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Marketing Next

Marketing heads from leading BFSI companies of India share how objectives of marketing are becoming deeper engagements with existing and prospective customers

In the recent BrandZ Study by Millward Brown, 5 of the top 10 brands by valuation in India were from the BFSI sector. This clearly shows that BFSI sector today occupies the centre stage.

The BFSI industry of India is going through a transformation era, new products and customized services have contributed to the revolution in the industry. Customers have no longer need to stand in a queue to open a bank account or to update bank passbooks; digitization and technology have played a crucial role in making the life simpler for the customers.

The industry has faced some challenges in terms of under-penetration and complexity of understanding. Finance companies are migrating from outmoded business models to business designs that are better able to satisfy customers’ priorities. With increasing digitization, the BFSI players are undergoing a big change as can be seen with the rise of fintechs and the migration of customers from PSU banks to private banks. All the above factors have contributed in the transformation of the marketing strategies adopted by the financial organisations.

Brand centric to customer engagement

In the BFSI sector, one can clearly see a shift from just selling a product or brand positioning to trust building. The trust factor plays an important role, particularly in targeting the rural customers of India, as the rural customer are not interested in how big as a brand you are or what is the most intelligent thing about your brand or how you are perceived by the rating agencies.

It is heartening to see how businesses are migrating from being urban focused to rurban focused. In the past, financial companies had businesses that were either rural or urban. Marketing as a trend existed primarily in the urban space. But with the advent of organizations like small finance banks, there is a definitive rise in the rurban landscape of the country. Organisations catering to multiple customer segments and connecting with rural and urban consumers together is one trend which is clearly visible. FMCG and telecom took the lead on this in the late 90s and 2000s. But in the current decade, it is the BFSI and the e-commerce companies, which are taking the lead.

Take the case of Fincare Small Finance Bank. It uses direct approach to target the local customers. The bank engages with the local community within 30 days of the launch of the marketing campaign, which is done to create brand recall and familiarise consumers with its products and services. Pankaj Gulati, Chief People Officer at Fincare Small Finance Bank, shares the details of the localised theme events conducted by the bank to generate the retail leads: “Our events are localised specific to the market where we are launched. Different themes are adopted such as senior citizen related activities and associating with local sports. Similarly, a few social or community related work, like a CSR event. The idea is to involve customers to generate leads.”

India First life Insurance has changed the positioning of the band. The company now focus on providing simple, smarter and faster products to its customers. Rushabh Gandhi, Deputy CEO, IndiaFirst Life Insurance speaks about the brand positioning strategy adopted by the company: “We are the first digital first insurance company of India, we follow paperless process, our sales team and agents uses tablet for selling the insurance products. Our focus on customer is significant, customised and personalised.”

Finance companies are seen focusing on consumer marketing, segmentation and customisation for brand building and creating trust among their customers. Brands with a relevant and differentiated value proposition, that simplify the role and benefit of various products will be the ones that not only going to survive but thrive in the coming years.

Rise of online marketing

BFSI companies uses mix of the traditional and digital channels to target their customers. The companies use the channels as per the needs and requirement of their target audience and marketing campaigns. They use digital channels like social media, email, Google search to market their products, traditional channels like TV and cinema for long term brand building, and newspapers for immediate awareness creation.

Motilal Oswal has a marketing budget of more than Rs 300 million per year, and it is spent equally between offline and online media channels. While it spent around 24% of its marketing budget on digital in FY14-15, this increased to 50% in FY18-19.

Fincare Small Finance Bank uses digital marketing to create brand awareness to attract talent into the organization. The bank is now using digital platforms as a lead generation channel. It has a budget of about Rs 20 million for digital marketing for FY18-19. Pankaj Gulati said: “Our overall marketing budget is approximately Rs 150 million, with an increase or decrease of 20%, depending on the requirement of the campaigns. The budget is spread across various above the line (ATL) and below the line (BTL) marketing channels for example brand ambassador endorsements and event sponsorships. Presently, the ratio between offline and online marketing is 90:10, it will increase to 70:30 in the coming years.”

Over the last 3 years, Future Generali Life Insurance has increased its digital marketing budget by 50%. The insurance company has started using WhatsApp for collecting the policy documents. Rakesh Wadhwa, CMO, EVP – Strategy & Retail Assurance at Future Generali India Life Insurance, added: “We effectively do content marketing to reach our customers and video content is the next big thing for our marketing campaigns.”

