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Financial Services

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Ban the boring from financial services marketing

Financial Services / 11.10.22 / By Melissa Jusianiec

When my son was younger, we went to the library and he picked out a large book to bring home. He was excited and wanted to read it as soon as we got back. Sure enough, it proved to be one of the most memorable books we’ve ever read together. It was simple, with a strong message—each page had multiple images of one type of thing (cars, airplanes, people, dogs, houses, etc.) that all looked the same. Same colors, same shapes, same size, you name it. And each page ended the same way: by asking the reader to imagine a world where everything looked the same—and everything was so boring. Many life lessons can be pulled from that book, but one spoke to me as a research professional early in my career. Imagine a world where all marketing messages were the same for every person. Yes, it would be SO BORING.

So let’s take the boring out of financial services marketing. In early marketing courses, we learn that segmenting our audiences, or market segmentation, enables more effective targeting. And we know that targeted marketing is better than a blanketed approach with a single message. The financial services market is no different. As in any industry, capturing the attention of customers and prospects in a succinct and pointed way stretches marketing budgets and enables the highest potential for success in earning and retaining customers.

From a consumer perspective, don’t we all want our financial institutions to know us? To help us by identifying products and services that meet our needs at various life stages? After all, our finances are about as personal as it can get. Imagine a bank that can target you throughout the phases of your life with products and services that are just right for you. That’s market segmentation. And it can range from basic to more complex.

  • A basic segmentation could be created simply by understanding historical product usage. Financial institutions can track, for example, which products or services were most recently acquired or used by customers. By looking at historical data, a bank can predict which ones customers will look to acquire or use next, then send targeted marketing messages to customer segments.
  • A slightly more complex option is to consider customers by age and location (urban, suburban, rural). By using existing data to again determine which products and services customers have used by age and location, predictions can be made about which ones will be needed next. From there, financial institutions can develop marketing campaigns that are differentiated by age/location.

Ideally, a segmentation is developed with more than one or two pieces of information. It should be driven by primary market research to gain a comprehensive view of the market—both customers and prospects—to achieve the maximum value. And it should include demographic data, as well as behavioral and attitudinal data. Consider a hypothetical solution where the following customer/prospect segments emerge from research:

Segment 1: They’re younger, live in urban areas, are newly partnered/married, enjoy the outdoors and adventurous travel, and use online resources (e.g., shopping, entertainment, banking) because it’s what they’ve always done. And it’s comfortable.

Segment 2: They have families, are living in suburban areas, are purchasing houses and larger cars, have busy schedules, enjoy family entertainment and vacations, and use online resources driven by a need for efficiency and convenience. Nevertheless, they want to know that their online interactions are safe and secure

Segment 3: They’re older, their families have grown and moved out of the house, they’re approaching retirement or are retired, may be downsizing and/or relocating to warmer climates and enjoy leisure activities (e.g., international travel with friends or cruises) but are watching their budgets. They were forced to use online resources due to the pandemic but still look for in-person interactions.

As a financial institution, your marketing will be most effective with these segments if you feature what you know about them and meet them where they are. When planning a marketing campaign, think about each of the following to cut through the inevitable noise in the market:

  • The imagery you’re using and how it should differ between each of the segments.
  • The tone and language you use when referring to their lives and what they may need.
  • The products and services you nudge them with and how they fit the life stages you identified.
  • The channels you’re using to market your products and services, connecting with customers and prospects in ways that are meaningful for them and that best carry your creative message.

As marketers, we all want to garner the most attention—to be noticed. And we do that best when we know the segments that exist within our markets and tailor our marketing to them. Knowing the segments requires data, and primary research is an efficient way to gain in-depth knowledge about the market and stand out among the sea of sameness. Growth in the financial services industry, where banking options are peeking out around every corner, means that banks, now more than ever, must take the time to know their customers and segment their market in a way that enables effective target marketing.

Customers who feel seen and heard, who aren’t hit with the same blanketed, lackluster messages, are known to become more loyal, to put their trust in their financial institution and commit to long-term relationships.

When you're ready to segment your customers and create a more personalized experience for them, reach out to us at DS+CO. In the meantime, check out our free webinar on the power of research and audience segmentation here.


Melissa Jusianiec

Melissa Jusianiec is DS+CO’s research manager, getting to the heart of audiences, strategies and marketing efforts.