquiring these clients? Can you identify revenue growth opportunities in your business



How Will Digital Usage Compare In 5 Years?

Let's say they're correct, these people don't use digital. That's going to change. 10,000 baby boomers are retiring every DAY over the next 10 years and 86% of younger investors don't plan to use their parents' advisers.


22-DR01_WealthWisdom_1000x1375_cover-500x500.jpgThe demographic of decision-makers is going to evolve.  Digital dependency is only going to grow and you need to be out there building these programs and this digital awareness now.  Expectations around customer experience and accessibility will continue to evolve.  Generations X and Millennials want an adviser who will teach them but not "tell them" what to do. These generations don't trust promotions or advertising and they shun face-to-face discussions, seeking to communicate via short e-mails and texts.



Of course, this all goes back to one person's opinion versus another.  As we always say, make decisions based on fact, not opinion.  Right now it sounds like a lot of assumption but with little evidence to prove the hypothesis of this financial organization.  What would be the harm in testing a program targeted at this group?  If they don't engage then no harm done. 


My recommendation was to test a digital program and measure the results.  What would you recommend?

As I read through industry publications and listen to thought leaders present case studies I find that they often overlook one very important piece of the financial services business.  Many examples cite the customer engagement success of banks and the enablement techniques used to engage advisors. But in the world of marketing, the B2B case studies can be hard to identify. Perhaps because many financial institutions still rely heavily on their sales organizations and influencers to carry their value message?


But with the longer and more relationship-complex sales cycles, strong marketing initiatives in the financial services B2B space are essential. Below are 3 financial services companies finding great success with B2B digital marketing.


Wolters Kluwer Financial

Every year, Wolters Kluwer Financial Services reviews their Sales Representative Alignment to insure they are meeting customer needs and demands. With over 15,000 Bank, Credit Union, and Mortgage Company customers, it is impossible for their sales teams to visit each of these institutions on a quarterly basis. Sales challenged the marketing team to come up with a way to facilitate a personal communication on behalf of the sales representatives for the segment with many customers.


They developed what they call a "Priority 2 campaign" to meet that challenge. Using dynamic content the customer experience includes: 21-center-of-excellence-wolters-kluwer-financial.jpg

  • A monthly personalized message from each sales team, including their photos and contact information.
  • Customized thought leadership content that generates interest and interaction from these customers. The campaign is updated monthly with the development of additional content including webinars, case studies, white papers and videos. Emails are sent on a monthly cycle, each highlighting industry topics important to the audience (by capturing the contact's Digital Body Language) as well as new content to keep the users engaged.
  • A way for customers to sign-up additional contacts for the campaign.
  • A way for customers with no current emailable contact to sign-up for the campaign.
  • A way for customers to generate a lead if they are interested in engaging about a need or question.


Results: Bottom line, a 42% Year-to-Date increase in revenue ($673K) from this group of customers with only a $15,000 investment for creative and campaign set up.


A quote from their Vice President of Sales really says it all:  "It's allowed our reps to focus on our most valuable customers who spend the most with us and at the same time have marketing programs who go after other customers who will eventually spend more with us as well."


Broadridge Financial Solutions

Broadridge Financial targets Corporate Issuer Customers and Prospects (Publicly traded companies in North America). They engage with job titles inclusive of Corporate Secretary, Legal Counsel and CFO?s. 21-g199802ex99_1s1gbgd.jpg


At Broadridge, they used digital marketing technology to replace a manual lead routing process that benefited their client services team, sales, finance, marketing, and clients. Often times when the client service team is speaking with a client they uncover an up-sell opportunity or need with that client. The client service team used to manually give a lead (email or walk) over to sales.  Manual lead routing could take up to 48 hours. Finance had no visibility into opportunities that were closing and had difficulty paying out quarterly incentives. Marketing had a difficult time targeting clients with the proper message and value proposition. The client was not engaged and had zero visibility as to when they would receive a response to their inquiry.


Using an internal form page to capture the opportunity they could automate lead routing, inform finance in real-time about the status of an opportunity, report on quarterly incentives in record time, and achieve higher accuracy when reporting. With this, sales management could gather deeper insights into client services performance, more intelligence about the market served and make smarter business decisions. Sales teams received qualified opportunities which in-turn reduced follow-up time with the client. Client services? incentives rose as close rates improved and they received compensation faster. Client satisfaction also improved due to quick follow-up calls and triggered confirmation communication post-call. 


Results: With this new process they now save $400K annually and reduced processing times by 92%. 60% of opportunities created are closing the same business day.



Crowe Horwath

Crowe was challenged with nurturing opportunities through long complex sales cycles. They were pushing content and sales was re-actively calling on anyone who downloaded the content. They wanted to better educate and nurture their audience, and better enable their sales team.

Using what they knew about their target prospects/clients, they developed a whole new content strategy based on both the buy cycle and key personas. They developed 48 pieces of content for this program' compelling, issues-based content that would give insight into stages of the buy cycle as prospects/clients engaged with it. The content fell into 4 topic tracks. 21-crowe-logo-300.png

Once a user was in a track, they would get an email every 3 weeks that offered a compelling early-mid stage piece of content. But the sidebar would offer a late stage piece and if a user engaged with that, they were immediately put on a trigger report that was reviewed with sales. Interactions with content, answers to polling and progressive profile questions, interaction with links, and sharing of content (including email forwards) were carefully monitored. 2 primary reports are reviewed with sales weekly: people who clicked on the late-stage sidebar in emails and those that engaged with three or more pieces of content. Answers to progressive profile and poll questions were also taken into consideration and they collectively decided which opportunities should be followed up on by sales and who should follow up.

All the information aggregated on users enabled sales to be more effective because they can customize their messages and inquires based on the content prospects/clients have interacted with and the information these users have provided through polls and progressive profiling. They are now much more selective in who they attempt to engage, versus their previous "call everyone and hope" strategy.


  • Improved inside sales efficiency: They have been able to focus the efforts of their inside sales organization, reducing the number of prospects called as a result of downloading content by 90%. This has allowed them to be more strategic about follow-up and focus on those prospects likely to be further along in the buy cycle.
  • Significantly higher unique open and unique click-through rates: By allowing users to select the topic they were most interested in (and change that selection as their needs change), they experienced a 232% lift in unique open rates (from 14.1% to 46.9%) and a 150% lift in unique click-through rates (from 5.9% to 14.8%).
  • Engagement rates: After only two months, they had 16% of their target users engaging with them through this program.

What B2B marketing success have you had in the financial services space?

At the 2014 Chief Marketing Officer Leadership Forum for Financial Services, marketing leaders in the financial services space discussed trends in the industry.  I was pleased to see that customer-centricity is a focus of many initiatives.  Kathy Klingler, SVP & CMO for Santander, shared the brand awareness program they launched after acquiring Sovereign Bank in the midst of a global recession. Despite the challenges, Santander successfully entered the U.S. market and continues to see positive results. The reason for their ongoing success can be attributed to the bank?s strategic investment in consumer collaboration. By collaborating directly with customers, prospects, and team members they saw great success with their "become Santander" awareness program.


And while the financial services industry recognizes the importance of community development I think many lack the resources required to develop and maintain a community. This is a challenge felt by those outside of the FinServ space as well. According to Gartner, nearly 72% of customers never login to customer communities, and 70% of online communities will fail. Below are 3 areas to consider when embarking on community development. 20-market-insights-from-online-customer-community-software-product-management.gif.jpg

Change Management

Many marketers want to introduce new ideas into their organization, but they're often met with resistance.  This is very true in more institutionalized industries like financial services. Marketers will face resistance and a lack of understanding around the importance of community development.  When looking to impact effective change remember the following. 

