Selling technology and software into the financial markets sector is a challenging proposition. Sales cycles can be lengthy, running from months to years in some cases. The technology is complex. Decision-makers can be spread across the globe. The regulatory environment is constantly changing. And changes in key personnel and organizational structures occur regularly, particularly when acquisitions and mergers take place.
In such a dynamic environment, what are the best marketing and sales practices that firms can adopt in order to increase their chances of success?
In this seven-part blog series, we discuss with industry leaders how selling high-value solutions to a small, finite group of potential customers requires a fundamentally different sales, marketing and lead nurturing approach to selling lower value solutions to a larger pool of customers.
The first blog of this seven-part series features Colin Slight of The Realization Group, Matthew Cheung of ipushpull, Debbie Brown of Broadridge Financial Solutions, Carl Rogers of Finceler8, Alastair Rutherford of Ascendant Strategy and James Hounslow of Harrington Starr, discussing the need for persistent market communication.
Since the global pandemic, the sales and marketing landscape has changed considerably across every B2B sector. With trade shows and conferences no longer viable under lockdown, and with face-to-face contact severely limited, it has become more important than ever for firms to get the right message out to the right target audience by utilising appropriate social and digital channels. For firms selling software and technology into the constantly evolving financial markets sector, this is particularly crucial.
Rather than just raising brand awareness, marketing now needs to be more tailored to customers’ problems. A vendor needs to be seen an authority and an educator, someone who understands what their customers’ issues and challenges are, and who can present – through white papers, articles, blogs, podcasts and increasingly video – how these challenges can be addressed. This requires a closer integration of marketing and sales than may have been the case in the past.
Never Go Dark
“You should always have something to say,” says Colin Slight, Co-Founder and Managing Director of The Realization Group, the specialist financial services and fintech marketing agency. “Never go dark, because that introduces doubt and uncertainty in the market as to what’s going on with your firm. Are you still alive? Are you still active? Are you still keeping yourself relevant?”
“You have to put yourself out there with interesting, relevant content, so people come to you to learn about certain areas of technology, or the market, or your products,” agrees Matthew Cheung, CEO of ipushpull, a technology company that specialises in live data sharing and workflow automation. “There needs to be enough of that messaging so you have constant brand awareness, which can then work hand-in-hand with smaller, targeted campaigns.”
Consistency of messaging, both internal and external, is key, says Debbie Brown, Global VP Marketing Asset Management at Broadridge Financial Solutions, a financial services technology company. “If various people within your organization are pushing out blogs on social media, you have to ensure you have consistency of internal messaging before taking it out to the market,” she says. “Then make sure that you’re continually out on social media with a drumbeat around a particular subject. Then back that up with regular email newsletters, blogs, webinars, etc. Particularly in a complex sales cycle with high value sales.”
Running online events such as webinars can be a great source of relevant and interesting content, says Cheung. “From a single one-hour event, if the content is good and you get the right questions and right discussions, that same content can be re-purposed for another six-twelve months,” he says. “When you do things digitally, that content can persist forever, and you can reshape it in lots of different ways. So from one online event you can create blogs, reports and social campaigns in the run up to the event, with follow up articles, posts and social media again afterwards.”
Focus on the Right Audience
When distributing content, it’s important to ensure appropriate channels are used so it reaches the right people, says Carl Rogers, Director at Finceler8, a London-based fintech accelerator. “Banks, asset managers, hedge funds and brokers, all have their own particular peculiarities and requirements, so you need to focus on a specific group. It starts and ends with the customer: who are you targeting, and what’s the best mechanism of reaching them? With brokers for example, we’ve always done a lot of face-to-face work because that’s the nature of the beast. They like that personal interaction. But obviously, given the current climate, that’s a lot more difficult now.”
Rogers points out that there are different cultures within job functions. “Analysts, for example, consume large amounts of information and quite like reading, whereas if you’re trying to approach front office traders or brokers with the same level of detail, it just doesn’t work. You’ve got to adapt your message and delivery mechanism accordingly, because they have different attention spans”
Rogers’ firm uses LinkedIn extensively, but the platform does have its limitations, he says. “One of the most senior people I know doesn’t use LinkedIn because he gets hit up all the time by people wanting something. He’s more of a target on LinkedIn rather than getting much out of it, so he has just withdrawn himself completely. And I know some of his senior colleagues have done the same.”
Despite its limitations, LinkedIn remains the digital and social channel of choice in the B2B sector, says James Hounslow, Managing Director at Harrington Starr, a global specialist in fintech recruitment. “But you need to connect to the right people”, he says. “And it’s not just the marketing team that needs to connect to those people, it’s the salespeople too.”
You have to give people a reason to want to connect with you, says Hounslow. “I’m constantly getting connection requests from people I don’t know, who I’ve never met, with no message attached, so why would I want to connect with them? They’re giving me nothing. I also get requests from people saying, ‘We can do this, we can do that, so you and I should connect’, and I’m thinking again, ‘You’re just cold selling to me here. Give me a reason to want to connect with you. Tell me something useful.’”
The more good content you can put out there, the more reason somebody will want to talk to you, says Hounslow. “You need to utilise every part of the business to come up with the content, and be consistently putting the message out to your marketplace. Consistency is key.”
Alastair Rutherford, Managing Director of Ascendant Strategy, a consultancy firm specialising in post-trade infrastructure transformation, also sounds a warning note. “The reality is that most senior leadership roles simply do not have the time to invest in this stuff, and the last thing they want is a sales pitch” he says. “So you’ve got to have a credible and engaging pitch that isn’t just pure sales. There’s nothing worse than having someone who doesn’t understand your business, just prattling on about their technology or services. But if someone comes across with a bit more empathy based on some knowledge and market colour, that starts to become interesting.”
Lockdown has in some ways made things easier in that regard, adds Rutherford. “Things have changed with people working from home. If I’ve got half an hour, I might read or watch something. Whereas if I’m in the office and I’ve got half an hour, there’s a queue of people just waiting for me to not look busy so they can suck up my free time.”
Part two in this series will look at the importance of building communities of interest.