1. Analyse the industry landscape

The foundation of any great marketing campaign is a well-researched strategy.

The foundation of any great marketing campaign is a well-researched strategy.  A great strategy needs to guide all marketing for financial services and decision making to create an effective campaign. The best place to start forming your strategy is through exploring the market you’re operating within. To ensure your research is thorough, we’d advise breaking your market research down into four sectors: business analysis, audience analysis, competitor analysis and broader market analysis.

Business analysis

Before you turn your critical eye towards the market and your competitors, it’s important to examine and understand your own business. This probably feels like an odd thing to do. “I know my business”, you may cry – and that is true! Nobody knows a business better than its director and employees. However, there are a sizable amount of financial service firms out there that lack the basic foundations of brand. This will make marketing the firm difficult as you progress. So, it’s best to ensure you’ve covered your bases to achieve the best results possible. Consider the following when analysing your financial services firm:

  • The Why – The importance of your businesses’ ‘why’, or your business’ ‘purpose’, was popularised by Simon Snek’s revolutionary novel ‘Start With Why.’ Why does your firm exist? What purpose does it serve? Why should your clients care? These answers should be the bedrock of your company. 
  • Values – Similar to your ‘Why’, your values should be deeply implemented across your company. Every employee should know what they are and how they affect the work your company does. Have you clearly defined your values? Is it documented how you’ll embed them into every process your company performs? 
  • SWOT – A basic but incredibly insightful part of the research process is your own SWOT analysis. Sitting down and truly considering what your company does best and where it can improve will positively drive decision making. Noting any opportunities in the market and potential threats can also lead to smarter, more considered choices. 
  • Goals – It’s vital to have a clearly defined set of goals that your company is always striving for. Whether they’re set quarterly, yearly, or you’ve got a longer-term time-frame in mind, having clearly defined goals makes all the difference. What are your firm’s short term goals? What about long term goals?

Audience Analysis

The next thing to consider when constructing your strategy is your audience. After all, a mistargeted marketing campaign is bound to fail, no matter how high its quality. Any decent marketing campaign should be created with the goal to engage your current audience and expand it to generate leads. That means you’ll need an in-depth understanding of your audience, where they reside, what they respond to and what their specific needs are. It’s essential to ensure that everything is relevant to your audience and is meeting their needs. 

It’s key to develop relationships within your audience. Nobody wants to feel like they’re being sold to. By understanding who your audience is, what they like and how to connect with them, you’ll be able to more easily foster that feeling of friendship and trust. The better the connection, the higher the retention rates will be. Some things to consider when analysing your audience are: 

  • Who – Who makes up your audience? What kind of people are they? What are their hobbies? Likes? Dislikes? 
  • What – What’s the occupation of your audience members? Are they CEOs? Middle management? Account teams?
  • Why – There are so many financial service firms out there. Why should your audience care about yours? Why are they going to choose you? 
  • Where – Different kinds of people occupy different platforms. Do they frequent LinkedIn? Or are they busy scrolling through Twitter? How about Instagram? What’s the best way to connect with them?

Competitor Analysis

Now that you understand your own business inside and out, it’s time to examine the competition. To overcome your competitors, you first need to understand them and their positioning. 

You first need to identify your major competitors. This could be other financial services that target the same audience or niche. By examining their products, services, sales and marketing strategies, you’re better able to position yourself and build upon those strategies. There are no points for originality in this game. If a competitor is doing something well, take it and improve upon it. At the same time, it’s important to discover your competitor’s shortcomings. It’s best to avoid any obvious weaknesses and pitfalls by watching carefully and avoiding those mistakes. 

A good competitor analysis should provide you with a clear picture of the market and provide insight into where your financial service firm should position itself. You don’t want to occupy the same space. Quite the opposite. If you see your competitor positioning themselves in one way, go the other!  A great place for insight is your competitor’s customer reviews. They’ll be full of insights into what they’re doing right, and what they’re doing very wrong. There’s no better source than the customers themselves. Consider how you might take advantage of opportunities and how you can edit your services to meet client’s needs. 

Broader Market Analysis

You’ve taken a look at yourself and the other firms in your industry, but what about the industry itself? A broader market analysis is essential to making informed business decisions and avoiding being caught out. Remaining vigilant when it comes to trends and changes in the financial sector will help your firm benefit from opportunities and prepare for any threats. These trends generally fall under six categories: political, economic, social, technological, legal, environmental. Otherwise known as a PESTLE analysis. 

