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Key Challenges That Financial Marketers Face

Key Challenges That Financial Marketers Face

Senior executives in the financial sector fail to understand the importance of marketing, writes Paul Boulos, head of marketing at Commercial Bank of Dubai.

1. Insufficient budget(s) and/or manpower:
Insufficient budgets and lack of manpower remain the biggest challenges and this relates to the lack of understanding among senior management of the real value that marketing brings in the brand building journey and the impact that it has on growing the business. Until the words “brand ROI” and “brand equity” start to appear on the balance sheet of banks, this challenge will remain.

2. Too many initiatives:
Banks tend to have multiple lines of business and they want to push many things at the same time to the market. This emanates from looking purely from a business perspective and not accounting what customers may think and how they will perceive these products. Customers can get easily confused if you push many messages to them, i.e. banks need to learn that when it comes to marketing, the principle to promote is: “less is more”.

3. Regulation and compliance issues:
In many instances marketers put forward fresh and innovative ideas, but they tend to forget that banks form part of a highly regulated sector. They do not offer a relaxed environment to work in, especially when compared to other sectors such as technology, lifestyle etc, and this puts constraints and limitations when it comes to pushing new ideas forward.

4. Difficulty measuring performance and/or proving results (ROI):
This is an everlasting debate between marketers and business owners. Being in a bank environment, many marketers are still perceived as an “expense” rather an “investment” and this builds pressure on marketers to justify ROI. Whilst brand values and equities can be tracked and measured over time through brand tracking tools, it is not an immediate dashboard that you receive on a monthly basis showing you clear results like in the case of the sales reports, footfall on the branches or the number of calls in the call center.

There should be more synergy between marketers and business owners to work on jointly creating KPIs that make sense to both, which can be also quantified and tracked over time.

5. Risk adverse environment and slow to adopt new ideas:
Coming specifically from a creative agency background, I find it a very conservative process and environment to deal with when it comes to proposing new ideas, accepting them and making them work. The risk factor always jumps in your face and takes prime importance and overshadows the ideas proposed.

6. Silos:
You would often hear about a project going on in the bank but you will soon discover that a whole bunch of people are working on it on their own! How does that happen? The only time they come together is through a committee where no decision making really happens. Seamless communication and project championship in a single point of contact is required to stop silos from developing inefficiency and double counting.

Generally speaking, there are few other points to mention such as a lack of consumer trust in the sector when compared to other sectors, and very little true brand differentiation – “all shampoos come from the same tap” – which makes life more difficult for a marketer. Financial marketers also face a difficult journey when trying to convince senior management of branding or re-branding and what value that could bring to the business.

Overall, financial marketers remain comfortable with managing social media and achieving brand clarity.

Many of these challenges will still be evident in the coming years; however it remains an uphill battle to change the overall mindset of understanding and perceiving the added value of the marketing function in the banking sector. It is a business-lead approach rather a marketing-lead approach.

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