5 Spying Tips for FinServ Marketers

While the retail world goes nuts, financial services marketers may have a comparatively better level of down time to do some competitive reconnaissance. Now may be the time to take the temperature of hot competition by observing their marketing.
So says Ryan Phelan of Marketing Land on Monday:

What does the rest of the marketing world do while their retail peers go crazy?
If your company’s bottom line doesn’t depend on the fourth business quarter to deliver 20 to 30 percent of its revenue the way the retail sector does, your office probably gets a little quiet. Verticals like manufacturing, insurance and financial services don’t labor under the same financial imperatives.
So now’s a great time to work up your plan for competitive intelligence. How are you tracking your competition and what they’re doing with their digital marketing programs?

Here’s what Phelan suggests FinServ marketers do to prepare for 2018, along with my 2 cents.

Set Up Separate Email Accounts to Track Major Competitors

Phalen doesn’t say so, but having the emails separate from the ones you regularly use to track them may be a good idea for a few reasons: There’s a difference between a testing phase and ongoing program monitoring, and the competitors may be tracking your program monitoring email addresses.
What Phalen does say is it pays to have at least two email testing accounts per competitor, in order to have one that doesn’t engage and one that does. Using the one that does engage with the competitor, do everything you can think of that you’d care to know. Abandoned cart strategies about loans, etc.? Clicking? Opening? Converting? Once you see your competitor’s responses to these actions, you’ll know how they’re segmenting their lists, targeting customers, etc.

Follow All the Retailers You Know and Love During the Holidays

Yes, Phalen says “retailers.” That’s not a typo, FinServ marketers.

“Remember that retail drives all digital marketing. … Also, retail marketing sets a quicker pace and is closer to consumers than other verticals.”

In this case, interact with the retailers to learn their strategies and see if they apply to financial services.

Use the Learnings in Your 2018 Strategic Planning

This is a time when financial services marketers should think about why they’re using their current marketing strategy and whether they should change it based on what they’ve learned from the above testing, Phalen says.
The “why” is more important than the “how” of tactics, he says.

Create a ‘Cool Things’ Wish List

These aren’t immediate and necessary things; they’re “nice to haves.”
Phalen says:

“Look at what you’d like to try. Think about how you could apply it to your own business and set up a testing plan.
“The testing plan is important because you don’t want to do something just because your competition is doing it. That’s putting tactics before strategy. Your competition might be a heavy hitter in your vertical, but don’t assume that their tactics are the right things to do.”

Author’s Note

What makes you special? It’s important to be unique. If competitors can imitate you, it means your brand can be copied.
I’ve heard marketing consultants say over and over again, if your idea can be stolen, it wasn’t different. It wasn’t what made you special.
Think about why customers love you.
In an example marketers use often, Red Bull represents unique value to its customers — and its content marketing sets it apart to a point that it seems almost silly to talk about direct competitors.
Target Marketing blogger John Lane writes on Tuesday:

“Smart marketers will take note and do the same. They’ll dig deep. They won’t rest on the easy, starting answer. They’ll get past the simple, demographic personas, and they’ll start thinking about interests that transcend demographic as the path to building a long-term, engaged audience.”

What do you think, marketers?
Please respond in the comments section below.

Heather Fletcher is a freelance reporter for Adweek. She covers performance and direct marketing.