As a lender, digital marketing is a key tool to build out the top of your marketing funnel by creating or increasing awareness among potential clients, and/or building relationships with intermediaries and other deal sources. It can also help later on in the funnel, during the consideration and conversion stages.
We talked to Tuck Ross, SVP of Digital Marketing at BBVA Compass, Eric Starr, Partner at CapX Partners, and Ryan Jaskiewicz, CEO of 12five Capital, to get their tips on how lenders can optimize their marketing strategies in a digital age.
1. Meet your audience where they are.
Today, lenders “can’t expect prospective clients to pick up the phone or walk into a retail location,” says Ross. “For us, digital marketing is really about availability, and making sure we’re always in the right places at the right time.”
Creating awareness is the first step to bringing in new leads. For BBVA, one important strategy involves investing in “off-platform” publishing, e.g., sponsored content in relevant business journals. “We’re not waiting for someone to take an action, but rather actively putting ourselves in the context” of prospective clients’ reading and research habits, says Ross.
Other potential top of the funnel strategies include:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Social media
- Guest blogging
2. Develop content that people want to read.
“We believe that digital marketing begins with creating and putting out good, original content that people want to read and consume,” says 12five Capital’s Jaskiewicz. For top of the funnel content, stay away from overly self-promotional content in favor of trend-focused or educational material.
For example, 12five Capital’s blog focuses on “putting a human face on our company’s brand,” says Jaskiewicz. Some of their content is educational (e.g., this post on financing laws); some is focused on their firm (e.g., this congratulatory post on an internal promotion); and some focuses more generally on business best practices that apply to their clients (e.g., these articles on team communication and grit).
3. Remember deals take time.
“Many people think that they need to send out emails promoting themselves in one way, shape, or form,” says CapX Partners’ Starr. “Deals closed, updates on the market, etc.” Starr hypothesizes that lenders fall back on this strategy because “when they send out those emails, they get calls back. They can touch the results.”
But while these types of emails can be helpful as part of a larger strategy, marketing efforts that raise awareness of your firm’s brand are equally as important as those efforts that directly correlate to new deal flow. Over time, these strategies can help lenders expand their pool of potential clients, creating a stronger pipeline of future deal flow.
4. Diversify content for each stage of the funnel.
At the top of the funnel, your content will likely consist mostly of educational or trend-based pieces (e.g., “Why Corporate Borrowers Should Take Advantage of Current Interest Rates”). These types of pieces create awareness and generate interest among potential clients or deal sources. As you move down the funnel into the consideration stage, you might focus more on product-specific educational content (e.g., “Benefits of Mezzanine Debt for Small Businesses”). At the bottom of the funnel the focus is on conversion — this is where product marketing content (e.g., product walkthrough videos or webinars) or more promotional materials (e.g., press releases about closed deals) will come into play.
The metrics for each stage of the funnel are different too, and vary depending on your goals.
- Top of the funnel: How much are people consuming, engaging with, and sharing your content? (Example metrics: traffic, impressions, time spent on site, bounce rates, social media shares, etc.)
- Middle of the funnel: How many marketing leads is your content producing? (E.g., How many qualified individuals downloaded a piece of content?)
- Bottom of the funnel: What is the sales impact of your content? (E.g., How many content pieces brought in qualified sales leads?)
5. Allocate resources to capitalize on strengths.
BBVA relies on both its internal marketing team and outside consultants to create content. “It’s important to have a scalable model, which includes outside resources that are able to ramp quickly when we need it,” says Ross.
Bottom of the funnel content is typically produced in-house by content creators with deep product expertise, while top of the funnel content (e.g., around educational topics or market trends) may also be produced by outside contractors who are subject matter experts.
Whether content is outsourced or created by the internal team, it’s important to have a budget specifically targeted to these efforts.
6. Use digital to bolster traditional marketing efforts.
Going digital doesn’t mean ignoring more traditional channels that have worked in the past. For example, industry events can be a very effective offline strategy for lenders, but can also be costly and time consuming.
BBVA is a great example of a firm that applies digital strategies to get the most bang for their buck out of events. Before every event, the firm employs an event-specific digital marketing strategy to ensure both prospects and existing clients are in attendance. “We use digital to hype up events beforehand, and also distribute some of the content from the event via video or webinars to generate additional leads,” says Ross.
Rather than focusing on digital and traditional marketing as separate strategies, CapX Partners focuses on brand-building, says Starr. “That can be both digital and traditional marketing — whether it’s a table at a conference, or giving away pens, or hosting a dinner, or sending out mass emails, or writing a blog post. We want people to know that if there’s a need consistent with what we do, that we are there. We want them to know it because we’re in their face all the time — in an informative and unobstructive way.”