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Credit the Financial Industry

by Robert Mattson

Digital Marketing for Financial Services

Another week and another event. This one was the Digital Marketing for Financial Services Summit in New York City on November 3rd and 4th. It was another chance to take the pulse of an industry—to see where they are on the road to digital transformation and learn what’s on the top of their minds.

Giving credit where credit is due, if you pardon the pun, the financial sector seems to be further along than some other industries in connecting with their customers in a digital way. Just looking at the session titles (available HERE) indicates what’s top of mind. Topics included:

  • Weaponizing Content
  • Enhancing Penetration and Market Share with Mobile Integration
  • People-based Marketing<
  • Combining UX, SEO and Mobile-first Thinking
  • Enhancing Sales by Integrating CMR and Marketing Data
  • Making Personalization Work for You

And while I’ve been seeing many of these topics during my “Autumn of Conferences” travel schedule, nowhere have I seen so many marketing leaders nodding their heads and telling stories about how they are addressing some, or even many, of these areas.

Of all the sessions my favorite was from Mike Linton, Chief Marketing Officer of Farmers Insurance Group. While Linton did show some of the really fun commercials starring Oscar award winning actor J. K. Simmons, it was more about the focus on data and a lack of fear of risk that made his session stand out.

During his session, entitled, “Beneath the Iceberg—Building Data to Create a Powerful Brand,” Linton talked about all the necessary work he and his team needed to do to collect, analyze and leverage their data for their marketing initiatives. The session was described as surfacing and operationalizing data to produce results today while protecting tomorrow. Deciphering strategies to:

  • Develop an analytics team without crushing creatives
  • Design the master data mart and marketing dashboards
  • Drive performance and project revenue
  • Deploy data to test and learn faster

While all this was great content and an interesting talk, there was one thing that came up in the Q&A following the session that stuck with me most. Linton had mentioned that he encouraged experimentation and risk, and even put aside budget each year that enabled his team to requisition money to spend on experimental and forward-looking projects. When asked how much was in that budget, he replied 5% of his overall budget. He did make it clear that that budget might not be used for these more “risky” projects each year, but that it was available.  

The final part of that equation was who got to decide which edge projects got funded. In most organizations it would be Linton himself, but that’s not how it’s done at Farmers. Linton doesn’t get a vote—instead it’s decided by the Marketing team without him. That’s like a professional basketball team kicking the coach out of the huddle and designing their own play with the game tied in the final seconds.

That takes two things—trust and guts.

I think that’s why people like Mike Linton and the marketing leaders I met in the finance industry seem to be a little ahead of the game. They seem to have more of each, and that enables them to take more risks and push ahead faster.

So, you see, Finance people do more than just push around numbers and evaluate risk. They take risks too.

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