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By Richard Price, North Plains

Making sure that staff have access to the latest, correct marketing content is still a challenge for many financial services organisations today. The advent of digital and electronic-based marketing content hasn’t necessarily made the situation any easier, and in many cases, has complicated the issue.  Content can be changed very quickly, so there is a very real risk that the marketing material sitting on a desktop computer in a remote branch office is already out of date.

Staff using this incorrect marketing content run the risk of mis-informing customers, breaching industry regulation or failing to comply with industry compliance, for instance the FCA’s supervisory approach to financial promotions in social media.

No-one is really to blame here: marketing departments are going to find it hard to make sure that potentially hundreds of thousands of employees have the latest marketing information in their hands.  Likewise, it is easy to miss the latest update from central marketing among the delay deluge of email.

Cultural and technology barriers

Richard Price
Richard Price

The problem is not helped by legacy processes and systems that are traditionally quite siloed, so instigating any kind of digital transformation of marketing content is hard.  Making sure that hundreds, thousands – maybe hundreds of thousands – of employees have access to the right information is often quite hard.  Plus, in common with many industries, there is a tendency to depend on distribution or collaboration mechanisms not really designed for managing marketing material.

Indeed, recent research carried out by eMedia on behalf of North Plains found that 70 per cent of organisations use email to develop and share content.  56 per cent also use FTP and 46 per cent use shared services.  While fine for the purposes for which they were designed, these tools lack the rigorous transparency, version control, approval processes, workflows, compliance, accessible archives and clear audit trails that financial services environments require.

Also, the financial services market is – understandably – risk averse and very security-conscious, so there is a natural tendency in many organisations to be wary of sharing information, even when that information may be public domain.

On top of all that are all the other challenges that the financial services marketer has to deal with, including having to compete against new entrants, including supermarkets, who are not hindered by legacy banking systems or processes and are already very ‘tech savvy’ in how they communicate internally.

So much for the problem: what’s the answer?  Based on working with some of the world’s leading financial institutions, here are some examples of ‘best practice’ I have witnessed in action.

Create a single repository of marketing content – where all digital assets are in one place, from idea conception through to finished work, on-going iterations and archiving.  Make sure that all associated guidance and parameters ‘travel’ with the asset, including rights management, local or international regulation, plus the company’s own global brand and messaging requirements.  This approach can save marketing staff considerable time too: one of the world’s leading banks centralised marketing content for 160,000 employees, managed by a team of just half a dozen people.

Enable agility – have as much in place as possible, such as the different components of a campaign, which can then be re-used or adapted around the world (HSBC’s slogan ‘local excellence delivered globally’ is a good case in point here) This not only saves time, it also gives local teams the ability to react more quickly, reduce unnecessary duplication of effort and cost, while safe in the knowledge that they are within the correct boundaries.  For instance, a wealth management team might need to create a highly personalised sales pack overnight and do not have time to wait for corporate approval processes. If they know that the components on the marketing repository are pre-approved and are clear on usage, they can proceed on more of a ‘self-service’ basis.

Have a more inclusive and transparent approach – when creating the single marketing repository, make sure that marketing, IT and other relevant departments, including legal or compliance teams, work closely together from the outset.  I’ve seen instances of where a lot of work and time has been spent on specifying a system with the marketing department, only to find out from IT that it doesn’t meet their requirements.  Also keep external brand agencies involved in the process.

Education and awareness – create a culture where staff feel that they’re involved in the loop and understand the thinking behind the campaign and how it fits in with strategic goals, rather than just being presented with final versions of marketing content.  Encourage greater understanding for the important role of marketing assets as customer engagement tools and involve different internal stakeholders to get their feedback.

Use digital asset management tools to keep the brand fresh – the same repository that houses the lifecycle of each asset can also provide insight into what content is proving popular among employees.  This gives clues to what future material might be popular or help to prevent over-use (for instance, to create a new set of images rather than over-using existing ones).

Instigating a more effective way of managing marketing content is no silver bullet that will solve the financial services industry’s marketing challenges, but it can go a long way towards achieving a more transparent, controlled environment, one where users can react quickly but ‘safely’.