Financial brands: Knowing your customers is the first step to grow your business

There are plenty of national and regional banks, credit unions, card issuers, lenders and insurance companies that still rely too heavily on direct mail and auto-dialers alone. You may even work for one. While these tactics are still worthwhile, they should no longer stand alone in your marketing strategy.

Digital disruptors like Marcus, Apple and Lemonade are winning customers from traditional financial brands and raising the bar for all financial services institutions.

But all is not lost. With the right approach to digital marketing, you can manage the full financial lifecycle of each of your customers while also delivering on their demands for a better experience. The icing on the cake? It can all be done while balancing privacy protection.

The five stages of the financial customer lifecycle

  • Acquire: Bring net-new customers to your financial institution.
  • Onboard: Make sure they start using the service—whether that means setting up direct deposit for their account or making their first purchase on a new credit card.
  • Grow: Increase stickiness over time through value-added services and upgrades.
  • Cross-sell: Encourage adding relevant product categories to deepen relationships.
  • Retain: Optimize their portfolio to stop customer leakage.

We’ve already discussed the changes you can make to your acquisition and onboarding efforts. Next up is growing your customers. Read on to see how—or check out our guide for details on managing your full customer lifecycle.

Learn more in our e-book: How to build a lifetime of financial loyalty - Digital marketing for all five stages of the customer lifecycle

Grow: Mature with each customer

You probably wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on the first date. A premature proposal probably wouldn’t get anyone the results they’re looking for.

Most couples are more successful when they get to know each other over time. Support each other through life events. Surprise and delight each other. Add value to each other’s lives. Build trust.

The same goes for growing your financial customers and creating relationships that stick.

Of course, growing a relationship as a financial institution with your customers is much different than growing your relationship with a partner. You can do it most effectively by offering relevant valued-added services and upgrades, especially on digital channels.

BCG recently explained that “digitizing for value” is a key objective for financial brands. Using digital technologies, such as mobile apps, websites and interactive voice response, creates fundamentally better experiences for your customers. Adding this value can “translate into an increase in each customer’s lifetime revenue potential through higher average sales per customer and a higher retention rate across the whole customer base.”

But all customers value different things at different times.

To add the right value for each customer, you must first get to know them. You need to have visibility into their interactions not only with your institution, but also with other brands. You have to be able to understand and identify their key life events (think marriage, new baby, moving homes, retirement, etc.) that may trigger a new financial need. And you have to be able to glean this information while balancing privacy protection.

This is called identity management.

It’s all about knowing who customers are—both online and offline—and tailoring their messages in all channels. This approach allows you to send each individual relevant offers through digital media that reflect their real-time needs and preferences, closing the loop between branch interactions and the ever-growing mobile world. It builds trust and helps you build relationships.

Traditional channels such as email and direct mail are still valuable, but they should be coupled with digital media on the websites and apps each person visits most for a true omnichannel approach.

Identity management in action

To show how this works, let’s meet a new fictional friend, Shannon.

Through her privacy-protected profile, we know she’s:

  • 34 years old
  • Single
  • Living in Chicago
  • Has a basic debit card account
  • Has been browsing online recently to learn more about her banking options

We also know that Shannon is a marketing executive, often visits industry websites and reads a news app on her phone every morning.

Her bank has mailed and emailed her an offer to upgrade to a premier account, but she hasn’t converted. The bank complements these owned tactics with relevant messaging on the sites and apps Shannon visits most (such as those leading marketing websites), reminding her of the upgrade benefits. Two weeks after she sees the digital advertising, Shannon converts to a premium account.

The beauty of this approach is that it’s personalized to Shannon’s individual triggers, preferences and behaviors. You’re able to add this personalized value for Shannon because you’ve made the effort to get to know her. The messaging and mix of ad placements would be different for other customers, adapting to each of their online behaviors.

Be the next Marcus?

You may not be a Marcus or Apple or Lemonade (yet!), but you can meet or exceed the expectations they’ve set in the market by showing your customers you know them—across all points of interaction. You have the opportunity to go beyond the auto-dialer to focus on each of your customers as an individual. Personalize every interaction to add value to their lives, and you’ll easily continue to grow your relationships.

Want to go beyond the “grow” stage to learn about managing the full financial lifecycle? Check out our latest guide: How to build a lifetime of financial loyalty.