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.