Shouting into the Wind: Talk to your customer. Not the crowd.

Shouting into the Wind: Talk to your customer. Not the crowd.


If you’re in an industry – such as the financial services industry – that offers countless products and services to the broadest imaginable group of consumers, it’s easy to want to be the go-to source for all things to all people. With all that opportunity for sales out there, it’s not so easy to intentionally limit your product and service offerings to a specific group of audiences. But, in the wildly competitive arena of banking and financial services companies, that’s often the challenge.

Do you attempt to satisfy the financial needs of any consumer who might walk through your door, or visit your website…..or do you focus your marketing energy on specific customer profiles, at the exclusion of others?  Is your institution positioned for the traditional retail consumer?  Is it positioned for the small business owner, the high net-worth individual, the professional? Maybe your niche is in wealth management or insurance services. Or your challenge is that your institution offers all the above, with an unfocused emphasis on each. If that’s the case, it’s a scary place to be.

The reality in the financial services industry is that most of the products and services being offered – across the spectrum of providers – are very similar. In practically every market, large or small, the smart financial marketer understands that their competition is actually a global one. Their products and services can and will be easily compared to similar products and services being offered not only across the street, but across the country. The successful financial marketer realizes that it’s not so much the uniqueness of the product that will make him or her successful. It’s understanding the uniqueness of their institution’s strengths and abilities, and identifying the specific consumer who can benefit from them. The connection of those two important components will result in success.

The process of finding a target market – and narrowing your institution’s  focus to appeal to it directly – often trips up management, who find it difficult to turn down business opportunities when they arise. But trying to be all things to all people is a sure way to fail in the marketplace. Business experts offer up these tips to narrowing your target market:

Focus, Focus, Focus

Narrowing your focus to a consumer demographic that suits your organization’s strengths gives potential customers a reason to notice you in the rest of the competitive fray.

“If you’re not differentiating yourself in the marketplace, what happens is the consumer looks at price as being the motivator,” says Susan Friedmann, author of the books Riches in Niches and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Target Marketing. “And they look at the cheapest.”

If a bank or financial institution doesn’t know specifically which customers they are speaking to, they are more or less speaking to no one. Tammy Lenski, a business mediation expert who has advised clients about successful business through target marketing says, “It’s like standing in a park shouting in the wind. When you have a target market, it’s like standing in a park and talking to a specific group of people.”

That means you can’t be afraid to exclude certain types of consumers from your marketing, or to target your communications at smaller groups. Some customers will feel left out, but those are the sacrifices necessary for a successful financial organization.

Do the market research

Having a clear and unemotional understanding of the dynamics of the environment in which you operate is critical. What do you consider to be your institution’s strengths – and weaknesses? How is your institution seen by others, both inside and outside of your organization? What is your competitive environment? Basically, your goal is to determine what it is that makes your financial institution unique – in a positive and competitive way.

If you know clearly what it is that you do – or can do – better than your competitors, that knowledge can lead you directly to those particular consumers who are your target audience.

Tweak your marketing

With a heightened understanding of who your “best” customer might be, you’ll want to make sure that everything your institution does and says will be appropriate for the particular eyes and ears of your target audiences. And of course, you may have to change your branding strategy or marketing efforts to clarify your mission. Once you find your target, make certain that your advertising and communication strategies and efforts are directed toward the right places to generate new business. All of your marketing initiatives need to highlight your institution’s specialization, which will continually improve your credibility. Your goal is to be perceived as the BEST at what you do.

Creating a relationship

Once you’ve identified your strategic audience, your on-going goal is to engage that market in every way possible. By taking full advantage of options like social media and interactive marketing, you’ll be able to find out more about what your particular consumer audience is looking for. Successful relationships with a strategically defined market can become a two-way conversation. That’s really where having a strategically targeted market pays off.