The problem of marketing for financial services brands

Kirsty Sharman is a referral marketing expert and founder of Referral Factory, which provides easy-to-use, plug-and-play referral software to help businesses of all kinds build, launch, and manage referral programs. 

Marketing has never been easy for financial services providers, but the overwhelming sense of public distrust that arose following the 2009 financial crisis intensified those difficulties. In 2024, 76% of people said they’d be more likely to trust financial advice from friends and family than from professional services. And yet, the industry remains hypercompetitive, increasing the need for individual businesses to form a comprehensive marketing strategy. The question is, how can financial services providers effectively approach marketing and overcome public scepticism whilst working within the constraints of regulatory compliance?

2024’s marketing challenges

Some challenges are universal. Right now, almost every business is trying to manage budgetary restrictions, customer expectations, brand differentiation, and the changing advertising space. Established marketing techniques are no longer working as effectively, and marketing technology is advancing, putting pressure on businesses to stay up to date and find new ways to attract—and hold—customer attention.

For a while, the likes of affiliate marketing and PPC advertising campaigns seemed to hold the answer. But affiliate marketing has come under scrutiny, with new advertising standards in place ensuring that all paid content is advertised as such, and the public is becoming more shrewd as a result. And in an industry as competitive as financial services, finding relevant low-competition keywords and phrases for targeted advertising isn’t easy, even before you take into account that before you can build clicks you have to build trust in an industry that is typically distrusted. So, a new approach to lead generation is called for.

Which marketing approaches produce the best lead generation?

Successful lead generation again relies upon trust. While there are several different marketing approaches that can generate worthwhile ROI, not all are suited to financial services or will generate the best results.

Targeted offers, such as discounts, giveaways, webinars, and loyalty programmes, hold significant traction in various sectors. They can provide a great headline and can actively engage an audience. But they may be less fruitful in the financial arena, where consumers are less interested in gimmickry and more interested in substance and reliability.

Personalisation is currently being favoured by retailers, where recommendations can easily generate sales, but in finance, it’s more useful when used to enhance the loyalty of existing customers, rather than attracting new leads.

Content marketing can be great for generating interest, helping brands build and maintain their image, engage customers, and forge and reinforce customer relationships. But when used for lead generation, you’re returning to the problem of PPC.

Referrals, on the other hand, have better results. Referral marketing statistics show that 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising. And in an industry where trust is paramount, that counts for a lot. Especially when 76% of consumers are willing to refer a friend if they have had a good experience with a business. And yet, referrals aren’t something the financial industry has historically focused on. Possibly because it may not seem appropriate or because referrals are viewed as something that needs to be incentivised. But if you’re confident in the quality of your customer service and experience and have good customer loyalty, you’re already part way there. You just need to implement your referral programme, which isn’t hard with technology, and let your customers do the rest. They know your brand. And they know what their friends and family are looking for. So, if they’re willing to make a recommendation, they’re doing the tricky business of targeting and lead generation for you.

Marketing has always been tough for financial services brands because it’s hard to strike a balance. Your business is serious, but you also want to make it accessible, and finding that mid-point between sensible and appealing is never easy. That causes no end of problems when managing a marketing campaign. Using your customers and trusting them to share their trust in you is a good way to manage that balancing act.


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