Did you know that financial services digital marketing makes up over 14% of overall spend in online advertising, more than almost any other industry? And even though that spend took a hit in 2020—with banks decreasing their marketing budget by an average of 17% during the pandemic—digital spending, as a whole, remains on the rise. Two-thirds of marketers expect to incorporate more digital marketing channels into their strategy, including social media, blogging, webinars, email, video, SEO, and mobile app functionality. 

The results speak for themselves. A small investment in SEO can drive 1000% more traffic to your website than organic social media. Viewers are 2x more likely to buy something they saw on a video. And for every dollar spent on digital marketing, companies generate $2 in earnings for Google Ads and $42 in earnings from email marketing.

So, why is getting C-suite approval for a larger budget—and then keeping that budget—one of the greatest challenges of digital marketing in the financial services industry?

Financial Services Digital Marketing Challenges: C-Suite Approval 

While 83 percent of global CEOs say that marketing can be a major driver of growth, many C-suite executives don’t think marketing investments should be protected during a downturn. And when it comes to getting full budget approval, 45% of CFOs said the reason they’ve rejected marketing proposals was that marketing could not demonstrate a clear line to value. 

So, what’s the problem? 

The marketing and finance dynamic has long been at odds. Often, there are conflicting expectations around ROI and the use of qualitative and quantitative metrics within marketing. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. 90% of marketing and finance leaders believe that the two functions need to work more closely together to unlock long-term value and growth. And the other good news is that digital marketing results are much more measurable than they have ever been! 

5 Tips to Prove the ROI of Financial Services Digital Marketing 

To win over digital marketing skeptics in the C-suite, you must prove that you are an essential driver of your brand’s growth. And to do that, your digital marketing must effectively use data and analytics to offer performance-based results for the financial services industry.

We’ve collected five tips to help you prove the need for digital marketing and overcome the challenge of C-suite budget pushback. 

Tip 1: Speak to the C-suite’s expectations. 

Just as you research your target audience to perfect your customer-facing marketing efforts, research your C-suite to see what marketing results matter most to them. And then use their language to sell your digital marketing strategy and budget. 

For example, CEOs tend to be strong advocates for brand building and driving awareness. And ultimately, they answer to the Board—only 3% of which have a marketing background. To speak to the CEO, CFO, and Board in their language, talk about your unique digital marketing strategy in terms of brand management, customer acquisition, long-term goals, sunk costs, and evidence-based return on investment. 

Tip 2: Connect your digital marketing goals to brand goals.

Each member of the C-suite has their own list of priorities when it comes to what they believe will most contribute to growth. For example, according to an EY CMO-CFO Connection survey: the CMO’s top priority for business growth was “Improving relationships with existing customers” at 45%, while the CFO had “Learning to drive stronger data from insights” at 43%. As the CMO, it is your job to match your marketing goals to the brand’s goals.

The key is to give your proposed budget context within the overall business. Speak about your strategy in terms of how it will help the company achieve next year’s revenue targets, net new sales, retain customers, and more. By aligning your priorities with those of the rest of the C-suite, you are in far better shape for justifying what you’re asking for.

Tip 3: Sell your vision based on metrics, KPIs, and ROI. 

CMOs who compute their ROI are 1.6 times more likely to be awarded higher budgets for their strategy. Familiarize yourself with the impact of your marketing activities in terms of dollars earned, customers acquired, and prospects converted. The more specific you can get when it comes to the quantifiable results of your digital marketing efforts, the better. 

By using data and analytics efficiently, you can demonstrate how marketing is a valuable business function that contributes to the bottom line. There are a few questions you’ll want to answer.

  • What specific metrics will your digital marketing activities improve and by how much (e.g., win rate, returning customers, shopping cart abandonment rates, decreased sales cycle length, etc.)
  • How do your digital marketing activities scale revenue while reducing cost and increasing efficiency?
  • What makes your strategy a better scenario than the alternatives?
  • What support costs will be required, and how will you overcome these costs with additional revenue?

Tip 4: Demonstrate your ability to make quick tactical decisions and continuously improve. 

The ability to make quick tactical decisions based on what works and what doesn’t is critical. Going to your CEO with the same marketing tactics as last year is a surefire way to ensure you won’t get the budget you need. Instead, you must demonstrate that you can incorporate what you’ve learned through trial and error to continuously improve your efforts. 

To make your digital marketing budget more credible, establish that you’ve already improved efficiency by cutting activities that were unsuccessful. Then, highlight how your adjusted strategy has taken advantage of what you’ve learned to increase ROI. 

Tip 5: Partner with well-vetted financial services digital marketing consultancies. 

Finally, recognize that hiring a digital marketing consultancy can be an instrumental resource for unlocking new digital marketing capabilities and value. Internal marketing departments often lack the staff, time, and tools to achieve their vision and deliver on ROI. But CMOs that partner with a well-respected and vetted agency not only increase their agility and ability to scale, but they also empower their team to better accomplish their objectives. 

An outside digital marketing consultancy will also take on much of the risk alongside the CMO. By involving the vendor from the beginning of the budget process, they can prepare insights on how their proposed initiatives create value and business impact while offsetting their cost. 

Well-Prepared CMOs Earn Larger Digital Marketing Budgets

With just a little bit of preparation, getting internal and external stakeholders on board with your digital marketing strategy is possible. You just have to educate the C-suite on how your efforts result in brand building and business growth.

By doing this, you’ll be able to easily rationalize your budget and get the C-suite buy-in you need to accomplish your digital marketing goals.