10 Fresh Marketing Ideas For Financial Services

Whether your marketing strategy is a little stale or you just want some creative inspiration, here are 10 fresh marketing ideas for the financial services industry. 

1. Narrow Your Niche

Have you ever read something and thought, “Whoa, these people get me”? I know I have, and it’s that exact response that compels me to try out a new product or service (even when I’m not looking for one).

The more you know about your ideal customer, the easier it is to create a message that speaks directly to them. Even if anyone could benefit from your products, think about who uses them the most. Center your marketing campaigns around these people. 

Side Note: Don’t think that niching down limits your growth. It actually does quite the opposite. Take Vested, for example. We’re an integrated communications firm for the financial industry. Even though we only work with financial services companies, Vested is the fastest-growing public relations agency in the world—we grew by 317 percent in 2016. By niching down, we’ve positioned ourselves as an industry leader and eliminated most of our competition all at the same time.

2. Optimize Your SEO

Picture this: Someone Googles, “how to open my first bank account” and your company’s article is the first one in the search results. Then that same person Googles, “is mobile banking safe” and they see yet another article written by you. The information they read on your website is so invaluable that they decide to open a bank account with you instead of your competitors. 

That’s SEO at work. You won’t see SEO results overnight (it’s more of a long game), but the pay-off is worth the effort.  

An easy way to boost your SEO is to figure out what keywords your competitors rank for. You can use a site like www.UberSuggest.com to get this information. Once you know, incorporate similar keywords into your own content. 

3. Contribute Guest Posts

If you know your customers get their information from certain websites, reach out to the site’s editor and ask to be a guest contributor. When you contribute guest posts, you position yourself as an industry expert and point people back to your company. Just make sure you’ve done enough research to know where your customers hang out online. 

“Guest blogging can help you improve your lead generation campaign, but you’ve got to be sure about the audience that you’re writing for. Instead of spreading your net broadly expecting to catch more fish but ending up disappointed, you want a more targeted approach and mindset,” writes Neil Patel, co-founder of Neil Patel Digital. 

4. Embrace Social Media

Be honest, how good is your social media presence? Are you engaging with your followers and creating conversation? Gone are the days when social media only consisted of publishing a post and calling it a day. Social media today is very conversational. Followers expect you to reply to their comments and answer their questions. 

If your social media presence needs improving, perfect it by creating a consistent social media calendar, implementing A/B split testing to see what posts outperform others, and asking your audience what they want to see more of. 

5. Experiment With Video Ads

Video ads are taking the marketing world by storm. Most social media platforms prioritize video content over photos, so video ads increase your visibility and ranking. Need some video ad inspiration? Try creating product videos, company culture videos, how-tos, or FAQs.

When creating video ads, limit the video to one major message. Twenty percent of viewers click away from a video within 10 seconds, according to Acuity Ads. By the time you hit the one minute mark, 45 percent of viewers have left. Keeping the video short and sweet will maximize your impact. 

6. Connect With Influencers

Who are influential people in your industry? It doesn’t have to be a celebrity or someone with a million followers. Some of the most influential people are micro-influencers, bloggers, or content creators because they have authentic relationships with their followers. 

Tap into this network by reaching out to influencers in your niche. Ask them for honest reviews in exchange for free products or services. If the influencer truly believes in your company, they’ll say yes. You could also start a brand ambassador program depending on how many influencers you want to have. 

7. Tell Your Company’s Story

Storytelling should be at the heart of every marketing campaign and strategy you have. It is the most intimate form of content marketing and is great for positioning yourself as an industry expert. 

Your current and potential customers want to know the “you” behind the curtain. Get them emotionally invested in your company and mission by sharing how your business got its start, why you do what you do, and how your products and services have improved the lives of customers. 

8. Tune Your Tone

The tone you use to tell your story is just as important as the story itself. How many times have you seen an ad or read an email only to think, “I get what they’re saying, but they said it all wrong”? 

If your story doesn’t “sit well” with your audience, it’s time to tune your tone. Think about it… if your target audience is investors with 10+ years experience, you’re going to use a different tone than if your target audience was made up of newbie investors. Tuning your tone is just another reason why it’s so important to narrow your niche (#1 on our list).

Pro Tip: If your company works with numerous writers (as most do) create a style guide to make sure the tone of your marketing is always consistent. 

9. Use Chatbots

It seems as though every website I go to these days has an automated pop-up ready to answer any questions I may have. In an age where consumers want answers to their questions at lightning speed, chatbots help your company keep up the pace and save money. 

“With over half of consumers seeking customer service through social media, today’s social bots can address such concerns around-the-clock. Chatbots are projected to save businesses billions by 2022 by streamlining customer service and bot-based commerce,” writes Brent Barnhart at SproutSocial. 

