The investment industry has seen its fair share of negative media attention over the past few months, notably since the suspension of the Woodford funds. Subsequently, there has been more focus on undesirable practices in the sector and the impact on investors. What, if anything, are the implications for marketers?
While marketing teams often feel like they have very little to do with the decisions and behaviour that leads to negative media fallout, it makes our jobs all that much more difficult. Regardless of which brands have been called to account by the Financial Conduct Authority for whatever reasons, all of this has one very damaging effect for the industry: it erodes trust.
As an industry that trades on the implied promise of safeguarding and growing people's assets, we are reliant on their trust in our ability to look after their money carefully. Once we lose investors' trust, it is incredibly tough to win it back.
When it comes to their investments, people are - understandably - prone to more emotional reactions, even when the facts may prove otherwise. This is why it is easy for one brand's poor behaviour to taint a whole industry negatively. It goes without saying that it makes marketers' job that much more difficult to get messages across when the audience is instinctively distrusting.
So, what are marketers left to do in this environment?
While it is undoubtedly frustrating to try and go about business as usual - when your brand has not been implicated in wrongdoing - we firstly have to acknowledge and be sensitive to the fact that our audience will likely be cautious of anything we say.
Therefore, we all have to work to continuously build and keep our existing and potential clients' trust. There are some simple things that we can constantly be mindful of when preparing our messages and material:
- Examine your brand's messaging - make sure you are truthful with what you communicate to clients, and that this can stand up to public scrutiny.
- Ensure you speak in plain language - while you may not be trying to obfuscate your product or offering, people naturally trust you more when you can explain in simple terms what you invest in or what your fees are for.
- Never underestimate your clients - you may feel like you understand the products better than they do, but always remember that you work to ensure that their savings are safeguarded, and they need to feel comfortable that your business is capable of doing this.
- Emphasise your investment processes and transparency - this encourages trust in your brand and operations.
This may be a particularly challenging period for the investment management industry, but we should always keep our clients at the forefront of everything we do as marketers - it is the only way to make our industry sustainable.