With 69 million Americans banking online, and more than half of all Americans paying at least one bill online per month, there can be no question that the financial industry now lives and breathes on the internet. Whether you’re a planner, strategist, advisor, service provider, or any other financial pro, it’s time to make sure that you’re ready to thrive in the digital ecosystem.
The first step? Bring your digital marketing campaign – including web development, social media, retention marketing, and content creation strategies – up to snuff.
Before we move on, let's first dispense with some reservations and myths about digital marketing that some of our financial advisor friends and colleagues have pointed out to us. Above all, it's important to bear in mind that FINRA and other regulatory agencies prevent financial advisors from marketing their accomplishments. From copyright to CAN-SPAM, we know the importance of keeping digital marketing on the right side of the law! But also know that while you may be unable to discuss, for example, specific returns, or guarantee a client's successes - check out FINRA for the exhaustive regulations - there are still plenty of things professionals can and should share, like the benefits of planning at all, or the importance of understanding all of the options available in the marketplace.
Ready to capture fresh leads and position yourself as a thought leader in your field? Here are the five keys to digital marketing success for pros in the finance industry:
Meet Your Audience Where They Live and Work
Many financial advisors and service providers long held the belief that they should steer clear of social media. There was certainly a time when social media was looked at as too young-skewing, too frivolous, too fun for more heady services. That time is long gone. In today’s marketplace, it’s vital for every brand to have an active, winning presence on social media.
Sure, not every financial service is going to want to court the young crowds that make up most of the audience for Snapchat or Tumblr, but Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are reliable stalwarts for financial service companies to promote brand awareness, capture leads, and encourage conversation and engagement. Customer feedback on social media is invaluable; according to the FSI field guide, 28% of investment professionals have investigated an issue based on something they have seen on Twitter.
The reality is that more and more consumers are spending their time – for both leisure and business – online, particularly on social platforms. It only makes sense to start the conversation with your potential clients on the channels that they’re already using, particularly when all signs suggest that it’s much cheaper to do so. In fact, according to one CMO survey, a full 67% of financial marketers believe that it costs less to reach targeted consumers online than off. This is true whether you’re driving in traffic via more organic SEO or social referral efforts, or through paid advertising on channels like Facebook Ads, which offers a number of highly effective tools, including flex targeting and remarketing options, for a fraction of the cost of a print ad or commercial.
Money is Going Mobile - Your Marketing Should Follow Suit
So your audience is online more than ever. That’s important to know. Perhaps even more important is knowing just how your audience is using the internet. These days, that means thinking mobile.
As knowledge management firm Docurated points out, a full 90% of Americans are using mobile devices to check their account balance or recent transactions. Mobile is also booming in ecommerce, with mobile users making up the largest share of online shoppers and spending more on average on each purchase than desktop shoppers.
It’s more important than ever to make sure that you’re reaching your audience on their mobile devices, and that means doing mobile right. No longer can you simply trust that your website will port over to mobile successfully. Instead, put significant focus on your mobile site’s design, functionality, and responsiveness. Look into developing a standalone app. And, above all, ensure a positive, lightning fast mobile experience; the majority of mobile users wait just about six seconds for a site to load, and 79% of shoppers who are “dissatisfied” with website performance are unlikely to ever buy from the same site again.
Customer service doesn’t just mean face-to-face interactions; it means putting every image, text box, and line of code on your site to work facilitating a positive experience for your users. A happy, engaged audience is an audience more likely to return to your site – and trust your firm or company with their hard-earned money. And speaking of which…
Retention and Loyalty Are Key
There’s no denying that the financial services industry is a crowded one. Consumers have a bevy of options available to them, and many are more than willing to make the switch based on factors ranging from pricing to customer service.
With this in mind, it’s more important than ever for financial professionals to focus on online reputation management and retention marketing. Fortunately, the tools of digital marketing are the best around for increasing engagement and brand loyalty. In the months and years ahead, it will be more important than ever for brands to focus on campaigns that focus on engaging clients with highly personalized responses. For financial professionals, retention efforts will take all sorts of forms, from email marketing to responsiveness on social media to “first-contact” web forms and solutions designed to respond to customers’ needs as soon as they arise.
And the effort to go that extra mile will pay off in the long run: Studies show that a loyal customer is worth 10x the value of their first purchase, and drive in referrals that can be worth 50-75% of what the original customer spent over the course of just a few years.
Content Marketing is About More Than Sales
And it’s vital to remember that digital marketing in all its forms is about more than just capturing leads. While that is a huge factor, digital marketing – particularly content creation, in the form of blogging, infographics, podcasts, and social content – also has other, larger benefits that can create even more long-term value for your brand.
For example, a 2015 report from Dianomi highlights that 71% of financial marketers see content as the key to growing brand awareness and thought leadership; another 69% saw content as the key to customer retention and loyalty. Content, too, is a great way to spread word of mouth and bolster your PR efforts and to educate your consumers on your services and specialties.
And when your content is primed for SEO, it makes your brand immediately visible to thousands of eager searchers looking to quickly connect with the solution to their problems. When you position yourself highly with creative, effective content, you create invaluable trust, helping to move clients along your conversion funnel – and turn a curious Googler into a lifelong customer.
This is a key thing to keep in mind! Because of regulations, many pros who work for larger firms or companies fall back on what we call "canned" content - one-size-fits-all newsletters or blog posts that come pre-approved. We understand the appeal of these options - but your customers may not. Relying on recycled content is a quick way to permanently damage your search engine rankings and to turn off audiences, who are increasingly used to high-quality, personalized content that addresses their unique needs.
Reputation Management Will Help You Put Your Best Foot Forward
For financial pros, referrals have always been and will always be a vital part of acquiring new business. In person word of mouth really matters, since people care about what their friends and families have to say. The same concept applies to your digital presence, as well, though it goes by a different name – reputation management.
Reputation management refers to the process of controlling what is said and shared about your brand online. Having a reputation management plan in place comes down to several interrelated parts, including maintaining solid SEO and social media strategies, as we've already discussed. That is to say that, when you control what searchers and social users find about your brand on ranking pages, you help control the narrative about yourself – and can guide it in your favor and acquire new leads.
But there’s another vital aspect of reputation management that too many brands leave completely to chance. You see, today’s savvy online consumers are also likely to research your brand on review and listing sites, including spots like Facebook and Google.
Fortunately, there are all sorts of solutions you can put in place to optimize these review pages to work for you. With Geek’s help, for instance, you can set up an automated workflow, which will allow you reach out to your existing clients via text or email after you provide them with service; establishing this line of contact will help you encourage your happiest customers to post glowing reviews on review/listing sites, and may give less-satisfied clients a chance to vent, preventing them from posting a potentially negative review in the first place.
Ready to get started developing a digital marketing and reputation management campaign of your own? Geek Chicago is here to help with every step along the way, from web development to content creation to social and email marketing. Be sure to drop us a line to get the conversation started!