The value of experience

It has been proven that money spent on experiences has a much bigger impact on a person’s happiness than money spent on material things. The same can be said about money spent on your customer’s journey versus your lead acquisition.

Recently, Seth Godin, the marketing guru said in one of his articles:

If an Apple upgrade breaks your phone and you switch to Android, it costs Apple more than $10,000.

If you switch supermarkets because a clerk was snide with you, it removes $50,000 from the store’s ongoing revenue.

If a kid has a lousy first grade teacher or is bullied throughout middle school, it might decrease his productivity for the rest of us by a million dollars.

So, this shows the equation can (and should) be inverted. Most small and medium sized financial services firms focus most of their efforts -and hard-earned money- on improving the marketing funnel for customer acquisition. What would happen if that same marketing team dedicated 50% of their time to improving customer satisfaction?

In the services industry it would mean happier, referral-creating, customers.

Are You Really Doing What You Are Good At?

I was recently exposed to a simple chart that had four quadrants that I had to fill out regarding what I do for a living. The chart outlines what you are good at doing versus or in comparison to what you like doing. And although it was not easy to fill out in some ways, this exercise got me thinking about positioning for a business in general.


Positioning is a critical step in any business’ marketing strategy. It defines the company, forms the basis for messaging, drives the marketing approach and impacts the way in which products and services are priced. To be effective, positioning must be clear, compelling and, most importantly, differentiated.

One of the most common descriptions I hear from leaders is a company’s positioning that sounds the same as everyone else. Their products are “innovative”, their services are “world class”, and they are “customer focused.” These are all examples of buzzwords that marketers use to try polish their position. But spin is not enough. Instead, business leaders need to find or create real differences they can leverage in the market.

Anybody who ever started a business had this problem. Some succeeded at differentiation and are now enjoying the fruits of it. The good news is that everybody can do it.

  • What are your strengths? What is it that you love doing and are great at doing?
  • What are your weaknesses? What is it that you are not that good at?
  • What’s your offer?
  • What you don’t offer?
  • What’s good and what’s bad in your offer?


You know enough about your competitors and about yourself. You know about your competitor’s differences and you know your differences. You know what competitor’s differences you like to have.

So now you can make a separate list about your current differences and another list about your potential or future differences that you would like to have.


Can you write in one statement how your business is different? Don’t think about competition, write your own differentiations that your business has and your competitors didn’t have.

How you sound vs. How you want to sound

Does your market know who YOU are, as a person? If you are the face of your company, such as a consultant, coach or author, it’s a given that people will associate your brand with you.

However, if you’re a business where your product or service is the brand, it’s a little more difficult for your market to recognize you. And in either case, if you don’t have a clear brand voice, it’s unlikely that anyone will recognize you without a name, logo, or face.

And it’s almost impossible for customers to form a true connection with someone who has no personality.

Having a defined personality changes all that. It makes you stand out from everyone else in your market. And when the voice of your brand is consistent in all your content, people start believing they can have a true relationship.

But your brand personality consists of not just the words you use, but also how you put them all together – through the tone of voice you express in all your content, including visuals and multimedia. It also consists of the way you relate to others, including how you take care of clients, how they experience your service or even how you pick up the phone.

So, the main question you need to answer is…

If your brand was a person, how would you describe her (or him)?

If you met your brand at a social event and had a conversation for an hour, how would you describe it afterwards? What personality traits does it exhibit? Where would you find your brand? How does it behave in its spare time? What brands does your brand wear, drive and consume?

And on the flip side, how do you want your customers to describe you after they’ve had a chance to get to know you a little? How do you want them to feel about you?

Your brand needs to have a personality in order to make a connection with your customers. People remember your character traits and the voice you speak with, but they don’t remember a faceless entity that speaks in a generic, flat tone.



Selling vs developing a relationship: where financial advisors fail

What is it that regularly blows apart business development efforts? The lack of follow up.

Financial services firms can do an excellent job at marketing their business to their target clients and influencers, but then they undo their efforts and lose their ROI without the proper follow up.

And, let’s face it, marketing, networking, and building connections without following them up makes the effort a big waste of time and money from the very start.

Follow-up can be uncomfortable, especially when you would rather be managing your portfolio or designing new products instead of seeking sales, but it isn’t hard; anyone can do it.

How can you make your follow up easier and more successful?

  1. Care for your contact – Really

Don’t call or email a contact to follow them up when you are in a rush or when you’re stressed. Instead, take a couple of minutes to think about what you are going to say. Think about what you can do for them, and then contact them with a positive frame of mind.

  1. Focus on building relationships

The more focused you are on just getting to know the other person, the more authentic you will behave. When face to face, find out something about them and their life. Look for common ground as well as traversing the expected corporate territory. Common ground can make relationship-building a lot easier and a lot more memorable for both parties.

  1. Be consistent and responsive

Prospects want you to be predictable and professional, but not forceful. If they ask you for a proposal, or invite you to send some more information, do it quickly. Taking your time is disrespectful and makes you look disorganized.

  1. Watch your follow-up slip ups

When you haven’t done it for a while, follow up can seem daunting, and people can often slip into “too busy” mode and put it off. Postponement is usually a signal that your fears, nerves, or feelings are getting in the way of the needs of your business.

  1. Find a system that works for you – and within your flow

You can find thousands of tools out there to help you manage your contacts, such as CRM systems, project management tools and others. Don’t be tempted to implement a fancy one (unless you already use one). Make sure you implement the system that works within your daily workflow. If you get to things based on your inbox, use one of those systems that remind you via email. If you follow your calendar, use it to remind you of the follow up.

Just remember that all prospects are as busy and preoccupied as you, and a little reminder of a meeting or great idea they heard is never a bad thing.

The Five Keys to a Thought Leadership Strategy that Drives Growth

What is it that regularly blows apart business development efforts? The lack of follow up.

Financial services firms can do an excellent job at marketing their business to their target clients and influencers, but then they undo their efforts and lose their ROI without the proper follow up.

And, let’s face it, marketing, networking, and building connections without following them up makes the effort a big waste of time and money from the very start.

Follow-up can be uncomfortable, especially when you would rather be managing your portfolio or designing new products instead of seeking sales, but it isn’t hard; anyone can do it.

How can you make your follow up easier and more successful?

1.- Care for your contact – Really

Don’t call or email a contact to follow them up when you are in a rush or when you’re stressed. Instead, take a couple of minutes to think about what you are going to say. Think about what you can do for them, and then contact them with a positive frame of mind.

2.- Focus on building relationships

The more focused you are on just getting to know the other person, the more authentic you will behave. When face to face, find out something about them and their life. Look for common ground as well as traversing the expected corporate territory. Common ground can make relationship-building a lot easier and a lot more memorable for both parties.

3.- Be consistent and responsive

Prospects want you to be predictable and professional, but not forceful. If they ask you for a proposal, or invite you to send some more information, do it quickly. Taking your time is disrespectful and makes you look disorganized.

4.- Watch your follow-up slip ups

When you haven’t done it for a while, follow up can seem daunting, and people can often slip into “too busy” mode and put it off. Postponement is usually a signal that your fears, nerves, or feelings are getting in the way of the needs of your business.

5.- Find a system that works for you – and within your flow

You can find thousands of tools out there to help you manage your contacts, such as CRM systems, project management tools and others. Don’t be tempted to implement a fancy one (unless you already use one). Make sure you implement the system that works within your daily workflow. If you get to things based on your inbox, use one of those systems that remind you via email. If you follow your calendar, use it to remind you of the follow up.

Just remember that all prospects are as busy and preoccupied as you, and a little reminder of a meeting or great idea they heard is never a bad thing.

The Ultimate Guide To Startup Content Marketing

Source: Forbes

It’s been a long day of work and I plop myself in front of my computer to relax on YouTube. When I click on a video, the first thing that comes up: an advertisement. I groan and look away. I hate ads. You probably do too. The Internet has made it possible for ads to follow us everywhere we go. The result? We are extremely annoyed when we see advertisements.

That’s why “content marketing” has become such a buzzword. In a nutshell, you create and share valuable, relevant, and consistent information to reach the audience you eventually want to sell to. The most common forms of content marketing include building a social media following and running a blog. Imagine watching a YouTube video that you WANT to watch but the video is made by a company.

I’m here to show you how you can take advantage of content marketing even as a small startup.

Picking the Content and Battlefield

As a good startup founder, you know who your target audience is and what problems they face. Get a pen and paper and make a list of all the problems that your customers or users face. Also make a list of all the things they are interested in. Your content marketing plan will focus on the things you just wrote down. Next is figuring out the right platform for you. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin. A common mistake is doing 5 platforms at once. Each platform and method requires your attention to make it done well. Choose 1 or 2 and focus on it.

You have a lot of options for where you want your content to go. Here are some of the main ones that you can try:

  • Medium: This is particularly good for B2B companies. A lot of smart business and startup people are on Medium. You also get to tap into the existing community and won’t need to grow from scratch. You can customize your page with your branding.
  • Comma (Commaful): Good for targeting the college and high school age demographics. The team is very responsive and actively helps brands with content marketing if you reach out. Their creator tool also can generate beautiful videos to share on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and make your brand look hip.
  • YouNow: They have created a number of teen stars. If you’re good on camera and targeting 13-18 year olds, give this live streaming site a try!
  • YouTube: If you’re energetic and good on camera, then YouTube may be for you! These are especially good for “how to’s” that require visuals. You will need a good camera or web cam.
  • Tsu: Tsu is a social network platform similar to Facebook, but distributes part of its ad revenue with its users. There are many sub-categories to post to and most are very active, making it a good target for content.
  • Twitter: You should use Twitter to help distribute your content regardless of if this is your main channel, but Twitter is very diverse. Figure out what your audience likes and post things that align with their interests.
  • Anchor: If you’re an audio kind of person, Anchor is great for making short podcasts. The audience skews towards tech and business right now and it’s very easy to share on Anchor.
  • Instagram: Good especially if you’re targeting teenagers. Engagement is very high here but you will need to figure out how to make good photos for the content. Commaful from above may be able to help with some of the video content.
  • Your Own Blog: You will need to figure out how to grow your traffic and worry about building the site, but you get far more control if you make your own blog.
  • Figure out which ones help you reach your audience best. Try some out and see what works for you. Then go all-in on the ones that work.

    Crafting Viral Content

    Once you have the strategy and platform, it’s time to brainstorm ideas for your snackable content. When it comes to content marketing, don’t optimize for the number of times you can plug your company. Optimize for sharing and trust. If the post looks like an advertisement, people will not read it. Many people think that optimizing for sharing means to make your share buttons bigger. Or putting the share button 5 centimeters to the right. What really drives sharing is the content.

5 Critical Digital Marketing Issues Facing Financial Execs in 2016

Source: The Financial Brand

There are a handful of issues that should be on the top of every financial marketers’ mind this year: mobile advertising, personalization, martech, personalization and (of course) marketing ROI.

1. Digital Advertising

There are three main areas where financial marketers are allocating dollars in digital channels: paid search, video and mobile.

Paid Search. According to eMarketer, search will remain the single largest segment of ad spending in the financial industry, accounting for 47.3% of all digital marketing budgets in 2016. Generating the maximum number of impressions for the minimum cost-per-click will remain one of the biggest challenges facing financial marketers in the near future.

“Financial companies are spending more every year on paid search,” says Tony Effik, VP of media and connections at digital agency R/GA. “Search is the most important area, but the cost of search in the finance industry is huge.”

Online Video. eMarketer also says a quarter of all digital display advertising in the financial industry will be video in 2016. Pathmatics, a digital advertising analytics firm, reported that at the end of Q1 2015, financial services was among the top five industry advertiser categories for digital video.

Mobile Advertising. Financial services ranks high in mobile ad spending in relation to other industries measured by eMarketer, with the industry’s predicted 12.1% share of total US mobile ad spending in 2016 placing it second behind only retail. eMarketer predicts the US financial services industry will spend $5.29 billion on mobile advertising in 2016, equal to 63.2% of its digital ad investment overall.

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business’s survey of CMOs revealed that those in the financial services sector expected to nearly triple the share of marketing budgets directed toward mobile within the next three years.

Reality Check: The future of advertising is digital, and the future of digital advertising is mobile.

2. Marketing Attribution

Back in the early 1900s, John Wanamaker famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Over 100 years later, this still seems to be a major pain point for marketers.

According to a study from Black Ink, tying revenues and profits back to marketing ranks among top issues troubling C-level executives. Those tracking ROI represents the largest reporting gap for marketers. It’s much easier measuring “top of the funnel” KPIs such as tactical campaign performance and lead/demand generation. But how do these marketing activities link back to actual sales?


In the study by Black Ink, 61% of marketers say that greater insight into the ROI of their efforts is one of their top priorities in 2016. This will require both better metrics and reporting abilities. In the meantime, leadership teams will struggle to get a clear view of their total marketing ecosystem, leaving huge gaps in the decision-making process.

Reality Check: CEOs and CFOs won’t increase marketing budgets if marketing activities can’t be connected back to the bottom line.

3. Marketing Technology

According to Black Ink, marketing plans to fill some of these ROI reporting gaps with more data. How and where will this data come from? Largely from martech solutions. More than a quarter (28%) of the respondents in the study said that it was imperative that they improve/upgrade their marketing technology stack in the next 12 months, expressing a strong proclivity to purchase more business intelligence, marketing automation, and customer interaction tools in 2016.


The good news is that every digital tool marketers adopt will (or at least should) bring with it a wealth of new data streams. Unfortunately, some of these technologies won’t directly support the greater need for more advanced marketing KPIs that C-level leaders expect.

If marketers acknowledge their infrastructure is currently both a shortcoming and a priority to support its brand promise and greater customer centricity, what is impeding their ability to attain it? Marketing leaders aren’t fully responsible for managing the infrastructure (e.g., analytics and data management) to deliver all the insight the C-suite craves. Marketers’ success — or lack thereof — quantifying their efforts will hinge on both a greater investment in tech (requiring the CFO’s blessing), and more support from IT. Indeed, a third of marketing execs in a study by the Incite Group said that working with IT teams to create a solid tech infrastructure is the most essential component to the marketing attribution riddle.

Reality Check: Marketers should focus on tech features that will help them close the ROI gap.

4. Personalization

In the Incite Group study, 32% of marketers say they can improve marketing ROI through greater personalization. Perhaps more importantly, one quarter of C-level execs say they are “absolutely convinced” improved personalization — of both the user experience andmarketing — yields real, quantifiable value. In short, everyone believes personalization increases engagement in ways that drive greater revenues and profits.

When looking at the priorities for personalization among marketers, the most important issue is “to get better at understanding the customer journey,” with 63% saying this is an “essential focus” in the upcoming year.


The second most critical focus for marketers is “to create different messages and experiences for different target audiences.” 59% of marketers call this an “essential focus,” and a whopping 89% acknowledge that it is at least “important.” There is, of course, a question as to the extent brands should embark on the personalization journey. After all, personalization does not necessarily equate with “one to one” marketing, which can be economically and technically unfeasible.

Reality Check: The challenge is determining the extent to which you should personalize, and to clearly understand the value/benefit of each additional level of personalization.

5. Data Analytics

Sitting squarely at the intersection of the everything covered in this article is one thing: data analytics.

Between the explosion of digital advertising channels and plethora of new martech tools, marketers will be awash in more data than ever before. And this will be precisely the kind of data marketers need to personalize their messages and calculate ROI.

But in Black Ink’s study, 46% say they will need more advanced analytics/insight if they are going to be able to leverage all these new data streams to make smarter decisions. And despite the abundance of information available in the digital age, 31% still bemoan their inability to access more data. For financial marketers, that often includes information that’s right across the hall in another department or residing a different product silo.


As the Incite Group points out, marketing is increasingly becoming a data-driven discipline, and in conversations with CMOs, their next focus for hiring is the executive who can act as a translator between data-analysis and traditional marketing teams. Marketing execs must become more data literate.

Reality Check: Access to internal and external data to achieve advanced analytics reporting is woefully inadequate. Not having even moderate access to data or the tools/talent to analyze it may continue to be a constant challenge.

Building a C-Suite Savvy Digital Marketing Plan

If financial marketers hope to get the resources and budgets they want, they must first build a digital marketing roadmap and get the C-suite on board.

According to the 2016 State of Financial Marketing survey, marketing ROI, automation, digital marketing and data analytics are among the top marketing issues troubling C-level executives in the banking industry. CMOs, however, have a different list of top concerns; they worry about marketing resources — both budget and bandwidth. How could the perspectives of these groups be so different, and what needs to be done to close this critical gap?

From the research, it’s clear that financial services marketers must be doing something to address the C-suite’s questions. If not, budgets probably wouldn’t be increasing the way they are. Spending on digital media by US financial institutions exceeded $7 billion in 2015, a 14.5% gain over 2014, according to a report from eMarketer. A robust 11.7% compound annual growth rate is projected between through 2019, at which point the banking industry’s spending on “digital marketing” will top $10 billion annually.

The question is, are marketers doing the right things? Or, more bluntly, is there a digital marketing strategy? Is it linked to the organization’s overall strategy? And has all of this been effectively communicated to the C-Suite? No, according to the survey.

For instance, the vast majority of non-marketing executives believe that their organization’s social media marketing investment is not effective, while CMOs have a rosier view.

“Call it the ethos of the modern digital marketer, or call it youthful ignorance,” says digital consultant Jeff Sauer. “There is very little thought given to the strategies behind most digital marketing efforts. Most efforts employ a spray-and-pray or ready-fire-aim approach.”

How Did We Get Here?

There are four critical issues that have fueled the current disconnect between CMOs and their peers in the C-suite.

1. Linking Data To Results — Banking has always been awash in customer and transactional data. Digital advertising has created another tidal wave of data — who is opening e-mails, visiting and clicking on our website and landing pages, starting an online application? Unfortunately, 53% of non-marketing executives cite “lack of analytics” as a major marketing challenge. The reality is that most financial marketers don’t have the ability to synch these diverse databases, nor do they possess the analytical horsepower to harness this volume data (at least not in meaningful ways).

2. Inability To Link Marketing Activity To ROI — Nearly half of financial marketers confess that they struggle to quantify their impact. Unsurprisingly, that leaves 47% of marketers unsure how they should best determine the appropriate marketing budget for their institution. They are also severely challenged to create a business case for critical marketing and sales automation that would allow for more effective measurement of results and ROI.

3. Knowledge Gaps — The digital marketing landscape is changing blindingly fast, and most financial services marketers struggle to keep up. They are not effectively leveraging outside resources and subject matter experts, impeding their ability to develop a truly contemporary and cogent digital strategy. More commonly, they fall back on the “next shiny toy” approach to building a digital marketing program. Hence, 38% of non-marketing executives cite digital marketing strategy as a major concern.

4. Sitting With the Big Boys? Or At The Kids’ Table — Only 40% of financial institutions in the survey said they have a C-level marketer. This doesn’t mean that marketing is not discussed at the executive table; 56% of non-marketers agree “our C-Suite regularly engages in strategic marketing discussions.” The problem is that non-marketing execs don’t typically view marketing leaders as true peers. The top dog in the marketing department is frequently excluded from C-level discussions. However, it’s fair to question whether marketing leaders have earned this privilege.

What the Heck is Digital Marketing Anyway?

There’s no real consensus about what “digital marketing” is or isn’t, so let’s get that out of the way before we try to get everyone on the same page.

Digital marketing is made up of four distinct elements, all working together to craft a positive customer experience that (hopefully) achieves strategic objectives and generates ROI. Here they are:

1. Digital Advertising — This is what most non-marketing executives think of first when they think of “digital marketing.” Digital advertising consists very visible media — paid search, display, online video and social — that our customers and prospects hopefully see and interact with. As Marilois Snowman, CEO of Mediastruction points out, “Digital advertising plays a critical role in filling the top of the marketing funnel, generating leads for the sales force, and keeping conversations going with customers.”

2. Marketing and Sales Automation — When many non-marketing executives think of CRM, they get a furrowed brow and worry about a multi-million dollar black hole. Most marketers understand that some type of automation is needed in order to effectively use customer insights to deliver the right message and product to each customer, turn interactions (leads) into closed sales, then track and measure the resulting revenue. Products like HubSpot and SalesForce get lots of mention (commensurate with their marketing budgets) but there are many other simpler, less expensive systems designed for financial institutions that do most of what is needed.

3. Marketing Analytics — Data analytics rivals automation as the “black sheep” of digital marketing. Most CEOs and CFOs are disciples of analytics and customer insight. They just don’t think that those in marketing are effectively doing it; 53% of non-marketing executives cited “limited data analytics tools/capabilities” as a major marketing challenge.

Compounding the problem, analytical resources and customer data warehouses are often placed in departments beyond marketing’s grasp — e.g., finance or IT. Marketers are frequently left with a stand-alone “Marketing Customer Information File” (MCIF) without any of the analytical horsepower to turn the data into actionable insight. Financial institutions must find ways to combine their various rich pools of customer data, and create cross-functional teams to effectively mine them. This includes the voluminous data that can be generated from digital advertising and automation campaigns.

4. Digital Delivery — Consumers are increasingly accessing the bank through digital channels, and prospects are beginning their engagement process by visiting landing pages, websites, and online account opening programs. All of these elements need to be designed with the consumer’s needs, priorities and behaviors in mind, and they must be integrated with other channels.

Digital delivery is — at least in principle and theory — a marketing function. But typically most or all of this responsibility is considered a function of Operations. It’s imperative your financial institution take a cross-functional approach to these areas, with the organization’s overall strategy and consumers’ needs balanced at the center of the plan.

The Road Forward

So how do C-suite executives become comfortable that marketers have a command of their data, that customer insight is driving their plan, that they are using automation to customize and personalize the experience, and finally, that they have an overarching digital marketing strategy pulling all this together? Here’s how.

1. Link Insight To Action — Most marketers are already using data and analytics to drive action. For instance, we’re using customer data to create trade area targeting for direct mail and digital advertising. The next time you are making an executive presentation, don’t just show the creative materials! Start with the hypothesis you were testing and the data you used to select the target audience, offer, medium, and message.

