2019: Eliminating Go-to-Market Friction in FinServ

I had the opportunity over the Holidays to reflect a bit on our Financial Services client experience over the past year, and to think ahead to some of the key industry Go-to-Market challenges we see for 2019.

I went through our blogs for 2018 to see which were the most popular and looked for themes across those which resonated most with our readers. I revisited industry and analyst reports on data, AI and analytics, fintech, martech, digital disruption and transformation, etc. to look for consistent themes. I compared these to our work with multiple clients last year across multiple segments of the industry.  I also reviewed my own experiences as a “consumer” of financial services products almost every day.

A lightbulb went on for me while trying to complete my fourth Christmas present return and exchange for one of my kids – there is still a lot of friction in the system today.  My first return was easy (Amazon).  I clicked on the order in my order history, printed the pre-paid return label and dropped the package at the UPS store.  My bank account was refunded as soon as the tracking order was assigned.  Nearly frictionless.

Had a completely different experience on my fourth attempt when I tried to exchange my daughter’s coat (wrong size!) with another vendor.  I actually had to search through the trash to find the receipt from the original shipment as the order was not available online.  No option to print a label, so I had to take the box to the UPS store, fill out the paper form, have them generate a label, and pay the shipping fees.   The vendor said I should expect to wait 7-10 days after the goods were received for a refund to hit my bank account.  Lots of friction. Guess who I will be ordering next year’s jacket from?

This got me thinking about “Go-to-Market Friction” – the amount of resistance that still occurs today between companies and customers as they progress through the buyer’s journey.  The good news is that rapidly advancing technologies in today’s digital world provide significant opportunity to remove friction in FinServ Go-to-Market processes.  The downside is that it also creates great expectations for ever-better customer experiences and provides opportunities for new market entrants to come in and disrupt traditional “high-friction” FI’s with “low-friction” alternatives.

Arguably, the vast majority of investments that FinServ companies are making today in data, analytics, content, and technology are focused on reducing the friction that exists between customers and an organization as they move through their journey.  Firms that reduce or remove friction have to exert less “force” (think reduced marketing and sales investment and resource) to move customers through each journey and encounter less customer resistance (think improved acquisition, cross-sell, retention, customer satisfaction, etc.)

And with nearly $100B in investment in FinTech globally in 2018, there is still a lot of friction in Financial Services business models that FinTech firms and their investors are racing to address with point solutions across the FinServ spectrum.

With Marketing increasingly responsible for leadership in both customer experience and revenue growth in 2019, CMO’s must be able to identify, prioritize and help reduce or eliminate these areas of friction in their Go-to-Market activities.

Technology changes very rapidly.  Customer buying behavior evolves more slowly.  Existing GTM systems are the last to change.  Legacy FinServ firms must become much more agile at identifying and addressing friction in their current Go-to-Market, or risk being disintermediated by more nimble competitors or startups.

So what are your Go-to-Market friction hot spots?

Based on our experience, here are five key leverage points for your consideration to help eliminate Go-to-Market Friction in 2019.

1) Single View of the Customer

Having a single view of the customer that is available to all channels is a key requirement for creating a frictionless Go-to-Market model.  Gathering, managing and maintaining that data from across multiple business units and numerous touchpoints is still a daunting challenge for many financial services organizations today.

According to Dun & Bradstreet’s 6th Annual B2B Marketing Data Report, 56% of the firms surveyed say that aligning sales and marketing data about companies and contacts is very or extremely difficult today.  49% are NOT confident in the current quality of their sales and marketing data.

Integrating this data into a Customer Data Platform, leveraging it and a Marketing Data Platform to support increasing AI and analytics efforts, and making this insight accessible to other GTM applications, processes and channels will be critical for identifying and mitigating GTM friction in today’s multi-channel world.

Small wonder that IBM predicts that Director of Marketing Data becomes the hottest new marketing role in their 2019 Marketing Trends.  Among other responsibilities, this role will “create processes, rules, and procedure to ensure that critical data is collected and integrated into a customer data platform (CDP).”

For more information on the Customer Data Platform, visit the Customer Data Platform Institute here.