Let’s take a look at an example. For the financial industry, a technological trend that affects the market is the rise of smartphones. Once, you’d have to visit your local bank to make any changes to a financial account. But now, you can make any changes necessary all within your banking app (within reason.). Technology has entirely changed how consumers handle their funds. Any good broader market analysis considers these changes and anticipates them so the business can make the necessary adjustments.

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2. Building a strong brand

B2B customers are increasingly concerned with who they’re doing business with, as opposed to purely caring about the product or service they’re providing.

Core Competencies

Too often, B2B marketing is disregarded as being purely logical and fact-driven. It’s like when we all get to work, our emotions shut down and we become Work-O-Tron 2000s. That is, of course, complete nonsense. We’re always consumers. Even when we’re behind our desks. B2B customers are increasingly concerned with who they’re doing business with, as opposed to purely caring about the product or service they’re providing. Emotions play a huge role in our decision making (again, we’re not robots!) 

So, it’s important to focus your attention on your values, culture and storytelling to create a big impact within the overly crowded, often impassive financial industry. An emphasis on culture will foster a warmer environment and encourage stronger, more meaningful relationships with clients. There are thousands of financial service firms out there, and your core competencies will be why you’re chosen over the rest. 

If conducted correctly, your market analysis should be able to help you define your core competencies. You can identify your core competencies by asking these questions:

  • What does your business do better than anyone else? What’s your biggest strength?
  • What matters most to your audience?
  • What niche is there in the marketplace? Are there any positions being neglected by your competitors?

By properly utilising your core competencies, you can position yourself strategically and ensure your business stands out from a sea of competitors. Traditionally, it would be enough to just have one core competency. Thanks to the overwhelming saturation of the market, that’s not enough anymore. You’ll ideally need two to three core competencies to really push you above the rest. 

Brand Identity

When someone says ‘brand’, this is what most people will think of. Brand identity spans so far past the basics of a logo, though. It’s so nebulous, in fact, that it’s famously been broken down into four sections by organisational theorist David Aaker: brand as product, person, organisation and symbol. 

Brand as a product is breaking down how your brand provides benefits to your clients. These can be broken down into emotional, rational and self-expressive benefits. For example, an emotional benefit might be that your firm has a particularly approachable and amiable tone, therefore making the whole process less intimidating. A rational benefit could be flexible working hours. If a firm works to a client’s schedule (especially if a firm is working with international clients), it’s always beneficial and more convenient to the customer. And a self-expressive belief could be that someone is smart and forward-thinking if they preemptively use your firm’s services.

Brand as a person personifies the brand through a public figure. If your financial service firm was entirely embodied through one person, what would they be like? How would they act? What would their hobbies be? How would they dress? There’s no better way to humanise your brand than to consider how it might act as a genuine human. Defining your brand in this way allows you to better connect with your audience and provides a consistent tone across the organisation. 

Brand as an organisation outlines how your business implements its brand values. Obviously, the first step is to define those brand values. These should be the attributes you think are most seminal to your organisation and its mission. It could be anything from acting charitably to always thinking laterally and creatively. It’s then imperative to imbed these values into your organisation – otherwise, they’re just a collection of nice statements on your website and nothing more. Put in place mechanisms for embedding your values into your recruitment/onboarding process, day-to-day operations and performance/salary reviews to ensure you see real change. 

Brand as a symbol is what most typically associate with brand. For good reason, too. It encompasses a huge range of aspects. From typeface to iconography, your organisation’s visual identity projects all kinds of messaging to potential customers, so it’s important to get it right. Every aspect of ‘brand as a symbol’ should be driven by the above to ensure everything has reasoning and falls in line with your brand’s core identity. At this stage, you should establish your brand’s colour palette, logo and iconography, typeface and imagery. 

Value Proposition

Once the core foundations of brand have been established, you’re then ready to consider your financial service firm’s value proposition. In such a crowded market, it’s vital that you provide your customers with a reason to do business with you instead of your competitors. 

You should establish the key benefits of your brand in three sections: emotional, rational and self-expressive. The emotional benefits are the, well, emotional reason that someone should do business with you. This could be because your firm is particularly friendly or uses accessible language meaning interacting with your firm is simple and stress-free. The rational benefits are the fact-driven, left-brained reasons to work with your firm. This could be your flexible hours or a financial saving. Your self-expressive benefits define what working with your firm means about the customer. If your firm is especially creative and lateral, a customer could consider themselves unafraid of change and forward-thinking as a result.

