As the digital age continues apace, the need for bank and credit union branches to develop strong connections with their customers is more important than ever. One of the most effective ways that they can achieve this is through nurturing trust. All consumer decisions, especially when it comes to personal finance, contain an emotional component which revolves around a crucial question that must be asked of businesses: “Can I trust you?”


In an industry where the relationship between financial institutions and the general public has been damaged (in part by the 2008 global economic crash), financial brands and their branches are striving to restore public trust in their ability to manage personal and business finances. This is no easy feat, particularly in the digital realm. Money is a sensitive and stressful subject that underpins many aspects of people’s personal and professional lives. Therefore, branches need to focus on understanding how to approach customers and address their individual needs.


Within the consumer banking space, people are no longer simply searching for another loan or credit card provider. Instead, they entrust financial institutions to provide effective counsel tailored to their financial situation. Marketing automation technology can simplify this process, using various channels of digital marketing to help financial institutions guide their customers on a personalised path toward brighter futures – an invaluable tool towards satisfying the demands of the modern consumer.


However, despite the obvious benefits, many financial businesses are still slow on the uptake when it comes to marketing automation. In other words, there is an excellent opportunity for branches to distinguish themselves from the competition. Harnessing the capabilities of marketing automation tools, they can significantly enhance their ability to build trust and a close, personal relationship between themselves and their customers by providing a more bespoke, tailored service.


Understand and embrace the new era of the customer journey

The digital age has undoubtedly transformed customer expectations of how services should market to them. With consumer preferences and behavior constantly shifting, businesses need to implement software that is adaptive to real-time changes and can guide customers along a customised digital-led marketing journey to the end destination.


Studies have revealed that 81% of bank shopping journeys begin online. Additionally, it is estimated that consumers use an average of nine different information sources over a 60-to-90-day period when shopping for a financial product, making it essential for branches to stand out from the competition. Here’s a breakdown of the key components of a typical customer journey:


  • The first step is the process of gathering information about the business and gaining awareness of the services they offer. In today’s consumer landscape, this is primarily achieved through digital advertising and content marketing.
  • The next stage involves consideration. Content marketing plays a pivotal role here in its provision of information resources that are relevant to the customer. This information is supplemented with additional research on the company via its website and third-party outlets, such as peer review sites or digital magazines. It is also at this stage that potential customers begin looking at their local branch. Consumers need to know why they should trust your business before they’ll move past the consideration phase.
  • Following the success of the previous two steps, the final stage is the act of purchase, or coming to the branch in person. Consumers largely make buying decisions based on feeling and emotion (the right brain), while financial institutions rely heavily on logic, analytics, and reason (left brain). The two mindsets complement each other in the decision-making process, though trust in logic and reason is found in adhering to the emotional senses.


Factoring in the above, it is clear that the traditional “offline” customer journey is no longer the same in the modern, digital-leaning consumer landscape. With many more moving parts and complexities to juggle, there are also infinite opportunities these financial brands and their branches can capitalise on through marketing automation tools.


Personalise your content and deliver it to the right people

Each generation has different needs, and therefore different content that they find valuable and connections that are relevant to them. For this reason, mass emails are a redundant strategy because they do not allow businesses to effectively engage with customers on an individual level or address specific concerns.


Contrary to popular belief, a sharp, aesthetic website is no longer enough to keep your customers enticed. And unfortunately, posting to your social media accounts also does not guarantee an audience anymore.  Digital advertising is only a small cog in the digital marketing machine and it can’t be solely relied on to effectively nurture clients. Although the aforementioned are essential components and play an important role in the buyer’s journey, they still collectively lack the personalization and subsequent trust-building capabilities that credit unions and banks need to substantially bring in customers and gain their loyalty.


So with that said, there is a fundamental difference between having an online presence and engaging through digital channels. And while genuine, one-to-one communication is crucial in many situations, it is also not possible at scale.


Once again, marketing automation addresses this issue. The software can help direct specific content for a wide range of demographics (such as retirement savings, college funds, credit card debt, buying a home, celebrating a wedding, etc). Marketing automation software equips firms with the insight they need to cut through the digital noise, reach customers on a personalised level with relevant information, and help them go into their local branches. Simply put, the tailored communication which marketing automation allows can help drive exponential growth in a branch’s customer base by prompting more effective communication with a far wider audience. This characteristic epitomises the potency of marketing automation software in the financial services industry and the competitive advantage it can give.


Connect potential customers with the branch – when they’re ready


Regardless of the industry, no customer wants to deal with an aggressive salesperson. In an area as sensitive and important as personal and business finances, this is particularly true. Marketing automation that promotes a more measured and data-led approach is far more suitable.


As the customer journey evolves and the research phases are more independent and purposeful, marketing automation can provide real-time alerts and lead nurturing that makes the connection feel tailored and less intrusive. The real-time alerts provide instant notification for contacts, customers, and user activities, which then allows your team to begin nurturing these with relevant content at the right time.


Customers will sometimes drop out of an application process (notably an important part of the customer journey before conversion) for reasons as trivial as forgetting to press “Submit” or because they were lured by a competitor at the last minute. Simply having targeted campaigns that address this abandonment, even as simple as a friendly reminder that they have a pending application, will make a financial institute, or specific branch, stand out from its competition–considering 83% of banks and credit unions do not have a defined digital application abandonment process.


Marketing automation efficiently helps to plan, implement, and optimise the buyer’s journey so that when they step through the door of your branch, half the work is already done.


About the author  Katie Jameson is the Head of EMEA Marketing at Act-On Software, a leading provider of marketing automation and one of the fastest growing tech companies in North America. Working on a global scale, Act-On Software specialises in adaptive marketing solutions that enable marketers to create Adaptive Journeys using customer behaviours, preferences and data to intelligently guide the engagement strategy. The company operates in a number of industries including automotive, construction, manufacturing, technology and the fastener industry.