This is the second in a seven-part series about selling technology and software into the financial markets sector. In part one, we talked about the need for persistent market communication.
In this blog, Colin Slight of The Realization Group, Matthew Cheung of ipushpull, Debbie Brown of Broadridge Financial Solutions, Carl Rogers of Finceler8 and James Hounslow of Harrington Starr discuss why it’s important to build relevant communities of interest.
There’s an expression that’s drifted into marketing vernacular, which talks about the flywheel versus the funnel. Rather than just generating leads and working them through the sales funnel, flywheel marketing is more about using people who have had a good experience transacting business with you, and bringing them together with other parties who are supportive of your message as part of the marketing and sales effort. In effect, creating a ‘community of interest’.
Don’t make it just about you
“A community of interest is a group of personas who are comprised of advocates, influencers, and prospects, who all come together to help influence a decision, who trust you, and who will also continue to support your story all the way along the sales cycle’” explains Colin Slight, Co-Founder and Managing Director of The Realization Group, the specialist financial services and fintech marketing agency.
“Persistent market communication and communities of interest go hand in hand with each other. Because if you have a supportive community talking about you, that is hugely helpful in amplifying your message.”
Slight stresses that such a community should not just be about you, your firm, or your solution. It should be industry facing, to make it most attractive to potential participants. “Nobody wants to hear someone just talking about themselves, or to hear other people bigging you up,” he says. “These communities are interested in the structural or systemic issue that exists within the industry, that your product or service addresses. So it’s not about you, it’s about the problem that you solve. But the important thing is that you’re driving the conversation.”
Focus on what the Community needs
Carl Rogers, Director at Finceler8, a London-based fintech accelerator, explains his firm’s approach to brokers in the capital markets. “We see brokers as an under serviced group, in need of help with technology. The banks, asset managers and hedge funds already have whole communities that help them, particularly with things like compliance and regulation. But nobody’s looking after the brokers. They don’t have the same network of consultancies, lawyers, accountants, events companies supporting them through ever changing and demanding regulation. If they go to TradeTech, they have to pay for the ticket, for example.”
“We are in regular contact with brokers, both formally and informally. Sometimes bringing that group together and supporting them because, like most organisations, brokers are keen to benchmark themselves against their peers and talk to people in a like-minded environment, explains Rogers. “Having that community keeps us aware of their challenges and their priorities. We look at the problems they face in some detail and identify some of the possible solutions”, he adds.
Bring in Early Adopters
Communities of interest often start out with early adopters and innovators, typically people who are not averse to taking risk, says Matthew Cheung, CEO of ipushpull, a technology company that specialises in live data sharing and workflow automation. “When you’re starting out as a company, you need some people who are willing to take a risk,” he says. “So you need to work with them, understand them, and impress them. And then you get recommendations, more people join the community and it grows organically that way. Then before long, key people and decision makers start taking an interest.”
Cheung likens it to the path the internet took when it started. “Everything was open source, there were lots of forums, people chatting, helping each other, with some people who had been there for a long time and others coming along and asking lots of questions. That was when internet forums really started taking off in the nineties. You have a similar thing now, but with specific communities based on specific technical offerings.”
Provide a platform for open discussion
James Hounslow, Managing Director at Harrington Starr, a global specialist in fintech recruitment, expands on the benefits that such communities offer. “When you put yourself out there to understand what your target customers’ problems are, and provide them a platform to discuss those problems and potential solutions, you’re bringing peers together who have similar issues but with different nuances, and they might have tried to address them in different ways. The key point is that they can talk about things in a non-salesy situation. So when you are building these groups, anyone joining from the vendor community needs to understand that they shouldn’t be selling, they should leave all that for afterwards, in any follow-up conversations they might have.”
Leverage existing Communities
Such communities don’t necessarily need to be built from scratch, says Debbie Brown, Global VP Marketing Asset Management at Broadridge Financial Solutions, a financial services technology company. “In our industry, there’s a lot of industry associations that have grown up to meet the needs of specific groups. So rather than create more groups, our strategy is to leverage the existing ones, where people come together amongst their peers, to learn, socialise, and interact.
“Occasionally we’ll create a group where there is a very specific need, where we can add value, where we have a very unique point of view or capability that maybe nobody else has,” she adds. “We’ve done that for example when a piece of regulation has been coming out and we’ve got a very specific understanding of that, to bring our clients and prospects together and educate them. But our baseline strategy is to leverage the industry groups and associations that have built up across the financial services industry over the years.”
Part three in this series will focus on how firms can use account-based marketing to target and reach the right audience.
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