If you are anything like me after missing a week of work, then you’ll certainly understand my pain. I was fortunate enough to attend The Financial Brand Forum conference 2 weeks ago in Las Vegas, and while doing so I had caused quite the riff in my schedule. I swear, for every day that I miss, whether it be for a conference such as this or a vacation, I need at least 2 days to recover. I’m sure most of you can relate. However, it does beg the question… was missing work to attend this conference worth the “trouble”?
Now that I’ve had time to catch up and reflect on the conference, I’d love to take this opportunity to share with you the amazing experience that I had attending The Financial Brand Forum. For those of you not yet aware, the conference focuses on marketing, customer experience, data analytics, and digital transformation. The event is hosted by The Financial Brand, and is built exclusively for senior-level executives working in the financial industry – specifically marketers at retail banks and credit unions. This would be you, our lovely readership.
The conference was absolutely fantastic, in my opinion. Everything, from the sessions and exhibit hall right down to the venue itself, was great. There was plenty to do and take in, and that had little to do with Vegas in the background. Although, that was fun too.
The majority of the sessions I attended were outstanding, and to the point that I left for home feeling excited and motivated for the work and conversations to come. That’s when you know that you’ve attended a great conference. Also, for what it’s worth, the keynote speakers were among the best I’ve ever had an opportunity to see speak. Hat tip to Gary Vaynerchuk and Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran; both were insightful and entertaining.
Now on to the good stuff! I’d like to share with you what I feel were among the 3 most important takeaways from the 2019 Financial Brand Forum.
1. Digital transformation is a necessity!
Without a doubt, “digital transformation” was the underlying theme of this year’s event – the idea that financial institutions will need to increase their digital efforts, and quickly, if they wish to a) remain relevant in banking and b) continue to meet the needs of their account holders. FIs that do not fully embrace digital from a marketing and operations standpoint will simply be left behind. As gloomy as that may sound, digital transformation is a necessity – a true “adapt or die” type scenario.
Many see banking as the next industry on the list that is about to be majorly disrupted by digital. There are several new and non-traditional competitors entering the space, like Amazon, Apple, and others, as well as exciting new fintechs that are doing some really cool things. These newer players within the industry are gaining a lot of momentum, and to the point that if banks and credit unions aren’t careful they may find themselves sitting on the sidelines very soon.
We’ve all seen this before, right? The titans in the music and television industries are now on the defensive because they failed to recognize the value of digital streaming services – Spotify, Netflix, and Hulu for example. Riding in a stranger’s car (Uber) and vacationing in other people’s homes (Airbnb) have become the new norms in the transportation and hotel hospitality industries. There should be little doubt that banking will evolve in some way, much like we’ve witnessed with these other industries. That much is clear. The real question seems to be if traditional banks and credit unions will be along for the ride.
“Using regulation is no longer an excuse not to change. Compliance is the great makeup for not doing something.”
– Gary Vaynerchuk
2. Personalization is Key.
The idea of personalization or engaging with your audience(s) at a more individualized level was a strong secondary theme at this year’s conference. Many vendors and sessions spoke to customer experience (CX), and how using automation and machine learning technology at the core of their operations would ultimately help financial institutions provide a better online and digital experience for their customers.
The concept is quite simple. Why should a customer’s experience on a website or some other digital channel be different than if that account holder were to visit a brick and mortar branch? The answer is that it shouldn’t be. At least that is what the modern customer wants and expects.
At every touch point, your customers are expecting to have a consistent experience – meaning they believe that all systems are connected, all known information is being shared, and that at all times there is an understanding of their needs and goals as based on the kinds of relationships they already have with your financial institution. Providing this level of personal engagement will be difficult for some banks and credit unions, but doing so will be an important part of the banking experience going forward.
3. Like the old adage says, “Content is King!”
The Financial Brand Forum reiterated this concept quite heavily throughout the 3-day event – the idea that banks and credit unions need to find new and exciting ways to generate and deliver worthwhile content. The keyword here being “worthwhile”. FIs should aim to be an editorial voice for account holders and those within their local communities, rather than just a transactional voice.
It’s important to understand this. Content marketing isn’t relaying your new rates, products, and services to the masses. It is not even advertising. Instead, your focus should be to create content that resonates with your audience(s) and solves their everyday problems and concerns. I happen to be a big fan of this approach, and the conference provided plenty of examples for how banks and credit unions could beef up their online and digital channels with fresh and engaging content.
Additionally, it’s important to also realize that a “one-size fits all” content strategy isn’t likely to succeed long-term. I commend you if you have an active blog readership or Facebook following. In many ways you are already ahead of so many. However, content generation needs to be more than just the written word. Creating video and audio content and subsequently sharing it across your website and a multitude of different mediums and social channels is a huge part of the winning strategy.
If you haven’t done so yet, I encourage you to look inward at the communities you serve, learn about their specific issues and needs, and become the authority on how to solve them. This could mean providing educational resources via third-parties, tools, calculators and other resources, or creating engaging content in written, audio, and video form.
I hope this conference recap was in some way helpful to you. It probably goes without saying that I am 100% recommending The Financial Brand Forum to those of you in banking, especially you marketers. The conference serves as a great place to collect actionable insights for the year to come, and provides a space where financial marketers can come together, make connections, and trade “war” stories with others in their field. I found it to be worthwhile, and believe you will as well.
I hope to see you next year.