10. Dive Into Data

You’ll never know how effective these marketing ideas are if you’re not tracking analytics. Use tracking tools to measure the effectiveness of your chatbots, who’s watching your video ad, and which social media posts do best. Once you’re armed with strong data, use this info to sharpen your message and reach your target audience with precision.   

“Data needs to be contextualized as success can’t be measured in a vacuum. For example, instead of just looking at how many people visited your site in the last month, it’s equally if not more important to look at how long they visited the site for and what pages they clicked through to,” writes Katie Spreadbury, UK Director at Vested.

We hope these 10 ideas spark your imagination and that you can implement a few of them into your next marketing campaign. 

If you’re hungry for more marketing articles from Vested, check out:

Robots: Love them or loathe them?

Artificial intelligence (AI) seems to have taken on the quality usually associated with dreams.  Like those expressions of our hopes and fears, AI-powered robots on one side promise a future of leisure free of tedious and backbreaking work in which all can live as they imagine aristocrats of old once did with a huge staff eager to please.  On the other hand, they offer a nightmare of widespread joblessness, poverty, and hopelessness for a large part of the population who, because of AI will never again find meaningful work. Sometimes, the same commentator paints one picture on Saturday and another on Monday.

Of late, the media seems to have focused on the darker side.  Several prominent figures have wondered publically about the ill effects on society as robots leave millions with zero prospects for gainful employment.  Democratic Party presidential hopeful, Andrew Yang, has built his campaign around these prospective ills.  He claims that AI has already destroyed four million factory jobs across the Midwest and has warned of millions more jobs lost to robots and their ilk. He has trumpeted the need for a universal basic income (UBI), a stipend for all from the federal government, to answer the impending surge in joblessness as robots and other expressions of AI take over more and more functions in the workplace. 

He is far from alone. Technology luminaries as Bill Gates and Elon Musk have made similar forecasts and similar calls to answer society’s need. The good and the great gathered not too long ago at Davos have heard such descriptions and such calls and taken them very seriously.

Much of this AI fear rests on calculations made by Carl Frey and Michael Osborne in a 2013 article published in the MIT Technology Review.  There, they forecast that AI will eliminate 47 percent of U.S. jobs and 35 percent of UK jobs by 2035.  Those figures have found their way into several articles and government reports in this country, Great Britain, and elsewhere.  But theirs are not the only figures. Shortly after the Frey and Osbourne study appeared, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) looked into the matter. It took a broader view of the question than Frey and Osbourne. Instead of finding risk in every task AI could do, it identified the potential for job loss only in those tasks that AI could do profitably. That distinction made a major difference. The OECD concluded that only 10 percent of U.S. jobs were at risk to AI and some 12 percent of British jobs.

Two considerations suggest that the second, less frightening study is closer to reality and that even it may overstate the ultimate damage.  The first of these is the more economically practical way that the OECD examined the material and its willingness to examine more granular data. The second is that this is not the first time the public has heard panicked cries of what AI and robots would do to jobs. Such warnings have come and gone several times over the decades. Back in the 1960s, for example, when AI was called “automation,” a group of Nobel laureates warned how “new kinds of automation” had “broken” the “link between incomes and jobs.”

Then- President Jack Kennedy took those warnings to heart and spoke to the nation of the “dark menace of industrial dislocation, increasing unemployment, and deepening poverty.” His successor, Lyndon Johnson, responded to the potential threat by calling for widespread “family relief” to ease the prospective strain on working men and women – not quite a UBI but a government stipend nonetheless.  All these fears and warnings emerged during what today’s alarmists might well consider a golden age of American manufacturing.

To be sure, those robots did replace jobs in the 1960s.  New technologies have done so since machinery was first introduced into mass production in the eighteenth century.  But the innovations have always changed things less quickly and less completely than alarmists at each stage claimed they would. The fact is that new technologies require a lot else to change before they can replace the jobs people fear they will take.  Before business can use technological innovations effectively, it must change its practices and procedures and train those who stay on the job. That adjustment can take years, decades even. During that time, the marketplace has time to adjust to the new technology and it has always seemed to use both the time and the technology to create new jobs.

Take, for example, the personal computer. It took 20-plus years from its invention in the 1970s to become commonplace on office desks and shop floors across the country. What delayed the adaption was not the technology, though it improved dramatically over that time.  What took time was the alteration in practices in offices and factories so that they could accommodate the new machines and glean benefits from them. Only over this relatively long stretch of time did the PC revolutionize business and in the process displace hundreds of thousands if not millions of typists and clerks as well as dispatchers and the like. But if eventually, the innovations did replace people, that passage of time eased the social strains.  Importantly, it enabled others to see how those same technologies could support activities that were previously inconceivable and employ people in them. During those 20-some years from the 1970s to the 1990s, the nation saw the rise of Federal Express and like firms as well as cable television, just to name two areas that now employ millions in jobs that did not previously exist and that directly or indirectly depend on the very computer technologies that destroyed so many other jobs.

