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Some fintech firms’ marketing stinks

There’s an old saying that cropped up the other day in
respect of Margaret Thatcher’s son, Mark. It was a joking reference by
Margaret that her son was so clever he could sell “snow to eskimos or sand to
” or, as one wag put it, arms to anyone.

Anyways, it’s a message worth remembering as most fintech
companies could not sell sand to eskimos, snow to Arabs or guns to anyone, as
they have no idea how to market or sell their wares.

It is illustrated by the fact that all of the firms truly
struggle with how to differentiate their services, and is prescient when I get
up and read my emails, many of which are press releases from today’s raft of companies.

Honestly, the amount of office bingo that plagues these press
releases and marketing programmes is unbelievable:

ABC Inc, the market
leading solutions provider in the financial services markets …

XYZ Ltd, the provider
of real-time, value-add, end-to-end, blah, blah …

Acme Corp, the software
company that improves your bottom-line results …

To be honest, it’s all word garbage.

Finally, I cracked the struggle by defining a strategy and
executing it.

And it worked.

It was based upon strategic solutions selling and I’ve
alluded to it a few times.

So I like things like:

ABC Inc, the company
that reduced A-Bank’s annual costs by 35 percent in one month …

XYZ Ltd, the provider
of technology that gave Z-Bank a market share increase of 20 percent in one
year …

Acme Corp, the company
that delivered £2 billion increase in profit to 123-Bank in under 18 months

I like bold claims, not mundane boredom.

I want stories, not spin.

I need to have my attention grabbed, not just a tick in the
box that you sent me an email.

It’s no wonder most media people lament the state of things
today when they get such dull dross in their inboxes.

The cut-and-paste press release.

That’s the easy approach.

The hard part is to take a long story and cut it short.

How could you take all of your company’s marketing blurb and
turn it into just ten words or less?

That’s the real challenge, and I think I solved it by being The Page Three marketer, as an old
colleague once referred to me.

It’s because I would always spin a story about tech into a
headline that might be in the Sun newspaper.

A bit like Freddie
Starr ate my hamster
or Jordan is

Sun headline

… the whole point of the
headline writer’s raison d’etre is to get you to read more of the
story and then BUY the newspaper.

For me, this is a simplistic fact in marketing anything
– whether it’s fintech or baked beans – you’ve got to grab the eyeballs first,
then get the buyer to actually walk over, open the email, read the first para’s
… and once you’ve sucked them into the story, they may or may not buy, but at least
they will be talking to you.

So I would take stories about cabling the offices of the Mall which service Her Majesty's administration and turn it
into a headline We wired the Queen! or
working with NASA on simulating space flights into We helped put a man on the
Moon and more!

It’s too radical for most to contemplate this approach to marketing technology, as it’s far too
human, engaging and fun … but isn’t that the point?

Most fintech firms get it wrong because they make it dull,
boring and mundane.  Then they reinforce this
boredom by training their sales and marketing people in the widgets, bits and bytes
of technology features and functions in banks, rather than about how their widget,
bits and bytes improves banking and makes it fun.

Come on guys. It’s the 21st century.  Please start communicating effectively. 


About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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  • Great observations Chris. In fact, many a fintech marketing person knows this, but is powerless to do very much to change it.
    1. Not all fintech solutions have a clear value statement such ‘saving’ or ‘making money’. Less than 1/4 do in my experience of selling. Many vendors have “me too” solutions with nuanced differences. Features that might be important enough for one bank to switch to them, but irrelevant to another bank due to their incumbent tech, business priorities, architecture or other reasons.
    2. Being creative and innovative with marketing has a high-risk, low-reward profile for the Head of Marketing. If sales go up, it won’t be wholly attributed to the marketing department. The Head of Sales or the CEO can easily steal their thunder (I’ve seen this happen more than once). If sales go down they will get the blame for being a ‘maverick’.
    The pipeline “tracking” system is an inexact science at best. Everyone in the vendor wants to lay claim to the leads that turn into sales.
    3. Half the fintech on sale is ‘below average’ – by definition. What real “excitement” can you dream up about a 12 year old legacy system with a large install base? “It’s clunky, the code is messy and it will cost a small fortune to integrate which specialist staff, but it is the politically safe choice for you to make because 40% of large banks use it in the back office”. It’s hard to put that in a brochure wouldn’t you agree?
    Truth be told, I do exactly what you suggest above, (though I don’t tell vendors this in the first meeting). I take my fintech client’s dull and boring marketing documents, boil the fat of them and cut to the chase over the telephone, with the top level decision-makers then hand back qualified meetings and background questions.
    I will decimate 3 page marketing PDFs and 20 slide presentations to just 60 word emails. Just cold hard facts about value, value and value. Who uses it and why they benefit. Who has time to read more than that and what could they remember if they did read it?
    This way the vendors have plausible deniability if I claim too much (it has happened once or twice in my exuberance and I can’t be ‘fired’ because I don’t work for them.
    Some vendors do however do great marketing. Algorithmics, under Ron Dembo, in the 1990s set the gold standard which has never been bettered in my opinion.

  • Here’s another one. I’ve gone to three FinTech web sites in search of contacts to meet with 6 Presidents of European banks later in the spring. My conclusion is that the email addresses on the sites are where inquiries go to die. No one replies within 5 days. And one site offers no telephone numbers!? They are copying the wrong policies of traditional banks.

  • Geisel

    One is copy from a other the last copy from the first.
    They do not proof the informations and there are many change of positions in the companies and banks too.

  • Matthias Benfey

    I’m having trouble connecting your blog today with your blog yesterday. Surely if we want to restore trust in the banking industry, then one element is truth in advertising, rather than attention-grabbing headlines which mislead in the opposite direction from the boring ones. What are the opportunities for fintech companies to help the banking industry restore client confidence? How can they help with increasing transparency and reducing the cost of regulatory compliance, or even turning regulatory initiatives to client and shareholder advantage? Alas I haven’t seen a single example.

  • Chris Skinner

    I am absolutely in NO WAY expecting misleading or untruthful headlines. They will get found out. I am just asking for headlines that make me bother reading what these firms do, rather than the bingo word dross they send out today.

  • Matthias Benfey

    Thanks for clarifying, Chris! I concur.