  • Avoid arguing opinions. Lead change management discussions with data, proof. Take an objective approach to these discussions.
  • Align the defined change and change priorities with organizational goals. Explain the why behind the initiatives and demonstrate how you recognize the needs of the business and how these proposed changes will support them.
  • Start small. Don't approach change management with the expectation that you'll create massive change. Effective change management takes time and it occurs through small victories. Create a road-map to reach your end goal and develop a process that aligns with the road-map.
  • Focus internally first. Demonstrate change within yourself and your organization. Become your own case study and define those valuable lessons learned before you penetrate larger areas of the business.
  • Explain where others fit into the changes. People fear change because of uncertainty. Put those fears at ease. Allow them to see the role they'll play in this greater and progressive vision.


Community Development

It's important to differentiate between community development and community engagement. You can't have engagement without a developed community, and engagement is what will contribute to the ongoing growth of the community.

  • Define the value to the community. Understand, and then communicate, that this gives the community control over what affects them.
  • Don't do it in a silo. When building out community frameworks and initiatives get out and talk to your customers. It's their community so they should define what they want out of it and how they'd prefer to engage with others.
  • Use multiple channels to collect this community input. Leverage social media, events, forums, and surveys.
  • Recognize that they're probably already talking with each other. Exercise social listening, or listening of any kind, to learn what they are saying. This will provide insight into how can you facilitate conversations.


Community Engagement

To avoid becoming the 70% of failed communities Gartner references, planning for engagement is imperative. How are you going to encourage activity amongst your community? Identify the mutual benefits in this relationship. What do you want out of it?  What do they want out of it; reputation growth, career opportunity, perks and incentives, greater voice and contribution?  What will you provide?  What will they give back?  What are the expectations of all involved?

  • Select a platform and tools to facilitate engagement. This could be something as simple as Google Groups or Facebook pages.  If you want to better capture engagement and calculate ROI on community development you may want to consider a tool like Influitive.
  • Developing, maintaining, and growing a community is a commitment. Consider hiring a community manager who will own this program, innovate, develop relationships with community managers, and monitor analytics.
  • Consult your content strategy. To drive engagement you need high-value and educational content delivered to the right community members. The content should be accessible across all channels utilized by your community members. Provide them the opportunity to offer feedback. You can also leverage the community to crowdsource content ideas.
  • Ask for community input, don't just push content for consumption. Run polls and ask people to vote on scholarship or nonprofit donations. Get topical, not just with current events, but find out what personally motivates your community and gets them excited and talking.
  • Be relatable and relational. Don't be afraid to show the human side of your organization. Let your community know who the people are that they interface with, and what those people are doing to contribute to the community and the business.


What steps are you taking to build out and engage your community?

Robo-advisors are here to stay.  It was only a matter of time.  With the rapid evolution of technology it's suitable that the financial services industry would be affected.  But instead of ignoring the trend, the financial services industry is seeing robo-firms pop-up.  And while these firms are still in the early stages of growth, they're quickly winning business away from traditional firms.


Given that the industry is inundated with competitors, turnover, and regulation how can advisors rise to the challenge of this newest test? Below are a few suggestions for competing with, and winning against, robo-advisors.



Robo-firms typically focus on automating investments whereas Certified Financial Planners study insurance, investments, tax planning, retirement planning, and estate planning.  Develop a personal brand and establish yourself as an expert.  Setting yourself apart by establishing your brand with thought leadership content and expert advice can be the key to building influence.  Utilize data and experience.  Understand that personal brand development requires commitment, as well as ongoing conversations, with your niche audience.


Be easy to do business with

Robo-advisors win over new business with their seamless user interface.  A client's experience is similar to their other online purchasing experiences found on Amazon or Zappos.  Betterment founder Stein says, "If you give us five minutes, we'll give you the best sign-up experience in the industry, but we want it to be better." 


Firms can deliver a better experience by providing useful content.  Allow the Digital Body Language of the user to dictate which content they receive, and when. Learn how Crowe Horwath gained insight into their content effectiveness and saw a 16% increase in engagement.


Also consider automating a welcome campaign to drive engagement through nurturing and onboarding.  The campaign should leverage educational content and other marketing initiatives.  Incorporate satisfaction surveys into your campaign to better understand the effectiveness of your communications.  The campaign journey and content delivery should be determined by the engagement of each contact.  Wolters Kluwer saw a 42% increase in revenue thanks to their welcome initiatives.  This campaign should educate and familiarize clients, encourage client retention, and aid in advisor productivity by automating KYC reminders. Also incorporate monthly portfolio communications and quarterly satisfaction surveys to gauge client satisfaction.


Be relevant and on the right channels

Robo-advisors are targeting the younger investors.  They also use emails and blogs to reinforce long-term investment messaging.  Recognize that Gen-X, Gen-Y and Millenials prefer digital communication channels.  Social media sites can help you become a thought leader in the sector while also offering the opportunity to reach out and keep audiences informed.  More importantly these channels allow you to listen and learn more about your clients. It's also a way of getting to know your clients? connections, which could represent new opportunities for potential business.


Use the data available

Robo systems collect and analyze multiple portfolios on one screen and then recommend alternative allocation.  These sites gather information on their clients - and their goals. They stayed focused on the client and deliver content and options that align with the needs of that individual.


With the right tools in place you can track the engagement of those clients to find out who exactly is engaging with the content you're creating, offering insight into new potential clients.  Webinars, e-books and written blogs are all effective at getting content across in creative ways. And if you leverage the power of your internal and external subscription centers, you can find out how people prefer to interact with content.  Understanding these preferences allows you to personalize each communication for that individual. 


In order to enhance revenue and profit, companies must uncover new opportunities through business acquisition and targeted promotions.  Identify trends in content effectiveness, advisor success, and geographic opportunity.  Include engagement data into your persona development.  Use this analytic output to guide your decision making. This information can also be used when deciding how to convert unknown visitors, where to invest with new advisors, and what options provide the greatest opportunity for revenue.  By implementing scoring models, GAIN Capital delivered a better customer experience and saw a 15% increase in conversions.


How are you competing against Robo-advisors?

Financial Services organizations are finally obtaining that data insight to make smarter business decisions.


For example, Zurich NA was tired of managing their data in spreadsheets.  In order to better understand their broker events, they began to leverage digital marketing technology.  By integrating various communication channels like their websites, registration forms, and emails Zurich gained insight into which brokers attended which events, and what their insight before and after the event looked like.  And they did that by simply pulling a dashboard report.  Much easier than managing multiple spreadsheets. More importantly, this allowed them to better serve the customer because the content received after the event and on was driven by the digital body language of the broker.


But marketing data analysis must extend beyond the campaign.  By capturing and analyzing an individual's Digital Body Language across all channels, companies can develop that sought after universal profile and also understand things like cost of recruitment efforts and effectiveness of their communication outreach across regions.


Recruitment Analysis

The Why:  In financial services, firms should understand the cost of their recruitment efforts.  They should measure the effectiveness of their recruitment efforts and communications.

The What:  Let's calculate the cost per recruit.  What are the costs of acquiring candidates and the cost of converting candidates to recruits?  Is this an area where you should focus additional resources/budget?

The How:  Analyze the following data; total advertising expenses, total interviewing expenses, number of candidates interviewed, and the number of candidates hired.  The divide the total expenses by the number of candidates interviewed and also divide the total expenses by the number of candidates hired.


Regional Evaluation

The Why:  Financial services firms should investigate trends within the regions they operate, and begin to gain insight into the effectiveness of their communication outreach.

The What:  Are there geographic trends we should acknowledge and use in segmented communications?  Which campaigns, web pages, forms, and emails are most effective in each region?  Should we A/B tested by region?  How did this testing perform?  Are different keywords used regionally to reach our site?  Are the keywords used by region, incorporated into our outbound communications to resonate with that regional audience?