Throughout the long history since the eighteenth century, when people first applied machinery to mass production, this same pattern has repeated over and over again. Each wave of change displaced a portion of the workforce but enabled the growth of new occupations that absorbed those displaced from older activities. If this pattern had not prevailed then each wave of technology since the days of the horse-drawn plow and the stagecoach would have left an ever-increasing portion of the population unemployable. But in fact, the economy on average has continued to employ 95 percent or more of those who want to work. This one irrefutable statistic demonstrates that innovations always create even as they destroy.

To be sure, it has always been difficult, impossible in fact, to forecast what new activities will create jobs for those displaced by technological innovations.  Few if any have that kind of imagination, certainly not at the start of each new technological wave. Who in 1972, for instance, could envision an air delivery scheme that could make millions of deliveries the next day and track each parcel at each stage of the process? The jet planes were around, but not the computer and communications technologies that enable this kind of organization to function. It has always been because of this failure of imagination that people can only see only the destructive part of the picture.  Still, a failure of imagination is no reason to dismiss the possibility that history has verified time and again. So it is today, even with Gates and Musk and Yang.

China Retreats Globally

China has retreated globally – not from its artificial islands in the South China Sea but economically and financially. It seems just yesterday that the Middle Kingdom, as China calls itself, resembled an unstoppable juggernaut, cutting constructions contracts and buying properties all over the world. That is no longer the case. Trade war with the United States bears much of the blame (or gets the credit, depending on one’s perspective), but even if Washington and Beijing were to sign a deal tomorrow, China would not regain its old momentum.

Official Ministry of Finance (MOF) figures, not surprisingly, offer a soothing picture of moderate decline, but private sources tell a much more dramatic story. According to the American Enterprise Institute’s well-regarded China Global Investment Tracker (CGIT), Chinese overseas investments of all kinds in the first half of this year averaged only $27.5 billion, half the rate averaged during the same time in 2018 and barely a quarter the rate of 2017’s first half.  This year’s figures are lower than any time since 2008. Construction contracts, largely in the third world as part of China’s Belt and Road initiative, have fallen off, too, but less dramatically. China clearly has become much less engaged with the world than it was.

Two things have caused this retreat. One is a growing hostility among host countries toward Chinese investment. Especially developed countries, the United States in particular, have balked over the Chinese practice of extracting technology. Suspicions along these lines have held up approvals for Chinese purchases and other direct flows of funds. Some familiar with Chinese practice have gone a step further. The European Chamber of Commerce has warned against developing a dependence on China and Chinese funds. This combination of concerns and suspicions have centered primarily on China’s huge state-owned enterprises and less on private Chinese investment. But if private investment has fallen off less dramatically, this growing reluctance in the West has had its effect there, too. 

More significant is China’s relative shortage of hard currency. Despite Beijing’s efforts to make the yuan a global currency, it is little used in currency transactions – no more than 2% of the total in fact – and so is of little use in overseas purchases.  Meanwhile, the trade war with the United States has already begun to cut into Beijing’s supplies of foreign exchange.  Beijing actually anticipated the problem and in 2017 and began to ration foreign exchange even before the White House added any tariffs. The first major investment declines occurred in late 2018, when the White House first imposed 10% tariffs on a range of Chinese products. The next drop coincided with this past spring’s increased tensions. To be sure, Beijing’s foreign exchange hoard remains huge, but officials are wary of how rapidly it has shrunk, falling some 25% from almost $4 trillion at its peak in 2014 to barely over $3 trillion during the first half of this year.  Beijing’s rationing of these financial resources has affected the state-owned sector in particular. Private companies have a greater willingness and ability to borrow hard currencies abroad.

Within the investment pullback, North America, which historically has accounted for some 17% of China’s overseas investment flows, has seen the biggest drop. No doubt, the hostility created by trade friction has played a role.  But China has also pulled back in Europe, where British and Swiss destinations have long dominated.  Australia and Singapore, which historically have accounted for about 10% of Chinese overseas investment flows, have seen less relative shortfall but some nonetheless. 

A day in the #VestedLife with Millie Graham: Caffeine and katsu fanatic

7 AM:My alarm goes off and the first thing I think about is my morning caffeine fix. I boil the kettle, brew my tea, then hop back into bed to read this morning’s headlines.

8 AM:I’m out the door, on my way to the station where I have to battle through the crowds of people to squeeze myself onto a Northern Line tube. Once on, I scroll through my emails and attempt to get through the daily newsletters I receive, looking for interesting news that relates to our clients.

