In the financial services business, some would argue that standing out from the crowd is impossible. After all, isn’t this a bit of a commodity business, especially when it comes to the banking side of the business? Regulations are high and cumbersome. Products are limited, and everyone seems to offer them all. What you charge and what you return have very little room for differentiation if you want to actually make money and not be perceived as predatory.
In other words, the range and variety of products to differentiate are limited.
Service level differentiation is also limited. In fact, I would argue that good service — in person, online and on the phone — is a basic expectation. This includes an easy-to-use website on all digital platforms.
So, does all this mean marketing is meaningless? No, it means that marketing is essential. It just needs to fall into two very important categories:
- Where do you want to be on the Emotional/Aspirational scale?
- How well do you execute the Target-Engage-Track dynamic?
The brand personality of a bank or financial institution must find its place on the scale that I would describe as generic — the usual well-dressed people in business and pleasure settings taken right from the stock photo service, to the aspirational — well-crafted emotional images that bring to mind life experiences, passions and personalities of people in your targeted customer group. The further along the scale you go, the fewer people that might relate to the images, but the more likely those who do relate to them will respond. It is just an example of appeal to the masses (and being less unique), or appeal to a smaller, but more focused, group.
The second dynamic of financial institution marketing is how well, and how much, you are willing to invest in targeting customers. Questions like the following must be asked to effectively target:
- Where do your customers congregate? Find out and be there.
- What do your customers support? Support it, too.
- What do your customers like to do? Make it easier for them to do it.
The answer to these questions can lead to sponsorships, partnerships and engagement with people who are most likely to be new customers. The good news is that targeted engagement is measurable and trackable. The bad news is, it is hard work that requires a level of expertise that only the best and most experienced marketers possess.
In conclusion financial services marketing is essential in today’s marketplace. Stand out, target, engage and track. Don’t just be one more pretty picture in the magazine.
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