Capri Global Capital’s marketing budget comprises 95% offline and 5% online. Rajesh Sharma, managing director, said: “There is no fixed marketing budget as we are in growth phase. With heavy feet on street model, the focus is on ensuring regional reach with ground activities and partnerships. These efforts are consistent throughout the year and budgeted as per regional demands and business portfolio.”

Rajneesh Chawla, group head, Marketing, at Indiabulls Financial Services, explains the digital initiatives of the company: “We are very much focused on the digital channels, as digital is more contextual to the customers. We will focus more and more on personalized and focused campaigns to target customers. Digital will help in micro-segmenting the customers in terms of communications and marketing campaigns. We adopt a 360-degree marketing approach to target the customers, using both ATL and BTL channels. The strategy depends on geographic locations of the target customers. We are focusing on marketing automation by integrating digital channels to meet unified perspective. We also use email, mobile app, outbound tele-calling and social media channels to target customers.”

In the last few years, there has been rise in the digital marketing budget among the BFSI companies, as the digital content is getting popular among the millennial customers. Content marketing and video content development are the next big things predicted by finance marketers.

Traditional marketing still dominant

Traditional marketing channels like print, TV and OOH are still popular among the financial marketers. Fino Payments Bank uses TVC campaigns to target its customers. The bank launched its first TVC campaign in September 2017 and another in March 2018. It uses print advertisement campaigns in the key states of the country and branded content activity across Maharashtra, Bihar, UP and MP. Shailesh Pandey, EVP and head – Strategy & Marketing at Fino Payments Bank, speaks about the traditional marketing channels used by the bank: “Our tagline is ‘kadar mahenat ki’ and we use traditional media channels like print advertisements, hoardings, posters, cinema branding, etc as part of our marketing campaigns.”

He further added: “In the southern region, as the literacy rates are higher, newspapers and magazines play an important factor. In western and northern region, audio-visual medium is more effective.”

IndiaFirst Life Insurance Co had launched ‘Because Life Is Full of Certainties, Life Insurance Must Hai’ and Independence Day campaign on social media for creating high engagement, involvement and for creating brand awareness. Rushabh Gandhi reveals details about the advertising ratio for the traditional marketing: “We use 360-degree marketing channels like outdoor, print media, radio and other social media channels. We focus on using omni-channels to reach our customers. We have marketing ratio of 50:30:10:10 between OOH, digital, print and radio channels. We display advertisements outside the branches of Bank of Baroda and Andhra Bank to target customers of these banks for life insurance products; we receive 80% of our business from these two banks.”

Rajesh Sharma gives details about the traditional partnership model adopted by Capri Global Capital: “We participate in multiple property expos at the local level, in locations where we have branch presence. Also, we have tie-ups with developers to have a presence at their project sites where we offer home loans to the property buyers. In addition, we also do offline marketing activities such as installing canopies and distribution of pamphlets in local markets / areas where our customer segment is typically present. Some other lead generation techniques are through our team’s network or practicing-chartered accountants and tax consultants they pass the customer leads to us.”

Traditional marketing channels like print, TV, OOH and radio still have dominant role in targeting the BFSI customers particularly in the tier 2, 3 & 4 cities and rural areas of the country. BFSI companies need to use segment-wise traditional marketing channels to target the potential customers, as this will save the cost and message will reach to the right customer.

Digital campaigns rising

The internet has gripped everyone’s imagination, and it has changed the landscape for the BFSI industry in India. There is continuous digital evolution in the industry, irrespective of the age demographic, there is a constant desire to keep pace with the latest internet trends. With digital literacy on the rise, the last few years have witnessed significant mobile and internet penetration. Further, there has been a rise in adoption of new age technologies, plethora of digital avenues opening up and increasing internet enabled channels that have transformed the ‘business-to-consumer.’

All these factors have contributed to the rise of digital marketing in the BFSI industry of India. For example, ICICI Bank has recently launched a series of 5 ads for its iMobile digital platform. The efforts have been to make the bank’s communication light-hearted and easily reachable to the bank’s target customers. The communication created for the digital medium, shows just how many banking needs can be fulfilled without having to go to the bank. In the campaign, it has shown inanimate objects with human desires and aspirations. And how each of these objects achieve their aspirations without ever entering a bank.

Yes Bank is using voice and motion sensors to promote savings accounts and the attractive interest rates. It has adopted a different strategy apart from the regular engagement options available on digital platforms, to get user attention in a plain banner advertisement.

