An Outsider's Guide to Financial Marketing

An Outsider's Guide to Financial Marketing

I’m not a numbers person… but here I am — the Director of Marketing for City Different Investments. Before joining CDI, I had no experience in the financial sector. 

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When I was recruited for this role, I was intimidated by what seemed like a foreign industry. My background is in clinical social work, followed by nonprofit fundraising (where I also ran our marketing efforts). So while I had marketing experience, I wasn’t sure how it would transfer into the financial sector. 

Here’s the thing I realized, though — marketing is the same no matter what kind of organization you’re representing. Being a therapist is 100% about connecting with people and building a relationship built on trust. The same is true about good marketing — people want to consume great stories and connect with others. That’s it.

That I could do. So here are a few things I’ve learned about how being an “outsider in an industry” can benefit you as a marketer (or your company).

Push the envelope

I keep hearing “marketing really is different in the financial industry.” Unpopular opinion but… it really isn’t. Whether it’s a nonprofit or an investment firm, audiences want the same things. They want to connect with a story, be educated, be entertained, feel an emotion, or see something cool. Financial marketers tend to get stuck in a status quo, and I recommend pushing the envelope… just a little. 
 
Yes, we want to be professional; but think about what catches your attention when scrolling basically any social media platform — it’s almost always something funny, sweet, personal, or teaches you something. Don’t be afraid to show a side of your business that isn’t polished or perfect. Compliance might get nervous when it seems like someone is having too much fun, but I promise you, your target audience wants to see it.

Relationships win clients. Authenticity builds relationships.

In finance, you aren’t selling a product — not really. You’re opening a dialogue in an attempt to build a relationship. Relationships are built on trust, and our common humanity (in all its vulnerability and quirks and messiness) is what builds truly strong relationships. 

People want to connect with real humans; to do that, you need to offer them a peek behind the curtain. They don’t want to know every detail of how the sausage gets made, but they do want to see and believe that you’re a real human.

I hear this a lot: “CDI seems like such a fun place to work!” Well, that’s because it is! We want our personality and voice to shine through. We’re betting that if you enjoy our content and watch us poke fun at each other, you’re more likely to trust us because we’re showing you who we really are.

Cater to your audience, but don’t be afraid to pay to get in front of them

You have to be willing to try new things. Push the respective envelope in a way that highlights who you are as a company and as the people who comprise it. But keep in mind — always be mindful of your audience. Is this something I would like to read? Is it too long? Does it catch my eye? Is it teaching me something new? 

Once you create a great piece of content that has a story to tell, don't be afraid to pay a little to break through the noise. Most social media platforms are built on an algorithm that serves paid content over organic content. So, boosting content or placing an ad buy can be a very effective way to get your story out to a broader audience.

Pay for the important things

We all have budget limitations; deciding what to spend your finite resources on can be overwhelming. But, there are a few areas where you will get the most bang for your buck.

Your website is the foundation of everything

If there is only one thing you get from this article, it should be this: pay for a good website! Don’t cut corners, don’t hire a friend. Invest in a professional website, preferably on the WordPress platform. Trust me — I’ve made this mistake so you don’t have to. A poorly designed website will cost you twice as much in the long run; you will never be able to make changes in-house or get someone to work on it if it is terrible on the back end. 

Don’t forget that your website is your ultimate first impression, brand representation, virtual office front, and where you want to drive all your traffic. So, make it look good, and more importantly, work well. If you spend the money here, I promise that even a therapist can make changes and keep it running.

What should you spend on next?

The other two things I recommend spending money on upfront are a video brand story and a good pitch deck (or other collateral if you are not in the financial space).
 
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million. This should live on your website and you should cut it into smaller clips for use on social media and to direct people back to your website.
 
A good pitch deck is a great resource to invest in because you can use individual slide designs to create a multitude of presentations, steal design ideas for one-pagers, and so much more. A professional, well-designed piece of collateral will be a huge asset for meetings and leave-behinds.

Get the right tools

I want to recommend a couple of specific programs for your marketing efforts.

First off, my one true love — Canva. Canva is like Photoshop or Illustrator for people who don’t have a graphic design background (hi, that’s me!). It is cheap, you can design almost anything, and they have tons of templates available for anything you could ever need to make. It is great for creating social posts, one-pagers, and resizing images; you can even do video and animation work. The included stock photo library is a massive plus and is significantly cheaper than paying for individual images.

Number 2: A good CRM is a must when working in sales. I’ve used a few, but Hubspot takes the cake for me. Aside from being a typical CRM, Hubspot also has some great marketing features, including tracking & analytics, email marketing, the ability to host a blog, create forms & landing pages for your website, and social media posting tools. I particularly appreciate that you can connect individual social accounts so that I can post on behalf of our company while also posting as our CEO or one of our Portfolio Managers, making them look much more active on social media.

Allocate your resources well

One of the questions I get asked the most is whether or not you should hire marketing “in-house” or pay for a firm; the answer is a little complicated. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make is thinking that hiring a marketing person means you now have a designer, developer, social media expert, copy editor, videographer, and advertiser, all in one! These are a lot of very specialized jobs!

Marketing firm? Freelancers? In-house?

This is where many marketing firms come in. They sell you on the idea that you can get a whole suite of professionals for the cost of one employee, but be warned… marketers are very good at marketing themselves, so try not to sign contracts that make it difficult to back out if it isn’t working. Furthermore, never assume that you can completely outsource this process. In my experience, you need someone internally running the show to help with organization, content creation, keeping deadlines, running your social media, and a million other tasks so that your time doesn’t get filled up. Marketing is a department — whether you outsource it or not, you need a department head.

We at CDI use a combination of an internal marketing director (I hear she is fabulous), an outside consultant, and a host of freelancers, including a developer, graphic designer, and copy editor. That sounds like a lot, but I promise it was cheaper than going with a firm.

Your thought leaders 

Another stakeholder to remember when discussing time constraints are your thought leaders. In the financial industry, we use our Portfolio Managers or Advisors as our content creators. However, this can put a lot of pressure on people who already have full-time jobs (and didn’t get into this industry to become writers). So work smarter, not harder! Hire a writer to interview your thought leaders or to take their outlines and fill in the gaps. 

One of my favorite ways to get the most content from one of our thought leaders is to film an interview (that becomes a video asset), and then send it to a writer to craft additional blog posts using the transcript. That way, the person in the chair only has to give me 15 minutes of their time, and we can get multiple pieces from it.

That’s a wrap! 

If you’ve made it this far, I really appreciate your time (and your attention span). To wrap it all up: take risks, spend your money wisely, invest in the right tools, and don’t undervalue your time. 

If you have any questions about this article or our marketing efforts at City Different, please don’t hesitate to reach out!


IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES

The views and opinions expressed by individuals are their own and not the views or opinions of their employer. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. No discussion or information contained herein should be considered investment advice. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability above to his/her individual situation of any specific issue discussed, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing. City Different Investments is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of this content should be construed as legal, tax, or accounting advice.

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