Lessons from Financial Services: Cross-Sell to Your Customers Without Pushing Them Away


By: Renata Bell

Posted: May 26, 2016 | Engagement Marketing

Does it drive you crazy to receive email offers for products you already own? What about suggestions for irrelevant products?

Millennials are hailed as the most brand loyal generation, and this loyalty frequently stems from interactions that are highly relevant and targeted. But it doesn’t just stop with Millennials; GenXers and Babyboomers appreciate contextuality all the same. “Send me offers and content I care about and nothing more.”

While a healthy customer base indicates that there is a clear need for your product or service, failing to build on your knowledge of these existing customers and capitalize on cross-sell opportunities can stunt your revenue growth. Successful brands look past acquisition and focus on increasing the customer lifetime value (CLV) by retaining their customers and continuing to sell to them.

Financial services firms in particular recognize the value of effective cross-sell. Their customers own on average 8-12 financial products, but only 2-3 at a single institution, according to The Financial Brand. And in an age where costs are squeezed and the largest source of future revenue is through acquisition and cross-sell/upsell, firms still frequently miss the mark of engaging with their customers in an individualized and timely manner.

When it comes to cross-selling competencies, bigger is not better. In fact, credit unions and mutual insurance companies (mutuals) sell more to their existing members, garnering more wallet share. Why? Credit unions and mutuals have more nimble (read: small) marketing departments and more importantly, loyal customers. Their customers feel trust and goodwill from their bank and thus they engage more with them, rather than their competitors.

Customer retention and cross-sell is important in any industry, not just financial services, yet it’s frequently overlooked. Many companies focus on new customers, but fail to apply similar efforts to retain a customer or sell more to an existing customer. And since retaining and cross-selling a customer is much less expensive than gaining a new one, creating a strategy around retention can make the difference in company profitability. Below are three critical factors to effectively cross-sell to your customers:

1. Send Timely, Relevant Responses

How can financial services firms, and other marketers, create engagement that results in better cross-selling? It’s all about the individualized and timely messages. Consider this: most banking customers feel that messaging they receive feels general in nature and frequently annoying. A Gallup study shows that 66% of ‘fully engaged’ customers felt the offers they receive are general in nature, 41% found the offer annoying, and 53% of customers already had the product being promoted. This creates disengaged customers that ignore and opt out of emails. However, when customers receive timely offers based on the products they’re actively considering directed at the buying stage they are in, engagement and conversions shoot up.

To engage buyers, digital communication must become less “batch and blast” and instead shift to be more like real human dialog. And that includes “listening and responding,” which requires automation that monitors for explicit and implicit (behavioral) cues, captures that data (listens) in a rich behavioral database, and then uses the data to customize a valuable response (responds).

One example of this is a regional bank listening for individual customers who visit a car loan rates page and responding by triggering an email offering a personalized quote for a new auto loan. Sending this email to all customers would be ineffective, but when it’s targeted based on behaviors, it can be quite successful. The same can be done for your company by monitoring a customer’s interactions with specific content on other products or services and then sending triggered responses based on those actions for successful engagement. In fact, triggered emails can double, even triple, email open and click rates—which makes sense because it’s based on timely behaviors, not on assumptions.

2. Content Matters

More than half of customers considering a new financial product do their research ahead of time. In fact, these customers who do their research convert at a 17% higher rate than those who buy products impulsively. This applies across industries, since the majority of buyers do their own research before ever interacting with your brand.

Producing valuable, non-salesy content that answers customer questions and leads them through the decision-making process can make a huge impact on attracting the right buyers who are hungry for information. It also builds trust and transparency, which fosters engagement. Furthermore, content consumption is a clear signal for buying behavior, allowing marketers to respond effectively with personalized messages that are appropriate for the customer’s buying stage and interests. A banking customer who downloads a content piece on how to plan for a child’s college savings shows clear interest in a certain set of financial products—perhaps also student loans or 529 savings plans.

3. Apply Science to It

Those who are the most successful at cross-selling marry the science and art of digital marketing. There’s a fine line between timely offers and annoying spam, and understanding buyer timing is critical to distinguish it. Thus, marketers need to continuously improve and hone their customer journeys with A/B testing, nurturing tracks, and metrics. Your content strategy is key to acquiring new customers and selling to existing customers, but you also need to understand how you will measure success. Is it by engagement with your content? Percentage of cross-sell or upsell success? Amount of revenue generated by program? There are many ways to measure, but be sure to be clear in your goals and nimble in your execution.

Whatever industry you’re in, don’t leave your hard-won customers in the dark. Engage in two-way conversationsthat listen and respond to each and every interaction. This two-way conversation should extend to your own internal teams, as you ask questions and measure outcomes to continuously improve the customer experience.