Your product won’t push your growth, your brand will

A valuable brand is way more important today than in the past, mainly because of a crowded marketplace that bombards consumers with products and information. How do buyers differentiate and choose? Mostly by trust and branding.

The best branding today is based on a strong idea and an impeccable customer experience. The best brands have remarkable creativity in advertising to help them break through people’s wall of indifference to create brand heat and product lust.

No branding, no differentiation. No differentiation, no long-term profitability. People don’t have relationships with products, they are loyal to brands. In a movement strategy, brands have a purpose that people can get behind. Brands can inspire millions of people to join a community. Brands can rally people for or against something. Products are one dimensional in a social media-enabled world, brands are Russian dolls, with many layers and beliefs that can create great followings of people who find them relevant. Brands can activate a passionate group of people to do something like changing the world. Products can’t really do that.

In today’s world, branding is more important than ever. But you can’t simply build a brand like they did in the old days. You need a cultural movement strategy to achieve kinetic growth for your brand. With that, the sky’s the limit.

I have long advised financial services companies that if you don’t control your messaging somebody else will and your potential customers will form impressions of you shaped by somebody else or by nobody at all.

But this process doesn’t have to be complicated. Just establish your key values and communicate them often and simply. Each time you do, you are building your brand.


Be real – authenticity goes a long way

Today’s financial services companies need to stop selling and start engaging on customers’ terms. Presenting yourself as “a 360 planner” without disclosing your interests in the products you are selling will not cut it anymore.

Hence, we have been working to drive our clients to authenticity — meaning real, genuine, of verifiable origin. Traits that are simply at odds with the perception of the role of marketing.

Can financial services firms make an authentic consumer connection?

Don’t say you are authentic — be authentic. “Straight-talking” and “plugged-in” are both better word choices to personify your brand. Your communication, the way you present your product and your client’s experience should be sufficiently simple to drive differentiation in a way that will foster a real client connection, which will drive business growth through referrals.

Embrace content marketing as a core communications strategy: The value in having real people advocate for brands by inspiring, informing and entertaining audiences across social, content and video is real. Serving up the content your audience wants on their terms and in their language from people they trust works well.

Finally, knowing and communicating your organization’s values gives you a solid base to build your business around. It will give your customers something to rally behind, not just a product to buy.



The marketing traits of highly successful financial services firms
For boutique financial services, stand-alone marketing is counterproductive

By Alejandra Slatapolsky
Slata Financial Marketing

Financial institutions have been selling to customers the same way they did half a century ago. This is especially true of boutique asset managers, family offices and wealth management firms that target ultra high-net-worth clientele. However, it’s no news that consumers, including older generations, have different views of how they should be served by their bankers. Consider, for example, that one-quarter of U.S. adults who go online would consider banking with a firm with no physical branches, according to Forrester research.

I used to head the marketing and communications department of a burgeoning boutique investment bank. In several opportunities, we overheard our competitors trumping their services in comparison to ours and wondering out loud why our name was more recognized in the target markets than theirs, when their offering was truly superior. Perhaps the answer was that their marketing and sales processes needed to be updated to compete in a commoditized market. In a world where almost any firm can offer access to the world’s markets, the boutique offering had to become much more than just access or advisory.

Consumers have long stopped responding to in-your-face marketing. Recommendations from friends and trusted peers, word-of-mouth and online reviews are factors that hold maximum sway over their buying decisions. People want fast, efficient, personalized help when they’re making a purchasing decision. Not surprisingly, long sales pitches and marketing brochures with less quality stuff just don’t cut it anymore.

The firms that excel at marketing and gaining and keeping loyal clients have six key traits that we can all learn from.

They believe a great brand breeds from within

It is very common to find private bankers or brokers that come and go from one firm to the other with their book of clients. These types of team members may bring in some much-needed short-term inflow of business, but they are not contributing to their firm’s long-term brand building.

This is the reason why internal communications for boutique, specialized financial services firms has a whole new meaning when most of the interactions with prospects are in person.

Firms that succeed in building a trusted, lasting brand in the eyes of their clients have dedicated as much effort to their internal communications as they do to their external communications. Getting authentic buy-in from their team means that all the messages coming from the organization will fall in line with one consistent brand story, that will be built one team member, one interaction at a time.

They integrate marketing into their processes.
The marketing department should not be an isolated team sending out invitations to the next event. Marketing efforts are part of a business’s everyday operational flow.

A great marketing flow includes a thorough examination of all the touch points along the customer’s journey, producing a consistent brand experience. This should include everything from phone greetings, to statements, to email protocols and onboarding documents. 

Design is consistent
A brand story is not only verbal but also visual. Great brands have consistency throughout their efforts and have a strong hand at the materials that front end team members provide to their customers and prospects.

Selling is integrating and cross-selling
Today, bankers not only require a solid understanding of consumers and their behaviors, but they also need to deliver services in the way a client prefers.

Unfortunately, financial services firms tend to have always worked in silos. In a world where the cost of acquisition of a new client keeps escalating as margins keep shrinking, looking inwards to find cross-selling opportunities is not only a great practice, but should be a given. And a key factor in this process is creating a culture of ultra-focus on the needs of the client. This means that all efforts should be on getting to know each and every one of the clients to be able to anticipate their needs.

They deliver an experience
The dynamic between customers and banks is changing. Customers no longer want their banking relationship to be solely transactional; they want advice-driven banking that is personalized to their needs. Great financial brands focus on human-centered design that ensures the needs, wants and limitations of customers are prioritized on each of the interactions they have with their brand.

They know there is no silver bullet
Great brands are built one touch point at a time, one client at a time, over time. Throwing money at just one marketing tool isn’t enough. Successful brands integrate their marketing efforts and brand story into everything they do, and let the process work for them in the long term.

In sum, great financial services brands have a marketing machine that constantly feed into the building of their brand.

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