Category Archives : Blog

Financial Content Wrap-Up: Trends in Banking

If you’re a “visual learner” you’ll want to check this out. Our friends over at the Financial Brand have got a deluge of statistics on where the financial services industry is headed. See for yourself how their catalog of digital banking trends point to more remote banking experiences over the next decade.


300 Trends in Banking

300 trends in bankingWith a little calculator magic we can show that: 2230% more expensive per transaction, comparing in branch to online (4250% compared to mobile). specifically 4.25 compared to .19 and .10, but those percentages should make the contrast very stark.

couple this with expected declines in branch traffic, increased smartphone adoption, increased online banking use, digital is the definitive trend of the financial services industry for the next 6 years (at least). There can’t be any argument with this. doesn’t mean the branch is dead and buried, only means digital cross-selling is your #1 priority now.


In this report, those involved in the strategic planning process can find:

  • Trends in mobile usage across banking, shopping and payments
  • When and where consumers are most likely to use their mobile devices to bank, buy and pay
  • The primary factors impacting usage, loyalty and engagement
  • Demographic and territorial differences in mobile banking adoption and usage


Content Marketing – Trending Human

You’re a busy person, I get it. But I don’t care what’s on your plate, make time to listen to this BrightTALK podcast this week. It’s a perfect intro to just how powerful content marketing can be, brought to you in part by the CEO of one of the most talked about banks, Simple.

Post-crash, clients expect and need financial brands to “speak human.” This means firms need to take a fresh look at the role of “voice” in content-marketing efforts. It may not be enough to create a Twitter feed or get some videos on a corporate site. Trust and integrity are still top of mind for customers. And a more “human” approach may require deeper changes. In this podcast we’ll explore easy strategies to help financial brands create more authentic communications.

Can’t recommend this enough. Make time for it.


Ideas for a Digital Onboarding Process

Us financial marketers understand just how important a strong onboarding process is. To be a little reductive, it’s our job to get people to pay attention to what we’re saying. Well, you never have a better chance to say something than during onboarding. This is exactly when customers are exclusively rapt and scrutinous. In a scarce few months you’ll be old hat. A customer will feel like he/she has been banking with you forever. So, upfront, you need to communicate your brand identity and what it can offer – before the customer gets bored.

For banks and credit unions, the onboarding process is a critical moment to retain your customers’ interest. They’ve heard what you have to say, they understand what you’re offering and they’ve decided to open an account with you. You’ve worked hard to gain your customer’s attention. Hold on to it with an effective onboarding process.


Learn content marketing tips and tricks in our next workshop!


One Minute Content Marketing

Financial Content Wrap-up: 100 Million Members

Welcome to our first Financial Content Wrap-up where we highlight the most important banking industry and content marketing news of the week! Credit unions nationwide have reached over 100 million members, resource centers are a must for serious content marketers and digital cross-selling can increase your share of wallet. Check it out!

1 In 3 Americans Use a Credit Union

Big news this week as CUNA announced that credit unions have collectively passed 100 million members. Membership growth has been comfortably over 2% for the past few years, this year reaching about 2.9% to put credit unions over the 100 million mark.

CUNA Chief Economist Mike Schenk credits grass roots and social media movements.

He noted that a growing number of consumers continue to express dissatisfaction with big Wall Street banks due to economic downturn and consumer movements such as Bank Transfer Day in 2011, when consumers were urged through a grassroots movement–and primarily on social media–to leave big banks and move their money to a credit union or small bank because the organizations tend to offer better rates and incur fewer fees.

This should be an indication to financial institutions about the growing relevance of social media in financial services. Word of mouth can travel far and banks/CUs need to be able to communicate what they can offer. Cultivating an image and identity can be as important as a good rate.

For now we’re happy to congratulate credit unions nationwide on staying ahead of the digital curve and reaching their goal of 100 million members.

Using a Resource Center to House Content and Develop a Strategy

A post from Britt Klontz over at the Content Marketing Institute outlines the importance of having a resource center.

