Interview with DemandGen Report: How Financial Service Companies can Benefit from Marketing Automation

DemandGen Report recently added the quarterly “Vertical Deep Dive” section to explore how marketers in various industries can utilize automation tools to drive success. This quarter’s “Vertical Deep Dive” focuses on the Financial Services sector exploring the strategies relevant to the pain points, objectives and prospect profiles under the Financial Services umbrella. DemandGen Report interviewed me along with several other industry insiders to profile the key automation features that can help financial services marketers address the complex nature of the buying process and nurture prospect across their entire lifecycle. I encourage you to check out the full article and thought I would share my answers to their questions with you as well. The Financial Services vertical bridges banks, mortgage brokers, insurance, etc. What are some of the common marketing challenges this vertical faces?

Most financial services segments focus on relationship-based marketing. Even in their most commodity-oriented segments, consumer credit cards for example, the financial institution wants to establish at least the impression of a 1:1 relationship with their customers. How and when these relationships are established varies by segment, but overall, this is the basis of the core relationship between the financial institution and their customers.

Compared to other sectors, what are some of the unique marketing issues that Financial Services marketers are focused on? How does marketing automation help to address these issues?

It is impossible to lump all the segments together to talk about their marketing issues as each segment has a unique set of challenges. Our solution focuses on B2B marketing so I’ll focus on the B2B segments of the financial services market with some specific examples. One segment where we see marketing automation being adopted is in Mutual Funds, which are distributed to consumers in a very traditional two-tier distribution model. The Mutual Fund Manager who creates and manages the actual product, works with a Wholesale Distribution Group who markets the funds to registered investment advisors (RIAs) and broker/dealers (B/Ds) who then sell the investment products to consumers. The process of getting an RIA or B/D to represent your products involved building relationships and ensuring that the RIA or B/D has the right information at the right time. Traditionally, this has involved many face-to-face meetings and the delivery of physical marketing collateral about the products. Today, Wholesale Distribution Groups want to automate this, and are doing so using nurturing processes managed by marketing automation platforms. We see similar marketing needs in other B2B financial services segments.

There are two very unique aspects of the B2B financial services segments. First, because financial services marketing has traditionally been relationship based, they have very mature relationship-marketing processes. This makes it easy to translate what had been a manual process into an automated one that can be supported by the lead nurturing capabilities of a marketing automation platform. Second, traditionally they have created and used a great deal of content in the marketing of their products. This is not only due to the fact that their products can be complicated and need clear explanations, but also because of the disclosure demands of regulators. This wealth of available content makes it easy to create a continuous flow of content-based programs that feed the overall relationship nurturing process. Given marketing automation platforms are designed for content delivery, there is a natural fit here and B2B financial services marketers are in an outstanding position to use the technology to great effect.

Given the recent economic uncertainty, customer acquisition and retention is a greater priority for Financial Services firms. What are some important elements of a firm’s acquisition/retention strategy and how can marketing automation help to answer this need?

As stated above, it’s all about the relationship. When a financial services institution gets you more entrenched with their products, it is harder for you to leave. Cross-sell and up-sell are very important, and marketing automation supports this well with capabilities such as content-based relationship nurturing (as described above) and lead scoring, which can determine how well other products might fit you and when you might be ready to purpose. Of course, this is more of a B2C application, and we see most of the uptake in the B2B segments.

This vertical has been historically dependent on word of mouth and in-person networking, what are the emerging touch points/components of to Financial Services buying process? How do they differ from that of other industries?

Like in all marketing segments, social media will become a more important part of their marketing process, as it is the current mechanism for “word of mouth”. I do not think this differs much from other industries – the social media channel must be actively managed and monitored. There are likely unique differences between the channels you watch depending on whether you are on the B2C or B2B side of financial services. Both need to track Twitter, but B2C is more likely to be focused around Facebook and B2B around LinkedIn.

From a content standpoint, what are some of the relevant calls-to-action that speak to the Financial Services buyer?

In the B2B segments where we focus, it’s all about staying “top of mind” with your prospects. For instance, a broker can only represent so many mutual funds at a time and if you’re not currently in their mix, you need to be prepared for the inflection points when they might want to change out some products. Monitoring the performance of the competitive products you know are in their portfolio and then hitting the broker with an e-mail when you see poor performance of one of those products is the type of call-to-action that can have significant results.

What are some the functions/features of automation platforms that can be most helpful to Financial Services marketers to communicate with prospects most effectively?

As stated above, the lead/relationship nurturing capabilities are key. Combining this with lead scoring and the ability to clearly identify what a prospect is interested in based on their website activity are all critical to B2B financial services marketers.

Because of the security/customer identity sensitivities of Financial Service transactions, what are some of the nuances of approaching marketing messaging and content offers?

Most of what a financial services marketer can say to a prospect is very clearly defined by regulatory agencies and all of the financial institutions have compliance departments which ensure that nothing goes out that shouldn’t. Furthermore, the marketing automation platforms must protect the uniquely identifiable customer information with the appropriate security standards. Fortunately, we’ve passed all of these tests with flying colors. One interesting nuance is that when it comes to launching the initial programs on a marketing automation platform, the process takes much longer than in other industries. This is because the compliance team is watching every step to ensure that no regulations are being violated. Once everything passes, however, new programs are launched at a rapid rate.

Does your solution offer any unique features/functionality that are well suited or targeted for the Financial Services vertical?

Our ability to easily create and manage complex relationship/lead nurturing programs is well received by Financial Services marketers. As stated above, their current processes are complex and they need a tool that can easily translate the manual processes into something that is automated. In addition, our outstanding integration with various CRM platforms is critical to this market. Allowing a sales/marketing rep to easily drop prospects into the appropriate nurture program based on their previous activity has been a big selling point.

Can you share any case studies/examples of how your solution has been deployed within the Financial Services vertical?

The example I gave about mutual fund wholesaling above is from a real customer, but they view what they are doing with us as a competitive advantage and are reluctant to go public. We have another customer in ShareBuilder 401K, which is a subsidiary of ING Direct. They sell and manage 401K programs for businesses. Take a look at their case study for details on how they’ve used the Manticore Platform and the impact it’s had on their business.