Of course no marketing team has enough analytical resources. But the only way you’re going to get more resources is to work effectively with what you already have. Then you must clearly explain what you did and how it added value to the client and organization.

2. Close The Loop — The most common refrain heard from the C-xuite is that marketers are more focused on activities than actual results. Marketers talk in terms of CPM, clicks, reach, frequency, and engagement, while the C-suite is looking for unit sales and dollar costs, net household growth, topline revenues, etc.

Financial marketers need to close this communication gap by linking online data with “offline” sales results. A good place to start is creating low cost test-and-learn scenarios that can be optimized then scaled. This allows you to constantly be measuring the impact of your actions, refining your strategy, improving results, and ultimately “closing the communications loop.”

Read More: Marketing ROI – The Big Black Hole )

3. Automate — Financial marketers can’t be successful without marketing automation. There are automated compliance review systems like Kadince. Or a bulk email provider like ClickRSVP. Or a lead nurturing system like HubSpot. Or a campaign management system like Net-Results. Maybe even a full-fledged marketing automation system like Marketo. Wherever you are on this continuum of sophistication, you need to ensure that the C-suite understands where you are today, what results you are generating from it, where you need to go next, and how the organization will benefit.

4. The Digital Roadmap — You need to begin with your organizations strategy and your primary customer’s needs and behaviors, then “map out” the digital advertising, automation, analytics, and delivery enhancements that will bring it all to life. Pay particular attention to the benefit generated and effort/dollars expended. This “roadmap” would ideally extend out at least three years, remaining flexible enough to accommodate emerging technologies and evolving customer behaviors.


5. Communicate — All of these steps need to be encapsulated in better communications between the top marketing executive and the rest of the C-suite. Be sure you get the subject of marketing on the executive agenda — at least quarterly. And don’t just give an update on the current campaign and show creative materials; that won’t get you invited back very often. Talk about where you are on your Digital Marketing Roadmap, how consumer insight is driving your current programs (and results). Tell them how automation is making your efforts more efficient and trackable, and how your “closed loop” measurement is linking activities with results.

Learn More at The Financial Brand Forum 2016

At The Financial Brand Forum 2016, the team at Capital Performance Group will show you how to prove marketing has the power to drive performance, and demonstrate its value as a strategic investment for your institution — with the right plan, budget and strategic approach. Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • How to link marketing investment with results to establish a clear picture of ROI for C-level executives
  • How financial marketers can create alignment with their institution’s overall corporate, strategic and financial goals
  • How marketing and the rest of the C-Suite differ in their perspectives on marketing plans and budgets
  • How to structure your marketing plan to help decision-makers understand the impact, power and importance of marketing
  • How to use the annual budgeting and planning process as a stage to redefine marketing’s role

Why Content Marketing Is Essential to Customer Relationships and Brand Awareness

Source: Business2Community

“Google only loves you when everyone else loves you first,” quipped entrepreneur Wendy Piersall in 2007. Want to increase the reputation of your brand online?

Content marketing is something you can’t ignore if you do marketing or advertising on the internet. If you want to attract customers and generate sales, content is crucial. From brilliant blog posts to video and more, you’ll need it to attract and close new business.

Here are a few reasons why content marketing is essential if you want your prospects to talk about your brand.


1. Content Marketing Builds Brand Awareness

Brand awareness is the extent to which consumers are familiar with your company. It can cement your position in a competitive marketplace or in a specific niche.

Exposing your brand through content marketing is a great way to build brand mindshare. Mindshare is the amount of buzz your product or service generates. The more mindshare your business has with your prospects, the more business you’ll attract.

Here’s how to do it.

  • Create content that addresses the needs of your ideal customer on a regular basis. Depending on your niche, you might write blog posts summarizing events in your industry. You might write product tutorials or how-to guides. You might tell a story of serving a customer via case studies. You might write product reviews or film demo videos. You might share slides from a talk or write a whitepaper.
  • Encourage your readers to comment and share your content. If you want this to happen organically, you’ll have to make it useful to them.
  • Don’t forget about how people will consume your content on a mobile device. eMarketer reports that there will be over 2 billion smartphone users in 2016. Smartphones are the second most popular device used to search the web. Produce content that’s easy to view on mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly too so people will have a positive experience.

2. Content Marketing Can Make Your Company an Industry Thought Leader

Thought leaders are experts in their respective niches. Publishing and sharing content over time will make you a go-to authority figure.

After I had been blogging for a few years, other companies began linking to our website. Journalists called for interviews on internet marketing topics. I appeared as a guest on podcasts. I spoke at conferences and meetings.


That’s not to brag. But it does prove the power of sharing your thoughts and stories.

So how can your company influence more purchasing decisions?

  • Put yourself out there. Create authoritative content that educates, informs and entertains. You may be an experienced practitioner in your industry, but are unknown. Offering up your experience can establish yourself as a specialist in your industry.
  • Don’t let perfect become the enemy of good. Your blogs and videos don’t need to be perfect. You just need to write them and film them, then share them. We write over 100 blogs per month for clients, and several good ones don’t get published because of overthinking.
  • Know your ideal prospect. Thought leadership requires a thorough understanding of your customer. Improve your credibility by citing reputable sources, checking facts and improving your social clout. Enlighten followers with expert industry-specific tips and must-read perspectives. Most importantly, write on their level, not your peers’.

3. Content Marketing Builds Trust

Creating relevant content can increase trust between your company and its customers. Having difficulty engaging with companies you want to sell to? A well-planned content marketing strategy can attract those prospects and make you a contender.

  • Don’t just talk about your products. Instead, compare your technologies with others. Write on the state of you ideal customers’ industry. Share tips that they will find useful.
  • Address the competition. Let’s face it. There are times when your competitor’s product is better than yours. Let people know the hows and whys. Both prospects and Google will reward you for it.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about price/cost. My friend Marcus Sheridan (The Sales Lion) wrote a great piece on why you should talk about price. Read it. Your honesty will build trust, even if you aren’t the least expensive option.

Providing in-depth information positions your company as a transparent resource. It will increase your online reputation and you’ll see sales as a result.

Generating top-quality content increases engagement and boosts the visibility of your brand online. If you want to increase brand awareness or become a sought-after thought leader in your niche, content marketing might be the way to go.


Birthing A Billion-Dollar Brand: The Launch Of Synchrony Financial

Source: Forbes

You’re the CMO of a $22 billion company and your boss asks you to launch a top-to-tail branding effort. Who’s the first person you call? Your favorite agency contact? Your most trusted team member? A recruiter? When Toni White, CMO of Synchrony Financial, was asked to rebrand the GE Capital Retail Finance business – certain to be a long, exciting and career-defining journey – the first person she called was her mom.

Bolstered by her mom’s vote of confidence, Toni was ready for what was sure to be a wild ride as far as brand efforts go. The goal was daunting. Build off the reliance, trust, and recognition imbued in GE’s storied brand, while creating a new and distinctive brand that resonates with multiple constituencies – consumers financing purchases like TVs and refrigerators, their retail partners who offer financing through Synchrony, their employees,  and prospects.


Getting To Work

Toni chose brand consultancy Interbrand to help lead the effort. Rather than the more leisurely 18 months for a traditional rebrand, or even 12 months for a faster-paced effort, she needed the brand ready to launch in just nine months to align with the company’s Initial Public Offering. That meant working fast, doing things in parallel that normally would be done sequentially (like gathering employee and customer feedback) and enlisting people from across the organization to engage in the process and provide  diverse perspectives and expertise.

Getting Buy In

A critical element of the re-branding was picking a new company name and logo. Toni quickly learned that picking a name for a company is like naming a child. It’s highly personal, and everyone has an opinion. From the surfeit of names that she and her team considered, they narrowed it to five, which they tested with employees, customers and partners. Synchrony Financial was the clear winner. Toni and her team learned that getting employee and customer feedback early and often turned out to be good for buy-in, and also accelerated the process.

Given the size of the organization and the many constituents that would need to promote the brand, employees were also given early and frequent hints as to what the brand would look like, what attributes it would represent, and how it would reflect the core of the company. They did this cleverly, through puzzle pieces that were sent to employees over time, each holding a clue that was core to the brand that was being developed. When they were able to complete the puzzle, they already knew the story. This had the dual purpose of building enthusiasm for what was to come, but also a way to solicit feedback on elements of the brand that needed adjustment.

The trust factor is an essential element in financial services today, particularly for consumer loan grantors who suffered the harshest blow to their reputation in the last recession. This issue is more complex for Synchrony, as the brand is presented as an option to consumers through their retail partners. As with any launch, branding Synchrony required telling their story through images, logos, URLs and tag lines, and good old-fashioned advertising. In this case, Toni and team had to find the right balance between referencing its GE heritage and launching a stand-alone brand focused on the future.

To introduce the Synchrony Financial name and brand, the tag line “Engage with us” appeared across broadcast spots, and also in more personal media like digital, out of home, and C-suite business press like Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. Surprisingly, the airport was a great place to capture the various constituents and earn their trust. And when it came time to rally the internal troops behind the new brand, broadcast TV helped to stoke pride and reinforce what the company does best – being deeply engaged with its partners. Now the references to the company’s heritage are more muted, though its 80-year history is still an important part of the story and the foundation of its enduring purpose and values – Bold, Responsible, Passion, Driven, Caring and Honesty.

Getting Smarter

Building a brand from scratch within a year taught Toni and the team a lot. Here are some of her most important learnings:

• Recruit smart people from across the enterprise. The first thing Toni did was to recruit resources from various areas of the company to capture diversity of thought. Not just marketing folks either. She chose individuals who worked in the call centers, sales leaders who manage client relationships, finance and investor relations leaders who talk about the company in the marketplace — to become a part of the brand team. She sought a mix of experience, function, and tenure to get the broadest representation of the company from the start.

• Buy-in has to happen early. Even with a widely sourced team, there needed to be a plan for engagement across the company and every touch-point. So much of the business is customer-facing that the brand needed to be firmly embedded in everyone’s mind the day it launched. The puzzle pieces that teased out the brand helped people join the journey in their own way, and taught them the language they would use without a forced mandate on the day of the switch-over. Launch events at every site bridged the transition in a fun way with giveaways and branded items, and messages and materials describing the evolution of the brand.  A brand “vault” provided easy and immediate access to logos and images, templates and usage guidelines, and enabled employees to order business cards and branded apparel and supplies.

• Weave the present and the future together. In such a short time span, it’s important to start from the strength of the existing brand and capitalize on that message in the transition. Many folks wanted to make a clean break from the past, but that past was strong and helped build trust. Toni and team balanced the need to embrace the past and use this to convey strength and trust built over the years, with an aspirational, fresh dynamic brand still focused on delivering for cardholders and partners.

• Begin the journey to the next stage of the brand. Remember that the brand will evolve and needs to work across the business. Early on, the Synchrony team started talking to customers and developed an enterprise platform with their advertising agency, Ogilvy & Mather, about why the company exists and what the company does for customers to help them get what they need. They found that what people value most, that they pioneer the future and get people what they need, turned into the “What are you working forward to?” theme line (see their video creative here) that links people to the things they aspire to. This next stage makes an emotional connection with each of Synchrony’s audiences and brings that concept to life.

The birth of a “new” company with $22 billion in market cap and 80 years of history is a challenge. How did Toni do?

David Cooperstein has been observing trends in media for over 25 years as a practitioner, analyst, and disruptor. Find him on Twitter.

How Diverse is Your Content Marketing?

Source: Business2Community

Diversity |diˈvərsitē, dī-| noun: a range of different things.

How do you consume content? Do you prefer reading? Listening? Watching? In today’s digital world, it’s more important than ever to have something for everyone. Whether that’s a blog, eBook, infographic, video, case study, or podcast, your prospects have different preferences for their journey through the sales funnel.

So, how do you turn your content marketing plan into a well-oiled, diverse machine?

Blog, blog, and blog

Whether you’re an eCommerce brand or a B2B Saas company, your blog can drive traffic to your website, capture subscribers, and ultimately lead to revenue. Blogs present countless opportunities to diversify your content and break up the monotonous plain text version that is so often seen.

Use a video to introduce a blog post, or change things up for your readers by embedding a SlideShare presentation into the middle of a post. Our brains process visual images 60,000 times faster than text, which means you should try your hand at creating infographics, presentations, or videos that will resonate with your readers. Tools like Canva, Adobe InDesign, and Final Cut Pro are valuable for any marketing team looking to diversify content.

Additionally, SEO and content always go hand-in-hand, so make sure to write at least 500 words, include external/internal links, and use keywords to go along with each piece. Your blog doesn’t have to be just words – and quite frankly – it shouldn’t be. Finding ways to diversify your blog content will increase the odds that your readers will feel compelled to share it across their networks.

Content Marketing Strategy

When we partnered with Nielsen’s Harris Poll Online to find out how effective referral marketing is, we had a number of statistics that we knew our prospects would find interesting. Our content team created a diverse campaign to release the statistics to our prospects, subscribers, and current customers. The campaign consisted of four main assets that would engage our target audience:

Recommended for YouWebcast: SEO in 2016: How Search Has Changed & Why Modern Marketers Must Adapt

It was a conscious decision to release each piece of content over the course of a month and we encouraged our sales team to use these statistics in their workflows. We knew that if we didn’t capture someone with the first piece of content, there would be opportunities to peak their interest later on.

In addition to organic traffic, we used paid efforts, like social ads, to increase engagement with the Nielsen statistics campaign. By boosting our content with paid campaigns, we were able to broaden our reach and increase traffic to our assets.Taking a holistic approach to marketing campaigns drives the right people to the right content.

The Customer Journey

Customer journeys are unique, they vary based on your audience. And purchases can be immediate or a lengthy process depending on your industry. What isn’t unique, is that all businesses require content to nurture their prospects as they move through the sales funnel.

“While the mere exercise of mapping your customer’s journey has value, the ultimate goal is to improve your customer’s experience by understanding what they go through at each touch point and improving the quality of that experience,” Adam Toporek writes on the Convince & Convert blog. 

The quality of the experience can be vastly improved if prospects have the opportunity to consume content that they prefer. Your diverse content will make it easier to nurture these prospects efficiently, and ultimately make it easier to close deals.

Let’s take case studies for example. These are typically shared with prospects at the bottom of the funnel. They connect your prospect to real-life examples for how your product will impact their business or life. But what if you put a face to those words? Video testimonials and written case studies make sure you have multiple options for your prospects. You can take it one step further and include clips or quotes on your website, social media channels, or during sales demos. Personally, I think the HubSpot’s customers page is the perfect example for how to combine your visual and text case studies.

Having a piece of content for each step of your sales process is a must-have for all types of organizations. Top of the funnel blog posts, podcasts, and infographics build brand awareness. eBooks and Whitepapers move things along in the middle of the funnel. And case studies, executive summaries, and product videos close the deal.

Humanize Your Brand

Showing the face behind your brand let’s your fans know that there is an actual human behind the product that they interact with on a regular basis. For instance, instead of using the same stock photos that most businesses use, take your own stock photos. (In fact, the cover image above is our Content Marketing Director and Copywriter recording our podcast, The Happy Customer, coming soon!)

“When a brand is able to make a sincere connection with a consumer, something incredibly powerful happens. Beyond mere fleeting impact, that moment of connection provides a foundation for long-term advocacy, loyalty, and a sustainable bottom line,” Moz writes on their blog. 

Content Marketing Is Not A Strategy, It’s A Necessity

Content marketing isn’t a new concept, but it’s the most valuable way for any organization that wants to earn the trust of their audience. Diversifying their options for consuming that content can only bolster that trust.

Looking for more marketing best practices? Download our eBook “More Referrals. Less Hassle.” to get started with referral marketing.

The bitter-sweet ads designed to win back trust in financial services

Source: The Conversation UK

How do you win the trust of consumers when the recent history of your industry is punctuated by insurance mis-selling scandals and the global financial crisis? Add to that widespread disinterest in and limited understanding of your products, which are largely to do with debt, death, disability and deferred happiness rather than living in the now, and you can sense the challenge facing those with the task of marketing financial services and making them appealing.

Historically the names and symbols of those in the financial services business helped anchor complex and intangible products to recognisable words and concepts. Financial institutions were “provident”, “prudential” or “mutual”, and were created to “secure provisions for widows” (Scottish Widows) or “for the purpose of affording clerks and others provision for old age” (Aviva). Financial brands used images of strength, stability and prudence: the beehive was common as a symbol of industry, thrift and regeneration. Ironically, Northern Rock the bank whose collapse signalled the onset of the financial crisis in the UK was distinctly rugged-sounding.

Today, one of the most recognisable symbols is the galloping black horse of Lloyds Banking Group, inherited from a 17th-century City of London goldsmith. Lloyds, founded in 1765, celebrated 250 years with a television advert featuring not mortgages or banks but the horse itself, as we follow it grow from a foal to a stallion, representing centuries of corporate history and the various stages of our own lives: birth, friendship, love, loss and change.

The bank’s current advert features the horse once more, galloping to the emotive soundtrack of Tears for Fears’ Mad World through a more human-centric life alongside the slogan: “For your next step”, for which Lloyds itself adds that it will “be by your side”. These slogans are repeated in its billboard advertisements which bear captions that range from the predictable – starting a business, buying a home – to the less saccharine, such as “I don’t love you anymore” above a parting couple, or a widow’s goodbye.

What’s implied here is that endings, as well as beginnings, are also times that bring the need to re-visit financial plans. Known as negative emotional appeal, this approach is actually characteristic of financial services providers, government public information broadcasts, and the sorts of charitable appeals that try to shock would-be donors into action.

The reason this approach is considered appropriate for the finance industry is because consumers are not only generally unaware of the sorts of financial products available: they are also unaware of the sorts of problems those financial products are designed to solve. The answer is to use graphic or sensational images or “straight-talking” to stimulate recognition of the circumstances, and therefore the need, that is the first stage towards making a purchase.

Although the use of technology is new, the message is a very familiar one. In the 1990s the now-defunct Allied Dunbar produced the memorable “For the life you don’t yet know” campaign based on the lyric “There may be trouble ahead” from Irving Berlin’s “Let’s face the music and dance”.

The campaign shared similar objectives captured in their respective taglines “for the next step” and “for the life you don’t yet know”. The message is one of building a lasting relationship with your financial provider to cope with life’s fluctuating fortunes.

Today’s marketers have coined the term “event-based marketing” to describe the process whereby key events in the lives of customers are identified as a trigger for specific marketing activities. Financial planners have long understood the life events that trigger the need for new, or a revision of existing approaches, to finance. All financial planning is undertaken from the perspective of what is known about current and future priorities.

Some viewers will undoubtedly be left with a warm, fuzzy feeling – something that research suggests can transfer into a favourable attitude towards the brand – but it’s unclear how exactly Lloyds is the “hero” of the commercial, nor how viewers will respond to an ad that contains positive and negative elements. If Lloyds’ objectives are to rebuild trust in a battered brand then the campaign may well have some impact. But we have yet to see if consumers see fit to put their faith in Lloyds to help them through life’s fluctuating fortunes.

Banking Marketing ROI: No Consensus

Source: The Financial Brand

Most financial marketers don’t really know what their efforts achieve, and for most CEOs and CFOs, there just isn’t any excuse. How can anyone figure out how much should be spent on marketing if they can’t calculate ROI? Marketers have to run the numbers and do the math.

Financial industry executives agree that measuring the results and impact of their marketing programs is hazy at best. Most have no idea how much their institutions should be spending on marketing or what they get in return for what they do spend. In an industry characterized by intense competition and razor thin margins, this has to change.

Every year, The Financial Brand fields an annual survey exploring the marketing challenges facing retail banks and credit unions. Insights from the 2016 Financial Marketing Survey reveal major gaps between how senior marketers see themselves in their role and how non-marketing executives view marketing.

What Do Our Marketing Efforts Accomplish?

There is one thing both marketing and non-marketing executives agree on: “measuring performance and proving results” is the number one challenge they face today.


Taking a deeper look into how their organizations assess the success of marketing efforts, both marketers and non-marketers agree that they struggle to quantify the results and impact of their marketing, and they could do a better job establishing their marketing ROI. In fact, fully two thirds of non-marketing executives admitted they have difficulty quantifying the results and impact of their marketing efforts.


Despite the fact that executives question the ROI of marketing, they still believe that marketing is critical to their success. Strikingly, a full 93% of non-marketing C-Suite executives say that their C-suite believes marketing directly helps achieve their organization’s strategic goals. In other words, top executives want to invest in marketing, but no one is providing them evidence that the dollars spent are actually working.

Given the fact that executives can’t determine the effectiveness of their marketing spend, it should come as no surprise that they face big challenges when trying to define the appropriate marketing budget. Marketing leaders are less certain about how to do this than their non-marketing peers, with 47% concerned about their ability to accomplish this fundamental responsibility.

I Smell Smoke!

The big burning question: “What’s the ROI of marketing??”

The implications of this question are clear: in an enduring low-interest rate environment, financial institutions are struggling to maintain profitability and any expense that does not have an obvious ROI is going to be scrutinized, cut or reduced. Quite frankly, a reduction in budget is the right course of action if marketing leaders can’t demonstrate their impact on top and bottom line growth.

How did we end up here? For one thing, financial marketers tend to come from the less scientific backgrounds than many of their peers who possess powerful analytical skills. To their credit, their right brain dominance helps them create the innovative programs needed to cut through the clutter and set their institutions apart. But in the Digital Age, marketers need more left brain computing power. You can’t manage a marketing plan successfully these days without being able to crunch numbers.

In all fairness, much of marketing wasn’t measurable until recently. But with all the digital marketing and media metrics available today, there’s no excuse; they should be drowning in numbers. There’s no reason to be talking about soft metrics like “clicks” and “engagement” when C-level executives are concerned with sales and revenue. What’s the correlation??

