This is a guest post by Joy Schoffler, a nationally recognized author and speaker in the field of innovative financial services marketing and communication. Leverage PR works within the financial services, real estate, technology and professional services industries, helping organizations reach their target audiences through strategic public relations initiatives. As we approach 2015, many will find themselves feeling a sense of déjà vu from past years, sitting in meeting after meeting discussing how to maximize marketing spend return on investment. While the solution to this question may seem like it requires a crystal ball, for many companies, an evaluation of core messaging and audience may be one of the most beneficial exercises they can conduct. As a new mentor for Yodlee Interactive Incubator and as the founder of Leverage PR, a strategic communications firm specializing in the financial services and technology industries, we work with financial technology companies from around the globe helping them launch new products and services and expand market share through strategic communications initiatives. Here are some of our most impactful tips to help you start your New Year off right. Know Your Customer and Speak to Their Needs It sounds simple enough doesn’t it? However, you would be surprised at the amount of money that is wasted either chasing the wrong customer or worse, highlighting aspects of your offering that do not benefit your customer’s business or match their goals and objectives, which ultimately decreases your perceived value. You should know who your target audience is and create messaging that highlights your value and experience, which reinforces why you are the right choice. While there is typically some SEO and overall brand benefit to coverage in a variety of publications, you also need to ensure that you are communicating through channels that your customers frequent, instead of wasting valuable PR spend on column inches in publications that are less beneficial. Now is the time to review your earned media hits and determine if they are attracting the right kinds of customers. Also, think outside the box on publications that may not be exactly about your industry but that many of your customers might read. For example, you could target high-net-worth investors through luxury lifestyle periodicals like Travel & Leisure. Selling through Education There is a reason why you never run across slogans that tout, “We’re just okay.” Everyone wants to be the best, but in FinTech, it is absolutely critical to differentiate a company from its competitors. FinTech companies merge two areas that require the most credibility and trust from their customers: financial services and technology. Whether your customer is a major bank or an individual using a new personal finance app, customers have to trust that you will keep their data safe and believe that you will be around for the long haul. While referrals and “word of mouth” within the industry can be effective, the majority of all businesses – regardless of their size – educate themselves on who is the best in the business the same way, through Google and other popular search engines. Individuals and companies alike are looking to see who you have worked with, what results you secured for them, what your areas of expertise are and more importantly, what independent third parties are saying about you. Some of the most powerful independent third parties are national and trade media outlets. Quality media outlets also typically have some of the highest-ranking search results, helping to build exposure in your target vertical and are also viewed as credible external sources of validation. Maximize Tradeshow Attendance January 2015 is not just the start of the New Year, it is the kick-off of the year-round tradeshow season. Many FinTech companies have a calendar packed with events like Money 20/20, SXSW Interactive and Finovate where they will be either be exhibiting at or attending. How do you make sure your participation turns into more than just a three-day vacation for your marketing staff? Having run PR for dozens of shows, including this years’ SXSW Interactive festival, Leverage PR often prepares clients months before the show to make sure ROI is maximized on the ground. Here are a few tips so your company can too:
- Identify speaking opportunities: Nothing sells a company better to a room than having a representative speak at an event (preferably a C-suite executive). It automatically puts the company in a position of leadership in front of potential customers, demonstrating credibility and subject matter expertise, elevating the profile and awareness of both the leadership and the brand. People also automatically have a reason to come to speakers to continue the discussion. Speaking at events is also a great social media fodder; a member of staff can “live tweet” the panel in real time, further highlighting your expertise to a wider audience.
- Apply for pitch competitions: Early-stage companies should apply for pitch competitions even if they are not looking for money, as they are useful beyond fundraising by allowing founders to make great industry connections and connect with reporters covering events. Check out upcoming pitch opportunities at LAUNCH Hackathon, FinTech Startups Conference, DEMO Traction, TechCrunch Disrupt, Finovate and SXSW V2V.
- Make a list and check it twice: While not everyone has a social system like SXSW that allows you to see every attendee, you can typically find a list of speakers on conference websites. Do your homework and reach out to people on LinkedIn before the event to set up meetings. Just remember to highlight how the meeting will benefit them, as no one wants to be oversold. You can also follow event Twitter handles and hashtags to connect with speakers and attendees. These online conversations can lead to remarkable business opportunities. For example, we initially connected with @YIDeveloper on Twitter, which led to our involvement in Yodlee Interactive Incubator and upcoming events.
- Pre-pitch media: While it can be nearly impossible to secure media lists unless you are a sponsor of an event or a well-networked PR firm, setting up meetings with reporters who are likely to be at events or from media outlets who may be sponsors is a great way to secure coverage and build relationships that can move the dial. Just remember, reporters are looking for a story, not a sales pitch, so always make it about them and their readers.
- Map out your tradeshow strategy: After you identify relevant tradeshows to participate in, set clear goals with the team attending. Divide up the targets, seminars, after hour events and assign members specific tasks and duties while at the tradeshow. This will ensure that networking opportunities aren’t lost and that all team members keep the end in mind.
- Follow-up after the tradeshow: Don’t just collect business cards, but take detailed notes during event meetings. Follow-up with your newly made contacts to close any deals you’ve laid the foundation for during the tradeshow.
One event that we’re particularly excited about is the Yodlee Interactive FinTech Meetup during SXSW Interactive Festival 2015. Join us on Friday, March 13th at Icenhauer’s from 4-8PM to connect with other thought leaders in FinTech and enjoy great food, drinks, music and entertainment. Register to reserve your spot as space is limited! In conclusion, we hope you find the top three ways to maximize your marketing spend helpful. For additional ways to maximize your PR ROI, contact Leverage PR at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 512-502-5833 for more information.