Have you ever had to create buyer personas for the financial industry? This was one of my biggest priorities after being hired as head of marketing for Synthesis Technology, a financial services technology firm that automates factsheets and pitchbooks for investment companies. As a “newbie” to the investment management industry, I was amped up for the challenge but had no idea how difficult it would be to identify, attract, and engage a financial services audience. There’s one thing I learned right away – the financial services industry is a beast! It encompasses a broad range of organizations that manage money including banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, stock brokerages, investment funds, real estate funds, and the list goes on. As any marketer should, I spent my first few weeks developing my buyer personas. Initially, I did this by conducting interviews with clients and key persons within our organization, observing during product demos, and researching my target audience and key influencers on social media. Based on my findings, I began creating content with the goal of building an audience and driving qualified leads. After about six months, a few key problems and more questions emerged:
- Not enough original ideas – How can we create more of the right content? How can we stand out and say something new?
- Not enough engagement – How do we get people to like, comment, and share our content?
- Not enough leads – How do we get visitors to convert into qualified leads?
- Not enough closed deals – How do we develop content that facilitates the buying cycle?
Buyer Persona Development for Financial Services is ComplexThere are a lot of factors to consider when developing truly useful buyer personas for financial services. And, unfortunately, it takes a lot of work. I realized that in order to really get inside the head of my buyers I needed to to find out:
- What types of financial services companies buy our technology?
- What types of people within those companies participate in the buying process?
- What information do these stakeholders need in order to make a buying decision?
Tactic #1: Understanding the Companies That BuyBecause “financial services” is so broad, I wanted to first understand the kinds of companies that buy our technology. Here was my strategy: First, I looked at the types of companies that use our software and services. I created a spreadsheet and listed all of our current clients and current sales qualified leads by company name. I conducted research on each company to understand what type of financial products or services they offer. Are they a mutual fund company? TAMP? Wealth manager? Hedge Fund? Investment bank? By associating each company with a firm “type”, I started to identify what kinds of companies I should be targeting within the financial services sector. Next, I looked at company size. I added a column to record the size of each company and designated each firm as a small, medium, or large based on assets under management (AUM). The point here was to start identifying any trends with regard to the size of firm that buys our services. Next, I looked at the end customer. I created another column in my master spreadsheet to record the end customer. In other words, who are the end buyers at these companies? Are they personal investors (retail)? Institutions? Financial advisors? Sophisticated Investors? By understanding who buys from our clients, I got a better understanding of our clients’ marketing challenges and how our software might help them. Next, I looked at how these companies access their market. I wanted to understand which marketing and sales channels these firms use to engage with their customers. Are they selling direct or through intermediaries and financial advisors? And what types of financial advisors? The point here was to understand how our software will enable them to market and sell through their channels. Last, I took note of how each firm is regulated. Are they governed by FINRA or the SEC? I did some research to identify challenges brought on by regulations like AIFMD, Dodd-Frank, Form PF, EMIR, and Solvency II. Compliance is a key driver to technology purchases, so I wanted to understand how this might affect the buying process.
Tactic #2: Understanding the People Who BuyAfter I understood the type of companies that buy, I wanted to understand the people at those companies who take part in the purchasing decision. Here was my strategy: First, I interviewed our sales people. I took a representative sample of firms from the company list I created and set up interviews with the sales team to discuss them. The idea was to get their perspective on the buying process. Here are the questions I asked in these interviews with our sales team:
- What does this company do and what is their business goal?
- What are their key pain points?
- What key obstacles are contributing to these pain points?
- Who got us in the door?
- Who came to the meetings?
- Who signed the contract?
- Who are the users?
- Who was involved in the implementation?
- How do they describe the technology/solution to colleagues internally?
- How did they find us?
- Where did they look to gain more insight into their problem/pain points?
- Who else was affected and how?
- Who did they have to convince, and how did they go about it?
- What kinds of questions/objections came up during the evaluation/decision process?