What is Inbound Marketing? (And How It Helps Your Credit Union in 2023)

Marketers Gathered Around Computers
(Last Updated On: January 2, 2023)

The financial services landscape is changing faster than ever before. Consumer expectations are evolving along with it. Is your institution keeping up?

Let’s be honest. Banking isn’t the sexiest industry. And we understand the current challenges are enormous. Despite that, you can still excite customers with your story.

Phone With Registration Screen
This looks like a great game! Oh, wait.

It begins with a modern approach to marketing. Three factors you must recognize:

  1. Mobile banking as the new “branch”
  2. Social networking as more than family photo sharing
  3. Purchasing power of growing Gen Y and Gen Z populations

The key is addressing all these together with a cohesive strategy. 2020 set digital strategy on overdrive, but now you’ve had time to get deliberate about it all. Combine online efforts with traditional outlets, right?

Consumers rely on their financial institutions. It’s just taken for granted most of the time. The competitive advantage is in engaging and expanding your audience through modern marketing strategies (“digital” is just the beginning).

How to do this? Through a concept called “Inbound Marketing”.

What is Inbound Marketing?

Per Hubspot, inbound marketing is a “holistic, data-driven strategy that attracts and converts customers through personalized, relevant information and content.” FYI: Hubspot gave this idea its name and pioneered the best practices.

Holding Hands

Rather than disrupting your audience with messaging that interrupts (like invasive ads), inbound marketing tactics follow your audience through the sales process to build trust and generate ongoing engagement.

In under ten words:

Inbound marketing attracts new customers with immersive, educational content.

Financial Marketers and the Rise of Inbound

Buyer behaviors are changing. 

Today’s buyers are more informed, more self-sufficient, and have higher expectations.

Chess Board Kings Meet
Consumers today know all the right moves.

They don’t want to be sold to. Do  you? Consumers want to make an informed decision based on a genuine relationship. And they want everything to happen quickly (and online).

Watch this happen across many industries. Banking, in particular, is seeing a big shift as the millennial demographic voices their preference for increased engagement and online interactions. Consider Gen Z, too.

To meet this need, bank and credit union marketers are turning to inbound marketing. Inbound helps you interact with your audience on their own terms. Plus, it helps to:

  • Raise brand awareness
  • Boost organic site traffic
  • Drive new leads and potential customers
  • Increase your conversion rate

Sounds good, right? Let’s dive into making it happen at your institution.

The Components of an Inbound Strategy

What exactly goes into an “inbound strategy”?

There are a few basic recommendations, but your inbound methodology can be as simple — or as complicated — as you want. Your goal is to attract potential new customers, engage with them at scale, and find ways to provide value to them individually.

Plan Scrabble Pieces
Your plan may have many pieces.

Switching to an inbound approach means getting away from marketing that’s just in the way or has a single, isolated goal. You know them as “campaigns”. For example, a one-off direct mail piece that doesn’t connect to anything else may be hurting more than helping.

With inbound, the goal is to create a 360-degree buyer experience. That means not going all-in on a single channel (perhaps pouring thousands of dollars a month into a search ads campaign, while ignoring your blog, social media, or traditional marketing channels).

Take a holistic approach to your marketing. This helps to boost results (because you’ll “touch” more people) while creating a consistent brand and customer experience.

As you build your inbound marketing strategy, here are the areas to put the most focus:

Content Marketing

  • Blogging & SEO efforts
  • Deeper dive downloads such as eBooks and how-to guides (promote with paid ads or within existing content)
  • Lead Nurturing/Email Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Video
  • Podcasts! These are a great way to get staff and customers involved.

Reminder of the Importance of Search

Look back up at those bullets. Even though it’s a simplified list, there are still a lot of things to do, right? We don’t want you to get overwhelmed. Each follows off the others.

What do all those strategies serve? Searches.

Organic search traffic is the main goal of all your Inbound Marketing efforts. Building visitors from their searches. Seriously. That’s the main thing. All the other stuff you do grows as a result of organic visitor growth.

Here’s a festive example we use to introduce visitors (like you) to the Learning Library.

Paid Media Marketing

  • Paid social media advertisements (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) 
  • Retargeting advertisements across the web (including in streaming services)
  • Google AdWords/PPC Ads
  • If it makes sense, you can also pursue traditional media like TV and radio

In-Person or Virtual

  • Community events
  • Trade shows

How to Get Started With Inbound Marketing

Set your financial institution up for success by building a strong inbound marketing strategy foundation.

Step 1: Define Your Buyer Persona

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. So, “Jane, the awesome credit union member” is a great start.

Woman Silhouette Sunset
Who is Jane…really?

You develop a buyer persona by combining market research and existing data from your customer base to identify shared qualities between all your best customers. Simply put: What do they have in common?

Buyer personas are crucial to building your inbound strategy. Why? Because they help you:

  • Understand who you’re marketing to
  • Empathize with their challenges and goals
  • Tailor your content efforts to meet their needs

Without a buyer persona, you run the risk of creating pointless content that doesn’t resonate with your audience. That’s a waste of time and resources for everyone.

You can grab a free buyer persona template from Hubspot.

Step 2: Identify Topics of Interest

Happy with your buyer persona? Can you picture meeting them? Perfect, now it’s time to brainstorm content topics. Ask yourself:

  • What does my audience want to learn more about?
  • What challenges are they hoping to solve, and what content can I create to help with those challenges?
  • Where in the buyer’s journey are they? 
Audience Relevant Content Scrabble
This gets read.

Read that last question again.

Content isn’t “one size fits all”. Nor was that last robe I got. Unless it was actually for two people? Anyway, your buyer persona is a guide. For creating content, you must base it on where your customer (or prospect) is in the buyer’s journey.