For more information on the Promise of the Marketing Data Platform, see here.

2) Marketing Responsibility for the Customer Experience

Removing friction from the customer journey will continue to be a challenge for those organizations that do not have a group responsible for defining, monitoring and improving that experience end-to-end over time.   Increasingly, customer experience is a role for which marketing is assuming leadership –  though interestingly, this area of responsibility for marketing wasn’t even added to the CMO Survey until February 2018.

According to the August 2018 CMO Survey, Financial Services firms already trail all other industries in terms of marketing leadership of the customer experience (33% vs 45% cross-industry average).  The most recent Salesforce State of Marketing report is more optimistic, with 44% of FinServ firms indicating marketing leads CX initiatives.

Identifying areas of friction and providing the personalized and targeted communications that customers expect at each point along the way will require an end-to-end view of that journey. According to Salesforce, 54% of High Performers leverage Marketing as the “Cross-Functional Glue of Customer Experiences.”

Marketing must assume responsibility for the creation of an integrated customer and seller journey framework that aligns each stage of the buying process and the sales process into a unified strategy that identifies and aligns corresponding content and resources – website, customer service, live sales reps, events, etc. – across all channels.  It is also a vital framework for identifying areas of misalignment or friction between the two!

Again, small wonder that IBM predicts customer centricity will drive constant transformation and that companies must develop a cohesive strategic vision for CX “rather than two distinct customer and marketing strategies as independent playbooks.”

For more information on Creating a Consistent Customer Experience, see here.

3) Leverage Digital Listening to Identify Friction Points

Digital listening is a valuable resource for leveraging the “voice of the customer” to identify Go-to-Market friction points in a near real-time way. Many firms still rely on social media primarily for brand tracking and sentiment analysis, and not for the kind of actionable insight that can be garnered about competitors, partner, products and customers.

Today’s digital listening platforms have evolved considerably from the “old days” of social media sentiment tracking.  The depth of insight that digital listening can now deliver is immense. And in the hands of experts, those insights can be translated into near real-time, actionable intelligence that will help identify GTM friction points.

But GTM friction is not just internal or customer-related, so any digital listening exercise must also include visibility into the actions of other industry players, including your distribution partners and your competitors.  Implementing a highly-structured, action-oriented digital listening program will help organizations make continuous improvements in their Go-ot-Market.

For more information on how companies can better leverage digital listening to identify and remove GTM friction, see here.

4) Agile Analytics at Scale

FinServ tends to invest more in analytics than many other industries today.  That said, according to the most recent CMO Survey, the FinServ industry plans to more than double their investments in analytics over the next three years.  To maximize return on these investments, firms will have to become much more agile with their analytics, and more importantly, the incorporation of those insights into their Go-to-Market execution to help reduce friction.

Developing and deploying an agile analytics capability requires developing the right balance between a corporate COE and individual BU teams, and implementing agile methodologies that enable marketers to execute at scale while retaining the ability to shift gears quickly.  Prioritizing activity based on business impact will be crucial. And aligning your analytics teams closely with your marketing teams will be crucial to ensuring a tighter a business alignment and faster time to market.

To learn more about building an agile, results-driven Analytics Organization, see here and here.

To learn more about the Marketing Analytics Family tree, see here.

5) Focus on Enabling the Personal Relationship

Building trusting relationships is one of the highest priorities in Financial Services, and a key differentiator in driving customer acquisition and retention.  For most Financial Services firms, these relationships are personal in nature, and in many instances exist between third-parties and end customers – agents in the insurance industry, or financial advisors in the Asset Management industry for instance.

This can be an area of significant Go-to-Market friction if insufficient investments are made in enabling these relationships.  This “last mile” relationship is where process breakdowns often occur, and customers, channels, and companies are “out-of-sync.”

Eliminating friction in digital channels is much easier given the one-to-many nature of those channels.  In the “emotion” economy, the many-to-many nature of personal relationships is crucial – especially for Financial Services – and ensuring a consistent customer experience across these resources is key to delivering the value proposition.

To learn more about Enabling the Last Mile, see here.

Where will the biggest friction points be in your 2019 Go-to-Market?