Financial marketing: Using adaptable digital solutions for acquisition

Direct mail has its benefits, but it needs an online counterpart


Every industry expects ups and downs. Issues with Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft recently affected airlines as they removed planes from the air as quickly as possible, and any restaurant chain is one food poisoning outbreak away from enduring the consumer trust issues that plagued Chipotle for the past few years.

The finance industry is no different; market volatility affects everyone—from the big bank players to the community lenders—and they can require swift portfolio changes to rebalance their assets.

The industry is experiencing such a shift right now: “A flat yield curve, and questions about the path of interest rates given lingering political and economic uncertainties, have created headaches for bankers looking to optimize their balance sheets,” noted a recent article from American Banker.

However, due to financial marketing compliance and how you can (or cannot) offer products to consumers, speed to market is a real issue when you need to make an impact in a short amount of time.

The bottom line is that you need the right tools to turn certain levers on and others off based on market changes. Here, we talk through adaptable financial marketing solutions to increase acquisition, cross-sell and retention across products and segments—because direct mail isn’t the only option out there.

The monetary impact of diversified media

Direct mail is the traditional choice for many financial marketers looking for audience accuracy. It allows you to speak to the right people, but direct mail has a number of shortcomings:

  • Speed to market: By the time you’ve identified an acquisition need for deposits or lending, you’re probably still a month from reaching consumers. If interest rates are up and you need to focus on bringing more people in for deposit accounts or loans, direct mail takes too long to activate in market, and you’ll miss your window for consideration.
  • User experience: Newer products, like the just-announced Apple card, and brands, like Rocket Mortgage, have completely digital and mobile-optimized application processes. As more financial services companies focus on the customer experience, the digital side becomes more important, and direct mail is not a direct path to purchase for the consumer. Data accuracy also factors into this; there are plenty of examples of people applying for credit cards, getting denied and then receiving a direct mail piece for that same card a few weeks later.
  • Campaign integration: Direct mail is often the only part of a campaign with specificity to an individual while the digital side focuses on broader messaging and targeting. Direct mail often feels like a one-off as opposed to being part of a larger, integrated approach to communicating with an individual, whereas the full campaign should be personalized across online and offline.
  • Cost: To build a quality list of prospects for direct mail, you have to pull their credit scores, which isn’t cheap. And that’s not factoring in the cost of the direct mail piece itself (a requirement when credit is pulled). The paper, envelope, postage and fulfillment on direct mail gets expensive quickly—especially for a big list—which means more of your budget is not spent on reaching people.
  • Measurement: It’s always a bit of a question with direct mail. Did the person receive the mailer? Did it actually affect their decision to open an account with the bank or move their mortgage over to that institution? Without knowing your return on ad spend, you can’t intelligently make decisions to optimize or change current approaches, leading to wasted dollars and reach.

All of this is to say that you probably need more from your marketing than a direct mail campaign can deliver on its own. Direct mail should complement your marketing strategy but not stand as the only people-focused execution in it.

Use digital channels to ensure accuracy, speed and optimization

A Google study found a 48% increase in year-over-year mobile search traffic related to mortgages, credit, loans and insurance. More importantly, the average US adult spends more than six hours a day with digital media—more than any other channel. 

Using online signals, you can understand peoples’ life changes—like people who have recently switched jobs, are looking for a house or are preparing for a newborn—and message them with relevant financial solutions in the moments they need them most. And the benefits of identity-based digital marketing are apparent:

  • Speed: You can be in market much faster with an existing digital partner than with a direct mail campaign, allowing you to quickly scale up or down based on market changes and needs. (Note: Onboarding a new partner can take time, but once they’re up and running, campaigns can easily adjust based on goals.)
  • Real-time optimization: Digital media allows for real-time optimization, so you can see similarities across individuals that converted and then reach more people with those attributes online. This also means better, more efficient advertising spend—you reach more people that actually convert to the goal and can measure conversions in real time.
  • Relevance: Identity-based digital marketing focuses on recognizing and understanding real people to provide relevant communications to them depending on their current life stage. You would know and be able to reach people based on their needs—such as shopping for a home loan, getting a new job or expecting a baby—which allows you to serve them better, more relevant marketing messages when they need it most.
  • Push vs. pull: To the above point about relevance, with identity-based marketing, you can be proactive and engage people that are already or about to be in market for a specific financial product. Instead of waiting for someone to reach out to your institution (or a competitor) to inquire about a home or car loan, you can message them about options as they start to consider a larger purchase.

There are compliant ways to reach in-market consumers online without resorting to spray-and-pray tactics. Using identity-based digital marketingwhich focuses on reaching real people through privacy-protected digital profilesyou can reach your audiences that are in-market at that moment to support specific campaign goals:


  • Acquisition: Bring new customers into your financial institution.
  • Onboarding: Make sure they start using the service—whether that means setting up their direct deposit for the account or making their first purchase on a new credit card.
  • Growth: Increase stickiness over time through value-added services and upgrades.
  • Cross-selling: Talk to current customers about new product categories to deepen relationships.
  • Retention: Optimize their portfolio to ensure they stay with your financial institution and stop customer leakage.

If you approach financial marketing with adaptable solutions in mind, you’ll be able to scale up or down based on changing market dynamics. Although we don’t know what may happen next year or even next month with interest rates, we know that the one constant is always change.

Learn more about identity-based marketing for financial services.