Associate Content Marketing Manager

Manager, Demand Generation

The Complete Guide for the Modern Financial Services Marketer

A swirl of pressures from new technologies, an influx of digital-first competitors, and changing consumer behavior have forced financial services companies to transform the way they do business. Financial services brands that have already honed in on investing heavily on digital transformation have seen as much as a 68% increase in revenue. Having put in the hard work and investment to catch up digitally, many financial services brands are now looking to better align their marketing strategies to meet the needs of their modern consumer.

To build a truly audience-centric marketing program, sophisticated brands are diving headfirst into a variety of data sources to better understand their customers: their needs, motivations, and behaviors. This four part guide will show you how leading financial services marketers are connecting with customers through smarter messages delivered to the right individuals at a cost that drives profitable growth. 

First, let’s review some of the challenges financial services brands typically have in common: 

  • The majority of the time, a given prospect is not actively in market for services
  • Products are complex and consumers need help understanding how to buy and engage 
  • A multi-step sales process makes it difficult to tie back end results to the media channels or tactics generating actual sales

With these dynamics in mind, let’s dive into how financial services brands can build sustainable marketing programs that thrive despite these challenges.

Step 1: Use a Variety of Data to Gain a Deeper Understanding of Your Customers 

Rather than starting with a top down brand message or a predetermined set of channels, begin by using available resources to get a better understanding of where to find your customers — physically and digitally. It may sound obvious, but we find many financial brands are still falling short when tailoring their messages and media plans to the needs, motivations, and behaviors of their varied customer base. 

A first time home buyer who needs a mortgage provider now is going to follow a different journey with different media channels than a high net worth individual who uses the advisory services of your competitor. Your brand’s visibility on relevant search engines is critical to capture that home buyer in their moment of need, while maintaining a more evergreen presence on podcasts or websites frequented by wealthy individuals is a better strategy to build familiarity with the high net worth person who isn’t currently in-market.

Mapping out these distinct audience needs and behaviors requires a combination of strategic thinking about the steps involved in different customers’ paths-to-purchase and data to support your hypothesis. Data sources we recommend include: Media consumption data, demographics, category demand, brand awareness and brand demand.

Step 2: Prioritize Audiences Based on Intent

Consumer expectations and sweeping new laws are forcing marketers towards privacy-first advertising. It’s causing a shift away from third party cookies, and towards keeping individual behavior “signals” contained within ad platform walls. This means it’s crucial for brands to fundamentally rethink their strategies to target different kinds of audiences — and it all begins with intent! Mapping out how you’ll approach different audiences and their varying levels of intent will provide you with invaluable insights and data that can drive further strategic decision-making.

To get started, identify the audiences you know the most about through owned first-party data. Who is visiting your website and abandoning a form fill? Who is submitting a form? Who is downloading your content? Additionally, you can leverage in-platform intent data, like engaged video viewers or those who comment or share your posts. You’ll want to respond to this data by targeting these individuals with messaging that reflects their higher level of intent. 

Then, move to audiences that are semi-known. These are audiences that other providers (social platforms, retailers, third-party data mainstays like Oracle or Acxiom or emerging audience data companies) have their own information about that you as a brand can pay to tap into. This will require testing different data sources to identify what methods of targeting are most effective at reaching your desired audience. Here are some examples of behavioral audience types that can benefit financial services brands specifically: 

  • Ad platform lookalike data based on your own CRM 
  • Audiences that use your competitor’s apps 
  • In-market audiences identified by Google, Meta, and other ad platforms

As you create your messaging, keep in mind that it should reflect a user’s category intent while simultaneously introducing your brand as a trusted partner. And, if you’re facing audiences with no behavioral signals or intent data (also known as unknown audiences), they can still be reached on contextually relevant sites

The reality is, achieving this kind of cross-channel, personalized targeting is tricky — but it’s critical for financial services brands to align their messaging and budget prioritization to meet different audiences where they are, by maxing out audiences that are most likely to convert, while communicating with lower intent audiences in a different manner altogether.

Step 3: Build a Messaging Strategy & Media Plan that Resonates with Your Audiences

With a mapped out understanding of how your different audiences are likely to go from prospect to customer (at Rise, we call this a Connections Plan), you can now develop the unique messaging and creative assets needed for the channels where they consume media.

In the second step, you aligned messaging based on audience intent. Now, you’ll take this foundation and build out your media plan. Here are the inputs we recommend focusing on: 

  • Build your media budget based on which media types your different audiences consume. Are they surfing YouTube for videos? Are they perusing their feeds on TikTok or Instagram? Knowing the places your audiences are digitally frequenting will help you create a realistic and maximized budget that focuses on the right channels, across the board. 
  • Factor in market differences, both by audience, and by demand or awareness for your brand and your brand category. Some audiences may be familiar with your brand, but might not be aware you offer a specific kind of service or product. Others might be aware of your services, but haven’t heard of your brand before. Platforms like Google can provide data that shows brand and category demand, which lets you see a bigger picture of how your brand stacks up in a greater vertical or industry. 
  • Allocate time and resources to building the right creative for each channel you’re planning to target. For example, if you’ve got your eye on paid social media and CTV, plan to finesse the way you’re creating video ad formats and interactive formats. You can also capitalize on more straightforward ad formats that are easy to create and deploy, like banner ads, to quickly establish momentum.

It’s also important to make sure your media is driving to destinations that match up with your audience’s needs. For instance, high intent audiences may not necessarily need topic overviews, but rather, a quick and efficient path to getting in touch with your brand. Alternatively, lower intent audiences may benefit from educational resources that put them in the driver's seat with the help of your brand — these resources might include tools like calculators or planners. Remember, not all of your audiences are in the market currently, but it’s still important to reach them. Your products might appear to be challenging to understand or intimidating to approach, which makes educational content even more important!

Step 4: Measure In Real-Time and Over Time

At Rise, our philosophy is that a media plan is a starting point. Where we start is never where we finish. And we know that bringing these first three steps to life is a tall task: You’re using different messaging on a variety of platforms, all with unique audiences. There’s a sea of data to contemplate in order to understand what is or isn’t working. 

That’s why you’ll need a tool like our cross-channel media optimization platform, Connex®. It provides a way to analyze the performance of various audiences, messages, markets, and platforms in real time, based on performance KPIs that matter most to your campaign. You’ll be able to strategize and execute tactics with agility so you can evolve and grow your approaches over time. 

In addition to real-time optimizations, you’ll need a longer term view that shows you how your efforts are impacting your greater business goals. Financial services brands should invest in a proper measurement framework where they are feeding data about the quality and conversion of leads into ad engines, which leads to smarter bidding. Additionally, we recommend a quarterly or bi-annual incrementality analysis to understand the interaction between channels and tactics, and how media spend for one platform is influencing performance in another. 

PRO-TIP: Brands often tend to overlook specifically first party data that indicates which leads convert, and their value to their business. These insights are a gold mine of information that can maximize the effectiveness of media spend!

Transforming Your Brand’s Future

Feeling overwhelmed? That’s likely a good thing! Here at Rise, we believe difficult is good, especially when it comes to ensuring that your brand is future-proofed for whatever lies ahead. Investing in digital transformation and audience-first strategies now will be worth the challenge in the long run. We’re experts at helping financial services brands bring the steps we outlined in this guide to life — and driving long-term business growth. If you’re ready to tackle your next steps into the future of financial services marketing, we’re here to talk. Contact us today! 

02/10/2023 at 01:28