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Trigger-based marketing: A powerful tool for attracting and retaining customers

Focusing on life event and behavioral triggers for both prospects and existing customers is critical for the success of today’s banking marketers.

Nov 1, 2023 / Marketing & Sales

As expectations for highly personalized banking experiences grow, the opportunities for financial institutions to “wow” prospects and customers with relevant messaging are many, thanks to an abundance of data based on life events and behaviors. This data can be used to “trigger” marketing activities in near real time to respond to these unique events and behaviors. Unfortunately, marketers often lack the technology to synthesize complex data streams and struggle to develop the marketing processes to act on the information quickly. 

The sheer abundance of trigger data options and the complexity of acting on the insights can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned marketing professionals. The Bank Marketers Guide to Life Event Marketing focuses on some key factors that marketers may wish to consider in developing a trigger-based marketing strategy.  

Consider your sources 

Data for behavioral and life event-based trigger marketing generally falls into three broad categories:  

  • Credit activity patterns, such as “off-us” inquiries or applications for credit 
  • Material life events, such as pre-movers and new movers, newly married and new and expecting parents 
  • First-party behavioral data, such as “on-us” transaction information and changes in balance levels 

The first two categories fuel new-to-bank prospect trigger marketing activities, while all three are important for marketing to existing customers.  

Regrettably, the ecosystem for credit and third-party life event-based marketing data remains highly fragmented. There are hundreds of providers of life event data, each with different areas of specialty and levels of coverage, while for consumer credit triggers it’s necessary to aggregate data from all three major bureaus to avoid missing up to half of the available opportunities. 

That said, the partner marketplace has evolved considerably in this area, and a class of super-aggregators has emerged that offers marketers simple, streamlined access to tri-bureau credit triggers and noncredit life event data from dozens of the highest quality sources in near real time. Accessing these consolidated data libraries can increase the universe of captured trigger events by 5 to 10 times. 

Act with speed 

Accessing a super-aggregated set of near real-time data provides the right foundation for a trigger marketing program, but triggers are perishable, and acting with speed is critical. 

For credit-based triggers, which happen when a consumer has applied for a loan with another institution, speed must be measured in hours. In our experience, the best marketers act on these triggers within 24 hours of the event, as marketing deployed after this time is too late to influence the buying process. 

For noncredit life events, such as movers or lifestyle triggers, we observe that response rates decline 30 to 40% each week after the initial triggering behavior.  

While deploying marketing at this pace is often a challenge, partner technology is available that can move a credit trigger event from inquiry to deployment within hours and a life event trigger from data receipt to market within a day. 

Cast a wider net 

While marketers are often drawn initially to new-to-bank prospect acquisition or customer engagement applications, the power of trigger marketing is maximized when it’s used across both populations. 

Industry benchmarks suggest that up to 75% of prospects that switch primary financial institutions do so after experiencing a material life event, such as moving, getting married or having a child. The appeal of deploying new-to-bank acquisition programs targeted toward these audiences is clear. 

However, savvy marketers will also extend the tactic to existing customers, pairing first-party data with third-party triggers to comprehensively monitor existing relationships. This allows bankers to reengage households the moment they are shopping competitors and to extend timely offers to customers who may be on a new buying journey. In fact, monitoring existing customers for “pre-mover” activity has become one of the most reliable sources of purchase mortgage applications in today’s home-lending environment. 

Prioritize your channels 

After assessing the sourcing, speed and audience coverage of your trigger program, consider the channel mix next. To manage an omnichannel presence wisely—and reach customers and prospects where they are shopping—marketing teams must design their channel strategy around the unique dynamics of the buying journey and the ultimate conversion objective. 

For instance, consumers conducting early-stage product shopping may be best nurtured via programmatic display and paid social, while those indicating greater intent could be effectively reached by direct mail with the support of email and banker outreach. Of course, there aren’t hard-and-fast rules, which is why you need to assess your channel mix to deliver effective and cost-efficient programs. 

Optimize your offer and messaging 

Fundamentally, trigger-based marketing is consumer-friendly when it’s executed thoughtfully. A competing home lending offer to a consumer with a recent credit inquiry allows them to evaluate another option that may be priced more attractively or that offers more compelling features. 

A marketer’s job is to align each life event with the correct solution and relevant message, and some triggering events lend themselves better to certain products. Pre-movers and new movers are ideal candidates for consumer checking. Newly married couples and new parents may be interested in life insurance. New business owners are highly responsive to cash flow–oriented messages promoting business checking, payment solutions and business credit cards. Consumers selling a business and newly retired couples are receptive to private banking and investment marketing. 

Ultimately, messaging should be targeted and relevant, but not invasive. For instance, the birth of a child is best addressed with a message like, “We’re here for you throughout life’s stages”—not, “Congratulations on your new baby!” 

Monitor your metrics 

Not only does trigger marketing deliver timely messaging, it’s also far more quantifiable than many other types of marketing, and it delivers results quicker, making it particularly powerful for marketers seeking to demonstrate measurable impact. The addressable nature of trigger-based campaigns allows for the precision measurement of account and balance generation and profit production against a statistically identical baseline. These metrics further enable dynamic and ongoing program optimization by trigger type, leading to improved customer experiences, accelerated market share gain and attractive, measurable ROI. 

Kristopher Lazzaretti is president of data solutions at Deluxe