4 Super Critical Focus Areas for Marketers Today
The role of marketing has changed dramatically over the last decade. This is primarily due to continually evolving technologies and trends that have been thrust upon modern business. As a result, marketers are being pushed to focus more on data analysis and interpretation, think deeply about the user experience and assume increasing accountability to the bottom line. They must think like entrepreneurs and increase business efficiencies to drive a higher ROI.
While this is true for companies of any type, mortgage lenders especially have a lot to gain by paying special attention to these trends due to the ever-increasing pressure on margins stemming from the regulatory environment.
Marketing responsibilities – how they’ve changed
Ten years ago, marketing departments mainly focused on transactions – continuously improving campaign response rates and measuring conversions in terms of dollars generated against dollars spent.
Today’s marketing departments are primarily focused on listening and engagement. They work to “own” the customer. Their focus is on the user and customer experience across a variety of platforms and media and making it as smooth and intuitive as possible.
So, what does the future hold for marketers in the mortgage industry?
The “martech revolution” has begun ushering in a digitally-powered age where borrowers are increasingly self-directing their own unique journeys to find the right mortgage company. Companies are doing the same as they seek to align with the right product and service providers to package themselves into an amazing overall experience.
This self-directing of the buyer journey is a given outcome of The Information Age. Prospective buyers and users of products and services are much less influenced by your latest marketing campaign. In fact, studies show they barely believe them.
The buyers’ journey is no longer directed by you, rather, it is self-directed as the journey now includes a complex mixture of online research (blogs, social media, etc.), peer reviews, website views, and comparisons. At the end of the journey, the prospective buyer has developed a sense of trust in one or more companies and then makes a decision.
To facilitate these journeys, marketers will need to leverage big data to better understand customers, predict their behaviors (like the need to buy a house) and communicate with them directly. This means marketers will increasingly collect unstructured data from the online activities of the population and then analyze it to execute targeted digital engagement strategies. For example, someone conducting online searches and sharing content about planning a wedding may well indicate the future purchase of a home…which is useful data for any mortgage lender to act upon.
Here are 4 absolutely critical focus areas for marketers in the mortgage industry:
- Focus on UX (user experience) and CX (customer experience): In today’s digital world, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Baby Boomer or Millennial, people of all ages have been “trained” to expect more from their interactions with a company than ever before. Therefore, marketers need to think beyond communications and sales support in the traditional sense and pay special attention to the experience both “users” and “customers” have with their company, making it as smooth and intuitive as you can imagine. According to Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey 2015, customer experience was ranked as the highest marketing technology investment in 2014.
Here’s a simple way of understanding UX and CX: When someone conducts a search for a mortgage company within their neighborhood, finds a company they like, goes onto the website and are then able to easily navigate to the information they want and even submit a short application without any hitches, that person just had a great “user experience.” How do you know? Because by virtue of filling out the application, they’ve converted to “customer” status, assuming you can keep them by offering a great customer experience.
As a customer, if they don’t receive a timely response to the application, have to call the company and sit on hold while they get transferred to someone’s voicemail, struggle to find out where their application stands and so on, they are having a poor “customer experience.” Such experiences were commonplace in the old days and were considered part of the process. These days, people have “learned” through the progression of technology to be much less tolerant. They are products of a new environment where efficiency in online/offline integration rules.
- Focus on data and technology: Laura McLellan, Research VP at Gartner, said that by 2017 the CMO will spend more money on IT than the CIO. The reason? Technology allows marketers to gather vast amounts of data by “listening” to the voice of the customer on multiple social media channels and then turn that data into actionable intelligence and audience segmentation. This segmentation enables marketers to send very precise messages to help the prospect through their journey.
As you go forward, if you’re marketing to those already in search of a lender or a company in search of a new technology platform, etc. then you’re too late. By the time the search begins, you need to be top of mind. Therefore, the ability to determine future need with predictive data factors will allow you to be in the right place at the right time with the right message before a search even begins.
- Think like a CEO: Today’s CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) plays a much larger role than ever before in the enterprise. They play a role in the business strategy, how the company will achieve its goals, sustain a competitive advantage and ultimately win in the marketplace. The CMO of today also understands that all aspects of the company – systems, technology, the people, the culture – must all work together in concert and is therefore involved in all of these areas.
Since the CMO is much more accountable to the bottom line than ever before, they need to be sure that when a prospect finds their way to the virtual “front door” of the company that everything enterprise-wide runs like a finely tuned engine, with no hitches or off-brand experiences.
- Focus on influence rather than persuasion: Successful marketers engage in social listening so that they can understand the path customers take and be there throughout the journey with brand stories and information – not just product marketing. Product marketing is commonplace. No matter what you’re looking for, there are many companies offering the same or similar products and services and consumers are armed to the teeth with that type of information. They are looking for a very rare commodity – a brand that has a compelling story that will connect with and influence them in a positive way.
Therefore, not all elements of a marketing strategy can be preset any longer in a static fashion. They need to become consumer-centric and set into motion by search history, behaviors and demographics and then speak to the consumer in a very targeted way to help them as they move down the path.
For those in marketing roles who are supporting a mortgage operation, the takeaways are quite simple. To successfully navigate through the martech revolution you must increasingly focus on digital channels and marketing automation. In addition, data analysis skills will become very important hiring and training criteria for mortgage companies that automate their marketing endeavors and adopt digital channels.
Finally, if you are not already, you should expect to be held accountable for delivering measurable results across all the marketing initiatives you execute. In the end, the martech revolution will likely change your job description, but in doing so, you can expect positive results: revenue growth, market leadership, and an improved workplace experience.