How Financial Firms Are Leveraging Mobile To Increase Market Share

Banks have a problem. In fact, it’s the same issue tormenting most service-based businesses.  Increasingly, customers need help making complex decisions, and banks have the expertise to guide them. However, their target market does not habitually turn to them for advice. From managing finances during a divorce to applying for a small business loan, most of us don’t think about banks as trusted advisers.

“The problem is breadth,” says Stewart Rose, CEO of Truebridge Financial Marketing. “Banks are seen too narrowly, as the place to go for deposits and loans… a place to go to transact.”

Most of us view banks as places to make routine transactions. We rarely look to banks to get advice on pressing personal or business needs. We turn to personal relationships, professional financial advisers or a variety of online resources like BankRate.com. Many service providers have this same problem.

A Unique Solution

Financial services companies are leading the service industry and taking action. They aren’t sitting around debating how to measure ROI of social media and mobile apps. If you’re a service-based marketer it makes sense to follow their lead.

Banking is a tough business. In spite of increased regulation and skeptical customers, exceptional banks are increasing what they call “share-of-wallet” or the percentage of a customer’s expenses that the bank’s products/services have earned. At the same time they’re boosting referrals and leads, too, by applying the idea of being useful.

Smart banks are using social media and mobile to listen to customers. They’re also making product benefits tangible when and where customers display a need for them. They’re finding ways to take action on what customers are telling them through their behavior. Most remarkably, they’re finding new ways to prompt customers to do what they’re quite inclined to do anyway: buying more products or services like retirement, business banking, or college savings products.

Take Spain’s BBVA Bank, for instance. They’re proving that “being useful” to customers will make mobile applications pay real dividends.

BBVA’s Useful Media

While most banks are trying to convince customers to view them differently in social and mobile spaces, innovators like BBVA are busy showing them. Success with “useful media” is all about changing behavior, not viewpoints.

Spain’s BBVA, one of the world’s largest retail banks, is offering its customers Tú cuentas (“you count”). A personal finance tool, Tú cuentas offers the usual back functionality of a web and mobile app. But it goes further than transfers and balance checking. It allows customers  to manage their personal finances better. Tú cuentas offers analysis tools so customers can better understand and improve their own spending and savings habits.

The “Just for Me” feature uses collective intelligence to offer a selection of personalized suggestions.  The bank is acting more like a financial planner.

BBVA’s mobile app also provides free content that teaches customers practical things like how to prepare your finances in case of divorce, apply for a small business grant or plan for retirement. It also offers “Amazon-like” suggestions, all based on customers’ preference settings, specific financial objectives, and actual behavior.

In other words, it’s usefulness is driven by how customers interact with the application, their bank accounts, and other financial institutions.

In return for offering customers personalized suggestions on financial and non-financial products, the mobile application helps BBVA’s banking staff better understand individual customers’ evolving needs.

The mobile application is useful for BBVA and its customers. It’s what customers need: answers to their most pressing financial questions. It’s what BBVA needs: a way to coach customers toward products that can best serve their evolving needs.

Why It Works

BBVA is using mobile technology to offer relevant, practical information that serves the need of the customer and the bank. This “useful media” works because it’s functioning within the ever-changing lives of its customers. BBVA isn’t just “entering the conversation” or “buzzing” or building “social graphs.”  It’s being useful and serving its own interests and those of its customers.

Next Steps

The “big opportunity” for banks and other service-based businesses is to answer skeptical, angry consumers with:

  • Utilities that foster trust and reliability that can be experienced
  • Free services that leverage existing strengths like critical thinking, and market or risk interpretation
  • Contextually relevant information in place of memorable or entertaining ads
  • Better customer service or self service

While your competitors are busy “humanizing” themselves with social media and mobile tools you can be qualitatively improving customers’ lives with them. You can help customers lead themselves “down the sales funnel” toward your products and services. And you can do it by being useful to customers.
Take action.  Don’t focus on the technical aspects of mobile applications.  First, ask yourself and/or your social team:

  • Can a mobile application help us improve our ability to be more relevant to customers, more often?
  • How can we start being useful in ways that translate customers’ evolving needs?
  • When are we in the best position to “consultatively sell” with customers off the Web?
  • How can we replicate that context online, guiding customers toward answers that connect with our services?

A Parting Thought

Maybe now we can see why small business Goliath, Intuit acquired Mint.com, a very similar financial service. Intuit’s small business customer base can certainly use the same kind of financial and investment recommendations. Mint.com was a struggling business,  but a fabulous application.

Connecting Mint.com to its core products provides Intuit with an immediate way to always stay relevant, in context, and positioned to sell.  Sure, Intuit could be focusing on creating desire, positive sentiment, buzz, attention or aspiration with social and mobile media.  Or it could invest in “useful media” like Mint.com to become useful to existing customers in ways that create leads for its other products. Because Mint.com becomes an automated product recommendation engine, it’s a way to start discovering latent, hidden demand among customers and capturing it.

What’s your “Mint.com?”

About Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is the authority on making social media sell and corporate trainer to small businesses and global corporations like IBM and Brazil’s energy company, Petrobras. He’s an accomplished entrepreneur, having co-founded what is today the Google Affiliate Network. He’s adjunct digital marketing professor at Loyola University’s school of business and author of Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You.

Website: JeffMolander.com

Blog: Off the Hook Blog

Answers: AskJeffMolander.com

You can find Jeff on Twitter @jeffreymolander.

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