Sunday, May 4, 2014

Finance Execs: What’s Your Strategy for Marketing to Millennials?

As a financial executive, it's critical you reach a skeptical but vast market - Millennials. As a marketing professional and graduate student in Northwestern University’s Medill Integrated Marketing Communications program (and a Millennial myself) I believe our industry needs to make a greater effort to shape the financial behavior of this generation and acquire life-long customers through social, mobile, and interactive marketing. Those that do will reap a tremendous reward.

A recent FINRA study cited by a CBS news article hits on the scale of the marketplace void: Millennials need financial guidance. Americans between the ages of 18 and 35 have low financial literacy and make unwise financial decisions with regards to lending and credit. Millennials are the first modern generation to carry significant student loan debt and experience poverty and unemployment at higher rates than the two previous American generations (Generation X and the Baby Boomers). And to top it off, the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession has shaped Millennials into what UBS calls “the most financially conservative generation since those raised during the Great Depression.”

But where there is tragedy, alas, there is opportunity. Forbes recently published an article from contributor Patrick Spenner on the “do’s and don’ts” of marketing to Millennials, and the financial services industry should really listen up. Millions of potential customers with a real and urgent need are waiting to be snatched up by financial services firms and advisors. Unfortunately, many companies are failing to connect because they lack an understanding of this unique audience. Brands are still marketing trigger events like marriage and purchasing a home – but how can Millennials think about buying a house when they can’t even get a decent job or have $30,000 in student loan debt? The messaging needs to shift to reach these consumers in a meaningful way.

Based on current research and my experience at Northwestern University, here are three recommendations you should implement immediately:  

  1. Develop a Millennial marketing strategy - make sure that it's tailored for this audience, the generation of American’s who got their start during one of the deepest economic recessions the country has ever experienced.
  2. Utilize social media - companies that make an effort to have a meaningful dialogue with Millennials via social media will be poised to capitalize on this enormous market.
  3. Develop multimedia creative content - connecting with Millennials in the digital space is going to require creative, data-driven messaging unlike anything that’s been executed in our industry before.
The good news is the need is there. Your brand should aim to deliver on this need so that interactions are timely, tailored, educational, compelling, and develop long-term customer loyalty.

As an executive in the financial services industry, now is the time to grow your share of the Millennial market. They’re waiting for you and your organization to help them overcome past (poor) financial decisions and prepare for the future and their eventual retirement. Despite a lack of financial literacy and economic struggles, Millennials are still said to be very optimistic. Capitalize on this optimism, clearly define your brand promise, and connect with these 76 million potential life-long customers.

Jen Colella is a marketing professional with 7 years experience in the financial services industry, including retail banking, mergers and acquisitions, and executive benefits. Her professional experience includes internal corporate communications, public affairs support, creation of marketing collateral, drafting RFP responses and coordinating finalist presentation materials. Jen also has experience in out-of-home static and digital media sales and dabbles in freelance magazine-style journalism; she was published in The Radcliffe Quarterly at Harvard University.

Jen is currently a graduate student of Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University’s Medill School, with an expected graduation date of June 2015.

Have questions or comments? Feel free to contact me on Twitter: @jennuimc

1 comment:

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