Categorization and organization are vital to a content marketing strategy for two reasons.

1) Your customers need to be able to engage with your content easily.

2) You need to know what content you have to know how to use it.

“Essentially, a resource center is a site within a site, where all of your content is organized. The necessity of having one has only arisen relatively recently with the evolution of content marketing from a single effort here and there to a constant supply of blog posts, videos, podcasts, eBooks, SlideShares, and more. Without a resource center, all of this wonderful content can become buried on a blog’s archives or get dispersed across several sections of a company’s site. This makes it very difficult for consumers to find, and it essentially means that a piece of content’s usefulness will continually decline as it ages, as it simply won’t be findable over the long term.”

Content needs to be organized in a coherent, sensible way. There’s a reason you don’t find seven shelves of broccoli next to soups and fishes in a grocery store; the food is organized.

You won’t only help your customers out with a resource center, you’ll help yourself. Need a blog post with retirement tips? Find your previous content on retirement to see if you’re retreading old ground, or repurpose what you’ve already got.

Check out how companies like Red Bull and Bridgestone make their content easy to find.

Cross-Selling through Digital Channels

95% of bank/customer interactions are projected to have a digital component in the coming years. With the face of retail delivery changing, financial institutions need to rethink their strategies to engage customers.

We’ve outlined the basics of using digital channels (website, mobile, social media, email) to capture your customers’ attention. Hint: You’ve got to have something more to say than advertising a new low rate.

Cross-selling is most effective through your website. You have the best capability to cross-sell because it’s a controlled environment on your turf. You can collect user info and connect users with reps in a place that’s safe and official. (I.e. compared to a public sphere like Twitter where people may not want tell the world about their finances.)



That wraps up this week in Financial Content! Drop by our upcoming workshop where we’re always happy to chat about what content can do for banks and CUs.


One Minute Content Marketing

Customer Engagement and Cross-Selling Tips

cross selling tips 1041.04 – can you guess why this number is important? It represents the difference between the number of products disengaged customers buy (4.50) compared to engaged customers (5.54). These cross-selling tips while help you generate more share of wallet through content engagement.

Three Cross-Selling Tips for Better Engagement

1) Be a content provider

There are two major places people turn to when they’re trying to solve a financial problem. Maybe they need a mortgage, maybe they’re just planning for retirement, but they’ll talk to either their family or their bank for guidance.

Especially nowadays, when people – Millennials in particular – start solving their problems by looking online, being a content provider gives you a big advantage. You become the customer’s primary resource. You’re in place to start a conversation with your customer before the competition arrives. When people are looking for answers, they’ll buy from the answer provider.

Cross-selling shouldn’t start with a product offer. Good deals are everywhere. Content can set a bank apart.

Bonus Tip: Don’t send customers to someone else’s site. If they get their content/advice from someone else’s blog, you’re not part of the equation anymore!

2) Target individuals

If you’ve ever looked at traffic numbers to your website, you know that it’s easy to to lose sight of your customers as individuals.

But the one-size-fits-all marketing of yesterday doesn’t engage the modern digital customer. When you’re competing in a digital space, people want personalization based on their specific interests. Targeting everything at everyone engages no one. Engagement is what you’re after.

Here’s an example. A guy named Fred goes to a movie theater to see a horror flick. The box office attendant strikes up a conversation about a great rom-com that Fred should check out. There’s a chance Fred might be interested in this other movie, but that’s really not why he’s there.

A bank customer is trying to find a mortgage. The bank has been marketing auto loans at them as part of a one-size-fits-all campaign. There’s a chance the customer might need an auto loan, but the bank is not anticipating his/her primary, individual needs.

Find out what products your customers are looking for and cross-sell based on their individual needs.

Bonus Tip: Content can uncover needs when positioned correctly. Help people learn before you offer them a good deal.

3) Generate word of mouth

Banks and CUs are starting to take advantage of social media in cool ways. However, cross-selling is somewhat anathema to social media. Twitter is not a good place to strike up a sales conversation, but it’s amazing for referrals and word of mouth.

