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How Finance Businesses can Identify their Most Valuable Leads

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How Finance Businesses can Identify their Most Valuable Leads

By Natalia Selby, Mediahawk

Financial services are one of the largest sectors in the global economy, but where there is money, there is stiff competition.

So, getting prospects to choose your business over a competitor can seem like a daunting task. But if you know where to look for the most profitable leads, you’ll cut down the time you take to chase hot leads, save your resources and make your marketing much more profitable.

Here are five ways you can identify your most valuable leads.

Track all inquiries, especially calls:

Although digital has driven most of the customer journey online, the proliferation of mobile has significantly increased the number of calls to a business.And guess what? 65% of businesses consider phone calls to be their most valuable, highest quality score of leads. And that’s because a phone call has an enormous purchasing intent. This is especially true of purchases that are considered more complex than clicking add to cart and going through the check-out process. Buying something like insurance, personal or business finance or setting up an investment are mostly dealt with over the phone as prospects will want a more detailed quote and they usually have questions that require further clarity.

So what about when a prospect does pick up the phone? How do you know what they are calling about? And indeed, if they convert over the phone, how do you know which piece of marketing led to the call? If you’re not using some form of call tracking, the answer to both of these questions is that you simply don’t know.

So let’s look at the knock on effect of not tracking where your calls are coming from. Say someone searches for finance. They see your Google ad at the top of the results on mobile. They click through to your site but have a few questions or need reassurance over a few things they can’t see on your landing page so they click the click to call number. Your friendly sales agent takes the call, answers their questions and they convert. How do you attribute that conversion? Yes your pay per click campaign is driving leads but you won’t be able to attribute that conversion to your PPC campaign as the click to call button isn’t tracked and synced with call tracking.

This problem is magnified if 20 other prospects take this same journey in a month – that’s 20 sales call conversions that haven’t been attributed to a PPC ad. This means when you start evaluating and planning budget allocation it will look like PPC isn’t pulling its weight, when in actual fact, using a first click attribution model, PPC is working the hardest to drive leads. Given the limited data you have, you cut this spend and your leads and sales drop. Your boss isn’t happy and you have to go back and try to find out where the problem is.

In order to see the true picture of your leads it’s imperative that you track calls and link up the software with all of your advertising. This means you’ll be able to see which channels are driving calls – your most valuable leads! Call tracking for financial services can show you the value in your call data.

For even better attribution, utilise a call tracking provider that integrates with the updated Salesforce Lightning CRM. As you’ll be able to see all of the relevant existing information the moment the call comes in and will then attribute any further interactions with the lead’s profile. This will mean shorter time spent digging through data to find what’s meaningful. Plus, you can also bulk import leads who have engaged a number of times with certain marketing to your remarketing platforms and activity.

Set up prospect profiling

Prospect profiling provides you with an up-to-date picture of each potential prospect or lead. The data helps you determine the characteristics of buying personas for your product or service, helping you to focus your marketing and sales resources on the most valuable leads.

To set up correct audience profiling there are four key stages:

  • Segmentation – splitting your audience into targeted groups that align with your goals
  • Messaging – using your consumer insights to shape your marketing messaging
  • Engagement – identifying where and when to place creative and materials
  • Measurement – arguably the most important part of audience profiling so you can optimise ongoing campaigns and drive greater ROI.

You can read about how to carry out audience profiling in Hubspot’s handy beginner’s guide, but the most important thing you can achieve from this task is using the data to glean insight, such as: where are your converted leads coming from? Which marketing materials have they engaged with along their journey?

The consumer journey is much more fragmented yet consumers continue to demand consistency. For example, someone looking to get a mortgage might first see your mortgage product on a comparison site, click through to your website, look at your social media channels, and then reviews. Your challenge is to ensure a seamless experience across these interactions and this is where audience profiling helps you deliver targeted messaging in the format that your different profiles want. For example, a younger user looking for a mortgage product is also a heavy social media user and alongside their peers, you might discover with your profiling that there are on average 3 interactions with your social media accounts and ads before a prospect closes.

Tracking each touch point will show you what matters most to this audience group and you’ll be able to deliver accurate and targeted messaging to ease these leads through the conversion process. Audience profiling will prove to be invaluable at pinpointing how and where your high value prospects are hanging out online.

Align resource to where these profitable prospects come in

Once you have all of the information from the tracking of your profiles, you can then feed this back into your marketing to understand where your most valuable leads are interacting with you online and do more of the same.

