What should 529s be doing with their efforts?

Written by Team SI on Monday, April 20, 2020


Written by Emma Willis

April is Financial Literacy Month, a time when Americans would normally be reminded of personal finance dictums such as, “Avoid debt. Debt eliminates personal freedom.” And, “Investing in your future is itself an act of financial literacy.”

This is no normal April. Americans are thinking about the present moment, their own safety, their loved ones and the shutdown of their communities. Strategic communicators might be forgiven for believing long-term investments such as state 529 plans are something most Americans are putting off.

Maybe not. Survey results suggest many Americans are making healthier decisions during the lockdown, and thinking about their financial future more.

It would be a mistake for 529 directors and marketing chiefs to go dark during Q2. State 529s are an encouraging financial product with a hopeful, healthy message. When crafting or adjusting your Q2 marketing plans, consider the following tips:

Build your brand voice — Americans are sensitive to how products and brands “speak” at this historic moment. Those that close up shop aren’t serving the public or themselves. Now is the time to craft messages for the American worker who might be very worried about their job and their employer, and at the same time, receptive to straight talk about healthy, smart financial planning.

Investments for the everyman — Soon enough, the economy will reopen, and we’ll see a rush to reconnect with staff and fill out payrolls. Many employers will reinvest in workforces. Many workers will reconsider their five-year, 10-year, and 20-year personal savings horizons. You have something for both!

Explore new channels — How do we stay connected, apart? Sites like Nextdoor and Houseparty do just that, and likely why Nextdoor, the social network for neighborhoods, is up 73%, while the sharing app Houseparty has climbed 79%. Google Duo, a group platform that allows people to log in to the same space to chat, play games and even watch TV, is up 12.4%.

… and old (legacy and local news) — According to SimilarWeb, readers are turning to long-established news media (major city newspapers, broadcast news programs) over partisan sites (Daily Kos, Breitbart, the Daily Caller) that, collectively, have dominated web traffic in recent years. Likewise, local newspapers have roundly seen interest in their coverage tick up, and viewers are tuning in to their local TV stations for segments about (and that may affect) their hometowns.

Favor Facebook — As a result of advertisers stopping their ad spends, we are seeing significant drops in Facebook CPMs and Display CPMs. Right now is a great time to use Facebook/Instagram ads to reach an audience very efficiently. Facebook's CPM have dropped more than 36% from their average from the last two years.

Webinars and video — Use media in more agile ways. Webinars and video chats are now a way just about every industry is staying in touch and in business. Consider building and promoting your own and advertising it. There were 7 million Zoom meetings in Q1, while Google Classroom has soared to more than 4 million in the same time period and Microsoft Teams has seen growth to more than 2 million.

Lean into data — Stay-at-home orders have accelerated the already breakneck digital transformation. This means we have more data to better understand the “buyer’s journey” and inform marketing decisions.

Desktops and TVs edging out smartphones — Websites are seeing increased traffic away from mobile apps and back to fixed-dimension screens. Trips to Facebook.com over larger devices like laptops and desktops is up 27%. Netflix is up 16% and YouTube 15.3%. This is a technical but critical trend for search engine marketers.

State 529 plans should treat this as an opportunity. These tax-free spending accounts are a win-win for employers and staff. It’s a clear investment in workforces that they can invest in.

“The key is in not spending time, but in investing in it,” said the business expert Stephen Covey. State 529 plans are investments in time. That’s the story I wish to share, and as a former 529 executive director I have a few leads on the right channels to connect with people where they are. I believe this time we’ve been given is the prime opportunity to focus on how we create the plan we’ve always wanted.

At MHP/Team SI, we have an entire team of marketing experts available to help guide your 529 plan down the right marketing path. For a free consultation email me at [email protected] or learn more here.

Let’s invest in future success.

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