Unfortunately, the financial industry has been late to jump on the “marketing analytics bandwagon.” CEOs and CFOs read Harvard Business Review and McKinsey Quarterlyarticles that tell them that “all marketing activities are measurable.” “Why aren’t ours??”

CEOs and CFOs are feeling acute pressure to cut every nonessential dollar of expense, and most marketers have not been able to demonstrate that their programs are actually an investment in the bank’s future income stream.

Marketing leaders at banks and credit unions are feeling the heat, and rightfully so. Clearly they need to grab the reins and demonstrate — through data and facts — that what they are doing is achieving quantifiable results.

The Buyer’s Journey

In the old days, financial marketers bought a range of traditional media — radio, newspaper and TV (as their budgets permitted). In recent years, they have augmented these with digital display, paid search and social media advertising. The fundamental principle underpinning these media plans assumes that broad reach and a high level of frequency will ensure that prospects see the message multiple times. The problem with this approach is that the marketer is paying for a considerable amount of waste.

Today, smart marketers begin with a clear understanding of what type of customer is being targeted, and how that customer researches and buys the product in question. There have been huge leaps forward in how both consumer behavior and media consumption patterns can be tracked, analyzed and segmented. That allows financial marketers to have a pretty accurate read on what specific media are being used at each step of the “buying journey.” Utilizing tools like Scarborough and Nielsen are critical to making sure that money is being focused where it is most likely to advance consumers through the buying funnel.

Media Mix Modeling

Until recently, only companies like Bank of America and Proctor & Gamble could marshal the dollars and analytical horsepower to run mathematical models that determine exactly what medium and what ad was influencing a consumer to consider and buy their company’s product.

Media mix modeling uses complex math — multivariate statistics, regression analysis and genetic algorithms — to correlate media spend with actual sales. Companies like MarketShare, Google Analytics 360 and Visual IQ pioneered this type of analytical methodology over the past decade. And that’s why some of their services run upwards of $250,000 per year.

Fortunately for smaller organizations, similar methodologies are available today for a fraction of that cost. If a financial institution can provide at least three years of media plans and sales results, there are many different third-party service providers that can help them determine what drives sales and what doesn’t. Typically, an institution could invest around 2% of their overall budget into this type of ROI analysis and wind up saving 10-20% through reduced waste and more precise targeting.

The Great Branding Misunderstanding

Branding appears to be an enigma among both marketers and their non-marketing peers. The vast majority (93%) of institutions say they have formal branding initiatives underway, and about one quarter of all their marketing resources are being allocated to brand-building activities. And yet, the objectives, measurement and ROI of these activities are all in question. According to the study, 53% of marketing leaders and an astonishing 68% of non-marketing executives say they have not been able to clearly establish the ROI of their branding initiatives. Worse, only 22% of non-marketing execs believe that their branding initiatives have yielded positive results.


Branding has long been a “black sheep” in financial marketing. CMOs deeply believe that their company will be forced to compete on price if they lack a strong, differentiated and well-articulated brand. Other C-level execs — often believing that a “brand” is little more than a logo or tagline… or worse, wasteful and fluffy ad campaigns — prefer to deflect the conversation toward product sales. They intuitively see a connection between product marketing and ROI; they do not, however, understand how an investment in branding translates into anything concrete or tangible on the balance sheet.

Branding is certainly critical if a financial institution hopes to grow market share and rise above the me-too din of rate-based, fee-sensitive offers. But this isn’t achieved by running hollow “brand spots” that feature warm cuddly children and puppies… just like many other brands do today.

No, what is needed is a clear understanding of what exactly sets your organization apart from others. Who specifically are you trying to attract? What is important to them? What unique value proposition do you have for them? Only after answering these essential questions are you ready to launch a truly effective “brand campaign” that can drive results. If you watch market leaders in other industries, their “brand” campaigns often feature differentiated products. This brings up an important lesson: branding and product don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Strong, well-defined brands know who they are, who they serve and what they stand for. This makes it much more easy to innovate new products and solutions that resonate with your target market and differentiate your brand in fresh ways.

Another critical lesson here is that brand building is never accomplished only through advertising. In fact, there are compelling case studies from companies like Zappos that suggest that exceptional client experience and social word of mouth can be at least as effective in getting your name out there. Have you ever seen an ad for Zappos? And yet you probably have a good idea of what their brand is about.

No matter how you decide to build your brand, it should boil down to simple math — the kind of equation that any CFO would love. You need to increase unaided awareness of your brand so that when a prospect decides to change banking providers, they think of you (or at least places you in the consideration set). But, it’s not enough for them to just think of you — they need to think good things about you. That’s called “creating brand preference.” Increasing awareness — then managing and increasing conversions through the consideration and preference stages — drives increased sales.

What’s more, while large organizations often have an advantage with brand awareness, they often struggle creating brand preference. In the chart below, 94% of the public is aware of Mega Brand, but only 14% would prefer to do business with it. Contrast that with the smaller Challenger Brand, whose awareness is only half as much, but because it is well liked and respected, the challenger does a much more effective job converting awareness into preference. Even though the Challenger Brand is much smaller, their share of switchers is more than double that of Mega.


This is how the math of branding works. And calculating what one percentage point of growth in commercial loan or retail deposit market share is worth helps you size how much time and money your organization should be spending on building a strong positive brand image.

Learn More at The Financial Brand Forum 2016

The Financial Brand Forum is a conference that’s all about maximizing the return on your marketing investment. Every session in the agenda is dedicated to just one thing: showing retail financial institutions how to accelerate growth — how to amplify their brand, acquire new relationships and cultivate the ones they’ve got.

At The Financial Brand Forum 2016, the team at Capital Performance Group will show you how to prove marketing has the power to drive performance, and demonstrate its value as a strategic investment for your institution — with the right plan, budget and strategic approach. Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • How to link marketing investment with results to establish a clear picture of ROI for C-level executives
  • How financial marketers can create alignment with their institution’s overall corporate, strategic and financial goals
  • How marketing and the rest of the C-Suite differ in their perspectives on marketing plans and budgets
  • How to structure your marketing plan to help decision-makers understand the impact, power and importance of marketing
  • How to use the annual budgeting and planning process as a stage to redefine marketing’s role

Crafting Double-Duty Transactional Emails With Marketing Messages

Source: The Financial Brand 

Imagine… An accountholder at your financial institution — we’ll call her Emily — has just received her monthly email notice telling her that her new statement is available. Emily waits until her lunch hour to open it, figuring she’ll use the link in the e-mail to log into online banking, but what she sees in the email gives her reason to pause.

Along with the predictable information such emails usually contain, Emily finds details about a special, limited-time auto loan rate your financial institution is offering. Emily thinks to herself, “Wasn’t I just discussing a new car with my boyfriend the other day? What perfect timing!” So Emily hops onto your website website and submits a request for an appointment to discuss a new auto loan with one of your lending specialists.

The email Emily received in this example was doing double duty — blending both transactional and marketing messages. But before going further, let’s take a step back and define precisely what transactional emails are.

Transactional Emails: What Are They and Why Do They Matter?

Transactional emails are messages sent to customers after they’ve completed a specific task (e.g., a confirmation for submitting an application), or messages that are automatically generated on a recurring schedule (e.g., monthly receipts from accounts set up with auto-pay). Emails notifying people of potentially fraudulent activity on their accounts, and notifications of changed passwords are other common examples. Typically, most people welcome transactional messages; they are expected and appreciated. But these are transactional emails serving their primary function — conveying basic information.

Because transactional emails contain messages that people want or need, they tend to have dramatically higher open rates and higher click-through rates than other types of emails — often 2-3 times as high.

The superior performance of these types of messages give you a phenomenal cross-selling opportunity. By adding strategically deliberate and helpful content to your transactional emails, you can not only impart the information people need/expect, but also entice them with marketing messages that help build your brand and your bottom line.

5 Ideas for Double-Duty Transactional Emails

The most successful double-duty emails are customer-focused, timely, and relevant. Here are five ideas for how you can leverage typical transactional messages to engage consumers like Emily.

1.) Welcome/Success Messages. Many financial institutions send people a message after they’ve activated their online banking account. These emails can include instructions for the online banking system, or a link to step-by-step, how-to guides. Provide the recipient a way to receive help online, over the phone, or via email. But you can also incorporate a branding message from your institution. In the example below, a credit union can embed a graphic telling new members how their membership will be making a difference in their community.


2.) Account Notifications. Financial institutions often send email notifications after online or phone transactions have been completed, or warnings when suspicious activity is flagged. These account alerts can be used to notify people about other security features and services available.

3.) Confirmations & Receipts. Confirmation messages can be used as a way to showcase other relevant banking products or services. For instance, an ATM receipt emailed to someone could be used to remind them that your institution offers mobile remote deposit.


4.) Reminders. Financial institutions frequently send messages to members who forgot their login credentials and those who want bill-pay prompts. These reminder messages provide another great opportunity for cross-selling. For example, at the bottom of a bill-pay reminder for a rent payment, you could include a relevant call-to-action about home loans. Even emails related to password resets can have something short and simple tacked on at the end: “Did you know Your Bank is open Saturdays? Click here for hours and a location near you.”

5.) Monthly Statements. You can do more than just provide a link to the online banking login page. These emails should always contain snippets of information beyond the basics — promote new services and different types of accounts. For instance, an email telling someone that their statement is ready might say, “Do you have enough money in your account to cover an emergency or unexpected expenses? Now is a great time to create a rainy day fund. Click here to get started.”

Key Takeaways

Considering the high levels of engagement with transactional emails — and the infrequency with which financial institutions use them — adding this extra little touchpoint to your marketing mix can help you increase products per household.

Just remember, when creating transactional emails, always make sure the transactional portion is at the top of the message, and place marketing messages at the bottom. You can also provide links to give recipients the opportunity to sign up for other email communications.

By making your transaction emails do double duty, you can provide people with relevant information in unexpected ways. So next time your IT and accounting teams are preparing a batch of transactional emails, why not ask, “What marketing message might we include that Emily would find interesting?”

Cameron Madill is CEO of PixelSpoke, a digital marketing agency focused on community banks and credit unions. He is a digital marketing expert who has won numerous awards, including recognition as one of “Portland’s 40 Under 40″ business people. You can connect with Cameron on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Bank Marketing: Dump Data Scientists — Try Marketing By Walking Around

Source: Forbes 

The “2016 Guide to Financial Marketing” published by the Digital Banking Report doesn’t actually say banks should give up on marketing analytics, but in showing how bad they are at it, the report inadvertently makes a pretty strong case for dumping sophisticated customer data analysis and trying something else.

Perhaps get out of the office to talk with customers directly, or through social media, or have marketers man the phones in call centers occasionally. It’s been years since Management By Walking Around was first promoted by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman in their book In “Search of Excellence,” but an occasional stroll may provide a useful break from staring at charts on computer screens. A corporate flaneur, possibly?

The 56-page report is full of stats and bar charts broken down by large banks, community banks and credit unions, but marketing ignorance is a recurring theme. Banks lag in personalized digital marketing, and few banks — even fewer than in previous years — are measuring results.

In part that is because experience has shown results are hard to measure, and are usually credited to whichever channel had the first or last contact. So a customer who has seen billboards, received emails, been exposed to ads on Facebook FB +0.20% but finally signs a home equity loan in a branch will probably be credited to the branch alone.

“Multichannel attribution is the key to good marketing optimization, yet too many financial marketers still rely on a first or last touch attribution measurement system. This misses the intricacies of the overall consumer purchase journey. A bigger challenge is that most financial marketers aren’t measuring results at all.”

How much worse off would banks be if they stopped trying analytics and talked with customers?

Publisher Jim Marous in his introduction notes that: “Unfortunately, the financial services industry as been slow to adjust their marketing investments and strategies to respond to the new digital landscape.”

The Write Stuff: The What, Why and How of Content Marketing


For many engaged in business, the term “content marketing” is this sort-of nebulous thing that everybody says you should be doing.

But you don’t really know why, or how, or even what it is.

Don’t feel alone. Even the experts don’t totally agree on a definition.

Content Marketing Institute (CMI), a global content marketing and education organization, reached out to content marketing experts to get their definitions. The consensus? It depends on quite a few things.

Here’s CMI’s formal definition: “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience, and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Does that clear it up for you? Probably not.

This (also from CMI) might help put it in context: “Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling.”

The general idea is that instead of pitching products or services, you’re delivering information that is relevant to your current and potential customers.

Ultimately, the goal is that customers will support and develop a business relationship with you, because they value the information they’ve come to depend on you to deliver.

Think of your local Lowe’s or Home Depot. You’ve got a project going on, say you’re remodeling your bathroom, and you go to the Lowe’s website in search of a new faucet for your vanity.

When you type “bathroom faucets” into the search box, Lowe’s not only delivers product information and sale dates, but it also gives you a link to a video that teaches you how to install a faucet.

That’s content marketing. Lowe’s wants to be your home improvement expert, and in the process, they hope you’ll shop with them, too. The whole purpose of it is to make your content useful and helpful for the users.

The Why of Content Marketing

Content marketing has emerged as an answer to the decline of effective traditional advertising. We no longer watch commercials.

We DVR and fast-forward. We don’t read newspapers. We listen to ad-free playlists or podcasts.

We no longer engage with business through traditional channels. Content marketing attempts to transcend that by engaging over ideas rather than product.

Content marketing is essentially relationship marketing. People are looking for experts, tips, ideas, training, and content marketing provides it. When it’s good, it creates relationships and customer loyalty.

Jeni’s Ice Cream is a much beloved favorite founded in Columbus, Ohio. In 2015, Jeni’s was hit by a listeria outbreak that closed all of its stores, voluntarily, for nearly a month and forced it to recall all of its products and dump 265 tons of ice cream.

Columbus customers papered store windows with post-it love notes and inundated Jeni’s Twitter feed with support.

In January, Jeni’s released its annual report and enumerated the loss, including the number of swabs it took as part of its new monitoring program.

But the number that was most important, from a content marketing perspective, is this, which concluded the report: “Unquantifiable, the amount of love you gave when we needed it most.”

Again, the why of content marketing is because it creates relationships that lead to sales and loyalty.

The How of Content Marketing

It’s important to know that content marketing changes by target, meaning the focus of Business to Business (B2B) content marketing is different than  Business to Customer (B2C).  Don’t confuse content marketing with link building.

The types of content marketing used by businesses is practically endless and ever-growing, but here’s a list: social media, video, print magazines, digital magazines, product packaging, e-newsletters, microsites, multichannel, websites, blogs, podcasts, infographics, apps, resources centers, events, and user generated content (USG).

According to CMI, 86 percent of B2B marketers use content marketing to gain customer interest and loyalty. Obviously, B2B content marketing is focused on creating relationships with their audience, other businesses.

Here’s an example: Firerock is a company that manufactures pre-engineered masonry products for contractors and home builders. Firerock uses visual content on its Pinterest page to spotlight its products in action.

The company uses Pinterest’s location tool to tag photos of outdoor examples so people can see the actual work, as well.

The lines between what divides B2B and B2C content are blurring. A company that sells medical equipment to hospitals and doctor’s offices may also sell to individuals, yet they’ll reach them via different channels.

While the B2B arm of the company might use white papers and blogs, the B2C arm might focus more on social media and video.

About 76 percent of B2C organizations use content marketing for lead generation, relationship building and increasing sales.

Taco Bell and many other companies are using Periscope to live-stream content, in part because it keeps them engaged long after a tweet or post.

Content marketing is a fast, effective and ever-changing tool to engage and interact with your customers and it’s important to keep up.

For a look at what to expect in 2016, here’s an infographic (yes, it’s content marketing).

10 Marketing Trends Banking Can’t Ignore

Source: The Financial Brand 

Here are the top 10 trends that will impact the future success of your financial services marketing in 2016 and beyond.

The most important objective for any successful financial marketer is to focus on improving the customer experience across channels and with every communication. Touchpoints such as mobile, video and social media continue to grow in importance, with the underlying need for improved data analytics being paramount.

No longer will poorly targeted marketing communications be tolerated by the ever-demanding consumer. The consumer knows the value of their personal information, and they expect their financial institution to know them, look out for them and reward them at all steps of their shopping and purchase journey.

The marketing communications bar is being set by other industries and by tech kings such as Google, Amazon and Apple. If consumers’ experience expectations are not met, they will ignore or block your communications, or abandon the relationship with your bank or credit union altogether.
Improving the marketing communications process — from the consumer’s perspective — will drive growth, loyalty and profitability. Managing the marketing process without taking advantage of the technology tools available is becoming more and more difficult.

Below are the most important marketing industry trends that can’t be ignored by financial marketers in 2016 and beyond. Unfortunately, according to the 2016 State of Financial Marketing Report, sponsored by Deluxe, many financial services marketers are not embracing or effectively prioritizing these trends.

Financial marketers must embrace these trends within all objectives, strategies and tactics. Doing so will become a key differentiator in the future.

1. Embracing Insight-Driven Marketing

The importance of consumer insight and data for financial marketers will be more important than ever in 2016. In the past, the vast majority of financial marketers were more talk than action around “big data” because they lacked the skills and budget to make an impact. New tools and technologies make advanced analytics available for all sized organizations, while digital channels and the desire for personalized offers make the investment in data analytics mandatory for success.

Most industries are far ahead of financial services with insight-driven marketing. This is surprising, since banks and credit unions have access to more transactional, behavioral and demographic data on consumers than any other industry.

Unfortunately, while the need to leverage advanced analytics for insight-driven marketing is arguably the most important trend for 2016, it ranks very low on priorities according to the 2016 State of Financial Marketing Report (chart from report below). This lack of attention was reinforced in research conducted by Computer Services Inc. and covered in our article, What Are the Big Threats and Priorities in Banking for 2016?


2. Integration of Mobile

Including mobile as part of a bank’s or credit union’s marketing plan is no longer optional as consumers do a significant proportion of their researching, shopping and buying on their smartphones. “At a minimum, this means a mobile optimized and responsive website, and may include custom apps and mobile targeted campaigns,” states Daniel Newman from Forbes. Leading organizations in the retail and other industries are already leveraging the mobile device for location-based offers and sales messaging. As consumers migrate even further onto online and mobile banking channels, marketing budgets must do the same.

3. Increasing Focus on ROI

It should go without saying that marketing campaigns should be measured to gauge success. The ability to measure results has never been greater, as advanced tools can now look at the customer purchase journey to determine what blend of channels were used in the decision process.

Unfortunately, most financial institutions rank “Measuring performance and/or proving results (ROI)” as a top 5 challenge. With costs being cut across most organizations, the importance of validating the return on marketing investment has never been more important. Being able to tie specific revenue outcomes to marketing initiatives can “close the loop” for financial marketers. These same marketers must now shift where they spend their budgets to reflect this potential.


4. Awareness of the Customer Journey

Mapping your customer’s financial product purchase journey is key to knowing where, when, and how to market to them. The traditional marketing funnel is dead. Great experiences with other brands – not just other brands in financial services – but from completely different industry verticals are informing the opinion of your customers on what to expect from you.

It is therefore important to understand how your customers are thinking and feeling, as well as what they are doing when something triggers the need or desire for financial services. Unfortunately, there are many barriers to revealing the truth around the purchase journey. One of the most significant is the structure of incentives that reward branch-based personnel for “restarting” online or mobile purchases to ensure rewards are provided to the branch channel as opposed to a digital alternative.

5. Customization and Personalization

Given the focus on an improved consumer experience and the potential of advanced data analytics in banking, personalized communication must get a higher priority in 2016. The benefits of personalization include higher response and conversion rates, brand loyalty and repeat customers, amplified reach and increased relevance.

Consumers indicate a desire for custom solutions based on their personal situation … in real time. The tolerance for personalization has limits however, when banks and credit unions are dealing with hoards of potentially powerful, yet private, insights.

“In 2016, consumers will expect emails to have more relevant content and will also expect brands to know more about them in the course of social interactions,” says John Arnold, vice president of marketing at FullContact. “Consumers will have less tolerance for online and mobile advertising that is too highly personalized — which may be seen by them as creepy.”

6. Optichannel Marketing

Beyond multichannel or omnichannel, the concept of optichannel in marketing refers to being able to communicate and support a consumer’s shopping and buying process using the channel that is best for them given the consumer’s overall objective. The goal is to support a smooth transition between digital and physical delivery channels as well as between digital and mass media communication channels for the best possible experience.

Financial marketers need to move beyond single channel silos of marketing, where there is a disconnect between the ways a consumer absorbs marketing and how banks and credit unions deliver messages.

7. Expanding Use of Content Marketing

There is a continuing decrease in the effectiveness of interruptive tactics in marketing overall, and especially in financial services marketing, as consumers are increasingly bombarded by poorly targeted and ill conceived campaigns. As a result, there is a greater need for relevant and interactive content marketing that can be delivered using the right channels at the right time (contextual).

Content marketing plans should include interactive assessments, calculators, training and games to keep people clicking, pressing, swiping and sharing information that can be used in sales processes. Some banks and credit unions are testing these interactive tools, yet many are buried within a website or online design.

8. Moving Social Media Mainstream

While not reflected in this year’s bank and credit union marketing survey, social media marketing is becoming mainstream in most industries since 65% of adults used social media in 2015. Of all the social networks, Facebook is the most popular for marketers, since the network is the largest and because the network has built a top-notch ad system. Facebook’s data and targeting tools allow marketers to personalize their social campaigns at scale.

Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat are also becoming more popular with certain segments of the population. An ongoing challenge for financial marketers is in linking social media campaigns to sales. This challenge is what is holding most marketers back from increasing investments in social marketing.

9. Continuing Battle with Ad Blocking

Consumers are using ad blocking tools to push back on any organization using digital marketing carelessly. When product sales strategies take precedence over delivering an improved user experience, all marketers can end up losing.

Ironically, the more press that ad blocking technology receives, the more users it amasses. Ad blocking also made its way into mobile devices thanks largely to Apple’s iOS 9 update that included ad blocking capabilities. The solution to ad blocking will come from those organizations that provide relevant content that provides value in exchange for accessibility to the consumer. The customer ad experience must become a priority.

