Interview: Mac McConnell on How Marketing Automation Benefits Financial Service Companies

What has changed about the b2b buying process in financial services in the last 5 years? How should those affect marketing strategy? Financial services have been impacted similarly to other industries through the easy access to information. When I was in sales at JPMorgan Chase, we would expect to be the smartest guys in the room when we went to pitch a new client. That is no longer the case. Buyers are extremely savvy and have done their research – often before you have even had a chance to meet and talk about your products. If you think about a company that is shopping for 401k or stock option services the traditional mode of information collection would be to send out an RFP or call the five biggest brokerage houses. That is no longer the case; the first step for the people tasked with finding a new provider is to become subject matter expert by scouring the web (or their peer network) for information that will help them make an educated decision. By the time the financial services firm is brought in to talk about their product, the decision is halfway to being made. Your firm is either on, or off, the short list of prospective vendors.

What is the number one benefit of a marketing automation investment for financial service companies?

The number one benefit is engaging prospective buyers while they are doing their homework. This comes in two forms, (1) doing a better job of attracting the contact through valuable content and (2) staying top of mind with prospective buyers through lead nurturing programs that educate slowly over time. Capturing the interest (let alone contact details) during the research phase of any purchase decision will give that firm a lead in the overall buying process. Using marketing automation, financial services firms can insert themselves into the research phase with having to use expensive sales resources or scaring someone off with a much too early sales call.


Why do you think some marketers are hesitant to invest in marketing automation? What advice would you offer them?

Financial services are the most heavily regulated industry in the United States. The protection and usage of data as well as what can and cannot be said in a format like an email is closely monitored and controlled. Due to this, the idea of profiling contacts and sending multi-touch email programs appears daunting. My advice would be to look more closely at the application itself and weigh the benefits versus the perceived risks. The best marketing automation applications have excellent data protection systems and the ability to set strict controls on who can access the system and which contacts can be sent certain information. Used correctly, leading marketing automation applications can have all the controls needed by  a heavily regulated industry.

In the Business Case for Investing in a Marketing Automation Solution, you discuss shifting your lead generation focus to a qualitative approach rather than quantitative. What steps are necessary to achieve this focus shift?

The shift is not as big as it seems. It is a classic case of faster, better, cheaper. The classic marketing funnel diagram rewards putting more “stuff” in the top and more will come out the bottom. That is an expensive proposition. I would argue that you need to be putting higher quality “stuff” in the top of the funnel and thus narrowing your funnel and saving money. To do this you need to have a good sense of your target market. One tactic I use with clients is account targeting. The way it works it you identify 100 companies (the number is dependent on goals and target markets) and then track down the key decision makers within those companies. Once the list is built, design and execute a set of lead nurture programs. Track absolutely everything and score the behavior of those leads.  At the end of the process you will have identified the influencers and decision makers at companies that are important your sales efforts. By going through this targeted program you have identified fewer leads, but you have identified better and more actionable leads.

Mac McConnell - Partner and Founder of Bluebird Strategies, a marketing automation and demand generation consulting firm - has an established track record of developing high-impact lead gen programs that are proven to drive leads, pipeline and revenue. As a member of top producing sales teams at both Deutsche Bank Alex Brown and JPMorgan Chase, Mac applied digital marketing tactics to discover new relationships that had traditionally been overlooked. As an inaugural member of Sun Microsystems small and midsize business initiative, he developed dynamic programs that moved contacts through the buying cycle using an ever-changing mix of content syndication, social media, web traffic, nurture programs and telemarketing. The results were impressive. In just over twelve months, these programs and campaigns generated over 16,000 qualified leads and $400 million in sales pipeline.