This time last year, the term ‘marketing’ was pretty much redundant in the financial services market, as were a number of marketing professionals who found themselves on the wrong side of credit crunch cut-backs.
Whereas back then survival for brokers involved battening down the hatches and diversifying to keep income stream going, and for lenders, having a pot of money to lend and understanding bankers – we are now operating in a different climate.
The market is back on its feet, with new entrants and a renewed sense of competition, so how do you distinguish your brand amongst all the other companies shouting for business?
Clever use of marketing is how, according to well-known marketer, Jeff Knight, who founded marketing consultancy Tonic Marketing Solutions last year.
Speaking with Bridging and Commercial, he said that marketing is still ‘deeply misunderstood’, explaining: “Much of this is to do with companies thinking marketing is just about promotion. It isn’t. In today’s market, most companies can increase their profits by working smarter with their marketing efforts, rather than spending more money.
“People often ask for just one top tip, regarding marketing. This is simple: know your customer. And when I talk about the customer, for many financial services companies this is the broker. Understand their needs and motivations and everything else becomes much easier.”
However, Bridging and Commercial thought we’d give our readers more than one tip. So, below are the Dos and Don’ts of Marketing that Jeff has helped us devise in order to help financial services professionals navigate the new world of putting themselves out there:
Build your brand from within:
Your brand is everything you say and everything you do, and so it’s vital that all your staff know what your brand stands for – and that it can be described in no more than a few words! – Then ensure you deliver a clear and consistent message to the market, across your email marketing, advertising, website and PR.
Understand your target market:
One of the most important ones, the more you understand the needs of your market – in terms of what they want, why they want it and how they want it to be delivered – the easier and more profitable your market becomes.
The old saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is certainly true in terms of marketing. Your broker audience needs to be communicated with often, with engaging language and key ideas. It’s not about blasting them with every single bit of information you have; brokers want the bigger picture, with easy access to more detail if it’s needed. And as brokers receive thousands of advertising messages, yours needs to stand out.
Know how the market perceives you; it is often different to how you wish to be seen! Know what your core message is, which customers and products are most profitable and, crucially, what you’re trying to achieve.
Explore new ideas and approaches, apply some creativity – it’s the engine room of marketing; it drives every element of marketing, from product design through to application of data – and also make sure to look outside of financial services for inspiration.
Invest in your online presence:
In this digital age, your online presence is increasingly big part of your brand. Ensure your website is easy to navigate and looks good, you only have about four seconds to grab a user’s interest and if you don’t, they’ll soon land on a competitor’s site…
It’s not the same as hearing! Listen to your staff and customers, and keep tabs on customer complaints, you can always turn the situation around and make these people into advocates. If you see complaints rising, alarm bells should be sounding and your strategy may need a rethink.
Over promise and under deliver:
Never say that you can do what you can’t, this is especially pertinent in the financial services sector, where many lenders have been guilty of shouting out about their appetite to lend, before swiftly turning down even the tastiest of deal. This is the fastest way to lose clients, not to mention respect.
Don’t get hung up on the term B2B:
The whole business-to-business/broker pigeon hole has led to many companies missing opportunities, simply because they think certain elements of marketing are not relevant to them. The golden rule? Marketing is marketing and brokers are individuals as well as brokers!
Compete on price:
This isn’t sustainable in the long term. Price is easy to emulate, so find lots of other ways to be better than the competition, but in areas that add real value to the market.
Copy the competition:
If you do, you’ll only deliver their goals and not your own, and it’s easy to spot a mile off…
Cut back on marketing:
There are always ways to be cost effective and cut out the waste in business, but many firms make the mistake of cutting back on marketing, which can damage your business – it may not impact sales and profits immediately, but it will curb medium to longer term growth.
Bombard your audience:
Lastly, don’t swing too far in the other direction and annoy your target market. You don’t need to be in their faces every day, choose the right time to go out to them, hit them with useful and interesting information and you’ll never be made to feel like a pest.
For all your bridging finance needs, contact Masthaven on 020 7036 2000