Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with a prominent figure in the FinTech industry and, as we spoke about a variety of issues affecting the FinTech start-ups, one term was mentioned that really resonated with me: consumer trust. The term struck me, because knowing how important consumer trust is to most any company, I have found that it is a subject which is hardly mentioned or spoken about, especially from a marketing perspective, within the FinTech industry.
As the FinTech start-ups compete with the traditional banks and financial services firms, they are at a huge disadvantage when it comes to consumer trust, and for obvious reasons, their brand is virtually unknown to the general public and their products, while new and innovative, are equally unknown and for the most part untested. Given this situation/dilemma, how does a FinTech start-up (or any other type of company) go about the process of earning and maintaining consumer trust? If I may, let me try to shed some light on this.
To begin, let’s give some definition to the term consumer trust. In my mind, a consumer comes to trust a brand when any and all that is being offered, delivered, said and or promised to the consumer comes true and or is realized by them. With nothing less than a totally satisfactory experience with the brand and product/service, from first point of contact to the last and across all marketing mediums and sales distribution and support channels, will trust be earned in any meaningful way or amount for the company.
With that as our working definition, I believe, it’s then important to identify who or what group within the organization should be responsible for building, maintaining and growing consumer trust, as well as educating internal personnel on what consumer trust means and how it should be enacted. As you will see below, much of the materials, messages and tasks involved in garnering and fostering trust are already housed within the marketing function, so it seems to make the most sense that it should remain within this area of the organization. Sure sales, customer service, operations, human resources, the C-Suite, etc., all have a role to play when it comes to establishing and maintaining trust, but the play-maker, enforcer and educator should be marketing.
Now that we have a definition of consumer trust and know who should stand behind consumer trust, let’s talk about some of the actions companies can take to earn it.
The first step in the process of building consumer trust is to map out the consumer’s journey, or path to purchase, from start to finish and with all marketing mediums and sales distribution and support channels included. When viewed in detail from the consumer’s perspective (read that again), the consumer’s journey should be seamless and frictionless. If that’s the case then it could be assumed that the desired outcome will be reached by the consumer and trust will have been created and earned. To take this one step further, it stands to reason that either a referral and or positive word of mouth will ensue, both of which many marketers view as the ultimate goal or objective of the marketing process/function. With the consumer journey mapped, it then becomes a matter of understanding and making use of certain mindsets and a variety of tactics, all of which serve to create and build trust between consumer and brand.
Here, I believe, it’s vitally important to understand the mindset of building a relationship with the consumer first, and then focusing on the conversion or sale. The cart cannot and should not be put before the horse. In this regard, once a prospective client is identified and qualified, a nurturing campaign should kick in so that, over time, the prospect is warmed up to the brand and product/service, and trying to make the actual sale is not yet a factor. In working through a mindset such as this, in addition to the tactics which support it, the sales team and other front-line personnel need to be in sync with this, because they obviously play an integral role in prospecting, lead generation and being the first point of contact with the consumer.
With this mindset in place, there are a number of tactics which work to support this, and when reading through these below it’s worth noting that much of what these tactics work towards is controlling the consumer’s perception of the company, brand and or product/service. How the company may or may not be perceived by the consumer, existing clients, third-parties, etc., all play into earning and maintaining trust. It should also be said that none of these tactics are a silver bullet, but like anything else marketing related they need to be tried and tested.
- Brand ambassador – A brand ambassador is someone who represents the brand or product/service and gives the brand or product/service a recognizable name and face. The easiest way this is accomplished is usually by engaging with a well-known and well-respected celebrity, sports figure, thought leader, etc., who fits the persona of the company, brand and product/service being offered. If the consumer sees that X wears, uses and or thinks highly enough of the brand and or product/service then it must be good for them too.
- Third-party comment or endorsement – This refers to some outside person or organization making a comment on or endorsement of the brand and its product/service. In most cases this will be a publication, media source, blog, research group, trade association, etc. While in some instances it could be a matter of pay to play (i.e., some form of payment needs to be made for the comment or endorsement to be made), it is always best and more genuine if it’s not.
- Up-to-date technology – As the saying goes, the first impression goes a long way and if a web site and or use of technology (i.e., emails, surveys, newsletters, advertising, appointment scheduling, etc.) by the company is not the most current then this will make the brand look old, stodgy and out of touch. For most FinTechs this is certainly not the case, as they are cutting edge through and through when it comes to technology, but for other companies this needs to be considered.
- Deliver on promises and expectations – This is simple. Never say or imply that something can and or will be done for the client if the company or product/service can’t deliver on it. Managing expectations is critical to building trust.
- Customer reviews – Unsolicited product/service reviews helps to reduce fear and the reluctance to purchase. Space should be made available on a website product page or other piece of collateral for reviews to be captured and seen. Also, as with referrals, the company should not be shy about asking for a review.
- Unbiased commentary – Any biased commentary about a company’s product or service will be frowned upon and will not foster trust. Part of this gets into content management, and what’s most important here is educating the consumer in an authentic way and not selling to them. Instead of providing information that pertains solely to the company and its products/services, more general information should be reported (i.e., information about the industry, regulatory issues, major industry or lifestyle topics, etc.). This is also when a company can try to promote its own persona and image.
- Personalized and customized communications – When and where appropriate try to make the conversation feel one to one, not one to the masses. With this tactic though, there is a fine line of which to make note. With the personalization and customization technology that’s available in the marketplace, over personalization and or customization can look like stalking or intrusion, so tread lightly.
- Make contact with the brand easy – Always provide existing clients and prospects with an email, 1-800 number, etc., so that they know they can contact the company if and when they need to. And the flip side to this is to actually make good on the call for help. Having consumers wait over 24 hours to hear back these days is ridiculous and just promotes frustration.
While these are relatively easy tactics to implement and integrate into the overall marketing mix, I believe, the best thing a marketer or company can do to build consumer trust is to put themselves in the consumer’s shoes and experience the brand and product/service as they would, and ask: Is this how I would want to be treated and paid attention to? Is this what I expected from the product or service which I bought? Is this the value that I thought I was getting for the price I paid? Beyond that, it’s a matter of dedicating the necessary resources and incorporating a measurable consumer trust objective into the overall marketing mix.
Lastly, if a Fin-Tech start-up (or any other start-up or existing company) puts all or part of the above into motion, I believe, it will put them on the right path to building consumer trust and this, in the end, will ultimately drive sales.