10. Introduction of New Channels

While augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) may not be mainstream marketing channels yet, financial marketers should become familiar with these advanced digital options as developers work on monetizing these channels. Initial uses may revolve around advertising within apps such as a branch or ATM finder or even be a standalone app like the home finder/buyer app from Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

In the not so distant future, some financial organizations may even provide a complete 360-degree buying experience that doesn’t require a special VR headset or device. These immersive experiences can give consumers reasons to interact with their bank or credit unions without visiting physical facilities.

2016 State of Financial Marketing

Source: The Financial Brand 

This 5th annual analysis of marketing in the financial services industry reveals bank and credit union strategies, priorities and challenges in 2016 — data analytics and measurement are behind the times, movement to digital communication is slow and branches continue to be built.

Now in its fifth year, the “State of Financial Marketing” survey, fielded by The Financial Brand, sponsored by Deluxe, and analyzed and published by the Digital Banking Report, provides unparalleled insights into the priorities, challenges, product focus, communication channel use, social media use, budgeting allocations, marketing effectiveness. The report even looks into branding and branching trends and how marketing is viewed by the C-suite.
Those who completed this year’s survey will receive a complimentary copy of the “2016 Financial Marketing Trends” Report. The 56-page report breaks down dozens of trends — who’s doing what, spending more, in which channels and generating results. The full survey analyzes over 30 different parameters and includes 38 charts, segmenting respondents by size and type of organization (national/regional bank, community bank, credit union).

For those who did not participate in the study, but would like a copy of the report, it is available for immediate download upon purchase here. Also, those who attend The Financial Brand Forum this spring (May 16 – 18) will receive a complimentary copy of the “2016 Financial Marketing Trends Report” as part of their Forum 2016 Resource Pack — a bundle of insights worth over $3,465.

2016 Survey Respondents

The report is based on a Q4 2015 Financial Brand survey of senior marketing executives at 257 financial institutions (FIs). Among survey respondents, 14% were from large national or regional banks, 39% were from community banks, and 43% were from credit unions.

Roughly 12% of respondents were from FIs with more than US$10 billion in assets, with 31% having US$1 billion – US$10 billion in assets and 57% representing firms with less than US$1 billion in assets.


Four out of five of the responding institutions were from the US, with 7% being from Canada and slightly more than 10% coming from other countries.

When we looked at the position/title of the respondents, we found significant diversity. A total of 22% of the respondents were C-level executives, with slightly less than half of those being at the CMO level. Another 34% were at the Assistant Vice President, Vice President or Executive Vice President level, with 30% being Managers or Directors.

Below is a very small sample of highlights from the 2016 Financial Marketing Trend report.

Marketing Priorities Remain Consistent

Over the past five years of The Financial Brand marketing survey,most of the priorities have remained rather constant. The most evident areas of change during this period were the increase in importance of ‘reaching a younger audience’ and the decrease in importance of ‘building a brand.’ For the largest organizations, ‘increasing adoption of digital channels’ and ‘improving analytics’ have become top priorities.

Increasing share of wallet (i.e., deepening customer relationships) is the most important marketing priority (49%) in 2016, with loan growth being a very close second at 48%. The three most frequently cited priorities – improving wallet share, growing loan volume, and acquiring new customers – have remained the top three priorities for the past four years.

Other highlights of significant priority variance by type of institution are the following:

  • National and regional banks place increasing adoption of digital channels as the second highest “top three” priority (62%), while this is one of the lowest priorities for smaller banks (44%) and credit unions (48%).
  • National and regional banks have the desire to improve analytics capabilities as their third highest “top three” priority (47%). The emphasis on advanced analytics completely overshadows the level of emphasis indicated by both community banks and credit unions (8% ranked this as a “top three priority).
  • Community banks are placing a much heavier emphasis on building business relationships in 2016 than larger banks or credit unions. (this was consistent with 2015)
  • Community banks have doubled their emphasis on expanding markets in 2016 vs. 2015. (23% rated as a “top three” priority in 2016 vs. 12% in 2015)
  • Credit unions continue to emphasize the acquisition of a younger member base compared to banks. (Higher emphasis than in 2015)
  • Credit unions indicate a higher “top three” emphasis on acquiring new members overall compared to 2015. (55% in 2016 vs. 44% in 2015)

Product Silos Remain

Despite ongoing conversations regarding moving from a product silo marketing perspective to a consumer-focused marketing model, most organizations still budget and build strategies around products. Of deeper concern is the stability in emphasis year over year, possibly indicating a planning process that only makes slight adjustments to prior year’s plans as opposed to conducting deep consumer needs analysis.

Mortgage loans and refinancing continued to be the most frequently listed product to be marketed in 2016, with 64% of the respondents indicating this emphasis. Mobile banking solutions was the second most mentioned service with 61%, while three other credit services (home equity, credit cards and auto loans each were mentioned by 4 in 10 financial organizations.

While not showing up in the combined rankings, mobile wallets (Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc.) and P2P services are being more heavily promoted in 2016 by larger financial institutions than by other sized organizations. This is consistent with the higher focus on mobile banking found overall with larger banks.


Social Media Use Increases … Despite Lack of Effectiveness

The use of social media channels by banks and credit unions continued to climb in 2016, with close to 9 of 10 institutions using Facebook, up from less than half only 4 years ago. More than half of FIs now use Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, with other social media channels being used less than half this level.

Counter to logic around generating a return on marketing investment, marketers surveyed did not seem overwhelmingly confident in the effectiveness of any of the channels they use. While the terminology of the question leaves room for interpretation, only Facebook had greater than a 20% “very effective” score. The effectiveness of Facebook was down slightly from 2015.

While the study shows that the use and effectiveness differs by institution type and size, the question needs to be asked why banks and credit unions are spending more and more budgets on channels that don’t generate a known marketing ROI.

Branch Networks Continue to Grow

The branch survival debate rages on, with the mobile channel continuing to gain ground with banking consumers, while physical branches remain central to the retail delivery strategy for most institutions. Our survey reinforces that the branch is far from dead at most institutions.


When we look at the changes in branch distribution by asset size, there is a bell curve with the top of the bell curve being the “no change” category (especially with the smaller institutions). Unlike 2015, when the smaller institutions (under US$1 billion) were more likely to be increasing their branch network, the larger organizations (over US$1 billion) are more likely to be increasing their networks this year. In fact, 47% of larger institutions surveyed indicated an increase of branches in 2016.

Movement to Digital Communication Channels

For the foreseeable future, banks and credit unions will continue to shift more and more of their budgets away from traditional and offline channels and towards online and mobile media. The question remains whether this shift is occurring fast enough and whether the results of these efforts will be measured accurately.

When we asked bank and credit union executives about how much they allocate to various communication channels, interesting disparities were evident. For instance, while the vast majority of financial institutions have reduced their offline marketing budgets, there are still 42% of institutions that allocate 50% or more of their budget to offline channels (16% of respondents allocated 70% of more of their budget to offline channels).

Similarly, while online channel use is increasing in banking, 82% of banking organizations allocate 30% or less of their budget to online channels. It also appears that there is still only a minor commitment to mobile channel marketing, since nine in ten organizations allocate 20% or less of their budgets to mobile (70% allocate 10% or less).

This year’s survey also found a very high percentage of financial institutions did not set “improving data analytics” as a high priority, and an equally high number of organizations are “concerned about establishing an accurate marketing ROI.” As a greater commitment to digital channels occurs, the lack of commitment to use data to target effectively and the inability measure results could result in a perfect storm of ineffectiveness and inefficiency.

Time for a Strategic Planning Reset

There is evidence that most financial institution executives understand the digital transformation that is occurring in banking and the ramifications of increased consumer expectations and increased competitive pressures. Despite this understanding, many banks and credit unions have not made significant changes to their marketing strategies to adequately address the changing consumer and competitive landscape. When we look at trends over the past four years, most institutions seem to make only small adjustments to goals, strategies and tactics hoping for an evolutionary result.\

The question needs to be asked whether more budget and people are needed or whether budgets and people need to be reallocated for the digital future. The models and strategies in place today at the majority of financial institutions are not going to generate the acquisition, share of wallet or loyalty goals that financial marketers say they aspire to.

Rather than an evolution of marketing plans, there needs to be a revolutionary reset of marketing and retail banking strategies before the marketplace finds alternatives that are more responsive and in alignment with their needs.

4 Tips for Developing a Successful Digital Marketing Strategy

Source: The Financial Brand

A survey of 3,000 financial institutions found that fewer than 15% have mature digital marketing strategies. Here are four tips from marketing leaders in the financial industry to help you forge the right strategy and find success.

1. Be Data-Driven

Donna Lyon, who heads up email channels at Ally Bank, says digital marketing has moved beyond brand awareness to a more sophisticated model — one that’s data driven. Data is the forefront of skyrocketing a business to its maximum level of success. In order to capture the data you need to build the foundation of your digital marketing strategy, you must first determine the goals of your marketing department and how they contribute to your business’s overall success.

“Digital marketing has evolved from just using print and TV ads to a much more sophisticated model of using all digital channels to engage and target your customers and prospects at all different times and lifecycle stages,” explains Lyon. “With new technology available to companies and the marketing teams seeing the ROI from their campaigns in social media and email channels, we will continue to see digital marketing evolve.”

2. Diversify Your Marketing Efforts

Martha Tschantz, head of 360 marketing strategy at Citi, is a firm believer that the key to broadening customer and prospect reach is through diversifying marketing efforts.

“We deploy our integrated marketing campaigns across a host of traditional and evolving digital channels to ensure appropriate reach and frequency of our messaging,” explains Tschantz. “We also leverage paid strategies throughout the marketing funnel to be relevant in our content, offers, or product benefit reinforcement depending on where the consumer is in their purchase journey.” (Hint: “Paid strategies” includes things like paying for ads on social networks, retargeting, and programmatic ad buys.)

Because the space is constantly evolving, Tschantz emphasizes that you cannot stand still; you must be nimble. Her team uses a host of tools and digital platforms to continuously improve their marketing performance and relevance with consumers. And what fuels all of Citi’s successful campaigns is the data captured from their digital marketing efforts.

3. Listen to Your Customers

Developing a successful digital marketing strategy requires insight into what your ideal customer wants and is looking for, so it’s essential that your marketing is supported by tools that give you the data you need to produce revenue-returning campaigns.

Lyon’s marketing team at Ally Bank examines each phase of their customer lifecycle across multiple social channels to determine how to engage successfully with prospects. Social marketing is a great way to acquire new business by using tools to listen to what your customers are saying and also to target prospects that have similar attributes as your current customers. When using these tools, Lyon recommends having a process in place to provide timely responses to customer feedback and to share content that is on point with your brand but is also interesting to your customers.

Tschantz and her team at Citi also recognize the need to proactively engage with their audience to be at the top of their list when shopping for a financial solution, saying, “Consumers are always in the market for a financial service. Whether in an active or passive mode, leveraging the digital ecosystem is important to keeping your brand top-of-mind.”

The same philosophy is incorporated throughout other segments of the financial industry. Larry Marietta, head of Marietta Financial Services, recognizes the shifts in the financial industry towards digital marketing and understands the significance it has to his business. He’s invested in several areas of digital marketing, including a new website and writing and publishing original articles on their blog, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

Aaron Morrow, vice president with LJI Wealth Management LLC, also echoes Marietta’s sentiments on the importance of digital marketing. His goal as a wealth advisor is to draw attention to his firm’s services that people need. The financial services industry is so massive that it’s necessary for his company to really hone in on the value they specially provide.

“We have to provide awareness for our brand and services because when a prospect hears ‘financial advisor’ they lump everyone in the same group – insurance agents, brokers, planners, bank advisors, etc.,” explains Morrow. “There is such a large gap when it comes to financial services for services provided that the prospect gets confused and ends up getting sold a product instead of being provided a service. Our goal is to provide timely content that resonates with our potential target group, including heavy users of social and digital media.”

4. Pay Attention to the Customer Lifecycle

By analyzing your digital marketing metrics and results and determining where the most success and revenue is generated, you can gain invaluable insight into the customer lifecycle.

For Martha Tschantz at Citi, part of determining the customer lifecycle includes developing campaign strategies that are “pulled” through the customer journey, ensuring relevant messaging across online and offline channels. If her team found that a certain campaign successfully moved a customer from one phase in their lifecycle to the next and has the data to capture that, they are now empowered to use that campaign do the same for future Citi customers in that phase of their lifecycle. This allows for the content they are producing to be relevant to what their prospects are looking for in a financial institution or firm.

A consistent concern across the financial services industry is security, but there are secure solutions available, and they are essential to running your financial organization. As Donna Lyon of Ally Bank explains, “Even with security threats, people want to be able to interact with their financial business through the digital world, and that is why you must create a digital marketing lifecycle approach.”

Her team uses email as one of its tools to measure the customer lifecycle and drive engagement with their brand. An email can prompt a customer or prospect to engage with your social presence on sites like Facebook or Twitter, integrating multiple social platforms to drive their desired engagement and customer behavior. Email is at the risk of missed opportunities if businesses aren’t leveraging the data they’re collecting from their array of marketing campaigns.

Personalize emails and make them dynamically impactful to readers. This not only increases open rates, shares, and engagement with customers, but it encourages them to become an advocate for the business. For example, Lyon says, a new account opening could prompt an email for the customer to write a review on why they choose a new product, thus driving advocacy.

Given the constant stream of news within the financial industry that customers and prospects should be informed of, Aaron Morrow of LJI Wealth Management continues to stress how important it is to leverage digital marketing to measure the lifecycle of customers and keep them informed to build a loyal, successful audience.

Any industry can be disrupted by tech. Now it’s real estate.

Source: New York Times 

A New Dimension in Home Buying: Virtual Reality



The goggles were strapped to my face like a scuba mask. Only instead of fish, a studio apartment was wavering in my field of vision.

I moved forward, trying to enter the bathroom. Feeling slightly seasick, I hit the wall. This was embarrassing. I tried again and smacked into the door frame.

“Are you teleporting?” asked Jason Darcy, a data scientist and software engineer who works for Halstead Property.

I’d come to Halstead’s Manhattan headquarters to test the virtual reality technology that the company is developing. I’d already perused a 400-square-foot West Village resale using a Samsung Gear headset.

But the Halstead team was most excited about a four-story building in Astoria, Queens, that did not yet exist. Halstead had hired a company called Virtual Xperience to create a virtual rendering based on the architectural plans. The idea was to have potential buyers wear an Oculus Rift headset and “walk” around the building. The more realistic the experience, the more likely a client might be willing to pay the asking price of nearly $1.98 million for the building before construction crews even broke ground — at least that was the hope.


A Samsung Gear headset can be used to “walk” around an apartment and check out its view without ever having to set foot inside.CreditJennifer S. Altman for The New York Times 

“We sell based on emotion and attaching that emotion to a vision,” said Matthew J. Leone, the senior vice president of digital marketing for Terra Holdings, the parent company of Halstead. “Imagine a buyer walking out onto the terrace and thinking: ‘If I bought this home and was having breakfast here, this is exactly what I’d see.’ That’s incredible. For a salesman, it’s a dream come true.”

So was I teleporting? I kept bumping into virtual walls because the headset was making me extremely nauseated. The Starship Enterprise this was not.

Halstead says it will introduce three-dimensional displays and virtual-reality headsets to its offices this year, and the brokerage isn’t alone. Greenland Forest City Partners and Douglas Elliman Real Estate are also hoping to add virtual-reality technology in the coming months, as are individual brokers looking for a competitive edge. Digital design firms charge tens of thousands of dollars to create virtual customizable spaces for high-end buyers.

This technology is expected to transform the real estate industry and, some say, make house-hunting more efficient. It can help to reduce the stress of relocating to a new city or buying from abroad and also allow buyers to visualize properties in development.


Virtual reality videos show the water views that will be available from the Turnberry Ocean Club Residences in Florida. CreditARX Solutions 

In some cases, the excitement of providing virtual-reality technology to clients has created an outsize sense of the technology’s importance. One company was keeping its VR prototype secret, lest a competitor try to steal it. But whether the technology is ready for widespread use — and whether consumers really want it — remains an open question.

What is now available to consumers and growing more popular is the 3D walk-through. This is an updated version of the panoramic camera shots that were all the rage a decade ago. There’s no headset. Users move their mouse or arrow keys from their computer keyboards and devices to navigate through rooms and zoom in on apartment features. Halstead has 3D walk-throughs available for 30 listings, including one on Cornelia Streetin the West Village, but its goal is to get its entire inventory online. Mr. Leone said that people stay on a page with a 3D walk-through 10 times longer than those without.

The Boerum, a 20-story condominium at 265 State Street in Brooklyn, won’t be finished until late this year. But at the showroom of the developer and designer, Flank, brokers pull up renderings of specific apartments on a large-screen TV, using an iPad to move around. They can even take potential buyers over to the window to see the exact view, captured via drone. Buyers will know, for example, if their view might be blocked by another building.

Some virtual renderings are even more complex. Gonzalo Navarro, a principal of the digital design firm ArX Solutions, creates 3D walk-throughs showcasing specific furniture, artwork and fixtures for multimillion-dollar apartments.


Virtual reality videos show how a development in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, will fit into the surrounding green space.CreditVUW Studio/Greenland Forest City Partners 

“Imagine that you’re sending a check for $30 million and you have nothing to see,” Mr. Navarro said. “Our work is the closest you can get without having to build it. You feel the size. You get the textures.” His drones don’t just take photos but also capture video. So if there’s a lot of street noise, “I can’t lie to you,” he said.

The virtual apartments created by Mr. Navarro cost nearly $100,000 to make and take months to build. They can be viewed with an Oculus headset, Mr. Navarro said, but most clients don’t use this option. When presenting images of the 54-story Turnberry Ocean Club Residences in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., to the developer, Turnberry Associates, Mr. Navarro used a giant video wall to let the company’s executives virtually walk around the building without goggles. “We didn’t want the guy coming to write a $70 million check to get dizzy on us,” he said.

Jeffrey Hummel, the chief technology officer of Douglas Elliman, said that while virtual reality has a certain “wow” factor, as with any new technology, there are lessons to be learned. In his previous career as a financial services executive, Mr. Hummel gave his programming team pairs of Google Glass to test. “We had an outbreak of pink eye among all those people,” he said.

A quick fix for this, of course, is the Google cardboard headset, which typically costs less than $10. Randy Baruh, an associate broker for Corcoran, ordered a handful of these headsets and is planning to have them branded with his contact information and the Corcoran logo. He said he would distribute them at open houses along with his show sheets. (A quick response code on the sheet will start the VR app.) He has contracted with ProMedia, a New York-based production company, to create a few VR-capable listings. “It’s a way to set homes apart in this hypercompetitive environment,” he said.


To create a three-dimensional effect, several camera angles are seamlessly stitched together in a listing for the Corcoran Group. CreditMichael Canzoniero/ProMedia 

Mr. Leone of Halstead says virtual reality could eventually eliminate the need for open houses. “If you can see the homes remotely and be more educated before you actually make a trip, you’ll make the process easier,” he said.

At Douglas Elliman, Mr. Hummel said it would be better to put large-screen curved TVs in select offices until the headset technology “comes of age.” He says the goggles might be better suited to international buyers so they can evaluate a property “before taking an expensive plane ride.”

Greenland Forest City Partners says its fully immersive VR is ready to go. Later this month, buyers who come to the sales office for 550 Vanderbilt, a new condo building in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, will be able to don headsets and take a virtual tour of the eight-acre public park planned around the development.

As for my test at Halstead headquarters, even after I took off the Oculus headset I was feeling a tad queasy. Meanwhile, Mr. Leone and his team discussed possible enhancements to the virtual experience. Later this year, haptic technology, or the science of touch, will let users see their own hands in the virtual world, allowing them to open closet doors and feel hot water from the faucet. Mr. Darcy said smells and tastes were also being developed.

Mr. Leone added, “Freshly cut lemons and baking cookies would create the same experience as you’d have in a real-life home.”

What Facebook Knows About Marketing Banking Services to Millennials

Source: The Financial Brand

Here are four key financial marketing insights Facebook uncovered by mining thousands of conversations among its Millennial users.

Nearly anything market researchers and social scientists could ever want to know about consumers could be gleaned from Facebook’s ginormous database. It is quite possibly the biggest collection of consumer insight in the world — a virtual gold mine. Just like Google can tell health officials where the next flu outbreak will strike, there isn’t much Facebook couldn’t tell marketers about the psychology, preferences and motivations of today’s consumer. That’s doubly true for Millennials, who grew up living their lives on the world’s #1 social network.

So when Facebook decides to point its omnipotent analytical magnifying glass at the banking industry, financial marketers should sit up and pay close attention. You would be hard pressed to find a larger, more reliable sample for a research project.

To help financial institutions better connect with Millennials, Facebook examined their financial behaviors and attitudes about money. Facebook took a three-pronged approach, looking at consumer data, fielding surveys and (of course) analyzing conversations about financial matters on their own network, listening to Millennials in their own words.

Facebook sought unfiltered answers to the mission-critical questions banks and credit unions wrestle with today — how Millennials relate to the financial services, what Millennials really want from banking providers, and where the industry should focus to have the most impact.

In its study, Facebook focused on working-age Millennials (ages 21–34) in the United States, including a specific profile for affluent Millennials (HHI $75k+). They also looked across generations, comparing affluent Millennials to both Gen Xers and Boomers.

Here’s what they uncovered — four insights into the unique psychology behind Millennials and their relationship to money.

1. Millennials Are Redefining Financial Success

While #YOLO so often typifies Millennials’ social mindset, that is not the case with their financial mindset. According to Facebook, Millennials have two main financial priorities: paying down debt (43%) and saving for the future (38%). In fact, the burden of debt weighs so heavily on Millennials that they have redefined the meaning of “financial success” around it; 46% say that financial success means being debt free. By comparison, only 13% of Millennials say being able to retire is the number one indicator of financial success, and 21% who say owning a home is how they would define it..

