Selling to the Financial Vertical: Issues, Opportunities and the COVID-19 Effect
The decision to target one, three or five verticals is personal, and likely will bring up many questions. Which vertical aligns with my business philosophy? Which vertical interests me? Which vertical has lasting power? That last one carries special weight right now as businesses deal with the consequences of COVID-19. Although direction is changing rapidly, health care orders are still booming. Travel and hospitality orders, on the other hand, have come to a grinding halt with trips, trade shows and other events temporarily postponed or canceled altogether.
There is so much gray area to explore, but what we do know is distributors who position their companies as true marketing value-adds, selling on the merits of creativity and resourcefulness, will fare well. To help you along in the decision-making process, Print+Promo consulted with leading suppliers and distributors in three key verticals. Below, they expand on end-user needs, common pitfalls and the effects of COVID-19 in the financial vertical.
Every business in every industry has had to face threats to their stability. For the financial sector, the global financial crisis of 2008 immediately comes to mind. Over the short term, the crisis affected the banking sector by causing banks to lose money on mortgage defaults, interbank lending to freeze and credit to consumers and businesses to dry up. To prevent a repeat of a worst-case economic scenario, buffers were designed in the form of new regulatory actions, including the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. More than a decade has passed, and now the world is experiencing unprecedented interruption in its livelihoods and a crushing cash crunch at the hands of COVID-19. So, what does that mean?
It’s too soon to make bold predictions, but banks and financial institutions are in a unique position as they cope with coronavirus lockdowns, in part because they are among the most stringently regulated industries, both from a domestic and international standpoint. Secondly, they are considered an essential business and remain open, even if many of their employees are working from home. They are still placing orders, and while their needs may evolve as stay-at-home orders are lifted and companies adapt to new ways of working, the opportunities are there. Distributors just need to know where to look. An experienced trade printer is a good place to start.
Take Navitor, for example. With a tagline of “the power of us,” the North Mankato, Minnesota-based supplier has committed itself to maintaining symbiotic relationships with customers. As part of that pledge, Navitor built vertical market kits that highlight the 10 top industries it sees in its facilities. Most recently, it created an eFlyer for finance/banking that customers can download for free at Navitor.com, along with digital comeback, or recovery, booklets that detail ideas and inspiration to help end-users communicate that they are “open, safe and ready to conduct business in a meaningful way.”
Products, which serve commercial banks, credit unions and brokerage and mortgage firms, have a variety of purposes, ranging from business identity promotion to marketing collateral. Featured in “Back to the Business of Banking,” they include:
- Outdoor signage for advertising special financing options, lobby policies and new hours of operations.
- Window decals to make customers aware of new safety protocols and updated hours before they enter the building.
- Communications pieces, like postcard mailings and door hangers, for educating existing members and attracting new ones.
- Acrylic partitions used at counters and desks for added safety during customer interactions.
- Functional and durable full-color floor decals to enforce
- Writing instruments to be given away to avoid contamination after use.
- Brochures and rack cards to convey special rates and offers, or to reference all bank and satellite locations.
According to Beth Marston, vice president of sales for Navitor, distributors are already having these conversations with clients. Two “new next normal” projects stood out to her.
“One, we worked with a distributor to equip a group of nine regional banks with acrylic partitions for the tellers and the various locations,” she relayed. “They also had an impressive social distancing and traffic flow program for window decals and floor graphics. Messaging included the new rules for staff and members, but also inspirational messaging about the community coming back together and coming back stronger.
“In another example, we served up a curated set of products most relevant for small to medium financial institutions for a distributor who focuses on this vertical,” Marston continued. “The products (e.g., postcards, rack cards, business cards, badges, floor decals, window decals, labels, folders and pull up banners) were quickly integrated to the distributor’s e-commerce platform, so the client was able to self-serve an ongoing multiproduct program centered around ‘We’re Open!’”
Before targeting the financial vertical, there are certain things distributors should know. For instance, customer needs differ depending on the size and scope of the conglomerate. Marston noted that local and regional banks, as well as credit unions, focus on loyalty and the lifetime of the customer. National and global banks have similar goals, but their strategy and buying is typically centralized and awarded through RPPs. Last, the terminology may be unfamiliar, so get to know it better.
“Most financial institutions do not speak about customers, but they speak of members—make sure you are aware of this type of language nuance before walking into any meeting,” Marston advised. “... The financial sector is in continuous development of new offerings and services to support evolving customer needs, address the competitive landscape and other areas of growth.
“Whether it is orders for sell sheets, letterheads, folders, in-store posters, business cards, notecards, brochures, labels or badges, these are some opportunities that shouldn’t be overlooked in this industry,” Marston went on to say. “If you can get in with a single small credit union, for example, then build into larger banking systems, then you’ll find yourself better able to speak the language of finance. Stay aligned with the community’s growth and development, and you’ll be aligned with any financial institution.”
Another overlooked area is the need for the financial vertical to create hyper-personalized materials that optimize the customer experience. The financial sector has considerable data, but as Marston pointed out, it is often a challenge to get access to unified data across multiple systems.
“Distributors need to be ready to manage many data sources and spreadsheets to any program,” she cautioned.
The Selling Process
Although directional signage and other items that promote safe customer engagement are trending up, Marston acknowledged that mainstays, like checks and forms, are still very much a part of the solutions that financial institutions want. Therefore, distributors’ sales pitches should reflect that.
“As with many sectors, we anticipate continued needs around standard products; however, we are seeing a shift as a result of necessary communication tools to engage, educate and facilitate business in this current state, along with each stage of our new normal throughout recovery,” she said. “The financial sector often is a community core where businesses go to for information on newly available funding through programs like the CARES Act, as well as state and local funding. Banks are also centers for development in a community, and while much is delayed during this time, banks continue to work in the background to keep up the momentum.”
Typically, distributors can expect to work at both the branch manager level and with the HQ teams of marketing and procurement. Added of late to the process, Marston said, is the inclusion of human resources for the bank employees and operations for the proper running and safety of customers. Questions that should come up, and be answered, are:
- How do you centralize your data for programming?
- What type of partnership are you interested in? Will you be coming with a prepared marketing/communications program, or will we be engaging together to track customer interactions and continually adjust the program?
- What type of personalization techniques are you using in your current programming?
- How much distinction is there from branch to branch to the overall messaging?
- What company (in your industry or not) do you admire for its messaging and customer engagement?
Marston shared one final piece of selling advice, pertaining to standardization and compliance. It is critical, she said, to have standardized language on documents and signage, and this needs to remain consistent from product to product and between branch offices, requiring a methodical approach from distributors.
“Distributors need to be organized and clear in the structure of the program, its art files, delivery arrangements and installation instructions,” Marston concluded.