The role of marketers in successful Digital Transformation

In November 2017, I gave a keynote speech on innovation to the Digital Marketing for Financial Services Summit in New York City.

I share the substantive content components of the speech with you here.

46% of Americans have chosen to deal with their financial institution solely via digital means. They have made the conscious decision that a personal one-to-one relationship at their bank, insurer, asset manager, etc. is no longer necessary or desirable for them to have meaningful relationships with their financial institution.

Moreover, this 46% is not made up of one demographic. Rather it represents a cultural and societal shift across demographics and spans from millenals to baby-boomers. We are calling this group of people the ‘omni-digital’ consumer.

So how have marketers had to react to such a large group of people who no longer want to bank traditionally? Their role has changed considerably.

Back when I was 13 years old…many many years ago, marketers had very different roles, they were largely responsible for about 10 things and primarily there role was managing the relationship with their advertising agency. Marketing was about brand and eyeballs. Today, a great marketer has to do and know so much more.

They have to be highly analytical, technologists, metric and roi driven, and make decisions from the ‘brain’ (whereas they used to be made from the ‘gut’). They are responsible for more than just driving brand and impressions, they are responsible for generating real business, including customer acquisition, existing customer growth, customer retention & loyalty, and great marketers are also driving significant customer advocacy (turning their customers into their marketing department). Great marketers are top and bottom line focused and they are driving real results for their organizations.

This massive change in role & responsibilities has lead to a massive change in how a CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) views their involvement with the rest of the organization. While they have always needed to be outward focused (looking at the marketplace, customer trends and behavior), the now also must ALSO be in inward focused, and ensure the customers receive an amazing customer experience; an experience that makes them grow, loyal, and become advocates for the organization.

Great marketers are using digital in brand new ways to transform financial services into a great place for customers.

There are three key ways of doing business that great marketers have adopted.

First, Great Marketers are reimagining how business should be done with a singular focus on creating customer intimacy. They are doing so within the constraints of regulations, and yet they are overcoming old ways of thinking to still provide amazing client experiences.

Second, they are starting to recognize that their greatest strengths, and differentiators are what’s within their organization and as such, they are starting to think about the inside of the organization and how to leverage those strengths.

Most organizations have tremendous amounts of customer data, and when appended with 3rd party data, including social media data, and then applied to statistical modelling, AI (Artificial Intelligence), and Machine Learning these organizations are starting to be able to create incredibly deep customer models that enable them to not only provide relevant 1-to-1 marketing offers, but also relevant 1–to-1 customer experiences, and when personalized customer experiences can be delivered the level of customer intimacy and loyalty goes through the roof.

Additionally, most traditional financial services companies have amazing strength in product manufacturing and advisory capabilities, making it possible to beat Fintech startups that know how to deliver amazing customer experiences but cannot deliver amazing solutions or advice.

Third, great marketers are recognizing the need to bring amazing Experiences (X) together with amazing Operations (O). It is the ‘AND’ or “+” sign that is most important in this equation. For too long marketers have spent time and dollars on providing flashy X, without any real substantive improvement in the O, and it is the O that keeps customers loyal, and turns them into advocates. Frankly, marketers have to stop ‘putting lipstick on a pig’ and start working with the rest of the organization (COO, CTO, CFO) to ‘fix the pig’.

Financial Institutions that get X +O correct, will be unbeatable, and it is the marketer who can speak to the ‘voice of the customer’ better than anyone else, and as such, be the leader in prioritizing what gets fixed when.

Lastly, all three ways of doing business must be combined with the recognition that Digital Transformation is not only about Technology, it is about People. More specifically, it is about empowering people; in a massive shift from leveraging people as ‘Process Handlers’ to empowering people to be ‘Relationship Leaders’. This involves massive culture change (which is actually highly doable through many simple tactics — reach out to me if you want to discuss more) to turn your staff into decision makers, leaders, and relationship oriented.

Where does this start? It starts with ‘You’’; the marketer. The marketer has to build bridges across the organization, be a vocal advocate as the ‘voice of the customer’ and prioritize initiatives that can have a noticeable, and meaningful customer impact, quickly.

There should be no such thing as Foundational projects, not when you are trying to build support and help change the attitudes within your organization.

There should be no such thing as extended, long-term projects. Don’t ‘eat the elephant in one bite’; small, bite-sized projects that can add real value to your organization will start to the turn the tide in your favour and get you seen, viewed, and thought-of, as the Digital Transformation leader in your organization.


In my speech I gave case studies and stories to support each of the three key items. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, or any other topic I have written about, please do not hesitate to contact me at

About the Author

Lawrence Tepperman is the Founder and Managing Director of K2 Digital, a leading digital transformation services and solutions firm. He has more than 20 years of experience building companies through marketing, software solutions, and management consulting. He founded K2 Digital in 2012 in order to help companies realize the tremendous benefits of digital transformation before they are disrupted.