How Sociable is your Financial Services brand - Are you advertising AT IFAs or engaging WITH IFAs?
Grabbing and holding the attention, hearts and minds of IFAs used to be a relatively easy affair for Financial Services product providers. Creativity in advertising was everything, and the industry has seen some great examples over the years – much of it very effective at getting a response from IFAs or raising brand awareness.
I particularly remember sitting in TeamSpirit’s offices in London in 2000 when they revealed Permanent Insurance’s MIMI campaign, which featured real people who had suffered a critical illness. At the time it got a huge amount of attention – it was creative, daring and involved people.
Now, slowly but surely, advertising to IFAs is moving to the Internet. But is it having the same impact and are Providers still employing the same techniques online that used to work in print?
Are you, like me (and every one of the twenty IFAs I've asked recently) fed up to the back teeth of fighting your way into your weekly copy of Money Marketing or Financial Adviser through wraps round the paper secured by something sticky? There was a time when it was creative, new and exciting; now it’s just plain irritating.
The online equivalents spring into your face covering your screen and your instinct is just to get rid of it as fast as possible. But fortunately there is something genuinely new which can go a long way to satisfying the creativity and attention test.
Every week at IFA Life, we have conversations with Financial Services Product Providers who tell us how excited they are about this new-fangled Social Media thing. They tell us that they see ‘great opportunity to engage’ with IFAs and that clearly Social Media will have a huge impact in the way that Providers interact, communicate with and add value to the IFA community.
But whilst they see opportunity, they also see potential problems.
“We don’t have the time and resource to use Social Media.”
“We don’t have the expertise to use Social Media.”
“We don’t know where to start.”
“We have concerns about Compliance” and “We don’t want IFAs talking about us too much in open forums.”
“But apart from that, we’re very keen to embrace it.”
...is typical of the conversations that we have.
In fact, not embracing Social Media is more of a risk to a financial brand than worrying about a few vocal people who are not happy with your products or service. The medium finally gives Providers an exciting new way to give their brand a human face, to get closer to customers and to build a following of loyal advocates. As a result, many Providers and media buyers are now turning to IFA Life as a way to interact and engage with IFAs.
But in many cases advertisers are still not yet taking the step beyond simply posting banner advertisements – and that’s fair enough because Social Media is still relatively unchartered territory in Financial Services. What’s more, there has been very little best practice shared on exactly how to advertise in Social Networks.
This year, IFA Life has been running special workshops on how Financial Services product providers can use Social Media to interact and engage with IFAs. Two workshops sold out very quickly and a third has had to be arranged.
There’s a clue in the title as to how financial brands and companies should approach advertising on Social Networks like IFA Life – and the clue is “Social”.
IFA Life is a living, breathing community of financial advice professionals. Every day they interact and communicate with each other on the website and in our LinkedIn group (the largest IFA group in the UK on LinkedIn). Their online networking also extends to Twitter, where IFA Life has around 5,000 followers.
Trust and Cooperation
At the heart of any community is trust and cooperation – and this is evident by IFA Life members willingly and eagerly providing help and support to one another and sharing experiences and resources. Many members go out of their way to help out other IFAs – often with long and detailed messages in the forum which often lead to telephone discussions and subsequent face to face meetings.
They also have a deep understanding of each other’s business issues as we approach RDR and have a huge amount in common.
There is strength in Community. Outsiders need to work hard to integrate
So imagine just for a moment that you are part of a group of friends who have known each other for some while. You know each other’s families, you know what each other does for a living and you share many interests. Today is your regular Friday night drink at the pub or wine bar and you’re relaxing together after a busy week.
All of a sudden someone comes into the bar; none of you know him, yet he muscles his way into the group and starts dominating the conversation – telling you all about himself, what he does and how wonderful his company’s products are.
How does that kind of intrusion make you feel – and how would you most likely respond? Probably not very favourably; at worse you would be hostile and at best you would ignore him.
So how should the intruder (who may actually have something genuinely interesting to say) have gained access to the group in an effective and non-intrusive way?
Anyone can see that it would be a slow and gradual process of listening, engaging, and occasionally contributing to the group. Buying a round of drinks would probably help too. But he’ll get there in the end.
Online, joining and getting known in a group or community and building trust is a very similar process. Members of that community do not want to be advertised at – but they are more than happy to be engaged with. A subtle but very important difference.
However creative your banner advertisement, in an online community it will also be viewed as just that – an advertisement. If you want to get the attention of the IFAs on the site, you need to genuinely engage with them, listen to them, help them, add value to them, educate them, make them laugh – buy them a virtual round of drinks.
Social Networking sites like IFA Life give Financial Services product and service providers a wealth of different ways to interact and engage with IFAs, including:
- Writing educational articles which seek responses/comments
- Answering IFAs’ questions
- Posting your own questions
- Sponsoring ‘real life’ networking events and workshops and engaging with attendees face to face
- Provide fund commentary and market analysis
- Run competitions and polls/surveys
- Post educational videos and interviews with key people in your organisation
- Sponsoring and running your own forum which has focus on a single subject or area of interest for IFAs
- And so on.
Above all, aim to add value to the IFA community. The more value you add, the more notice they will take of you and the more likely they will be to click through to further information on your website.
A couple more points are worth making
Firstly, for the most part Providers and suppliers in today’s market have generally good reputations – be it for good value products or great customer service. But just as you have worked hard to build a good reputation here in the ‘real world’, you now have to build a good reputation in the ‘online world’. One doesn’t necessarily follow the other by default.
And by consistently adding value to IFAs in the online world, you gradually build that reputation as an organisation that genuinely cares and who wants to help IFAs.
Secondly, don’t forget the human touch. We all know that ‘people buy people’ – and the same thing applies online. So when you engage with IFAs on IFA Life (or on Twitter and elsewhere for that matter), work hard to show the human side of your organisation. Keep your comments and posts friendly, engaging, professional (obviously) and occasionally humorous.
There will always be a place for banners and buttons when advertising to IFAs, but the world has moved on and the Internet is now a VERY social place. The days are quickly going when you simply advertise at your market and expect them to click through. In your advertising, look for strategies that seek to genuinely engage with other human beings.
Be brave enough to put a toe in the water and not shy away from comment - but to proactively encourage and embrace it. It's a change of mindset - but a changing media landscape demands it.
And when you do genuinely start to engage with rather than advertise at, you’ll not only make yourself highly attractive to your target IFAs, but will be perceived as authoritative on your area of expertise and will create brand champions and advocates.
The future’s Social, but how sociable is your Financial Services brand?
Learn how to engage with Internet-savvy IFAs who use Social Media here
Founder of IFA Life
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Author: Philip Calvert
Posted: Friday, July 15, 2011 | 1:47:27 PM