“Millennials are the most educated generation in U.S. history,” says Facebook in its report, “and they continue to pay a heavy price for it. But whether it’s student loans or credit card debt, Millennials say paying down debt is their top priority.”

Millennials apparently have a complex relationship with credit. Millennials see credit cards as a strategic tool; 46% say the main reason they use them to build credit, and 36% say they use credit to increase their financial flexibility. Yet at the same time, they are wary of going deeper into debt, which is why more than half of all Millennials say they prefer to pay primarily with cash vs. credit, and one in four describe credit cards as something that worsens their financial standing. Even affluent Millennials in Facebook’s study were 2.2 times more likely than affluent Gen Xers/ Boomers to pay primarily with cash.

Looking at Millennials’ second most important financial priority — accumulating savings for the future — Facebook found that 86% are actually socking money away —whether for an emergency fund, a down payment on a home or just to be responsible. Facebook’s analysis of conversations on its network indicates that although many Millennials may just be starting to save, the “saver’s mindset” is already firmly entrenched.

2. Millennials Are Looking For a New Kind of Financial Partner

Millennials are 1.5 times more likely than Gen Xers and Boomers to be engaged, and 1.4 times more likely to move. These moments have major financial implications that many Millennials do not know how to deal with. In fact, 83% of Millennials in Facebook’s study say they seek financial guidance during those times, with buying a home being the main trigger (at 48%). But half of all Millennials say they have no one to turn to for financial guidance. Only 36% talk to their parents about money and just 8% trust financial institutions.

Growing up in a world of financial instability, constant innovation and near-infinite information, Millennials have unique needs and are not looking for the fuddy duddy kind of banks their parents used. Three out of five Millennials say they’d like their bank (or credit union) to be a partner; they want to feel understood. But only a minority of Millennials (32%) feel their bank understands them (compared to 41% of Gen Xers and Boomers).

Unfortunately, Millennials don’t see a lot of viable options among today’s banking providers. A third of Millennials describe their primary financial institution in unflattering terms — e.g., “used car salesman” or “aggressor” — which likely explains why they are 1.4 time more likely than other generations to switch. The good news? They are open-minded and optimistic. Nearly half (45%) say they would switch (banks, credit cards, or brokerage accounts) if a better option came along.

Ultimately Millennials expect three things from their financial providers. They want to feel rewarded for their loyalty (30%), they want things to be made easier and more convenient (29%) and they want honesty (28%).

3. Millennials Crowdsource Financial Advice

Where it was once taboo to talk about money in public, Millennials go online to talk about everything, and that includes financial issues. Facebook says Millennials are 1.5 times more likely than other generations to discuss their finances online. Furthermore, they focus 40% of the conversation about finance on Facebook. When faced with important financial questions, from how to best build credit to how to buy a home, Millennials put their faith in the wisdom of their friends and family online. And as the world shifts towards increasingly visual communication, from photos to videos, GIFs and emojis, the impact of imagery is felt within the financial conversation, too.

4. Millennials Live, Breath and Eat Mobile

Millennials are multichannel bankers. They expect to be able to engage across whatever channel is most convenient and best suited to their immediate needs. But mobile is their constant companion.

That’s why Facebook urges financial institutions to put mobile at the center of their multichannel ecosystem. They say that to woo and win Millennials, banks and credit unions must deliver a frictionless, omnichannel experience. Facebook says you must focus on your mobile app and look to seamlessly blend it with in-branch experiences. Make it easier for people to manage, move and research money, and give them new reasons to stay close on mobile. And make it as personal and customizable as possible.

Ten Tips to Connect With Millennials

Based on its findings, Facebook offers the following ten ideas to help financial marketers attract and acquire more relationships with Millennial consumers.

1. Think mobile first. Mobile is here, and it’s bigger than most people ever anticipated. Consumers now spend more time on mobile devices than any other option — even dethroning TV as the long-dominate media channel. But this new mobile reality raises huge questions for financial marketers. How do you build the right mobile experience and tell your brand’s story? (Hint: You can find the answers to these questions at The Financial Brand Forum, where Facebook’s very own Deepanjan De will be delivering a presentation that will help financial marketers leverage the mobile canvas.)

2. Help them walk before they run. Millennials are focused on near-term goals like paying off debt. Offer them solutions that address those pressing needs, have low barriers to entry (e.g., no minimum deposits) and help them manage multiple financial priorities (e.g., paying down debt, avoiding additional debt, and accumulating savings).

3. Give credit a makeover. Reposition credit to align with Millennials’ needs and values. Make it a strategic tool that gives financially responsible and goal-oriented Millennials the flexibility to achieve their short-term goals faster and build the credit they’ll need in the future. Appeal to the entrepreneurial mindset and make credit a lifehack.

4. Make financial planning a gateway. Helping Millennials develop a financial plan will not only provide them with a much-needed service, but it will make you a more valuable partner as you open their eyes to new financial opportunities.

5. Consider everyone a competitor. Today’s Millennials see innovation coming from outside the financial services industry. To become and remain relevant, be sure to look both within and beyond the category for inspiration.

6. Make it rewarding. Feeling understood and rewarded for their loyalty is uniquely important to Millennials and will require innovative forms of acknowledgement. Financial institutions could demonstrate their empathy and loyalty by waiving some fees in certain circumstances, offering a credit card with an interest rate that decreases over time or a savings account with an interest rate that increases over time.

7. Make it personal and actionable. Demonstrate understanding through personalized communication and by listening then prescribing. Once Millennials believe you get them, they will be eager for a concrete and customized action plan. Tell them what to do or tell them how you’ll take care of the situation for them.

8. Educate empathetically. Be present where people are talking about money matters. Champion the cause of financial literacy — a critical area of development for Millennials and massive area of opportunity for financial services to open minds and wallets.

9. Solve holistically. The questions people post often overlap because their financial needs are interconnected. Similarly, the solutions you offer should take into account and help resolve their multiple priorities.

10. Connect visually. While money matters are often discussed through text, the conversation is also increasingly visual. Just look to the financial hashtags people are using on Instagram as they share their photos and videos. Whether you use photos, videos or data visualization, inspire and persuade Millennials in the language they love most — images.

Conclusions & Key Takeaways

Millennials are misunderstood — famous for their impulse for instant gratification. But when we stop to observe their financial behaviors and listen to them describe their relationship with money in their own words, a new image of Millennial emerges. Cautious (some would say excessively so) and remarkably responsible, Millennials are diligent in paying down debt, careful with credit cards and dedicated to accumulating savings. But they stand at a crossroads. While most Millennials feel there is more they should be doing with their money, many just don’t know what to do. And half of Millennials say they have no one they trust for financial guidance.

Perhaps that’s one of the reasons Millennials feel disconnected from the financial industry. Many financial institutions have yet to realize that winning over the Millennial generation will require a transformative overhaul—from how each institution views its competition to how it connects with clients. Millennials have already begun shaping the future of financial services—reinventing the concept of financial advice as they increasingly put their investments in the hands of robo-advisors’ algorithms.

Millennials are on the cusp of many of life’s major milestone moments — from getting married to buying a home to becoming a parent. These moments increase their openness to new sources of guidance, and increasingly those sources come from outside the traditional financial sector.

To connect with Millennials and help them navigate life’s financial decisions, Facebook says banks and credit unions will have to take a fundamentally new approach. Millennials want to entrust their money to a true partner that shares their values and sees them succeeding together as they amass savings and unlock their greatest earning potential.

Millennials represent the future of the financial industry, and as their momentum continues to grow, those institutions that evolve and innovate alongside them will be best positioned to see the strongest long-term returns.

Shark Tank: AquaVault Unlocks Secrets Of Hooking A Deal And Marketing With No Money

Source: Forbes

The AquaVault, a portable lockbox, is the type of travel product you would find in the pages of SkyMall magazine next to the heated stadium seat cushion, eye mask attached to a travel pillow or luggage belt with a built-in scale. They’re ingenious yet paradoxically frivolous outside of the first world because of the obvious alternative solutions.

After all how often do you sit in a stadium that’s so cold you need heat under your rump? It’s probably about as often as you would need to store your valuables in a white plastic box with a resettable combination lock that attaches to a lounge chair.  You look at these products and can’t help but think: “WTF! Why didn’t I think of that!”

Robert Peck, Avin Samtani and Jonathan Kinas are a trio of friends genius enough to think of the AquaVault. They launched it in summer 2013 after two years of development. To bootstrap their Aventura, Fla.-based business, they gave up six-figure salaries in financial services and industrial contracting, cashed out retirement savings and sold their homes.

“We knew that if we did not execute on this idea, we would forever regret it and wonder what could have been,” said Kinas.

AquaVault founders (from left to right) Jonathan Kinas, Robert Peck and Avin Samtani, hooked a deal on Shark Tank (Season 6, March 2015) with Daymond John. (Photo: Jonathan Kinas)

They surely have nothing to regret after hooking a deal on Shark Tank. AquaVault’s founding trio plunged into the Tank in Season 6, March 2015. They were seeking $75,000 for a 12% stake of their business, valuing it at $625,000 on total sales of nearly $90,000.

Computer security king Robert Herjavec first offered $75,000 for 25%. But he retracted after hearing that they sold only 250 units among a dozen websites despite being featured on the Today Show and having reached out to numerous media outlets and bloggers.

“The more I heard, the more problems I heard,” Herjavec said. “I’m out.”

Kevin O’Leary, the educational software mogul, twisted the knife in the wound.

“One moment it was there and then ‘poof’ it’s gone,” O’Leary scolded. “You talk too much and you can’t keep you mouth shut and you lose a deal.”

Men’s fashion tycoon Daymond John offered the same deal as Herjavec. He insisted that they give an answer “now,” without letting any of the other Sharks compete. Peck, Kinas and Samtani glanced at each for a split second and accepted John’s deal without any discussion.

After Shark Tank, sales spiked more than fivefold from $87,000 to $500,000. Sales are expected to top $2 million this year and a mind-blowing $10 million annually within five years.

Kinas proves to be a treasure trove of business insights. He unlocks the secrets of bootstrapping a business, selling with zero marketing budget and locking a deal on Shark Tank.

From an Idea on a Napkin to a Bootstrapped Business

Ho: How did you come up with the idea for your business?

Kinas: It was a Saturday afternoon and we were all staying at one of the finer hotels in South Beach. The hotel will remain nameless for obvious reasons. But they now offer AquaVaults to their guests.

Before jumping in the pool, I inconspicuously hid all of my valuables in my shoes and tucked them underneath my lounge chair. Upon returning from a short swim, everything was gone. After wasting hours with the hotel security and police officers, it was very apparent that this unfortunate situation was a common occurrence.

One of the officers said: “Do you have any idea how many times a day we get calls for theft on the beach?” That single response provoked the wheels to spin in overdrive, which gave us the idea for inventing a portable safe that attaches to lounge chairs.

That night we created pages of sketches for what we knew would answer the question, “Where do I hide my valuables when going for a swim?” We knew that virtually everyone either knows of someone or heard of someone being robbed at the beach.

It was just remarkable to discover that nobody had come up with an idea to address this massive problem. Aside from coming up with a great idea, when making the commitment to form our partnership, it was critical that we all had complimentary skill sets, good chemistry and most importantly, we all shared in the same vision.

We acknowledged that every startup is fundamentally uncertain and the only guarantee is the commitment of blood, sweat and tears. We knew right from the beginning that if we were to work together, each one of us had to demonstrate a unique added value to justify the immediate dilution of ownership.

None of us had prior experience with inventing anything. The fear of failure and uncertainty were the first obstacles we collectively needed overcome. To quote Reid Hoffman, “An entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down.”

The Power of Empathy

Source: The Guardian 

Snackable content can give the numbers a boost – but it’s content with a meaningful message that has enduring appeal

TC Bank’s Dream Rangers ad has been viewed over 5.5 million times on YouTube. It’s inspired by a real-life group of older people who decided to get back on their motorbikes and go on a 1,000km (620 mile) cruise of Taiwan. Even though the commercial was first launched in 2011, this story of reclaiming a zest for life has had its own renaissance on social media over the past few weeks.

What makes content shareable, even years after it’s been initially released? What is it about this kind of content that causes such a powerful reaction – and prompts an audience to tell their friends and family about it?

Perhaps it’s content that evokes empathy, spurs thinking and provides meaning. Snackable content – the addictive, instantly gratifying kind – may boost media consumption but doesn’t tend to change minds and behaviors. Content that resonates more deeply is different: users share it not with the one friend who might appreciate it, but with their entire network – partly because it associates them with the topic.

Bob Gilbreath, author of The Next Evolution of Marketing, says the same is true for brands – they need to not just do meaningful marketing, such as cause marketing, but make marketing itself meaningful. If brands’ messages can add meaningful value to the lives of those who receive them, then those messages will be shared – effecting change not just in the consumer but in their community too.

Here are a few textbook examples of big brands using meaningful messages that spawned empathy and action:

Adele’s 25

The bestselling album from last year, Adele’s 25 smashed records on every level, including the highest first week album sales in both the US and the UK, as well as the most-watched video in 24 hours for Hello, among others. In stating that each of her age albums (the trilogy of 19, 21 and 25) is a snapshot of her experience during that year of her life, she strengthens the connection her fans feel to her and for her.

Buzz around the launch of 25 was fuelled by a free concert in New York’s Radio City Music Hall days before the album dropped. Televised online shortly after, the gig showcased the frenzy of excitement her fans felt about the album’s release. She also took part in a video of an Adele impersonator contest that has been viewed a staggering 43.8 million times. It all helped send sales through the roof.

Inside Out at the Puppy Bowl

One of the biggest films of last year was Inside Out, Pixar’s poignant journey into emotions. As part of the film’s promotional push, characters representing our primary emotions – Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear and Anger – gave a play-by-play commentary on Animal Planet network’s Puppy Bowl, which is broadcast opposite the NFL Super Bowl every year.

Placing these animated characters in the middle of an actual live event encouraged empathy from viewers and prompted them think mindfully about their own emotions – and go and see the film, of course.

Serial: season one podcast

This spinoff of NPR’s This American Life proved to be the podcast that catapulted the genre back into the mainstream. Not only did it grow wildly popular as the murder mystery unfolded, but it also helped to reopen what some considered a flawed case against the convicted murderer, Adnan Syed.

The level of empathy the audience had for the people involved became borderline obsessive, made evident by the millions that listened, dissected and discussed the episodes online and off. Some even took matters into their own hands and sent Sarah Koenig, the host and producer, tips to help discover the truth. The listeners were also forced to face tough questions of character, such as if anyone, including themselves, could be capable of heinous crimes given the right circumstances.

Regardless of the type of content that artists, brands and publishers create today, a meaningful authentic story can draw in an audience that could otherwise be critical and desensitized. The more the content focuses on the values that a brand (be it Adele, Pixar or Serial) and its audience hold dear, the more solid the relationship it builds with its audience – no small achievement especially in our constantly shifting landscape of content consumption.

Real, quality content is king again

Source: Esource

With the release of a series of algorithmic updates over the past few years, Google has upended the internet landscape and the world of website owners. Suddenly, website owners discovered that they could no longer drive traffic through the use of generic, bland, and repetitive content. Suddenly, quality content was king once again. Content mills–such as Demand Media–quickly gave way to sites such as Contently and content marketing firms willing to pay top prices for unique, high-quality content specifically created to address niche audience needs.

Content marketing, while really nothing new, has become top of mind and a must-do for organizations of all sizes. In fact, according to “Content Is the Fuel of the Social Web” by AOL and Nielsen, there are 27 million pieces of content shared daily. And that is precisely the problem for marketers-how can they create and distribute content that will effectively break through the clutter, resonate with their audiences, and, most importantly, generate some desired action?

That’s the million-dollar question, and it’s one that is likely to continue to baffle the growing masses of content marketers as we move into 2016. Before we look at what’s ahead, let’s take a look at what life was like for content marketers in 2015.

The Year in Review

Google hasn’t been the only driver of higher-quality content. A rise in consumer use of ad blockers also caused content marketers to scramble in 2015, says Aaron Goldman, CMO of 4C, a data science company based in Chicago. “As more people install ad-blocking software and apps, the imperative is to create content that your audience wants to-and still can-see.”

A report from PageFair, in partnership with Adobe-“The Cost of Ad Blocking”-estimated that ad blocking would cost publishers nearly $22 billion in 2015 and indicated that there are now 198 million active ad-blocking software users around the world.

In 2015, as in 2014, many content marketers were simply spinning their wheels, trying a variety of approaches in increasingly frantic attempts to engage an audience. Unfortunately, few have found the elusive success they seek.

It was an interesting year for content marketing, says Joe Pulizzi, the founder of Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and the author of Content Inc. “Almost every company in the world employs some kind of content marketing strategy and yet, according to Content Marketing Institute/Marketing Profs research, just 30% are seeing success.” Why the disconnect? Pulizzi says it has to do with strategy-or lack thereof. He says that the majority of content marketers “do not have a documented strategy, and more than half do not know what success looks like.” Their content marketing efforts, he says, tend to be built as campaigns and not as ongoing initiatives that could build audiences.

In 2015, content marketers faced a number of challenges. They were, according to Pulizzi, as follows:

  • A lack of focus on building an audience over time
  • Attempting to extract value too quickly (it takes time to build value)
  • Not telling truly differentiated stories
  • Running campaigns instead of consistent communication programs

Social media channels may be partly to blame. “The majority of platforms are giving brands less opportunity to communicate with connections,” says Pulizzi. “This has put a major focus back on email connections, where we have more control.”

But social media channels continue to proliferate and draw an audience. As they do, they are increasingly pushing users to buy the ability to get their messages in front of the audiences they hope to reach. In the process, says Goldman, the lines between content and advertising continue to blur. “More and more web properties are creating ad formats that mirror editorial content and blend into the site,” he says. “Good content can, and should, be amplified through native ads and advertorials.”

While 2016 promises to hold more of the same in the content marketing world, Pulizzi and others continue to exhort content marketers to shift their focus from churning out more and more content to thinking strategically about how content can be used to achieve their marketing goals and objectives.

A Look Ahead

In 2016, says Goldman, there will be more emphasis-and budget-placed on content marketing. “Companies will focus on operationalizing the practice by creating scalable and repeatable processes for generating content and leveraging technology automation to distribute and measure it,” he says.

Hopefully, these content marketing resources will be applied strategically. The lack of a well-defined and consistently applied strategy remains the biggest barrier for those attempting to drive audience engagement through content.

“Smart marketing isn’t about knowing how to take advantage of individual platforms, but figuring out how to fit them together in a campaign that is much greater than the sum of its parts,” says Matthew Sommer, partner and chief strategy officer for Brolik, a digital agency in Philadelphia. “I strongly believe that any marketer who is looking at content marketing as a separate discipline from SEO, PR, social media, or any other marketing discipline will find themselves left in the dust in 2016, as progressive marketers focus on the integration of these tools and platforms.”

As most continue to struggle to figure it all out, some will attempt to gain traction through acquisition. In 2016, expect to see a lot of “content marketing M&A [mergers and acquisitions],” says Pulizzi. “We will start to see serious buying interest and activity from brands of all sizes in the purchasing of niche media and blogger sites,” he says. “Yes, building an owned-media platform takes time, so some will short-circuit the process and just buy the asset.”

When it comes to content marketing, not much has changed during the past year. More and more organizations and individuals are jumping in to produce content, but one significant roadblock persists: the need to develop and implement a sound strategy designed to gain measurable results. It’s not just about continually creating and generating content. It’s about creating and generating content with a strategic purpose.

For now, as content marketers look ahead to 2016, the best place to focus their content-marketing-related energy continues to be on strategy-developing a clear path forward aligned with desired business outcomes and designed to resonate with well-defined audiences. With content marketing being adopted by more and more organizations, the path forward in 2016 must continue to be designed to cut through what promises to be an increasing amount of clutter in many forms, across multiple channels and multiple devices.

Why Content Marketing Is the Best Long-Term Marketing Strategy

Source: Inc.

For my money, there’s no better long-term strategy than content marketing. Here’s why.

Banking vs. Fintech: A Business Case for ‘Coopetition’

Source: The Financial Brand

In an increasingly digital banking environment, there is increasing validation for ‘coopetition’, with fintech firms partnering with legacy banking organizations.

Banking is an industry that has historically been slow to change, benefitting from unique product-specific expertise, extensive distribution networks, protective regulations and a very large and loyal customer base that are slow to switch financial providers. Until the relatively recent past, established financial organizations have generated good returns despite an increasingly outdated business model and back-office technology that was developed when ATMs were young.

Even as the Internet was developed and new technology-based competitors entered the financial services marketplace, few survived. According to McKinsey & Company, “In the eight-year period between the Netscape IPO and the acquisition of PayPal by eBay, more than 450 attackers – new digital currencies, wallets, networks, and so on – attempted to challenge incumbents. Fewer than 5 of these challengers survive as stand-alone entities today. In many ways, PayPal is the exception that proves the rule: it is tough to disrupt banks.”

A New Battlefield

As everyone in the banking industry realizes, there has been a new wave of disruption occurring in the banking industry over the past several years. As was found in the McKinsey research report, “The Fight for the Customer: McKinsey Global Banking Annual Review 2015,” the number of fintech start-ups is greater than 2,000 today, compared with 800 in April 2015. And the offerings of these firms spans product lines, consumer segments and industry boundaries.

Segments_and_products_of_350_leading_fintech_firms copy

According to research from McKinsey and CB Insights, nearly $23 billion of venture capital and growth equity has been deployed to fintech firms globally over the past five years, with $12.2 billion being deployed in 2014 alone.


Will History Repeat Itself?

The question asked in the McKinsey article, “Cutting Through the Noise Around Financial Technology,” is whether the competitive dynamics are different this time around compared to the beginning of the era. The banking industry is still highly regulated, managing a majority of deposits, loans, and payments activity and, despite a loss of trust caused by the financial crisis, has been relatively resilient in maintaining customers.

