Many marketers want to help customers make better decisions by becoming the source of trusted information. But few are actually turning this practice into leads and increased referrals.
However, some marketers are bucking the trend, realizing the mercenary fact that customers are reactive and expect free, value-added services to help them make complex decisions.
These smart businesses are taking action. They’re producing content that moves customers closer to doing what they want to do—actualize an answer through purchasing a product.
Like most Americans, bank customers are confused, and they make decisions reactively. They don’t plan finances, and they don’t know where to find help with important financial matters. Suddenly, bank customers are looking for guidance from someone they trust. And they’ll do business with the one who provides it.
Banks, probably like your company, are looking for ways to generate more revenue. And they know how to do it. Increase “share of wallet.” And they have products and people in place to cross-sell value-added products and services. But they’re not getting the results they want from marketing.
“The barrier is that many customers do not see their banks as the places to go beyond deposits and loans,” says Stewart Rose, CEO of Truebridge Financial Marketing. “Banks also aren’t doing a good enough job in generating referrals in the branches.”
I recently sat down with Rose, who revealed a rather simple—but overlooked—solution to the problem of customers entering banks in “transaction mode” and leaving in “transaction mode.” The solution: Customers arrive in transaction mode and leave seeing their bank as a financial services resource.
Wisconsin-based Anchor Bank figured out a way to overcome this quandary with the use of educational content, providing customers with helpful answers on hundreds of financial topics.
“But the biggest success factor is focusing on delivery of content and realizing that the strategy is a first step in a comprehensive lead-nurturing process,” says Rose, who advises banks on creating more success with useful content.
However, Anchor isn’t educating customers solely using digital content. It’s listening and acting in ways that prompt customers to do what they already want to do: get involved in the process of buying a product or service.
The content isn’t the key. The operational aspects are what unlocks success. A checking account isn’t starting any kind of meaningful dialogue for either party. But starting a discussion about retirement savings or college savings funds can lead to mutually beneficial outcomes between customer and bank.
A Study in Process
Anchor Bank provides an online Financial Answer Center. Here, customers find answers to perplexing “life stage” issues like college loans, mortgages, credit consolidation and retirement savings.
But Anchor’s information doesn’t just sit passively on its website, waiting for customers. Employees are delivering the resource to customers online and in-branch—when they’re transacting. Just like industrial designers think about ergonomics, businesses like Anchor Bank are starting to think about “form fitting” content to the consumption preferences of customers.
Delivering it in print format and PDF gives customers choices. This increases the information’s portability and utility.
Anchor wisely communicates the emotional end-benefit of what the information can do for customers, such as saving money or avoiding mistakes. The bank even personalizes documents with photographs of branch employees and direct-dial phone numbers. The content is actionable.
Make Content Serve
This brings us to the most important success principle: capturing the lead. Effective content marketing is operational. Marketers sometimes believe it’s all about the quality of content and good corporate citizenship. But if marketers aren’t applying content within the context of the sales funnel, they lose.
Anchor Bank wisely allows customers to qualify themselves through its content. It requires customers to provide contact and occasionally “need state” information. This ensures proper, personalized follow-up and bolsters the value perception to customers.
Marketers like Anchor teach us this: There needs to be “informational design” in marketing strategies that create specific, qualitative outcomes.
Anchor is moving beyond using content to educate and is literally demonstrating that the bank is the place to access what people need—when and how they need it. And in return, Anchor is collecting qualitative need-based information; it’s discovering and nurturing leads.
Change Your Behavior, Change Your Brand
Forward-thinkers like Anchor Bank aren’t shaping their image as “the place to go for more financial needs” with ad copy, but by demonstrating their added value. By changing the customer experience from “transactions only” to “help and guidance,” these marketers are improving the customer experience. This means less advertising about products the business wants to sell, and more providing helpful information based on the customer’s momentary, evolving needs.
Exceptionally successful digital customer acquisition is a value exchange. Persuasive marketing messages aren’t enough. Content marketing works, but only if your tactics are prompting customers to reveal their momentary needs, then capturing that information as part of a larger follow-up system.
Digital branding is evolving. Today, it’s the collective interactions between your business and customers. Anchor Bank’s experience is living proof.
Jeff Molander is a digital marketing strategist, adjunct professor of digital marketing at Loyola University, public speaker and author of a forthcoming book aimed at improving digital marketing results. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and blogs at www.jeffmolander.com.