Knowns and unknowns for marketing teams in 2023

Using creativity, research and data to achieve measurable success can help marketing gain higher status as a strategic partner.

Heading into 2023, financial institutions have so many big uncertainties to consider—monetary tightening, economic weakening, asset market turbulence, the possibility of a pandemic resurgence and more—that any plans made for the coming year will necessarily come equipped with ample caveats and room to maneuver.

But on the marketing side, at least, there are some areas where planners can budget with a high level of confidence.

Perhaps at the top of that list is the high likelihood that the growth of digital banking will continue at the same accelerated pace that we’ve seen in recent years, so resources will have to be smartly allocated to leverage that trend to acquire new customers. Likewise, there’s little reason to think that competition from fintechs and other upstarts will ease off, so tactics to limit defections also stand to pay off.

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We address these and other challenges facing marketing teams at banks and credit unions in this month’s Executive Report.

In our lead article, contributor Marilyn Kennedy Melia gathers perspectives from a range of marketing practitioners and other experts on how they see the 2023 landscape shaping up, along with advice on what others should be thinking about and preparing for.

One of the potential outcomes she explores is the possibility of a double-negative scenario: declining top- and bottom-line numbers at banking institutions that amplify the need for more marketing muscle, combined with reduced budgets that make it harder to exert that muscle. While escalating rates have widened net interest margins, they have also hammered the mortgage lending that has been a key profit driver over the past decade for many banks and credit unions.

Many banks will likely prioritize marketing designed to increase lending opportunities, while others will focus on building up core deposits, particularly if the economy slips into recession. Using creativity, research and data to achieve measurable success in whatever priorities emerge can help marketing gain status as a strategic partner in the business, Melia writes.

To a greater degree than in years past, banks and other corporations are expected to use social media to stake out public positions on prominent national issues such as diversity and inclusion, environmental policies and gun rights. In today’s charged political environment, such demands create the possibility of damaging missteps.

Contributing writer Dawn Wotapka tells us more about how institutions are walking the line on potential hot-button issues in their social feeds. Her interviewees said that they’re mindful of the risk of upsetting or alienating portions of their customer base, but that a greater risk would arise if they sought to steer around these important societal issues.

Much of the push for greater public presence on prominent issues is coming from younger Americans. I conducted a Q&A with BAI research director Karl Dahlgren about some of the generational differences regarding banking that marketers should know. Spoiler alert: The younger folk may be easier to catch than to keep.

Also in this month’s Executive Report:

5 marketing strategies to consider for 2023: Lisa Nicholas from Vericast acknowledges that financial services marketers face tighter regulations around privacy and a shift to cookieless browsing, but she says these obstacles don’t have to limit an institution’s reach. Her article proposes a handful of practical actions that marketers should consider, beginning with reevaluating their approach to digital.

The importance of digital customer journeys: Christina Luttrell from GBG Americas advises bank marketers to concentrate on the entire customer life cycle, starting with the first online interaction, to understand customers’ needs and desires. This includes offering seamless digital workflows to enhance convenience and minimize abandonment rates, along with a mobile onboarding process.

The growing challenge of customer disengagement: Matt Gillin from Relay Network suggests that many financial institutions’ efforts to build engagement may in fact turn alienate customers. He says the best way to reduce churn is for banks to develop “true” customer engagement that centers on trust, care, connection and reliability.

Marketing success in a cookieless future: Nathan Barling and Lincoln Hull from Salesforce write that personalization must be a leading priority in digital marketing because customer concerns about privacy have created a backlash against the third-party cookie. To engage consumers in this changing landscape, banking institutions need to use data to humanize the experiences they’re offering.

Terry Badger, CFA, is the managing editor at BAI.