The How:  Pull the following data for each territory/region; aggregated email click throughs, form submissions, total web visits, and common keywords used for each territory/region.  Then calculate the corresponding % increase/decrease in engagement month over month for each territory/region.  Which regions fall within the Top 25% of engagement (click throughs, form submissions, and web visits)?  Which regions have the Top 25% of engagement growth last quarter?  Which regions have the Top 25% of engagement decline last quarter?


Audience Engagement

The Why:  The customer experience extends beyond the direct recipients of your services.  Understanding the engagement of your audiences, both external and internal, and taking steps to enhance their experiences is essential to a healthy organization.

The What:  What's the average turnover rate?  Based on the exercise above, we know the cost of bringing on talent. What is the cost of retaining talent, and what revenue does the firm lose because of turnover?  How does our turnover compare to industry benchmarks?

The How:  Document the number of employees and the total number of employees leaving over the last 12 months to calculate the turnover rate for the year. What has been the % of increase/decrease month over month?


Now for the really important question, armed with this data, what decisions or adjustments will you make?

Financial Services firms are focused on development.  Much of that development can be attributed to the revenue growth process.


Firms must identify which parts of the organization are leading, and which are lagging.  Companies should identify which regions are demonstrating the greatest growth/loss.  This information should guide their decisions around where to focus communications, allocate money, and recruit new advisors.  It should direct the customization and personalization of communications based on regional engagement.  This data will also provide insight into revenue potential and strength by geographic location.


Financial services organizations can also begin to understand advisor revenue potential.  They can begin to see not only which advisors are driving the most revenue, but which are driving the most referrals. Companies can identify which advisors have the greatest potential to grown their book of business through referrals and existing client growth.  In short, you can begin to understand which advisors you should invest in.



Below are 3 exercises that will help you identify revenue growth opportunities and investment indicators.


Exercise #1Where should we hire more advisors (or open new branches) based on revenue activity in different geographic regions?  Based on advisor performance, advisor retention, and regional growth/loss where should we focus efforts on recruitment as well as retention efforts?

List territory/region:
Corresponding number of advisors by territory/region:
Corresponding number of clients by territory/region:
Corresponding revenue generated by territory/region:
Corresponding %increase/decrease of territory revenue by advisor over 12 months:
Regions with Top 25% of clients:
Regions with Top 25% of revenue:
Regions with Top 25% of revenue growth:



Exercise #2Which advisors are driving the most revenue, and driving the most referrals?  Which advisors have greatest potential to grown their book of business through referrals and existing client growth?  Which advisors should we invest in?

Client revenue by advisor last quarter:
Advisor increase/decrease in book of business last quarter:
Advisor conversion of prospect to customer last quarter:
Referral business revenue by advisor last quarter:
Advisors with Top 25% of book of business last quarter:
Advisors with Top 25% of conversion rate last quarter:
Advisors with Top 25% of referral revenue last quarter:


Exercise #3What is the advisor productivity score?  Based on this report, which reps are driving the highest productivity and how does that correlate to revenue generated?

Suggested Advisor Productivity Score:


+1 per email template used
+2 per email template click through by contacts assigned to advisor
+2 per contact web visit originating from advisor email template
+50 per meeting for advisor:
Revenue generated by advisor:
Advisor with Top 25% Productivity Score:
Advisor with Top 25% Revenue:


What did insight did you gain from these exercises?

Broadridge published a paper and, based on their findings, concluded:


"RIAs now sell more, in aggregate, than the top four wirehouses. Unfortunately for fund sales and marketing executives, RIAs tend to be small and more diverse, unlike those institutions, and therefore harder to reach using traditional distribution strategies. Gaining access and winning business in this space requires advanced segmentation and specific targeting of the individual advisor."


Based on this information, how can organizations reach these large complex RIA channels, while still delivering a personalized experience?


Consider including the following 7 tactics into your RIA channel strategy:


  1. Segment your RIA channel.  Identify those RIAs with the largest asset base, the biggest opportunities, or sales of relevant product types.  Score and select which of these segments you want to invest a greater portion of your sales strategy with, which could be managed by inside sales teams or wholesalers, and which could be communicated to digitally.
  2. Map the RIA channel journey.  How will RIAs access your products and find information about them?  You need to set yourself apart just like they do.  Customize and personalize your message.  Test different communication channels across your asset base and product segments.  Define the personas for those segments.  You must define the channel communication journey, map the content, and identify gaps and opportunity.  Lastly, make it easy for RIAs to seek and engage with information.  Reduce the clicks across the channels.  Don't complicate the navigation; drive them directly to the content they desire.
  3. Develop and respond to RIA focused preference centers Begin to understand channel and segment preferences and behavior through the use of a preference center.  Allow RIAs to select what information they receive, when, and in what format.  Deliver content based on digital body language of RIA.  16-financial-advisor.jpg
  4. Align sales resources with the RIA channel. Provide sales tools that allow your internal and external advisors to deliver timely and relevant communications.  By providing pre-approved messaging, and the tools to deliver that communication, companies can empower their teams while remaining compliant.  Educate your advisors, agents, and brokers on the importance of personal brand development, and provide the training necessary to build their brand.Develop scoring models that focus efforts where they're needed most.  Based on an RIA's activity, score their digital body language and deliver the most qualified opportunities to your teams for follow-up.  Engage your resources where there is the greatest promise of return.
  5. Test RIA communication channels.  RIAs will choose to engage across varying channels. Consider adding digital advertising as a method to communicate with your RIA segmentsDigital advertising technology exists today that allows you to use business demographics to precisely target ads to your exact audience wherever they travel online. This results in more efficiently spent ad dollars, and gives you the ability to reach more of your target RIA audience, more often, and strategically guide them through the discovery cycle.
  6. Leverage mobile as both a content consumption tool and RIA enablement tool.  With the continued growth and dependency on mobile devices for content consumption, it's important you design your digital communications to be mobile friendly. It's also worth investigating what mobile tools you can provide RIAs. Schwab rolled out Schwab OpenView Mobile, enabling RIAs to quickly deliver a branded mobile presence for their firms . This app lets advisors enhance client experience while also helping scale their business.
  7. Curate and promote RIA content.  Content Development is a recognized influential tool, but also a challenge.  Generating quality content, and enough of it, is a problem many organizations face. With more RIA's recognizing the need to develop a personal brand, the opportunity to syndicate this content is prevalent.  Curate RIA content or provide RIA's the opportunity to guest blog. Pull from RIA generated content.  Highlight them and niche expertise.  Leverage social media to promote their thought leadership.


What other tactics have you included in your RIA channel strategy?

It doesn't matter what industry you market or sell into, everyone is a consumer.  Whether dealing with a bank, or ordering from Amazon, people expect consistency in their communications and their customer experiences.  And there are variations in those expectations because each individual has a preference for how they receive communications.

So given this evolution in customer experience expectations, how do you triage which communication needs require your immediate attention?


Below are 10 trends in wealth management that will guide you in where to focus your communication efforts.

