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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"?

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?

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.

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?