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At the start of 2020, the rate of adoption of different marketing technologies varied from company to company—after all, digital marketing was just one of many options available. But in the weeks and months after the onset of COVID-19, many (if not all) aspects of life went online out of necessity, and what had been a gradual shift suddenly accelerated, abruptly raising the digital marketing “table stakes.” Digital moved from being just one part of a well-rounded marketing plan to being THE marketing plan in its entirety.

As 2020 winds down, it’s the perfect time for marketers to switch from survival to proactive mode. Armed with the right information—and tools to interpret it—this hard-and-fast shift to digital marketing can become your greatest advantage during uncertain times. Recently, Deluxe invited more than 300 financial marketers to share their thoughts on the year behind us as they start forming their marketing plans for the year ahead. The resulting report, Vision 2021: Building a Marketing Organization That Thrives in a Digital World, is filled with candid, actionable insights that offer a glimpse ahead into the changing landscape of financial marketing—and not surprisingly, digital efforts are top of mind.

Here, we share the top five strategies gleaned from Vision 2021 that will make your digital marketing efforts work harder for you in 2021.

1. Budget for Digital Marketing Specifically

According to Vision 2021 participants, traditional marketing tools like print, broadcast and even direct mail will be actively less important in the upcoming year. Taking their place: a heavier reliance on mobile marketing, social media and digital marketing to optimize the digital customer experience.

FIs’ marketing budgets will reflect that change in priorities, with a greater percentage earmarked for digital efforts specifically, even for those whose overall marketing budgets remain flat. While just 22% of FIs interviewed expect their overall marketing budgets to be larger in 2021 compared to the year prior, 58% plan to increase their digital marketing budgets specifically:  

How will your 2021 marketing budget change in comparison to 2020?

The vast majority of FIs expect their marketing budgets to stay flat or even decrease in 2021, but even increased budgets might not be enough to implement in-house digital marketing capabilities in a sustainable way. It’s a catch-22: small and mid-sized banks and credit unions can’t afford to implement advanced digital marketing technologies, but at the same time, they can’t afford not to.

One possible solution, of course, is budget reallocation. Another is to implement new tech in phases; for example, a simple chatbot in 2021, with more advanced capabilities in 2022 and 2023. A third (and less risky) approach is to partner with a third-party company that offers a “pay for performance” model, where budget constraints evaporate because financial institutions can deploy advanced tech now but only pay when they close sales later.

Deluxe offers both direct-pay and pay for performance models that enable small and mid-sized financial institutions to leverage advanced technology and enhanced customer service strategies to compete against larger banks.

2. Embrace the Power of Data-Driven Marketing  

Successful data-driven marketing is a three-pronged approach: First, you have the right data. Second, the right skills. And finally, you need the right tools to use that data to make your campaigns highly effective. Improving the use of data and analytics presents an enormous opportunity, and banks and credit unions who seize this opportunity sooner rather than later will come out ahead in 2021.

But there are still far too many banks that don’t feel like they have access to the right data, or have the right data analytics capabilities, to successfully implement data-driven marketing today. According to the State of Financial Marketing report from the State of Financial Marketing report from the Digital Banking Report, 57% of FIs say they do not have the tools to use data in order to create compelling, personalized, real-time experiences, and 35% don’t have access to the customer data they need at all:

Digital Marketing Readiness

Clearly, there are still large gaps in the data world—and for late adopters of data-driven marketing, that gap is poised to become a gulf. These organizations run the risk of spinning their wheels discussing implementation while the others move ahead. At the same time, enhancing capabilities comes with a cost, and one of the biggest challenges for CMOs and their leadership team is figuring out what capabilities they can add in-house and what needs to be outsourced. Finding and keeping the right talent can be very challenging, especially for regional and community banks.

Many FIs have found success partnering with data-driven marketing companies that have teams of data scientists that can build off-the-shelf and custom models that marketers can use to target consumers and small businesses.

3. Transform Onboarding into a Cross-Selling Turning Point

Whether an organization is attracting new customers through thought leadership, content marketing or social media, there’s a moment of engagement that only happens once in a customer journey: onboarding.

This a company’s chance to capture essential information while a customer is in “open” mode, starting a conversation that will reveal key insights into their wants and needs. In addition to providing key data to guide messaging strategy for automated and machine-learning driven communication in the future, this onboarding moment is also the gateway to cross-sell opportunities. In fact, nearly 75% of all cross-sell opportunities occur within the first 90 days once a customer begins a relationship with a bank.

Despite the obvious need to connect and bring value to a customer—whether it’s a product or service or simply a “meeting them where they are” moment— our Vision 2021 research reveals that 38% of FIs interviewed reported onboarding and cross-selling as a weakness, and only 24% of surveyed financial organizations listed onboarding and cross-selling as a marketing strength:

Onboarding & Cross-selling

This suggests a dramatic under-investment in a crucial marketing touchpoint, and a significant opportunity for savvy FIs to differentiate themselves from competitors while gaining additional business.

4. Prioritize Customer Experience for Long-Term Stability

Sixty-four percent of financial institutions interviewed said improving the customer experience is one of their top three objectives in 2021, and 35% said it is their top priority. That’s not surprising, given the shift toward relationship-building on the heels of COVID-19.

The key to an enhanced customer experience is delivering the right resources, to the right people, at the right time. Banks that cater to highly specific and timely individual needs not only earn goodwill, they reap the rewards of competitive advantage. Connecting with customers on a deeper level will ultimately mean an ongoing relationship built on trust—and the sort of loyalty that will ride out whatever bumps are ahead.

And one of the most impactful ways to do this is through omnichannel digital marketing. Robust, consistent omnichannel experiences bring significant lift to campaign performance, yielding greater response rates and maximizing marketing spend efficiency. Given these benefits, it’s no surprise that 44% of FIs say they intend to implement omnichannel marketing in the future, and 36% already do.

The best marketers create a cohesive customer experience throughout the decisioning process, syncing their digital marketing with their direct mail and/or email marketing. Organizations seeking this streamlined customer experience often find that difficult to achieve with a mix of marketing providers and platforms; a better option would be to partner with a single company capable of deploying omnichannel marketing across the entire martech stack.

5. Use Data to Fine-Tune Your Approach in Real Time

As digital adoption has leveled out, one might expect that a relatively simple digital marketing tool like A/B testing would already be in heavy rotation. This shift to fine-tuning messages—one that can be automated and iterated to the top performer within a short period—can dramatically increase the number of qualified leads that your digital marketing attracts, delivering value almost immediately.

However, organizations surveyed for the Vision 2021 report admit that they still have work to do on even this cost-effective digital tactic: only 34% are currently using A/B testing.

This is a rare situation where you actually want your digital marketing efforts to fail—because as you test multiple versions, learn and deselect messaging by trying it out in social channels or paid ads, you’ll quickly be able to funnel your spend in the highest-value direction, minimizing your cost of acquisition.

Particularly when paired with customer experience efforts like those described above, A/B testing will quickly redirect a customer journey down the perfect path, one that communicates in ways that trigger both short-term action and long-term loyalty.

Arm yourself with the best marketing information for the year ahead. Download your free copy of Vision 2021: Building a Marketing Organization That Thrives in a Digital World today.

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