On the other hand, the capabilities of mobile devices have negatively impacted the advantages of physical distribution that banking previously enjoyed. Mobile banking has simplified many rudimentary transactions, such as checking balances, making deposits, transferring funds and paying bills, while making payments using a smartphone may be on the horizon. In addition, the accessibility of big data, combined with the lower cost of advanced analytics is quickly enabling highly personalized contextual engagements.

One other significant change impacting the future of banking is the consumer demographics. According to McKinsey, “In the United States alone, 85 million millennials, all digital natives, are coming of age, and they are considerably more open than the 40 million Gen Xers who came of age during the dot-com boom were to considering a new financial-services provider that is not their parents’ bank.” More importantly, this new breed of digital consumer is becoming more and more comfortable with researching, shopping, buying, engaging and becoming loyal without ever walking into a physical structure. Unfortunately, according to McKinsey, the origination and sales component of banking represents 60% of banking profits.

Six Fintech Keys to Success

While the failure rate for fintech businesses this time around is still likely to be high due to many of the challenges discussed in our article, “Banking and Fintech: An Uncommon Partnership,” there will still be some fintech winners. In fact, according to McKinsey, 10% to 40% of banking revenues could be at risk by 2025 due to the digitization of processes and engagement by fintech firms which will drive pricing lower.

McKinsey believes the fintech ‘winners’ will be firms with the following benefits, offered either by themselves or in partnership with legacy banking firms:

1. Improved Modes of Customer Acquisition

One of the major disadvantages of most fintech firms today is that they lack the scalability that most banking firms possess. To be successful, fintech firms will need to find ways to attract significant numbers of customers cost-effectively. The equation is not only one of lower costs, but the ability to market to mass markets cost effectively. This requires capital, but also requires consumer name recognition, trust and a strong value proposition.

2. Lower Cost to Serve

The economic advantages of digital distribution over physical distribution are one of the primary advantages for fintech firms. According to McKinsey, many fintech lenders have up to a 400-basis-point cost advantage over banks because they have no physical-distribution costs. This cost advantage enables fintech firms to pass savings to customers with regard to cost and time to process loan applications.

3. Advanced Analytics

Big data and advanced analytics provides several significant advantages to fintechs, including the ability to redesign products (new credit scoring algorithms) to developing contextual offers based on  a better understanding of customer needs. According to McKinsey, “In a world where more than 90% of data has been created in the last two years, fintech data experiments hold promise for new products and services, delivered in new ways.”

4. Segment-Specific Offerings

One of the ways fintech firms have been successful is to focus on segments with unmet needs as opposed to being all things to all people (like legacy banking firms have been). Many fintech start-ups have focused on three segments – millennials, small businesses, and the underbanked, because of their sensitivity to cost, openness to remote delivery and distribution, and their large scale.

5. Leveraging Existing Infrastructure

Successful fintech will find ways to engage with the existing ecosystem of banks. Lending Club, PayPal and other successful start-ups have found ways to leverage what currently exists. Many firth firms will accomplish this through partnerships with banking organizations. While the fintech will bring agility, a penchant for innovation and technological prowess, they will benefit from an established customer base, a regulatory “ombudsman,” and significant capital..

6. Understanding Risk and Regulations

While many fintech attackers fly largely under the regulatory radar, they will attract attention as they acquire scale. McKinsey believes regulation is a key swing factor in how fintech disruption could play out. “Although unlikely to change the general direction, regulation could affect the speed and extent of disruption, if there were material shocks that warranted stronger regulatory involvement, such as cybersecurity issues with leading fintechs. The impact could also vary significantly by country,” says McKinsey.

The determination of success for fintech firms will be how well they can leverage the above components as part of their business model. Despite the anticipated high failure rate of fintech firms in general, the winners will benefit from a combination of the above along with some always present business “luck.”

Six Banking Keys to Success

There is a lot of noise about fintech firms today. Some legacy banking organizations may dismiss the noise entirely, or they may panic and overreact. McKinsey recommends a middle ground, focusing on the business components that have always proven to be successful. Beyond these basics, traditional banking organizations should “follow the fintech lead,” embracing the components of a digital organization, becoming better positioned for the future.


1. Comprehensive Data Ecosystem

Big data and advanced analytics provides a competitive advantage in each step of the customer journey, including customer acquisition, customer engagement, transaction processing, relationship deepening, customer retention and loyalty. “Building a comprehensive data ecosystem to access customer data from within and beyond the bank, creating a 360-degree view of customer activities, creating a robust analytics-and-data infrastructure, and leveraging these to drive scientific (versus case-law-based) decisions across a broad range of activities from customer acquisition to servicing to cross-selling to collections—all are critical to a bank’s future success,” states the McKinsey article.

2. Improved Consumer Experience

Today’s digital consumer expects real-time, multichannel capabilities that are highly personalized and contextual. As discussed numerous times in The Financial Brand, consumer expectations are increasingly being set by non-banks. At a time when advanced data analytics can be processed instantaneously, the consumer should be able to transact, engage, open accounts and check on the status of their account or loan application in real time.

3. Contextual Offerings

According to McKinsey, successful banking organizations need to be able to master digital media, content marketing, digital customer-life-cycle management, and marketing operations, providing offers (or warnings) that reflect the consumer’s individual financial situation at any moment.

4. Simplification Through Digitization

All paper processes must be replaced with a digital counterpart. Simplification, digitization, and streamlining opportunities exist across the banking organization. Until manual and paper processes are digitized, fintech firms will have an advantage since they will have a structurally lower cost base. Digitization allows banks and credit unions to test and scale to achieve efficiencies.

5. Enhanced Use of Technology 

An increasing number of consumers want to interact with their financial partner digitally. This will require new standards for defending consumers’ data from breaches. Legacy banking organizations will also need to innovate and upgrade technology through techniques such as agile and continuous delivery. Finally, and probably most importantly, banks and credit unions need to move onto new technology platforms.

6. Removal of Silos

As opposed to the typical structure of banks and credit unions, fintech firms are oriented around the consumer as opposed to around products. This requires an organizational structure that supports a data- and insight-driven operating model, and provides a differentiated customer experience. This new structure will not only better serve the customer, but also be able to drive improved innovation.

A ‘Winner Take All’ Battle?

According to McKinsey, the six keys to success for fintech firms and banking, while different, have the same impact: a long-term shift in the nature of competition and successful business models. “The overarching challenge for banks is how to ‘open up’ structurally – with respect to how they leverage partnerships and how they permit other entities to access their capabilities. Those banks that pursue a thoughtful approach to meeting this challenge will be best positioned to evolve their business models and find new sources of value for their customers while performing well financially.”

Whether or not fintech firms succeed or fail individually or as a group is inconsequential. The banking industry needs to understand the overarching changes in the marketplace and adjust quickly and accordingly. New business models need to be developed that leverage the advantages of digital and mobile technology and these models need to be repositioned for success. This will require a change in culture and the ability to understand that to improve the consumer experience may require building partnerships with ‘the enemy’ and bringing the best of both worlds to the marketplace.

The New Content Marketing: 5 Major Changes Brands Need to Make

Source: Business News Daily

Although “content marketing” has become standard practice for all brands only over the last 15 to 20 years, the concept of creating content specifically for your brand’s target customers is not new.

According to a Content Marketing Institute blog post, content marketing has always been about storytelling — but online outlets have made the barriers to entering the publishing arena much lower. Decades ago, only brands with enough money to print their own publications or sponsor a radio or television program could get into content marketing. As technology evolved and opened up platforms for blogging, photo sharing and video uploading, more companies in more industries could make their voices heard.

But recent years have brought on some major shifts in the kind of content that is created — and how it’s pushed out to the public. Here are five ways content marketing has radically changed, and where experts believe it will go.

From posting on Instagram to sharing a Snapchat story or using emojis to convey an entire message, consumers are communicating in pictures, not words, said Matt Langie, CMO of visual marketing platform Curalate. As consumers continue to communicate visually, brands have updated their content marketing to be more visual, too.

“Not only are visual channels of communication changing how people discover, connect [with] and engage with brands, but they’re influencing the types of images that people relate to,” Langie said. “Domino’s is a great example of a brand that’s embracing the visual consumer, launching the first emoji-driven food-ordering system — tweet the pizza emoji if you want a pie — last year.”

Lauren Fritsky, senior manager of global content for marketing technology company MediaMath, agreed, and said that although long-form content still exists, shorter, more digestible visual content — infographics, short videos, interactive quizzes, etc. — has become the norm.

Peggy Chen, senior director of product marketing at SDL, a provider of customer experience solutions, said that brands used to focus on a one-size-fits-all content strategy, in which everything was created and sent out to their audience the same way. Single-channel distribution methods no longer cut it in a world where customers consume content at their own speed and on their preferred networks, she said.

“[Consumers] expect a consistent customer experience across all digital and physical touch points,” Chen told Business News Daily. “In the early days, websites were largely looked at as online brochures. Today, websites need to be designed to accommodate a multitude of ‘customer journeys.’ Brands need to segment their customers to truly understand their needs and desires, and deliver a digital experience that speaks to them specifically.”

Several years ago, there was a big push for brands to produce as much content as they possibly could, regardless of whether it was good. The idea was that the more recent content you published, the higher search engines would rank you. While it’s still true that frequent publishers enjoy better search results, the quality of the content matters more now.

“Marketers have moved away from needing to pump out so much content just to stay relevant,” Fritsky said. “Marketers are more targeted and discretionary in what they are producing.”

Leeyen Rogers, vice president of marketing at online form builder JotForm, added that consumers have become overwhelmed by all the content that’s available today, and spammy “clickbait” articles, though still prevalent, are no longer the way to go.

“It’s frustrating to have to sort through the noise to get to the quality content that is actually useful, interesting and something that you would truly recommend to others,” Rogers said. “Because of the exorbitant number of articles out there, your content must be good [in order] to stand out. You cannot get away with writing an intriguing headline that gets clicks but then not delivering in the body of the article. This is a spammy practice that does not win any favors with long-term readers.”

Much of the branded content of the past was almost entirely focused on product information: what the product is, when and how to use it, etc. This helped people who were specifically looking for details about the product, but didn’t do much else. Product-related content still exists, but now the product itself tends to be a footnote in a more engaging, wide-reaching piece that fits seamlessly into the existing publication or platform. Native advertising programs that exist for this very purpose are gaining traction among content marketers.

“If you offer something truly useful to your customer, the rewards will follow,” said Bryn Dodson, senior content specialist at Blue Fountain Media. “Traditionally, ‘useful’ meant ‘informative,’ but I’d argue that providing associations and experiences is becoming almost as important.”

“To engage consumers, your content can’t just push products,” Langie added. “It needs to be authentic, add value and convey a larger lifestyle.”

Stacia Pierce, a business expert, coach and mentor, noted that relatable, shareable content — articles, social posts and images that resonate with the average person — has become a content marketer’s best bet for reaching a target audience.

“The best [content] adds ‘humanness’ … and forms an emotional connection to your audience,” Pierce said. “The more people talk about something, the more likely they are to share it with others. Commenting on what’s trending on social media or common social woes like #MondayMornings will help your brand stay relevant.”

Marketers initially did content marketing simply because were told they needed a website, a blog and social profiles, Fritsky said. They were publishing content, but not tracking its performance to see what audiences really liked. Today, she said, marketing has become more data-driven, with more tools to better measure performance such as engagement, shares, channel analysis, and what people are doing before and after they interact with a piece of your content.

“Now, marketers can more accurately and quickly optimize content that is working and retire different topics and formats that are not, to maximize results,” Fritsky said. “Smart marketers are also able to track ROI [return on investment] of content and how it influences lead conversions.”

Our expert sources shared their thoughts on where the new and improved notion of content marketing will go in the years to come.

Stock photos will fade away. “Stock photography is quickly losing relevance to editorial-style creative. So, if you’re still defaulting to sterile product photos [with a] white background on your product pages, on your social channels, in emails and within digital ads, you’re doing a huge disservice to your brand. For example, [our client] Sigma Beauty knows their customers are more likely to click on a makeup product when it’s on a person versus in someone’s hand, so they’ve built product pages to reflect this. By complementing traditional stock photos with authentic lifestyle imagery, they’ve grown on-site engagement by nearly four times.” – Matt Langie

Varied, multichannel campaigns will help content spread. “The art of storytelling will come more into play to showcase brand voice and beliefs, with marketers divvying up this content across channels for the best engagement. Marketers are also getting smarter in how they give a single piece of long-form content legs. One white paper can turn into an infographic, an interactive e-book [or a] webinar, blog series, social tiles, etc.” – Lauren Fritsky

The ‘customer journey’ will drive content creation. “The proliferation of channels and new methods of communication has fundamentally altered the way buyers make purchase decisions and interact with brands. The plethora of touch points available online and off-line have put customers in the driver’s seat, allowing them to create their own road map and experience with a brand rather than following linear routes dictated by marketers. This marked shift means that marketers will … [start] viewing everything from an aerial approach and holistically working on an overall digital experience.” – Peggy Chen


Survey: When Good Content Marketing Tools Go Bad

Source: Forbes

Don’t settle for duct tape when you need a screwdriver.

I learned that at the tender age of nine when I needed to tighten the screws on my skateboard. I couldn’t find a screwdriver anywhere in my dad’s tool box, so I grabbed what I thought was the next best thing – duct tape.

I learned a critical life lesson just minutes after my repair job. As the wheels fell off and I went flying through the air, I realized how important it was to use the right tools for the job.

Duct tape had always been helpful for me, but it definitely wasn’t the right tool for the skateboard job.

Survey reveals small businesses aren’t always using the right tools for their marketing efforts

Marketing tools are always helpful for small businesses, but according to the 2016 State of Small Business Report, companies aren’t always using the right tools for the job.

Especially when it comes to social media and marketing.

One in five small businesses do not use social media at all, and of those that do, 45% use it to promote specific products or services, and 38% use them to share information about promotions, sales or discounts. Other uses include:

Chart showing how small businesses use social media

Social media is a great tool, but it’s most effective when it’s used for the right job – relationship building.

Since its inception, social media has been all about personal connection, entertainment and conversation. It’s never been about sales, and frankly, users find advertising and sales pitches very annoying.

“People are being sold on social as a place to generate leads, but it’s really a place to build loyalty, answer customer service questions and to build a community,” social media strategist Ted Rubin said in Forbes.

In attempts to build a community, 38% of small businesses use social media to gain likes or fans. In the early days of social media, this was a great approach, but the value of likes and fans has fallen dramatically thanks to platforms’ changing algorithms that determine what these folks see on their news feeds. In realityless than 3 percent of your fans or followers will ever see your business’s posts in their news feeds. That means that only 30 of your 1,000 Facebook fans will ever see your post, and only a handful of them will take the time to click on it.

It’s better to collect email addresses rather than likes and fans. Why? Email marketing, which is used by 54% of small businesses, allows you to communicate directly with ALL members of your audience, not just the miniscule few selected by a social media app.

How small businesses are using their websites

A business website is another great marketing tool, and it’s most effective when it’s used for the right job – sharing the information people need.

Think about why people come to your website.

They come to learn about your products and services, look for a job, make a purchase, or leave feedback.

Unfortunately, many small business websites are not set up to meet those needs. The State of Small Business Report revealed 51% of small businesses use their website for marketing, and 62% of them provide visitors the opportunity to learn about their goods or services on the site. However:

  • Only half provide company locations, phone numbers and email addresses.
  • Only 32% of small businesses give website visitors the opportunity to purchase a product or service.
  • Only 35% give them the opportunity to apply for a job.
  • Forty-nine percent allow them to contact sales or customer service.

To make finding information even easier for online audiences, small businesses should also optimize their sites for better visibility on search engines. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is used by only 25% of small businesses, which means there’s a lot of small businesses not showing up on Google searches  – and that’s rather tragic because 97% of consumers search online for products and services.

Chart showing options offered on small business websites

Other marketing tidbits from the 2016 State of Small Business Report

  • Involve employees: Thirty-three percent ask employees to share business content on their personal social media accounts.
  • Use of Facebook: Facebook use fell from 79% in 2015 to 70% in 2016. Use of other social media apps is as follows:Social media apps used by small businesses
  • Personal touch: Showcasing employees in marketing materials can help personalize your business and boost employee morale, but only 30% of small businesses do so.
  • Use of video: Eleven percent use video in their marketing efforts.

Get more information

You can learn more about what small businesses said about their marketing practices by checking out the State of Small Business Report.

In addition to marketing data, the report also contains information about small businesses’ perceptions about other topics including growth, hiring, the economy, business challenges, government involvement and technology use. The information was taken from a December 2015 online survey of 1,102 small business owners and leaders.

Bigger Isn’t Necessarily Better: Why Content Campaigns Fail

Source: Search Engine Journal

Do you know why I love content marketing? Because every brand can make a considerable impact—regardless of their size.

It doesn’t take a multi-million dollar budget or even hundreds of posts each month. In fact, sometimes large budgets and high quantity can lead to worse content marketing. I’ve seen many companies use these things as a crutch for publishing sub-par content.

Don’t get fooled. Bigger isn’t necessarily better.

In content marketing, slow and steady wins the race. It doesn’t matter if you’re a large corporation or a small shop. But if it doesn’t have to do with budget or company size, why do content campaigns fail?

I’ve broken down the why into four main reasons:

You Haven’t Developed an Actionable Strategy

65% of B2B marketers don’t have a documented content marketing strategy.

That’s a huge number of companies aimlessly trying to make something stick. If you want to beat them, you’ve got to make a strategy, document it, and stick to it.

Set Reasonable Expectations

As you strive to set your content marketing strategy, don’t aim for a goal so lofty that you’ll never be able to reach it. Set reasonable, realistic expectations. No, you can’t make $1,000,000 from that $5,000 investment in 30 days.

Content marketing just doesn’t work like that.

Come up With a Plan for Reaching Your Goals

Once you’ve set goals that you can achieve, work backwards to decide how you’ll get there. Come up with a detailed plan of exactly what you need to do on a monthly and weekly basis to reach your goals.

Document it and Review the Strategy on a Regular Basis

Now, write it all down!

Don’t forget to review the strategy every now and again. It’s easy to forget your goals and get distracted. Keep your strategy top-of-mind by looking at it from time to time.

You’re Not Investing 100% in Your Campaign

If we’re all honest with each other, sometimes we’re just not 100% invested in the campaign. Other things steal our attention and we just can’t find the time to execute good content marketing. It happens to everyone.

And, unfortunately, that lack of investment is exactly why your content campaign fails. To succeed in this noisy marketplace, you’ve got to put in the work to stand out.

Anything less does a disservice to your brand.

Decide What Type of Investment You Want to Make

Before you can invest 100%, you’ve got to decide what that 100% looks like for you. Generally speaking, there are two main forms of investment when it comes to content marketing:

  • An investment of your time
  • A financial investment

You can take an either/or approach, or blend the two for a well-balanced campaign. Just be sure your commitments are based in reality. If you’ve only got an hour free each day, don’t plan to fit eight hours of work into that timeframe.

Time Investment: A DIY Approach to Content Marketing

Many people think they can’t do good content marketing because they don’t have the money. That’s simply not true. Content marketing can be done extremely cheaply, it’s just going to cost you something different: your time.

Time is the great equalizer. We all only have 24 hours in the day.

If you can’t afford to hire someone else to do content marketing for you, then you need to invest your time and do it yourself.

Financial Investment: Hire a Strong Team of People

If, on the other hand, you do have the funds, you can save your time by making a financial investment. This comes in the form of doing things like:

  • Hiring a team or agency to handle your marketing
  • Investing in advertising opportunities

Whichever path you pick, go all-in with it. If you don’t spend the hours it takes to make your content campaign successful, you can’t complain when it fails. Likewise, if you don’t invest in a competent marketer that brings results, you’ll be just as likely to fail.

It’s all about making a strong investment—regardless of the investment type.

You’ve Given up Before Giving it a Chance

It’s frustrating when you aren’t getting the results you want from your content. As a result, many brands give up on content marketing way too soon. They throw in the towel and make the excuse that content marketing just won’t work for their business.

If you really want to see results, you’ve got to give it a chance.

Choose the Right KPIs and Stick With Them

Measuring the right key performance indicators (KPIs) is the only way to really know what’s working. If you don’t measure success, how will you know when you achieve it?

It all comes down to your KPIs.

There are a number of different KPIs you could use to measure success. A few of the more popular indicators include:

  • Page visits
  • Downloads
  • Time on page
  • Inbound links
  • Social media shares
  • Conversion rates
  • Comments on posts
  • Subscribers to email

The KPIs you choose will ultimately depend on your overall goals. For example, if you want to use your website to build your email list, using subscribers as a KPI is a logical choice. If you’re more concerned about expanding your social presence through content marketing, measure your social shares.

Give it at Least Nine Months of Complete Dedication

Content takes time to gain traction. The web is a huge place, filled with tons of information. You need to give your work time to be noticed and engaged with by your audience.

I like to advise people to make a minimum investment of nine months for content marketing endeavors. At that point, if it’s still not making an impact in your business, you can reevaluate your investment.

But during that time, you have to give it 100%.

Don’t Throw in the Towel—Adjust and Make Changes When Necessary

If something doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to make adjustments. If your car broke down and all that needed to be replaced was an engine belt, you wouldn’t trash the car. You’d fix the belt and keep on driving.

Think of your content campaign in the same way. If your efforts aren’t working, replace the broken parts and keep using the overall machine.

Giving up too early has been the downfall of many solid content marketing strategies. Even small content campaigns can make an impact—but not if you give up before they have a chance to succeed.

You’re Just Not Publishing Good Content

I’m going to be brutally honest right now: Most marketers don’t produce good content and that’s why their campaigns fail.

It’s not because you aren’t publishing enough. And it’s not because you don’t have enough money. It’s because the quality isn’t there.

That’s a sad reality, but it doesn’t have to be that way…

Stick to Accepted Standards for Writing Online

Writing for the web isn’t like any other type of writing. It takes a special kind of style, tone and format to do correctly.

