Having worked across diverse industries and categories, I am convinced that the core marketing principles are completely portable across industries and mediums. The attempt of this article is to magnify some select principles which are more pertinent considering the dynamics and the current context of the Financial Services category.
Continuously build corporate brand: Unlike multi-brand companies, financial institutions preface the name of their products and services with the name of their mother brand. Therefore, the success of each product is strongly linked to the power and relevance of the mother brand. In such a scenario, financial services marketers should ensure that they position their products in a manner which strengthens the mother brand without diluting the individuality of the specific product proposition.
Outsmart, not outspend: Brands compete for attention not just within the category, but also with brands in other categories. The advertising spends of a telecom, FMCG or consumer durable brand are much higher than a financial brand with similar revenues. This makes it important for financial brands to focus on spending advertising dollars more judiciously and identify ways to create an impact that is much larger than the actual spend.
Embrace digital world: The digital space is one where financial services brands have a distinct advantage over other brand categories, as they have been leveraging this channel extensively to deliver transactional convenience and product information to their clients. However, it will be limiting for financial marketers to view digital only as a transactional channel and not as an extension of the real world. There is tremendous opportunity to engage clients across a variety of digital platforms not only to acquire new clients but also to strengthen loyalty. This will require a deeper understanding of the digital lives of the brand’s consumers and adaptation of ‘attention-seeking’ offline messaging to be more ‘conversational’ online messaging.
Move from product marketing to relationship marketing: Most financial services brands enter the market to gain a foothold for a specific product in a specific category. Over time, when these institutions grow into a multi-category service provider, they start using multiple and often overlapping channels of communication to market to the same client. This is not only inefficient, but ends up leaving a poor brand impression. Relationship marketing, however, works on a fundamentally different principle, wherein each organisation engages with the client from a holistic point of view and not just from a product point of view. The front end sales process is much more consultative and product agnostic, leading to the right product being marketed to the right client with little channel overlap.
Leverage data to drive loyalty: Prospective clients who are credit-worthy and have reasonable affluence are targeted aggressively by all leading financial brands. That makes the cost of acquiring new clients around five times more than the cost of retaining existing clients. However, most brands still spend considerably more time in acquiring new clients than in retaining existing clients. The latter requires marketers to leverage data driven analytical predictive models, which are able to recommend the right products to be up-sold to a client and also predict the probability of a client to attrite based on transaction triggers. Data driven marketing will ensure that we are able to systematically build the loyalty of our clients over time.
Be committed to clarity: Financial products tend to be governed by a plethora of external regulations and complex policies. Many financial brands/ products do not translate these regulations into simple consumer language. Some financial services marketers also believe that clients associate complexity with product sophistication. Reality, however, is that clients tend to get intimidated by complex language. Leadings brands are committed to simplicity and transparency.
Protect trust: Lastly, but most importantly, financial services marketers need to appreciate that trust deficit is the biggest challenge as consumers in many markets still hold financial brands responsible for the recession or slowdown in their markets. It’s important for brand communication to be grounded and any lofty promises will be viewed with a lot of scepticism. Secondly, it is important that the sales/ marketing process be more consultative and gives clients a sense of joint ownership with regard to the financial decisions being taken to meet their financial goals.
(Sanjeev Kapur, Chief Marketing Officer, Citi India.)