Imagine a new type customer lifetime value based in a social economy. A follower who is an advocate for your brand will help you bring in more sales. His/her ‘social lifetime value’ can be hugely meaningful. A study from Allegiance found that about 19% of engaged customers had a friend who switched banks because of a strong referral.

Positive social engagement requires content and interactions. Use your social accounts to engage customers around education and conversation. Something as simple as asking how a customer’s day is going can go a long way. It might sound contradictory, but cross-sales will follow based on your ability to “not sell”.


Too long; Didn’t Read?:

  • Be a content provider so that people can engage with your brand beyond its products
  • Target individuals by collecting info so that you can serve their personal needs
  • Generate word of mouth to sell by not selling

Sign up for our 30 Minute Workshop to learn more cross-selling tips!

Cross-Selling with Content in the Digital Future

Researchers at Bain & Company estimate that by 2020, 95% of interactions between customers and their bank will have at least a digital component (if not being outright digital). Banks need ways to improve and integrate digital experiences in order to meet their cross-selling goals.

In the face of a lot of complicated regulatory and compliance-related difficulties, financial institutions have made a lot of progress in the digital sector. However, in Bain’s study, more than half of the 78 banks observed were lagging behind. Banks need to leverage their digital channels for cross-selling in order to continue growing.

What Digital Channels Are The Best For Cross-Selling?

There isn’t a concise answer to this question. Web, mobile, social and email are all channels with increasing use. A strong digital strategy won’t ignore any of these channels.

Website – Your website is really the core of everything you do digitally. It’s a highly-trafficked space where you can do anything and everything you want. It’s what people are using for their day-to-day transactions more and more. Most importantly, it’s what people find when they google you. Everything you do through other digital channels should be pointing people towards your website.

Cross-selling is most effective through your website. You have the best capability to cross-sell because it’s a controlled environment on your turf. You can collect user info and connect users with reps in a place that’s safe and official. (I.e. compared to a public sphere like Twitter where people may not want tell the world about their finances.)

Mobile - Simply put, 90% of mobile is making your website’s features and information available on a phone. (Something like photo-depositing a check might be in the other, unique-to-mobile 10%.) Your mobile strategy should work in parallel to your website strategy. If someone can open an account through your website, they should be able to do it on their phone. Think mostly in terms of feature parity, even when it comes to how you’re cross-selling (but don’t ignore that 10%!).

Social Media - If your bank or CU is on social media, then you’ve probably learned that traditional ads don’t get you very far. You can’t cross-sell effectively with product offers. Instead, focus on content promotion – which should lead back to your website. Share a blog post with tips on saving for college or buying a home. The key is to attract users with content that’s useful to them. Trust comes before the sale.

TIP: Be sure that you are the customer’s resource. Sending customers to other websites doesn’t really benefit you. Don’t become an aggregator, be a resource.

Email – Just like social media, email doesn’t quite jive with traditional ads. Those types of emails often end up in the spam folder, and rightfully so. If I’m not in the market for a car and my bank’s emailing me about a new auto loan rate I’ll ignore it for two reasons. 1) It’s irrelevant to my circumstances. 2) It’s clear that they’re just trying to sell me something.

Emails that cross-sell well should be targeted to the specific customer, which requires you to collect a little information about what they might want to hear about. Your emails should educate before they try to sell.


The running thread in all these channels is CONTENT CONTENT CONTENT. If you’re cross-selling digitally you need to have something to say to your customers besides “buy this at this price”. Content can work on all of your channels to drive connections between customers and reps/advisors.

In financial services the best type of content for cross-selling is educational and informative. Mortgages, IRAs, 401(k)s: They’re serious things that are also pretty complicated.

Here’s how being a content provider benefits you and your customers:

  • Content builds curiosity around financial topics that different customers are interested in
  • It puts education first, answering questions and giving the customer confidence in their decision-making
  • It gives customers opportunities to connect with specific reps who can help

This last point is vital for digital cross-selling. Your content must make a connection. Let’s look at two scenarios. One where a bank provides content with no follow up, and one where it does.


