Marketing Strategies of Financial Services Firms
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A successful marketing strategy contains well thought series of tactics - Marketing Strategies of Financial Services Firms introduction. Even though it is possible to create a tactical marketing plan without a reliable, well-considered strategy, however, it is not advisable. A marketing plan has no foundation without a good marketing strategy. It is a established fact that most of the financial services companies use a unique marketing strategy, however, if abstracting from the individualizing details, each can be reduced into a generic marketing strategy. There are several ways of categorizing these generic strategies. The most common categorizing schemes of marketing strategies currently used in Europe are presented in this paper. The paper also discusses various marketing strategies used in particular EU country – Germany. The following research starts with an overview and background of key concepts followed by meta-research of rich researches conducted in the past on the same or related topic.
The third chapter deals with the research methodology and discusses the key sources used together data and facts for this paper. In the fourth chapter key research findings are elaborated with conclusions at the end.
Chapter 01: Background & Introduction
A marketing strategy is known as a process that can allow an organization to focus its (limited) resources on the most beneficial opportunities to increase sales and attain a sustainable competitive profit. A marketing strategy is most efficient if it serves as a key element of corporate strategy, determining the way the organization can engage customers, prospects and the competition in the market arena for success. In addition, it can be derived from broader corporate strategies, although only partially, as well as from corporate missions, and corporate objectives. They stem from the firm’s mission statement. Moreover, they are to be influenced by a range of micro-environmental factors.
Over the past ten years, Germany’s GDP has grown by an annual average of only 1.4%, barely half as fast as growth in the rest of the European Union, and roughly the same pace as Japan, which has been a byword for slow growth over the past few years (Wirtschaftsblunder, 2004). The reasons which are mostly cited for Germany’s dismal performance are the cost of reunifying East and West Germany, and the arthritic state of the united country’s labour markets.
A marketing strategy serves as the basis of a marketing plan. A marketing plan consists of specific actions necessary for successful implementation of a marketing strategy. A sample marketing plan outlines the following marketing strategies: use a low cost product to attract consumers, once the organization, via low cost product, has established a relationship with consumers, it will sell additional, higher-margin products and services that boost the consumer’s interaction with the low-cost product or service. A successful marketing strategy contains well thought series of tactics. Even though it is possible to create a tactical marketing plan without a reliable, well-considered strategy, but it is not advised. A marketing plan has no foundation without a good marketing strategy. Marketing strategies are used as the basic underpinning of marketing plans aimed to fulfil market needs and attain marketing goals. It is crucial that the results of these objectives can be measured.
Financial service firms that use marketing strategies integrate an organization’s marketing goals, policies, and action sequences (tactics) into a cohesive tandem. Many financial service companies adhere to a strategy throughout an organization, by creating strategy tactics that then become strategy objectives for the next level or group. Each group is thought to take that strategy goal and develop a set of tactics to attain that goal. Therefore, it is imperative to make each strategy goal measurable and reasonable. Marketing strategies are dynamic and interactive, for they are partially planned and partially unplanned. Each financial service company uses a unique marketing strategy, however, if abstracting from the individualizing details, each can be reduced into a generic marketing strategy. There are several ways of categorizing these generic strategies. The most common categorizing schemes of marketing strategies currently used in Europe are presented below.
First of all, there are strategies which are formed on market dominance. In such a scheme, financial service firms are classified according to their market share or dominance of an industry. Generally, there are three types of market dominance strategies: leader, challenger and follower. Next, one can distinguish porter generic strategies which are based on the dimensions of strategic scope and strategic strength. While strategic scope relates to the market penetration, strategic strength is connected to the firm’s sustainable competitive advantage. Elements necessary in this category are cost leadership, product differentiation, and market segmentation.
In addition, firms can use innovation strategies which are related to the firm’s rate of the new product development and business model innovation. Innovation strategies are important to determine whether the company is on the cutting edge of technology and business innovation. Growth strategies address the question of potential growth and prosperity of the company. There are various ways to answer this question, yet the most common ones would be: horizontal integration, vertical integration, diversification and intensification. A more detailed scheme uses the categories: prospector, analyzer, defender and reactor. Finally, firms can implement marketing warfare strategies which draw parallels between marketing strategies and military strategies.
According to the marketing concept, the key to achieving organizational goals lies in determining the needs and wants of target markets and delivering the desired satisfactions more efficiently and effectively than competitors. (Morris, 2003) It is imperative for the service providers and representative associations to be marketing orientated in order to maintain and grow business. Marketing requires a number of distinct activities including advertising, direct mail, trade shows, exhibitions, press releases and sponsorship. Marketing covers everything from customer service, keeping visitor records, an awareness of local initiatives that can influence your business to joining an association or producing a business card. Marketing also involves being outward looking towards the needs of a constantly changing business environment. This orientation is vital especially where there is surplus capacity and strong competition. (Morris, 2003)
Creators of marketing strategies often implement strategic models and tools to analyze marketing decisions. As a strategic analysis has been started, the 3C’s can be employed to get a deeper comprehension of the strategic environment. An Ansoff Matrix is also often used to demonstrate an organization’s strategic positioning of their marketing mix. The 4P’s can then be utilized to form a marketing plan to implement a defined strategy.
