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Marketing strategies for financial services in the UK

Marketing strategies for financial services in the UK

According to EY, more than 7,000 finance jobs have moved from London to the European Union as a result of Brexit. Talkwalker’s own analysis of over 16.2 million cost-of-living conversations showed that people are changing their long-term life decisions, rethinking everything from buying electric vehicles, to how they manage their retirement. And all of this socio-economic uncertainty rolls on against a backdrop of rumbling political transitions - with the UK seeing 3 Prime Ministers in the last 3 years alone. In turn, both fiscal and monetary policy adaptations and interventions. All of which are directly impacting consumers; the things that matter to them; and as a result - the most effective marketing strategies for banks and financial services in the United Kingdom.

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With 130 banks registered in the UK according to the Bank of England, there are circa forty six thousand marketing and communications professionals in the banking and financial services sectors working hard to gain and retain customers. With stretched budgets, increasing competition, changing markets, and an evolving consumer landscape; it is crucial that banks employ the best marketing strategies for financial services in the UK.

Top 5 marketing strategies for financial services in the UK:

  1. Audience insights
  2. Competitor benchmarking
  3. Traditional vs digital media
  4. Customer engagement
  5. Content strategy

Audience insights

It’s no longer acceptable to ‘begin simply, but simply begin’. Marketers need to slow down, and truly understand their audience. Whatever the financial services marketing tactic - an op-ed in The Financial Times; a billboard in Canary Wharf; or a joint campaign with Möet - marketing practitioners in the financial services industry need to move beyond outputs, and start thinking about outcomes - linking back to objectives. And that begins with planning.

Knowing what your ideal customer looks like - such as what they like to do, where they’re from, what they value, and what they spend money on - will help you understand the best way to speak to them and solve their problems.

Knowing your ideal customer profile - anything from their digital footprint to their commuting routine, demographics to media consumption habits - will help you to understand how best to speak to them, solve their problems, and add value to their life. In doing so, we must remember that not all of our customers are the same, and they therefore cannot be marketed to in the same way. Businesses, mortgage customers, pension holders, investors - all very different groups, with very different wants and needs. You have to unpick the things that matter to them.

Firstly, you want to understand who your audience is. Almost all buyer personas can be defined by demography - how old they are, their occupation, their gender, where they live, and the like. Data points like these are a great starting point for content ideation, as you can now create messaging which will better resonate. Whilst this sounds like a lot of work, technology can do the heavy lifting, with consumer intelligence platforms like Talkwalker able to tell you not only all of this info; but also things like your existing brand advocates, so you can see what’s working well already.

Secondly, you want to learn what matters to them, through even richer audience insights. Behavioural analysis will help you understand not only who your customer is, but what they think and feel, as well as how they behave. In doing so, you can far better inform your content strategy. Take the banking sector, for instance. A Quick Search on Talkwalker throws up that for a leading global high street bank, global news and finance are amongst the top interests of their audience. But, when it comes to a popular challenger bank, parenting; sports; and food & drink appear top. You can see quite easily how these invaluable audience insights can help inform content ideation, media planning, and digital strategy.

Don’t forget - it is best practice to have a mixed-methods approach, which inputs from multiple data sources. An easy way to do this is by integrating web data, from somewhere like Similarweb, to help you build the most robust keyword strategy from what you’ve learned, and react quickly to emerging changes.

Top interests of people talking about a high street bank, compared to a challenger bank, via Talkwalker.

That’s why one of the most basic but essential marketing strategies for financial services is deriving audience insights - because without them, you can’t get to the stuff that matters, communicate authentically, and build relationships.

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Competitor benchmarking

Competitor benchmarking helps you to understand not only how you compare to your competitors, but also what you can learn from them. Understand which topics are driving social media attention, positive or negative reviews, or forum conversations with platforms like Talkwalker.

This stuff is important. We are living through uncertain economic times, and everything you thought you knew about your consumers has changed. Not only demographic and behavioural insights, but also your incumbent competitors and what makes them a compelling choice. Consumer priorities have changed, and this presents both challenges and opportunities for the financial services industry especially. Having the ability to not only identify your true competitors, but also their prominent topics; themes; influencers; and so on, is invaluable for any strategic marketing professional.

