From the May 2009 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

A Marketing Guide for the Perplexed

"The Professional's Guide to Financial Services Marketing: Bite-Sized Insights for Creating Effective Approaches," by Jay Nagdeman; John Wiley & Sons.

Ever since the financial crisis turned to red alert, there has been a deluge of articles on the business pages questioning both the viability and need for financial services professionals. Undoubtedly, practitioners will have to bend over backwards to recreate trust and respect with current clients -- and work harder still to gain new ones.

It's doubtful that Jay Nagdeman, president of Suasion Resources, a financial services marketing consulting company, knew that his book would be so well timed when he started writing it, but if there was ever a need for a renewed marketing effort, now is the time. Readers who are extra-busy will certainly appreciate the book's simple approach: Dozens of ideas are presented in what Nagdeman considers "bite-sized insights," all presented in just a few pages.

The author argues that financial services companies have been slow to recognize the critical importance of including marketing into their business mix. Firms need to identify a qualified marketing director, and develop a strategy and a plan that will help generate interest in the firm.

One step is to create a brand. Nagdeman notes that:

- A brand is the face that a company projects in the marketplace.

- A brand represents a company's reputation

- A brand is a company's show of distinction, which helps differentiate it from the competition.

For instance, the book suggests that a name is the most important element of the branding mix. Financial names have been descriptive names like Cash Management Account and created names like a founder's initials. The use of logos and colors can also help the branding process.

The book makes a strong case for developing in-depth market research to determine what excites customers and how to get their attention and their business. Research can help an organization develop customer-focused products and services and ensure that the right distribution channels deliver the right products and service to the correct target markets.

The book amply covers marketing and promotion in the Internet age, noting that online marketing offers flexibility, transparency and cost effectiveness. "The question now is not whether to engage in Internet marketing, but rather which online methods to use and how to use them most effectively," Nagdeman writes. Indeed, the most widely used online marketing technique is pay-per-click advertising. These ads are sold by major search engines, and the advertiser bids on specific search keywords that relate to its business or service. Then the advertiser pays that amount each time a search engine user clicks on the sponsored link.

Nagdeman describes a three-pronged marketing process: Step one is to create a vision, step two is to formulate a strategy to realize that vision, and step three is to develop an integrated marketing plan that systematically addresses how to implement that strategy with multidimensional programs that skillfully combine a number of market-driven approaches.

The ample advice offered in The Professional's Guide to Financial Services Marketing is suitable for large and small firms alike. Some readers may be looking for more detailed advice geared specifically to the financial services industry, since much of the book focuses on general marketing concepts. But marketing will play an increased role in any firm's success, and Nagdeman's book provides a good launching point.

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Mary Scott is the co-author of Companies with a Conscience and can be reached at maryscott303@comcast.net.

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