The financial services sector is facing a number of challenges that make succeeding in this highly-competitive industry increasingly difficult. On top of recovery of both position and trust in a post-crash environment that has led to more stringent regulations, the industry now faces a more demanding market, more competition and the necessity to adopt and utilise new technologies without losing the data security the industry requires.
In order to stand out, businesses need to not only go digital, but incorporate a fully-integrated digital marketing system across multiple channels that will increase engagement with your target market and drive customer growth. A fully integrated digital marketing campaign will help overcome the challenges currently faced, by identifying and monitoring consumer activity and tailoring your content accordingly to provide the solutions your existing and potential customers need.
Though digital spend in the financial sector is growing year on year, rising from $53billion in 2008 to an expected $168billion next year, most businesses are not availing of its benefits. The financial services rank highest out of any industry in website conversion rates, at 10%, but attracting those consumers to a website and leading them through to conversion is not being achieved as well as it should.
Your business needs to position itself as a thought leader, as a trusted authority on all issues relating to finance, how it affects people, and how they can benefit from your expertise. In short, your business must create a strong brand identity online. To do this, your company needs to understand the consumer, their needs, and their decision making process.
Putting the customer first is the primary goal, and detailed insights are needed to more easily communicate with both potential and existing customers and to create tailored experiences for them that show the value of what you can provide.
It’s not as simple as creating some information about your products and services and placing it on your website. That website needs to be effective and completely tailored towards lead generation. The content needs to be compelling, to draw people in, to offer helpful information the consumer needs, and you need to be able to monitor what visitors to your site do once they are there. Monitoring their activity on your website means you can personalise the content you provide to them to lead them through the sales funnel, creating that tailored experience that encourages trust and loyalty with your brand, and drives lead generation.
Making the product or service appealing to the online market
Most consumers have a very limited understanding of what constitutes a financial service and what a specific company can actually do for them. The important thing to note here is that the consumer is looking to understand what you can do for them, and your brand needs to be able to communicate this value in a way that responds to their needs in an emotional context.
For example, a person looking to buy an insurance policy for his family doesn’t really want to know that they can enjoy a slight percentage rise in the value of their investment over the course of a year – they want to know their family is secure in the case of an emergency, and how the policy will work for them when they need it.
This message needs to be communicated not just when they visit your site or sign up, but at every stage of their journey, from initial online search, through downloading information, to finally being ready to make a purchasing decision. Your content needs to be engaging and compelling, drawing visitors in and keeping them there, willing to read further, and their interest, captured and monitored, needs to be acted upon with further targeted content that offers new and equally helpful information that will drive them towards making a purchasing decision.
In order to overcome this challenge, businesses in the financial sector need to find ways to engage with their customers and potential customers in meaningful ways. This requires developing an understanding of customer personas, understanding who they are, what their needs are, and how your business can provide the solutions to their challenges, not focusing just on financial aspects, but on the aspects consumers really care about, the emotional side that needs to be satisfied.
An inbound digital marketing strategy allows you to monitor consumer activity to reveal their needs and concerns, so that you can create the content that answers those needs across multiple channels.
Regaining trust through thought leadership and positioning online
There is an underlying wariness when it comes to dealing with financial services, because for the consumer, it is, after all, their money, and this has not been helped by the negative reputation suffered globally by the sector in recent years. Generally speaking, people no longer trust financial institutions, and as with every other sector, consumers have become the ones holding power, no longer afraid to make a change and switch to another business.
These recent trends are coupled with the rise of new technology that allows consumers to make transactions without the aid of their bank, and improve their services overnight, leaving financial institutions unable or unwilling to adapt behind.
Trust needs to be regained by positioning your business as a market leader, a resource where the relevant and helpful information people need can be found. Once they see your brand as the go-to resource, they are more likely to come to you when they are ready to make a purchasing decision too.
Consumers now want advice-driven, personalised financial services from a personable source, not just a faceless transaction, according to a recent report from Accenture. This comes in many forms, from social media engagement to easy-to-use online services, and while traditional institutions may find it more difficult to adopt such services quickly, they do have one advantage in that they usually already have huge amounts of customer data. This can be used to identify customer behaviour, giving valuable insights into the customer journey – what they are thinking, or looking for, and how you can help them - which again allows for tailoring of content to meet specific and personal needs.
This means providing the right content to the right people at the right time – a key ethos of an inbound digital marketing strategy.
An inbound marketing system works to build up an extensive database of customers and potential customers, segment them according to various criteria, and engage with them with the right information at the right time in their journey. Consumers considering a purchasing decision can be provided with the relevant content to help them make that decision, while those considering switching services can be provided with content that shows the value of your business, and those who may be able to afford a higher investment can be provided with content that shows the benefits of this, and so on.
Adaptability as a necessity to meet the demands of the online consumer
With size comes a lack of speed, and many financial services institutions find it difficult to bring in changes and modernise, especially at the rate required today. Planning, compliance, training – all delay technological advancement, and the larger the company, the slower the transition. Consumers today are far more demanding than they were even a generation ago, and they now expect immediate and perfect services on their computer and/or mobile phone. But financial institutions are struggling to meet these expectations and combine both the levels of security and the functionality needed.
As mentioned previously, while financial institutions can’t adopt digital advances overnight, they can avail of vast amounts of consumer data and advanced security infrastructures.
While the consumer now expects seamless real-time experiences across multiple channels, larger institutions may struggle, but adopting a consumer-centric approach is necessary and financial institutions need to choose the digital channels they should focus resources on.
The need to provide mobile-friendly digital services is also urgent, as this is fast becoming the primary device of choice for online access. In the increasingly important ‘millennials’ demographic, 75% use a mobile banking service to some degree, while 25% use only a mobile banking service, according to this report by Salesforce.
The same goes for social media, where the financial services business needs to present itself as a personable character, not a faceless business, must listen to consumer needs and thoughts, and must engage with them in real-time to build and retain trust by generating discussions surrounding the issues that concern consumers, and providing helpful information about the issue, not about the business.
A digital marketing strategy should incorporate all of these technological necessities, ensuring that all content is mobile-friendly, and maintain an integrated social media strategy that produces a consistent message across all platforms.
Adapting to the changes in the financial services sector is not easy, but it is necessary in order for your business to survive. Regaining trust and positioning within the market, engaging with the consumer on their terms in a way that appeals to them, adapting to changes in technology and consumer behaviour - all are imperative, and all can be achieved with a digital marketing strategy.
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