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Don’t Let Your Financial Brand be the Invisible Hero

B2B financial companies have more reasons than ever to talk directly to consumers.

Originally Published by Insurance News Net

In many ways, insurance and financial services companies are today’s invisible heroes. These companies work diligently every day behind the scenes to build and protect their customers’ wealth and financial security. And they didn’t just show up: They’ve been hard at work building that stability over many decades to be sure they can guide with the required expertise and endure the long game for their clients’ futures.

If you were to write down everything this takes, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who does not see the nobility in that business. Peek even further into these organizations and you will typically find a system of values and beliefs, and employees who not only fully align to the importance of these missions but also exemplify an often-hidden authenticity that perfectly encapsulates why the firms exist.

This is what is often invisible today, and what they need to show consumers. In today’s financial market, it is no longer enough to differentiate by products and services alone — the category is too crowded and competitive. What’s driving the people and the business is what can truly set companies apart. And it can be realized by telling the brand story.

This may sound simple, but it’s not the norm. Most financial companies operate primarily in the B2B model, selling products and services through an ever-expanding network of independent agents and advisors. This is a vital distribution channel to their business, so it’s no surprise that most of their marketing organization mainly exist to make their advisors successful, curating advisor facing content that becomes extremely technical or product focused and just not suited to speak to the consumers.

It is time for financial brands to stop being invisible and take their rightful place in supporting the advisor in every aspect, which includes telling their brand story directly to customers.

The Client/Advisor Relationship Is Complicated — But Brands Can Break Through

Today’s consumers have been skeptical about financial services for some time, which challenges the advisor to work hard to establish trust. There’s an unavoidable association in the category to negative headlines about Wall Street, the uncertainty in the economy and fear that putting money to work in the wrong hands could be a costly mistake. Even those that are somewhat financially savvy may lack full confidence in their own knowledge of needed solutions, and this layer of vulnerability plagues their relationship with their advisor/agent. Generally, even when consumers recognize the value in planning for and protecting their own futures, advisors are working tirelessly to build a trusting relationship while overcoming a lot of preconceived reluctance before their real work begins.

With all the advisor has to mitigate to make the conversion (the sale), the brand should tee up their value to consumers in advance. Once the advisor has won that trust and found the ideal solution, the brand or carrier of that solution should be a slam dunk. “I’ve heard of them” is the minimum you hope for. “I know they’re a great company” is what you’re going for.

Identify the Stories Worth Telling

Tasking this kind of storytelling isn’t necessarily a multimillion-dollar ad investment. But it does require a willingness to shine a spotlight on what authentically motivates the company to provide the financial solutions that help customers to lead better lives. Nationwide CEO Kirt Walker, whose harrowing experience with a tornado motivated him to enter the insurance industry, is a perfect example. You can bet it was an easy decision by Nationwide to share his personal story with the public.

Companies of all sizes can follow suit and uncover these authentic stories that show a deeper sense of value, or a purpose-driven mission that is especially so important to Generation Z and Millennial consumers. But these heroic stories are important to all of us, really. These can include personnel-driven profiles, for example, of cybersecurity employees who share why their role in protecting their customers’ retirement accounts from online hackers is so important to them. Other stories can be as simple as making sure your firm’s purpose is known to the world. CLA’s It Takes Balance speaks to purpose symbolizing the tough decisions that small business owners make while trying to find a balance between numbers and people.

How can you turn your best (invisible) stories into visible ones? Here are some tips:

  • Think about your best stories that are currently untold. How is what you do and your purpose enriching people’s live, like Thrivent’s Find Your Passions, or how are you a distinct market disrupter, like SoFi’s Face of Finance ad.
  • Have a communication plan locked and loaded. Develop evergreen stories that can stand alone and are always-on. Make sure your internal organization knows these stories as well as they do your mission, so pilot them and roll them out internally first—and be ready to drop them at a moment’s notice.
  • Prioritize this as you would any other program. This is a must-have strategy for creating equity in the organization. Own it as a foundational piece of your marketing plan—even if you only have limited time or budget for it.
  • Don’t go it alone. A trusted partner outside your organization can help test and balance any “brag bias” tones and develop a system to fold these stories into your current marketing efforts.

Every financial brand has a duty to talk to their customers directly, even if they don’t traditionally sell that way. In today’s hyper-competitive market, consumers need that confidence in the people and brands with whom they are entrusting their financial futures. The brand story can speak volumes more about the how and why they do what they do, and that helps consumers feel a connection — if not an affection — that they’ve entrusted what’s important to them with the right company and the right people.

About Jan Rondy

Jan Rondy is an account director at The Shipyard, where she helps our clients build performance-driven brands. She has 20 years of experience serving large marketing portfolios and guiding complex campaigns for various retail brands and financial products. She spent over seven years in distributed financial marketing for a major brand, managing campaigns for various audiences in both the insurance and financial services.