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Why your financial institution’s marketing strategies must be especially agile and nimble

Marketing is a complicated, multifaceted challenge, especially for financial services organizations amid a whirlwind of technological disruption.

Nov 8, 2023 / Marketing & Sales

Marketing messaging must speak to every generation in language that resonates with each age cohort; it must connect to consumers and businesses alike; and it must incorporate the rapidly evolving stack of marketing technology to stay ahead of the game. 

As contributing writer Dawn Wotapka so aptly puts it in this edition’s overview article: “When it comes to marketing and banking, if you’re ‘good enough,’ you’re failing.” 

Dawn spoke to several industry experts, including Preetha Pulusani, CEO and founder of DeepTarget. She warns that settling for good enough is not nearly enough when it comes to martech: “Especially now, with data-driven engagement being so pivotal, these [financial institutions] are going to be highly compromised competitively if that is their ‘strategy’.” 

Dawn tapped Martha Bartlett Piland, president of Banktastic, for her always-valuable insights. She underscored the importance of offering a great online experience. “The website or promotional landing page absolutely must be mobile-friendly. Online account opening must be really fast and easy. Forcing prospects through a high-friction experience will cause frustration and alienation.” 

Developing a marketing plan that reaches target audiences with information and offers they care about remains the industry’s gold standard. Now, however, bank and credit union marketers have far more tools—including faster ones—at their disposal. “That’s exciting and powerful if they maintain a strategic focus and don’t get mired in tactics,” Bartlett Piland noted. 

I conducted a Q&A with Karl Dahlgren, BAI Managing Director – Enterprise Strategy, for his perspectives on how generational marketing trends may impact financial services organizations and how to address generational preferences. 

Heading into 2024, Dahlgren said it’s imperative that financial services organizations expand their marketing efforts with younger generations for future growth. BAI research, he said, strongly suggests that banks and credit unions should target Gen Z and millennial audiences with more financial literacy opportunities, better mobile and app experiences, as well as age-appropriate financial advice. 

But don’t neglect the Gen X and boomer+ generations because they hold much of the current wealth and deposit balances. And they’re looking to better understand new technologies while also getting protection from fraud and identity theft. 

All customers, according to BAI research cited by Dahlgren, want to use every channel, including online, mobile, branch, live agent calls, video calls, text chats, ATMs and voice/AI. And they expect the same great experience on each channel without friction or channel-switching. 

Beth Johnson, chief experience officer at Citizens Bank, addressed the art and science of using language that hits home with specific audiences. In a Q&A, she said different generational groups have different ways of searching for information, different ways of understanding information and different ways of interpreting language. 

The bank’s challenge, Johnson said, is to determine what’s right for them. “We do that through creating a mix of content, but also in the channels and formats in which we display the content. For example, Gen Z is not going to Google how to buy a home. They’re going to TikTok to look at how to buy a home. They’re not reading about how to buy a home; they’re watching a short video about how to buy a home and learn what a mortgage is.” 

She said it’s the language, the content and the form in which Citizens delivers it that help ensure the bank is meeting the needs of different customer segments. “The ability to rapidly use technology to test, to learn, to change, to try and to maximize our impact all comes together to let us respond to how technology is changing and how it’s changing the lives of our customers,” she added. 

Also in this issue: 

One of a financial services organization’s most powerful tools is brand marketing. Yet, according to one study, most bank advertisements focus on product promotions pushing rates, incentives and other impersonal tactics that don’t lead to trust, Vericast’s Lisa Nicholas points out. 

She writes that consumers are drawn to brands that offer both short-term benefits and long-term value. In the realm of retail banking, striking a balance between short-term activation and long-term brand investment is pivotal. 

James White of Total Expert writes that in a period of rising rates, it’s tempting to lure customers with better rates and other perks. But to avoid a race to the bottom and build a more stable base of long-term loyalty, banks and credit unions need to focus on making genuine connections and delivering meaningful, differentiated value to their customers. 

Edmund Lawler is a contributing editor for BAI. 

Explore key topics you should be considering as you build your marketing plans for 2024 and beyond in the BAI Executive Report, “Marketing strategies for the digital age.”