Supercharging digital marketing

Here are best practices to get the most out of data-driven digital marketing to boost business and commercial banking sales productivity.

By Mark Gibson

There is a revolution occurring in terms of how business and commercial bankers are generating new business. New powerful sources of prospecting data, combined with digital marketing techniques, are significantly increasing the number of qualified ‘at bats’ at many financial institutions today. The positive outcomes are improved banker efficiency and more rapid loan and deposit growth.

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While commercial and business bankers still rely primarily on personal calling efforts, the pandemic brought home that using remote selling techniques was essential to maintain new customer growth. Overnight, many business owners did not want to meet with bankers who spent most of their time in the field. Business and commercial bankers essentially became an ‘inside sales force’ participating in a well-documented trend that has been gaining steam for years in other industries.

What many of these bankers quickly realized was that, without personal calling and limited networking, they needed better data on which prospects to target and more support from marketing in order to generate qualified leads to follow up on.

Data-driven marketing becomes essential to increasing sales productivity

Data-driven marketing has been generating new customers on the consumer side of the house for years–evidenced by all those credit card offers in your mailbox! B2B sales outside the banking industry has also relied significantly on analytics-fueled digital marketing and direct marketing for quite some time.

So what exactly is data-driven digital marketing? From a prospect lead generation standpoint, it consists of four critical elements:

  • Analyzing your existing business customers to understand what characteristics represent your ‘best customers’ (that definition can vary in terms of profitability, deposits or loans).
  • Using available public data to determine which businesses are most financially attractive to your institution, AND which are more likely to want to bank with you.
  • Using digital and direct marketing techniques to focus your dollars and efforts specifically on the businesses you want as customers.
  • Connecting the dots between the marketing efforts and the prospecting efforts of your business and commercial bankers in order to effectively measure the results of your efforts–and do more of what was most effective.

Business data is experiencing a transformation

Business and Commercial bankers have historically relied on a handful of data sources to assist with their business development efforts. However, the internet, combined with advances in graphic user interfaces, has allowed for exponential growth in the quantity and usability of data and insight on small and mid-sized businesses. More recent entrants like RelPro and others are consolidating data from more than 20+ sources, often in real-time, to provide rich up-to-date profiles of businesses and their executives. Bankers can leverage multiple data sources to build a targeted prospect list based on their unique strategy, find accurate contact intelligence on a company’s key decision-makers, and research and track the company in a single platform, saving time and gaining efficiency in their prospecting.

In addition to creating targeted prospect lists by industry, geography, and revenue size, a banker is now able to see which bank(s) a company has loans outstanding with, what banking-specific topics the executives might be interested in, and even if they are in the market for a new bank.

“There is so much information on individual companies and their executives today, but it’s coming from so many different sources,” says Martin Wise, CEO of RelPro. “The key to what we do is consolidate it into a platform that is easy for a commercial banker to create a targeted prospect list, or for marketing to develop a well-informed lead generation campaign.”

Digital marketing supercharges the data

Insight from a powerful data engine can improve prospecting success, but multiple touch points are often required in order to get a busy business owner’s attention. Digital marketing, often supplemented with outbound calling or direct mail, can dramatically improve banker productivity by allowing prospects who are interested in banking with you to ‘raise their hands.’

Here’s how it works:

Marketing and business/commercial bankers collaborate in defining criteria for the ideal prospect (such as industry, geography, revenue range). Then a solution like RelPro is used to screen prospects based on those criteria. Next, an email, direct mail, or outbound calling program is undertaken to reach the decision-makers at those companies. When those individuals open the email, visit a landing page, or ask for an appointment, the ‘sales qualified lead’ is passed to a banker for follow-up. In some banks, an internal sales team works these leads, then passes hot prospects to commercial or business bankers to close the sale. This approach significantly improves the productivity of the highest-paid salespeople.

Getting the targeting right can be tricky, however. Bruce McMeekin of BKM Marketing adds, “We like to start with understanding who the bank’s ‘best customer’ is, ideally in terms of profitability or other meaningful measure. Then we append extensive third-party data to profile customers and identify similar ‘best prospects’ for the bank to target.” Taking such a thoughtful approach to targeting improves the efficiency of the sales process even more since it minimizes sales team time with prospects that don’t meet the bank’s criteria.

Chart illustrates that, for this particular institution, their ‘best depositors’ clustered in the $1 million to $100 million sales size. Source: BKM Marketing, with numbers genericized.

Sales and marketing ‘joined at the hip’

The data-driven approach to marketing lead generation requires marketing teams’ close collaboration with bankers, joining efforts in a way that many marketers may not be accustomed to. For instance, the program is designed primarily to help business and commercial bankers generate new relationships, so they need to inform the project from the beginning. For instance:

  • What is our primary objective (deposit growth, loan growth, cash management)?
  • What type of business are we targeting (industry, sales size, credit criteria, etc.)?

Also, roles and responsibilities need to be clarified upfront so there is no question about what the marketing and sales teams are responsible for, and how the hand-off of qualified leads is occurring. Most importantly, who is working the leads specifically, and how are they dispositioning them so marketing effectiveness can be determined and optimized?

“We thought we were collaborating with the line of business and the digital channel team until we took this data-driven performance marketing approach to our business,” says Kris Levan, chief marketing officer of First Commonwealth Bank. “What we found was that, instead of a monthly meeting, this approach requires weekly if not daily dialog and feedback in order to optimize performance.”

An added bonus to this digitally oriented approach is that almost everything is trackable. For instance, if a particular executive at a target company reviews a piece of content (eBook or article), marketing can let the banker know so a totally personalized reach-out can occur and meetings can get scheduled faster.

And finally, before the program starts, the team needs to determine what shared goals and critical KPIs need to be tracked, what performance dashboard is needed, and how that is all going to come together in a weekly report that the team can use to understand what is working, what’s not, and what needs to be adjusted.

Additional benefits of data-driven digital marketing approach

While providing a steady stream of qualified leads to bankers is the primary benefit, there are three potential ways this type of marketing approach can benefit an institution:

  • Demonstrate expertise in a specific industry vertical. Often, these programs focus on one or several specific industries, with contact programs, advertising, mail and valuable content being specifically tailored to that type of business. With this approach, your institution raises its visibility in that industry vertical and becomes a more relevant service provider.
  • Expand geographically. Because these programs typically lead with Marketing rather than a physical sales force, banks have the ability to reach beyond their branch trade area just like a fintech firm if they choose to do so.
  • Increase engagement. A perennial challenge is accessing a scarce resource such a commercial banker to follow up on a regular basis with existing clients and prospects. Data-driven digital marketing can supplement physical banker contact and can be personalized to that particular company’s needs and interests. In fact, through search and social media monitoring, this approach can even enhance relevant engagement by providing insight into clients’ real-time interests (such as searching for cybersecurity) and arming the banker with this information.

Taking commercial banking to the next level

While most business and commercial bankers have yet to take full advantage of what the new digital marketing tools can provide, those who have are never turning back.

This process requires more third-party data and digital marketing techniques than many community banks currently use. However, similar to other businesses, the internet has made these tools less expensive and more readily available. In fact, they have long been available to institutions of all sizes, but the largest were generally the first to deploy them. What we are seeing is that the new generation of commercial and business bankers are expecting—even demanding—to have the most powerful prospecting data and marketing support at their fingertips. It’s time for marketing and the lines of business to come together and provide it for them.

Mark Gibson is marketing practice leader at Capital Performance Group, a strategic consulting firm that assists banks in making the most of their marketing efforts. He can also be reached on LinkedIn.