Earlier this month, JConnelly was honored as one of “Financial’s Top Agencies” for 2018, as presented by the Gramercy Institute.
While we take awards pretty seriously around here, the best part of the day wasn't basking in recognition or hauling our hardware back to the home office (though that was pretty great too). It was getting to hear from some of the world's leading financial marketers on the trends and influences that will impact financial institutions in the year to come.
Here are 12 lessons from Gramercy Institute members and honorees on where the industry is headed and how marketers can stay at the cutting edge:
1. Trust is back.
But not quite at pre-financial crisis levels. An improving economy can help explain the U.S. public's faith in financial institutions but a commitment to transparency, solving client problems and protecting data are paramount to keeping this fragile asset in play in the year ahead.
2. Technology continues to disrupt.
But not in the ways many financial institutions expect. Rather than trying to reframe their brands as disruptive startups, legacy financial institutions would be wise to look at the ways technology puts consumers in control of purchasing decisions. Brands that use technology to power human interaction will be well positioned for growth and success in the year ahead.
3. Brands can't control the flow of information.
Consumers are constantly pulling news and information through search and social channels. But brands that try to push their information to end users will get immediately labeled as "too salesy." Creating the content for consumers to find and select is content marketing's future.
4. Content is going strong.
There are few sure-fire strategies in this world, but quality content marketing comes pretty darn close. For growing and engaging an audience, improving SEO, and converting casual interest into motivated purchasing, content is still king.
5. But there's increasing pressure for content to drive lead generation.
Because content marketing is so measurable, many decision makers are pushing content marketing further into the sales cycle, relying on content alone to turn browsers into buyers. There is danger, however, if content marketers focus solely on conversion and pull resources from attracting and engaging a broader audience.
6. Marketing is moving out of traditional channels and into more broad-based, emerging outlets.
While traditional tactics like event marketing can help convert leads to clients, marketers recognize the need to keep prospects, leads and clients engaged at every stage of the customer journey.
7. We're moving beyond measurement.
Martech providers have focused on measurement in order to attract more clients of their own. But the disciplines that have been harder to measure, including SEO and public relations, are becoming more critical for brands trying to differentiate their offering. Measurement and ROI can't be the only factors marketers consider when putting together their marketing mix.
8. Targeting has to apply to the whole consumer.
Unsophisticated digital programs will peg a potential client in one category (parent) and lose sight of all the variables that make people, well, human (like, that they're retired, or renting, or moving out of state). Delivering marketing messages that speak to more than one characteristic will be critical to successful conversion programs as consumers become more discerning.
9. Repurpose, don't recreate.
Many brands have a treasure trove of content and collateral that could start engaging audiences today. But it's often overlooked in favor of creating new, more and different content. While it takes more strategic work, repurposing this library can help brands do the seemingly impossible: do more with less.
10. The basics are back and more important than ever.
Differentiation, specialization and clear messaging are still critical for marketing success. Messages are moving away from "how it works" and back to benefits, which is all consumers have ever wanted.
11. Brands are built from the inside out.
If your internal communications are lacking, now is the time to correct that. If your brand culture doesn't support knowledge and information sharing, it's not likely you'll be able to effectively communicate with the outside world.
12. Engagement is the only thing that matters.
As evidenced by the fact that it has been mentioned no fewer than 5 times already in this blog post, engagement is the only thing that matters. Whether you are launching a new campaign or just publishing a new blog post, engagement is required for any of it to produce results.
And one bonus lesson:
(Because the Top 12 Financial Agencies were actually 13 - that's how good this group is!)
Complacency is the enemy. The only thing that is for certain is that the months ahead will only mean new opportunities for financial brands. Let's go get 'em!