Utilise the insights specific to your audience profiles to elevate your brand in the right way and to boost engagement.

For example, a finance provider might find that the majority of people come in first via their blog. They’re looking at articles about“how to improve my credit rating” and “how to find the best financing option”. To engage with this group more, encourage them to sign up to your newsletter to receive more of your content but also be sure to generate more great, helpful, fresh content on your blog to continue to attract prospects onto your site.

Furthermore, you might find that repeat business as a finance provider is the biggest source of your income. Audience profiling might have highlighted that repeat customers respond best to a telephone call as a courtesy reminder that their policy is up for renewal as opposed to an email. The trick here is to do more of the personalised marketing and direct communication.

Tracking all of this activity will provide your financial business with a wealth of data you can dip into to aid crucial decision-making about where to allocate resources and warm leads to follow up.

Filter out with contact forms

You can also filter out less-engaged prospects at the very early stages of the purchase journey using your contact forms. For example, someone downloading your guides might be doing so just for research purposes, yet as you’ve captured their data for the download, this will be triggered as a lead within your CRM system. To avoid wasting time on people who are looking for research purposes, why not be upfront. Utilise drop-downs in your forms to ask people what their enquiry or download is for.

You can also qualify leads by using what might seem like very generic, yet insightful, fields such as “how many employees are at your business”, “if they’re a B2B organisation”, or ask for the lead’s business location or phone number. This can provide invaluable data for your agent’s follow up and help you sift out spam leads from your CRM.

You could also include a dropdown for new and existing customers as research suggests that warmer leads are existing customers or clients. Studies have shown that it costs as much as 5 to 10 times more to acquire new customers than to sell to recurring ones, and current customers spend up to 67% more on average than new customers (source)

Ask people who download guides to subscribe to your email list

In the finance sector the average lead time to close can vary between two weeks and 6 months, dependent upon the cost and stakeholders. During that period, it’s important that you keep your business at the front of your prospect’s mind. The hard sell isn’t going to cut it at this stage; remarketing from the Google Ad network will build familiarity, but an even sweeter spot is your prospect’s inbox.

Those leads that read your blog content, or better still, download a guide or PDF from your site are warm leads. Be sure to include a newsletter sign up box within your download form so you can get their consent to continue to send them useful information.

You can then drill down through your email lists to see who has been opening your emails and clicking through to your site. You can up your remarketing strategy to these leads both on social and on the display network, but also be sure to personalise the content that you send them. For example, if a prospect is looking for a particular mortgage such as buy-to-let, it would be irrelevant for them to receive information about first time buyer products. Place them into a segmented list to receive buy-to-let content and this will ease their path to conversion.

Once you’ve implemented these tactics, you’ll be able to mine your leads much more quickly and deliver even better targeting to ease these warm prospects through to conversion.

Finance

The potential of Open Finance and the digitisation of tax records

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The potential of Open Finance and the digitisation of tax records 1

By Sudesh Sud, Founder of APARI 

The world is undergoing huge changes at the moment. Between coronavirus pushing the economy to the limit and a group of Redditors challenging the financial market hegemony, people are questioning the role of established institutions. If finance doesn’t work to enable the economy, businesses or individuals, then who is it for?

Before the digital revolution, financial experts were seen as a necessity. They knew how things worked, what everything meant, could provide good advice and were employed to sit at the heart of the action. Now, trading can be done by anyone online through established platforms, with a wealth of information available to hand.

Yet, as the 2008 financial crisis proved, established financial institutions have made themselves too big to fail. Simply tearing down the existing financial system would leave many ordinary people, along with businesses and government treasuries, in ruin.

However, as legendary futurologist, Buckminster Fuller, once said: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Traditional banking models are already being upended by technology. Through Open Banking, challenger banks are able to connect services digitally, cutting inefficiencies and costs while speeding up transactions. Now, Open Finance is seeking to build on this model to connect financial services via technology, potentially making the existing financial model obsolete.

Just as Open Banking led to greater democratisation of money, Open Finance has the potential to transfer power back to individuals. Not only would this benefit society as a whole, but it would help minimise the boom-bust cycles that cripple entire economies. No individual would be too big to fail, and bailing people out would cost far less, having minimal impact on the economy overall.