And if your content doesn’t measure up to these standards, it won’t make the kind of impact you want. What are these standards? I like to use the guidelines put together:

Why Your Content Marketing Campaigns Fail | SEJ

Avoid Generic Content That’s Full of Fluff

Get to the point. There’s no reason to add extra words. Fluffy content just for the sake of a longer article does more harm than good.

Instead, write in-depth posts backed with statistics, images, and research. Ask yourself what kind of content would be genuinely helpful to your audience, and then provide it.

Support Written Content With High-Quality Design

In many ways, design is just as important as the writing itself. And both design and writing fall into the overall “content” category.

The online world is becoming increasingly and increasingly visual. It’s important that when you publish custom graphics or images, they’re high-quality and a good resolution.

No one wants to look at poor design—don’t drag your content creation efforts down by using it.

Will You Do What it Takes to Succeed?

Have you ever failed with a content marketing campaign? I think we all have at one point or another. Luckily, failure doesn’t mean death. You can get back up and try again right now.

It’s that kind of tenacity that will make you a content marketing success story

Not all social media returns can be quantified — but here are some ways to measure your success

Source: Memeburn 

As businesses start to dedicate more resources to managing their social media channels, the question that they are asking is how they should measure return on investment. There is no simple formula for creating a rand-and-cents metric for measuring social media. But social media does offer you the flexibility of setting up the metrics that make sense for your business and its objectives.

This demands careful thought in terms of what your business goals are and how these can be measured to give you actionable information that you can use to improve business performance.

Here are some metrics worth considering:

1. Customer service trends and impact

Today, few brands can afford not to be on the more popular social media channels with some sort of customer service presence. Track the amount of queries you receive, what the most common complaints and issues are, and your success rate in resolving customers’ problems.

Many brands try to usher a person who is complaining on social media to another channel such as the contact centre or email. I think it’s better in most cases to resolve the case across social media so that other users can see your good customer service in action.

2. Quality and volume of conversation

Content marketing is the new buzzword. Many brands are publishing massive volumes of content on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and every other channel in the hope that it will mean something to someone somewhere.

Rather than publishing for the sake of it, publish to start conversations. Sparking conversion is about asking people what they need and want. And it’s about adding value to their lives. Track what people in your market are talking about and create content tailored to their interests. Competitions and incentives also work well.

Also, be thoughtful in creating engaging and useful content that will support your product and service launches. Social media can be a great way of driving adoption. If you’re launching a banking app, for example, ask people if they are using it. If not, why not? Then address their concerns.

To measure success, look at who is talking about you, what they have to say about your content, and what sort of actions they are taking. For example, are you getting app downloads or website visits? Look beyond mentions and retweets – also try to look at the sentiment that lies beneath them.

3. Share of voice

Don’t underestimate the impact that gaining share of voice can have on your business. Benchmark how your social media efforts enhance your share of voice, as well as how positive or negative the conversations around your brand are. An efficient presence on social media can vastly improve your brand’s visibility and reputation among consumers.

And it can be important in winning trust from the younger generations who see social media as their preferred channel for communication and their first stop for news, information, and product recommendations.

4. Customer conversion and acquisition metrics

Social media’s most important role, I would argue, lies in customer retention and building a great brand experience (here, I‘m leaving aside social media advertising, which can be a powerful direct marketing tool).

That said, it can also play a supporting role in your sales strategy. You could, for example, track your audience growth rate and see how it maps into the growth of your business. And you might be interested to track customers who arrive on your website from social media and see how their engagement and conversion activity compares to those who arrive via search.

5. Social media as a way of measuring other business metrics

In addition to measuring social media ROI, many marketers are using social media to keep track of other elements of their businesses’ performance. By monitoring social channels, you can learn a great deal about what customers are saying about your brand, your products, and your advertising campaigns.

Social media is a powerful and cost-effective way to do market research, and in near real-time. Some interesting things to measure, using social media monitoring and listening tools, might include:

  • Are people talking about our multimillion Rand brand campaign and is their sentiment positive or neutral?
  • How much are they talking about our products and those of our competitors?
  • What are their feelings about them?
  • Are we seeing a lot of complaints or praise for our customer service? What are the trends over a month or a year?

Closing words

Social media can be a highly effective business tool if driven by a senior executive who aligns it to real business goals, and then uses meaningful metrics to gauge progress.

Not all of social media’s value can be measured, however, returns such as earning consumer trust, opening a channel for conversation, and improving your customer experience can be differentiators for your brand, as challenging as they might be to quantify.

What Financial Marketers Can Learn From the Travel Industry

Source: The Financial Brand

The travel industry has proven how access to individual transaction-level data can enable highly contextual marketing activities, resulting in consumer loyalty, engagement and market growth. Can the banking industry follow the same model?

According to a report from Forbes Insights, organizations that are “leaders” in data-driven marketing report far higher levels of customer engagement and market growth than their “laggard” counterparts. In fact, leaders are three times more likely than laggards to say they have achieved competitive advantage in customer engagement/loyalty (74% vs. 24%) and almost three times more likely to have increased revenues (55% vs. 20%). Leaders in data-driven marketing are also more than six times more likely than laggards to report achieving competitive advantage in increasing profitability (45% vs. 7%) and five times more likely to have succeeded in customer retention (74% vs. 13%).

The report, Data Driven and Digitally Savvy: The Rise of the New Marketing Organization, found widespread agreement that data-driven marketing is crucial to success in a hyper-competitive global economy. “Effective data-driven marketing draws on resources from across the enterprise, not a single department,” says Bruce Rogers, Chief Insights Officer and head of the CMO Practice for Forbes Media. “And without data, marketing is not based on customer intelligence.”

The Forbes study also found that the travel industry was a clear leader in achieving competitive advantage through data-driven marketing. Sixty-seven percent of travel executives said they have achieved a competitive advantage in customer engagement/loyalty, 56% in new customers and 59% in customer satisfaction.

The question is, can financial marketers learn from the travel industry?

Advancements in technology — specifically the mobile device — and in data analytics greatly enhance the ability for all firms to connect with consumers. Similar to the banking industry, the travel and hospitality industry was forced into digital transformation because of disruption that initially took place almost two decades ago.

This transformation continued as new digital only players competed with traditional travel firms. These disruptors that set consumer expectation ranged from Expedia, a full service booking agency that entered the marketplace 20 years ago, to the more recent phenomena in car service, Uber and lodging with Airbnb.

The Digital Revolution Began 20 Years Ago

Expedia entered the marketplace in 1996 offering online travel options to consumers. The transparency and online price comparison tools yielded an overwhelming customer acceptance to this new way of booking travel. Consumers now had the ability to book their travel online with all information a travel agent had at their own fingertips.

In November 1996, a Wall Street Journal ad announcing Expedia hit the streets. There was little notice from the travel industry since travel agents around the world did not think online, self-serve booking would take away any of their direct business. Within 4 months after introduction, Expedia was already booking $1 million a week in travel revenue. Today, the digital transformation continues with mobile usage.

Mobile Enables On-the-Go Booking

Depsite the small screens of smart phones, mobile adoption for booking continues to be on the rise. In a recent analysis by eMarketer, online travel bookings are decreasing while mobile bookings continue to rise. In 2016, 51.8% of all digital bookings will take place on a mobile device, which is up from 43.8% for 2015. In fact, eMarketer has had to continue to adjust mobile usage predictions upwards because the travel industry continues to make self-service booking swift and easy on the mobile device.




study by Expedia similarly found that there were 156 million US consumers that engage with digital travel content and 90% of monthly travelers do so on their smartphone or tablet.

Mirroring the challenges found in the banking industry, the travel industry was faced with the challenge of effectively mining essential data points from multiple silos within their organization and across product lines. The airlines, car companies, lodging firms and cruise lines were tasked to determine a means of consolidating their data across bookings, payments, loyalty programs, operations, complaints, & social media.

Not only were these firms needing this insight internally, they needed to make it available to the consumer as well — on their smartphone. For example, a typical airlines app contains loyalty information (rewards data), reservations — past, present and future (bookings), a view of payments (finance), boarding passes (travel operations) and provides the option of real-time alerts regarding flight status. This data is being effectively pulled from disparate systems, with the mobile device being the critical delivery channel for the traveler.

Keys to Digital Transformation Success

The Selligent Trend Report, Digital Transformation in the Travel Industry, commends the travel industry stating, “Since travel vendors have staked out their digital real estate, networked their owned properties across online channels as well as partner sites, and built a loyal customer base, they are perfectly positioned for the next wave of change — big data combined with intelligent analytics.”

Integrated digital optimization that is heavily reliant on data and analytics is a must to effectively engage the customer. Banks can learn from the digital transformational success of the travel industry as the challenges travel faced are very similar. Let’s take a rearview look at the digital struggles travel organizations were facing 5 years ago, according to Aditireport, What’s Keeping the CEOs of Hospitality Companies Awake at Night.

  • The mobile app not being a priority
  • Old technology and platforms hindering transformation
  • Lack of a single view to the customer

The Aditi report highlighted 3 power moves working together as attributes for digital transformation success:

1. Business Tranformation — Embracing new technologies by transitioning from physical to digital services for travelers.

2. Customer Experience — realizing the value of the travelers personal data across all touch points, to help build consistent and personalized experience throughout their journey by using a predictive analytics approach and knowledege from social channels.

3. Digitizing Operations — building digital products that include agility in the platform build to assist with easy rollout of new products and ideas

The Glistening Diamond in the Big Data Rough

When we take a look at what is important to the traveler, it is similar to what is wanted by the banking consumer. The compelling take away is that the consumer is crystal clear in letting us know exactly how to better engage with them. Consumers in both industries want their business partners to know them, to look out for them and to reward them.

The glistening diamond in the big data rough is to connect with customers on an individual, real-time and contextual basis. This requires sifting meticulously through internal and external big data to grab the relevant insights. The missing link is then to use these insights to build the best consumer experience.


In other words, to successessfully engage either the travel or banking consumer requires integrating all data assets. Big data provides a wealth of information, this information is only truly effective when relevant data points can be quickly and easily extracted for analysis and individualized for one to one communication.

The banking conundrum is that big data is meaningless without being effectively mined. It is a tremendous challenge to pull together the disparate internal systems, digital data assets and 3rd party data resources together. The most powerful engine is a combined prospect & customer database platform that is flexible, nimble and transparant. One that unites all digital assets with behavioural and aspirational attributes to provide a single view that will empower bank marketers to engage in contextual, relevant and real-time bank offers.

This single view objective includes a strategy to communicate on the smartphone device that never leaves the consumer’s side. Organizations can rise above the rest to provide an exceptional customer communication experience when, where and how the customer wants to be spoken to, by overcoming three challenges according to a joint white paper, Your Customer Journey, Travel and Hospitality by Epsilon & Adobe.

  1. Move past data silos
  2. Get a 360 degree customer view
  3. Move from simple personalization to contextual interactions

Support a Mobile-First Experience

No matter the device, from the minute they wake up to the minute they go to sleep (and sometimes while they sleep), people today are plugged in as depicted in the illustration below.

Digital device use by time of day

While the consumer wants businesses to be a part of their experience, they expect everything to happen on their terms. This is truly communicating to the consumer at the right time, right place, right channel and the appropriate device. It’s no surprise that the mobile device is with the consumer from wakeup to retiring for sleep. This is our new stay connected reality. It is the way consumers stay connected personally, socially, professionally and as shoppers.

Bank customers are primarily using mobile banking to review transactions, process deposits, make transfers and handle everyday banking needs. Most of the mobile investment from the bank is for the real-time accessibility of transactional data. Consumer expectations are higher and therefore must be thoroughly understood in order to drive exceptional customer experiences.

Expectations for great mobile experiences come from Uber, Best Buy, Amazon and travel industry leaders. These organizations have incorporated business transformation to offer the same experience across channels and devices. They focus on the customer experience to effectively pull in the relevant points of big data to truly demonstrate they are looking out for the consumer’s specific best interests. And, they have nimble digitization to easily add more product and services to the app quickly.

This is no longer about customer experience, it is about expectations.

Big Data’s Impact on Content Marketing

Source: Customer Think

The age of traditional marketing and advertising techniques is pretty much over no matter how much the old guard pretends like it’s not. Today, it’s all about businesses promoting their brands, products, and overall vision through creative content. Think of it as the new way to grab consumers’ attention, one that, in the right hands, can be more effective than the older methods employed for so many decades. That obviously leads to the question of how best to utilize content marketing. After all, poor content marketing appears to be prevalent among many organizations that don’t seem to understand the concept completely. This poor content adds little of value and gets next to no attention through some of the most important social media channels out there. Those businesses who truly want to get the most out of their content marketing will do best by looking at big data analytics. In fact, the impact of big data on content marketing could be revolutionary.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that good content marketing requires good content to begin with, and yet that very idea is one of the most difficult things to capture. What makes good content, anyway? Marketers will no doubt have different answers to that question, but big data has the potential to accurately define what passes for good content. The crucial element lies in data collected on the current and potential customers the business is targeting. This shouldn’t necessarily be something new for an organization, especially if they’re using that data for other marketing strategies, but analyzing big data from consumers means getting more than just hard statistics. Through sentiment analysis from social media and other platforms, businesses can get a concrete sense of what kind of content customers like to consume in the first place. Big data also helps in determining what motivates consumers, how they like content delivered, and what they respond best to.

The true key to success unlocked through big data is the creation of original content for content marketing purposes. Businesses are gathering data on their own anyway, and an effective use of this information is to convert it into original content, which can be used for a marketing strategy. That means specialized blog posts, infographics, handy videos, and anything else that has the potential to go viral. Even if original content doesn’t spread all over social media, it can also establish a company as a voice of the industry, one that becomes a thought leader for other organizations to follow.

There are plenty of examples of companies that have taken the big data they’ve collected and turned it into great original content marketing. They include General Electric, OKCupid, and Kickstarter. This can be seen in Kickstarter’s special report detailing statistics from data that they collected on their company. This is the type of content that draws eyeballs, in part because the infographics involved are well produced but also because it’s information that users can’t get anywhere else. Many companies simply try to repackage data from other sources, but the big data collected by the organizations themselves is unique. With that type of viral content, businesses can expect more traffic. Consumers simply see that content as providing value, and it in turn may even result in a stronger social media following, leading to more viral content somewhere down the line. It’s a factor that is too often overlooked by companies, especially when they can provide content that also includes a call to action for users.

With these types of big data solutions, it becomes clear that content marketing can grow in unprecedented ways. Big data can truly impact content marketing by boosting traffic, increasing visibility, establishing an industry voice, and promoting transparency for the organization. Big data enables organizations to tell engaging stories through data journalism, providing new opportunities for growth and expansion. Big data also informs companies on what type of content will be most effective for their marketing, whether it be broad. such as the latest fashion trends. or niche, like an insider look at hyper converged infrastructure. The overall impact big data analytics can have on content marketing is immense and overwhelmingly positive. Businesses not already using it would be wise to rethink their strategies.

Kick Off 2016 With a Content Marketing Audit That Works

Source: Search Engine Journal 

Welcome to 2016! It is a new year, which makes it a great time to start fresh and organized. And what better place to start than with your content? With so much being published each day, it is becoming more and more difficult to make your content stand out.

How much content are you competing with?

According to Marketing Profs, over 2 million blog posts are published each and every day.

If each of those posts was a dollar, you would be able to give $1.30 to each of the 11 million people who watched last season’s premiere of The Walking Dead—every day of the year. That is a lot of content to compete with.

The good news is, there is simply no way that much content is all high-quality. You do stand a chance.

Also, keep in mind, what was considered quality content two years ago might not be considered quality content this year. Which is another good reason to look back at all of your content.

Doing a content audit might seem overwhelming. It is a ton of work. But I will show you how to break it up into smaller chunks which you can then assign out, or you can split it up and tackle each task week by week.

The biggest step is getting started.

Let’s dive in.

What are Your Goals?

Before you change even one word, you need to take the time to consider what your content audit goals are. Why are you putting in all this effort?

A content audit is a huge undertaking, and it will be much more effective if everyone involved knows exactly why it is being performed.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself and your team:

  • Are you looking to help drive more traffic to older content?
  • Do you want to improve SEO on your site?
  • Are you looking at what types of content are successful so you can create similar content?
  • Are you looking to update content to new standards?
  • Do you want to figure out which content does best on social?
  • Are you planning your content strategy and want to get a lay of the land?

Your reasons are likely a combination of several of those above, and that is totally fine. What matters is taking the time to discuss and write down your goals with your team.

Get Organized

The first step after defining your goals is to locate all the content you have produced—ever. This is a big undertaking, and may need to be split up.

The method you use to do this will vary based upon where your content is located and how much you have. You may choose to use a crawling tool, like Screaming Frog, or you may be able to pull the information from Google Analytics.

This is a huge job, but it shouldn’t be taken lightly. I highly recommend outsourcing this if just thinking about it makes you cringe. This is the first step, and it is also where a lot of people get stuck. If you have an analytical mind or Excel lover in your group, this is a good task to assign them.

Content Insight offers a very detailed guide for building a content inventory spreadsheet which includes every bit of information you might need. Their guide is pretty detailed, and it might be more than you need.

Here is my list of details to pay attention to:

  • Title
  • URL
  • Publish Date
  • All-Time Traffic
  • Traffic in the Last Year (the time period may vary)
  • Meta Title
  • Word Count
  • Description
  • Next Step (I will go into more depth later)

You can also add more customized details based. For example, if you publish on four distinct topics, it might matter which topic each piece of content covers. Or, if your goal is to increase social shares, you might want to note the number of social shares for each piece.

Create a spreadsheet with all the variables you deem most important and start adding your data. Good times. Just remember, this is the worst of it and you only have to do it once!

Analyze Your Results

You pulled all your data. Great.

But what does it mean?

Now is the time to consider what success looks like for your business and your content marketing strategy. For a smaller blog, success might mean a few hundred reads. For an indie creative company, success might be getting dozens of social shares.

Success may also look different for different pieces of content. For example, if you are looking to drive webinar registrations, success for an announcement post will be based upon how many people clicked on the registration link. If you wanted to promote white paper downloads, you will want to look at those numbers.

As you look at each piece of content, fill out the “Next Step” row. Should you update it? Leave it as is? Create new content that is similar? Whether or not a piece was successful, it does have something to teach you. Make sure you are paying attention.

Here are a few areas you should be sure to spend time analyzing:

Look at the Old

SEJ has been around for over a decade, so we have a ton of content that is probably no longer super relevant. SEO tips from 2005? Probably not going to get much traffic these days, but that doesn’t mean we want to delete it, either.

If you have been publishing for a while, you need to look back at what you published years ago. Here is what you want to consider when looking at older content:

  • Is it still relevant, or could it be if it was updated?
  • Does the content get much traffic?
  • Does the content have many links?

If you look at all your content, you will likely come up with a few older pieces that do get decent traffic and may be worth updating. Define what ‘valuable’ means to your brand by setting parameters—for example, posts that get over X amount of views per month, or have X number of links—and set a schedule to update those posts.

Here are a few key ways to update your content:

  • Proofread
  • Replace broken links
  • Update keywords
  • Optimize for semantic search
  • Update internal links
  • Update external links
  • Add images

For more detailed information about updating older content, I suggest looking at this detailed guide from Hubspot.

Consider the New

Now that you have seen the type of content you have produced, it is time to plan for the new content you will be producing over the next year. Remember, content marketing best practices will change, so you just need to do the best you can with the information currently available.

A few basic best practices:

  • Produce better quality content, not just more
  • Test new content formats – webinars, podcasts, videos, etc.
  • Add high-quality images
  • Always proofread
  • Keywords matter, but relevance matters more

Above all, listen to your audience. The content they are engaging with is the type of content you need to be producing more of. Period.

Your Content Audit Checklist

Ready to get started? Performing a content audit is one of the best ways to improve your content market strategy, and the new year is as good of a time as any! Here are the main steps to performing a content marketing audit that works:

Step 1: Set Your Goals

Step 2: Pull All Your Content Data

Step 3: Analyze Data (What does success look like for you?)

Step 4: Look at the Old

Step 5: Consider the New

Step 6: Make a Plan for the Future

Are you planning on performing a content audit this year? What do you think the keys to a successful audit are? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section!

Banks prepare for robo-advice launches

Source: Money Marketing

Four major banks are developing robo-advice services aimed at mass market customers, with the first launch expected in the next two months.

The Financial Times reports Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group and Santander are all eyeing robo-advice launches.

The banks are said to be waiting on the outcome of the Financial Advice Market Review before rolling out the new services. Chancellor George Osborne is expected to set out proposals to tackle the advice gap and deliver more affordable advice solutions as part of the Budget on 16 March.

One banking source told the newspaper it was “ridiculous” banks cannot help their retail customers on investment products.

They said: “For people with £5,000 or £10,000, there is almost no help out there.”

Earlier this month it emerged Santander was returning to investment advice less than two years after its £12.4m FCA fine for poor advice.

The FT reports HSBC is also looking to set up an investment advice arm which would include customers with less than £50,000 to invest.


How Good Are You At Telling Your Bank’s Brand Story?

Source: The Financial Brand 

Skyword surveyed 190 marketers and asked them how effective their marketing team (as well as their executive team, employees, customers, and prospects) is at telling their companies’ brand stories.

Three-quarters of them think that they’re doing an “extremely” or “very” effective job, and about two-thirds put the effectiveness of their executive teams in those two categories.

Surprisingly, a larger percentage of marketers think that their customers are more effective at telling the brand story than employees of the firm. In fact, marketers think that their prospects are as effective at telling the brand story as employees are.


My take: Marketers might just be the most delusional people on the planet. And I can’t imagine that, if bank (and credit union) marketers were asked the same questions, the percentages would be anywhere close to the ones that Skyword found in its survey.

