Updated: Sep 8, 2020
How can you distinguish your brand in such a busy and competitive market like fintech? Edwin Abl, CMO at the UK-based fintech Modulr, shares his thoughts on why you need to build a likeable brand and 4 practical tips to refocus your branding efforts.
We all work in busy industries but tech, and especially the burgeoning fintech sector, are highly competitive with new entrants bombarding the same customer base.
It leaves many CMOs with their hands full. How do we distinguish ourselves in such a busy market?
After attending a brand agency talk a few weeks ago, something was said that resonated with me:
“All great marketers know you should be customer-led and trustworthy, but you should really think about being the most likeable brand in your category.”
This idea of building a ‘likeable’ brand is something I wanted to unpack a little further in the context of fintech marketing. As emerging fintechs continue to create innovative solutions and provide alternatives to the existing financial services, how can Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) build highly-likeable brands that customers truly engage and connect with?
In this article, I’ll explain my reasoning, as well as offer 4 practical tips on how to begin your journey to becoming a likeable brand.
Bridging the experience gap
Almost every emerging technology company has to overcome the challenge of pulling customers away from established competitors. However, fintechs face the somewhat daunting task of building a brand amongst an entire industry of long-standing banks and financial service providers.
It’s important for fintech marketers to recognise the weighting customers place on likeability and trust. The bottom line is people trust banks — every time we make a deposit, we’re entrusting that they have the means to keep our hard-earned money safe. We might not categorise high street banks as our most likeable brands, but historically that’s all we’ve had to choose from so we’ve settled on the brand with the fewest flaws. In this way, likeability is a layer on top of trust.
That’s why fintechs must bridge what I like to call the ‘experience gap’ by assimilating hundreds of years’ worth of customer loyalties in the blink of an eye. Offering an attractive proposition or technological innovation will only get you so far if you fail to persuade long standing existing relationships away from the norm.
Overcoming the experience gap is all about winning the ‘fanship’ of a patient group of early adopters who believe in your mission and will stand by your side as you grow. Earning customers doesn’t happen overnight.
Geoffrey Moore’s award-winning Crossing the Chasm provides an analytical insight into how emerging brands can bridge the gap between early adopters and mainstream customers. I always remember the 1000 True Fans article; now 100 True Fans and read books like This is Marketing; which places more focus on building your niche brand proposition.
What does it mean to be ‘Likeable’?
“How can we be likeable?” is the most frequently asked question in our brand strategy meetings. Whenever people experience your brand, it always impacts the way your brand is perceived; everything from the design of your content to the tone of your prospecting emails and even the angle of your thought leadership pieces.
And don’t fall into the trap that likeability only applies to top of funnel awareness campaigns. Likeability should permeate through the customer engagement lifecycle where each touch point reinforces a brand’s likeable nature.
I view trust as a by-product of likeability. When we like something, we are more likely to understand it and take the time to learn about it. Building a likeable brand is all about identifying your customer persona, how you can help them, and what approach you should use to engage them.
A quick scroll through LinkedIn will confirm that although lots of businesses are taking steps to push their brand, very few have a delivery that pulls people in and encourages them to transition from a passive observer to an active customer. For fintechs, this pull is vital to earn trust, cement loyalty and differentiate your brand from an increasingly saturated market.
Building likeability through a commercial lens
The process of building a likeable brand is significantly different for B2B fintechs compared to B2C service providers. While B2C fintechs can target a specific audience and play to their personal cues, it’s difficult to deliver a personal touch in a B2B sales funnel.
As the CMO at Modulr, one of my biggest challenges is building this same level of human engagement and intimacy through a B2B commercial lens. Business customers focus less on your personal delivery and more on the way you package your services/products to meet their specific needs.
Whether it’s promoting cost benefits or doubling-down on the unrivalled functionality of your products, the term ‘likability’ takes a whole new meaning in the context of B2B marketing.
How to build a Likeable brand: 4 Practical steps to boost likability
Communication. Nailing your tone of voice is vital to strike a chord with your target audience. If you don’t sound like your customers, they’re likely to lose interest very quickly. I also think more brands need to reconsider the frequency of their communications with customers — there’s a fine line between communication which adds value to the prospect/ customer or being self-serving. Think hard about your communication workflows.
Customer transparency. I’m a big advocate of ‘honesty is the best policy’ when it comes to communicating issues. Offering complete transparency to customers when things go wrong, guaranteeing ultra-responsive updates and offering around-the-clock support will keep customers on your side. Enthuse your customer success team with what it means to be ‘like-able’ - coach them in your thinking and what you are building into the overall brand.
Confidence. People are attracted to confidence. While it’s important not to overstep the mark between confidence and being all about you (that’s not good), it’s important to provide clarity to the market that you stand for a purpose or position, that you are confident in what your brand stands for, how you can improve their lives and why they should choose your brand over rivals.
Reevaluate positioning. It’s easy to always view yourself as a startup or new entrant even after a decade of operation. Just like clothing, the way we position our brand quickly becomes tired and outdated. A common pitfall for startup brands is that they retain their USP-led narratives for too long because it’s all they’ve known. You should think about adding an extra layer to your narratives which is completely customer-led.
The bottom line
While likability is a fundamental building block to creating a reputable, trustworthy and engaging brand, it goes hand in hand with the value provided to the market. The value it creates for customers.
Ultimately, your product or service needs to build for the long run to really create this ‘likeability’ factor because the leverage of doing the right approach builds over time. CMOs must collaborate with internal teams to ensure likeability is a common theme that stretches across your entire organisation.
To make sure they understand why it’s important, make sure that context is always top-of-mind in what you are building as the brand proposition. Start reframing your thinking in how to be more likeable to your market. Go deep. Get into the detail of what that really means. Then go on a mission to build that perception. It’s something you should be excited about delivering. It’s not easy but we are excited here at Modulr to build this as part of our journey!
About Edwin Abl: Edwin Abl is the CMO of Modulr, a fast growing digital payments start-up founded in 2015, with offices in London, Edinburgh and Dublin. At Modulr, Edwin is responsible for taking to market their unique API-driven payments solution, building a team and scaling systemised processes.
Previously, he led and built marketing at Appirio, inc (Global strategic partner of Salesforce.com, Workday and Google) in Europe - $30k - $133M pipeline growth in 4 years (acquired in 2016), helped scale Hive Learning's marketing function (also a Blenheim Chalcot company), co-founded 2 companies in the SaaS tech space and worked as a new business / go-to-market advisor to scaling startups.