The recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has been a jarring shift from the economic stability and bull market of the past decade. Yet many financial firms are continuing to find ways to connect with clients and serve their needs. 

In a recent webinar with the Financial Communications Society, Jaime Kalfus, head of Global Brand Development and Engagement at PGIM and Dana Caragine, senior marketing manager at Wilmington Trust, shared insights on how their respective companies are navigating the coronavirus-induced financial crisis.

Key Takeaways

  • Navigating moments of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic relies heavily on marketers’ ability to adapt their strategies to the current moment.
  • Seasoned marketers Jaime Kalfus and Dana Caragine both stress the importance of listening to client concerns and addressing their immediate needs through timely, engaging campaigns.
  • Digital outreach efforts like email campaigns and webinars are an effective way of executing these strategies and could offer cost savings compared to traditional media campaigns.

Why It’s Important to Pivot Quickly

Agile marketing is often touted as an important strategy for financial firms, and this has rarely been tested as much as in the present. With market volatility now an ongoing trend, being able to change messaging quickly has become more important than ever. “We came at this from a fortunate place in that our tagline has long been, ‘Understanding what’s important,’” says Caragine. With the quick onset of the pandemic, it became clear early on that what was important had changed. “We pivoted and went to a strategy of ‘be informed.’ Our top line didn’t change, but our allocations did—and we allocated a fair amount of money into the hands of local and regional teams so that they could support local causes and organizations.”

That type of pivot has also been an important strategy for the PGIM team. According to Kalfus, shifting the focus away from products and onto partnerships and service has helped PGIM offer their clients continued support during this time. “Those were the areas that we wanted to have people see. We felt that thought leadership and understanding who we are and why we would be a good partner at this time was an important message for us to put out, so we actually leaned into the moment and shared our perspective.”

How To Assess Your Media Mix

Pivoting your marketing strategy is a crucial part of navigating a financial crisis, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Taking a close look at the performance of your campaigns can also help you determine what’s working effectively—and what’s not. 

With new strategies in place, both the Wilmington Trust and PGIM teams have had to reassess their marketing mixes and to reallocate budgets to channels that have shown strong performance. “We didn’t change our absolute level of spend, but we did change the mix of how and where we spent it,” says Kalfus. “Webinars and third-party sponsored events are getting good attendance and so those are working hard for us.” Caragine agrees, explaining that both email and direct mail have seen great engagement over the past few months. “We saw an explosion in the open rate of our email, with some topics doubling and tripling,” she says, emphasizing that this was especially surprising since marketing experts feared that the market was becoming saturated with corporate emails. Leveraging client insights can be a great way to determine this mix, and to refine it as the markets shift.

The Bottom Line

As firms continue to navigate the challenges and opportunities of the current climate, remaining agile and flexible in the face of adversity could offer benefits for both marketers and investors.