This kind of competitor intelligence often identifies gaps in the marketing landscape. While many banks double down on sustainability content in an effort to appease and attract millennials, according to our latest report, Wales Online has reported that Lloyds Bank will offer its biggest ever switching bonus amid the cost of living crisis in the UK. Through listening to consumers, it has identified changing priorities, identified opportunity, and got ahead of its competitors.

That news came amongst speculation from the UK’s financial services experts that London is likely to fall behind in the Global Financial Centres Index. The country currently sits in second place, between New York and the rising Singapore who recently overtook Hong Kong. In response to the recent GFCI ranking placing Hong Kong fourth, a Hong Kong government spokesperson said that they would “continue to listen to views and be bold in taking forward reforms to consolidate and strengthen Hong Kong’s capital market and our role as an intentional financial centre”. This, of course, entirely illustrates the importance of listening to consumers, and to the market, in order to achieve sound decision making.

Whether you’re looking to compare metrics against another bank, keep tabs on a challenger, or gain insights into a banking institution you aspire to, get the inside track in order to get ahead with Talkwalker’s Market Intelligence.

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Traditional vs digital media

In changing times, it can be easy to get sucked into digital-only. Whilst many believe the right social media data gives marketing, communications, and insights professionals the best and most holistic insights; it is also true that an even fuller picture, relevant to even broader demographics, can be incorporated through the integration of traditional media.

“I’m old, NOT an idiot”. Those are the words of Spaniard, Carlos San Juan. This is the story of a European pensioner who launched a petition demanding banks to stop excluding older customers by closing high street branches and transitioning solely to an online age. The UK financial services industry can take this as a warning. Britain has lost nearly 5,000 High Street banks in a decade, and the issue of ‘accessibility’ drew negative sentiment in our recent UK report - High Street vs Challenger Banks.


This is a great reminder to not write off traditional media. We partner with CARMA, LexisNexis, Unicepta and others to provide our clients with traditional media monitoring and analysis, to ensure organisations have the full data picture.

But, the benefits of online or digital marketing communications are not to be underestimated, especially when it comes to marketing strategies for banks and financial institutions. The benefits of digital marketing are plentiful, but here are our favourite 3:

  • Better define your audience
    Where traditional marketing methodologies force you down a route which means you work within broad target personas and often touch on audiences you aren’t necessarily interested in, digital marketing makes it easy to precisely define and target your audience. That’s why the TV advertisements you tend to see for banking, for instance, are generally around retail or high street banking, rather than investment; pensions; business banking and the like. The advantage of this really comes down to two things - conversion rates, and costs. Increase conversion rates using, for example, social media advertising, by only targeting the audience for whom your offering is relevant or desirable; and in doing so, you’ll reduce costs because you’re not trying to speak to everyone and their dog.

  • Improved measurement
    Measurement matters. AMEC - the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications - created the Integrated Evaluation Framework (IEF), which helps organisations to prove impact by mapping from activities through to results against objectives. Estimating opportunities to see or ‘eyeballs’, Advertising Value Equivalency, and view time is no longer good enough - especially in isolation.

    Take pension firm, Royal London’s TV commercial, for instance.

    Were this a billboard, it is far harder to measure. But with this TV advert, their analysts can and should be looking at correlations between the commercial and search traffic using Google Trends and Google Analytics, brand recall (against the likes of Hargreaves Lansdown, Penfold, Standard Life, etc.), social media mentions using platforms like Talkwalker, app logins and so on.

  • Greater flexibility and reactibility
    This becomes even easier if it were a Facebook ad, for example, where we can immediately assess views, clickthroughs, video completions, conversion rates, and more. In this digital age, it means marketing; advertising; communications; and allied professionals can react quickly to trends. This means optimising results through being led by data, averting crises if any issues arise, and informing offline marketing. The highly regulated financial services market often needs to tip-toe around trends; activists; and opinions - rather than conducting expensive market research, it can now test messaging online in a flexible and adaptable way, before making often expensive offline messaging and campaign commitments.

