We’ve talked time and again about financial brands getting stuck “doing” digital and not creating space to work in one of the other operating environments: learning, thinking, and reviewing. 

Digital growth requires a process of continuous optimization, constantly reviewing: What value did we create? What’s working well? What lessons have we learned?

Listen to the story your data is telling. 

You may be thinking, "How can we track ROI from the moment a person sees an ad or some type of other communication that we're promoting to the time a loan closes?" 

This is one of the first questions we help financial brand marketing teams focus on answering when diagnosing and assessing their unique situation. As a result, marketing teams quickly increase their perceived value at their financial brand. 

Flying Blind While Tracking Conversions

Most online account opening and LOS platforms currently make the process of tracking channel attribution as part of the digital consumer journey difficult, if not almost impossible. This is one of the biggest complaints I hear from marketing teams.

When we don't know where people are coming from or where the leads are converting for loans and new accounts, it's like we are flying blind. And when we fly blind, sooner or later, we are going to crash.

What digital marketing channels are working? What channels are not working?

Lacking clarity around these questions results in marketing teams having to fall back on reporting vanity metrics like reach, clicks, and likes. 

vanity metrics

Vanity metrics make marketing teams feel good, but these metrics only tell half the story.

To be clear, these top of the funnel metrics are still important. I compare them to the instrument readings on an airplane. They are an indicator of whether or not our marketing efforts are gaining or losing altitude. The problem is they don't provide the deeper insight that others within our financial brand are looking for. 

Bank and credit union CEOs don't really care how many clicks your ad received. CLOs are not interested in reach. And I've seen a lot of CFO’s eyes glaze over when marketing teams pull from the acronym alphabet soup and start sharing things like CPM, CPC, or CTR.

Here’s the dark truth: the vast majority of financial brand marketing teams that we have worked with over the years are getting taken advantage of by their digital marketing agencies. Some are paying millions of dollars in ad placement. We’ve found multiple cases of digital ad agencies and digital media firms who have been capitalizing off of the bank and credit union marketing team’s lack of conversion and attribution capabilities.

Capabilities that would protect them from ad fraud. 

In fact, we discovered a well-known digital media agency that, on at least five different occasions, was driving traffic to a financial brand's website that was outside of this particular financial institution's desired geo-targeting location. And even worse, when analyzing the IP activity of the traffic the digital media brand was driving, we found the vast majority of that traffic was fraudulent.  

Lighting the Path with Improved Performance Insights 

You don’t have to keep flying blind. You can improve performance insights into conversions for leads, loans, deposits, and new accounts. 

More and more marketing teams are working to solve these strategic mission-critical problems. Some have already taken a proactive step to set up activity and goal tracking within Google Analytics, which gives insight into channel attribution down to specific areas of performance, like clicks on a call-to-action (CTA).

But there’s still a problem to address: Online account opening and loan applications have an abandon application rate on average of around 85 to 92%. 

So what does that mean? 

Let's say we get 1,000 clicks on a call-to-action to apply. Looking at the math, we can assume, hypothetically, 850 of those clicks abandon the application process, and 150 of them pull all the way through to conversion. But that doesn't give us insight into how many of the 150 conversions are actually funded. 

So, I have an even better path forward that will add a tremendous amount of additional insight, but it's going to add some complexity because this recommendation involves a couple of different systems and processes across multiple departments. 

Stick with me.

Three Paths to Tracking and Measuring Conversion

To begin, I’m going to make a couple of assumptions from the general findings that we discover in our diagnostics:

  1. You're running some type of digital ad campaign. 
  2. This ad campaign is driving traffic to a specific landing page.
  3. The landing page's primary call-to-action is for a product that's being promoted, linking to a third-party application.
  4. You're running Google Analytics and, up to this point, you have been able to track links on this call-to-action.

With this framing, there are a few possible paths that you can consider to apply to optimize this very common digital marketing campaign implementation strategy. 

Path #1 

This path is going to be the most difficult, if not impossible. This is going to require you to work with your third-party online account opening or loan application provider to integrate “cross-domain tracking.” 

Cross-domain tracking solves one of the biggest digital marketing challenges. When we take someone from our financial brand's website to a third-party website, we lose all analytical tracking capability. But, I want to be very clear, cross-domain tracking is a fairly advanced subject matter that takes time to teach, apply, and optimize. And, on top of that, your third-party provider must be willing to cooperate.

Path #2 

Look for a new online account opening or loan application partner willing to work with you. Remember, it is your financial brand that writes the checks. If you already have a “partner, who is not willing to work with you on cross-domain tracking, they're really nothing more than a vendor that's not willing to play nice. Find a partner who is willing to participate in cross-domain tracking, and will help you both gain meaningful metrics from the partnership. But don’t forget that you’ll be finding this new partner on top of learning how to utilize cross-domain tracking, which, as previously mentioned, is a fairly advanced subject matter.

Path #3

Let’s assume at this point that you have run into a common roadblock and your third-party application provider does not want to play nice.

Does this mean that you're stuck? Does this mean that you're resigned to continue to fly blind when it comes to your conversion and channel attribution performance? 

Absolutely not. 

The third path is something we discovered five years ago because we knew the critical strategic importance of empowering financial brand marketing teams to gain clarity into conversion and channel attribution insights. 

This process is the first of its kind in the banking industry and something that we have continued to recommend for the financial brands that we work with. It has already generated hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and deposits for financial brands that we advise.

Digital Growth Pre-Application Process. 

This process requires a marketing automation platform. And with that in mind, you're probably going to fall into one of two camps at this point:

  1. You already have a marketing automation platform. The good news is this recommendation is platform-agnostic, which means you can apply this thinking regardless if you run Salesforce, Pardot, Total Expert, Marketo, HubSpot, Act-On, or SharpSpring. 
  2. You don't have marketing automation. The good news for you is this recommendation can help fund your marketing automation investment and begin to transform your marketing team beyond into a growth engine. But take comfort in knowing that there's still about 80% of financial brands who have not adopted some type of marketing automation platform yet. 

How this works:

You’ve created a digital marketing campaign that’s driving traffic from a digital ad to a specific landing page. 

Step 1: On this landing page, you can remove the CTA that links to the third-party application and replace that CTA with a form that you develop in your marketing automation platform. 

Step 2: On this form, you will collect some basic contact information: name, email, phone.

Step 3: When someone completes this form on the landing page, you'll link them to the third-party application where they'll continue on with the process for the loan or for the new account.

Step 4: Once this person completes the third-party application, you'll then link them back to a completion page on your website. 

This is where you can begin to optimize the entire journey with a specific completion page for every single one of your products defining what happens next. 

Furthermore, it's this completion page that closes the loop and provides insight into the completed application conversions. You'll be able to go into your marketing automation platform and pull a list of people that hit the conversion page and scrub that list against those that started the Digital Growth Pre-application Process.

As a bonus, you're getting some additional data and insight into people's digital activities that you can take action on in the future. 

Four Key Takeaways

  1. If you are struggling with quantifying conversion and channel attribution, I want you to know that you're not alone. 
  2. I want you to consider the cost of continuing to fly blind and the toll that this takes on you, your marketing team, your lending team, and your financial brand, specifically in relation to ad fraud.
  3. I want you to have confidence knowing there are three different paths forward that you can apply to close the loop with cross-site tracking.
  4. Deploying this thinking takes not just the marketing team, but the lending team, the deposit team, IT, and leadership all working hand in hand together, so be sure to share this information with someone at your financial brand who might also find these insights helpful.