The Missing Key to Credit Union Marketing: Attribution

As a financial institution, it can be very difficult to attribute a return on investment (ROI) on your marketing campaigns. Sure, you can use the Google Tag Manager to track all of your digital marketing efforts on Facebook and Google, but what happens once your potential member applies for a loan? For the majority of community banks and credit unions, they push their traffic to an online banking portal to run their credit. This is where the digital trail of many marketing campaigns goes dark, because Google won’t connect the dots between the clicks from your ads to new loan applicants because this data spans across two separate datasets.
Photo Author Crystal from Flickr

As a financial institution, it can be very difficult to attribute a return on investment (ROI) on your marketing campaigns.  Sure, you can use the Google Tag Manager to track all of your digital marketing efforts on Facebook and Google, but what happens once your potential member applies for a loan?  For the majority of community banks and credit unions, they push their traffic to an online banking portal to run their credit. This is where the digital trail of many marketing campaigns goes dark, because Google won’t connect the dots between the clicks from your ads to new loan applicants because this data spans across two separate datasets.

So why is attribution a big deal?  Wouldn’t you like to know if what you’re spending on Google and Facebook ads is effective by linking an ad click all the way to a loan applicant?  This knowledge will empower you to increase or decrease your budget or even change your creative. The truth is, without this kind of insight, you’re wasting money.

Fortunately, there are ways that financial institutions can solve their attribution problem and measure results!

Credit union marketing campaigns

Credit unions market themselves in a variety of channels:

Yet, credit unions have been slow to adopt digital marketing strategies in comparison to large banks. In 2017, just 27% of credit unions said that the adoption of digital channels was a priority. Meanwhile, 63% of banks said the same. 

The biggest opportunities for credit unions lie in Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Unlike social media ads and display ads, SEM ads and organic search results appear when a user is actively searching for a solution. They may type “credit union near me” or “credit union loans” or “best credit union san francisco.”

A map view of top credit unions appears above text search results. In order to have a higher chance of getting your credit union featured prominently in the map view, you should regularly ask customers to leave your credit union a review, and always keep your Google My Business listing information up to date. 

Challenges with credit union digital marketing

Credit unions have to contend with smaller budgets, which often affects how well their website converts traffic. They may invest in paid advertising to acquire potential members, and yet convert that traffic at lower-than-average rates because their websites are slow, outdated or lack a great user experience. And since only 6% of millennials and 9% of Gen Xers are credit union members, the average credit union loses hundreds of potential members every month to bigger banks.

This is why attribution is key for any credit union to gain the upper hand over the big banks.  When investing in online and offline marketing efforts, credit union marketers need to be able to track what works. And therein lies the biggest challenge AND opportunity in credit union marketing. 

How credit unions can improve results with attribution

When a potential member clicks on a digital ad, goes to your website, then clicks to apply for an auto loan, 90%+ of these transactions are no longer tracked.  You might be thinking, “Wait, doesn’t Google Analytics (GA) track all the clicks and conversions on our website?” Not necessarily. You can track the clicks to loans only if you are able to compare the IP addresses of loan applicants and new members with the IP addresses of those that clicked on digital ads. However, GA does not allow exportation of IP address from its platform.

But don’t worry, we’ll cover how to set this up below!

Why is setting up attribution so important?  Because you can put a value on every piece of your marketing campaign!  Many credit unions utilize the Facebook and Google advertising platforms.  For example, let’s say that somebody searches Google for a home loan and clicks on a credit union’s search ad and then converts; that ad is typically given credit for the conversion.  Yet if a proper attribution system was in place, the credit union would have learned that before this person clicked the Google ad, they had first clicked on three Facebook ads over the last 6 months. Only when this person finally found a home they liked, they searched Google and clicked the ad. In this example, Facebook ads played a crucial role in brand awareness and building trust, allowing the Google ad to convert months later.

Creating an attribution process that acknowledges the customer journey is such a huge opportunity right now. It allows credit unions and community banks to level the playing field with national banks because, despite their size, the majority of national banks have still not installed an attribution model.

So what is attribution?  In a nutshell, attribution means assigning an output to a particular input. In our case, you can assign a new member signing up or a new loan application back to a specific ad. 

With accurate attribution, you can discover:

  • Which ads are most effective
  • Where you’re wasting money
  • Where to focus the campaign going forward. 

Pretty good stuff, right? Right! So let’s get into the technical side. 

How to solve marketing attribution issues as a credit union or small local bank 

Now that you understand the opportunities that attribution presents, let’s get it set up:

  1. Don’t just rely on Google Analytics – GA is great to track clicks on your site, and you can even track specific conversions on your banking portal, but there’s a limitation: Google Analytics will not give you the names or specific IP addresses of traffic that came through the website.  So utilize Mixpanel which is a third-party analytics platform that allows you to drop a pixel on all of your traffic that enters your website.  Mixpanel will allow you to (automatically) align the IP address of an ad click to an IP address of a loan applicant or new member. 
  2. Download a list of IP addresses – Then from your banking portal, download a list of everyone who signed up to become a new member or applied for a loan in a set time period, and make sure the list includes IP addresses.
  3. Compare the IP addresses with ad clicks – Using Mixpanel, compare the IP addresses of newly acquired customers and/or loan applicants side-by-side with IP addresses from ad clicks. 
  4. Compare phone numbers too – In addition to IP addresses, you’ll want to integrate data from phone numbers as well, if you include phone numbers in your ads. Typically a tool like CallRail will alter the phone number so that you can track a call back to your ad. Just as with IP addresses, you can download a list of customer phone numbers entered into your banking portal against the numbers used to call from an ad.
  5. Automate the comparison – You can monitor your conversions in real-time using the Mixpanel dashboard.  Or if you already have a robust CRM, you can utilize Zapier to setup marketing automation so that the IP addresses from your banking portal conversions, phone calls, and from ad clicks will automatically be compared.

Setting up attribution might look daunting to a bank or credit union that has never attempted to do so.  Yet, just take it one step at a time and within a few weeks, it will be set up. Then the fun begins as you start tracking and assigning better values to your marketing efforts.  

While some notable credit unions have recently closed their doors and other community banks have consolidated into larger banks to survive, now is the time to invest your resources into attribution to gain a sizable competitive edge.

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