Banking is one of the most conservative industries imaginable. The somber pinstripe suits of the finance world have traditionally been reluctant to engage consumers in non-traditional ways, usually sticking to tried and true advertising approaches that rarely make an impact.
Banking is also the last place you would expect to find a General Manager with a social media marketing agenda. Or is it?
Dutch banking giant Rabobank has been in Australia since 1990. In 2007 they launched RaboPlus as a new online banking service. RaboPlus operates exclusively online with no retail outlets or phone banking, with customers accessing and managing their accounts, and buying and selling managed funds, using the RaboPlus self-directed online platform.
Bryan Inch, GM of RaboPlus in Australia, has adopted a social media approach as part of the overall marketing and communications strategy for business. At this stage the strategy is built mainly around blogging from the RaboPlus corporate site and tailored newsletter, but it is encouraging to see the big end of town beginning to embrace a more open and conversational approach.
I recently interviewed Bryan for the Social Media Success Stories series. You can also read Interview 1 with Tim Jackson of Masi Bicyles here:
I am GM of RaboPlus, the DIY Online Banking and Managed Funds service from Rabobank
How long have you been there:
I’ve been at Rabobank for nearly 20 years mostly working in the rural side of the business. Since 2004 I’ve been working to set up new direct banks and have launched RaboPlus in both New Zealand and Australia. Now I’m responsible for managing the Australian RaboPlus business.
Tell us a little bit about RaboPlus:
In 2007, Rabobank Australia Ltd launched an online banking service in Australia called RaboPlus, offering for the first time in Australia, access to a single online platform combining high-interest savings, term deposits and online access to a selection of predominantly wholesale managed funds.
Who does RaboPlus target with their marketing?
RaboPlus is designed for internet and financially-savvy investors who are looking to manage their investments online to achieve greater long term effective returns through lower fees and high rates on their savings.
What was RaboPlus’s traditional marketing approach prior to the adoption of social media?
RaboPlus’s marketing approach has always incorporated social media. Our soft launch in June 2007 was to test the market and tell online investors about RaboPlus. We couldn’t do this with just traditional media, and so developed my blog page. Being a new player in an already cluttered market I wanted to make sure customers could ask me questions, and find out more about who we are. It was also an opportunity for them to tell me any of their gripes, and what they think we could do better.
What is your marketing approach now? Specifically, what social media do you pursue?
Our more recent formal launch was quite a traditional campaign in terms of media, however our creative was quite different and helped us get noticed in a very cluttered market. We felt we needed to use traditional and social media in order to launch our brand essence amongst all investors. Social media was incorporated by encouraging people to tell us about our campaign via my blog. My ‘campaign’ post has achieved the most responses of all my blogs, we even got our creative agency involved by posting a blog to help respond to all the feedback!.
Is there still traditional marketing in this mix?
Yes there is, but from our recent experience, we’ve learnt that it’s really important to integrate the traditional with the social marketing. It’s good to gain interest of your target audience, but by getting them to engage with you through social media makes the relationship so much more transparent and stronger.
What social media channels do you employ in marketing RaboPlus? Ie, blogs, VOD, Twitter etc:
Namely blogs, however we are looking at other avenues to help us generate online word of mouth and keep our communication engaging. Recently we have also added podcasts to our website to give our investors expert feedback on events as they occur, such as the May budget and the impact of the credit crunch on the global economy.
We also engage with our customers through our monthly online newsletter ‘Positive Interest’. This features a host of relevant investment articles and commentary from our investment expert Tim Hewson. Editor's note: Bryan also networks online at LinkedIn.
How has this impacted upon sales / business?
The blogs in particular have helped give RaboPlus a face to its customers. Without it, our clients wouldn’t be able to relate to our business as well. From the number of responses we’ve had we know this is working for us, and we’ve even seen that having a blog has encouraged people to put their investments with us rather than other banks. I guess they like to know that they can easily interact with RaboPlus.
Which social media channels do you believe have been the most effective?
Both our newsletter and blogs have been effective, I believe this is because people are able to engage with us through these mediums and feel as if they have an input into our business.
What other benefits have you noticed from your social media approach?
Namely that my blog makes us stand out from all other banks. I think our customers like our bold approach - it shows them that we are transparent and honest and we do listen to what they say.
What advice would you give to marketers looking to include social media in their mix?
Go for it! It’s a great way to engage with your customers on a regular basis. Be aware of what you are getting into, it is a very open, transparent and interactive forum. You need to be totally committed and recognise the value in all feedback, even if first it may appear negative.