Five strategic marketing priorities that may be the keys to unlocking successful growth

It has been a wild two-year journey. From our personal to business lives, we’ve made more adaptations, pivots and changes amidst uncertainty, than perhaps at any point in history.

As we clear our heads and focus on reaching our goals the second half of this year, and begin prepping 2023 plans and strategies, I want to share five strategic marketing shifts we see emerging or rising as priorities. These may be key to future growth, innovation, competitive brand distinction and enhanced performance.

Shift #1: Marketing is rapidly becoming more automated and intelligent.

While financial marketing tools, digital and social marketing, brand building and competition has evolved faster than at any point before, not all financial marketers evolved their strategies, budgets, team skills and execution.

Many marketers watched on the sidelines to see if the promise of data analytics and marketing automation systems would improve member experiences and advance personalization. Those that stepped up and capitalized on automating complex manual processes like onboarding, saw rapid advances in tailoring personalized communications and enhanced targeting across channels – that increased results and retention.

As target audiences and the “ideal” segments become increasingly harder to identify, understand, and reach via an expanding web of savvy digital, social and traditional awareness building channels, it is now exponentially harder for marketers to adapt and leverage data insights without intelligent analytics. But it remains challenging to integrate siloed data across a range of IT systems into one member data source that can be mined for insights, segments and intelligent triggers. Read about the Dangers of Misidentifying your Best Members.

Building relevant, timely communications and deeper relationships to increase engagement and retention simply can’t be done effectively without the benefits of cloud-based automation tools in the omni-channel marketing world we’ve reached. Marketers can now do more with less. Embrace automation to help marketing, not replace it.

Shift #2: Measuring, tracking and reporting results and ROI is an expectation of leadership.

Traditional financial marketing using quarterly product campaigns, printed flyers, brochures, blogs, emails and “spray and pray” postcard mailers is far from dead today.

What has changed the most is that C-Suite leaders are no longer content to learn where one of the largest single expense budgets (marketing) is tracking and generating results. From new member growth, loan growth, retention, increased profitable relationships, NPS scores, engagement, and market share – measurable results will no longer be optional. Check out Adaptive Marketing Planning & Budgeting for Results.

Marketers are increasingly expected to deliver tangible, shareable performance reports for growing the bottom line, enhancing member experiences and tracking the ROI of marketing campaigns. Savvy marketers are leaning deeper into digital marketing strategies and execution that tracks results by clearly targeted Personas or segments, lead generation and prospect identity tracking. The shift of dollars to digital advertising, paid search, social media engagement, retargeting and analytics systems to report results beyond email “vanity metrics (clicks, open rates);” in conversions, sales, relationship profitability and ROI is here to stay.

Shift #3: As inflation slows spending and growth, brand-focused marketing strategy is making a comeback.

As financial institutions the last decade became overly product, operational and cross-selling focused, some lost sight of the importance of their brand promise, value proposition and reputation. They expected their loyal members would always love them above banks for excellent service. But the largest national study by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, has shown that consumer satisfaction gap not only closed, but big bank consumers rate their institutions above credit union members by an increasing measure each of the last three years.

Your ability to make member experiences richer, better, smarter and simpler may be the difference maker in who succeeds, and who suffers the slow creep of “hidden attrition” – or death by a thousand Chime payments that are no longer yours. As smart, fast, simple fintech competitors like SoFi, Chime and Marcus appeared and grew like wildfire, leaders suddenly realized building an appealing brand really does matter.

Creating market distinction; designing unique experiences; and even building cultural relevance like inclusion, diversity and being more welcoming in a Covid over-saturated, uncertain world has never been more important to consumers. And credit unions have been uniquely poised to do that: if they focus on the importance of branding from the top down. Learn how three credit unions accomplished Rebranding for Growth and ROI.

There’s no escaping that digital marketing is a critical factor to successful targeting and sales. But strategic investments in a well-focused, research-led brand strategy and identity – understood and embraced by staff, is a catalyst of driving superior and consistent member experiences; getting noticed in the market, and increased growth results. A renewed brand platform can re-engage your culture towards deeper purpose and inspiration, helping your brand stand apart with distinction, emotional and relevant positioning and move the bar of interest and engagement.

Shift #4: Cloud analytics is no longer nice to have, it is imperative to effective marketing.

In the modern marketing of 2022, you either have access to the right first party data to know your members lives, and enhanced 3rd party data to know their needs and pain points to be able to help them, or you’re declining in relevance to their lives. Consumers have grown impatient for the lack of relevant, personalized, helpful communications and solutions to their financial challenges. And using antiquated systems like MCIF’s and one-dimensional email systems without smart segmentation and Business Intelligence visualized dashboards to view, track and report daily trends and performance is like driving your dad’s old minivan. Read Moving past Legacy MCIF’s to Advanced Cloud Marketing Analytics.

Advancing your member analytics via cloud-based data insights, intelligent segmentation and Personas, that can help you deliver hyper-personalization across multiple channels, is paramount to knowing how to improve members’ financial health. Without this vital analytics data ahead of marketing automation tools, assumptions are made about what members really want and need: do they own a home? What channels do they prefer? Where is money flowing out to other FI’s? What new product innovations would they like? Analytics tools leveraging machine learning and AI trained models are moving closer and closer towards anticipating, predicting and helping marketers ultimately prescribe the right solution, at exactly the right moment when your members most need your help.

Organizations should be prioritizing and investing in intelligent member-focused data analytics solutions, as one of their top marketing priorities. It’s time to embrace the power, security and intelligence of the next generation of marketing in the cloud. Finding that next generation of analytics marketing solutions for relationship growth is here today.

Focus #5: Marketing departments need to retool, refocus, rebudget and rehire to evolve.

In light of the four shifting marketing priorities above: marketing automation, tracking ROI results, brand focused strategy, and cloud analytics, many credit union marketing teams today were simply not built, trained and skilled to lead in these dynamic digital times. In the same way organizations have created new innovative positions like Chief Experience Officer, Chief Strategy Officer and Business Intelligence Manager, marketing is ripe for reorganization, new skills – and adequate funding for the increased needs and challenges of these competitive times.

Building towards more strategic marketing on the road to 2023, will require intelligent use of data and insights to improve member experiences, drive strategic brand thinking and generate clear ROI results. This requires cultural adaptation, training and new skill sets designed towards using data insights for nimble decision-making advancements in marketing strategy and programmatic marketing execution.

Unlike tech companies, credit union cultures (not just in marketing) were not designed for a level of risk-taking: trial and error; constant learning; agile adaptations for continuous improvement and optimizing results. This is a challenge of senior leaders to embrace the importance of Strategic Marketing as an organizational priority, not a focus of the marketing department – and individual marketers.

Building a marketing culture of analytics will take some phases of Crawl, Walk, Run, with a focus on small, tangible wins, as marketing teams make the shifts toward evolving their skill sets, leveraging data insights, tracking results and helping design smarter member journeys. Finding the right marketing and agency partners to supplement and enhance your team can go a long way towards accelerating that road map.

Mark Weber

Mark Weber

Mark Weber is the CEO and Chairman of Strum, a 30-year nationwide leader in financial services, branding, business intelligence analytics and data-driven strategy. With offices in Seattle and Boston, Strum ... Web: Details