CEOs and CFOs will love this digital marketing article…

...CMOs, maybe not so much

“We’ve been lucky.”

A phrase typically reserved for lottery winners and gamblers, I’ve heard this phrased uttered dozens of times by bank and credit union executives as they stumble to describe how their organizations have grown over the past few years in relation to marketing activities.

While they typically begin their analysis of growth by recalling certain marketing campaigns from previous years, it quickly dawns on these seasoned executives that success was more of a byproduct of random variables than certain constants when probed for specifics behind the organization’s growth.

In these conversations, we make it known that we’re not discounting the contributions of past marketing initiatives. In our own analysis, we can typically observe a relationship between these campaigns and an increase in products.

However, in our search for deeper insights regarding channel attribution, cost per lead, cost per acquisition, digital versus physical conversions, product profitability, and various other key performance metrics, executives pause for a moment and then respond.

“We’ve been lucky.”

Do You Know What You’re Marketing is Doing?

In Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Han Solo that in his experience, “There is no such thing as luck.”

We agree.

And that’s why I don’t gamble.

But many of you can probably identify with the statement, “We’ve been lucky.”

Even just a few years ago, the idea of being able to track and quantify a financial institution’s spend down to an individual channel seemed ludicrous. Sure, there were the traditional media buys, like radio, television, and print, but having the ability to assess the bottom line impact of these marketing expenditures? Absurd.

However, as marketing methodologies have evolved, advances in both technology and software provide marketers the ability to move beyond reporting vanity, feel-good metrics and demonstrate if an organization’s marketing is impacting the bottom line.

A few years ago, the software company Adobe began releasing a series of online videos satirizing this idea of marketers not understanding what their initiatives are doing.

Here’s one of the videos.

Adobe has done an amazing job of personifying the challenges today’s marketers face in these videos, especially when it comes to using and interpreting data to enhance marketing activities.

And it’s encouraging to see both our clients and other financial institutions move in the direction of measuring and understanding these key performance metrics and using data to demonstrate marketing’s value.

However, there are at times unintended consequences as a result of such progress. Yes, there is value in understanding the performance of an organization’s marketing, but there’s also a flipside.

A counterpoint.

It’s a bleak topic that, while unpopular, requires a much-needed conversation within the credit union industry.

And before you flee for the hills in an effort to avoid conflict or opposing opinions, I ask you to stay with me and keep an open mind. I believe it’s beneficial and healthy for credit union executives to begin discussing this subject internally in the coming weeks and months.

Still with me?

What I’m referring to is…


What Did He Just Say?

Like many principles, the idea of accountability sounds great in theory. And we demand accountability from others, whether that’s from our governing bodies and elected officials or our spouses and families.

But when the spotlight of accountability pivots from others and focuses on ourselves, we tend to feel the uncomfortable weight of this responsibility. And rightfully so.

The truth is that a majority of financial services marketers and sales teams have avoided this burden of accountability.

In the past, marketing departments would participate in the yearly ritual of budgeting, allocating, spending, reporting, and repeating.

Marketers would submit annual budgets and then allocate the funds received to various quarterly campaigns, sponsorships, media buys, and maybe some quirky t-shirts. Checks were written for these marketing initiatives, reports were generated to show a spike in products, and the process would soon repeat itself.

But what contributions to the bottom line were an actual result, either directly or indirectly, of the marketing department’s spend?

The following are quotes that I have heard from financial services marketers when asked this question:

  • “We really don’t know.”
  • “There’s a general idea. It’s very broad.”
  • “That’s why we hired you guys.”
  • “We’ve been lucky.”

Embracing Accountability

When discussing the prospects of accountability with bank and credit union executives, the reception is met with nods of agreement from the CEOs and CFOs. The reaction from marketing is unpredictable.

For those marketers who understand that digital marketing provides an opportunity for demonstrating the value of marketing to the overall organizational goals, the response is overwhelmingly positive. However, for those who fear the idea of marketing being held to a higher standard than previously before, the reception is a bit more frosty.

These conversations are not intended to generate fear within credit union marketers. And I understand that feelings toward accountability do not exist in a vacuum, where organizational issues, departmental challenges, or personal experiences could dampen the reception of accountability within marketing.

But I challenge you to rethink the preconceived notions of what accountability could look like for both your marketing and sales departments at your financial institution.

Because at the end of the day, marketing’s role within the organization must surpass being a glorified, on-demand print shop and promotions headquarters. That’s what local marketing vendors are for.

As the traditional financial institution business model evolves beyond branches and broadcast, marketing’s strategic function is to be accountable for positioning within the community and generating leads. Alternatively, sales is accountable for nurturing these leads and closing the business.

Working together, marketing and sales must have a positive impact on the bottom line.

Digital marketing technology and software provides the opportunity to truly understand what your marketing is doing. Because if your marketing department can begin to quantify the impact different channels have on your bottom line, you can make informed decisions for future marketing initiatives and ultimately provide quantifiable value to your credit union.

To The Outliers

Of course, the dynamics of every organization are different. Some of your credit unions may have internal procedures in place to ensure accountability from all departments, including marketing. But after working full-time in the financial services space for eight years, I would reply that your organization is an outlier.

And for that, I congratulate you.

Jonathan Lay

Jonathan Lay

As Senior  Advisor at CU Grow, Jonathan Lay helps banks and credit unions use digital marketing to tell stories that sell. He brings over a decade of digital marketing experience ... Web: Details