Finance Marketing: How to Build a Digital Program and Measure Return on Marketing Investment

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According to this CMO Survey, the finance industry spends on average 9.1% of its budget on marketing - less than almost all of the other industries surveyed.Are you a CMO of one of the many competing finance companies, faced with defending your marketing team’s budgets all too often? If so, this post is a helpful overview in breaking down your department's obstacles, building a strategic digital content strategy and measuring success.

Obstacles facing financial sector marketing departments

What’s preventing your organization from increasing your much-needed budget? Put simply, all of the interference your team faces, preventing them from dedicating time to the basics of a marketing position - driving traffic to your website, expanding your reach, and generating qualified leads. Here are some of the top obstacles you may or may not be privy to and how to address them accordingly:

  • Legal and Compliance Constraints - internal regulation departments are often stated as a top obstacle, which makes sense given your Legal and Compliance Department’s job is to minimize exposure and risk while a marketer’s job is to maximize exposure. These opposing forces can easily prevent a new campaign from launching or delay a timely asset from being distributed. Work with the department instead of against it. Ensure they are 100% in the know of your plans, the content you are creating, etc. Better to pivot and address compliance concerns up-front rather than down the line.
  • Sales Enablement & Client Service Content Creation - Marketers are often asked to create content for sales or clients. This can include client-based slides, internal strategy updates, product grids, or an existing client’s quarterly standard deviation or a performance attribution report. But these are means of closing a potential sale, educating the sales team or servicing a client. So why would marketing create it? Make sure your initiatives tie to your goals, and see if some of that kind of work can be transferred so your team can get back to what they were hired for: gaining qualified leads for your company.

Finance marketing: creating a digital content strategy

Social media, technology, inbound marketing strategies and blog content strategy, along with countless other tools and tactics, have changed the finance marketing game. While disruptive startup companies are using these, many more traditional finance companies are a foot behind in the race – leaving qualified leads and money on the table, up for grabs elsewhere.The finance and, more specifically, investment industries are known for basing their buying and selling decisions on data and analysis. So why wouldn’t we create a marketing content strategy based on that same framework? Why continue to market content solely based on what specific information we want to bring to the customer, rather than thinking about what information the customer is seeking, then offering ourselves as a resource? Here are considerations for building out a content strategy:

  • Keyword Planning - Use Google AdWords Keyword Planner to generate keyword ideas centered around a topic/relevant keyword as well as identify the average monthly search volume. This helps us build out a list of keywords to use in relation to the topic we are attempting to cover. Be sure to avoid using keywords with low average monthly search volumes - so you don't waste your time and resources. Also avoid using the using the same exact keywords more than once. Websites don’t rank, pages do. Try to build out the best pages possible for each keyword and attempt to create cornerstone content.
  • Topic Generation - There are a number of free tools that provide insight to build a content strategy that is relevant to your customer base, products and services. With Answer the Public, you plug in a keyword and the country/region you'd like to target and receive a plethora of top queries people are searching for in relation to that keyword. For example, if I plug in “retirement,” I receive a plethora of inquiries broken down by a pronoun (which, where, who, how, etc.).  Google Trends also provides insight into search trends, geographic elements, and so much more. Type in a keyword and see how search for that word and other related ones has changed over time. Use these tools to plan content that satisfies and is relevant to what your target customers are interested in.

Setting up benchmarks for marketing programs

Measuring success is a key component to any business activity. Financial intuitions are no stranger to this - they need to provide performance data to their investors at the end of each quarter via a factsheet. When it comes to proving the marketing department’s value and the return on marketing investment for the institution, why not use the same strategy? Provide a snapshot of performance on a marketing dashboard free of charge, all with Google Data Studio.