  1. The times they are a changing.  Gen Y is changing the business model.  More and more Gen Ys are choosing the independent advisor path.  As an affiliated advisor they have more control over their client focus and make more money.  While the "dial for dollars" stigma doesn't exist in this model, support received from a firm is also limited.  The independent model emphasizes focus and segmentation.  Personal brand development is a must and strong relationships rule.
  2. Advisors are requiring a more extensive onboarding program, education, and trainingWith 85% of trainees quitting within four years, this is especially discouraging to firms who invest, on average, $250,000 per trainee.  The wire-houses have started arming their advisors with tools to become more "holistic" wealth managers; they've put in place a focus on teams and technology, giving their advisors more latitude to work with clients in a variety of different capacities, not simply investment management. Advisors need extensive training in compliance, technology use, personal brand, and client relationship development.
  3. There is an increasing demand for increased advisor productivity.  According to CEB, an advisor owns an average of 105 client relationships, and averages 10-15 high net worth clients.  50% of their time is spent meeting with clients.  With policies like KYC and an increase demand from the clients for more collaboration, advisors are challenged to provide the level of service required across their entire client base.  Business must be done in real-time and advisors must focus their face-to-face efforts on their higher net worth clients. Automating frequent, personalized, communications to the remaining client base is a necessity. For advisors to be productive they need a good CRM and MA solution to retain key information on the client and the client's household and support the cross selling of investment products.  They need capabilities that are highly analytical in using customer data to draw sophisticated insight and predictions around profiling are targeting profitable positions.
  4. Clients are demanding a more personal and collaborative relationship.  There is still an element of distrust in the banking and investment world. Clients want to understand their investments and be a part of the decision making relative to their money. The number of people seeking new advisors because they believe their current advisor is neglecting them has doubled in a year.  This extends to spouses as well.  About 70% of widows change financial advisors within a year of their husband's death.  Clients don't want to wonder "who's going to take care of my money?" Its imperative an advisor develops, and documents, a strong relationship with the family.
  5. Banks are betting on Wealth Management for growth.  Wealth management divisions have a high profit potential and are considered low risk.  Wealth management clients are perceived as stable. 14-Gestao_financeira.jpg
  6. There is increased compliancy and regulation.  There is an extensive application process with a high risk of error.  The high volume and cost of regulatory change will be the "single largest challenge" facing firms in the years ahead. It's going to be increasingly challenging for firms to offer all services, to all clients, in all markets.  Firms can strengthen their business continuity and disaster recovery plans by considering the observations in the Risk Alert and implementing or strengthening practices as appropriate.
  7. Firms and advisors must be easy to do business with.  Firms must provide real-time visibility to both internal and external teams. This is necessary because many wealth management firms struggle with pulling data from various systems, product areas, and operations (like SFDC, SalesLogics, Seibel, Real Time Decisions, and Data Warehouses) to provide timely information that is crucial for managing the relationship with the client.  Wealth managers need to customize offering and deliver value within efficient service models that balance costly resources against a high quality customer experience.
  8. Advisor recruitment is a challengeThe average financial advisor is older than 50, yet most do not have a succession plan in place.  There are 10,000 Boomers turning 65 every day.  Additionally, only a small percentage of financial advisors are younger than 30.  The number of financial advisors has been decreasing in recent years, and it is critical to make this field a compelling career choice for young people. It is also critical for mature advisors to realize the different dynamics of the next generation of advisors, who have a planning orientation as opposed to the product and sales orientation many current advisors started with.  Also, wealth management historically has a high attrition rate.  80% of advisors don't make it 5 years in the business
  9. Enabling internal resources is imperative.  Firms must provide sales enablement tools to the advisor community.  They own the relationships.  Firms must give advisors the tools they need to educate themselves and their clients.  Firms and advisors need to recognize the potential in social media.  Many view LinkedIn as the new CRM.  There is a huge opportunity to develop a greater understanding of a client base and develop a strong referral business.  Leverage sales tools and social media.
  10. Communication challenges are only going to increaseFirms will implement sophisticated tools and analytics that gather and analyze data in real-time from several sources for prospecting and client servicing.  These tools will deliver speed, simplicity, style, and design.  Advisor portals are becoming a must-have tool.  Advisor Portals provide the opportunity to talk to people more directly, openly and frequently than ever before. The potential yield from that in terms of ongoing loyalty and asset growth is most definitely a prize worth winning.


What trends are you seeing in this space?

I recently received an email entitled "Tax Avoidance". The definition detailed in the email stated that tax avoidance is "The reduction or avoidance of income tax liability by legally permitted methods."

Rather fitting for the day after tax day; a day of anxiety for procrastinators and a day of relief for everyone else.  But just because tax day is over doesn't mean you should take a break from your client communications.  Client relationships are continuing to become more imperative.

In a recent article, Gallup highlights that client confidence has risen to 26%.  Confidence levels, however, are still dramatically lower than they were in 2004 when they averaged 53%.  This continued increase in confidence is attributed to advocacy, transparency, validation, and positive customer experience.


But developing that client advocacy and collaboration is a commitment.  It requires regular and valuable client communications.

Below are 5 suggestions for overcoming Client Avoidance; the reduction or avoidance of client communications.

  1. Be helpful.  Provide tax-saving tips year-round. Don't wait until the month leading up to tax season. Contact your clients regularly. Offer content that empowers them financially.  Ensure that you understand the financial objectives of your clients.  Define KPIs and regularly benchmark against those.  The content you offer should help them achieve those goals. 
  2. Personalize communications.  Newsletters serve a purpose, but to develop a relationship you must extend beyond blanketed communications.  Use information from your CRM or MA system and deliver relevant personalized messaging.  If you do deliver newsletters, utilize dynamic content throughout the newsletter, pulling in content relevant to the client's digital body language.
  3. Ask for input.  Demonstrate that the client's input and feedback is valuable.  Collect their feedback on services received, goals for the future, and satisfaction with results to date.  And don't stop at the response.  Acknowledge that you received and understand their feedback, and provide a reply that outlines actions you plan to initiate based on their feedback.
  4. Extend your reachRecognize the added opportunity to engage with your clients on social media. Provide offers and content on those social channels where they engage regularly.
  5. Pick up a pen or pick up a phone.  Not all communications need to be digital.  Sometime a more traditional outreach can be exactly what makes an impact.

According to the B2B Sirius Decisions Benchmark report, 95% of your website visitors don't convert. They're self-educating, but may be leaking out of your funnel.  80% of your campaign audience doesn't open emails.  They're getting stuck in the funnel.


Cetera Financial Group was also faced with these exact problems.


In a recent webinar, Eric Hansen - Director of Demand Generation at Cetera - explained the challenges they were working to overcome.


Cetera Financial Group has in place a strategy that is customized to each individual.  They are tasked with communicating to existing customers as well as guiding prospects down a personalized journey.


And every prospect travels on a unique journey based on their digital body language.


Cetera executes a series of communication tactics including web, email, and advertising.  They work with many advertising partners, both print and digital.


But they had 2 major opportunities they were missing.

  1. Unknown visitors.  People would hit their site from ads but they had no idea who they were.  If the visitor didn't convert on a website form, they'd lose that ad conversion.
  2. Redundant content.  Cetera didn't want to repeat the same story to known visitors. If they clicked on an ad they still wanted them to travel down that unique journey.  The paths needed to be continued outside the ad and outside Eloqua.


Their solution?


Cetera Financial Group incorporated Bizo and Eloqua AdFocus into their multichannel marketing strategy.  They developed an "always on" communication focus. By integrating their website, email campaigns, display ads, and social media they were able to synchronize the visitor's journey.  This allowed them to do the following.

  1. Retarget prospect across the web.  They can now email nurture, display nurture, and news feed nurture (ala Facebook) unknown visitors.
  2. Customize retargeted ads based on the unknown visitor behavior.
  3. Rep-target known prospects across the web.
  4. Customize retargeted messages based on website and known visitor behavior tracked in Eloqua.


They also gained new insight into their target audience.  They discovered that their target audience was using Facebook which Cetera wasn't aware of.  Facebook actually generated their best results.


Their results?

  1. Prospects from Bizo ads visited 27% more pages.  They were more engaged.
  2. They achieved an 8% conversion rate. Of those coming back from a Bizo ad, 8% converted. People that probably would never have converted before were now converting because of that second chance.
  3. Bizo retargeting ads performed 33% better then publication specific ads.


By delivering display ads geared to the prospect's digital body language, creating segments based on pages viewed or other site activities by anonymous visitors, and managing and integrating into the Eloqua campaign canvas, Cetera Financial Group identified new opportunity.


Listen to Eric Hansen explain exactly how they did this.

