Digital Marketing for Financial Services: Lessons for PR Agencies from Research

What are the best practices in digital marketing for financial services? This is the question that Bill Wreaks of the Gramercy Institute and Frank Dudley of Brand New Media set out to answer when they undertook a year long research project that surveyed senior-level marketers at Bank of America, UBS, Prudential and MetLife.

Overall, it’s clear that financial marketers are shifting more money than ever into digital marketing – according to Frank, this increase in dollars is at a “tipping point.” Perhaps because of this larger spend, marketers are very focused on rationalizing their investment; they all want better metrics, analytics and strategy. And while today marketers appear to be focused on driving traffic to their website with banner ads and search engine optimization, they think that by 2015 social networks and mobile strategies will top their list in importance (I’ll blog about those findings in a later post).

So what are the lessons that digital PR agencies can learn from the research?

1) Provide education

Two-thirds of respondents believe that it is extremely or very important for senior marketers to have digital marketing experience, and 89% say that it will be important in 2015. This means that clients both need and want education about best practices, trends and new technologies so they can be at their top of the game. This education need is particularly true for marketers responsible for individual product lines (whereas those focused on overall brand marketing are slightly ahead of the curve).

2) Show your strategy brain power

This is a bit of a no brainer, but one finding from the research that surprised me was that many companies are moving their digital marketing capabilities in-house, as opposed to using an agency – and this is especially true for planning, strategy and analytics. For digital PR agencies, this means that there is a big opportunity to show marketing partners your institutionalized metric systems, wow them with strategic thinking, and demonstrate how digital strategies can move the needle in their business. Help them make the case to their boss that digital marketing investments make sense for their (unique) company.

3) Push for content creation

One of best practices that Bill and Frank shared from the research was to “develop relevant and timely content,” and ideally that responsibility would fall to the line of business. While I 100% agree that this model would be supreme, I also believe that it may be somewhat unrealistic in terms of timing. But financial services public relations firms have real expertise in “pulling” ideas, stories and thought leadership from business leaders to develop content – often to bring to the media. However, this expertise can be used to fuel digital marketing projects as well (which can also help to save the line of business’ time!)

What do you think? Do you think that the increased spend by financial service marketers opens a door for digital PR agencies?

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