To enhance your value proposition, you need to build credibility to support it. A customer won’t just take your word and trust you with their finances without any credibility. You could display your firm’s credentials, post reviews from happy clients or dedicate a section of your site to prominent case studies. 

Positioning

The final and most important step of brand is your firm’s position in the market. This can essentially be broken down into what you do and who you do it for. The ‘what you do’ aspect of positioning should be already specified by your core competencies. All that’s left is to define ‘who you do it for.’ It’s useful to look back at your competitor analysis at this point. Where have your competitors positioned themselves? Is there an area of the market they’re neglecting? That’s your golden ticket. Your brand positioning doesn’t only reinforce your core competencies, but it also gives your firm a competitive advantage and provides even more focus and direction to your strategy.

3. Crafting content that connects

The ultimate goal of any content is to connect with your target audience and form a loyal community that can then be converted into leads.”

Content Strategy 

Edd Southerden, head of planning at Bray Leino, said “I worry that marketing is becoming a glorified arm of the sales team… too focused on short-term outcomes… obsessed with statistics the finance people can understand. That’s not where the value is.” And we completely agree. There’s an all too common misconception about B2B content marketing that suggests we become different people when we get into work. We’re suddenly unemotional and respond only to facts and figures. That nonsense is the reason an overwhelming amount of B2B marketing is lacklustre and ineffective. We’re still human beings, driven by emotion and impulse, when we’re at work. 

The ultimate goal of any content is to connect with your firm’s target audience and form a loyal community around it that can then be converted into leads. To do that, you’ll need more than just a blog tacked onto your firm’s site. Every firm has one. You won’t stand out by adding another aimless article to the mix. No, what you need is a big idea to radically transform the landscape – and to do that, you need a clear, strong content strategy from that start.

To start, we’d recommend referring back to your customer research and ensure you understand them inside out. Who are they? What are their interests? Where do they reside? You must have a crystal clear understanding of who you’re communicating to and what’s most important to them. It’s vital to cover these basics. You could be creating the best content in the world, but if it’s targeted at the wrong audience, it won’t have any effect at all. Provide value to your target audience with your content and you’ll soon see the engagement flooding in. 

Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. What would you want to see? What would be helpful? What would be entertaining? What would enrich you? Try to come up with 3-5 content pillars that cover these areas. By laying out these core topics, they’ll guide every piece of content you create and ensure it’s always relevant. For a financial services firm, content pillars could be anything from topical advice for SMEs to comments on industry trends. Once you have established your pillars, you can begin creating content that fits into each; this can include anything from whitepapers and blog posts to podcasts and explainer videos. 

Channel Distribution

Remember how we just spoke about ensuring you make content that’s relevant to your target audience? ‘You could be creating the best content in the world, but if it’s targeted at the wrong audience, it won’t have any effect at all.’ The same goes for content distribution! We think this quote from Jonathan Perelman, VP of Agency Strategy and Industry Development at BuzzFeed, sums it up perfectly: “Content is king, but distribution is queen. And she wears the pants.” Distribution is so important because you need to ensure your audience actually sees your content. 

You need to go where your audience is. That means returning back to your audience analysis and defining which platform (or platforms) would be most effective. If you’re targeting several different groups, then it’s sensible to segment up your audience and be specific about the channels you use. If you’re looking for C-Suite professionals, post to LinkedIn. If you’re after small business owners, tackle Facebook or Instagram. The three things to ask are: Who do you want to reach? What are you trying to achieve? And when is best to publish? Take all of that into consideration and you’re good to go.

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4. A home base for potential and returning customers

Your website is one of the few channels you genuinely own.”

UX

Your firm’s own website should take precedence over all else. Unlike other channels, your website is one of the few channels you genuinely own. It’s likely the first contact potential customers will have with your business and a touchpoint for any returning customers. Creating a good first, second, third impression through great UX is essential. Your site should be easy to navigate, attractive, cohesive and provides heaps of valuable information. With clear calls to action and tonnes of free, helpful content, your website should be created with every user experience in mind. Discover more about crafting great UX with our ultimate guide to User Experience here.

SEO

Over 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine. That’s a lot of potential customers surfing around the web, hovering their cursor over your competitors because they rank higher than you do. It’s the same as content distribution. It’s all well and good making a great site, but if nobody ever visits it, what’s the point? 

SEO (search engine optimisation) is the process of optimising your website to improve its ranking on the SERP (search engine result page) to help drive organic traffic to your site. Organic traffic is users that organically come across your site through search engines. SEO consists of three separate aspects: On-page optimisation, off-page optimisation and technical optimisation. On-page covers things like keyword density, internal linking and original page content. Off-page includes backlinking, domain authority and your social presence. Finally, technical SEO covers your site structure, loading speeds and indexability. If your firm needs a firmer focus on SEO, take a look at our in-depth ultimate guide for more information and advice.

