If you're the CEO or CMO of a business in the financial services industry (such as an investment bank, a credit union or an insurance agency), you face a host of related challenges in 2018. Among these are strategically leveraging social media at a time when social media giants are under increased scrutiny, navigating a rapidly-shifting regulatory environment, the increasing prominence of fintech startups and the impact of emerging technologies like robotics and artificial intelligence.
Sound Marketing: The Linchpin of Your Success
Arguably, however, among the more consequential challenges you face is fashioning a sound marketing strategy, one which powerfully distinguishes your company from your major competitors and addresses the needs and concerns of your target audience. Doing so means many things, from generating high-quality leads to providing useful, relevant content that builds customer trust. It also means honing your company's brand identity.
Your Brand Is the Face You Hold Up to the World
Your brand encompasses many things, everything from your logo, color palette and tone of voice to the values your company embraces and communicates to your target audience. Effective branding is important for any business, but more so for those in the financial services sector. As Nielsen notes:
"There's no substitute for a strong brand reputation...That sentiment has special relevance for banks, as many customers around the world are feeling frustrated by their recent experiences. Whether because of hidden costs, hard-to-understand contract terms, a lack of customer service or awareness of instances of corruption around the industry, their confidence in their banks has been shaken. And as choice increases, customer perceptions about individual brands are becoming increasingly important for long-term success."
The Critical Importance of Brand Positioning
An effective branding strategy uses the several elements of your brand to tell prospective clients and customers who you are, what you value and the nature of the promise you make to those who buy your products or subscribe to your services. Brand positioning, on the other hand, articulates how your business is different from (and superior to) your major competitors—what you do better than they do and how the service you provide is more robust and responsive than theirs.
How to Position Your Financial Services Brand
The way a business positions its brand will vary from one industry to another and among discrete sectors within that industry. In other words, investment banks and credit unions won't necessarily apply a brand positioning strategy in precisely the same way. That said, there are key elements of brand positioning most businesses share. To create a sound brand positioning strategy for your business, ask yourself the following 5 questions:
1. Whose Opinion Am I Attempting to Influence?
It's important to zero in with some degree of precision on the market segment whose business you want (vis-à-vis your competition). For example, if your business is an investment bank, are you targeting clients who are new to investing or those with some experience? If you're the CMO of an insurance agency, what insurance products are you trying to sell? Into what age bracket do your target customers fall?
In other words, you need to think carefully about who you're trying to reach. You also need to gather the robust demographic and psychographic data about prospective customers which will assure that you're in fact reaching the people you intend to.
2. Who Am I Competing Against?
This is where guessing and speculation need to go out the window. You need to perform scrupulous research to determine what other companies are in the market for the audience you're targeting. The fact that you and they offer similar products and services doesn't necessary mean that you're in direct (as opposed to "indirect" or "alternative") competition with one another.
There are several ways you can determine with some precision who your competition is for a given product or service. For example, you can monitor other businesses on social media sites. You can also use online tools to help. Google Trends, for example, will help you determine what businesses users are searching on particular topics.
3. What Are My Target Customers Looking For?
Your brand position within your industry is a function of what prospective customers want and need. For example, if they're interested in investing, what kinds of investments are they planning to make? Are those areas of strength or weakness for your business compared to the competition? You can't demonstrate superior service to a segment of your target market if you don't first determine prospective customers' needs, wants, problems and questions.
4. How Do Prospective Customers View Me, and My Competition?
Effective brand positioning means many things, not the least of which is the ability to listen. Remember that your brand isn't how you view your business—it's how your target market views your business. You need to take a deep dive into what prospective customers are saying about you (and your competition) on social media sites, to your customer service representatives and in online reviews. In what ways do they see you as better than the competition, and, equally important, in what areas does your business fall short?
5. Is My Brand Position Moving Up or Down?
Brand positioning isn't a one-and-done exercise—it's an ongoing process, one which begins with the establishment of measurable goals and grows stronger through effective measurement of results. How over time are customers and clients rating your business as compared with each of your major competitors? Are you achieving your primary marketing objectives, or is your marketing strategy stalling? Are your brand positioning efforts yielding demonstrable results?
The answer will likely be that some things are working, while others could use a tweak. You won't know that, however, if you don't have in place a process to measure your effectiveness, and another that uses results to ensure continual improvement of your efforts.
A sound brand positioning strategy can reap substantial rewards for your business, but creating one can also be a significant challenge, particularly if you're relatively new to the process. Fortunately, there are competent marketing agencies with specific experience in helping financial services businesses achieve their principal marketing goals.
To learn more about the ways our marketing, consulting and research services can help you create a winning brand positioning strategy for your financial services business, one which drives sales and helps you grow, contact us today.