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If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that businesses and consumers alike rely on the internet now more than ever. From getting groceries to watching movies, the digital world has become the go-to space for reaching consumers — as more traditional methods have become more limited.

And it hasn’t been an easy adjustment for many financial institutions. Moving your marketing operation online can be a daunting change for institution and consumer alike. But the amount of work seems a little less scary once you have a plan in place. That means identifying relevant marketing channels, building a strategy for each, and understanding your audiences.    

Identify and prioritize your channels.

Let’s first pinpoint the marketing channels your institution should consider. The starting point is clear — identify the mediums that consumers are most accustomed to using. Typically, the roster includes the following:   

  • Email 
  • Social media 
  • Search and display
  • Digital promotions
  • Video content

To meet the consumer online, your institution will want to be on at least a couple of these channels. That said, you have limited resources, so it’s crucial to select certain channels to prioritize. Ask yourself the following questions as you choose which you should operate on:   

  • What does the consumer use this channel for? 
  • Are the consumers you want to acquire active on this channel? 
  • Do you have the time and money to consistently run this channel? 
  • What’s the end goal of the channel: engagement, branding, conversion, or all of the above? 
  • How does it fit into your brand?
  • Can you deliver an experience that fits with the rest of your marketing efforts?  

Your answers should help narrow down the marketing channels most important to your institution. For instance, some banks and credit unions run social media accounts to build their brand and engage consumers. Other institutions spend money on pay-per-click ads for specific promotions. It depends on your goals, the consumers you’re after, and how much you’re willing to spend.   

A step-by-step strategy. 

Once you choose the channels to adopt, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. It can be intimidating to move part of your marketing online, especially if you’ve ran your institution the traditional, in-person way. But, again, the good news is that consumers are already on these channels and are accustomed to receiving marketing messages through them.   

Figure out the scope of how big or small you want to go. Let’s say your first goal is to get up and running on Facebook and Instagram. Start small. Open your accounts, set up your institution’s info, and add some branding elements to your pages.    

Then move a little larger. Find the stakeholders in your institution and establish a blueprint for your social media’s content. Do you plan to post informative content? Maybe just updates or promotions that are happening at your branches? Are there any upcoming community events you could snap pictures of for Instagram? Figure out the flow that best works for you and test your channels to see if you’re getting the desired outcome — whether it’s engagement or conversion.   

This process goes for each channel. Start small, scale up, and test. Just be sure your strategy is in line with the resources you have available, from budget to manpower. 

Know your audience.  

At the end of the day, the goal of investing resources into these channels is to acquire clients. Whether you’re running search ads, launching a new website design, or posting pictures to social media, the end result is the same — appeal to the consumer and convert them into a customer or member.

But as you define your strategy, it’s crucial that you keep your audience in mind. There are a few types out there that vary based on channel: rented, owned, and clients. 

1. “Rented” Audiences  

This audience primarily exists on social media. When you run a social account, you’re essentially borrowing or renting an audience from a company that owns the platform (i.e. Facebook). The company benefits through advertising revenue and you benefit by broadcasting your institution’s brand and offerings to a wide audience.  

Rented audiences are an important starting point as you look to attract new customers and members, but they’re a temporary one. Just because a person likes or shares your content or page doesn’t mean you own them — you have access to them, but that access can be shut off at any time by the company running the platform you’re on.   

2. “Owned” Audiences  

That said, you can convert your rented audience into an owned one. When an audience is owned, it means you can communicate with them directly on your own terms — no middleman (like a social media platform) required. 

Typically, you own an audience if they’ve provided any personal information like an email address, phone number, or physical address. If you secure some contact information, you’ve got yourself an owned audience — a potential lead that you can reach out to on your own terms. That’s why owned audiences are so much more valuable than those that are rented.   

How do you secure personal information from an audience? Look no further than those marketing channels we’ve mentioned. Here are some common ways to leverage them: 

  • Use your website as a lead-generating tool that advertises your accounts or loans and prompts the user to provide contact info.
  • Run a blog that provides useful financial tips or exclusive content (like an ebook or newsletter) that a user needs to sign up for to receive.
  • Post consistently on Facebook about an upcoming community event where you can meet potential customers or members in person.
  • Launch a paid search ad campaign on Google that promotes your mortgage rates and drives users to your site.

3. Clients 

Once you build out your owned audience, you can get to work on the most important conversion of all: turning a lead into a customer or member.

Converting leads ultimately relies on your institution’s strengths. Are your checking accounts second to none? Do you have some of the best mortgage rates in town? Or maybe you’re known for stellar customer service. Whatever sets your apart from the competition, be sure to market it on your channels — from your website banners to social media posts and paid search campaigns. 

Lastly, understand the needs of your customers or members. A longstanding client nearing retirement does not have the same demands as a fresh-out-of-college young adult. As you promote your products and services, be sure to tailor them accordingly. 

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