With fintech at the forefront of innovation in the financial services sector, Finance Monthly here benefits from an insightful outlook into the kinds of challenges fintech firms face, in the midst of growing competition and an ever-increasing customer base. Michael Quirke, Senior Strategist at Brand Union here provides the ultimate breakdown of priorities every fintech brand should be considering.

Financial technology (fintech) investment is forecast to grow beyond $150bn over the next few years, and many new market entrants are trying to get in on the game.

The challenge as this evolves is going to be how you stand out. People have to be able to remember your name and who you are. And not everyone can become the Monzo, Xero or TransferWise of this world.

Getting to that space requires a pragmatic approach to branding that takes consideration of the limited factors you have under your control: an often small marketing budget, primarily online touchpoints and (hopefully) an excited team who are eager to spread the word about the new platform. The worries then are consistent with any other company: how do I attract and retain the best talent? How do I meet my growth targets? How do I position this company to scale?

For more technically-minded companies, this ‘softer’ side of creating the brand that people remember can be a challenge. So from our work with Sonovate, a funding platform for recruitment agencies, we wanted to share a few principles from what we’ve learned.

  1. Go back to basics - why are you here?

One of the biggest challenges fintechs face is explaining a complex offer. It is very easy to get caught up in industry jargon, or hooked onto a functional sales playbook that served you in a rush when first starting out. People need to understand clearly who you are, what you offer and why they should care. And they’re not waiting to get to know you, so you need to be able to show that in under 3 seconds. Work on making as simple as possible who you are, what you do and why you’re here and you have a good platform for making that creative. Talk it to yourself. It’s healthy.

  1. Know your audience

Another challenge - especially again for technically-minded companies - is thinking in benefits vs product features. You need to know who exactly your customer is and how what you’re pitching fits into their lives. For instance, for Monzo they are very humble and focused about what their product does. It’s there as a pre-pay card, they make it as easy as possible to manage on mobile, and they open up their product roadmap to their community of beta testers to add in feature suggestions as they go. The actual feature set is quite small, but they make the most out of each one by being very diligent in UX design and communicating it well. For them, it is a mass audience of (currently) dedicated tech fans and students, but for you it may be B2B or more niche B2C. Think how you can quickly get a ‘map’ of your audience’s life and world, and make sure all product decisions, features and communications are guided towards fitting in easily there.

  1. Make the most of your touchpoints

Monzo has bright orange debit cards that draw just the right amount of attention when flashed. TransferWise have their sharply designed ads and a pointedly anti-bank tone of voice. Citymapper (not a fintech, but useful analogy) has their “jetpack” or “catapult” ways of travelling in-app. Small touches of delight you add, on top of the basics, make your experience more memorable and, thereby, more sticky. Building stickiness or virality into the design of your products and onboarding experience has more power than any amount of content marketing.

  1. Nurture your community

As more technology companies spring up, covering a wide base of offers, becoming the preferred partner in your category is essential. This means cultivating a community and partnership strategy as soon as possible in your lifecycle - deciding which apps you are going to target to integrate with (see the Slack playbook), and how you are going to reward and engage users to keep them interested. Forming a community platform like Monzo’s has the added benefit of providing regular user feedback, that can feed into the product and brand. On B2B side, the community forum can be doubly effective in helping end-users quickly and elegantly fix issues with the platform; and pass on the experience to friends or family at other businesses.

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Email marketing is a skill in itself, but an essential one to get right. However you contact users (whether in-app or on email), make sure that at all times you are a) putting in place a system to manage any concerns or feedback on new features, b) keeping in line with your core brand positioning and tone of voice (so as not to seem inconsistent or overly sales-y) and c) giving users the opportunity to input into the future of the platform. Whether working with B2C or B2B clients this is a huge advantage, and you can always filter and take your own opinion on responses as they come in.

Branding in the fintech age is a very different proposition from the suave logos and airport ads it used to be. But the same classic rules of knowing what you’re offering and why people should care apply. As long as you are clear enough on these things to let your teams get creative with them, you shouldn’t go far wrong. We look forward to seeing you on-stage at Finovate Europe 2018.