Carla the Curious Content Consumer and the No-Good Awful Missed Connection

Carla Cross Sell Comic 1

You wouldn’t leave a customer hanging like this in person…

Carla the Curious Content Consumer and Cross-Selling Success

Carla Cross Sell Comic 2

… so don’t do it online either! Help them make connections.


The simple, traditional customer service principles shown here apply to your digital marketing strategy. First, your content should tell customers what they need to know about your products. Then it should connect customers to a relevant rep based on their needs.

The road to better digital cross-selling is paved with content. Learn more and start your journey by checking out our next workshop!

Bankie Says Relax! How Banks Benefit from Emotional Branding

bankie sayOn the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, 24 of the 43 most stressful life events have a financial component. Mortgages made the list three times! These important events – like starting a new job or having a child – have serious financial components and emotions can run high. Financial marketers can drive sales if they understand how emotional branding influences decision-making.

The first thing to understand is that people aren’t as rational as we like to think we are. We’re driven by emotions. An extreme example would be a parent running into a burning home to save an important family photo album; A perilous feat that’s emotionally motivated. We make decisions like this (albeit in a way less dramatic fashion) everyday.

Me? Just last weekend I picked up a rice cooker at Target. This wasn’t a rational purchase – it’s no sweat to make rice on a stove – but I was sold on the emotional idea of flipping a switch to “cook” and having the process carry itself out.

Emotions are even endemic to the very way we talk about brands. When you think about it, it’s kind of weird when a person says, “I love my iPhone!” Of course this isn’t literal, but it’s easy to see that our attachment to brands can run pretty deep.

Emotional branding can help during many stressful life events

24 of the 43 most stressful life events are finance-related

For financial institutions, emotional branding conveys to your customers that you can help them put out fires. It develops customers’ confidence in your brand. They see you as a resource that can make them less worried or anxious about financial decisions. Emotional branding helps put customers at ease.

Avoid This Mistake

A Gallup interview can shed a little more light on how our emotions influence us.

“I will give you an example of human behavior and behavioral economics called the endowment effect. If an organization offers a set of features to customers and one of the features is rarely used or maybe not used at all, the organization may decide to remove that feature from the product offering. After the organization communicates the removal of the feature, everyone goes crazy and the phones light up with people complaining and threatening to close their accounts. Once I’ve given you something, regardless of whether you use it or not, you perceive it to be of value. I can’t take it away from you because you have an emotional connection to that feature, even though the feature is not something you use every day or even intend to use.”

Whether you’re enacted an emotional branding strategy or not, people will still relate to your brand on an emotional level.

An Emotional Branding Strategy That Works

Financial institutions should work to alleviate a fear, anxiety or concern that their customers are facing. A powerful way to do that is to provide answers.

Your customers are looking for help. They want to save money and avoid mistakes. They want to make the right decision for whatever stressful life event they’re facing. Marketers should communicate their institution’s capability to help customers with their problems.

The key to strong emotional branding is to eschew sales messages. Focus on the emotion first and foremost.

-A customer needs a mortgage and is really stressed out!

-The bank can explain the fundamentals of how mortgages work

-The customer learns the basics and develops confidence in their ability to choose the right financial product

-The customer gets connected with a person at the bank who can help them find that product

Along this journey customers develop a better appreciation for the services their bank can provide. Customers who are emotionally engaged like this represent a 23% premium in terms of share of wallet and profitability.

Innovate with your onboarding strategy! Sign up for our next workshop

Happiness is Contagious – How Emotional Marketing Drives Sales

Emotional Marketing - Image By Martin Cathrae (Flickr: All Smiles) via WikicommonsAre your customers unhappy? Not unhappy with your company, but in broader terms. At the very least they’re stressed out and anxious about making a mistake. Chances are they’ve got people who are counting on them to make a smart financial decision. John might need a car to get his kids to school on time. Mary might be buying a house. Financial institutions should use emotional marketing to provide benefits to customers that go beyond low rates.

