OPINION: Financial downturns demand marketing upturn

Alice Rose

Alice Rose, Managing Director at Fountain Partnership

Winston Churchill once advised that “if you’re going through hell, keep going,” and it is fair to say with high inflation rates and the cost of living causing increasing hardship, the financial world could be deemed as hellish. It might be easy to think nothing can be done by individual organisations to support and guide people through these times. This is not the case.

With clever use of SEO and Paid Media, the financial sector can become those trusted experts, filling the space before the competitors do.


Who are you?

Behind any financial institution, whether it be a lone consultant, or large corporation, there tend to be values which the brand represents. It could be a mission statement plonked on a website (bad), or the living and beating heart of a company, used as a North Star when it becomes to decision making (good.) And why is that important?

Let’s take Covid as an example. According to research by London School of Economics and Political Science almost three quarters (73%) of people with high levels of trust in scientists indicated they would get the vaccine as soon as it became available. Additional research by Ipsos saw experts are back in fashion, with citizens looking more positively on politicians who listen to extra governmental views in organising their response to the pandemic.

This research shows when times are tough, people want to listen to the experts. They turn to those who are perceived as knowledgeable to get the source of truth. If a brand can demonstrate knowledge, trustworthy behaviour, and honesty through their values and the work done, consumers will want to listen.  Enter the digital media strategy.


All together now

Very few things work well in a silo. Marketing definitely doesn’t. Implementing a joined-up approach based on company values is the best way to become a voice of authority, and trusted thought leader, leading to long term relationships with customers. Adobe found when UK consumers trust a brand, 71% are more likely to make more purchases.

But where to start?

Back to basics – know the audience, who they are, their pain points and what sort of help, guidance or support is needed. Talk to them, listen to them and build campaigns around that insight.

Messaging is vital – credit crunch, repossessions and financial uncertainty could all be things people are worried about. Finding the right partner to help through those situations is crucial. Consumers need to feel financiers have ‘their back.’ Be empathetic and knowledgeable. Now is not the time for tongue in cheek jokes at the state of the economy or pressure sales.

Creative is king – think about the creative and adverts used, along with the tone of voice. Being relatable, warm and knowledgeable would be better received than more ethereal campaigns.

Look at your marketing funnel – revaluate where your content is in the customer journey (the funnel), potentially it may be incredibly unbalanced. The majority of content may be aimed at an audience that knows the brand already. What about those who don’t? In some circumstances that could be ok, but it may be a case of poor content planning. Ensure the funnel is central to the content plan and that way, organisations can be confident the audience is being targeted correctly at each stage. Consider things like awareness such as a robust mortgage calculator and then desired actions – driving first time buyers to mortgages (or the mortgage calculator).

Divide reactive and proactive campaigns – reactive could be responding to a hike in interest rates, whereas proactive might be consistent messaging about being an ethical financial institution

Look outside the financial sector – it’s easy to focus on direct competitors but take inspiration (or things to avoid!) from the industry as a whole – or even further afield. Use keyword research to help understand the mood of the nation. If the number of searches for ‘cancelling subscriptions’ is increasing, it shows how consumers are really feeling. Platforms such as ‘Answer the Public and Google Trends are a great way to see what people are searching for.


Need to knows, about SEO

Consumers are more scared than ever. Mortgage rates are unpredictable, interest rates on debt including credit cards have gone up and pension values are threatened. According to the BBC, on Monday 24 October there were 137 95% loan-to-value mortgage products, compared to 283 on the day of the government’s mini-budget. This change leaves thousands in turmoil.

People want to go to a place of authority to get answers and support on how to ride out the storm. A keyway of becoming that expert is through SEO as it supports building brand. But how do consumers know how to find the help on offer?

Ultimately know the brand and truly understand the goal of the financial organisation along with how they want to support the market. Establish authority in the field of expertise, whether that’s general financial advice or specific areas like mortgages and pensions. Build trust by writing articles and content for websites and social channels that directly responds to the audience being targeted. If knowing what to do with pensions is a common theme, create content responding to that. In many cases, people are more likely to read, engage and trust content written by a senior person, rather than someone newly qualified. Use qualified people within the business and make it super clear when they are publishing content on websites. The customer base will appreciate it, and so will Google.


Paid the way forward

With SEO up and running to promote the brand, paid media spend is perfect to push dedicated campaigns designed to support consumers. With budgets tightened across the country it could be argued spending on paid media is not an essential. The good news is by maintaining spend, it can go further when times are tough.

If competitors slow spending it can reduce the cost per click. With less people bidding on a term, for example ‘cheapest mortgages’ a brand can access that term for less money.  Maintaining spend can actually lead to gaining market share. It’s also important to think about the platforms used, like  Google, Facebook, TikTok. Potentially diversifying platforms once the audience has been segmented gives greater reach and more successful campaigns, as people can be targeted more carefully. Focus attention in the right place.


And the future?

If the last couple of years have taught us anything, it’s knowing what the future holds can be tricky. But there is hope. Recent global recessions have tended to last 10 months on average. This time, the Bank of England has predicted the slump will last around 15 months. Although it will be hard for many, brands and institutions who can stand firm, hold the line and do right by their customers will ultimately benefit when the economy picks back up again. Which it will.

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