FFS! Is marketing failing financial services?

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Finance isn’t sexy. Especially on the digital side of those musty bank notes. The industry that many graduates fight to join, and which drives large parts of the UK economy, is seen as too B2B or too regulated and compliance driven, or just too plain boring. Complex products don’t make for snappy headlines.

Luckily, the large media owners and adtech companies have been fighting to attract finance dollars, and we have a great set of tools available to us to make digital performance campaigns just as exciting in finance as in any other industry.

Some of these tools have evolved from the release of products designed for other industries, like travel or e-commerce. Google’s AdWords released a feature called ‘ad customisers’ two years ago. Still one of the least widely utilised features within AdWords, it lets you write your ad as a template and import values from a live feed based on keyword, user location or other data points.

The finance industry has been wary of picking this up because each individual might see a different ad, so compliance teams have a justified fear. But it’s a risk that can be easily mitigated. Careful ad writing means that, unlike keyword insertion (which pulls the keyword the user matched against into the ad, thereby potentially creating a nonsensical advert), ad customisers will only pull in the value we supply. If we create an ad with a variable for live exchange rates and we keep the file up to date, whenever the ad is shown to the user they will see our current forex values, exactly as they would on our website. For potential customers for whom that rate is appropriate, our likelihood of getting a click increases. For customers who aren’t interested in that price, we won’t pay for their expensive click. With such high cost-per-clicks compared to e-commerce, each click matters so we absolutely must use weapons like this to our advantage.

Getting personal

We can use ad customisers to personalise our ads. By segmenting our existing customers based on which products they currently engage with, we can create a set of remarketing lists for people who are due to be up-sold each next product. Using IF rules we can set our ads up so that one template can pull in the right sales message for each next product based on which list the user is in, thereby personalising our ads at a scale never before possible.

But it’s not just Google giving us these new techniques. Facebook lets us upload our CRM database and then allows us to carry out lookalike modelling based on each list. That’s amazing if we segment our lists out correctly. High value v low value customers. Long term v short term. Single product v multi-product. If our CRM stored the original marketing source, we might even know the difference between customers who originally searched for ‘easy ISA’ v ‘tax free share dealing’ and bucket which sales message is going to resonate more: simple service v high control levels.

Each data point and interaction a customer has with us is a piece of information we can store in our CRM to segment our users in case we need to make one of the following decisions differently:

  • Should I show an ad?
  • What should I say?
  • How much should I bid?

If a user’s behaviour tells me I should make a different decision on one of these questions, I can store it in the CRM and upload a list to Facebook of matching users, eg ‘customers who trade every month’.

That’s powerful, but when we use Facebook’s incredible audience matching to do lookalike modelling from it, we can find other users whose online behaviour is the same as our customers who trade every month, and deliver a personalised message to people who have never interacted with our brand before.

Finance has gone too long being viewed as restricted, complex and boring in its use of digital. By being so full of great pieces of data about customers, finance is actually one of the most challenging, rewarding, and above all clever uses of the potential of digital advertising.

Alistair Dent is chief media officer at marketing agency iCrossing.

This article originally appeared in The Drum Network supplement magazine on 8 March 2017.

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