"Where do we begin?"

It's the most common question we hear when it comes to digital marketing.

And it's because the idea of digital marketing is so broad and vast.



Social media.


User experience.


Consumer journeys.

These topics and more fit under the expansive umbrella of what is typically coined as digital marketing.

So where do banks and credit unions start?

The more important question to answer: where should they be going?

Begin with the End in Mind

Banks and credit unions mistakenly begin their digital marketing journey with a tactical list of items. 

And it sounds something like this.

  • "We need a new website."
  • "We need marketing automation."
  • "We need a blog."
  • "We need online video."
  • "We need a CRM."

Yes, each of these elements are required for digital growth, but it's essential to understand these are merely pixels of a much larger picture.

Instead of thinking solely about a website, it's necessary to understand how marketing automation integrates within the larger framework of a website.

Furthermore, it's critical to recognize the role content plays throughout the consumer journey, from awareness to consideration and then purchase. (And this is just content prior to conversion. We haven't even discussed content for the onboarding or cross-selling stages.)

What about digital advertising? Yes, we advocate driving traffic to your website through different digital advertising channels, but it's more than just setting up a one-off Google PPC campaign or running various Facebook ad campaigns.

Simplified, digital growth is the sum of all these components.

And more.

To help banks and credit unions move beyond the self-diagnosed list of tactical items, we recommend starting your digital growth journey with the end in mind.

And that is to build a Digital Growth Engine that targets, captures, nurtures, and converts leads for loans and new accounts.

The Digital Growth Engine


Yes, it's a nice graphic.

But let's break this engine down to its individual gears. 

Digital Advertising

Goal: Target prospective customers and drive traffic to the website.
As consumer behavior continues to evolve, financial institutions need to maintain flexibility in their marketing activities to generate awareness for these digital savvy consumers. 

This is not to say that traditional channels are off limits to generate overall awareness. However, digital advertising provides banks and credit unions the opportunity to target specific audiences as well as measure the effectiveness of those efforts. 

Banks and credit unions have four options to drive traffic to their website:

  1. SEO and blogging
  2. Social media
  3. Email marketing
  4. Digital advertising

And digital advertising can include the following three channels:

  • Search (e.g., Google Adwords)
  • Display (e.g., Facebook, third party properties)
  • Retarget (e.g., Adroll) 

A Website that Sells

Goal: Provide helpful information to capture prospect information.
So where does the traffic from digital advertising channels go? To your website, of course. 

However, a majority of bank and credit union websites are nothing more than traditional printed brochures that have been converted for the digital channel. The medium is the message, and this outdated content and structure is irrelevant for consumers who are seeking answers to their questions. 

Financial institutions must change the way their organization views their website. It necessary to move beyond the static brochure and optimize build a website based on the dynamic needs of a mobile consumer.

And while banks and credit unions should always provide a pathway to conversion on their website, we must consider only 2% of website visitors convert on their first visit. Financial institutions must employ strategies, like lead forms to "Request a Call Back" or to download helpful resources, to capture a prospect's information who is not yet ready to open an account or apply for a loan. 

Marketing Automation

Goal: Nurture leads with automated workflows and helpful content.
If your website is capturing leads, what happens next? Without a marketing automation platform, probably not much.

This marketing technology allows your organization to build different automated workflows around various criteria to nurture leads to the point of conversion.

Examples of different workflows include:

  • Digital behavior
  • Lead type 
  • Channel acquisition
  • Application abandonment

Caution: While we banks and credit unions must implement a marketing automation platform as part of their Digital Growth Engine, we always recommend setting realistic expectations when vetting different technology providers. We continuously find financial institutions are overwhelmed when attempting to implement marketing automation from a capacity, capability, and content standpoint.  

Sales Enablement

Goal: Guide leads to conversion with a digital sales adviser.
We talk a considerable amount about the role digital plays in a consumer's buying journey, yet we cannot overlook the critical importance human interaction has on these journeys.

In a recent Accenture survey of 33,000 consumers in 18 countries, it was reported that 66% of consumers still desire human interaction when it comes to shopping for a banking product. This was especially true if it involved a complex product like a mortgage.

With sales enablement, a bank or credit union has the opportunity to identify, manage, and guide sales qualified leads beyond their questions and concerns towards their hopes and dreams.

Content Marketing

Goal: Fuel the Digital Growth Engine to attract, nurture, and convert leads.
While it's certainly possible to build the individual components of the Digital Growth Engine, this machine will not operate unless it is fueled by a comprehensive content marketing strategy.

This is where many banks and credit unions struggle.

Because just like any engine, you'll have to continuously refuel the Digital Growth Engine with new and fresh content on a consistent basis.

From your targeting activities (digital ads) to your digital sales team (sales enablement) and all functions in between (website and marketing automation), the content produced has one purpose: serve as a helpful resource that can be repurposed throughout the Digital Growth Engine to ultimately guide consumers to conversion.

Now Sit Back & Relax

At this year's Financial Brand Forum, James Robert Lay, Digital Growth Institute's Founder & CEO, spoke about how banks and credit unions can develop a digital growth strategy.

Here's an excerpt from his presentation in which he describes the process of building a Digital Growth Engine.

Video Thumbnail

James Robert Lay: "Our ultimate goal is this. To build a Digital Growth Engine. And what will define this engine is four key components. It's comprised of digital advertising. It's a website that sells. Not a glorified online brochure.

And, just because you have online account opening and a loan application on your website, it does not mean that you have a website that sells. We're looking at your website to become the number one sales channel and outperform all of your branches combined. That requires an investment much more so than what we see banks and credit unions invest in their websites today.

I always find it ironic when it comes to the website, that we go out and we spend $3 to $5 million dollars to build a branch, yet we're not even investing a fraction of that into building a website.

And, when we build a website, we build a new website maybe every three to four, five years, and we don't touch it. And by the time we're through building that website, we're frustrated. We're tired. We don't want to touch that thing for another three, four, or five years.

We have to think of our website more like a digital retailer.

Amazon, Zappos, and Toms Shoes are continuously optimizing and refining their website based upon user experience, data, analytics, heat maps, etc.

The next piece of this growth engine is a marketing automation platform because if we're building a website that sells focused on lead generation, we need some type of a tool that can help manage and route those leads within our organization. This is because not all leads are created equal.

We have prospects, we have marketing qualified leads, and we have sales qualified leads. And each one of those lead types should be managed differently.

That's where marketing automation can come into play. Thirty-one percent of banks and credit unions reported that they have a marketing automation platform.

Once again, this number I believe, because it's self-reported, is inflated. Yes, they have marketing automation, but are they using it properly? Are they using it to the full capacity? Odds are, from what we've seen, no. Because "yes" they have the tool, but they don't have the capability or the capacity to actually implement this.

And so, be careful when you're talking with the marketing automation company who promises you the world, they promise you rainbows and unicorns.

And why it might sound great in theory, it's hard work.

It takes time.

It takes content.

Content is the fuel of marketing automation.

Finally, if we're looking at lead generation, we need some type of sales enablement. And what I mean by that is, our sales teams are trained right now for more of these face-to-face in-branch interactions.

But, as we begin to generate leads from the digital channels, we need to begin to treat those leads differently because they have a different expectation."