Like many marketers, I often find myself too busy with the daily grind to attend a conference purely for the educational benefits. But also like many marketers, I’m fascinated by the constantly evolving marketing world – and I love knowing the latest developments.
So this year, I allowed myself a few days of pure, unadulterated marketing nerd-time at the Traffic and Conversion Summit in San Diego. Why did I choose this conference above the hundreds of other options out there? Quite simply, they won me over with their marketing, so I figured they might know their stuff.
The caveat is that our clients – asset managers, lenders, and wealth managers – don’t quite fit the mold of the T&C Summit’s target audience. While financial services marketers certainly use digital marketing channels like SEO and social media, most of our clients have never adopted the aggressive, online marketing “funnel” type of model that was so widely discussed at this conference.
However, that doesn’t mean the content was irrelevant. In fact, I noted three big themes that will absolutely affect our clients and the financial marketing space at large.
1. Conversational marketing is
It may be surprising to hear that at a digital marketing conference in 2019, there was more talk about one-on-one customer conversations than there was about automation and scale.
From the opening keynote, during which DigitalMarketer founder Ryan Deiss encouraged us to shift from “automation” to “conversation,” to the Wicked Smart Marketing session, where members of the War Room Mastermind suggested we answer each and every customer DM and text, the message was loud and clear: Move over content, conversation is now king Click To Tweet
Conversational marketing is the practice of using tech-powered tools to have one-on-one conversations with members of your audience. Live chat is a prime example, but it extends to things like chatbots, SMS (texting), Facebook Messenger – basically any channel that allows you to talk to your customer, either through a bot or a real person on your team.
Texting is a phenomenal example. Obviously everyone is using their phones all the time – so why are marketers not connecting with them there? I got the data below from an incredibly helpful infographic on Business2Community:
|Response time³||90 minutes||90 seconds|
Don’t get me wrong – I still think email is one of the most effective marketing channels for the financial services industry. But the numbers above should get your wheels turning about how to add SMS to your marketing mix.
Financial marketing takeaway:
Some financial sectors have been faster to adopt conversational marketing than others – many banks and lenders, for example, use live chat on their sites. Erica from Bank of America is a cool example of how AI can be used to deepen customer connections (think Siri, but for your finances).
Asset managers have been slower to deploy conversational marketing tactics. Of the top five asset managers, I only found live chat on one site (Schwab). My guess is this will be a growing focus for this sector.
If you’re wondering how to put conversational marketing to work in your financial services business, think about the marketing you’re already doing and how individual conversations would augment your results.
For example, if you run a monthly webinar to generate sales leads, consider texting participants when the webinar is about to start, when the replay is available, and how to get in touch with a sales person for more info – then watch your attendee numbers and conversion metrics climb.
2. Value creation > value extraction
In the traditional digital marketing funnel, there’s a goal to “extract value” as early and often as possible. First, you ask for an email address in exchange for a white paper. Then you offer that customer a cheap product, also known as a “tripwire” – for example, a paid webinar or event. Eventually you warm them up to your five-figure product, and boom – this customer just got funnel’d.
And now that I just explained all of that, please forget it. Because according to DigitalMarketer and friends, the traditional online marketing funnel is dead.
What’s replacing it is something they call the Customer Value Journey (CVJ). The biggest difference between a funnel and a CVJ is that there is WAY more emphasis on value creation vs. value extraction. Marketers should expect to make far more “deposits” in the form of useful, entertaining content before trying to “withdraw” something from their customers.
One of T&C’s keynote speakers, Rachel Hollis, stressed that she spent FIFTEEN YEARS courting the followers that would eventually make her book a breakout success. As she put it in Gary V-speak (the girl knew her audience), she jabbed, jabbed, jabbed, jabbed, jabbed, jabbed for over a decade, and then when she right hooked them with Girl, Wash Your Face, she sold over a million copies and became the #2 book of 2018.
Not bad for someone who was mostly unknown to anyone outside of her social media following.
Financial marketing takeaway:
As a career-long content marketer, I am so here for this message. But the truth is, our clients already know this. They don’t typically do tripwires or upsells or any of these other strategies that sound like pirate-speak. They create thoughtful, engaging content and then rinse, wash, repeat – often without the expectation that it will lead to a sale.*
*Sometimes to a fault (which is why we obsess over metrics – because valuable content should still drive value for the company).
However, I do think that mapping the customer journey is something that many financial brands could get better at. And I love that this concept from DM is focused not only on mapping the journey, but also detailing how your brand will provide value at each stage. How blown away would your customer be if they were on the receiving end of this experience?
And if you’re reviewing the CVJ and wondering how exactly to fill in each of the boxes, we should talk. SuperScript lives for this stuff.
3. Ask – and answer – all the questions
This was a running theme that struck me as basic and brilliant all at once. And it really is as simple as it sounds: you should be asking your audience more questions. More importantly, you should be answering their questions – no matter how repetitive or obvious they may seem to you.
From a session on “quiz funnels” with Ask Method founder Ryan Levesque, to various mentions of surveys throughout the conference, the idea of simply asking your audience what they want, need, and wish they knew was raised time and again. Customer responses can be used to improve products/services, inform your marketing, and make your customers feel heard.
Asking should go both ways. Your audience has questions, too, and if you’re not answering them, you can bet someone else is.
Deiss’s second-day keynote hammered this point home when he listed “answering specific questions” as one of the five essential ways to build authority. It’s the reason he thinks it’s a good idea to do “untrackable” things like answer strangers’ questions on Quora.
Financial marketing takeaway:
I think most financial services marketers would love to ask their audience more questions, but often feel hamstrung by company bureaucracy (who signs off on this survey?), lack of strategy (how do we narrow down the questions?), and closely-guarded client relationships (sales would never let us bug their clients).
While these are all legitimate challenges, they’re not as insurmountable as some marketers feel they are. It might take time to get buy-in, but when your stakeholders realize the benefits, they should be big fans of the systematic survey approach.
Here are four actionable ways financial brands can ask and answer questions right now:
- Create or expand your FAQ page, and add the most frequently-asked questions to other pages on your site. For example, check out the “How do I . . .?” section at the bottom of DigitalMarketer’s homepage.
- Designate someone on your marketing team to answer relevant questions on Quora. Turn those answers into blog posts.
- Install a search bar on your site and use the data collected to create blog posts and write copy using the exact verbiage your audience uses.
- Plug relevant keywords into Answer The Public to find out what questions are being asked on Search. Then – you guessed it – write a blog post.
My biggest takeaway from Traffic and Conversion Summit 2019
These three lessons all speak to a theme that Deiss impressed upon us in his opening keynote. A new age of marketing is upon us, one where automation and scale will be trumped by personalization and conversation. Short attention spans, fierce competition, and platform hindrances have eclipsed the go-go funnel days while driving CPCs and CPAs skyward.
Becoming BFFs with your customer is now an imperative.
Rachel Hollis said it best when she spoke about her target customer: “It’s not about me, it’s about her.” Hollis went on to tell us what she (her audience member) wears and how she acts and what burning questions she wants to know the answer to. And Hollis doesn’t collect that information via an expensive, lengthy market research project – she knows because she’s talking to her audience every day on social media. She’s listening and responding, and when she asks her people to show up, they do – en masse.
Hollis may have a different target market and business model than most of SuperScript’s clients, but the lesson still applies. Whether you’re a financial marketer or any other kind of marketer, it’s always a good idea to put customers at the center of what we do.