What does innovation really mean for marketers at financial institutions in 2023?
“It’s a question that keeps me up at night,” says Elissa Rodd, who leads the Product Strategy and Innovation group for omnichannel marketing services company FMCG by Deluxe.
“But I tend to look at it as what it's not,” she adds. “Innovation, to me, is not standing still, right? If you are standing still, you are not innovating. It means you're constantly moving forward. You are building new or elevated products.”
She does think Deluxe, which specializes in data-driven campaigns for financial institutions, has the best data lakes in the industry, but “I’ll never really let myself believe that,” she says. “Because if I do, then I'm going to stop innovating. I'm going to stop moving the business forward. I'm constantly learning more about what's out there.”
In a January 2023 webinar, Elissa joined Enigma’s VP of Marketing Madeline Ross to break down her four top tips for leveraging data in your financial institution’s marketing campaigns — in today’s volatile market and tomorrow, no matter what the future holds.
Data-driven marketing isn’t a one-note strategy. It’s a multi-step process that begins with evaluation.
✅ Cover the bases
Data “coverage” — essentially, a set of data that’s large and inclusive enough to constitute an accurate sample — is key.
There’s “an added component with coverage, though,” says Elissa. “Sometimes I'll evaluate a data source and see businesses I've never seen before. That's super exciting. But we always validate what we see.”
For example, she might see data suggesting businesses that appear new, “but they're actually bankrupt or out of business,” she adds. “That data is not useful to me.”
✅ Keep it fresh
Incremental or insufficient coverage (as in the example above) is a sign that data is old or “stale,” Elissa notes.
In order to validate how accurate and “fresh” a given data set truly is, the team at Deluxe needs to compare it to the data it knows to be true.
That’s why it’s critical to keep “truth files” of information known to be real, via direct observation and/or measurement, like empirical evidence.
✅ Test, test… and test some more
There’s a saying about software testing: If you don’t like testing your product, chances are your customers won’t test it either.
The same might be said for data. Chances are, insights from untested data won’t lead to better business outcomes. So Elissa recommends beta-testing your campaigns and any other projects — live.
“That's where you get the key performance metrics you want,” she says.
There’s a misconception about using third-party data for B2B marketing: that all data is created equal. That’s emphatically false.
“I talk to data partners all day long, and I can tell you: They all tell me they have the best data,” Elissa says. The only way to ensure truth is to test and validate it yourself.
“Data-driven” is more than a buzzword to Deluxe. Being data-driven means “every single marketing decision is rooted in data and analytics,” says Elissa. “And when I say everything, I mean everything.”
That includes everything from ad design, including imagery, copy and calls to action to scripts for cold calling. Data also informs how you determine your target audience, how you build analytic models and how you interpret the results at the end of each campaign.
“I like to joke that even our data is data-driven,” Elissa says.
The basis for a data-driven marketing strategy begins at home, so to speak: with the data your organization collects from its own customers and audiences.
First-party data is “your bread and butter,” says Elissa. But “there's a fine line between collecting data and annoying your customers,” she adds.
If you're buying a tube of toothpaste online and the retailer asks you to provide your income, marital status, family size and whether you have pets, you might not decide to check out. Elissa does think, however, that companies should take every opportunity to capture one or two data points at a time — to slowly build a “rich profile” on each customer.
First-party data “enhances what third-party data can do, and it also can help build really great models and know your customers better,” Elissa advises.
When it comes to third-party data, she emphasizes the importance of testing yet again.
“Talk to lots of data partners, see what they have to offer and test,” says Elissa. “And then based on testing, onboard those that are really working for your unique problems.”
The economy is a rollercoaster, especially as we emerge from the pandemic. How can businesses maximize impact through all the ups and downs?
✅ Stay the course
“Whenever people hear ‘volatility,’ they get scared and they want to turn off marketing programs,” says Elissa. “We saw a lot of that in 2020.”
But she recommends staying the course — even “doubling down” on marketing in difficult times.
“We always like to say, If you're not talking to your customers, someone else is,” she says.
In order to prevent that from happening, organizations benefit from “being out there” so their messaging breaks through.
✅ Practice data hygiene
“Good and healthy data” is essential in a volatile market.
“One of the reasons we love Enigma is it gives us really great health indicators, [such as whether] businesses are active,” Elissa says, noting that “trying to figure out when businesses were going under” is a pain point for Deluxe and other companies in the fintech space.
✅ Create flexible payment schedules
“Deluxe believes in marketing programs in good economies or bad economies,” says Elissa. “So we offer pay-for-performance marketing, which allows us to take on a lot of the risk and our clients to feel better about going out in these volatile times — because they know we're going to get the results they want.”
In practical terms, that can take many forms. In Deluxe’s case, it includes flexible payment schedules with partners.
✅ Look for customers’ ‘triggers’
Elissa defines “trigger marketing” as “the intersection of relevance and timing.” On the consumer side, typical triggers are major life events like getting married, having a baby, buying a house and retiring — which lead to large purchases, big financial decisions and other predictable behaviors. Deluxe found that in a given year, 10% of consumers switch their financial institutions. Two-thirds of that 10% do so in conjunction with a major life event.
“We like to call these ‘hand-raisers,’” says Elissa. “These are the people who are most likely to interact with your brand, to convert to your brand.”
On the business side, she notes that new businesses tend to exhibit predictable behaviors as well, especially in the area of finance. They often need business checking accounts, payment services, merchant services and financial expertise. “Trigger data” can help identify these potential clients and provide timely reasons to reach out to them.
These are the people who are most likely to interact with your brand, to convert to your brand. 'Trigger data' can help identify these potential business clients and provide timely reasons to reach out to them.
✅ Meet customers where they are
It's fairly easy to find consumers on social media and other digital channels like email. But on the business side, it's a little bit more difficult. However, “we still do that ‘surround-sound’ marketing,” says Elissa — focused on the channels data suggests are most likely to resonate.
Sometimes data can reveal unexpected truths.
“I know that nobody ever wants to hear that direct mail is still king — or queen — but it's true,” she adds. “We have data points that suggest that. But I think it's twofold — the trigger marketing and also just making sure we're reaching people in the channels they're most likely to engage with.”
Truly data-driven strategies are more precise than traditional market research, but they’re not without pitfalls.
Poor entity resolution
That's super important in this space. It is really hard to do entity resolution with businesses, often, because businesses will have so many names that they operate under.
“I might have a flower shop, and my legal entity name is ‘Elissa Rodd, LLC.’ But my storefront says ‘Elissa's Perfect Petals,’ and my business banking checking account says ‘Elissa Rodd.’”
While we may recognize as humans that those three business names are connected, it’s difficult to make those connections at scale — often, amid tens of millions of rows of data. When it comes to the loan qualification process, for example, it’s common for some of those businesses to fall through the cracks.
If it didn't work before, try and try again
Just because data-driven marketing hasn’t worked for your organization in the past, that doesn’t mean it won’t be effective in the future. Things change — and that can be a big advantage. It could be the market, an algorithm or a shift in how a partner collects data.
“Not all data is created equal,” Elissa says. So she always warns against assuming that if you tried it once, it wouldn’t work if you tried again.
Big data doesn’t necessarily mean massive data.
“You don't need a massive amount of data,” says Elissa. “We [at Deluxe] need a massive amount of data. Enigma needs a massive amount of data. Our data partners need a massive amount of data.”
But to harness the power of data-driven marketing, your organization doesn’t necessarily need millions of terabytes. Collecting (clean, clear) first-party data from your own customers may be plenty to make a huge impact. The right data is the data that solves your business problems.
This article is based on a webinar presented by Enigma.