The UK is currently facing the biggest drop in the standard of living since the 1970s. Much of this is being caused by higher energy prices which appear set to eat into household budgets for the next 18 months. Households will be pressured and many businesses could close.
As marketers in the financial sector, we have spent a lot of time writing for our clients about the cost of living crisis. Along the way, it has occurred to us that there are lessons to be drawn from the UK economy and how financial firms approach their marketing.
Below, we share some of these ideas with you. We hope this provides useful food for thought, and we invite you to book a free online consultation (no obligation involved) with our team if you’d like to discuss your own financial marketing strategy with us.
Lesson #1: nurture marketing independence
The UK has been disproportionately hit by rising energy costs, partly because it is a net importer of food and energy. In 2020, the UK imported 40% of the food it consumed. For over ten years, moreover, we have relied on energy from France (10.4 TWh) and the Netherlands (4.7 TWh), and the UK became a net importer of petroleum products (our main type of energy consumption) in 2013.
Unfortunately, this left the UK vulnerable if the global energy market shifted dramatically. This started to happen in 2021 when both Asia and Europe experienced especially cold winters – depleting gas reserves and driving up prices. In February 2022, of course, we then had the Russian invasion of Ukraine which led to international sanctions against the former; a major global supplier of oil and gas.
Coming back to the world of marketing, there may not be physical goods involved (like oil and gas). Yet an essential “good” within marketing is lead generation. If the “supply” of leads starts to dry up, then your business can experience significant problems.
In our experience, this often happens to financial firms that rely too much on third-party lead generation suppliers to generate new clients. The problem here is that regulatory pressures (e.g. data protection laws) are making it more difficult for these companies to provide the kind of quality they might have achieved in previous years. Users are also now more wary of signing up to these suppliers; preferring, instead, to talk with a business directly.
Instead of depending on lead generation suppliers, consider building your own lead generation infrastructure. Here, you could explore ideas such as Pay Per Click (PPC), SEO (search engine optimisation (SEO) and email marketing using an opted-in list of subscribers. Not only will the cost of these assets be more in your control, but they foster more marketing independence.
Lesson #2: engage in disaster planning
Could the 2022 energy crisis have been avoided (or its negative effects perhaps dampened) if people in government had sat down together years ago, asked each other: “What would happen to living standards if oil and gas prices skyrocketed?” and then taken the possibility seriously – putting plans into action that could shield households, should this scenario occur?
Contingency planning is vital in many spheres of business. Yet it is often neglected in the sphere of financial marketing. For instance, we know of a few financial firms which chose a company name similar to another company (e.g. in a different country), thinking this would not be a problem. However, in certain cases, customers had a poor experience with the other company – leading them, mistakenly, to post negative reviews about the first company on social media and other platforms.
Many websites – e.g. Google Reviews – do not allow you to take negative reviews down. When this unexpectedly happens, financial firms can be caught seriously off-guard and left in a “PR panic”. Rather than try to avoid review websites altogether (impossible), however, you could establish a contingency plan about what steps to take as a company if you ever get a negative review – perhaps by mistake.
A good rule of thumb is to respond politely and professionally to posts like these, rather than ignoring them.
Lesson #3: invest in infrastructure
The UK has lagged behind other G7 countries for some time now regarding investment in infrastructure, and this has exacerbated the energy crisis we now find ourselves in. Airports face choked capacity; many roads are potholed and congested; trains are overcrowded and cancelled; houses are hugely expensive and in short supply; coal and nuclear stations are ageing and shutting down. The list goes on.
Just like a country’s infrastructure, a financial firm can find itself in a position where its “marketing infrastructure” becomes increasingly outdated, inefficient and costly. Perhaps the “old guard” in management clings to the tried-and-tested ways of marketing from decades ago, rather than preparing the business for more digital-based marketing and lead generation.
Sometimes an overhaul of a marketing strategy is required, but decision-makers are reluctant to engage in the work involved – perceiving it to be too high-risk. However, leaving things as they are also involves considerable risk, especially if your competitors are making important marketing preparations and you are not.
What are some ideas for developing your marketing infrastructure in 2022? This will, of course, look different for every financial firm due to unique marketing goals, target audience(s), budgets and competitive landscapes. However, some common themes to consider include:
- Investing in a fast, mobile-friendly financial website.
- Developing a strong set of 4-5 star reviews (e.g. on Google My Business) to get ahead of any negative reviews that may come in.
- Establishing yourself as a thought leader online by posting regular, relevant and high-quality content.
- Integrating key performance measurement tools onto your website (e.g. Google Analytics) and using them!
- Engaging in “on-site SEO” to improve the chances of your pages appearing in top Google Search results.