For Bank Marketers, What Does It Mean to Be Future Ready?

Feb 20, 2019

Kandi O'Connor
LinkedIn

Bank marketing teams can position themselves to be future-readyPlanning for long-term success while addressing short-term goals isn’t easy for a bank marketing organization. It can feel like a tug-of-war between two opposing forces. A Deloitte Insights post about The Future-Ready CMO put it this way: “Effective marketing leaders often live in two realms—the present and the possible.”

Quite often, future planning takes a back seat to tasks in the present that demand immediate attention. A recent study about future readiness, conducted by Wunderman and research partner Penn Schoen Berland, revealed that while the majority of companies surveyed considered themselves to be future focused, 70% were unwilling to sacrifice short-term gains in exchange for longer-term business benefits. Their reasoning was that without demonstrating short-term wins it’s hard to secure long-term investment.

Banks are not immune to this dilemma. Consider the choices bank marketers had to face 10 years ago during the financial crisis. Marketing budgets got slashed. During this period, marketing departments became task oriented, rather than working from a bigger strategy with a longer-term view. Many bank marketing organizations likely lost ground at this time, all while the industry continued to change and martech innovation advanced at an unprecedented pace.

The Lasting Effects of Short-Term Efforts

Today, bank marketing budgets are returning. And there are more tools than ever for marketers to choose from. Yet, the impact of a short-term focus can still be felt. A lack of a long-term strategy can hamper the decision process when trying to determine the best tools and innovations to invest in. It can be hard for marketing to get the attention of the IT team for evaluating and supporting in-house systems when there are other tech priorities demanding their attention. Compounding this, today’s increasingly complex systems require internal tech expertise to keep things up and running. Without proper succession planning an organization can be challenged to weather the loss of an internal tech expert.

Research by Cornerstone Advisors points to additional areas of vulnerability, where future planning and short-term priorities seem to be at odds. Cornerstone’s annual What’s Going On In Banking  study surveyed senior executives at community-based financial institutions to understand their outlooks, concerns, priorities and technology plans for the coming year. Among the study’s findings: 

  • Expanding digital presence is a priority for a growing number of financial institutions. Unfortunately, Cornerstone’s analysis is that it seems to be coming at the expense of better marketing and sales capabilities.
  • Although bank and credit union execs gave themselves improved ratings for future-readiness in 2019, the uptake of emerging technologies is slow.
  • When it comes to artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics process automation, Cornerstone suspects many execs simply don’t know what they have.

So how can bank marketing organizations position themselves to be future ready without sacrificing the important short-term initiatives that influence future success?

Laser Focus on the Customer

One place to start is with a focus on the customer. Future readiness relies on effectively using customer data. And Deloitte suggests a deep understanding of the customer can create a bridge between present and future initiatives.

Getting the banking customer experience right involves better use and understanding of customer data to create meaningful interactions, like closing and onboarding experiences that are relevant, personalized and appreciated.

Be Prepared to Scale Your Bank Marketing Operations

As recently reported by CNN Business, the current economic environment is favorable for bank mergers. This points to the need for bank marketers to be prepared to scale their marketing operations.

Assess the tasks your corporate marketing team performs. Look for opportunities to simplify and automate processes should you find yourself serving dozens or even hundreds more branches following a merger or acquisition.

Automating every day marketing tasks has the added benefit of freeing up your marketing team to focus on more strategic initiatives that support your organization’s future readiness.

Determine Which Short-Term Goals Align with Long-Term Vision

Mary Beth Sullivan of Capital Performance Group offered this prediction for 2019, “As earnings pressures build in 2019, banks will place…more emphasis on driving efficiencies across the business via robotic process automation, AI, chatbots, digitized lending platforms, etc. ROI on these digital investments will be increasingly realized through expense reductions in the form of fewer operational, transactional, service FTEs.”

Think about how your marketing operation can capitalize on digital technologies in ways that can have bank-wide strategic impact. Among the steps bank CMOs and their marketing teams can take to become more strategic include:

  • Assess tactical processes to identify inefficiencies and opportunities for improvement.
  • Adopt technologies that can help reduce time and attention focused on mundane tasks to free up staff for more strategic efforts.
  • Adopt a partnership approach in working with other departments throughout the bank organization.
  • Develop strategic contributors by building a motivated and talented marketing team.

Ultimately, developing a future-ready bank marketing organization requires the right processes and systems that enable you to fulfill short-term goals in a way that supports and advances toward long-term objectives. In other words, continue to live in the present and the possible. But work steadily to bridge these two realms by understanding your customer, your resources and your strategic role in your bank’s overall success.

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Tags: bank marketing, financial services, marketing strategy

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