8:45 AM:I’ve made it to work and am excited about the busy day ahead of me. I make my second tea of the day and pull together my to-do list.

12:30 PM:Did someone say lunchtime? So far, I’ve done a sell-in for our pro-bono client Charity Bank, a call with the Wall Street Journal and another client for the Markets Wrap, a content brainstorm, oh and another cup of tea – all before midday! I quickly check my emails before heading out for a stroll with some of the team to see what the City’s selection of eateries has to offer, even though I know the chicken katsu curry from K10 is a winner every time. We get back to the office and head to the outdoor seats to eat our lunch in the summer sun.

3 PM: After spending the first half of my afternoon drafting social posts and finishing a client blog, it’s now time for my next caffeine hit of the day, but this time it’s a Diet Coke. I make my way downstairs with some colleagues to find the coldest can on offer while discussing last night’s episode of whichever reality TV show is airing.

5:40 PM: I pack up my things and head off to Financially Fabulous’ My Money Festival, where the evening’s topic of conversation is taking better control of your money.

9 PM: I leave the event feeling inspired to make some changes to my own personal finance habits and savings goals and make a plan of action.

9:45 PM: I arrive home, quickly organise myself for the day ahead and have a bite to eat. I’m just in time for tonight’s reality TV fix, so I can enjoy another debrief over tomorrow’s Diet Coke break!

More #VestedLife blogs:
Coffee, Qwoted & Ugly Christmas Sweaters
Powering Through Money2020 Like a Boss
From Dusk to Dawn With This Yogi

Written by Millie Graham

Vested Kicks Off Summer at The Campbell

Vested recently hosted its annual summer networking reception at the historic bar and restaurant, The Campbell, tucked inside Grand Central Station. First occupied by William Kissam Vanderbilt II, whose family built the terminal, The Campbell was later sold to financier John W. Campbell, a member of the New York Central Railroad‘s board of directors. It is rooted deep in financial history and served as the perfect backdrop for c-suite marketing and communication folks to network, share a drink and kick off the summer.

Vested was delighted to host nearly 200 clients, prospects, friends of the firm, and finance “celebrities” at the event. CCOs, CMOs, CEOs, directors of PR, marketing and media from Bloomberg, Morgan Stanley, American Express, Bank of America, Citi Bank, Oppenheimer Funds, LendKey, GrayScale, and others had a chance to see some familiar faces and meet new peers in the industry. Finance influencers Mrs. Dow Jones (Haley Sacks) and Farnoosh Torabi also joined us, along with Vera, Jill, and Chanterelle Sung of the documentary Abacus Bank.

And what would a Vested event be without a theme packed with puns? Given the space’s location, our custom cocktails and giveaways were train-themed. Guests slid up to the sprawling marble bar to order custom cocktails including a Choo-Choose Vested, Brand Platform, or Story Engine. On their way out, attendees were given Vested-branded chocolate bars in the form of vintage train tickets.

We also hosted a special edition of At The Vested Bar With … on the mezzanine level, where our Head of Agency Marketing Erica Thompson interviewed guests about trends and challenges in the financial communications industry.

Full series here.

A big thanks to everyone who came out to make our event a huge success! Check out some highlights below.

The Power of Originality: What can financial services firms learn from Netflix?

You’ve heard it all before; if you want to boost your website’s SEO, increase engagement and drive traffic, you need great content. It needs to be insightful, creative and most importantly, it needs to be original. 

As Netflix prepares to release its quarterly earnings, we’re reminded of why originality is so important. The streaming giant is known for keeping its cards close to its chest when it comes to viewing figures, but we know that its original content has done wonders for the business and its £132bn valuation. 

Just one week after Sandra Bullock’s thriller Bird Box was released in December, reports showed that 26 million viewers had already streamed it, making it the most successful Netflix film ever. And with Stranger Things capturing viewers’ imaginations, Black Mirror making us think, Orange is the New Black making us laugh and House of Cards keeping us glued to the TV, Netflix is known for its brilliant original content.

Last week’s announcement that licensed shows Friends and The Office (US) will soon be taken off the US service and moved to rival websites was met with disdain from loyal customers – Friends is the most streamed series on the platform after all. But does this move represent an opportunity for Netflix to shift its focus and prioritise original content over much-loved but older series? It seems so… Earlier this month, it announced the acquisition of a new production space at Shepperton Studios, and The Observer last weekend revealed that it has 285 original programmes in production around the world right now, with a programming budget of £12bn. 

So, even though we’re not in the business of producing binge-worthy television series, there’s a lot that financial services firms can learn from Netflix’s approach to originality. 