SBI Life Insurance launched an innovative campaign to raise awareness about breast cancer. The ‘Thanks A Dot’ campaign is supported by the Women’s Cancer Initiative of Tata Memorial Hospital. The program intends to empower women by educating them about early lump detection through simple self-examination techniques. An easy-to-use self-training module to detect the early signs of lump formation can be ordered free of cost through SBI Life’s corporate website

Motilal Oswal displays advertising on market specific sites, social media marketing and Google SEM and SEO to target prospective customers for the lead generation. Further, the company uses email marketing mobile app and website to target customers. Fincare Small Finance Bank uses digital marketing channels like search engine marketing, social media optimization and affiliate marketing to target the customers.

ART Housing Finance uses SEO/ SEM, social media marketing, analytics and content marketing for creating relevant content for the customers to make their buying process easy. India First Life Insurance focuses on marketing analytics, Google, website and other social media channels to reach its customers.

Learnings from marketing campaigns

Customer engagement and seamless customer journey are now being given top priority by the BFSI companies. So, what is it that finance marketers can learn as the whole segment is shifting to techno marketing?

Rushabh Gandhi shares the learnings from the recent marketing activities: “Marketing combined with technology has made an impact for creating an improved customer experience. Launch of AI tools like chatbot, Predictify – an app that identifies the best suited product basis customer needs – and other digital launches have helped us to do targeted marketing. Focus on customer engagement and VAS services is designed to provide our customers special things in addition to core product. This is the start of a new journey of building stronger relationship with our customers.”

Shailesh Pandey said: “Customers prefer convenience in accessing banking services. Significant number of customers use new age digital medium such as WhatsApp, Facebook & messaging. Customers recall strong messages with emotional connect.”

Peeush Jain,head, Retail Banking, at Lakshmi Vilas Bank said: “The customer journey needs to be seamless through marketing to sales funnel. Digital is a highly responsive medium for targeting and retargeting the customer.”

Suneel Yadav, VP & chief marketing & experience officer at ART Affordable Housing Finance, shared the learnings and marketing strategies that are needed: “The conversion funnel is needed to monitor conversion and drop-offs; we need clear consumer marketing strategy for every part of the funnel. Identifying customer personas and mapping the consumer journey is very critical for any marketing effort. With the average attention span of the customer coming down day by day, right time and right place marketing is what makes the difference. Marketing must be relevant and contextual. Experimentation and optimization are needed to be done on a continuous basis. The customer values personalized content. We should create engagement with the consumer in different ways. It is about creating the long tail of marketing.”

Future strategies

Marketing and advertising activities need to be more open to create transparent relationship with the customers. The customers are not averse, if the brand fits within their requirements. A lot of focus is moving to contextual advertising. Additionally, marketers will need to be innovative and creative to get into the consumer’s plan of things. For executing successful marketing strategies, every financial marketer must focus on improving the customer experience across channels and with every communication.

Rajesh Sharma gives the details about the future marketing strategies that will be adopted by Capri Global: “We plan to continue to use offline direct sales channel (direct relationship model) as it is a dominant source for lead generation. In addition, developer tie-ups (also termed as Approved Project Finance or APF route) will be another key source of lead generation. We also plan to expand our marketing initiatives through radio and newspaper advertisements in addition to a bolstered online presence through SEO, google ads, etc.”

Ramnik Chabra, director, Marketing, Motilal Oswal Financial Service added: “We have embarked on our ‘equity investing expert’ positioning exercise just recently. Soon our marketing plans would be pivoting around this focused proposition. This would be brought to life through topical themes relevant to various audiences. Digital, audio visual and contextual media (engagement events, media articles, etc) would be the 3 primary channels. The mix would be calibrated depending on the product and target consumers.”

Pankaj Gulati of Fincare Small Finance Bank shares details about marketing channels the bank will use in future: “We are connected through mobile with our customers. As much as 70-75% of our customers get messages through SMS. Brand recall and brand affinity are most important components in our marketing plans. Since we are a very regional and local player, for the next 6-12 months our focus on marketing spends is through the local channel, which effectively means local market activation. In future, when we become more of a national player, we will bring in the second level of ATL component.”

Marketing strategy is the art of creating value for the customer, marketers need to ensure that this value is relevant and differentiated; be it in the customer experience or brand communication. This has drastically truncated the ‘greed’ and ‘fear’ emotional cycle. For executing successful marketing strategies, every financial marketer must focus on improving the customer experience across channels and with every communication. Touchpoints such as mobile, video and social media continue to grow in importance, as far as marketing strategies are concerned in the BFSI industry.

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