Mark Gibson
Mark Gibson Aug 29, 2016

Fighting the talent battle in bank marketing

Chief marketing officers (CMOs) tell us they have two huge challenges today: shifting their existing staff to the digital world; and finding enough analytical talent to inform and measure successful campaigns. The problem has grown even more severe the past several years and is not isolated to banking. However, there are concrete steps bank marketers have taken to bridge the gap between the existing capabilities of their team and what that team needs to win in today’s complex marketing environment.

It’s no surprise that the field of marketing is changing rapidly. A recent survey of marketers reinforces the fact that they know they have to reinvent themselves, but many don’t know how. To begin with, 64% of marketers expect their role to change in the next year, 81% in the next three years. However, while two in five marketers surveyed stated that they wanted to reinvent themselves, only 14% of them actually know how to go about it.

Competing for Talent

The first big change involves digital marketing. Not only are media shifting from terrestrial to digital, but consumers have fundamentally changed with regard to how they consume media, and more importantly, how they make buying decisions and actually purchase products. Many existing marketing team members are not fully knowledgeable about the tools available to capitalize on these critical changes. What’s worse is that there is a deep digital marketing talent gap in all industries, so banks need to compete viciously for talent with all other companies.

The other tsunami facing bank marketers is that everything is measurable, and as a result, senior management expects all marketing activities to have a measurable return. Many bank marketers harken from a communications or public relations background and don’t have the required analytical skills. Others may have the technical understanding but lack the bandwidth within their teams to meet the increasing demands of the chief financial officer and CEO. While the majority of marketers (76%) agree they need to be more data-focused to succeed, 49% report “trusting my gut” to guide decisions on where to invest their marketing budgets.

There is more to measuring return on investment (ROI) than having the right talent on board. Banks need the infrastructure to measure key performance indicators (KPIs) like prospect visits, applications, conversions and funding by marketing mediums and delivery channels. This requires business intelligence that is often housed outside the marketing department, as well as investments in systems, websites and reporting that are typically controlled by Information Technology (IT) and Finance. Overcoming these hurdles can have talent implications as well.

No one feels the pressure of the momentous changes in the marketing environment and senior management’s increased expectations more acutely than the CMO. Unfortunately, much of the solution also rests with the CMO. As Avinash Kaushik writes in his book, Web Analytics 2.0, “Analytics is the crucial link between business strategy and outcomes, and it’s (the CMO’s) job to carefully define how data and insight are going to connect these two. You need to provide the structured thinking about what the real purpose of the campaign is and define an objective set of measures for success. Then, you lead your team and others to define segments, behaviors and outcomes that become a campaign.”

In other words, it is the CMO’s job to determine what skills are needed to get the job done, carefully assess what skills exist in the department and then fill those gaps by either training existing staff, recruiting new ones, or finding third parties to augment the team. Says Ann Ryan, CMO of Old National Bank in Evansville, Indiana: “When I took on the CMO role 18 months ago, we had both digital and analytical skill gaps. I hired a brand manager/creative director from an agency with zero financial experience but extensive hands-on digital, web and video production knowledge. We are teaching him banking and he immediately helped us begin the shift from an ink-on-paper world to a digital one. At the same time, I took my most analytical team member and promoted her to run Data Analytics, working closely with IT, Finance and Customer Experience to better integrate all our data so we can more effectively measure the success of our campaigns.”

Once the CMO completes the skills gap assessment, there are really three fundamental ways to fill these gaps: train your team, recruit new team members or partner with third parties. Let’s start with the last one, because it can often generate the fastest results.

Partner! Only the largest banks have the luxury of hiring a cadre of digital media experts and data scientist PhDs. The rest need to identify talented people in ad or media agencies or direct mail partners who can compensate for the weaknesses or bandwidth issues of the internal team. You probably already have these partners, but you need to use them differently. If you don’t have the right partners, you need to quickly find them because they are out there. As the CMO, it’s your responsibility to know the most talented digital marketing agencies and work with them. You should manage these people as if they are an extension of your team and make sure your team has the opportunity to listen and interact, learning in the process.

