How Financial Services Brands Shape Marketing Strategies Around the Customer Journey

August 12, 2015

David Edelman

From awareness to consideration to purchase, the customer journey is rapidly evolving as today’s highly educated, tech-savvy consumers become increasingly demanding and ever more inquisitive when it comes to researching and purchasing financial products and services. But in an industry bound by tightening compliance regulations and a general lack of connectivity between IT, Operations and Marketing, sometimes it can be tough to activate tactical paths towards long-term customer success.

We’re excited and inspired by this challenge and, as part of our FinanceConnect Thought-Leadership blog series, have pulled top insights from our conference’s panelists about how brands can best shape and operationalize their marketing strategies around the customer journey.

Top insights on how brands can best operationalize marketing strategies around the customer journey:

Adopt a new mindset

Like many other profit-driven organizations, financial services firms have struggled to adjust their mindset and truly focus on the customer. As pointed out by one of our keynote speakers and global co-leader of Digital Marketing and Sales Practices at McKinsey & Company, David Edelman, there is plenty of spillover and distraction in “today’s incredibly fast paced, changing area of digital, mobile, social and video.” But the trick is to use these new capabilities and find better ways to connect with your customers to drive growth — that is our end goal as marketers and business leaders. So whether you’re a commercial insurance provider, credit card issuer, or financial advisor, a technology overhaul is either in the cards or far overdue. And, as various financial disruptors start to become more sizeable competitors, legacy financial institutions will need to strategically pivot towards a more customer-centric growth strategy.

Unlock a growth partnership

As Edelman pointed out, “[You] must think through what the customer is going to have to experience to unlock a growth partnership with you.” For financial services, this means digging into each possible point-of-contact and optimizing the experience to be as positive as possible — for customers, not you. Evolving in this way is crucial to fostering loyalty and central to next-generation, technology-enabled branding. After all, as additional insights from McKinsey & Company have identified, “across the entire customer journey, every touch-point is a brand experience and an opportunity to engage the consumer—and digital touch-points just keep multiplying.”

Dive deep — don’t overlook the details

If the end goal is connecting with customers, then financial services firms must get to the heart of their consumer relationships by providing timely, effective and meaningful utility across multiple channels. But unfortunately, many firms play it safe and engage only when they feel it is needed — or at basic, peripheral touch-points such as their online banking website or company blog. To illustrate the importance of activating your brand at all times in front of consumers, as part of his presentation, Edelman drove our audience through a recent trip he took to visit his daughter in Paris. Over the course of a few minutes, Edelman had identified over a dozen missed opportunities from his credit card company to deliver on his expectations and provide unique, meaningful value while traveling overseas.

Adding that, “Instead of ‘knowing me’ — which is what I would expect [from a company that] uses as much information as they can get their hands on from me to strive to achieve — it was clear that they did not know me, at all. And that tainted my view of the brand.”

When in doubt, map it out

The first step towards activation is to research and document why, where and when new and existing customers come into contact with your financial services brand. To jumpstart this exercise, firms should start by gaining a clear understanding of consumer habits, behaviors and preferences along each stage of the journey and use this understanding to develop a strategy for best connecting with consumers.

Reiterated by Russ Glass, Head of Products for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, “The buyer’s journey today is effectively a random walk. What we can do now is start to meet our customers in the middle. And instead of having this random walk down the Internet, we can actually help guide them and grab their hand and walk with them and help them solve some of these problems.”

In Glass’ mind, financial services firms can satisfy those expectations and create engaging experiences in a truly revolutionary way. It’s a matter of applying the technology at our disposal to achieve that goal, and learning from those in other industries who have successfully done so.

As Glass reminded us, “What Amazon and others like Google have done is taken the power of all these technologies, and moved relevance from a nice to have to an imperative.”

Once financial services firms put in place the necessary processes and technologies to engage their customers, they need to manage that journey. This is not a set-it-and-forget-it exercise – it requires ongoing attention, tweaks and improvement over time since the customer journey is impacted by numerous factors and continually evolves. But after proper wheels are in motion, financial institutions will start to see long-term success and increased brand loyalty — all through improved customer activation.

For toolsets on how to build a full-funnel social program, be sure to download our 5-minute Guide to Multi-Channel Nurturing.

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