In a recent masterclass which I delivered to a group of early phase start-up FinTech businesses I was struck by how marketing is probably one of the most misunderstood disciplines in business. So many otherwise smart business people assume that undertaking advertising, social media and PR will miraculously elevate their organisation’s profile and ultimately generate more sales. And when that doesn’t happen as quickly as expected, the assumptions are that a bigger budget is needed, the wrong activity or media were chosen, or even that the timing wasn’t right. Wrong!
While agility is the core DNA of many FinTech businesses, approaching marketing in the same way as tech product development really doesn’t work. That doesn’t mean that marketing can’t be agile, but embarking on a series of marketing activities such as blogging, social media etc is only a very small part of the marketing story – and choosing these activities without the bigger picture in mind is equivalent to starting a book from the half way point; depending on the book, you may just be able to catch up and understand the story – but it’s more likely you will be lost from the offset.
So what’s missing in this marketing story? It might sound obvious, but a succinct and clearly articulated Message that resonates with your audience is the first element in the narrative; the second is having clear Objectives so you have clarity around exactly what you want your marketing to achieve. Neither of these sound particularly difficult, but the reality is quite different….
When less is actually more
If we take the message piece first, without proper time and effort dedicated to really understanding who your target audience is and what they need from you, how will you know how to communicate to them? I continue to be surprised when I ask company executives who their offering is targeted at, and they respond with statements like ‘anyone in risk management’, ‘all buyside companies’ ‘any UK business with FX exposure’, ‘everyone who works from home’. No, no no….! Words like ‘anyone/any/entire/everyone’ are an immediate red flag as they indicate general language that will not resonate with anyone in particular.
If you are talking to everyone, then you are really talking to no one, so as the starting point for any marketing journey or project it’s crucial to clarify who you are talking to. That’s the foundation on which measurement and success of marketing is built and how we start all of our client work at MD Consulting …. ‘decision-makers in a market risk management function of more than 50 people in a UK-based asset management company’ perhaps? Maybe ‘SMEs in the energy sector who have FX exposure’? It’s worth giving some serious thought.
I recently attended an online webinar where marketing guru Seth Godin spoke about finding your ‘minimum viable market’. He explained that this doesn’t mean being or staying small, but rather focusing on the smallest market you can adequately serve in a profitable way so that you focus on the people that really count. This then allows you to ignore the unbelievers, the uninvolved and the average, and by doing so, your quality, story and overall impact all improve and then, ironically, the word will spread. It does however mean being brave and choosing to consciously ignore the wider market, but this really has to be the starting point for all good marketing, because if you don’t really know who are you speaking to, how do you know that they really need what you have to offer?
Where do you start?
A survey undertaken by CBI insights showed that ‘no market need’ was why 42 percent of start-ups in their survey failed – a pretty shocking statistic, that takes me back to how you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of really knowing who you are speaking to. Understandably tackling problems that are interesting to solve might seem like a good business proposition, but it’s more important that the solutions serve a market need – and you can only know that if you really know your market. A quick checklist to start this process would be:
- Identify and understand the client problems you solve
- Paint a picture of your client type eg market sector, geographic location etc.
- Who will specifically benefit from your offering eg end user OR who will have the most to lose by not dealing with the issues eg chief risk officer, chief compliance officer?
- What are your competitors offering? Where can you be unique? Is there a niche offering?
It’s not all about you
I hope you are now starting to see how bonkers it is to embark on a marketing drive without this information and then feel surprised when it doesn’t drive the outcomes you expect…..!
So once you know your intended audience, your next step is to create a message that resonates with them. As author and marketing guru Orvel Ray Wilson said “Customers buy for their reasons, not yours”, which means that your message should never be about what YOU offer or how great YOUR product is, but rather what need it meets or what pain point it alleviates….. Messages such as ‘enabling businesses to simplify their operations and provide a customer-friendly experience anytime or anywhere’ or ‘an enterprise platform with front-to-back applications for front office, middle office, operations and client-facing solutions that have all been built on our technology ’ neither inform nor inspire the reader – and are a real wasted opportunity to position yourself positively in the mind of a potential client.
What’s your north star?
Next up is figuring out what you want your marketing efforts to achieve…an increase in sales would be great of course, but how does that look as a marketing objective? Is it through creating brand awareness, generating new leads, social engagement, etc? You decide – but this decision needs to be in the context of an overall business plan, with realistic SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound) objectives that can be monitored and measured for success…as well as amended if necessary.
It’s then – and only then – that you should start choosing your marketing activities; not a minute before. For any business hoping to create a successful client-focused brand without a clear MO (Messaging and Objectives), I would say that it’s akin to building a house without an architectural plan. Even with the very best tools, an unlimited budget and the best workmen on the job it’s very, very unlikely that it will end well!
So while success in marketing can never be guaranteed, there are always ways to improve your odds. And these start with deciding on your MO and building your brand from there. It really is that simple!
MD Consulting has a strong track record in devising and implementing successful PR & Marketing campaigns for FinTech and RegTech companies at various stages of growth. If you would like help in developing a more successful MO, get in touch today.
Martina Doherty, founder and managing director, also runs masterclasses in marketing and PR strategies, specific for the FinTech sector. If you are interested in finding out when the next masterclass is running, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be in touch.