Tailoring content to meet people where they are in the buyer’s journey makes it more relevant to viewers. Thus, it gets read/watched. Which is better than it being sent to spam or scrolled past.

What is the Buyer’s Journey?

The buyer’s journey is the process your customers go through when researching, evaluating, and deciding whether or not to purchase a new product or service. Hubspot divides it into three stages:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Decision

Knowing where a potential customer is in the buyer’s journey makes it easier to understand their needs.

It also simplifies planning other forms of marketing (like deciding what emails to send and when). Consider your own behaviors. Can you buy that new car model if you don’t know it exists? And if your interest is piqued, now you’ll look to discover functionality to learn if it does what you want. Only once that is satisfied will you move on to making a decision.

Knowing your ideal potential customer is a great start. It’s also just the beginning. Also consider:

  • Brand awareness
  • Product/service/industry knowledge
  • Purchase path (Is it a short or long process?)

Let’s make this relevant. You have an account holder ripe for an auto loan. Your data shows this is their first vehicle financing journey with your institution (and maybe even in their life). Knowing this, you recommend different content than for a long-term customer with many car loans financed.

Your goal is to provide the most value to your audience based on where they are in their buyer’s journey.

Step 3: Create Awesome Content

Add New Post WordPress
Start your writing engines!

Great work on your preparations. Now, the writing (and performing!) begins. When launching your content library, we recommend starting with a blog.

Companies that blog regularly see up to 55% more site visitors and 67% more leads than companies that don’t.

Creating regular and quality content can be daunting. Start small. Even two blogs a month will make an impact. As you go, optimize your content for SEO. Part of that is how you organize your content. Create central “pillar” pieces on each topic to establish credibility and help drive more traffic.

Gated Content

Some of your content may become big. As in, you know someone won’t sit on your site for 30 minutes to go through it. That stuff is valuable! Things like Ebooks and guides can be “gated”, meaning, they require a form submission to download.

Why put content behind forms? Well, it gives value to the piece, while you gain a current email address and specific preferences for future ad targeting or recommended content.

Another common strategy is to use this long-form content as a free “upsell”. When someone is reading a short blog about the benefits of mobile banking, they’re shown a pop up with an offer to download The Complete Guide to Mobile Banking. “If you’re enjoying this article, you’ll get a ton of value from this!”

This seems like a perfect place for…

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Types & Timeframes

It gets overwhelming fast. Breathe. You don’t need new content every day, at least to start. That’s the quick road to burnout, for both you and your participating staff. Content already made can get repurposed across channels (emails, social media, videos, etc.) to extend its lifespan.

What's Next Chalkboard

Beyond blogs and long-form content, you can also create:

  • FAQs
  • Webinars
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Email nurturing
  • A product-related resource hub

As you can see, your options are wide open. Once started, check your site analytics to see what drives the most traffic and use that data to decide next steps. It’s more than just visits, and in a future piece, we’ll discuss some of the metrics to watch.

Step 4: Experiment with Ads

This is when we stop and offer some congratulations. None of that was easy, yet your institution made it happen across departments! Let’s review what was done:

  • You decided inbound marketing was the path for your institution.
  • A buyer persona was built, with input from a range of teams.
  • You’re writing new blog posts weekly, while making sure they and the site they’re on is designed for SEO.
  • Interested parties can read a monthly email digest with links back to your latest content.

What’s next? Advertising. You may already have some experience with online ads, which is great. We will discuss how it fits into your larger inbound marketing strategy. That way, it helps reach a new audience while improving engagement with your existing one.

Common paid channels include:

Adwords Scrabble Pieces
Noticing a theme? Low points, though.
  • Social media advertisements like sponsored (or “Boosted”) posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
  • Retargeting ads (Reminders of your product/service as user browses web)
  • Google AdWords/PPC Ads (Appears on search result pages)

Best practices for paid ads recommend directing your audience to a single landing page with one content offer (like an eBook). It’s all about meeting expectations and making it easy for visitors to get your great content.

To this end, some social platforms, like Facebook, also offer in-app forms which allow users to access your content without ever leaving the app.

Finally, even more details to help you start with paid advertising as a financial institution.

Step 5: Iterate and Improve

Building an inbound strategy from the ground up will have its setbacks. Some blogs won’t resonate. Some ads won’t convert. That’s inevitable.

Take a data-driven approach to your marketing. This helps you monitor trends over time and identify new ones as they emerge. Also, go low-tech and ask customers for feedback! Find out what they like, what bores them, and what they want to see.

After all, they’re literally your target audience (so long as they fit your buyer persona).

You’re Done. Now Get Started!

With the basic concepts of inbound, you can begin marketing. Let’s review the most important steps:

  1. Build a foundation with your buyer personas.
  2. Outline high-priority topics.
  3. Create awesome content.
  4. Set up a blog where it all will live.

If you don’t have the budget nor inclination for paid ads, that’s fine. Focus first on your organic audience. Grow your online presence and devote more time and resources towards content creation and email list building.

This isn’t all. Prepare to become an inbound master. Other category articles guide you on your journey, diving a bit deeper into each aspect. We’ll help you ask the right questions to create the most relevant content.

In the meantime, be sure to Subscribe to the Learning Library. We use all these principles in our efforts, so give them a test drive by checking it out!

This article was composed with the assistance of Ballie Ward.

Joe Winn - CU Geek

Blogger. Speaker. Part-time Jedi.

Focused on helping your bank or credit union grow in the face of emerging challenges.

2 thoughts on “What is Inbound Marketing? (And How It Helps Your Credit Union in 2023)

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