Consumer trust is not a commodity the financial industry can take for granted. In fact, trust is difficult to capture and maintain for the best of firms. The 2016 Customer Quotient study found that less than half of consumers in the US recommend their financial services provider to their friends and family, and only 51% have plans to continue purchasing products and services from their current provider.
Those numbers are grim. One in two consumers may not have enough trust in your brand to stick around, much less sing your praises. With friends like these, am I right?
So how do you improve those numbers for your financial firm?
In a previous post, we discussed the three pillars required for a successful brand strategy. If you haven’t already, take a few minutes and read that post. To take advantage of this post, you need to have a strong foundation of understanding about what goes into a brand strategy.
Today I want to discuss five tactical ideas you can implement immediately (or at least in the immediate future) to improve your relationship with your consumers and instill long-lasting trust. While security and Big Data are crucial elements of trust in the financial sector, you already know the implications, so I won’t be covering those—though you should.
1. Promote Your Advisors as Financial Experts
No matter what you do, at the end of the day, trust comes down to the relationship between people, not companies. Consumers wants to hear from your firm’s people, and your advisors are uniquely positioned to strengthen that relationship.
Consumers trust experts far more than they do your advertisements. Seventy percent trust experts to deliver reliable company information—that’s 20 points higher than CEOs, according to the same study.
The B2B world is no different. When it comes to making a purchase, 22% of B2B buyers find industry experts most influential, coming second only to peers and colleagues at 38%.
Fiduciary Trust Company, a Boston Digital client, has built up its advisors on its Insights blog. Financial experts post in-depth articles about the changing market place around topics that matter to their constituents, such as cybersecurity, philanthropy, and next generation.
Additionally, every quarter they invite their clients to their Market Outlook webinars, hosted by their CEO and CFO, during which they cover the previous quarter’s performance and look ahead at trends and upcoming events that may impact their investment strategy.
Fiduciary Trust positions itself as a brand that cares about the success of its clients, and the content the advisors produce enriches that relationship.
2. Incorporate Charity Into Your Business Model
The financial industry has a reputation for seeking profit above all else. As millennials age, they’re looking for firms who don’t just invest wisely, but also invest charitably. More than any other generation in recent decades, the millennials care about where their money ends up.
Millennials want to partner with companies that share their values, with 70% of them purchasing products that support causes. What’s more, writes Adweek, 90% of millennials are willing to switch brands “even when price and quality are equal” as long as the new brand supports a cause.
Look at companies like TOMS and 1Face, who have both built their business models around charitable giving. For every product you buy, TOMS helps a family in need and 1Face feeds a child. Therefore, by extension, each customer of both brands is helping families and feeding children.
3. Understand the Importance of Design
Design may seem out of place here, but the look and feel of your brand sets the tone about who you are and sets the expectation of who you may become. Your consumers notice this—perhaps subconsciously—and it will impact their perceptions of your brand. In short, design affects trust.
When it comes to design, the most important piece is consistency. Your brand’s design will shape consumer trust when you deliver a consistent look and feel—even for global organizations. No matter where your brand is, or who is representing your brand, keeping a consistent design will reinforce those perceptions.
Think of brands like Apple, Disney, and Coca-Cola, whose designs are not merely following a stylebook but are interwoven into who the brand is and what it stands for.
4. Create Seamless User Experiences
While we’re on the subject of design, let’s not forget about how design translates to user experiences. Trust, after all, is the result of a reliable, consistent experience. And speaking on behalf of a digital marketing agency, I must stress the importance of creating online experiences that are seamless and positive.
When your brand messaging is backed by positive user experiences, you’re reinforcing that trust between your brand and your consumers. Developing websites and mobile apps that are easy to use, intuitive, and provide positive feedback keep your consumers happy.
But you can take those seamless user experiences offline as well. Citibank borrowed a leaf from the Apple store playbook when it unveiled its innovative “Smart Bank” branch locations in Singapore, Japan, New York, and Hong Kong.
5. Leverage Your Employees as Brand Advocates
The last thing you should think about to improve your financial firm’s brand trust is tapping into your internal resources: your employees.
According to the Edelman TRUST BAROMETER, financial services are “the most trusted sector among employees working in an industry-related company.”
This is crucial in improving your brand trust because how you’re perceived by your consumers usually begins and ends with the experience they have with your employees. If your employees are loyal and excited to be part of your firm, that excitement will show in their interactions with customers and clients.
Moreover, your employees can act as distribution channels to get the word out about launches, announcements, and new content. With social media acting as a giant megaphone, you can leverage your employees to promote your firm with their friends and family. Use tools like LinkedIn’s Elevate to encourage your employees to share great content.
Trust is the cornerstone of any brand strategy, but in the financial world trust is everything. As you look to increase the one-in-two stat we discussed earlier, you must consider the tactics outlined above. If you can turn your advisors into financial experts, find a way to integrate charitable giving into your business’s DNA, use design and user experience to create consistency, and leverage your employees as brand champions, you’ll be well on your way to skewing those numbers in your favor.