2021: The year of buyer experience
By Jim Preston, VP EMEA, Showpad
There may be signs of hope on the horizon, but unease and hesitation will still be reigning strong amongst both consumer and business buyers next year – and competition within the finance sector in particular is only getting fiercer. Long-gone are the days of customers remaining loyal to one bank; challenger banks are on the rise; new and different methods of payment are continually appearing and anyone can switch between them all with just the click of a button.
A great product or service at a great price is no longer enough to bring in new punters – or even to retain your existing ones – with this increasing market commoditisation, buyer experience is now a central selling point. Indeed, research has shown that for 81% of B2B buyers, the buyer experience is more important than product or price. Particularly in these times of uncertainty, customers are looking to buy from someone they can trust and have a real relationship with – when it comes to someone’s business or personal finances, this is even more crucial.
Start before you begin
The natural assumption for many is that nailing the buyer experience is all down to the salesperson and the conversations they have with a prospect or customer. However, the buying experience is actually already in motion long before someone gets in touch with your sales team. Before sending that enquiry email or making that call, studies show that a prospect will have already spent on average 20 hours researching your organisation.
This means that you need to ensure they are finding your content online and not your competitors’ – which comes down to having the right marketing strategy. In 2021, every financial institution needs to be thinking broader than just that crucial point of sale, encompassing both the lead up to it and ongoing care as well. To offer a good buyer experience, your marketing strategy needs to make engaging with your content and brand a pleasant experience at every interaction, before, during and even after closing that sale.
KYC – Know your customer
KYC, or “know your customer,” is key for any compliance worker, and also essential for any marketer. You cannot possibly deliver a great buyer experience if you don’t understand the customer you’re trying to serve and their specific wants and needs. So, before making a start on your marketing strategy, step back and do your research.
For example, say you work in a business bank. Take a moment to think about the specific kinds of businesses you’re targeting, the markets they operate in and more importantly, what particular challenges they may have faced this year and will be taking with them into the next. Acquiring this knowledge gives you a much better chance of understanding how you can specifically help them solve their problems, while also enabling you to offer the information and content they really need and will respond to. For anyone dealing with the likes of regulation, you will need to go even deeper to understand the exact nature of the complex challenges that a prospective customer may be facing.
Curating the correct content for each customer is only half of the battle – you also need to be mindful of how you’re delivering said content. You need to gain a comprehensive understanding of how your customer is going to best respond to content or additional information. Furthermore, you cannot forget the important element of aftercare. Your marketing strategy needs to span across not just your marketers but your sales and customer account management teams, even product development. Next year, when many may look to make changes to counteract ongoing challenges, just retaining your current customer base will be as important, if not more, as bringing on new customers.
Having gone through the effort of understanding your target audience, you don’t want to put that to waste with a scattergun marketing approach. There are two old-school phrases to heed: ‘Less is more’ and ‘Quality over quantity.” The influx of email newsletters has certainly grown over the pandemic and you don’t want any of your efforts to be drowned out in the noise. One pertinent customer outreach once a month with relevant and useful content will have a higher impact than general weekly updates. Too much content can even potentially put off prospects, research shows.
Be specific in your marketing efforts. Depending on the area of finance you work in, how you are able to discuss or sell a product may greatly differ by market vertical or geography due to variances in regulation. So, make sure content is specifically tailored and shared with the right audience – and that these differences are communicated to and followed by other teams outside of marketing as well.
Knowing how you are going to measure the effectiveness and success of your campaign is not something that should be thought of halfway through your campaign, but rather should be a key element of your planning. Make the most of analytics and any data on hand to monitor and track what is and isn’t working, outlining the content that is being most consumed and engaged with. Be sure to also share these insights outside of the marketing team – knowing that prospects in a certain vertical market, for example, are lapping up information around sustainable finance, gives a salesperson a conversation starter.
This sharing should also happen both ways. Collect feedback from other teams as well. What impact or influence are they seeing from your marketing efforts, or might they have suggestions for what elements may need to be worked on for the next phase of a campaign? The more insights you can gather, the more informed and equipped you are to make a true impact with customers.
Refine and improve
Be sure to act on these insights and feedback as well, adjusting and refining as you go along. But, it’s also important to consider when improvements to campaigns and approaches may go beyond the content and information itself. For example, how is that content being communicated and followed up on? Might any team members require any additional training to get up to speed with that new regulation or information themselves? Proper training, coaching and performance management for all those involved in the sales process from start to finish is key to ensuring a good buyer experience.
There’s little doubt that purse strings will be tightening in the coming year, so to stand a better fighting chance, financial organisations need to be looking to buyer experience as the key to staying ahead of their growing competition. This is something that many financial firms already understand, but in 2021, it will become the central element of any finance marketing strategy, regardless of sector.