Develop Your Team. “Investing in training your staff will more than pay for itself,” says Lisa Lynch, senior vice president of Marketing Communications at Rockland Trust in Boston. “They know your business and your company. They will quickly be able to put their new knowledge into practice to improve your performance.” The good news is that it’s easier than ever to learn about digital marketing and analytics. There are events like The Financial Brand Forum, BAI Beacon or MITX, websites such as MarketingProf, online publications and blogs like Digital Banking Reports, BAI Banking Strategies and MarketMatch and there are a plethora of online courses from places like MITX, MarketMotive, and The Laredo Group.

Networking is another developmental activity that you and your team should pursue. LinkedIn is fine, but there is no substitute for searching out and sitting down with digital marketing thought leaders in your community. Be disciplined about getting out of your four walls to meet people in other industries that know more about these topics than you do. You will be surprised how quickly you expand your thinking.

Finally, since most of us have relatively small teams, it makes sense to cross-train them as much as possible. Columnist Jim Yu explains in a recent issue of Marketing Land how critical it is to have each of your team members learn as many skills as possible to partially make up for the shortage of talent, particularly with so many different disciplines – digital media, ad measurement and attribution, social media, content marketing – that need to be mastered.

Selectively and Carefully Recruit. No matter how well you develop your team, chances are you are going to have to bring in fresh blood. The world is changing very fast and, not surprisingly, banks are not at the cutting edge of digital marketing. Before you begin, you need to be very thoughtful about exactly what skill gaps you are trying to fill. Otherwise, you are likely to be disappointed.

Once you’re ready to search, remember that everyone else is too! You are going to have to articulate why it makes sense for a talented digital marketer or analyst to join your organization, even though they may be taking a step back in terms of the tools they are used to working with, such as customer relationship management and campaign management software. On your side, the money can often be better at banks, which are still regarded by many young people (and their parents!) as a prestigious and stable place to work.

So how do you find them? Again, don’t look in banks! Target ad agencies, media agencies, and data-driven companies that have a big online presence, such as Trip Advisor, Lending Tree, Constant Contact, etc. If you are primarily a retail bank, a good place to look is at companies such as Staples, Walgreens, or Southwest Airlines, where the candidates will understand the online buying experience. If you are more of a commercial bank, you should be thinking about digital lead generation and content marketing and looking to other B2B marketers like Iron Mountain, Oracle or any other company that is successfully using a combination of the web, e-mail and events to reach business owners.

Now You Need To Retain Them. Once you’ve successfully built this arsenal of top talent, your competitors are going to want them! And, your new hires are going to be very marketable themselves, so their expectations for job satisfaction and advancement are likely to increase. It’s imperative that you step up your efforts at proactive career development to make sure you know where they are trying to go and help them get there. Be sure to help each of your staff see the big picture, and how their role and project relates to it. Also, when necessary, illuminate for them why something they might be passionate about is not a top priority of the bank.

One last word on retention of the new recruits: As mentioned previously, young talent is accustomed to using pretty sophisticated marketing IT hardware and software to do their jobs. If your organization does not have the understanding or commitment to invest in doing digital marketing and measuring marketing ROI properly, then don’t waste your time recruiting top talent, because they will leave once they realize their careers are going to be put in reverse. They are also likely not coming from a regulated industry, so you will need to manage their expectations with regard to how careful (and slow) things happen in the banking environment, compared to what they might be used to.

Determining the right mix of talent and building it is difficult, but it’s one of today’s CMO’s most important responsibilities. Remember that it’s worth the effort in a myriad of ways:

  • Better measurement of marketing program ROI;
  • Improved campaign performance and ROI;
  • Increased confidence of C-Suite in marketing initiatives;
  • Better rationale for increased marketing investment;
  • Improved satisfaction, retention and job security for you and your marketing team.

“Making the necessary changes in our team was a big step in the right direction as we move to a content-driven, always-on digital marketing world,” says Ryan at Old National. You may feel like you’re far behind, but there is no time like the present to close the gap!

Mr. Gibson is a senior consulting associate with Washington, D.C.-based Capital Performance Group, LLC. He can be reached at mgibson@capitalperform.com.

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