How To Dive Into Digital Marketing

By Mark Gibson

In the latest installment of our ongoing series on traditional versus digital bank marketing, we explore what it takes to get started with a digital marketing program.

I t can be daunting to jump so late into the digital marketing pool, especially for those of us schooled in the age of traditional marketing. There are myriad choices, many with confusing acronyms. How do all these pieces fit together—or do they? And where do you start? You know you need to learn to swim in the deep end, but you find yourself dog paddling in the shallow end, or worse yet, afraid to jump in.

If any of this sounds familiar, read on. We explore the basic elements of digital marketing, and how to get started, or take your program to the next level.

This article is the sixth in our series about finding the right balance between digital and traditional marketing for your bank. View the previous articles: Digital vs. Traditional Marketing: Lessons Learned, Digital vs. Traditional Marketing: Do’s and Don’ts and The Pros and Cons of Traditional Marketing, The Pros and Cons of Digital Marketing, and Your 2020 Marketing Spend: Digital vs. Traditional.>

The Fundamentals

The wide world of digital marketing can be broken into four basic tracks that every bank marketer needs to understand and begin deploying as part of a complete digital marketing program:

  • Search
  • Display
  • Social Media
  • Content Marketing

Let’s explore each, then talk about how they might work together for you.

  1. Search

Did you know?

Eighty-seven percent of shoppers begin product searches on digital channels. (Retail Dive, 2018)

Customer behavior has changed. And using a search engine, such as Google, is most people’s first stop on the buying journey. Hence, search engine optimization and search engine marketing need to be the first stop on every financial marketer’s digital plan in order to meet the customer where they are. Here are a couple of definitions, courtesy of Google and Wikipedia:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website or a web page to users of a web search engine. SEO refers to the improvement of unpaid results and excludes direct traffic/visitors and the purchase of paid placement.
  • Search engine marketing (SEM) is a form of internet marketing that involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages primarily through paid

Hopefully, you have recently Googled your own bank’s name and reviewed the results. However, in thinking like a customer or prospect, what terms (keywords) would you enter into a search engine to find a new bank or financial account? Better yet, ask family and friends (i.e., non-financial services people) what terms they would type in to find a new bank or bank product. Type those terms into a search engine and see what results are returned. Are you surprised by the results? This is the first step to understanding the power of implementing an SEO and SEM strategy. You want your bank to be on the first page of results. Other banks may have employed SEM and paid a lot of money to get onto that first page of search results, but the first thing they did was make sure their websites are searchable by Google and Bing, and that they contain the desired keywords.

Theresa Massoud, VP of marketing for BankNewport, shares perspectives from her bank’s experience with SEO and SEM: “Google is the giant of search with an estimated 15 billion monthly visitors in the U.S. BankNewport’s first pass at SEO, about seven to ten years ago, was using organic SEO tactics.”

But that would evolve. “Today, with the increase in the amount of searches made, the number of websites that Google is indexing—and competition within each individual industry—having an SEM strategy is crucial,” Massoud says. “We are at a point where paid search is necessary to gain the results [we]desire due to the change in the search landscape. And we can’t forget to mention that over 50 percent of all searches are done via mobile.” She adds that “what is great about this medium is the ability to budget effectively.” Another big benefit: “You can actually track results and conversions, which allows you to calculate ROI.”

Another critical element of paid search is identifying what your objective is. As Regina Nelson, director of consumer marketing strategies at Commerce Bank points out, “Not all keywords are conversion keywords. Some are awareness drivers and others work better for acquisition. Be careful about ‘high spend-low conversion’ keywords. Make sure [you]are accomplishing a business objective with them, or weed them out and redeploy the money against keywords that are working harder for you.”

  1. Display ads

 Display or ‘banner ads’ are popular with financial marketes, probably because they are versatile and readily available. They come in many sizes and can involve rich media and interactive capabilities. They can be effective at reaching both consumers and businesses. They can also be used to either build awareness or to target specific action. But beware—you can spend your budget quickly and end up uncertain about what you’ve accomplished. Better to take a step or two in the “baby pool”—deploy a small, targeted campaign on Facebook or Google that’s really well defined, then measure the results. One bank that was offering a property management seminar used Facebook to invite local people with “property manager” in their job title. In less than three days, the seminar was full.

Banks are also using display advertising in very targeted ways for acquisition purposes. Nelson notes that direct mail is also part of her bank’s overall marketing strategy. “We work with our agency partners to utilize targeted direct mail and digital together to drive new-to-bank household growth from the top-of-the funnel to middle of the funnel with the goal of once they get to our website we can retarget them as part of our prospect pool. “

  1. Social Media

Did you know?

