FINANCIAL AGENCY PERSPECTIVES
Gramercy Institute works closely with an alliance of leading agencies. Each agency specializes in financial services marketing. This “Financial Agency Short List” represents some of the brightest thinking and smartest strategy evangelists in our industry.
We have asked this “Short List” to respond to an important question on all of our minds today: How will the financial services marketing industry emerge from this pandemic crisis—and how will it change our industry in the future.
Below, you will find perspectives from some of the “Short List” member agencies.
Question: What advice do you have for marketers at financial brands in 2021? Have demands from financial customers/clients changed? If so, how do you advise marketers at financial brands to adapt to such changes?
Campbell Edlund, President, EMI Strategic Marketing
Profitable Growth Through A Change Management Hurricane
If 2020 was about surviving a roller coaster in the dark, 2021 will be about driving profitable growth through a change management hurricane. Success will come to financial marketers who blend mastery of change, intelligent digital transformation and channel execution. Specifically:
• Transform client experiences to deliver value. In 2020, social distancing accelerated the digital tectonic shift, opening the adoption gates for challenger banks, fintech providers and robo-advisors. The bar is raised on delivering intuitive, swift, cross-channel experiences, structured around purposeful and strategic customer journeys.
• Make managing change a strength. The ricochets of the pandemic may subside, but the speed of change is here to stay, displacing the consistent models financial firms have relied on for decades. Marketers need to “lean in” by building change management models and communications that proactively drive customer retention and acquisition, despite the disruptions created by new technologies, mergers and acquisitions.
• Raise the bar on content value. While content marketing has nearly killed thought leadership, the craving for connections and insights during hours glued to a screen in isolation creates a new opportunity for breakthroughs. Don’t shortchange the importance of imagination and content crafted to demonstrate your value proposition.
• Connect marketing to sales and service channels. Amidst the ongoing disruption of the go-to-market process, marketers who integrate with channels that close the loop to prospects and clients will accelerate pipelines, drive product adoption and maximize lifetime value.
Sarah McNabb, Chief Marketing Officer, Gate 39 Media
Megan Smith, Director of Client Services, Gate 39 Media
Ramp up, Optimize, Personalize & Deliver on the Digital Experience
As we saw COVID-19 wipe out a vast amount of industry conferences and live events where in-person networking, brand-building, and lead generation would normally take place, financial brands were forced to shift and adapt to a digital strategy in 2020. In 2021, those same brands must continue to ramp up, optimize, personalize, and deliver on the digital experience in 2021 – so that when traditional industry events do return, the added layer of digital marketing will serve to elevate, supplement, and enhance the in-person marketing experience, creating even broader doorways for leads to enter the pipeline. The digital marketing genie is out of the bottle and will never be put back in, so before in-person events return, now is the time to focus on perfecting marketing through the virtual experience. Financial marketers should work on honing their skills at livestreaming, at perfecting webinars, at creating salient digital demos, videos, and podcasts, and by sweating the details in optimizing (measurable) interactive digital marketing experiences. My advice would be for marketers to get hands-on and dive deeper into the digital; to learn the affordances and constraints of the mediums, software, and technologies to master and embrace “the art of the online marketing experience”.
Partner, Executive Director, Strategy, Sullivan
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Rachel Ward, Principal, Sullivan
A Differentiated Positioning, Less Friction In The Customer Experience & Clear Messaging
The transformative events of 2020 sent financial brands scrambling to respond to the pandemic, accelerating digital efforts and creating steady streams of content to help customers stay on top of stimulus laws and market turmoil. It was mostly playing defense, along with setting the foundation for the future—with once niche products gaining momentum (active ETFs, ESG) and some game-changing acquisitions (Morgan Stanley/E*Trade/Eaton Vance, Schwab/TD Ameritrade). 2021 has already started off with a bang, with seemingly seismic changes on the horizon. The Robinhood/Reddit revolution, one of the only big news stories this year not related to the pandemic or politics, will have lasting impact. The movement to give everyone—not just the rich and powerful—access to investing and the opportunity to build wealth is not going away. Right now, consumers are feeling tremendous decision fatigue. Marketers who invest the time and money to ease the mental burden will be rewarded. This means having a differentiated positioning, less friction in the customer experience, and clear messaging that resonates with an increasingly diverse customer base.
Donna MacFarland, CEO, Agency Accelerate Strategies LLC
Clearly Understand What Key Target Markets Are Thinking & Feeling
If 2020 proved to be the year of “pivoting” and “agility” for marketers, 2021 will undoubtedly evolve as the year with a focus on “new perspectives and insights.” The pandemic has fundamentally reshaped how consumers, including both B2C and B2B, live, work, shop and play. Consumer behaviors and preferences have changed in numerous ways, with many still evolving. While Marketing will continue to be data-driven, we see our clients refocusing on taking the time to “listen” to the marketplace, both current and prospective clients as well as key influencers, to clearly understand what key target markets are thinking and feeling. Similar to many of the changes that we have witnessed over the past year with a focus on “what’s old is new again” (think baking bread, puzzles, gardening, etc.), “old school” tried and true primary marketing research methods, including qualitative and quantitative, are now, more than ever, a critical part of our clients’ marketing plans. Understanding the shifts that have occurred will help focus key financial services marketing strategies and tactics and ultimately propel an organization’s growth in 2021 and beyond. Views on money, investing, saving, and retirement are all evolving—take the time to listen—you may be surprised by what you hear and learn!
Meredith Rowley, Managing Dir, Client Strategy, Ricciardi Group
The Underpinning of Your Brand Makes All The Difference
Last 12 months? How about the last 12 days….? When the industry as a whole is tested, the underpinnings of your brand is what makes all the difference in how you weather the storm. At the Ricciardi Group we utilize a Hurricane Model when developing new or redefining existing brands. This model ensures brands are built for today’s market but elastic enough to be ready for the pivot volatile times may require and have an eye for the future they want to define. These times call for financial services marketers to be more agile and nimble than ever, but messaging must be built on a strong brand foundation, articulation and promise. Layering a hurricane lens on that will deliver relevance with consistency - something your stakeholders will appreciate and reward.