  • First and foremost, it teaches us that we can be great if we stay in our comfort zones but we can be excellent if we stretch out of them and push the boundaries. Netflix has redefined the way we watch TV and created a new category with competitor platforms from Amazon, HBO and NBCUniversal all coming onto the market since Netflix launched as a streaming service. There’s no value in producing something which doesn’t start a conversation, get people thinking, or even better, sharing across their individual networks and changing behaviours. 
  • It reminds us of the value of data and understanding our customers and the importance of feeding this into our content strategies. The algorithms working behind the scenes to suggest new films and programmes customers will be interested in, means retention is high and inertia works to Netflix’s advantage.
  • And finally, it reiterates the value of true creativity. This sits at the heart of everything we do. It presents new possibilities, it’s lively, memorable, flexible and it gets people talking. Without it, we are lost. 

These three values are central to the content strategies we implement with our clients, and the advice we give – and it’s important that we’re consistent with them. Netflix wasn’t heralded as the king of original content in 2013 when House of Cards was released. It took years of pushing the boundaries, scrutinising customer data and creativity, and this is central for financial services firms looking to boost their website’s SEO, increase engagement and drive website traffic. 

So, there we have it- what can financial services brands learn from Netflix? The answer is quite simply, lots. 

Sophie Paterson, Associate Director, Vested EMEA

How To Leverage Financial Services Events For Marketing Success

What are some of your marketing goals for this year? Do you want to improve awareness? Increase sales? Generate leads? Keep customers? No matter your goals, event marketing is a tool that can catapult you to success. 

According to a recent study by Bizzabo, 89 percent of overperforming businesses believe live events are instrumental to their organization’s success. But these companies aren’t just hosting events and calling it a day. They’re using proven strategies to track ROI and meet marketing goals. 

What Business Goals Can Marketers Achieve Through Events?

Brand awareness. Events allow you the chance to cultivate an environment completely aimed toward your target audience. You get to share your brand’s history, culture, and value exactly how you want to—in an environment where outside noise is at a minimum and all eyes are on you. 

Lead Generation. You collect leads before the event—through email addresses and other pertinent information. You also collect leads during the event—where you have instant access to ideal prospects who are already interested in what you’re doing.  

Increased Sales. Events are a time for current and potential customers to intermingle. This can lead to accelerated sales as current customers talk up your products and services. 

Customer Engagement. The biggest ROI comes from retaining customers. You can use events to introduce new products and services your current customers may be unaware of. With limited distractions, you can show them exactly how your services improve their lives. 

Types Of Marketing Events 

“I think live events are critical. They end up having this effect across the board, across all of the funnels that you might not notice at first. What we notice, is if we don’t do events, it affects everything,” says Cari Goodrich, Senior Director, Global Marketing Programs at Looker.

Live events come in all shapes and sizes. Online events—think webinars and live streams—give you easy access to customers all around the world. They’re usually much cheaper than face-to-face events, but they still allow you to interact with your ideal target audience. 

Face-to-face-events range from conferences and tradeshows to seminars and lunches. While they may require more planning (and more money) up front, they present you with a unique opportunity to build long-lasting relationships with your attendees. 

“Once you’ve got that [face-to-face] experience, [the customer is] a convert hopefully for a lifetime, and as a brand ambassador,” says Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing, and communications officer for Mastercard, speaking at Advertising Week New York.

How To Leverage Events For Marketing Success

What you do before and after the event is just as critical as what you do during the event. Below are four steps you can take before and after your event to set yourself up for marketing success. 

Step 1: Set SMAC Goals

Hold yourself accountable for event success by defining crystal clear goals beforehand. With clearly defined goals in sight, you can plan the most efficient way to reach them. The SMART goal acronym is a popular one, but I prefer the simpler SMAC goal acronym. SMAC goals are specific, measurable, achievable, and compatible. 

Let’s take a look at an example. 

Specific: Make your goal concrete. For marketing professionals, you may choose a key performance indicator (KPI) you want to improve on. In the example below, we’ll use lead generation as our KPI.

Example: Increase the number of registered attendees for our next event by promoting it through social media, our website, and email.  

Measurable: Include a metric that defines success. In the example below, we’ll know whether we’ve accomplished our goal on August 31. 

Example: We want to increase registered attendees by 25 percent by August 31 (the day of the event).

Achievable: Make sure you can actually accomplish it. If your event is in two weeks, it may be impossible to increase registration by 25 percent. Look at past metrics to see if your goal is attainable.

Example: We only used our website to promote our last event and we saw a 15 percent increase in attendees. We’re sure we can increase registration by 25% using our website in conjunction with email and social media.

Compatible: Make sure it aligns with your overall marketing strategy. Even if something is specific, measurable, and achievable, it’s not worth doing if it doesn’t improve your company as a whole.

Example: Our sales team closed 15 percent more sales last year thanks to the leads generated from our events.