Research from CEB has shown that ‘emotional marketing messages are twice as effective as promotional ones.’

There are few things more stressful than deciding on a mortgage. It’s a huge financial commitment. Customers have enough to worry about and their bank can provide some relief with simple answers to all their questions. That’s the crux of emotional marketing. What emotional benefits can you provide to your customers?

Here’s an example of how it works in action.

Mary needs a mortgage and has no clue where to start. Fixed-rate? Adjustable-rate? She just wants a good deal that will work with her budget.

Right here is where emotional marketing comes into play. In Mary’s case, her bank would want to communicate that they can help her save money and avoid making a mistake.

Her perception shouldn’t be that her bank is saying, “Hey! Buy this product!”, but instead “Hey, we want things to be simple, we don’t want you to be worried, we want to help you find what’s right for you.”

Customers will buy from the place that creates emotional appeal.

Get tips for better emotional marketing in our next workshop!

The Invisible Hand of Marketing

A sagacious painter neglected to include hands in this portrait of Smith.

A sagacious painter neglected to include hands in this portrait of Smith.

We’ve all heard of Adam Smith’s idea of the “invisible hand” before. We take this term to mean that the market will regulate itself (though this may not be what Smith was actually saying). But not only is there an invisible hand of the market, there’s one that can guide marketing too.

The invisible hand of marketing works when you sell by not selling.

It allows you to engage your audience with something more than a new low rate, helping you to define your brand and give your customers a great experience.

Here’s a great example: Think about the back of a cereal box. Maybe there’s a maze or a crossword puzzle on it. Maybe a recipe. These are different types of “content”. In practical terms there’s nothing ad-like about these things, but they can be very powerful marketing tools. They help to invisibly build a brand experience that engages customers.

Not only can financial services use content in their own way, they have a huge opportunity to succeed as more people move online.

The online browsing options that banks traditionally offer are important, but usually not extensive: Rate info, product info, branch locations, online banking. This is all great stuff to have, but doesn’t really qualify as content. Yesterday I saw not one, but TWO ads for 1.99% APR loans from different banks. Why would I go with one and not the other? Content can be a driving factor when someone has to make this decision. Which brand has given them a better experience?

WORKSHOP: Learn how banks and credit unions can drive sales with content

Rather than work entirely in traditional ads, financial institutions should be offering content: Articles and info throughout all their channels that will teach, not sell.

Instead of a kid who’s bored at breakfast, your audience is someone who has to make an important financial decision. Maybe they want to buy a house and need to learn about mortgages. Maybe they need a loan for a car. They’ll be able to find plenty of ads out there on banks’ websites, yet not a lot of info that can help them understand the buying process and what’s right for them.

If you can teach customers before you try to sell something to them they’ll want to buy from you. You’re in effect using an invisible hand to market your products and services.

The irony in this metaphor is that you want to make your content as visible as possible, promoting it through channels where customers ignore traditional ads.

Convince people that your brand is the best to bank with. Check out our next workshop.

Sign up and Learn:

  • How to provide high value that leads to personal engagement
  • How to have customers see you as the first place to go for future needs
  • How to leverage both branch and digital channels to reinforce this engagement


Teenage Financial Literacy – How much do kids today know about money?

The results are in and this is going on your permanent record! CNBC recently reported on the results of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s global assessment of financial literacy among 15-year-olds. The outlook for teenage financial literacy in the U.S. isn’t so bad, but there’s very clearly room for improvement.

Here are the results of the 2014 OECD test.

The OECD rates someone as “baseline proficient” if they score between 400 and 475. A student who scores 625 has the “highest proficiency”. The average score in the US was 492. This isn’t half bad, considering we’re talking about young people who (generally) don’t have big financial responsibilities yet.