With more information available to them, Open Finance businesses will be able to use technology to make better decisions instantly. Many people struggle to get onto the housing ladder due to a poor credit score, for example, yet they have been paying rent every month of their adult lives. Why, then, can they not access mortgages? A company called Credit Ladder is addressing this through Open Banking, reporting rent payments via challenger banks like Starling to credit agencies, helping good renters to access mortgages.

While it is still very early days for Open Finance, there seems to be an endless raft of possibilities to benefit individuals, businesses and national economies. Faster, more secure, and less risky access to credit can help grow the economy, transforming finance from something that benefits a few wealthy capitalists to something that enables growth in the real economy.

So how else could Open Finance benefit society?

Using Tax Information

Every working adult pays income tax. Some of us via self-assessment while others are enrolled in PAYE. Regardless, we all have tax records with a wealth of financial information that has been verified, at least in part, by HMRC.

This centralised repository of financial information could be put to better use, such as allowing credit reference agencies to better understand an individual’s risk profile or helping to prove income as part of a mortgage application. Unfortunately, HMRC is a black hole of information ‒ its sheer size and power sucks information in, but nothing comes back out again.

However, by Making Tax Digital (MTD), HMRC are effectively allowing individuals to keep validated tax records on the software of their choice. Software providers may then be able to use this information to enable certain aspects of Open Finance. The information doesn’t need to be protected by HMRC, it is the individual’s choice and responsibility over how to use their own information.

As MTD software develops, we will see it connected to Open Banking, allowing self-assessed taxpayers to connect their business account directly to the software, effectively getting their tax return completed for them by an AI program. They would simply check the details, add any adjustments, and click submit. HMRC would then validate the records, providing assurance for any financial institutions using that financial information.

More Growth, Lower Risk

With access to complete and validated financial information, lenders would be able to more quickly and accurately assess individual risk when considering a loan or mortgage application. This would greatly speed up the process of applying for a loan, whether for a business venture or property purchase, for example.

Take residential landlords, for example. They may own a few properties already, with equity coming out of their ears. If that landlord wants to obtain another property, they would need to get their accountant to assemble their financial information, complete a SA302, and send everything off to their mortgage advisors who would then validate the information before submitting the mortgage application.

The application can then take months to approve, slowing down the process and potentially leading to missed opportunities. Since property sales usually occur in a chain (the owner of the property you are purchasing is usually purchasing another property, and so on), these inefficiencies slow the process down for everyone and can have major impacts.

If, however, mortgage applicants could simply share validated financial/tax records, mortgage providers could use that information to make quick decisions with reduced risk. What’s more, applicants could share only relevant, high-level information, rather than expose their entire financial history.

Individual Risk Management

Currently, individuals can manage their credit score/risk profile via third party providers like Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. These credit reporting agencies use limited information, such as credit cards, store cards and loans to assess risk. Individuals need to understand what factors each agency uses in order to ‘game’ the system.

For example, someone who has always been careful with their money, kept to a strict budget and never taken out a loan or credit card will have a far worse credit rating than someone who regularly uses debt to finance their lifestyle. So, even though they may have amassed a good deal of savings, they cannot get a good deal on a loan or mortgage.

With Open Finance, these individuals would be able to quickly prove their earnings, spending, and savings, decreasing their risk profile in line with reality. Rather than crude measures of creditworthiness, financial institutions would be able to use accurate and validated information to make quick decisions based on realistic risk. This both transfers more power to individuals and contributes to faster growth while reducing overall risk.

As a centralised repository for validated financial information, MTD providers will be in a unique position to develop a two-sided marketplace for finance, allowing credit providers to match products to individuals’ risk profiles. When a customer needs a loan, credit card or mortgage, they can simply browse products for which they have already been approved, applying and receiving finance instantly.

Empowering PAYE Taxpayers

Currently, PAYE taxpayers have little, if any, visibility or control over their tax contributions. They will see the amount paid in tax and national insurance, but to claim any allowances requires them to submit a self-assessment tax return. For most PAYE taxpayers, this simply doesn’t seem worthwhile.

Yet, self-employed taxpayers can claim for things like travel to their place of work, a proportion of living expenses when working from home, even their lunch. These things are necessary for productive work yet, for PAYE taxpayers, come out of their already taxed income. Meanwhile, businesses tend to make use of every tax allowance available to them.

