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Working the Engines: Search Drives Customer Connections, Part 1

At my presentation at this year's Financial Services Marketing and Innovation Symposium, I told the audience that, "Search has never stopped evolving. Today it is more relevant to brands, and more heavily used by customers and prospects than ever before." My presentation covered top strategies for connecting with customers, enhancing brand presence, and driving conversion. To illustrate those strategies, I talked about the key must-dos, best practices, and innovations that brands can use now.

Search can play a big part in accelerating and optimizing some of the most expensive delivery assets you own — like your branch network and call centers, for example, along with a couple of others that are squarely in the customer connection space. 

As a definition, search refers to a cloud of services that are primarily offered across the Google and Microsoft platforms. Yes, there are other players, and we actually consider a pretty broad list from a digital strategy perspective. But for the purpose of this post, we are talking in round numbers about the two-thirds of the US market that Google holds and the approximately 20% that Microsoft holds.

Paid search is a primary acquisition vehicle across the main consumer lines of business. It should be running like a machine, 24/7, delivering predictable results at a predictable cost. It’s most likely your least expensive channel, and that is because it is really effective at identifying and capturing lower-funnel and "expressed" demand. Now, that may not be too innovative, it’s really everyday business, but as a Marketer there is certainly everything to love about it, right?

But Search has changed so much over the past few years. Its evolution has been fast and extensive. This is driven by the platforms themselves, living within an "innovate or die" mentality. For example, there are approximately 80 beta test opportunities run by the engines per year; the pace of change is quite rapid.  Plus, the ever-changing demands of the audiences, meaning the advertisers and the consumers, are driving a lot of it. It’s really time to reconsider how the "search marketing data services" cloud of today and the near future can be effectively wired into your business.

Think about how much data you already have that can be activated for free inside search. The first place you should look is how to accelerate your physical branch and ATM network. Some financial institutions have two thousand branches or more. Plus an ATM footprint that can be twice as large, if not larger. Collectively, these are probably your most expensive assets for customer connection. Therefore, making them work even just a little harder has significant potential payback. Many industry predictions say you won’t have physical branches pretty soon, but I personally believe it’s going to be a vey long time before that happens. In the meantime, all customer-accessible locations, and I mean all, whether for acquisition or services delivery, should be activated in search.

So what’s your acceleration plan? Look out for Part 2 where I will discuss how to effectively control your brand through search.

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