Let’s look at these results by each perspective:

1) Marketing. How do the marketers surveyed know that they’re “extremely” or even “very” effective at telling their brand story? In other words, how are they gauging “effectiveness”? It doesn’t even matter — I bet if you asked the members of their marketing team what the brand’s story is, you wouldn’t get a consistent answer.

2) Executive team. A good percentage — no wait, that’s the wrong word, because it’s not a “good” percentage, it’s a “scarily high” percentage — of senior bank execs that I know roll their eyes when the topic of discussion is their bank’s “brand.” Too touchy-feely, too squishy, and too “marketingese” for them.

Then, of course, you’ll get the marketers and execs who’ll tell you that their FI’s brand story is “their superior customer service, and how they go the extra step for their customers/members.” I’m usually numb with mental pain before they even finish that sentence.

3) Employees. A little more than half of marketers think the employees at their companies are effective at telling the brand story. How in the world would the marketers surveyed know whether or not their colleagues from other departments (who, let’s face it, they never interact with) effectively tell the brand story? [I hope I don’t have to actually answer that question for you]

4) Customers. Nearly six in 10 marketers think their customers effectively tell the brand story. Maybe those respondents work for Apple. But for the majority of products and services that consumers buy, we simply don’t give a hoot about that product or service to care about, let alone think about, the “brand story.”

5) Prospects. Many branding experts emphasize the importance of the so-called “customer experience” as a factor influencing a brand’s… uh… brand, or story. If that’s true, then how can prospects who have never interacted with a brand, or experienced the “story” know what the story is, let along effectively tell it? Yet, more than half of marketers think prospects are effective at telling their story. No way.

There’s a bigger problem here than the delusions marketers harbor about how effectively they tell their brand’s story. That problem is a fundamental misunderstanding of whose story it is.

Seth Godin once wrote “marketing is the story marketers tell to consumers.” He was wrong. Marketing is figuring out which stories you want customers to tell [to] themselves.Stories that come from their personal experience and that strengthen their loyalty to the company, product, or brand. A story that a customer tells to herself — even subconsciously — is the most important factor driving customer satisfaction and loyalty.

A while back, Citi Card ran an ad campaign that focused on customers’ “stories.” In one, a 20-something tells her story:

“I don’t cook. So I made my eat-in-kitchen a fabulous walk-in closet. Since I enjoy a day of shopping far more than cooking, I decided to do a bit of home remodeling. With my Citi card in hand, I set out to get some closet organizers. I bought a shoe rack for the oven, sweater boxes for the cupboards, and 12-inch baskets for handbags up above.”

The ad’s tagline was “whatever your story is, your Citi card can help you write it.” A Citi exec was quoted as saying “Our hope is to get into the heart of the Citi cardholder’s head and make an emotional connection… we want people to select the Citi card because, in so doing, we can help them live a piece of their dream.”

Gag me.

Contrast the Citi customer story with these stories from customers who consider themselves loyal to their banks:

“My partner and I had been trying to adopt a child for some time, when we received word from the adoption agency that a child was available for adoption — in China. But we needed a short term loan in order to make the trip. My bank bent over backwards to approve the loan and get us the money in 24 hours. For that, I will never leave them.”

“My ex-wife and I were going through a divorce and I called one of our financial providers to cancel a credit card and insurance policy we had with them. The rep on the phone said ‘I hope I’m not overstepping my boundaries, but if you’re going through a divorce, we have a whole department that can help with all the financial arrangements you need to make.’ To make a long story short, we were able to transition our accounts easily. For making it such a painless process, for being there when I needed them, and for figuring out that I needed help in the first place, I’ll never do business with another financial firm.”

Notice anything different in the stories I’ve related and the one Citi told in its ad? There are three important differences:

1. An element of the unique. What exactly is so special about having the Citi card in this example? Answer: Nothing. In the story that Ms. WalkInCloset tells, you could pretty much tell that story substituting a Capital One, Amex, Discover, or any other credit card. But not every financial firm could have done what the firms in the other two stories did. For a story to become a “story that a loyal customer tells” it needs to be something that not just any bank can do.

2. An element of the unexpected. A woman goes into a store, buys a shoe rack, uses her credit card to pay for it. Nothing out of the ordinary about that story. But getting approved for a loan — and getting the money — in 24 hours? Or having a call center rep figure out that there’s something deeper than just closing out a couple of accounts? You don’t expect that to happen. And it’s the unexpected that drives the most important customer stories.

3. An element of the emotional. While it might be important to Ms. WalkInCloset that she is redoing her kitchen, buying a shoe rack or a sweater box doesn’t quite rise to the level of emotional content that needing money to travel to China to adopt a child, or getting through the stress of a divorce does. It takes an emotional situation to develop an emotional bond (this doesn’t have to be a negative, or stressful situation — positive ones work well too).

It scares me that there are so many marketers roaming around the business jungle thinking that they’re effectively telling their brand’s story, when: 1) they have no means for measuring that effectiveness; 2) no clue what their brand’s story is; and 3) no understanding that it’s their customers’ stories that matter the most.


Measuring and Reducing Friction in Account Opening

Source: The Financial Brand 

Long applications and difficult new account opening processes lead to lost business in banking. Now there is a way to measure and reduce this friction.

Many financial institutions have some portion of their account opening and loan/credit card application process online, but the reality is that it’s often confusing, tedious, and a lot of work for customers to complete. It’s akin to a consumer walking into a retail store, filling up their shopping cart, and walking out the door without buying anything ─ a lost opportunity for acquisition and revenue.

Application Abandon Rates at an All-Time High

In a recent webinarPeter Wannemacher, Senior Analyst at Forrester, says abandon rates for online banking applications are at an all-time high of 97.5%. This is a huge, wasted opportunity considering that customers who attempt to complete an application are expressing a genuine interest in your products and services. The problem is we often unwittingly require a lot of effort on their part to complete a digital transaction. In fact, the Corporate Executive Board’s research found that “making it easy,” or reducing effort, goes further towards building satisfaction and loyalty than the conventional wisdom of delighting customers.

Measuring Friction in Account Opening

One of the challenges with reducing friction, or effort, in digital transactions is it’s tough to know where to begin and exactly what needs fixing. Optimally, a financial marketer or product manager would like to evaluate account opening and application processes, eliminating all steps that stand in the way of a quick and easy interaction.

Unfortunately, many financial marketers would either completely throw out their current digital application process and start from scratch, or make incremental adjustments – all without knowing if the changes will make any difference at all to abandon rates.

As Ron Shevlin said in The Financial Brand article, 4 Marketing Metrics Banks Should Measure (But Probably Don’t), marketers often focus on checking things off their to-do lists rather than measuring results. This is because it’s easier to show senior management that changes are being made that can help increase customer acquisition ─ even if you’re not sure they’ll make a difference.

To assist with measuring friction in digital account opening and the applications process and reduce abandonment, Avoka has developed a tool called the Transaction Effort Score™ (TES). With this tool, a bank or credit union can quantify exactly where friction is occurring and provide guidance as to how to eliminate the most damaging steps.

How the Transaction Effort Score™ Quantifies Friction

The Transaction Effort Score evaluation tool analyzes all the steps required to complete a loan application or account opening, and generates a “score.” This score can then be used to identify specific areas of improvement in a bank or credit union’s online sales transaction processes, such as eliminating unnecessary fields or implementing a 100% digital experience.

The tool has already had an impact for some organizations. For example, a mid-size Australian bank sought to improve its 18% credit card completion rate. The application process was analyzed using the Transaction Effort Score tool, where they received a rather high (bad) TES of 1064 along with specific suggestions for improvement.

Using the TES recommendations as a guide, the application experience was redesigned, resulting in a TES of 307 (indicating a vastly simplified process) and an application completion rate of 38% ─ more than double the previous rate.

Factors Analyzed by the Transaction Effort Score

As mentioned in the Avoka white paper, The Transaction Effort Score: Driving Revenue through Reduced Customer Effort Transaction Effort, the Transaction Effort Score takes into account many factors that contribute to effort in the application and new account opening process including:

  • How many keystrokes are required to complete a field?
  • Is the required information something a consumer quickly knows (such as phone number) or something they’ll need to look up (such as their driver’s license number)?
  • Does the transaction experience support mobile responsive design?
  • Can supporting documents be submitted electronically or must they be submitted in paper format via mail or by visiting a branch office?

These are only a sample of the elements analyzed by TES that contribute to consumer effort (friction). Multiple keystrokes, confusing interfaces, requiring customers to visit a branch in person to complete a transaction, or asking for extraneous information all contribute to effort and increased abandonment. The TES tool not only helps identify the steps that can cause customer anxiety (and therefore abandonment of the process), but also provide direct suggestions that can improve results.

For instance:

  • Every additional question increases the score.
  • Asking harder to find questions increases the score.
  • Requiring the customer to visit a branch to deliver documents or deposit funds increases the score.
  • Offering a “Save and Resume” option decreases the score.
  • Supporting a multichannel experience decreases the score.
  • Minimizing keystrokes and leveraging mobile functionality decreases the score.

A major benefit of the Transaction Effort Score is that it represents a leading indicator that identifies areas for improvement before consumers complete their digital transaction. This makes it useful for analyzing how large-scale or incremental adjustments will affect the score, and in turn, reduce customer effort.

Best-in-Class New Account Opening Processes

As is discussed in the best-selling Digital Banking Report, Digital Account Opening, there are many ways banks and credit unions can improve the account opening and application process, leveraging digital technologies and common sense. Each improvement will reduce friction, simplify the process and enhance the consumer experience … leading to reduced abandonment and improved revenues.

  • Minimize fields, reduce keystrokes and minimize scrolling. Ask only for the specific information required and nothing more. Remember, the more information you require, the more effort is needed and the higher the TES. In addition to minimizing fields, require as few keystrokes as possible and make forms easy to navigate. Remember, scrolling and keystrokes take more time and effort – especially on mobile devices.
  • Collect the easiest information first. Asking for the basic information first (name, email address and phone number) not only gets the consumer engaged with the least amount of effort, this information is key if the consumer abandons the process later. With this insight, you can get back in touch immediately. In addition, the more time the consumer has invested in the process, the more likely they will complete the application rather than abandoning.
  • Offer “Save” and multichannel functionality. Consumers move from channel to channel during application and account opening, so offer “Save” functionality to help preserve information already entered. “Restarts” lead to high abandon rates. Allowing consumers to utilize different devices to complete a transaction, such as switching between digital, in-person visits, or calling a call center improves completion rates.
  • Make the experience 100% digital. A streamlined, 100% digital experience is a must. Presenting consumers with a digital form to complete and then requiring them to visit a branch office to finalize details or submit paper documents results in a much higher abandon rate. All processes should enable the ability to submit documents electronically and support digital signatures.
  • Onboard for the requested product. Resist the temptation to market or inform the consumer about ancillary products or services until after they’ve completed the application or account opening initially requested. After the primary product or service has been opening, additional cross-sell or upsell suggestions can be provided.
  • Retarget abandoned applications. Consumers abandon even the most simple application or new account opening processes for a variety of reasons – perhaps their laptop battery died, they received an urgent phone call, or they lost their internet connection. The only way to retarget these applicants for completion is to capture primary contact information early in the process (such as name, email, and phone number). Be sure to follow-up on abandoned applications quickly, however, since the prospect could be moving to a competitor.
  • Use a “Mobile First” design. Completing transactions on smart phones is all about speed and simplicity. Therefore, minimize the use of keyboard input by utilizing drop down lists, toggle/radio buttons and the photo capabilities of the mobile device to assist in data collection. Also minimize white space and use adaptive design to eliminate unnecessary images/graphics when rendering on a smartphone.

TES Can Improve Application Completion Rates

The Transaction Effort Score not only measures exactly what’s negatively impacting the completion of transactions – but also provides suggestions as to how to fix what may be wrong. Some financial institutions may realize that a measurable impact can be made with only a few simple changes, such as removing extraneous fields or making data entry more efficient. Other organizations may need to make significant changes, but will also realize substantial changes in costs, revenues and abandonment rates.

Remember – every keystroke, every mouse click contributes to abandonment. Banks and credit unions need to minimize these steps in order to create a digital new account process that is optimized and frictionless. The Transaction Effort Score is an excellent metric that can identify areas to improve to reduce customer effort and, in turn, increase acquisition rates and revenue.

Why Whiteboard Animation is Perfect for Marketing Financial Services

Source: Business 2 Community

Peter Lynch managed Fidelity Investment’s Magellan Fund for 13 years. During this time—1977 to 1990—the fund averaged an annual return of over 29%. It grew from $18 million in assets to $14 billion, making it the best performing mutual fund in the world. In short: this guy Lynch, he was a pretty savvy investor. So what, you might wonder, does this have to do with whiteboard animation? Surprisingly, more than you’d expect…

In Lynch’s book, Beating the Street, he sums up several of his investing philosophies in a section called “Peter’s Principle.” On the list are 21 pearls of wisdom, ranging from straight-forward (“The best stock to buy may be the one you already own”) to metaphorical (“All else being equal, invest in the company with the fewest color photographs in the annual report”). But the tip that really caught our attention, and speaks to the power and potential of whiteboard animation was this:

“Never invest in any idea you can’t illustrate with a crayon.”

Lynch’s point is that as valuable as metrics like market cap or earnings per share may be, one must never forget that, ultimately, you are investing in someone that does something. Perhaps that doesn’t sound particularly elegant—investing in “someone that does something”—but in the spirit of Lynch’s folksy and straight-forward wisdom, that’s really what it comes down to:

  • Do you trust that someone?
  • Do you understand that something they plan to do, and see value in the proposition?

Answering those questions is no easy feat. Especially when the underlying product or service may sound complicated or seem ineffable (think: tech, pharma, etc.).

In fact, there’s almost a paradox at play. Because successful products are often those that are more sophisticated than their competitors, explaining that sophistication to a layperson becomes inherently more difficult.

That’s what makes whiteboard animation such a uniquely perfect tool for marketing financial products or services. Not only does it personify the simple-yet-thoughtful tenets that Peter Lynch preaches, but it does so in an accessible and entertaining way.

Header- Whiteboard Financial Services

In a sense, whiteboard animation is the next evolution of a business prospectus: a best-foot-forward, conversation-starting piece of content that builds credibility and excitement. There are several reasons why this is the case, but let’s look at a few of the most compelling attributes:

Build Trust…Literally: Because of the style and conceit unique to whiteboard animation, viewers will literally see the video (and its message) drawn to life.

Demonstration of Process: The perfect antidote to any skeptic or Devil’s advocate is a detailed demonstration of process. Historically, explaining how something works might have a reputation for being dry. But with whiteboard animation, there’s no aspect of process that can’t be made entertaining and accessible.

Metaphors + Professionalism: In every day conversation we constantly rely on metaphors. In business materials, however, rarely are they to be found. That’s because, as words on a page, it can often be tough to relay the comparison with elegance. In a whiteboard environment, however, where action and movement drive the message, it’s much easier and more effective to use illustrative metaphors without sacrificing professionalism.

Adds Qualitative Features to Quantitive: Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, whiteboard animation excels at making ordinary visual aids dynamic. By adding depth and context to things like charts and graphs, just about any metric or data point can become a compelling and persuasive tool to demonstrate value.


The Marketing Implications of Millennials’ Changing Views of Banks

Source: The Financial Brand 

Not long ago, TechCrunch ran an article titled Millennials Are Destroying Banks, And It’s The Banks’ Fault, which contained the following assertion:

Millennials aren’t buying crap anymore, destroying businesses that sell crap. Few industries will face a greater struggle targeting these new consumers than banks, who seem wholly unprepared with what to do with us. Indeed, if ever there was a dark evil in the world that millennials as a whole would probably like to see completely destroyed like San Francisco in San Andreas, it is the banking industry.

What nonsense.

It’s funny how “data scientist” is the hot new profession when seemingly so many people seem completely unaware that things like “data” actually exist. Well, hold on — since I have no data to back up that assertion, let’s just say that the guy who wrote the TechCrunch article is seemingly unaware of the concept of data.

Because the data simply doesn’t support the author’s assertion.

Bank Satisfaction by Generation

To start, there’s this from JD Power:

Satisfaction scores for banks among Gen Z customers (797) is higher than among Gen Y and Gen X customers (781 and 778, respectively.)  Additionally, overall satisfaction among Gen Z customers of big banks (807) is higher than among Gen Z customers of regional banks (796) and midsize banks (769).

To be fair, I don’t put much stock in what Gen Z thinks. JD Power defines Gen Z as people born after 1995, and when the findings were published, these folks weren’t even adults yet. But the fact that Gen Y’s level of satisfaction was higher than Gen X’s — even barely — helps refute the idea that Millennials hate banks more than other generations do.

There’s another data source, however, that I think tells the broader story.

The Positive Effect of Key Institutions

According to the Pew Research Center, 45% of Millennials in the US said that banks had a positive effect on the way things are going. Granted, that’s not even half. But what’s important to note here is that a larger percentage of Millennials believe that banks are having a positive effect than Gen Xers, Boomers, or Seniors (sorry, but the people that I know from that generation are anything but “silent”).

What’s also important to note is the change in perceptions. Among the six categories for which there is a point of comparison to 2010, perceptions about no other institution has changed as much as it has for banks. Further refuting the TechCrunch article, looking back at 2010, it would appear that the older generations hated banks a lot more than Gen Yers did, at least if you use “positive effect” (or lack thereof) as a proxy for “hate.”

Percent saying banks are having
a positive effect on the way things
are going in the country
Gen X22%39%

Even back in 2010, more than twice as many Millennials as Boomers and Seniors thought banks were having a positive effect on the way things were going in the country.

What It Means

Pew’s findings say a lot about how our society is changing.

We Americans like to have our villains. It can be a healthy thing from a competitive aspect, but it’s more often than not an unhealthy thing. This identification of “villains” goes back hundreds of years: witches in Salem, MA, American communists in the 1950s, Russian communists in the 1960s and 1970s, British Petroleum after the oil spill in 2010.

The financial crisis of 2008-2009 helped to create a new villain in the US: Banks. For the most part, large banks, but you really have to question where people draw the line. No question that the 4 mega-banks were on the villain list, though.

Credit unions certainly benefited from this. Remember Bank Transfer Day? To this day, some credit unions (and community banks, for that matter) bash the big banks in their advertising effort.

What the Pew data tells me, however, is that the “banks as villains” view is dissipating. The percentage who see banks as having a positive effect may not be a majority, but the shift from five years ago is tremendous. The shift — or perhaps, the continuing shift — in perceptions should impact financial services marketing:

1. If you’re still bashing big banks in your advertising, stop it. If you think you’re tapping in to some hatred with big, impersonal corporations, look at the Pew numbers for Corporations — they’re on the rise, as well.

2. There’s an opportunity for credit unions and community banks to capitalize on Millennials’ highly positive views of small businesses. I would bet that many consumers don’t think of any financial institution — mega-bank or not — as a small business, but the reality is that many smaller, community-based institutions really are small businesses.

3. Bank partnerships with fintech startups should be emphasized in marketing efforts. Not only can this help foster an image of being technology-advanced, but it may piggy-back on the positive perceptions younger consumers have regarding both small businesses and technology firms.

Snarketing post by Ron Shevlin

Marketing for your firm’s next level

Source: Investment News 

Quad Cities Investment Group was ready to rev up marketing but wasn’t sure how best to begin. The RIA firm, based in Davenport, Iowa, was created in 2009 when partners Scott Stoltenberg and Laura Swift left the wirehouse firm where they had worked together for nearly 10 years. The first few years they focused on ensuring everything was in place for their clients, and in 2013 they brought on another partner, Christine McElvania. In their first seven years, with minimal marketing efforts, their assets under management rose from $85 million to $150 million.


“We knew we needed a plan that would take us to the next level,” said Ms. Swift. “At our former firm and at conferences we had participated in marketing workshops. They would get us started, but we would never end up with a final plan. We were highly motivated, but needed help.”

While a generic marketing plan is better than none, the best plans reflect a firm’s values and capabilities and an understanding of what is important to its clients. To start, the firm’s three partners filled out four-page questionnaires that explored the firm’s resources and pricing, branding and current client communications and marketing.

“One of the questions was how many referrals had we requested in the last 12 months. We all answered zero,” said Ms. Swift. “We had always been reticent to ask for referrals because we did not want to come across as salesy.”

Next was an online survey of clients. The results were very encouraging. Nearly 40% responded, with 90% of responders extremely or very satisfied. The firm was planning a website revamp, and the survey gave a good idea of how clients used the current site. Comments at the end of the survey were very useful in developing a positioning statement.

Lastly, the firm organized a focus group. They were asked to invite eight to 10 of their clients who represented the types they wanted to work with in the future.

Several clients said they did not understand why the partners did not have as much visibility as other advisers in the area, given their level of service and expertise. And many said they would be happy to provide referrals, but had never been asked. In fact, one client suggested that instead of taking him out to lunch alone, one on one, the firm should ask him to bring a friend. This suggestion — two-on-one lunches — ended up in the final marketing plan.


The focus group was an opportunity to test positioning statements with the group. During the first day of meetings, the team reviewed the questionnaires and survey highlights and a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. They also discussed setting goals — asset growth, new clients and new accounts — as well as goals around the types of clients or portfolios they wanted to bring in.

Top-line findings from the focus group included feedback on the positioning. The team then selected marketing activities that made sense for the firm and would achieve their goals.

For example, one of the firm’s strengths is that Mr. Stoltenberg is a CPA and has worked as a controller. Members in the focus group, many of whom are business owners, mentioned how much they appreciated his guidance on business matters.

The firm decided to organize a luncheon program where business owners (clients and prospects) could network and hear Mr. Stoltenberg speak, along with a guest speaker, such as an attorney, CPA or banker, who would invite guests as well.

The team also crafted a marketing plan with suggested positioning, goals, strategies and campaigns, and a calendar. For Quad Cities Investment Group, this resulted in a marketing plan they could embrace.

“We have created spreadsheets to track our business development, and shared the plan with our support staff. We are in good shape for 2016,” Ms. Swift said.

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