This imbalance could be rectified with Open Finance connected to tax software. As MTD becomes a validated system for self-assessed taxpayers, a new version could be developed for PAYE taxpayers, putting them in control of their tax and finances. Not only would they be able to benefit from Open Finance in the same way as self-assessed taxpayers, but they will also be able to claim for reasonable allowances. What’s more, HMRC/the Treasury/the government would be able to hold employers accountable for pay disparities and unreasonable tax avoidance.

Open Finance, then, has the power to speed up and reduce the cost of obtaining and providing finance. It would make the finance system fairer and most transparent while distributing financial power, and help to avoid the creation of too big to fail financial institutions and the boom-bust cycle that has become unfortunate features of modern capitalism.

Ultimately, Open Finance has the potential to help the UK and other nations recover from the seemingly unending series of crises that have plagued the early 21st century by allowing people to access finance quicker in order to grow their business and personal finances while reducing risk, inefficiencies, and costs.

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Finance

Three ways payment orchestration improves financial reconciliation

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Knowing the best alternative payment methods

By Brian Coburn, CEO or Bridge,

When Luca Pacioli, the 15th century Venetian monk, invented double-entry account keeping, managing financial reconciliations had its own unique challenges. The father of modern accounting didn’t have to deal with glitches in his book-keeping app but he did have to write with feather-based quills by candlelight. Five hundred years later the challenges are different but no less onerous.

As in the 15th century, solid financial reporting is at the heart of every successful high-transaction business. As Pacioli no doubt knew, up-to-date, well-documented accounting ensures good operational health and makes it easier to grow. And that’s never been more important.

While it might not be feather quills by moonlight, today’s environment of multiple customer channels can be time-consuming and labour intensive, with various payment methods and financial reconciliations from multiple data sources.

Understanding cash inflow through online transactions is a critical element of financial reporting. However, when these involve multiple payment processors and payment methods and a complex system of disjointed silos of payment data, this can become a cumbersome and arduous manual task.

Common issues in this fragmented payments landscape include working across different formats, managing different data owners and access as well as inconsistent process timings. The result is often increased inaccuracy and inefficiency. Procuring multiple tools and software can end up being uncost-effective and unwieldy. Though the current digital transformation is an exciting time for retailers, staying on top of the ever-changing payment options can be an overwhelming burden for many business owners.

Introducing payment orchestration presents a single, accessible, creative and accurate source of transactional data, crucial for today’s complex challenges around financial reconciliations.

Simplicity

Today, commerce is 24/7, so being able to access and analyse real-time information is vital to managing business controls. Many organisations have looked to automate these processes with account reconciliation software.

However, one key challenge is the sheer volume of transactions and the need to capture data from a variety of different sources. Payment orchestration enables transactions to be carried out by multiple payment processors and payment methods with simple and flexible plugins, centrally monitored and routed in the most optimum way.

It allows users to add or remove providers easily, knowing the complexity (detecting outages and automatically rerouting payments) is being handled by a trusted specialist partner via an intelligent platform.

Bringing disparate sources of online transaction data into one place simplifies how enterprises access and operate with multiple payment processors and payment methods. This makes it easier for businesses to remain agile.

Speed

For organisations that still depend on manual, spreadsheet driven processes, the mechanics of reconciliation can be extremely time consuming.

A payment orchestration layer creates the opportunity to automate processes and reduce manual intervention. By bringing multiple payment processors and payment methods into an integrated service layer with intelligent routing capabilities, the impact of individual outages or failed payments can be mitigated to ensure optimum payment success rates, saving crucial revenue.

Accuracy

Naturally, significant manual work brings with it the added risk of human error. The speed with which business moves today demands accurate accounting processes. Checking for error takes up valuable time that could be spent focusing on business growth.

Payment orchestration can improve accuracy and reduce the opportunity for error. Providing a holistic and central source of real-time transactional data, payment orchestration can offer improved transparency and greater visibility of financial data.

With all transactional data captured in one source, payment orchestration can present a data source to feed other applications – such as automated reconciliation tools and fraud management – automating business processes in a seamless way across the enterprise. Good practice like this will, of course, enable a consistent approach to fraud management across all channels and payment services.

Multiple payment choices can be onerous but, today, not adopting them at all is unwise. The key to success, and good financial reconciliation, is being able to streamline and manage them.

