As the business world continues to work its way through the effects of the coronavirus, savvy financial services providers are switching up their marketing strategies to reflect new priorities.
Some of those changes will be temporary pending a time when financial transactions can again be handled live and in person. Others may be adopted permanently as the business world adjusts to the “new normal” following the advent of COVID-19.
Of course, one of the most important issues is ensuring consumers continue to have faith in financial organizations and their ability to perform. In one PwC report, 40% of U.S. leaders in banking and capital markets pointed to “decrease in customer confidence” as one of their top three business concerns following COVID. That percentage shot to 66% for consumer-focused companies alone.
As such, proactive marketing plans that reassure customers and help them carry on with financial management are highly recommended.
Here are three primary marketing trends we’re seeing as FinServ organizations work to serve their customers in a changing society.
1. Forget your set-it-and-forget-it marketing tactics
Agile, up-to-the-minute marketing strategies have never been so important. No longer can you get by with a “set it and forget it” marketing campaign meant to last far into the future. Instead, you must regularly revisit your marketing tactics to ensure they’re still relevant to the post-COVID world and its constantly changing challenges. Procedures and messaging that are spot-on for today could be completely out of date during the next phase of the “new normal,” due to government regulations, changes in consumer habits or preferences or differences in the way your company is conducting business.
As such, your marketing team will need to meet frequently to revisit current plans and decide whether they still apply to the changing needs of your audiences. Your customers need to feel you’re working on their behalf to keep up with ongoing changes and responding in ways that prove you’re interested in their continued business.
Conversely, some of the AI-centered technology created to structure and send automated marketing messages is now being set aside for less overtly promotional marketing. “For now, you may wish to turn off or pause “robots” used for your marketing functions, from pre-loaded social media posting software to programmatic ads that pick up on bad cues to automated emails driven by website registrations or pre-scheduled software,” advises Steve Cocheo of The Financial Brand.
One recent study found that 45% of marketers in FinServ have created teams to deal with the impacts of COVID, while 18% have changed marketing strategies and 17% have changed customer policies. Those without effective plans to alter their strategies or policies to meet the current moment risk alienating their customers with inappropriate messages or empty promises.
“Now more than ever, it’s important to know what customers feel and do, and why,” advises Laura Starita on Gartner.com.
2. Reexamine your customers’ most pressing concerns
Many marketers are unsure of what to tell customers about the post-COVID future and how it may affect their operations. The best rule of thumb? Focus on building trust and maintaining customer loyalty by positioning your organizations as a source of empathy and helpful information. Because no one can speak with authority on what the future holds for the FinServ industry, it’s wise to avoid platitudes, far-reaching predictions or alarmist statements. Don’t try to “lighten the mood” and don’t attempt to address issues outside of your industry; instead, focus on maintaining a brand image that denotes transparency, clarity on what can be offered in the here and now and a “customer first” viewpoint.
In an example of that principle in action, Oregon-based Umpqua Bank has made services more personable by allowing call-in customers to talk to bankers of their choice instead of being automatically connected to call centers.
“All companies should operate with integrity and trust even as they come under pressure from a swiftly evolving situation,” confirms one Gartner report. “Those with a product or service well-suited for difficult times must, meanwhile, tread lightly, lest customers think they’re exploiting tragedy.”
79% of consumers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. In short, your customers’ future loyalty could be highly dependent on the relationships you’re building — not on how brilliantly you’re promoting your particular products and services.
If you’re not sure what your customers need to hear right now, technology can be your friend. Social listening programs can help you monitor customer discussions with keyword searches related to COVID-19. Your internal team can also be a great source of expertise. Ask your sales team, account managers, or any other client-facing roles what customer concerns they hear most often.
3. Focus on where you can bring value to the conversation
As financial services marketers quickly refocus their efforts, many are realizing they haven’t been doing nearly enough to bolster and streamline their digital presence. As such, they’re investing in targeted, well-written content to provide customers with information that helps move them through the sales funnel. In one example, Brandpoint client Compeer, a farm credit cooperative, is making publicly available a library of existing webinars and educational resources previously reserved just for customers. That gives the organization added exposure and helps alleviate financial panic caused by misinformation.
Some tools you may wish to focus on during COVID:
Relevant blog posts, whitepapers, eBooks, etc.
Stay proactive in addressing consumer fears, concerns and questions by publishing frequent pieces that establish your brand as credible and authoritative. Address top-of-mind issues such as COVID’s effect on consumer 401(k) plans, details about government stimulus checks and the premise of Universal Basic Income (UBI), how the needy can access financial assistance, etc. A combination of nongated and gated content can help you gain new customers while reinforcing relationships with old customers.
In addition, using this gated content in a cost-per-lead campaign can help you distribute and target your content to specific demographics.
Now the preferred form of receiving information for many consumers, short and easy-to-digest video footage can go a long way toward explaining changes or new processes to customers. Even before COVID hit the U.S., research shows 92% of marketers considered it an important part of their marketing strategies, and 88% confirmed video provides them a positive ROI. At Brandpoint, we believe videos are a non-negotiable element of your content strategy.
Online calculation tools
Customers appreciate the convenience of being able to go online and access user-friendly tools that help them manage their own finances. Examples include calculators that help predict retirement savings, loan interest or mortgage payments.
Segmented email campaigns
Now is a great time to launch email marketing promotions targeted toward specific audiences and their financial concerns. For example, you might send information about financial assistance to those unemployed due to COVID, or offer retirees resources that can help them determine how stock market changes may be affecting their savings. Rather than simply directing recipients to your website, include direct links to DIY solution content centered around their needs.
Full use of social media
Twitter should be used for breaking information, LinkedIn for business updates, Facebook for consumer updates, and YouTube for video updates. Some easy topics to tackle on social media include travel insurance, refund policies on affected industries, small business loans, how to retrieve cash safely, and ways to financially support the community through digital tools.
Comprehensive FAQ pages
A Forrester paper suggests that a coronavirus-centered informational page containing key contact information is critical for banks and credit unions right now. Your social media posts should include references to the page. Arkansas-based Arvest Bank has established a particularly strong and appealing coronavirus page featuring graphics, blocks of copy and a slew of links to helpful resources.
Is your marketing ready for the future?
Clearly, no one knows precisely what FinServ organizations will need to change in the future to accommodate the challenges of COVID-19. But marketers can still adjust strategies to address changes that have already happened, promote the best options available to customers and position their companies as sources of credible, honest and helpful information.
“Even though each day brings more uncertainties, there are definitive actions that can improve our resilience and strength,” advises a report on COVID-related strategies by the IBM Institute for Business Value. “The entire executive team will need to be engaged. A framework that outlines a path forward, lending clarity amid the uncertainty, can make the difference between organizations that thrive and those that don’t.”