Multichannel marketing is certainly a trending buzzword right now.  Companies are working to integrate their email, social, web, print, mobile, and ad channels.  They want to develop that 360-degree view of their audience that consists of human multichannels including decision-makers, influencers, advocates, and even internal employees.  But that strategic multichannel focus may be distracting attention away from the effectiveness of some of those channels.  Because organizations are so focused on the high level strategy, they may lose sight of the microstrategy. 11-websites.png


Let's look at websites. When I was a corporate communications director I DREADED website "strategy" discussions.  I place strategy in quotes because the discussions were usually shallow arguments over navigation and product seniority.  We would spend more time arguing about level 1 navigation and website "sexiness" than we would on the content.  Many companies experience this. They lose sight of the visitor experience.  When executed correctly, inbound web activity should drive visitors to a specific page, not force them to navigate your confusing homepage, no matter how great you think your top level navigation actually is.


Even worse, firms tend to drive visitors to a particular page, and then disengage.  Or if they do provide an opportunity to engage it's usually a piece of gated content or a "contact us" phone number or email address.  If we're honest with ourselves, most of us don't have services and solutions that are so ridiculously compelling people would select the inbound "contact us" option (unless it's to complain).


So how can we better leverage the different communication channels that reside on your financial services website?  Below are common channels found on a financial services website, and some suggestions for optimizing each.


  1. Social Media Links:  Today most websites contain links to the firms social media accounts. These typically include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.  Rarely do the sites give a justification for following the social pages.  Aside from the standard "learn more" or "receive up-to-date information" reasons, community development can be a compelling driver for engagement.  By segmenting your social followers based on profile data you can create social accounts for different profiles (for example life stage) offering up relevant content like "Tips for Retirement" or "Saving for College".  You can then tie this social segmentation into segmented and targeted advertising and email communications.
  2. Tradeshow and Events Page:  Many firms have a prominently displayed page or sidebar that contains a list of upcoming events that the firm is attending or hosting. It usually lists the event name, date, location, and sometimes a brief topic.  If events are an important engagement channel, consider building out additional content.  Provide a form where contacts can be notified of future events that are either in their area or contain a session of particular interest to them.  Also, don?t neglect the events that have already occurred.  Offer recorded sessions, recorded webinars, and presentations on SlideShare.
  3. Videos or Video Channels:  Video is a very popular, and highly effective, communication channel in the financial services space.  But aside from subscribing to your firm's YouTube channel, how can you better engage through video?  There are now tools, like those provided by Vidyard, that allow you to deliver offers at different points in the video.  You can also gain greater insight into video engagement through more advanced analytics. Lastly, you can deliver follow-up communications based on the engagement of a specific individual with a specific video. And it?s all automated.
  4. Library of Content, Offerings, or Services:  Financial Service organizations provide a list of services and offerings, often cataloging them on their website.  But aside from Google Analytics, you can learn a lot more from activity on those pages.  Page tagging offers the fantastic ability to not only understand segmented analytics, but to also trigger behavior based on activity against tagged pages.  Scoring and entry into nurture campaigns can also occur with this activity.  Consider tagging activity against a broker, agent, or advisor portal and then, based on engagement with a specific resource, delivering personalized communications from that broker, agent, or advisor to the client.  Ensure the broker, agent, or advisor has insight and visibility into that activity.
  5. Newsletters:  Everyone has one.  And everyone also has a newsletter subscription form.  But if you're only capturing basic contact information, and delivering the same generic newsletter to all of your subscribers, you're missing out on a great opportunity to engage.  Incorporate a broader subscription center offer into the form.  Capture information about deliver and device preferences. Understand content interests and financial objectives.  Use this data to provide a more personalized and dynamic content-rich newsletter. Capture and score engagement against specific content and identify potential revenue opportunities.
  6. Online Quote or Claims:  If you're utilizing online quoting or claims tools on your website then you should also be integrating those into you larger communication strategy.  By capturing that engagement you can trigger automated delivery of personalized 1:1 communications directly from the advisor or agent to the client.  You can deliver customized communications around follow-up, welcome and onboarding, and customer satisfaction. This can also be implemented with you broker, agent, and advisor portals.


What are some other microchannels you're leveraging?

The Vanguard Group partnered with the Spectrem Group to release a research overview, "Today's Affluent Investors: insights and opportunities".  This report contains 36 pages of fantastic content around better servicing your clients. Below are 11 key takeaways from this report.


  1. Response times remain crucial. Communication expectations remain a key component of client loyalty. 
  2. Social media is on the rise. According to those surveyed, half use Facebook and 40% use LinkedIn.  YouTube is the most popular social channel used for financial purposes.  Explore how to use the channel, while remaining compliant.
  3. When selecting an advisor, personal brand is more important than fees and commissions charged. Demonstrating honesty and trustworthiness is the most important factor.  You must align your brand and value proposition with the needs of your clients.
  4. Transparency and communication rank second.  High net worth clients want advisors who will collaborate and keep them well informed. 10-Stocks_Numbers_Fall_Red_MI600.jpg
  5. Deliver the content they want. According to the study, clients want to understand how current political issues will affect their finances.  This type of content should be incorporated into your firm communications.  Identify opportunities for content curration.
  6. Give them the content they don't know they need.  Provide educational content around diversification, international investing, and the changing tax landscape.
  7. Provide them the content that will put them at ease.  Health, and the impact of their health on their finances and family, is a top concern of clients.  Inquire and plan around varying health scenarios, life transitions, and family dynamics.
  8. Plan for Millenials. Millenials will inherit, and generate, future wealth.  Develop content that addresses their needs and concerns around retirement planning and aging parents.  Adjust your communication strategy to reach these clients.  Social media will continue to become more prevalent.
  9. Be proactive, not reactive. Top reason for firing an advisor include not returning phone calls, not responding to emails, and not reaching out regularly.  The Vanguard Group points out a timely response is faster than you might think. Leverage tools to be proactive in your communications.
  10. Deliver one to many, and one to one communications.  One to one communications should be at least quarterly and one to many communications may be more frequent.  When in doubt, ask your client.
  11. Leverage all communication channels.  Seize every opportunity to create a positive client experience.  Look at better utilizing account statements, face-to-face meetings, financial plans, newsletters, and blogs.


What additional client service opportunities do you see in the financial services space?

Learn more about how the Oracle Marketing Cloud can meet the needs of your clients.

There are dozens of both live and digital financial services industry and trade events held every year.  Firms and advisors also host their own events for clients, prospective clients, and independent advisors.  These events aim to educate clients and potential clients on topics ranging from education around the market and market jargon, to what to look for when hiring an advisor.  Events targeting independent advisors can be educational in nature.  They can cover topics ranging from best practices, to compliance, to system information.


Whether you have 5 people attend an event, or 100 people attend, providing real-time follow-up will result in increased engagement.  For many firms, it's difficult to remember each conversation and deliver relevant content to that attendee, days after the event occurred. 9-fs-image.jpg


The focus of these event campaigns is to deliver awareness of the firm's event attendance, invite clients and prospective clients to join them, drive registration, and deliver segmented and personalized post-event follow-up communications.  The event campaigns should be as automated as possible and engagement by the client should trigger communication delivery.


The objective of all digital events is to inform, educate, and engage with the attendees. By implementing the following 10 tactics you can increase attendance and long-term engagement.


