I've just returned from Amsterdam, where I was attending Inside ETFs, a conference for Europe's investment industry. I was a speaker at last year's event, but this time I went, at the kind invitation of the organisers, simply to listen and observe.
As a marketing and communications expert, I was particularly interested to find out how different companies are trying to get their message out there and how much success they're having. What always strikes me most at these events is how so many different organisations, and from so many different countries, are experiencing the same problem. In a nutshell, they're struggling to be heard above the din.
The investing industry is dominated by a few major players. They're major not because they're better than everyone else or provide better value (generally they aren't and they don't), but because they have vastly more money to spend on advertising and public relations. Consequently, they're the ones who make the most the noise and attract the most clients.
I dare say it's a similar story in most sectors. But what's the answer? How does a small-to-medium-sized firm make itself heard above the noise generated by larger rivals with budgets to match?
It's a big subject, and every company's different, but talking to advisory firms, product providers and fintech companies in Amsterdam, I found myself making the same recommendations again and again.
To a modestly sized firm looking to punch above its weight in raising its profile and attracting prospective clients, here are six suggestions I would make.
One of the biggest challenges for financial services companies is that there are so many of them — all offering, as far as potential customers are concerned, pretty much the same thing. Ask yourselves, What is it that makes us different? What insight or expertise do we offer that bigger firms don't?
Now ask yourselves, What are we trying to say? Remember, don't try to say too much. The fewer messages you have, and the simpler they are, the better. There's nothing wrong with saying the same things over and over again; the challenge is to keep finding new and engaging ways of doing it.
Decide who your best communicators are. Do you or one your colleagues come across well on camera? Who are the best writers in your business? If you don't have the skills in-house, or the time to do it properly, outsource to a firm with specialist knowledge of your field who can produce your content for you, and perhaps manage your social media as well.
Now ask, What medium are we going to use? You may say I'm biased, but the most powerful one is video. I would also recommend a regular blog. Audio podcasts and infographics, too, can be very effective. But don't spread yourselves too thinly. Perhaps focus on video to start with and build from there. And if you can't afford customised content, consider pre-produced material that can be badged as your own.
Again, don't go at it like a bull at a gate. Far better to focus on one social media outlet and do it really well than try three and fail to make an impact on any of them. LinkedIn is a good option for B-to-B firms, Facebook more suitable for B-to-C; Twitter is pretty essential for both. YouTube, Vimeo and Pinterest are also worth considering. Social media is a great way to differentiate your company from others.
High-quality content and targeted social marketing make a powerful combination. It will pay off over time. But you need to be patient and, above all, persistent. If you decide to put out a blog post each week or a video each month, then make sure you do. And have a presence on social media every weekday; you'll look half-hearted if you don't.
Good luck and, as always, let us know if we can help.