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Why are FI Marketing Budget Approvals Such a Pain?

The banking and finance industry has always been driven by numbers, and understandably so. Tracking money movement and profitability is crucial for running a successful and compliant financial institution. Sadly, that’s not always been the case for the marketing departments at FIs. Yet, marketing is so crucial for an FI! Well-planned and executed marketing is what helps FI’s engage and maintain a close connection with their customers or members in addition to attracting potential new clients.

Unfortunately, marketing has often been viewed as a money pit, a cost center and a necessary evil – something that an FI has no choice but to fund and does so reluctantly. The absolute, primary reason behind this stigma is due to the lack of data on the institution’s marketing return on investment (ROI).  And where quantified information on marketing campaigns’ performance is available, this is not effectively communicated within the FI. 

Business expert Peter Drucker famously said, “What gets measured, gets done,” and that is indeed true – if a business can numerically trace the benefits of an investment, then that investment becomes a priority. Jay Baer, a marketing specialist, and author of Hug Your Haters, expanded on Drucker’s quote stating, “What gets measured, gets budget.

When it comes to marketing, it is not enough to put in the hard work and creativity needed to develop and execute your campaigns. In this contemporary world of digital marketing, it’s become more important than ever to collect and share the results in order to get the right budget allocated to this crucial function. A quantified ROI can and will show that your marketing department is a revenue generator and not just a cost center taking in FI money without an evident pay-back.  

Marketing performance analytics can and should transform “costs” into “investments.”

Here are the three major stages that should be fundamental in rolling out ALL marketing campaigns:

  1. Designing and executing your campaign. Often the most focused aspect of the marketing process, professionals are eager to create engaging and unique ways to pull in the consumer and intrigue the public with products and services. Strategists must also decide what medium best fits the message they would like to send.
  2. Measuring your campaign’s success. Once a challenge of the past, digital marketing has made measuring an FI’s campaign progress an easily quantifiable exercise. Experts can count impressions, track click through rates and even see how many sales transactions come about via the online ad.
  3. Sharing performance analytics and insights. Although regularly overlooked, this step is crucial for budget allocation and indeed for demonstrating the critical role played by marketing in the health and growth of an FI. Presenting a concise and clear record of the financial impact of marketing campaigns to the C-suite can be eye-opening for them and enable them to justify the right investments. Without this crucial communication, marketing gets relegated to forever being a cost center with no evident financial benefits.

When planning a budget for the upcoming year, the internal resources fight is always about proof. This was often a challenge for the “traditional” marketing department. If someone chooses to put their marketing money into a billboard on the highway, they may never know how much of a difference in profit that billboard makes. It is virtually impossible to effectively track the number of people who pass the advertisement and how many individuals come to the FI, influenced by seeing the billboard. For decades, marketing was a stagnant guessing game where executives had to estimate how much influence their campaigns had on the general public.

With the emergence of online and digital advertising, collecting and reporting data has made marketing much more of a numbers game in many industries. Today, you cannot imagine anyone who works in e-commerce not having their performance metrics at their fingertips! It’s about time that this becomes the case in financial institutions. We now have the ability to follow through a customer’s complete journey from the moment someone sees and clicks on an ad to the moment they choose a product or commit to a service.

Marketing specific technology can go broad and deep in providing performance analytics and insights.  It can rapidly assemble reports that sum up the success of your campaign in easy-to-understand ways with appealing visuals and coherent statistics. With the click of a button, professionals can see how many people have viewed and interacted with an FI’s advertisement.

“We review our influenced conversions report monthly with our branch managers, who funnel it down to our frontline staff,” says Lisa Farnen, the Vice President of Brand at Electro Savings Credit Union in St. Louis, MO, which maintains $248M in assets and has chosen to invest in marketing tracking technology. “Showing how our online banking and mobile ads contribute to product conversions adds the “why” when we encourage staff to enroll members in our digital banking and mobile banking services. This report has become such a useful tool for our managers that there are months when I’m requested to send the report before I have a chance to pull it!”

Digital banking, and subsequently digital marketing, has completely changed how marketing for FIs is executed, measured and reported. Marketing strategists now have a strong negotiation tool with specific statistics and data analytics to substantiate the results from their campaigns and how they are benefiting their institution. Investing in “smart” marketing technology that not only performs well but can measure its success at macro and micro levels is imperative. It’s what can justify decision makers at FIs to allocate proper budgets, empowering their marketing departments with the right solutions and ensuring that those FIs thrive and grow.

A metrics-based marketing strategy and platform will never lack funding.  Never.

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