  1. Consider Their Calendar:  It is best practice to allow enough time for an attendee to work a digital event into their schedule.  Time between registration and the actual digital event should be no more than one month, and no less than 2 weeks. 
  2. There's An App for That:  Using Eloqua Cloud Apps for digital events, interaction with attendees throughout the entire campaign, including the event itself, is highly encouraged and possible.
  3. Give A Reason:  Provide information on the event, what the attendee will learn, and the value.  Don't forget to include a link to the registration form.  I see this simple step overlooked sometimes.
  4. Incorporate digital advertising into your event schedule. The focus of this campaign is to deliver awareness of the firm's event attendance and invite the target audience to join them.  You could start with a targeted display advertising campaign directed at the right audience, and after the event, the ads will then deliver segmented and personalized post-event follow-up communications.  The live event campaign should be as automated as possible and engagement by the client should trigger communication delivery.
  5. Tie A String Around Their Finger:  There should be several reminders delivered to event registrants reminding them of the event, as well as logistics.
  6. Engage With, Don't Preach At, Attendees: If the digital event is in real-time, encouraging engagement and interaction between the presenter and the attendees is encouraged.  Implement digital event tools that allow for Q&A, surveys, and polling.  Ensure that the digital event interaction is captured within the Oracle Eloqua solution and then leveraged in later communications.
  7. Mind Your Manners:  Using an Eloqua Cloud App like Zuant, attendees can automatically be entered into Eloqua/CRM/Nurture Campaign tracks.  Send immediate "thank you" communications and provide a link to a survey or evaluation form requesting feedback on the content offered at the event.
  8. Be Relevant:  Provide a digital link to content provided at the digital event. This can include a recorded version of the event as well as slides.  It's important to nurture event relationships by providing relevant content in the weeks following the event. Offering valuable content and providing an opportunity to opt-in or out of such communications is a best practice.
  9. Be Inclusive:  It's important not to neglect those who could not attend the event.  Offering digital content from the event, like recordings of the presentations, articles, blogs, reports, white paper, infographics, videos, and the post-event nurture content, can result in new opportunity for the firm and advisor.
  10. How Else Can We Be of Assistance:  Provide options for additional contact, subscription/opt-in to future communications, and links to other upcoming events.  Best practice suggests that if there are upcoming events; provide a subscription option within the original event registration form where contacts can register for a series of events.


By providing real-time event engagement and follow-up you can organically grow your prospective client database, increase engagement, and ultimately generate new clientele. 

There are several campaigns traditionally executed by financial services firms.  But even when fully automated and leveraging the right content, there's potential for improvement.  Display advertising, traditionally thought of as a top-of-funnel tactic, can also be used to enhance many other communications.


Digital advertising technology exists today that allows you to use business demographics to precisely target ads to your exact audience wherever they travel online. This results in more efficiently spent ad dollars, and gives you the ability to reach more of your target audience, more often, and strategically guide them through the buying cycle from building brand awareness through to driving conversions and sales. 8-clickthrough_rates_digital_display_advertising.png


Below are 4 campaigns that can be improved through the use of display advertising.


  1. Advisor Recruitment: Let's say your goal is to reach a broader target audience, as well as leverage multichannel marketing and personalized advertising, and increase your employee opportunity to 10%. You are also targeting one new employee hire by the end of your 90-day campaign.  Your target audience could be advisors working at competing wire firms in Manhattan. Activity against the digital ad can trigger entry into an advisor recruitment campaign. The focus of this campaign is to deliver content to potential wealth management advisors, from wealth management firms. The campaign should engage the potential advisor by communicating who the firm is, why they're different, why the potential advisor would want to work there, what the firm benefits are, and how the potential advisor can learn more about joining.
  2. Event Attendance and Follow-up: Perhaps your live event registration form conversion is 6%. You could leverage multichannel marketing and personalized advertising to increase live event registration form submissions to a goal of 15%. By leveraging digital advertisement in your post-event follow-up, you could also have a target goal of 2 new clients at the end of the 90-day campaign. You could define your target audience as Baby Boomers preparing for retirement that reside in San Diego. The focus of this campaign is to deliver awareness of the firm's event attendance and invite the target audience to join them. You could start with a targeted display advertising campaign directed at the right audience, and after the event, the ads will then deliver segmented and personalized post-event follow-up communications. The live event campaign should be as automated as possible and engagement by the client should trigger communication delivery.
  3. Communication opt-in: Assume only 17% of your client base has opted in for your firm communications. Through multichannel marketing and personalized advertising you may define a targeted increase for opt-in communications of 25%. You may also determine a 10% increase in new asset interest is a goal. Your target audiences can be clients that have not opted in, but have engaged digitally via email or web in the last 90 days. The focus of this campaign is to provide educational content to the targeted audience that educates and establishes confidence. An external subscription center for clients will automate this communication channel. Newsletter content will be delivered to clients based on their client profile and their subscription preferences. Newsletters will be delivered either weekly, monthly, or quarterly based on the subscription preference of the client.
  4. Client Satisfaction: Maybe your client engagement is 33% and your client satisfaction rating currently sits at 78%. If your goal is to increase client engagement to 50% and satisfaction ratings to 85%, you could leverage multichannel marketing and display advertising to reach these goals. Your target audience could be for clients of a specific advisor who joined within the last 3 months. The focus of this campaign is to welcome and onboard new clients, while also automating the nurturing process involved with the KYC (Know Your Customer) policy. The campaign should familiarize and educate new clients, encourage client retention, and aid in advisor productivity by automating KYC communication reminders.


Digital advertising can certainly deliver inbound results. But well thought out strategy, with multichannel at the center, can deliver opportunity. Using advanced segmentation and analytics about a contact's behavior, you can pull the inbound results into personalized communications that ultimately deliver a more positive client and advisor experience, as well as revenue.

Today the journey doesn't end with the "yes" that's only the beginning.  Getting clients is hard work but it's only part of the battle. Keeping them is obviously critical to success. But if you don't engage them intelligently and appropriately at each critical step, they'll inevitably fall straight out of your organization and into your competitor's waiting lap.

Below are 8 best practices to drive client engagement.


  1. Optimize your preference center.  Organizations must be able to segment contacts based on asset ownership, purchase information, current level of engagement as well as preference for receiving information, updates, and notifications.  Give the power and preference for engagement back to your audience.  Provide the ability to select when they receive communications, the frequency, the type of content, and device preferences.
  2. Better deliver on Know Your Customer policiesThis campaign should educate and familiarize clients, encourage client retention, and aid in advisor productivity by automating KYC reminders. Also incorporate monthly portfolio communications and quarterly satisfaction surveys to gauge client satisfaction. 6-david-a-noyes-financial-planning-2.jpg
  3. Automate welcome campaigns to your new clients.The objective of a welcome campaign is to drive engagement through nurturing and onboarding.  The campaign should leverage educational content and other marketing initiatives.  Incorporate satisfaction surveys into your campaign to better understand the effectiveness of your communications.  The campaign journey and content delivery should be determined by the engagement of each contact.  Wolters Kluwer saw a 42% increase in revenue thanks to their welcome initiatives.
  4. Address the client relationship stage. Communications should address the stage of each client relationship.  For example, the first year of an advisor's relationship with a client is a bit of a honeymoon period.  Retention rates drop dramatically in year two.  The life stage of each client also needs to be accounted for.  FIS developed a scoring model to address the stage of each client and doubled their sales acceptance through this program.
  5. Meet Regs and Legs requirements.  Regulations and legislation are highly restrictive.  How you engage with clients, and how data and engagement are stored, are under tight scrutiny.  Respect the regulations and make your clients feel at ease doing business with your organization.  American Express Small Business Services implemented a secure hypersite for their reward program and saw an increase in engagement and loyalty.
  6. Recognize the opportunity found on social mediaSocial media provides a fantastic platform for community development.  Social tactics develop advocates, communities, and potential opportunity.
  7. Deliver content based on behavior.  Companies understand that the best way to engage with their audience is by providing useful content.  It's necessary for a company to understand their brand message, and develop and share content that aligns with that message.  But even a content library brimming with innovation is useless if the content is not delivered to the right person, at the right time in their journey. Allow the Digital Body Language of the user to dictate which content they receive, and when.  Learn how Crowe Horwath gained insight into their content effectiveness and saw a 16% increase in engagement.
  8. Use analytics as a barometer for existing engagement, and as a tool for uncovering new engagement opportunities.  In order to enhance revenue and profit, companies must uncover new opportunities through business acquisition and targeted promotions.  Identify trends in content effectiveness, advisor success, and geographic opportunity.  Include engagement data into your persona development.  Use this analytic output to guide your decision making. This information can also be used when deciding how to convert unknown visitors, where to invest with new advisors, and what options provide the greatest opportunity for revenue.  By implementing scoring models, GAIN Capital delivered a better customer experience and saw a 15% increase in conversions.