Our SMAC Goal: By August 31, we’ll see a 25 percent increase in registered attendees by promoting the event through social media, our website, and email.

Step 2: Define KPIs For Event

According to Bizzabo’s 2019 Event Marketing Report, 41 percent of marketers believe events are the single-most effective marketing channel—over digital advertising, email marketing, and content marketing.

But events are only effective if you can measure their success. The best way to do this is through KPIs. This list is not exhaustive, but here are five different KPIs you could use for your next event: 

  1. Registrations (look at our SMAC goal example above)
  2. Total check-ins (calculate the percentage of participants who actually showed up)
  3. Gross revenue (compare this number to your initial revenue goal for the event)
  4. Participant satisfaction (gauge satisfaction through surveys)
  5. Social media engagement (track your event’s social media mentions)

Step 3: Use Technology To Track ROI

“Data that simply records a new account initiation is far less valuable than insights from a face-to-face interaction at a branch event, which can tell you how to serve the customer better with a basket of personalized financial services,” writes Julia Manoukian, Content Marketing Manager at Limelight Platform

Thankfully, there are several event management software solutions that help you track ROI. These solutions act as a central hub as you plan, execute, and evaluate your event. They allow you to schedule campaigns, manage contacts, create websites, and more. 

There are dozens of event management software solutions out there. Some popular ones are Eventbrite, Aventri, and Eventsquid. When choosing the right event management software, look for ones that are reliable, easy to use, and ultimately help you reach your marketing goals. 

Step 4: Evaluate Your Success

Did you meet, exceed, or fall short of your SMAC goals? What tools did you use to measure event ROI? How did your event improve the lives of your attendees? These are all questions you need to answer in order to determine the success of your event. 

“There’s been a shift away from product pushing to advice and financial health,” says Dean Nicolacakis, principal and fintech co-lead at PwC. “Once [companies] can’t differentiate on price, then they have to differentiate on experience. People’s expectations are changing, they are being set by interactions they have with other brands outside of financial services and they’re expecting more.”

In a data-driven world, people still crave human interactions. The best way to differentiate on experience is through events, where you can make one-on-one emotional connections with your target demographic. 

How are you using company events to reach your marketing goals and connect with your audience? Let us know in the comments below. 

Fed On The Horns Of A Dilemma

Pity Federal Reserve Board (Fed) Chairman Jerome Powell and his colleagues. At their Open Market Committee (FOMC) meetings yesterday, they decided to hold rates at current levels for the time being. Their decision is consistent with past Fed behavior and only prudent, but committee members will get little credit. President Trump has put them in an impossible situation. By demanding rate cuts and criticizing inaction at the Fed, Trump has rendered suspect anything the Board now does. If Powell cuts rates, as he suggested he might sometime in the near future – whether because of a softening in the economy or concerns over the ill effects of trade wars – many will accuse him of simply bowing to White House pressure.  If, on the other hand, the Board, for the most legitimate of reasons, sees no need for a rate cut, others will characterize it as risking the economy in a stubborn power contest with the president. The environment needlessly complicates policymaking.

So far, Powell seems to have played things straight. When in February last year he took over for Janet Yellen, the Fed had pretty much completed what monetary policy makers occasionally referred to as “normalization” of interest rates and policy generally. The Fed had ceased its quantitative easing – direct purchases of treasury and mortgage debt that the Fed used to support markets and the economy during the 2008-09 crisis and the disappointingly slow recovery that followed. Policy makers had even begun to sell off some of the purchases they had previously made. The Fed also sought to bring interest rates up from the near zero levels set during the crisis and disappointing recovery. It wanted to bring interest rates back into their historical relationship with the pace of inflation as well as with other economic indicators. Policy makers also wanted to get interest rates up to levels that would allow effective cuts should economic conditions demand it.  Powell has effectively extended this policy.

He made his first mention of a possible change this past June 4 when he announced that the Fed stood ready to sustain the expansion should the trade dispute with China threaten economic harm. Market participants saw in these remarks the promise of an interest rate cut. Bond yields fell in response and stock prices rose smartly. Some accused Powell of bowing to White House pressure.  But Powell neither promised nor bowed. Certainly, the calm way he refused to respond to earlier White House pressure stands as evidence that he was not now caving in. On the promise of rate cuts, he said no such thing. He made clear that all future Fed action will depend on the economic situation as it develops.

In itself, this decision to condition future policy on the flow of news does to a degree break with his predecessors. Less Janet Yellen and more her predecessor, Ben Bernanke, believed in telegraphing Fed policy moves. Bernanke claimed that it would help market participants prepare. Under him, the Fed would effectively forecast what the economy might need some months and quarters down the road and announce their policy intentions accordingly. Powell at the very least shows more humility. He knows that the Fed cannot forecast the economy any better than anyone else. Rather than say what will happen and how the central bank will react to it, he has simply said that the Fed will act if today’s concerns become reality.