Data Capture

Terms and conditions are everywhere. Every social media site has its own lengthy set of rules that every brand has to abide by. It makes data capture difficult if it comes with hoops and red tape. With your own website, you own the platform. A data capture strategy sets out how you collect and manage information about your customers, clients and prospects. You can capture emails through downloadables or interactive content. You could have an enquiry form. You could host webinars. There’s a range of ways to collect customer data. So long as you’re providing valuable content, they’ll be happy they gave you their info.

5. Engaging with your audience

Social media is a community effort, everyone is an asset.”

Starting fresh on social media can feel like a daunting prospect. Having zero followers in such a crowded market feels like an uphill battle. Every like, comment and follow has to be earned. Susan Cooper of Buzz Edition sums this feeling up well: “Engage, Enlighten, Encourage […] Social media is a community effort, everyone is an asset.” Without a community around your firm, you’ll be posting to a void. 

Like we’ve said before, it’s so important to provide value with your content. Whether it’s an interesting fact, an insightful piece of advice or even just a joke to make your audience smile, make sure you’re delivering something impactful. It’s also a great idea to encourage engagement by inviting conversation and replying to comments. Some examples of content for a financial services firm might include helpful infographics to explain more complex financial concepts, sharing quotes from insightful blog posts or promoting company culture to invite a closer audience relationship with your firm.

6. Creating impactful emails that convert

There’s no other channel that will produce such a high ROI.”

A staggering 293.6 billion emails were sent and received each day in 2019. In 2021, that number has only increased. That’s a lot of inboxes full of unread, unwanted junk. It can be difficult to grab your audience’s attention in such a crowded inbox. Difficult, but definitely worth it. For every $1 you spend on emails marketing, you can expect an average return of $42. There’s no other channel that will produce such a high ROI. Your email list, like your website, is also a channel that you entirely own. It’s your most precious resource. 

Before you even start writing any emails, there are a few important things to consider. First impressions count and that means choosing the right address. Keep it relevant and professional to ensure there’s no confusion over who’s doing the sending. You also need to have everything optimised for mobile. Almost 50% of emails are now being opened using a mobile device. If your emails aren’t mobile-friendly, that’s a huge amount of potential customers lost.

There are several aspects to creating an engaging email. You’ve only got your subject line and opening few words to really sell the email’s content before it’s discarded. Then, once you’ve managed to get someone to open it up, you need your copy and CTAs to be engaging enough to convert. For specific tips on crafting the perfect email, check out the Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing.

7. Maximising the effectiveness of your campaign

To get the most out of your marketing strategy, your financial services firm needs to firmly understand how your efforts have performed.”

To get the most out of your marketing strategy, your financial services firm needs to firmly understand how your efforts have performed. Did it go better than you could have ever imagined? Or were you slightly let down by the results? Finding how why your strategy has been successful, or hasn’t been, is vital to guiding decision making. If you’ve been successful, you can replicate the results and look to improve upon them. If the results have been lacking, you can pivot your strategy and try something new. No matter the outcome, performance analysis is a vital part of marketing. 

It’s important to set these goals up ahead of time so the entire team can be clear about what objectives they want to achieve. It’s best to start by defining your ‘North Star’, which as the name suggests, is your guiding light. Like you’re a wise man following your star to your objective! Your North Star should be the thing that is most representative of success for your financial service firm. This is what will provide direction to all of your strategic decision making and should consider the following:

  • Does it represent the value that your clients are receiving from your services?
  • Does it indicate present and future revenue?
  • Is it aligned with your core values and purpose?

Once you have clearly defined your North Star metric, you can begin devising SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) goals to provide structure to your strategy and make the achievement of your business objectives more realistic. To track your progress towards achieving these goals, you’ll have to develop a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) that are specific to each goal. And the fun doesn’t end there! Taking things a step further, you’ll then need to set targets for each KPI. For example, for click-through rate, your target could be 2.5% for search ads. 

When it comes to KPIs, it’s easy to get caught up by vanity metrics or obsess over data that has no real significance to the achievement of your goals. Thus, to ensure your firm is tracking only the most relevant metrics, you have to devise your KPIs with your short and long-term goals in mind. For a more in-depth look at KPIs and the reporting process, check out our Ultimate Guide to KPIs and Reporting here.

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