By implementing these engagement best practices into your existing marketing automation and customer experience strategies you can rest assured that satisfaction levels will increase.

The statistics are overwhelming.  85% of trainees quit within 4 years10,000 boomers are turning 65 everyday.  The average age of a financial planner is 55 and nearly a third are over 60 (Jeff Opdyke, WSJ, 10/09/07).  And with a decrease in the resource pool, competition is increasing. Wire firms are competing against other wire firms for new advisors.  Advisors typically revolve through wire firms every few years, leveraging high sign-on bonuses.  Wire firms are also competing against the shift to independent advisor models. 


Advisor satisfaction is also at an all time low.  As the market demands increase so does the pressure for increased advisor productivity, and often with little support from the firm. Firms are challenged to engage with the potential advisor by communicating who the firm is, why they're different, why the potential advisor would want to work there, what the firm benefits are, and how the potential advisor can learn more about joining. Oh, and this all has to be done with few resources and in a covert manner.


Below are digital marketing tactics that can also be used in your recruitment efforts.


  1. Segment your audience. Look at your database and segment communications based on current employment status.  Consider advisors currently working at competing wire firms, new advisors recently certified and looking for first time work within a wire firm, advisors at non-traditional firms like banks and independents, and advisors at other smaller firms.  Also segment on the third and fourth quintiles of production (for example, advisors with six years in the business, and $260,000 to $340,000 in annual production), and advisors with decent-sized books looking to retire (those with at least $250,000 on $50 million under management who are looking to phase out from the business over the short term)
  2. Leverage social media. LinkedIn is traditionally a recruitment social hub, but don't discount other channels.  Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram all provide opportunities to visually communicate the benefits and atmosphere of your firm.
  3. Utilize digital advertising.  With advancements in display advertising you can now target recruitment advertisements based on the predefined segments outline in #1.  And you can do display these ads wherever they travel online.
  4. Automate your communications.  Marketing automation is not for marketing alone.  Leverage process automation, rules based workflow, and a contact's Digital Body Language to deliver the right communications, to the right person, at the right time.
  5. Score recruitment behavior.  Just like you can score lead behavior, you can also score recruitment behavior. Understand which candidates are most engaged, and gain insight into what recruitment content is most effective. Focus your efforts on those candidate who are most engaged with your company.
  6. Don't forget the call to action. Make sure your communications include information on "How can I join"?  An explanation of the recruitment and onboarding process should be developed and communicated.
  7. Communicate who you are and what you care about. Because relationships are key to a successful advisor, a firm must demonstrate their dedication and focus to fostering relationships with clients. Firms must also clearly communicate their differentiation.  There's a perception amongst advisors that all firms are the same.  Prove this is incorrect.
  8. Emphasize why people stay.  Because there's concern in the financial services space around attrition, communications should highlight advisor tenure and employee satisfaction with work/life balance.  Demonstrating a commitment to shared vision is important.
  9. Of course, remember the "What's in it for me"?   Explain the benefits the advisor receives when joining the organization.  This can include anything from signing bonuses to technology access, brand recognition, additional training, thought leadership and certification.


Incorporate these tactics into your recruitment efforts and begin to see an increase in quality staffing and ROI.

Financial Services organizations are in a unique position because their communication interests extend beyond client and consumer generation.  F&I organizations are facing a declining workforce and in an effort to step up recruitment, communication directors are tasked with identifying new channels to leverage.  But now, with the right approach to strategy and use of available tools, a tactic traditionally used in business development can also drive new advisor and agent hiring. Demonstrating engagement? and return?on advertising has always been difficult.  On average, digital ads only reach 33% of their intended target.  And the more specialized your product or industry, the harder it becomes to reach your intended audience.  But digital advertising, focused on personalization, and respecting privacy, can aid in solving this problem.  Digital advertising allows F&I organizations to better target, segment, educate, and understand the engagement of potential employees.  The following are questions to consider when approaching digital advertising.


  1. ?Why do we want to do it??  Your ad strategy must have a clear purpose and by defining the ?why? you can better pinpoint what that purpose is.  Are you trying to recruit new advisors?  Drive event attendance?  Increase communication opt-in?  Better service your client base?


   2.  ?Who do we want to reach??  Be specific.  This is where strong persona understanding is imperative.  67% of all ads are served to unintended targets. Ensure that your display ad spend   goes only to the business audiences you care about, not the other 67%.  You need to consider both behavior and demographics when identifying your audience. Your display ads should           map to the business segments of the buyer, customer, or partner, as well as where they are in the buyer?s journey.


   3.  ?What do we want them to do??  Recognize that communication doesn?t stop at the ad click.  Integrate your digital advertising with your marketing automation system.  This will allow you  to score and nurture contacts based on their digital body language, and reach prospects outside of their inbox with relevant display ads wherever they travel on the Web.


     4.  ?Where can we reach them online??  Digital advertising technology exists today that allows you to use business demographics to precisely target ads to your exact audience wherever   they travel online.  This results in more efficiently spent ad dollars, and gives you the ability to reach more of your target audience, more often, and strategically guide them through the           buying cycle from building brand awareness through to driving conversions and sales.


Digital advertising offers up great possibilities but experimentation is key to getting the right results.  You must test techniques, messaging, and offers to understand what is most effective with your audience.  These best practices provide a framework for this digital advertising experiment.  If you?re considering digital advertising check out how you can leverage Eloqua and Bizo for Marketing Automation.

High quality service, excellent communication, transparency, and the desire for increased collaboration are requirements by wealth management clients. In fact, according to a Capgemini report, more than 25% of wealth management clients were dissatisfied enough to withdraw a portion of their funds from the firm. Spectrem Group, a Chicago-based consulting firm that specializes in the wealth and retirement markets, reportedly expects that, over the next several years, 20% to 30% of wealthy clients will fire their advisors.

Because clients often focus on a fund's short-term performance instead of their benchmarks, according to Vanguard, this "presents an opportunity for advisors to remind clients of the time-period-dependent nature of fund performance and, more important, of the need for clients to maintain confidence in their financial plans, pointing out the role these investments can play in a portfolio over the long term." 


Advisors recognize that they must communicate regularly with their entire client base, not just high net worth clients, in order to meet the requirements of KYC policies as well as the requirements of their clients. This can be a challenge to advisor productivity given that advisors own an average of 105 client relationships, and average 10-15 high net worth clients. Automating communications to the 90% of non-high net worth clients would enable advisor productivity, and satisfy the needs of both the clients and firms. Below are 3 tactics to incorporate into your client facing financial services communications.

  1. Develop a welcome campaign that communicates the client value for subscription centers. Allow clients to select which communications to receive, as well as the frequency. Promote the additional value gained through community engagement on your social platforms.
  2. Develop monthly portfolio communications. These communications will contain updates on portfolio performance, links to portfolio performance, or a reminder to contact their advisor to review portfolio performance.
  3. Develop quarterly satisfaction surveys. These communications will explain the value, to the client, of participating in the quarterly survey. It should also contain content associated with the previous quarter's survey response. This survey can be developed as an Eloqua form and  capture a contact's response against CDOs.


By incorporating these tactics into your marketing automation strategy, advisors can better manage their book of business, satisfy customer needs, and fulfill KYC requirements.

