Banks have been in a defensive mindset over the past few years while a series of nimble rivals have stolen market share and disrupted the market. With direct-to-consumer digital business models, disrupters like Monzo and Starling have effectively utilized modern digital marketing techniques to reach consumers. Meanwhile traditional banks have been left somewhat flat-footed in their response, largely relying on traditional mass-broadcast methods in an age of increasing personalisation.
But banks have lots of in-built advantages they could - and should - use to respond to the needs of their large customer bases. Here are four ways banks can steal a march on the disrupters with a ground-up digital marketing strategy.
1. Engage local-first behaviour to drive customers to a physical location
While there have been numerous stories about the death of the branch, a large physical infrastructure actually creates a unique opportunity in today’s digital marketing landscape. Consider that 50% of all Google searches carry local intent. This is down to the increasingly mobile-first nature of search behaviour, which favours brands with physical iterations. Searchers are seeking in-person experiences. Digital disrupters, by definition, can't offer this service.
This is a trend that is particularly heightened in finance. A recent study by financial advice network Openwork revealed that 71% of people were concerned robo-advice is not appropriate for their needs. Nearly three quarters of those interviewed expressed a clear preference for human interaction when gaining financial advice. Banks have the ability to attract the interest of a potential customer and then sell a product or service face to face. This is a huge USP.
2. Improve the digital customer experience with local branch pages
Banks will often spend millions on national advertising campaigns but then let themselves down in the final mile with a poor local digital experience. This can include unanswered negative reviews, poor photography, or a lack of clarity on the opening times of various services - from the ATM to mortgage or savings advice.
With effectively localised branch pages, banks are able to create dynamic, locally relevant content and give prominence to products most of interest in that region or area.
3. Embrace the long tail to drive higher ROI
Conduct an online search for financial advice in any region of the UK and you will rarely see banks appear in either paid or organic results. It's a missed opportunity for organisations willing to spend millions on national broadcast ads. The more localised your keyword advertising, the more cost effective it is - and, crucially, the more tailored the experience becomes. With their unrivalled databases, banks have the chance to adapt their approach and provide tailored product information by region or location.
A cursory glance at Google trends will show that in Scotland people are interested in remortgaging their properties, while in Northern Ireland there is more of a trend for first-time mortgages. An effective keyword strategy would see banks appearing in the most relevant search results for specific regions.
4. Develop insight-led content at customers' "thinking" stage
Thanks to their access to large databases of customers, banks will know what is trending nationwide and have the chance to tailor their content strategy appropriately. An independent, on the other hand, will only have a partial view of the area they look after. Banks can then create compelling content on the back of this to generate a localised strategy while customers are at the "thinking" (or top-of-funnel) stage of their journey.
For those who have conducted searches for mortgage information, this might be analysis on likely interest rate changes. By engaging prospects with relevant content at the right time, banks can be front of mind when a customer is ready to take out a financial product.
Banks have all the tools at their disposal to succeed in the local-first digital era. They just need to be willing to embrace new thinking - and engage a strategic partner who can lead the way.