How Banks Can Win More Female Customers Using More Meaningful Marketing

More and more bank and credit union marketing dollars are going toward winning the female audience. More than before, women are becoming the main household breadwinners (23 percent in 2019 as opposed to just 11 percent in 1967, according to the Center for American Progress and control the majority of consumer spending. But many women feel disconnected from their finances and even more so from financial brands. Understanding the complicated relationship women have with money is key to winning more female customers and ensuring those marketing dollars are put to good use.

Understanding starts with a little bit of history.

It’s still unbelievable to imagine that a single woman did not have the protected right to apply for a loan without a male cosigner until only 45 years ago. That’s just two generations. This deficit in time, along with the slow unraveling of the patriarchal structures surrounding finances, has put women at a disadvantage to their male counterparts. And it’s not as simple as treating women equally as men, because if you’re not at the same starting point, you don’t catch up.

It’s also important to remember that 45.2 percent of all people over the age of 18 are unmarried. That’s 110.6 million people. And of that group, 53.6 percent consist of unmarried women, which equates to 59.28 million people. Marketing tends to fall into the familiar trope of the traditional married couple, particularly around financial matters. It’s key, especially when a product is targeted at a younger audience (sub 30 years old) that you speak to the individual.

In corollary, there’s also an emerging trend of younger people self-identifying as LGBTQ. As there is less stigma around sexuality and gender identity, more people feel comfortable in younger generations self-identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. According to a new Harris poll, as many as 1 in 5 millennials identify as LGBTQ.
Sufficed to say, there is not a one-size-fits all solution to build your base of female customers. But becoming a financial advocate for women, in general, is a good start. Here are five suggestions on how you can do just that:

1. Be generous with your time.

Most women report not feeling confident in their abilities to manage their finances, according to Allianz Life’s 2019 Women, Money and Power study. Some say they don’t feel comfortable asking questions for fear of judgement, and some don’t even feel comfortable talking money at all due to ingrained social stigmas. It’s important that advisors and bankers create an approachable atmosphere and be willing to spend the time with each customer, but there’s also a lot to be said for providing processes and digital outlets to make these conversations easier for many women – chats, text, email or even online content all provide safe places to engage, educate and build relationships with women.

Build content that answers many of the common questions around the financial matters that are meaningful to women before they even have to ask. Use Google as your guide to see what women are searching for and build content around top search results. On top of having a smart SEO strategy, you should try to leverage this content across as many channels as you can – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and email. Pinterest is a particularly intriguing option as it is rapidly becoming a go-to information source for women. You could call it the Google of planning and doing. Pinterest says it reaches 83 percent of all women age 25-54; and of the women on Pinterest, 85 percent say they use Pinterest to plan small or big life moments.

And while we’re on the subject of time, mothers - particularly single mothers, which care for 1 in 4 children under the age of 18, according to the 2019 U.S. Census - may struggle to get things done during typical bank hours. Having scheduling tools on your website (or through your app) to make setting appointments easier is a great idea. Better yet, offer some flex-hours available for virtual meetings to set you apart from the competition.

2. Be the expert, but also be willing to share your scars.

When creating content for women, remember that it’s not just about information, it’s about showing that you understand the issues and struggles women have faced. Build out content calendars that hit on pain points familiar to women as told by women.

If you don’t have your own stories and experiences to share within your organization, look to customers for testimonials or consider working with influencers. While there are a handful of famous/recognizable people who make a living as money education personalities, there are a number of services that represent micro-influencers who can help you create content and also amplify it.

3. Remember that you’re helping women build security – not wealth.

When women invest on their own through online trading platforms, they actually outperform male investors on average, according to Betterment, an automated investing service that examined the gender gap in investing. One reason is that they tend to do their research. The other is that they are much more focused on protecting what they already have.

This can partially be explained by the fact that women have had to work harder to earn the money in the first place. Women still earn only earn 82 cents to every dollar a man makes in a comparable job. They may also face the challenge of leaving and reentering the workforce to care for children which limits their opportunities for advancement and reduces their money-making years.

As women tend to adjust their careers more for family, they may also put the needs of the family more at the forefront. Often, there is a clearer link between money and what their family needs both in the short-term and long-term. That’s where a tool like goal-based planning plays a valuable role. However, when dealing with a couple, sometimes women may be reluctant to be vocal in the process. One thing you can do is get each spouse to rank the importance of each goal separately on a piece of paper so you can really get a sense of what goals they truly value. As any planner knows, the process of long-term planning is one of give and take. You want to make sure that you’re truly serving the needs of both of your clients.

This also means that you should try to use touchpoints for both people in the relationship. Get and use both email addresses for helpful information and account updates. Get and use both phone numbers for regular reach-outs. Send direct mail to both members of the household and consider catering the messaging around the different audiences. For instance, men be interested in content about interesting places to retire whereas women may be more interested in the rising cost of education.

It’s also important to remember this message of security in your marketing materials. Of course, you can’t guarantee returns, but you can speak to protecting what someone has earned and what investing is trying to achieve in terms of not just living comfortably into old age, but setting up future generations for success.

4. Gear rewards toward women.

When marketing rewards, you should remember, if women aren’t doing the buying, they heavily influence what is bought. According to various surveys, 74.9 percent of women say they do the primary shopping. 70 percent of women make all the travel decisions. 65 percent of women make new car purchase decisions. Women are increasingly the deciders.

They are also the researchers. Finding the deal is satisfying. 92 percent of women pass along information about deals or online recommendations to others. While your basic offer should be compelling, don’t be afraid to include bonuses or even tiered rewards based on spending. No one should forget the mistake JC Penney made by eliminating sales. Part of the fun is uncovering or unlocking new ways to get more for your money.

5. Let women shop for their advisor.

It wasn’t long ago that you would find information that said women prefer male financial advisors. Now it seems that is moving slightly in favor of female advisors. The real answer is women want a choice. Don’t direct them to someone. Don’t have them make the decision blindly. If you have a team of people, or even if it is just one person, make sure that you have a thorough bio on the website. What charities do you support? Do you have kids? Do you love dogs? Where did you grow up? What’s your philosophy on investing? Are you quirky or conservative? Think about making a thorough, honest profile where women can learn and build a connection before they even pick up the phone.

You can also go the route of creating a survey that lets the customer answer a few questions about themselves that could help narrow down the pool of choices for them. However you do it, also make sure that the process of changing advisors is non-confrontational. If the customer feels like they chose wrong, make it easy to request a new advisor. Be upfront that you welcome making changes any time. You don’t want them leaving your institution when they really just wanted to leave a particular advisor.

In summary, a one-size approach to marketing financial services will no longer work. Marketers need to be savvy and carve out a women-first strategy for content, for digital experiences and even for in-person communications. Remember for women, money is more than just a line on a spreadsheet – it means security, stability and independence – and marketing to women should reflect that. The more human you can make your financial products and services, the more relatable, approachable and accepting your institution becomes. Taking the extra time to develop targeted materials and communications plans can prove bountiful not only for your business but for the clients you serve.

Laurie Schneider is the Chief Operating Officer and Brian Harris is the Executive Creative Director at Bradley and Montgomery.