Focusing on a niche audience is a best practice emphasized in the Financial Services space. But once you've identified a niche, how do you effectively engage with them? Social media provides an excellent platform. However, advisors, agents, and brokers need to understand how to best identify the preferred social channel, leverage useful content, and engage in conversation with each niche audience. For example, while LinkedIn is a great channel for engaging existing employees and stepping up recruitment efforts, it may not be the best way to engage with your niche client base. Financial Services clients tend to engage primarily on Facebook, while centers of influence and thought leaders engage on LinkedIn and Twitter. It's also important to note that as Gen Y and Millennials become a target client, Twitter and Google+ will become the channels more commonly used.

Below are 7 tactics for engaging with your niche on social media.

1.  Set Yourself Apart: Setting yourself apart by establishing your brand with thought leadership content and expert advice can be the key to building influence. Utilize data and experience. Understand that personal brand development requires commitment, as well as ongoing conversations, with your niche audience.


2.  Choose Your Target Audience: Decide where you want to focus your business. Today's advisors, agents, and brokers are focusing their attentions on niches that have different investment needs and priorities. By segmenting your business this way, you?re also able to focus your marketing message by touching on key events and issues that affect that target market. You can anticipate your client needs before they even arise.

3.  Define Engagement: Depending on your niche audience, engagement may need to be redefined. Not all audience "like" or "share" content, but that doesn't mean they're not engaged.

4.  Customize and Personalize Your Message: The right tools can help you personalize your message and offerings to deliver real value to each individual client. This will build your client?s sense of worth and create a high-quality customer experience.

5.  Test Social Channel Responsiveness With Your Niche: Responsiveness to social communications will depend on the audience as well as the content (image vs text vs video) and the time of day and week. Develop a matrix with "audience", "content type", "client stage", "date and time", and "social channel". Develop baseline metrics to measure results against. Using the matrix, develop a plan to test engagement levels.

6. Recognize the Power of Social Media: Social media sites can help you become a thought leader in the sector, offering the opportunity to reach out and keep audiences informed. More importantly these channels allow you to listen and learn more about your clients. It's also a way of getting to know your clients' connections, which could represent new opportunities for potential business.

7.  But Don't Rely on Social Media Alone: There are a variety of creative online avenues that can help get your message across. Videos can put your face in front of customers and potential clients. And with the right tools in place you can track the engagement of those viewers to find out who exactly is watching the content you're creating, offering insight into new potential clients. Webinars, e-books and written blogs are all effective at getting content across in creative ways. And if you leverage the power of your internal and external subscription centers, you can find out how people prefer to interact with content. Understanding these preferences allows you to personalize each communication for that individual.

Building a trusted brand and finding a way to stand out in the crowd means focusing and personalizing your message for a targeted group of clients. It also means reaching that audience where they're most likely to listen, at proven stages of engagement, when life events occur, and using all of the technology you need to get your message across. Traditionally, doing all of that would require more resources and time than you have available. Technology can now help maximize your time, personalize your message, and put you in front of your clients and potential clients in an effective and efficient way. All of that can help you establish yourself as a thought leader in the sector, create a personal brand that gets you noticed, and keeps you front and center once eyes turn your way.

We've all heard that "Content is King". No one disputes this point, however, many organizations struggle with content development. Marketing and Communication departments will sit down to execute on content marketing best practices, only to reach to a road block. Months will be dedicated to auditing content, identifying the audience's journey, defining personas and ultimately mapping existing content to each of those personas along the audience journey. In the end, a content gap is typically discovered. This gap allows organizations to understand where their content efforts should focus. But what if your gap is more like a gorge? And what if the resources need to rectify the content gorge, just don't exist?


Financial Services organizations face this challenge daily. And to complicate matters, they're not creating content for one channel. Financial Services organizations are developing content that addresses the needs of complex channel sales organizations, B2B audiences, and B2C audiences.  With limited resources, restricting regulations, and a growing demand for audience self-education how can this industry satisfy their content requirements? Well, many financial service organizations are turning to content curation.



Lincoln Financial leverages the power of Twitter lists. They subscribe to lists like Financial/Insurance Media and Sponsors (eagle Youth Partnership). They follow Insurance and Finance publications, Reuters, USA Today and other mainstream publications. They also follow their competitors, key opinion leading  journalists and correspondents. Most of what Lincoln Financial shares is organic content, but it's content inspired by their social sphere. During a 10 day period I observed a 3.8% increase in their audience engagement through content curation.

Aon Financial relies less on organic content and more on the shared content of others. By curating and sharing content across their social channels, Aon recognized, in that same 10 day period, a 2.3 % increase in engagement on Twitter and a 12.3% increase on Google+. Organizations like New York Life follow relevant non-profit sites like Sesame Street, The Ronald McDonald House, and influential Mommy Bloggers. By following the content generated by these organizations, they can identify common content trends and pull from topical issues their audiences want addressed.  By doing this, New York Life added 6,289 new Facebook followers in just 10 days.

A best practice, of course, is to test content across all channels for all audiences. Twitter is a great source for not just pushing content, but for curating content that can be leveraged across other communication channels. When attributed correctly, curated content can be used across various social networks, through owned blog posts, and in targeted newsletters and educational campaigns. Effective social media requires a commitment on the part of the organization. Those companies that publish content regularly, share 3rd party content, and post to social channels daily see a higher increase in new followers.

Ultimately, useful content drives activity. Don't underestimate the value of 3rd party content. Integrate your social strategy into your multichannel marketing strategy. Social tactics should develop advocates, communities, and potential opportunity. Convert unknown visitors to known visitors through form strategies. Use a contact's digital body language to deliver relevant content to the right audience. Gain insight through client interaction, potential content ideas from shared content and follower feedback, and develop a digital advertising strategy by understanding where your audience engages external of your site. 

The Financial Services space is incredibly competitive, both in obtaining new clients and recruiting talent. In order to meet the collaborative and transparent demands of clients, firms must work to develop an involved community. Customer satisfaction and relationship development is very important. And as clients seek out thought leaders and specialists in their advisors and agents, personal branding must become a focus of all client facing employees. Social media provides an excellent opportunity to engage with clients, prospects, centers of influence, and thought leaders. Social media also allows for clients with similar interests to engage with each other. It provides a community development platform.


And while social media is a valuable tool for engagement, it also falls under strict regulations. These regulations can be difficult to understand and sometimes cause financial institutions to shy away from social engagement. The FFIEC recently published a social media guidance to address the application of these regulations. Below are 5 key takeaways financial organizations should consider when engaging on social media.



1.  Don't take a one-size-fits-all approach to your social media initiatives. Consult with your legal and compliance teams and make decisions based on your institution's size, activity level, and third party relationships.


2.  Regularly review compliance and risk procedures. You are responsible for what is posted by your institution as well as those site managed by, or on behalf of, your organization. You do not have to monitor all internet communications about your institution. You do want to ensure your social media communications align with the Truth in Savings Act, Truth in Lending Act, and Fair Lending Laws, just to name a few.


3.  Develop a social media response plan. While your institution is not responsible for all complaints and inquiries on the internet, it's recommended that specific channels be developed to manage such feedback. Keep in mind issues like fraud and brand identity and privacy concerns. Monitor these channels and have a response plan in place.


4.  Track and monitor analytics against your social media initiatives. Not all social activity is meant to drive revenue. Demonstrate to your financial institution's board of directors and senior management increased engagement, community development, and increased market and client understanding.


5.  Have a clearly defined, and communicated, policy on employee use of social media. Develop formal training around these company policies. An employee's communications on social media may be viewed as reflections of the financial institution. It can always be subject to compliance and regulation policies.


Social media within the Financial Services space is still an emerging trend. Many companies are cautious given compliance constraints, but social media opportunity should not be ignored. Clients want to have a relationship with the organizations and individuals that manage their finances. It's important that those companies looking to embark on social have a strong social media compliance approval process in place, pre-approved comments and responses, and an internal policy published.