  • First, Identify Concise and Measurable Objectives - These should be what you expect to achieve on both a granular (campaign) to broader spectrum (marketing department) level. Goal setting for a marketing campaign, content marketing strategy, and/or your overall marketing spend for the year are just some examples of key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Set up Google Analytics - This will be the ultimate key tool to use in benchmarking performance within the industry. Set up Goal Values to establish the value of conversions (i.e. downloading a whitepaper, watching a webinar, submitting an investment application). These values may differ from organization to organization and the Compliance Department may restrict what can be accepted digitally versus hard copy. This may limit what KPIs you can track within Google Analytics but never fear, that’s why we have other tools at our disposal.
  • Aggregate Data from Databases and Platforms - Most social media platforms have analytics data you can access either for free or by purchasing their analytics plan. There are also the databases that most financial institutions use to track assets on the account, fund, or bank level, such as the popular sub-accounting platform in the investment world DST Systems. Based on what systems you use, there should be a way to export aggregate data. This information can be easily connected to and visualized through Google Data Studio™ via your Analytics log-in with each platform.
  • Benchmark - There’s a quick and easy way to analyze how we size up to the competition via Google Analytics. On the left-hand banner under Audience, click the Benchmark drop-down. From this point, there are three different options: channels, location and devices. Choose the Industry Vertical you consider yourself to be a part of - in this case, Business Finance under the Business & Industrial section. Next, designate the size of the organization based on daily session quantity. Once this is established, you can gauge the traffic volume, net-new users, pages per session, average session duration, and bounce rate our website has at a glance thanks to the table’s incorporated heat map. This tool shows which channels we use more effectively than the competition and whether our site is truly optimized for mobile.
Return on Investment Benchmark

The marketer’s factsheet: creating the marketing dashboard

The factsheet is the ultimate snapshot for a shareholder to see risk, returns, and holdings data in a single place. In comparison, marketing departments rely on the marketing dashboard to display data from any platform or database.First and foremost, you'll need an understanding of (and paid access to) Google Data Studio. Once you've gained the necessary foundational knowledge, you'll be able to start measuring our marketing strategy in conjunction with our goals.Below is an example which outlines data visualization tactics, techniques and data sets we can use. Just keep in mind that company goals dictate what data is important to highlight.Important to Note: All Dashboards show percentage increase/decrease numbers; those values represent the percentage change in value from the previous quarter. A combination of Google Demo and SHIFT account data was used to create the dashboard. Therefore, the data may not seem congruent in some of the tables/graphs.


Tools we will use at the top of the Data Studio bar:

  • Date Range: create a box on the top right part of every page and set the date to capture the quarter
  • Time Series: line graphs showcasing change in data over time
  • Scorecard: displaying the value of a metric
  • Table: displaying data in rows column ordered by a metric
  • Pie chart: showing the % attributed to one channel or metric
Return on Marketing Investment Toolbar

Accounts Connected to the Google Data Studio:

  • Google Analytics Account
  • YouTube Analytics: any social media analytics account can be used
  • Google Sheets: data from campaign budget, spend and conversions were manually placed in a Google Sheet. This is a great way to use exports from sub-accounting platforms or other databases a company uses to connect Google Data Studio to raw data sets.

So now that we’ve watched the webinar and have free access to Google Data Studio, let’s begin.

Page one: traffic snapshot

Return on Marketing Investment Traffic

Leverage organic traffic numbers to measure the effectiveness of a content strategy. In addition, we can analyze channel traffic to determine which channel is generating the most awareness (sessions) and goal conversions. This snapshot is rich with insights. For example, we can see that social receives the most channel traffic, however, it also drives the fewest goal conversions. Try to leverage social traffic by optimizing your content for conversions; this may require some multivariate testing.

Page two: platform analytics

Return on Marketing Investment Platform Analytics

This table is used to infer which source is providing the most direct traffic. As a result of YouTube’s top position, we took a deeper dive into YouTube analytics to compare this quarter’s sessions to the previous quarter’s. As you can see, there were huge spikes in traffic during the last month of the previous. We want to identify what caused that result so we can recreate its cause and repeat that pattern.

Page three: return on marketing investment

Return on Marketing Investment Dashboard

Finally, we measure which campaigns are the most effective. This includes many types of campaigns, such as e-mail campaigns, ad campaigns, etc. Underneath I’ve included the formula for calculating Ad Campaign Return on Marketing Investment, which highlights both the conversion value of all leads produced from the campaigns and the amount of money invested in the campaigns.

Return On Marketing Investment % Formula

ROMI = (Conversion Value – Spend)/Spend * 100

In conclusion

There are so many facets to managing a marketing department, and no shortage of strategies to choose and implement. Use these tips and techniques to inform your program, build strategies, establish a marketing dashboard, and adjust it to best address business goals. Simply update referenced data each quarter for quick updates on success. Establishing a holistic and insightful marketing dashboard is a crucial step to monitor a return on marketing investment - and keep it positive.

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