Seventy-two percent of U.S. adults use at lease one social media site; 69 percent of U.S. adults use Facebook.” (Pew, 2019)

Social media is here to stay. Regardless of what the latest, most popular social media app might be, Americans of all ages like social media and are using it in all sorts of ways to stay in touch, connect, learn and share. They are also increasingly expecting businesses to leverage social media effectively.

Most banks think about social media having three purposes:

  • Platform Marketing – This refers to your bank-sponsored Facebook or LinkedIn page, where you publish content to build and engage with your followers.
  • Reactive Marketing and Service – This includes customer service questions and issues, reviews, ratings and comments, many of which require monitoring and response from the bank.
  • Proactive/Push Marketing – Social media allows you to promote your products and services beyond just your social media page, targeting audiences very effectively throughout the entire platform. This can be done using content, display ads or even messaging.

These three purposes are listed in the order you probably want to pursue them. Get your platforms working and prepare a steady stream of content to flow to them. Then work on monitoring and responding to people who are reaching out to you through your platforms. Remember, quality timely responses are critical to keeping customers satisfied, and to keeping your online ratings and reviews positive. Finally, start to dabble in proactive social media marketing. This can be very cost effective and productive.

Massoud explains, “One of the first things we did when entering the social network arena was to create a social media policy with statements as to how we would respond to user generated questions, comments and reviews.” The bank has since produced “social media guidelines for staff members who are engaging with us on their personal pages,” she adds. The guidelines document provides language that is “easy to read and understand and is fewer pages than a formal policy.” 

  1. Content Marketing

People of all ages are becoming voracious consumers of digital content. We all recognize this every day as we see people’s heads bowed down, reading their phones at every opportunity. So, not only is the content important, but optimizing it for an on-the-go, on-the-mobile-phone experience is critical. If a user can’t find your bank during a simple search—and then read the content returned by the search engine—then you’ve just handed your competitors a new lead. Don’t let that happen.

“Content marketing” encompasses a broad range of digital assets:

  • Website content
  • Articles, blogs, news, newsletters, white papers
  • Calculators
  • How-to guides
  • Infographics
  • Podcasts, videos, photos
  • FAQs, help pages

Did you know?

Fifty-five percent of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority. (HubSpot, 2018)

In this era when many consumers, especially young ones, don’t believe advertising, objective educational content is critical to winning them over. Additionally, populating your website with frequently updated valuable content with embedded keywords is essential to being well placed in consumer searches. So where to begin?

Start by cataloging all of your existing content.

You already have more content than you realize. But is it easy to find and in a searchable format? Are all customer segments, lines of business and products and services covered? Have you covered the basics about your bank? You’d be surprised how many institutions make it difficult to find a branch, a phone number or a way to contact the bank. Also, be sure to communicate why a prospect should choose your institution over others. Make sure your website’s search capabilities are up to par and your content is well organized and easy to find.

Now we come full circle. Your website requires great, relevant content in order to be included on a list of search results. Remember, certain formats, like PDFs, are not searchable by Google. So work with an SEO person to make sure the format and keywords of your content are searchable.

“Make sure your website content is aligned with your SEO, and make sure the keywords are performing,” Nelson advises. “Look at your highest performing keywords, and get them better positioned in your web content, so Google’s algorithm will pick up more of them.”

Another tip—don’t forget video. Most people prefer video to a printed page, and that principle translates online. “Our video content has been very popular, as people are more apt to watch a video than read text,” Massoud says.

Getting started

 That first step can be daunting, but with the right information and plan you should be prepared to dive right into digital marketing.

“Take a step back and define what you are trying to accomplish. Are you building awareness or attracting new households?” advises Regina Nelson. “Who are you trying to reach and how well defined is your target? Get agreement on your key performance indicators with your internal clients. Once you have that defined, then you are ready to pick your mix of digital and even traditional tools to accomplish your objective.”

It’s OK to start small, but remember to measure what you’re doing. It’s all about trial and error and learning, so that the next time, you do it a little bit better.

Digital marketing is here, and it’s actually eclipsing traditional marketing in terms of dollars spent. Banks have been a bit behind the curve in adopting it, but there is no time like the present to take a prudent stroke in the right direction. Don’t worry, the water’s fine.

Mark Gibson is senior consultant at Capital Performance Group, a strategic consulting firm that provides advisory, planning, analytic and project management services to the financial services industry. Email: [email protected]LinkedIn.