There may be something else guiding the Fed’s current approach to policy. When the Fed makes a firm forecast, instead of a conditional one, it runs the risk that everyone in the market will set their trading positions on the basis of that forecast. Then, if conditions change and the Fed has to change its plans, all market participants together have to unwind their positions and assume new ones. That can cause considerable market disruption, even for a minor change in Fed policy. Especially since Powell is realistic about anyone’s ability to forecast, better that market participants have some doubt about policy’s next move. That way, different people will assume different positions, so that when circumstances demand a policy shift, only some market participants will have to change.

If the Fed is, in fact, adhering to such reasoning, it is well worth asking why Powell said anything early in June? He could have left the situation entirely ambiguous. After all, he has no idea of how the trade negotiations with China will go and a lot of uncertainty about how an agreement or the failure to reach one would affect the economy. What Powell and his team are likely concerned about is the effect of market worries themselves. The concern over the trade negotiations was creating negative psychology that if left unchecked could dissuade consumers from spending and more significantly impel firms to reconsider expansion plans, including hiring and capital spending. Worries about the future could then become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By announcing that the Fed, should it prove necessary, would act to counter the effects people fear, he has offered the economy protection against the development of too negative a psychology in the present, whatever else the future might demand of the Fed.

Increasingly, elements in the market see Powell’s promise as assurance of an interest rate cut. Certainly, should the Fed decide to act, it will come in the form of a rate cut, probably a small one at first. Even as the trade negotiations drag on, that decision will hinge on the flow of economic news. If history is any guide, the Fed will wait at least 2-3 months to get confirmation that economic conditions have changed. Since to date the economy has shown strength, an immediate rate cut at this month’s FOMC meeting was never likely. Even if things were to weaken suddenly in the next few weeks, a rate cut would likely wait until August or September. Policy makers will want to see if such bad news is a trend or just month-to-month volatility in the flow of information. Every month that the economy shows strength, especially if China and the United States arrive at a trade agreement, will delay the rate cut accordingly.

More from our chief economist:
The rich get richer while the poor get poorer
Asset managers respond to intense pressure
Productivity still disappointing

Thought Outbound Marketing Was Dead? Bring It Back To Life With These 5 Strategies

A few years ago everyone swore outbound marketing was out and inbound marketing was in. But research is proving that outbound marketing isn’t as dead as we once thought. 

Yes, the old school way of hunting customers down and spamming them with products is a thing of the past, but companies are seeing stellar results using a combination of inbound and outbound marketing.  

We all know inbound marketing is more of a long game, while outbound marketing is more of a short game. Wouldn’t combining both of these strategies give you a better chance of success? Research says yes (and we’ll talk about this more below).  

So, if you thought outbound marketing was dead, use these 5 strategies to brush off the dust and bring it back to life.  

Hone Your Niche

Just as we humans can’t be all things to all people, neither can your products and services. As badly as you may want to market to the masses, you’ll have higher success if you embrace your niche and market accordingly. 

Your ideal customer is looking for a product or service just like yours that can solve all her problems, but she can’t find you through all the noise. Cater your outbound marketing strategy directly to this ideal customer and your pool of competitors will shrink right before your eyes. Even better, your ideal customer will actually be able to see you and the value you offer. A win-win. 

Modernize These 3 Traditional Outbound Marketing Types

Direct Mail

It’s true, the volume of direct mail is on the decline and people aren’t receiving nearly as much as they did a decade ago. This may sound like bad news, but it’s actually quite the opposite. With fewer companies taking advantage of direct mail, there’s less competition and more of an opportunity to connect with your ideal customer. 

Here are some stats to prove it. 

Direct mail boasts a whopping 4.4% response rate, compared to 0.12% for email, according to a response rate report from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). The response of direct mail can be 10 to 30x that of email making it well worth your marketing dollars. 

Modernize your direct mail initiative by making it about your customer, not about you. Use purchase history, user data, and your current email list to fuel your direct mail campaign.

Emails

The average email user spends less than five minutes deleting 50% of the emails they receive every day. These are messages that go straight to the Trash folder, without even being opened. 

Let this statistic be a warning that subject lines mean everything! You must craft a subject line that grabs your reader by the eyeballs and entices them to investigate further.  

“You can automate your campaigns to reach people over time by ‘drip-feeding’ them relevant information and leading them through the sale funnel. By sequentially targeting prospects that might benefit from your product or service, you can grow their interest level and generate leads,” writes Sheila Kloefkorn, President at KEO Marketing.    

