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3 Strategies to help financial marketing budgets work harder

August 23, 2022

With economic uncertainty continuing to dominate the news cycle, it’s hard for any marketer to ignore budget concerns. Case in point: As headwinds started gathering near the end of the second quarter, Microsoft — a major TV ad spender — announced it would sit out this year’s TV Upfront presentations and curtail its advertising budget, as Variety reported.

While that proved to be a uniquely pointed response, The Wall Street Journal noted in July that “some analysts are saying inflation could cause businesses to trim ad spending to offset rising costs in their operations.” That said, by late summer Adweek was reporting that Coca-Cola, Unilever and McDonald’s — three of the world’s biggest marketers — “aren’t cutting ad spend, for now.”

That “for now” caveat is, of course, key. But regardless of how and when individual marketers respond, it’s important to remember that shifting economic realities can also present opportunities for marketers and consumers.

New research from Analytics Partners shows that “60% of brands that increased their media investment during the last recession saw ROI improvements” while “those who slashed spend risked losing 15% of their business to competitors who boosted theirs.”

For financial institutions in particular, the question of whether to pull back the budget or stay in may be a non-starter. As Andrea Brimmer, chief marketing and public relations officer at Ally Financial, told Ad Age in June, “Even if we go into an economic downturn, we have a product that fits every element of a downturn — sometimes saving is up, investing down, just depends.”

By not going dark at a moment like this — indeed, by instead serving as bright beacons of clarity and guidance — financial institute marketers can strengthen relationships with existing customers and attract new ones.

Ad Age described Ally’s media budget as “on par with what the company had anticipated spending this year.”

As Brimmer explained, “We are not anticipating pulling anything out of TV or doing anything differently from what we are doing right now. Our strategy is to play a long game. I think for us we can’t have fits and starts from a marketing perspective. When we pull out and go dark it has a big impact on all of our key measures.”

(Our brand marketer research tells us the following about how financial institute brands look to be successful to make their dollars go farther:)

So how can a financial institute marketer lean into the long game? Three key strategies can help marketing dollars go farther:

Use data to create experiential customer journeys. Financial institutions have tons of data about their customers, but they don’t always tap into that to create a truly personalized customer journey in terms of both content and touchpoints. For financial marketers, personalization must go beyond addressing a customer or prospect by name: Using psychographics, technographics, behaviors and media usage to determine opportunities can help uncover audiences.

Rebalance the media mix — thoughtfully. Traditionally, the finance, banking and insurance sectors relied heavily on direct mail. But as postage prices climb and paper shortages continue, it’s no surprise that some institutions are cutting back in favor of digital channels. But after two-plus years of being glued to screens, consumers are showing signs of fatigue. The truth is that it’s not one or the other. Online and offline channels each have a role to play. Using direct mail more strategically — by mailing to more qualified prospects and customers — combined with integrated email, paid social and digital display efforts can help capture the biggest lift in response.

Offer contextually relevant information. Take a hard look at the information and help you offer customers. Providing digital self-service tools like FAQs is not enough. Banking customers’ preferences vary depending on the transaction, and support levels should vary by customer. Customers need contextual support via optimized search, on-page callouts, chatbots and mobile banking apps. Making content relevant and more available to consumers allows financial institute marketers to move past the transaction and engage customers through interactions across all touchpoints and channels.

Despite wavering consumer confidence and shifting priorities, financial institute marketers are still expected to deliver results. These steps will get you to success.