Our teachers, parents, relatives and financial institutions are doing a great job getting kids to understand the basics, but we all know how quickly things can get complicated. A 15-year-old might be buying car insurance or taking out a student loan in a handful of years.

The OECD test covers relatively simple concepts. Students are assessed based on their understanding of value for money (e.g. buying in bulk is often cheaper than buying piecemeal) and their evaluation of spending priorities (paying rent is more important than going to a waterpark) along with a few other concepts.

One concept that’s particularly interesting is students’ ability to identify phishing scams. Can they tell if an email – purportedly from their bank – which asks them to supply account information is authentic?

take a sample test here and see how you stack up

Globally, the U.S. is lagging a little bit behind, ranking 9th out of 18 participating countries.

US teenage financial literacy comes in just below the global averageStudents in Shanghai produced the highest average, but because the test was limited to one city this doesn’t paint a national portrait for the Middle Kingdom. The next-highest scoring country was Belgium with an average of 541.

Teenage Financial Literacy: A Permanent Record Issue

Any teacher will tell you: Education is a lifelong process. In particular, the level of a person’s financial education is something that will help or hinder someone throughout their life. A bad financial decision at a young age can land someone in massive debt for a long time; Student loan debt has been a big political issue recently.

There’s no easy solution, but if financial institutions can help customers avoid mistakes everyone stands to benefit. A big part of this will be to innovate with the services that a bank or CU offers online.

Young people like to solve problems online. That’s where they get their answers. They research problems and look for facts in order to make smart decisions.

Financial institutions should be offering up these answers through their websites. If they deliver the content of these answers in the right way they stand to generate more sales.

Answers should be simple to understand while doing more than outlining a concept. Someone who understands how health insurance works in concept might not know how to pick the right plan for their needs and budget. Banks and CUs can use educational opportunities to connect customers with advisors.

Learn tips for providing the answers that customers are looking for (in a way that drives sales) in our next 30 minute workshop

Chase Bank and the Fantastic Future Branch

[Update: We misreported a statistic regarding Chase's branch traffic. We originally reported that only 55% of customers had been to a branch in a given quarter. This statistic actually represents traffic for commercial customers. We're looking into sourcing a figure that represents household customer traffic and have updated this post to better represent the cited figure. We apologize for the miscommunication. -Ed.]

Chase Bank recently released an earnings report which outlines the success they’ve had with digital banking and their vision for the future of branches.

Increases in digital banking and decreases in branch transactions have made them orient themselves towards sales-focused branches while relegating day-to-day transactions to online, automated services.


How Chase Bank is Redefining the Branch


  • Optimization of branches for sales:
    • more offices
    • more advisors
    • fewer tellers
  • Rationalizing cost structure through:
    • Digital self-service
    • Smaller branches with less density
    • Automation of processes and control
  • Consolidation of operating centers
  • Optimization of branch network based on
    customer needs and branch usage trends


Their total amount of branches has been shrinking for the past few years, however they’re not expecting to eliminate any more for the time-being. Their future branch network will be predominantly office space. You might have 3 advisors in a branch, but only 1 teller. As day-to-day needs and customer service becomes largely digital, the focus of the branch will be on sales.

The Important Numbers

55 quarterChase Bank card sales in branch
Chase Bank branch mortgages

While day-to-day foot traffic in branches reduces, sales efforts in the branch show strong return. People might be moving to digital for simple transactions, but when they do come to the branch they have a high chance to buy.


What It Means Industry-wide

The traditional branch is going to evolve over the next few years. It’s been reported that as much as 34% of adults haven’t been to a branch in 6 months or more! Digital log-ins are rising as people get more comfortable with the idea (and convenience) of online and mobile banking.

The unfortunate side effect is a more remote customer base. The banks that can’t get customers into the branch for sales will not be able to compete. So, as the makeup of the branch changes, the makeup of online and mobile experiences must change too. Banks need to offer richer online experiences that go beyond transactions in order to generate sales.

Join our upcoming workshop to learn how to provide engaging experiences!