Free Download: The metrics that matter

Customer engagement

Customer engagement is the process of interacting with customers through varied channels to develop and strengthen a relationship with them, according to Gartner.

Whether you as a consumer manage your finances on the high street or in an app, the banking sector as we know it is completely changing. Challenger banks are hot on the heels of high street banks, and the financial services industry more broadly works endlessly to keep pace with evolving consumer demands. Our UK report - High Street vs Challenger Banks - demonstrated that the financial services brands which are seeing increasing success are those which are harnessing better customer engagement. They do it by ​​getting closer to the data, delivering up-to-the minute insights, closing the consumer closeness gap, and developing the banking products people truly want. This is a reminder that using social media as a broadcast platform is no longer good enough.

Share of market - challenger banks are hot on the heels of high street banks. Combined, they rival the likes of NatWest in terms of size.

When it comes to customer engagement, the aim is to offer customers or potential customers added value beyond simply broadcasting your products and services. It is no longer simply about what consumers think, but how they feel, really engaging in the moments that matter, and adding value.

Analysis by PwC says that a “data-driven, proactive approach to customer outreach could help build loyalty and increase engagement in an environment where a large number of financial institutions are competing for wallet share. Traditional marketing campaigns could face diminishing returns as more targeted, customer-centric campaigns take their place.”

The process of achieving genuine customer engagement is, in our view, is about three things:

Source: Khoros partner page on

Talkwalker and Khoros - two category leaders - have established a strategic partnership to help brands improve engagement and drive customer satisfaction. Delivering best-in-class consumer intelligence, deep listening, customer engagement, and social media management. Ensuring brands can work with real-time insights and connect with consumers at scale throughout the customer journey.

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Content strategy

Content strategy can be defined as the planning, creation and delivery of content with the purpose of delivering against a specific organisational objective. We believe that the objective should be closing the consumer closeness gap - the idea of getting closer to customers, and building more meaningful relationships with them. For banks and other FS providers, content marketing is a super effective way to both attract and retain customers. It's the campaigns which employ a data-driven approach to inform strategy, which have the most success.

Campaign Spotlight: NatWest ‘Gaming in lockdown’ by Zenith Media (Spotted - The Drum)

Zenith Media won the finance and professional services category at The Drum Awards for Marketing 2021 with its ‘Gaming in lockdown’ campaign for NatWest. As the UK went into lockdown, parents were in crisis mode and financial services institutions didn’t quite know where they stood. NatWest’s research highlighted that financial education was important to children, but the bank’s ‘Moneysense in Schools’ programme now faced a pretty lengthy break.

Regardless, NatWest still wanted to keep close to consumers, and ensure their content strategy aligned with the things that matter to their customers. So, it created a central asset - Island Saver - a game where children gain points (savings), by gaining islands. The acquisition element aimed to teach children about financial decision making, but also kept them entertained at a time when parents - NatWest customers - were juggling lots in their life, and reevaluating finances. The game was downloaded 2 million times, and most importantly accounted for 50% of the top 10 searches leading to NatWest product pages that year.

Source: Natwest MoneySense game, ‘Island Saver’

This is a great example of one of the biggest, yet most subtle benefits, of a thorough content plan with great aligned campaigns in the financial services industry - staying top-of-mind with customers and potential customers. NatWest did it with a compelling multi-touch campaign, linking to product, and creating UGC (user-generated content), but there are other ways you can do it too:

  1. Paid: Getting to digital natives through social media and search ads, families through commercials, and others through advertorials and print.
  2. Earned: PR coverage (with backlinks), influencer relations.
  3. Shared: A customer-first approach to social media marketing, best-in-class social listening, and fostering communities.
  4. Owned: An up-to-date website, filled with great content, optimised for SEO.

Create a content strategy rooted in educational, value-add, problem-solving content. Demonstrate that working with you is about more than finances, it’s being part of a community of something more. Make sure you are delivering customer satisfaction, drive trust amongst your customer base, and build a passionate base of brand advocates. Who knows, you might end up being a loved brand…