By Amber Kemmis
At the heart of any inbound marketing strategy is the idea that marketing is most effective when you work to help prospects navigate their problem or solution, reduce friction throughout, and ultimately win the sale because you helped educate them. With today’s customers more digital and more in control than ever, inbound marketing strategies are essential to effectively reach and retain customers. When it comes to marketing for credit unions or banks, this is especially true. It’s no longer just about finding the best interest rates, but it’s also about going with the most trusted institution. Considering the fact that 47 percent of customers do their banking online (Qualitrics), these inbound marketing strategies are worth testing.
Customers don’t just seek out information via one channel. Even with a single buyer, they may use multiple channels to help them decide on the best credit union or bank. For example, a customer may start by researching the institutions via Google, investigate the pros and cons of each, and then after reading several mixed reviews on the top two, turn to their social network for advice on how to move forward. Multi-channel approaches help reach these customers, but with time, marketers have to understand the channels most worth an investment. Some of the key channels worth testing from a digital standpoint include search, social, referrals, and email, which are expanded upon below.
Defining Buyer Personas and the Buyer’s Journey
If multi-channel marketing is the vessel, then detailed marketing personas and a thorough buyer’s journey are the compass for steering your efforts in the right direction. Inbound marketing personas help define the direction behind your efforts, and the buyer’s journey helps you map essential content throughout the buying and post-buying process. Because there’s a wide range of customers for banks and credit unions, including both B2B and B2C audiences, it’s important to narrow your focus to only those you know you can effectively market to. You may serve a wide variety of buyers, but you’ll stand out to no one if you try to market to everyone.
When we think about content marketing, we often think of things like blogs, e-books, and newsletters. Content, however, can come in the form of tools, planners, and calculators, which are a powerful part of content marketing for any financial company. For example, as shown below, SoFi has several tools including their Debt Navigator:
As you define your inbound marketing personas and buyer’s journey, you should have a clear understanding of the mechanisms and traditional types of content that your customers rely on. Whether a home loan rate calculator, savings plan, or business financial plan, content marketing is a crucial strategy that you’ll want to not only test but also make a permanent staple in your digital marketing strategy. Beyond content that educates buyers about their problems or opportunities, buyers will also look to your content to better understand who you are and how you can help them, which is why your website and the many components of it are an inbound marketing strategy to test continually.
Your website serves as a way to generate traffic to your brick-and-mortar locations and online portals, but if well optimized, it’s also the gateway to becoming a customer or member. Beyond that, it also helps customers regularly manage their finances and it helps them in times of need like when they need to report fraudulent activity. Inbound marketing is all about self-service, and that’s exactly what you need in order to serve today’s banking and finance customers. Some key things to test when it comes to your website’s optimization:
Forms: Test to find the best times to ask for information and how much information is best to request. Although it can be tempting to put a form on any exchange (e.g., debt calculator), you may be deterring the long-term conversion of a customer. Test and strike the right balance with web forms.
CTAs: What offers and messages are performing well for converting your website visitors into customers? Alternatively, what CTAs are effectively driving more business from a customer? CTAs and the conversion paths they lead to are inbound essentials to start testing.
Chat: If you aren’t using it yet, try. Not only will you have a way to quickly communicate with prospective customers and others on your site, but you’ll also gain some valuable data for understanding the gaps of your website. For example, if users continually ask how to reset the account login, you may want to redesign the UX of the online account login. If you find chat effective, take it a step further and incorporate AI to answer common questions.
Application processes: If you provide the ability to apply for your services online, at what points are people dropping off or stalling? Optimize the steps to reduce the resistance and drop-off rate.
On-Page, Off-Page, and All Things SEO
On-page SEO (i.e., H1s, page title, meta descriptions, page copy) and off-page SEO (i.e., backlinks, load times, indexing) are part of inbound marketing strategies, and are not just something to test, but are necessary to be found online and demonstrate brand authority. If you serve customers at brick-and-mortar locations, you especially need to have a strategy for on- and off-page SEO and, as you scale to new or different locations, you’ll need to keep optimizing. Moz offers a great local SEO checklist to help you navigate local SEO. Check it out here.
Paid Search & Display Campaigns
Search engine marketing (SEM) goes beyond generating traffic organically. When, for example, you are trying to move into a new market, you may need to rely heavily on paid search to create awareness on search engines. You may also be up against some fierce organic competition, which means paid search is a great way to beat them to get the top spot. Beyond search campaigns, digital paid ads can also benefit customer marketing strategies via display as part of inbound marketing campaigns. For example, if you’re hosting an exclusive workshop for customers, present that to them via display ads.
Social media is the place where people go to share their opinions, advice, testimonials, pictures of their cat, and information they find entertaining or useful. For credit unions and banks, a crucial aspect of social media is opinions—when people share reviews. One important part of inbound marketing is helping the buyer feel confident in choosing you, so your social media reviews have to help them do that.
Social media also helps you build a connection with your customers and members. Inbound marketing is a great way to ignite this. People don’t just want to hear about your office party, new blog posts, and company announcements on social media—they want to engage in meaningful ways, which means you have to get creative but also consistently create content worth following. For example, you could create a Facebook group or series of Facebook/Instagram Live posts covering a series on retirement savings. Whatever you test, keep in mind that social media is about community and connecting with others, not blasting a message.
Traditional Meets Inbound Marketing
For many banks and credit unions, marketing strategies still rely heavily on outbound tactics like billboards, print, and media buying. If you take an inbound mindset and couple this mindset with a completely integrated on and offline marketing strategy, you’ll be amazed at the results.
One of my favorite examples of this comes from a bank just down the street from me. Following the construction of a new six-story building on a prominent street, the bank wanted to start their next chapter by showing appreciation to customers, so they hosted a private Toby Keith concert for 2,000 members in the parking lot of the new building. They invited many of their customers, not just the biggest ones, and the location made it easy for others to observe from outside the event. Word spread quickly about what had happened. People posted images on social media, both at the event and from outside, which ultimately led to conversations about what the bank was doing for people. It was inbound marketing integrated with traditional event marketing at its best.
Although not every inbound marketing strategy will work for your bank or credit union’s overall marketing strategy, they are worth testing at least once.