The financial sector has evolved drastically. Recent years have seen the emergence of more market segments, more regulation, and more innovation.
The knock-on effect? More offerings and more competitors for your clients and customers to choose from.
In this crowded landscape, standing apart from your peers is more important than ever.
So, how can financial markets businesses do this?
Well, through many different marketing techniques. But it all starts with effective branding.
Your branding is what helps customers and prospects connect with you, recognize you, admire you, and remember you.
But most importantly, it’s what makes them prefer you.
Not everyone in the financial markets shares this perspective of branding. And that’s precisely why many never tap into its full sales and growth potential.
Read on as we examine what people get wrong about branding, why it’s vital for the financial markets, and the 5 ways to instantly strengthen your brand.
The big branding misconception
A surprisingly large number of financial markets businesses make the mistake of thinking branding is simply a cosmetic feature or marketing blurb that doesn’t connect with a firm’s core principles.
It’s often viewed as a box to tick, a nice-to-have, or a personal choice of presentation that’s ultimately self-serving.
But this is fundamentally not what branding is. At least, not when it’s done properly.
When branding is done right, it’s actually all shaped around the needs of the customer.
The “shared beer” paradigm
For years, business development teams and sales execs in the financial sector have forged deep client relationships over shared beers and restaurant meals.
It’s a tradition as old as time.
Branding looks to achieve this same goal—helping people to develop an affinity for your brand, to recognize it, feel connected to it, and trust it.
It helps you forge a deeper connection with your customers, so they’re encouraged to buy from you.
The big difference with branding however is, unlike a physical sales or business development team, branding can build and nurture customer relationships at scale.
In fact, it’s infinitely scalable. This is the real power of branding which, for many businesses in the financial markets, unfortunately remains untapped.
How most financial markets firms approach branding
In the financial sector, approaches to branding vary a lot.
Businesses in newer or more tech-driven sectors like SaaS, Fintech and DeFi tend to have a more proactive approach.
Namely because they’re in more digitally-driven spaces, where the TradFi approach of in-person relationship-building is not the done thing.
This often means they have no choice but to give branding the attention it needs as it’s one of their main channels for connecting and building relationships with prospective customers.
For other businesses across the markets, it’s a different story.
Many don’t know where to start, others are limited by budget constraints, some simply don’t see the benefits of branding, or how it can be leveraged to drive growth.
The truth of the matter is this—branding is not just something you complete once and then move on. It’s a long-term investment.
And as with any investment, its equity builds over time. But this is an iterative process—it must be constantly nurtured and cultivated. Otherwise, it won’t grow.
The non-negotiables of branding
While the full scope of branding is a topic we can’t fully uncover here, we can give you a quick crash course of the fundamentals.
Firstly, there’s your brand messaging.
Brand messaging refers to the words and phrases that communicate the essence of your business and its service offering.
It’s a written documentation of the traits that set you apart from your peers, and make you an attractive prospect to potential clients.
These are the core elements that define your brand messaging:-
This is the ‘what’ of your business—it’s a summary of why you exist and what you aim to achieve as a business.
This is the ‘why’. What’s the end result of achieving your mission? What future will it create? Your vision statement should paint a clear and vivid answer.
These are the core principles that guide the actions of your organization. The moral compass that steers both your business as an entity and your staff.
Your key benefits
What is the value your customers get from your product or service?
These can be divided into two subsets: rational (what your offering does for your customers) and emotional (how your offering makes them feel).
Your value proposition
Last but not least, what aspects of your product or service make it different from the rest?
And more importantly, why should your clients come to you?
What do you give them that your competitors don’t?
These are the elements that will help you carve your niche in your marketplace, and to make your brand a memorable one.
5 routes to building a brand to be reckoned with
Now you’ve got the non-negotiables down, here are 5 ways you can continue to strengthen and develop your financial markets branding in the long term.
- Revisit your brand regularly
Repeatedly return to both your messaging, and your visual identity.
Are they still aligned with what your audience wants and who you are today?
Regularly check in on the finer points of your brand and make sure it’s still fresh.
- Make people curious
Think of your brand as a person.
- What makes that person a good host?
- How can you make that person more inviting to newcomers?
- How can you present that person as someone worth knowing, or worth knowing more about?
These aren’t easy questions to answer, but if you can find the right responses to them, what you’re left with is a brand that can proactively grow your business.
- Consistency is key
Once you have your brand messaging and identity in place, ensure it’s maintained across every conceivable asset and touchpoint.
Every interview, every press release, every ad, every article, every networking event.
It’s widely proven that continual engagement with a consistent brand experience will build trust and affinity with your brand.
That means they’re more likely to convert into clients, and eventually, more likely to become brand advocates.
- Focus on the experience…
The values you build your brand on must run through every part of your business. And this is especially true when it comes to the customer experience.
Your customers should get a sense of your brand from their experience with you, and in turn, your brand should give prospects an idea of what experience they can expect.
Clients and customers know what a good experience looks like. And they know what a poor one looks like too.
After all, our interactions and experiences with technology today are infinitely more advanced and immersive than they used to be.
Your branding might feel separate from what you sell, and how you operate, but when it comes to people’s perception of you, they are all one and the same.
If your brand appears outdated or inconsistent in places, prospective customers may think you have the same approach when it comes to your customer relationships, or your level of service.
Likewise, if your customer experience isn’t smooth and creates frustration, people will associate that emotion with your brand.
Maintain a strong customer experience, and you maintain your brand equity
- Know how your customers feel
Brands influence emotions, and emotions drive sales.
If you want to connect with your customers, and show them you really understand them, you need to know more about the challenges they face.
You also need to know how being held back by those challenges makes them feel. And how they expect to feel about reaching their goals.
If you can demonstrate an understanding of these points and weave them into the fabric of your brand, you’ll quickly earn the trust of prospects.
Benefits of brand in the financial markets: key takeaways
To conclude, branding is what makes prospects and customers recognize, admire and remember you. It’s also what makes them choose you over a competitor.
So it’s worth investing your time, attention, and budget in.
Here are the key things to remember:-
- Branding is far more than a nice-to-have. It’s a way of building and nurturing customer relationships at scale.
- Branding is a long-term investment—its equity builds in value over time. But it must be constantly nurtured and cultivated.
- If you’ve got brand messaging and a visual identity carved out and committed to paper, you’ve got the makings of your brand.
- To develop your brand over time, you must…
– revisit and refresh it regularly
– ensure it invokes curiosity
– maintain consistency across all touchpoints
– prioritize the customer experience
– shape your brand narrative around how your customers feel
For a deeper dive on branding and why it’s always a business essential in the financial markets, check out this episode of our podcast, where Director Carina Evison weighs in on all things branding.