Social Media & Search Ads

Identify how your ideal customer discovers new products. Are they more responsive to ads on a smartphone instead of a desktop? What social platform do they use the most? Figure these things out and mold your ads to fit their expectations. How people interact with technology is constantly changing. Don’t assume you know best. 

Social media and search ads can be an effective way to boost website traffic while you wait for your inbound marketing strategy to kick in. The SEO keywords you discover through your inbound marketing strategy can even help you niche down and find ideal customers for your outbound marketing strategy.

“If you’re not using ads in your marketing mix today, you’re likely not doing everything you can to provide customers with helpful, relevant content at every stage of the buyer’s journey,” writes Nicholas L. Holland, VP of Product at Hubspot.

Don’t Use Cookie-Cutter Templates

Think back to all the junk mail, emails, and ads you’ve seen lately. Were there any pieces that stood out? If so, why’d they catch your eye? 

The truth is, your brand won’t stand out with cookie-cutter templates. You need personalized materials that touch on the recipient’s pain points from start to finish. Just saying “Hi [First Name]” isn’t enough. You need to dig deeper and find out more about their age, what industry they work in, life events they’re going through, and so on.  

“[Outbound marketing] used to consist primarily of large scale, one-off email blasts, but now the technology has moved to the point where marketers can hyper-target small subsets and even individuals with very focused content tailored to their specific interests,” says Steven Coufal, Senior Media Relations Specialist at Gartner. 

Ask yourself if this [Facebook ad, mailer, email, and so on] offers value to your ideal customer. Does it address their pain points and offer a solution to their problems? If not, then it’s a waste of your time and money.

Get The Whole Team On Board

How many times have you gotten an offer in the mail, called the number to find out more, only to realize their customer service had no idea what you were talking about? It’s a nerve-racking feeling. One that can make you not want to call no matter how good an offer sounds. 

Outbound marketing campaigns can be a huge investment. Make sure every department (especially customer service) is aware of what’s going on. The last thing you want to do is lose out on a sale because someone didn’t know you were having one to begin with. 

Infuse Your Outbound Marketing With Personality

Does your brand have a distinctive personality? One so strong that people would recognize it even if your business name and logo were stripped away? If so, that’s a good sign that your outbound marketing strategies will work! 

“A good rule of thumb in branding is that if you can paste your logo on top of someone else’s marketing piece, you don’t have a unique brand to claim. From Apple’s distinct design of its ads (always clean, lots of white space and few words) to Papa John’s Pizza (Papa is always in it), these brands manage to leave a strong impression with every outbound marketing touch point,” writes Gal Borenstein, CEO and Chief Strategy Officer of the Borenstein Group. 

The Bottom Line

You don’t have to choose between inbound and outbound marketing; they aren’t competing against each other. Continue providing prospects with helpful information that solves their problems and they’ll begin to see the value you offer. Pairing your inbound marketing strategy with an updated outbound marketing strategy allows you to reach your ideal customers in multiple ways—and ultimately helps you attract and retain high-quality customers. 

How are you using outbound marketing to reach more customers? Let us know on social!

Learning from leaders: key takeaways from Breakfast and Brainfood

Today, at our most recent Breakfast and Brainfood event in London, Rob Mitchell, CEO of Longitude, talked us through the ins and outs of getting thought leadership right for the C-suite. The session brought together influential communications and marketing professionals from across the financial services to learn how we can better engage, inform and influence business leaders in this field.

Rob’s presentation and following lively discussions gave us much to think about, so we’re excited to share some of our key takeaways.

Differentiation is crucial

Thought leadership has to be based on original thinking, helping brands engage top decision makers and supporting broader commercial and marketing goals. Without this originality, it is simply not thought leadership.

With senior decision makers spending on average four hours a week consuming thought leadership and 40 percent most valuing unique insights, it’s important to think about what makes your business stand out and what your audience wants to hear. Focusing on the three lenses of an audience, competitors and capabilities will help you get this right.

Choice matters

We have been told for some time that executives no longer want long-form content and that shorter, digestible formats are preferred. But the reality is more complex. While case studies were cited as the most popular form of thought leadership content, with 46 percent choosing this option, echoing a trend towards greater story-telling, long reports still have a role to play.

Overall, it’s crucial to present your audience with both variety and format choice. Not only because people digest content in different ways, but this will often vary from topic to topic.

Adopt an outside-in approach

All too often, thought leadership is written from the inside-out, when in fact it should be the opposite. Thinking about your audience first, the challenges they are facing and how you can help them should shape your approach and will add significant value to thought leadership content.

It’s a marathon not a sprint

For so many businesses, thought leadership is often a once and done affair, but it shouldn’t be. Compelling thought leadership content should be consistent, build momentum and more importantly be something that people can engage with over a long period of time.

If this is the sort of event that sounds of interest to you then please get in touch. We look forward to seeing many more of you at our future events!