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Data-Driven Marketing Strategies to Support Community Engagement


Josh Wilson is a data-driven marketing executive for community focused financial institutions. He's currently VP of marketing for Whitefish Credit Union, the largest credit union in Montana. Josh is passionate about combining data-driven marketing strategies with authentic content to provide measurable success. Over his career, Josh has held positions in marketing, finance and government. He is also a graduate of West Virginia University's  Data Marketing Communications master’s program.

Cyndi Greenglass, a DMC faculty member, spoke with Josh regarding his experience as a graduate of WVU's Data Marketing Communications graduate program. Here's what he had to say as he was hosted on the  Reed College of Media's weekly Podcast.

PRO TIP: To further understand the DMC discipline, read our latest resource — A Guide to Data Marketing Communications!

Cyndi Greenglass: Many brands are nervous when you start opening up a community that they can’t control. They want not only to curate the content, but they want to moderate the conversation because they're anxious about it getting derailed. What is your opinion?

Josh Wilson: First off, you can't control the community's message. I think it's important to realize that for most marketing, the speed of which the message has been democratized — where everybody can speak to others, help form their opinions, create that community within themselves — has expanded. Social media has allowed for that. There's other even more niche platforms specifically for those communities where it really can get out of control. It's hard from a brand standpoint to say, "Hey, we have this great value proposition. We're going to go in there and this is the highest of the product, but the customer base is not seeing this, they're talking about the wrong things or the meaning is misconstrued." It can be incredibly frustrating. But, you still have to monitor that platform, listen to that social engagement side and respond to that, based on what the customer needs as opposed to dictating them.


CG: Tell me a little bit more about how data plays a role in the brand maintaining the community dialogue. Can you give us some more detail around that?

JW: It comes down to your user coming back. Digital platforms now allow for so much data collection and so much refinement in the way that makes it relevant.

For example, the MyFitnessPal app, which is an Under Armour sponsored product, is a community platform that helps you track calories so that you can lose weight and have goals. But they're all about data, connecting not only your social profiles but after you take pictures, putting it out there and having that dialogue within that own community to share success. They’re letting you communicate, but when the data comes back, and they're saying, "Okay, this person is really serious. We're showing that they have lost 10 pounds over the last eight weeks, and they're tracking their exercise, they've connected their Under Armour fitness tracking device. We have this really engaged customer. Let's send them an offer to be used on Under Armour products. "Congratulations on losing 10 pounds. Take $50 off of your next order of $200 or more at Click this link to apply."

So, you're using this data driven approach to see who are the most engaged people in your community, and you're tying it back to an incentive that feels like a success in an organic way versus just trying to spam your customers.

CG: Where does community engagement outside digital channels have a role?

JW: This is where it comes down to brand identity. With our credit union, we're trying to position ourselves in northwest Montana to be more of an outdoor brand. For us, positioning ourselves to say, "What community engagement events do we have that are getting people outdoors, that are being associated with the credit union and promoting that, specifically if people are most likely to engage and that can translate to many different things.” It could be home buying tours, it could be financial investment classes, auto buying classes.

How do you translate that to other smaller brands? You find those influencers that are within your network and you get them to engage in a way that's not always digital, but through events, through direct communications and referrals, other elements that naturally get them engaged with the brand.

CG: When I think of a financial institution, I don't generally think of community.

JW: I think there's some great examples from national brands that are really trying to engage and inspire. Capital One is a great example. They've been promoting Capital One Cafe's throughout southern California and other areas across the country. They put Peets Coffee and an espresso bar in there and they have a lounge where there is a free community room with WiFi. Is there staff to help out? Can you open an account there? Absolutely. But it’s a community space first.

You're going to start seeing more large institutions, not just banks, saying, "We have a problem about authenticity. How can we find a way to engage our customers, create a community feel when we're losing out to upstart apps, upstart websites, organic living, where it feels really authentic because the people behind it have a story that you know who they are.”

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Want to learn more from  Josh Wilson? Register today for  Integrate where Josh, a long with a great line up of speakers, will present on the most up to date marketing communications strategies and technologies. Experts in PR, data, healthcare, creative, digital and social media will converge in Morgantown for Integrate 2019.

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