The financial service industry has traditionally relied on word-of-mouth marketing to attract business. Financial advisors and other agents would rely on referrals from their current clients to gain new clients. These marketing methods are becoming antiquated, thanks in large part to a fundamental change in how people research and purchase services. These days, people engage in online research to determine which service provider fits their needs. This change in the decision making process has lead to the proliferation of inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing involves creating and sharing content in an attempt to gain visibility with search engines. You must earn your website traffic in an increasingly competitive landscape by focusing on SEO, creating quality content, and utilizing social media to spread your message. Brand personification is a method to help make your inbound marketing efforts feel more natural. A company and brand can feel like a faceless entity, which will discourage people from engaging with you. Thanks to this fundamental shift, we decided to learn a little bit more about brand personification in the financial service industry.
We sat down with the CEO of Veriday, Marc Lamoureux, to ask a few questions about brand personification in the financial service industry. Marc has years of experience helping financial service providers personify their brands and effectively engage with their customers while maintaining compliance.
During the course of our conversation, we asked Marc several questions regarding the benefits of brand personification in the financial service industry. From his experience, Marc discussed basic facets of personification and eventually progressed into the finer details and specific benefits of brand personification.
Here is the transcript from our conversation:
Rob Glenn: What does brand personification mean to you?
Marc Lamoureux: Brand personification involves adding a human element to a brand. A brand on its own is inanimate, so we want to add a human element to the brand. We know humans want to connect with people, so if your brand has human qualities you can build a better connection with your customers.
Rob: Why should companies care about brand personification?
Marc: We should care because in the last twenty years, the way technology has gone, there has been a lack of human connection between brands and their customers. At the same time, social networks have seen a monumental surge in popularity. Those social networks represent the opposite of what has happened with technologies. As technology makes everyday experiences more impersonal, social networks are about connecting people. As a brand your goal is to figure how to connect with people using technology. That is the problem that lies at the heart of brand personification.
Rob: What benefits can be realized by associating real people with a brand?
Marc: The main benefit of associating people with your brand is that it creates a stronger connection with your customers. By associating real people with your brand you can develop trust between real people and your brand. When you build a stronger connection with your customers, you end up keeping more of the customers you already have, in addition to gain new customers.
Rob: How does personifying your brand effect where and how you deliver your messaging?
Marc: I think personifying your brand brings you into the local community. The strategy we recommend, here at Veriday, involves aligning local representatives of your brand with a local customer. When you do that, you get a much stronger connection and you feel like you are part of the community, not just a large, faceless presence.
Rob: Do you think that engaging in brand personification opens new engagement channels for companies?
Marc: Yes. I think you have a lot more flexibility and capability when you add personification to your brand. Take email for example:
In an email world, a customer may receive an email from a generic brand. They may not recognize the brand, or they may not trust the email. They’re naturally going to suspect a generic sales email. Contrast that with an email from an individual associated with the brand, someone that the reader is familiar with. They are almost 3 times more likely to open that email and do something with it because it comes from someone they know and trust.
Rob: How does brand personification help drive real engagement?
Marc: I think brand personification is a strategy that is going to provide a must stronger connection to customers. In the market today, when customers are looking at your website, the standard “contact us” option is a 1-800 number or a form you fill out and wait for a response. At Veriday, we would advocate for a “contact me” button, directing customers to a specific individual. They will know who they are speaking with, and sometimes they can be offered a choice of who they wish to contact. That will instill a level of trust in the customer, because they can research that person and make the engagement themselves. For an organization, it’s a more productive way to engage with the customer. You will experience a lot less abandonment with that strategy.
Rob: Which technology solutions can aid in the personification of a brand?
Marc: I think at a high level, you can employ this solution on social networks, on web, and in email. At Veriday, we have created a product called Digital Agent, which was designed expressly for brand personification. It organizes all your brand and marketing strategies and aligns them with your people, to create more trusted human connections across social, web and email.
Rob: Will brand personification add to compliance costs?
Marc: One of the perceived challenges of expanding your marketing programs out through individuals, is that it creates a very expensive burden on compliance reviews, especially in financial services. Regulators are asking financial service companies to review and approve every piece of content that is distributed to customers. The benefit of the compliance workflow that Veriday provides, is that we can increase the volume of personification in the engagement models without dramatically increasing compliance costs.
Rob: How will personifying my brand affect how I attract clients and grow my business?
Marc: The advantage you get as an organization (from personification), is that you can associate real people immediately with a customer inquiry. When a customer researches your company, they will immediately find a human connection. If they are engaging with 1-800 numbers, or online forms, where they don’t know who is going to call them back, they are less likely to take advantage of the engagement model.
Rob: From your experience, how do customers respond to a humanized brand?
Marc: Is a customer more likely to engage with Facebook.com directly or with their friends on Facebook? They are more likely to engage with friends. We view brand personification as evoking the same strategy. A customer is more likely to engage with somebody they know, compared to a brand or somebody they don’t know.
Rob: What happens when you activate the people within your organization to engage with customers?
Marc: When you activate your human resources in engaging with customer you do two things:
- You create stronger connections with customers and the customers have a comfortable place of trust to engage with your business. That is a very positive advantage.
2. Another thing you get to do (in terms of analytics) is making decisions about the success of your engagement efforts. You might see hotspots where there is great engagement. That information can be used to glean interesting insights to try to recreate those circumstances elsewhere. Therefore, you also may see some weak spots, where you may need to alter various aspects of your strategy.
That wraps up the conversation with Marc Lamoureux, CEO of Veriday. His insights on brand personification inspired the creation of our article: Being Yourself: Why Brand Personification Increases Customer Engagement.