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Finance

Circular Economy must be top of the business agenda in 2021

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Circular Economy must be top of the business agenda in 2021 2

By Andrew Sharp, CEO of CDSL, the UK’s leading appliance spare parts distributor

The last year has been one in which we were all forced to change our behaviour. We have become far more familiar with the four walls of our home than we would have liked, we have had to give up the social activities that mean the most to us and we have spent much longer apart from relatives than we could have imagined.

But alongside the many reluctant changes that we have made, there have been some silver linings. Both consumers and businesses have reassessed their priorities, and we have seen a noticeable increase in the importance of sustainability and social value in everything we do.

Within this has been a rise in awareness of the power of the circular economy. Research from the Recycle Now campaign shows nearly nine out of 10 UK households now say they “regularly recycle” (September, 2020), while environmental organization Hubbub found that 43% of people are more concerned about plastic pollution than before Covid-19 (September, 2020).

The role of the circular economy in underpinning wider sustainability targets is now being widely realised by Government, consumers and businesses alike. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation recently found that circular economy policies contribute towards tackling the remaining 45% if greenhouse emissions that cannot be resolved by transitioning to renewable energy alone (January, 2021), and the circular economy can offer solutions to the 90% of biodiversity loss and water stress that traditional resource extraction and processing require.

However, reducing the impact of our current linear economy will require widespread change and every product that we use will need to be accommodated within this. One area that is yet to be fully incorporated into a circular economy model is e-waste – an area where the UK is unfortunately a world leader. Other than Norway, the UN has said that the average person in Britain discards more electrical items each year than anywhere else in the world, and the UK is also the worst offender in Europe for illegally exporting toxic electronic waste to developing countries.

1,000,000 tonnes of e-waste are produced annually in the UK, enough to fill six Wembley Stadiums. The WEEE Forum estimates that only 17.4% of e-waste was recycled in 2019 (October, 2020), meaning the vast majority of this is burnt or thrown into landfill, creating environmental hazards for years to come.

However, the good news is that 100,000 tonnes of e-waste would be avoided if we fixed just 10% more perfectly repairable appliances. As an electrical spare parts retailer, we have seen incredibly encouraging trends throughout 2020. Our leading consumer brand eSpares has seen record-breaking surges in demand over the past year as consumers look to fix appliances themselves rather than kicking them to the kerb.

We recently conducted a survey of 5,000 people and the results clearly show this growing interest among young people for repairing and recycling their electrical goods. The answers suggest that three times more young people than over-65s would try to fix a broken appliance at home and that the environmentally conscious under-35s are increasingly keen to fix gadgets rather than throw them away.

That is why we have taken steps to encourage our customers to drive a circular economy throughout the year with the campaign #FixFirst. As a business and a retailer, it is our responsibility to help educate our customers on the benefits of a circular economy. Free services like our Advice Centre, which has over 700 step-by-step articles and attracted 1.2million visits in 2020, contribute to this by offering assistance on making repairs around the home whenever and wherever it is needed.

It is up to businesses to ensure that we champion the benefits of the circular economy and ensure these behaviours are maintained permanently.

Certain sectors are already leading the charge in doing this. In fashion retail for example, Levi’s is paying consumers to bring back old pairs of jeans for sale on a second-hand marketplace. Patagonia similarly will take back old pieces of clothing to repair and refurbish them.

Plastic packaging is also receiving some tough attention from across the retail and food and drink manufacturing sectors. Tesco has announced that it has removed one billion pieces of plastic from its UK business in just one year through a policy of Remove, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, while consumer brands like Nestle for example are testing reusable packaging to reduce the amount of single use plastics.

Consumer attitudes are moving in one direction on the topic of the circular economy and it is therefore essential that businesses also get ahead of this as a commercial priority. In 2020, Deloitte found that 43% of consumers were already actively choosing brands due to their environmental values, while 2/3 of consumers have reduced their usage of single use plastics. In direct to consumer in sectors like the one in which we operate, sustainability credentials are fast becoming a purchasing priority alongside price.

Legislation in the UK is also increasingly clamping down on businesses that do not champion circular economy in the products they create and use. The Environment Bill that is expected to be passed in Autumn will give Government powers to introduce new targets on waste reduction and packaging. Extended Producer Responsibility expected to be introduced in 2023 will also lead to major fees for manufacturers of products that cannot easily be recycled.

As the circular economy rises in priority over the next year, businesses must act fast. Robust policies on the circular economy will both drive environmental benefit and allow businesses to stay ahead of a trend that is fast becoming a priority for consumers.

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