In contrast to theory, practice has shown that the main problems marketers encounter are rooted in the use of specific functions. The majority senior managements have adhered to the philosophy, although their junior managers may be cynical about the degree of that commitment. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to show that this newly-created belief has brought about a deal of positive action. In fact, when looking at the marketing activities they prove, using the 4Ps framework, that there is little evidence that marketing practice (as opposed to the theory) has been widely accepted. For instance, pricing is largely on a cost-plus or competitive basis, promotional budgets are small (and spent more on sales promotion than advertising or PR), thus marketing research is almost all second-hand.
Real-life marketing primarily is related to the application of a great deal of common-sense; at the same time taking into account a limited number of factors, in an environment of imperfect information and limited resources made even more difficult by uncertainty and tight timeframes. In these circumstances using classical marketing techniques is inevitably partial and uneven. Consequently, new products are likely to emerge from irrational processes and the rational development process may be used (if at all) to screen out the worst non-runners.
Chapter 02: Literature Review
In the European Union, conglomeration and universal banking are allowed by the Second Banking Directive (1989), which has been implemented by all member states. (Vennet, 2002) Following this directive, the EU adheres to a broad definition of credit institutions, corresponding to the German model of universal banking. Thus, banks, investment firms, and insurance companies may hold unlimited reciprocal equity participations, implying that there are no limits on the formation of financial conglomerates. (Vennet, 2002) At the same time, the holding of shares in non financial firms is subject to certain limits such as capital adequacy concerns. Within this institutional setting, the continued deregulation and the introduction of the Euro are forcing banks with different degrees of functional and geographic specialization to be restructured. The question remains whether a generalized shift to universal banking would benefit the EU economies in terms of efficiency and risk of the financial system. For individual financial institutions the strategic trade-off is whether becoming universal is necessary to remain competitively viable. Therefore, respect the actual behaviour of EU banks displays marked differences. Several banks are changing their focus to greater specialization. Others are opting for a strategy of diversification, often through a merger with or the acquisition of insurance companies or investment firms. (Vennet, 2002)
A service firm is known as an organization which provides to some extent an intangible item that also calls for some interaction between the buyer and the seller. The international growth of firms in the service industries during recent times has brought about increased attention among researchers to examining the various aspects of the internationalization process of service firms. At the same time, in spite of the increased use of global strategies by multinational firms, research on the international strategies for service firms is rather at an evolutionary stage (Murray and Kotabe, 1999).
The form of the relationship between international diversification and performance for service firms varies from that of manufacturing firms. In spite of similar motivations of service firms to expand internationally, the unique characteristics of service firms are likely to cause a different pattern with respect to performance. In other words, contrary to manufacturing firms, service companies are likely to encounter declining performance with initial attempts at international diversification for several reasons which are outlined below.
Firstly, many countries in the EU still have a strict control over the extent of foreign involvements in a service industry which prevents service multinationals from operating efficiently (Feketekuty, 1988). The constraints often observed in services industries include, yet are not limited to, ownership restrictions, domestic preference policies, unfavourable tax treatments, and unbalanced employment rules (Knight, 1999). For instance, a tourism firm operating in Cyprus can employ only tour guides certified by that country’s Ministry of Tourism and who are Cyprus citizens. Host country restrictions and regulations are often cited as the most common problem encountered by international service firms (Reardon et al., 1996).
The service sector in the EU has been explored to a limited extent so far, even though service firms have contributed to most of the job growth in the industrialized nations. Service firms are expanding internationally for the same reasons as the manufacturing firms: labour costs, market access, and resources, among others (Guile, 1988). In spite of these similarities, there are also some differences between manufacturing and service firms. Firstly, the nature of service businesses is in most cases intangible. Next, the production and consumption of many services takes place simultaneously owing to the impossibility of inventory in services (Habib and Victor, 1991). Consequently, the form of the international diversification-performance relationship for service firms is not fully understood.
There have been claims that nowadays the German financial services market is in deep crisis. Deregulation and the new means of communication have triggered competition and turned the market into a transparent level playing field. Furthermore, more and more customers demand individualized solutions to their financial problems. Many financial services providers reacted to such demands by merging to realize scale effects and adapted “me-too-strategies” that are not likely to provide a competitive advantage. (Kundisch, 2003) However, a life-cycle-solution approach has been presented. This anti-cyclical strategy puts the customer and his life-cycle in the focus of interest, which helps to service him according to his latent needs if it is economically reasonable to do so. Apart from the strategic level, two concepts can help to better utilize customer relationships. Using IT as an enabler, the quality of financial advice can be improved which can simultaneously lower cost because of streamlined consultation processes. (Kundisch, 2003)
In terms of small business, the relationship between the economic environment and marketing strategy is even more significant. As the very nature of many small companies is to market niche, even small changes in the economic environment and the market niche are said to have far-reaching effects. Thus, marketing managers take into account economic indicators on a regional level, economic sector level, and company-size level.
When it comes to company-size level, different sized companies may encounter different economic environments according to their target markets and market power. As a rule, larger companies have more market power, which often can help them determine the impact of a weak economy. However, a small business might have a protected market niche which can help it in a recessionary climate while other small businesses, unable to borrow needed cash, may be squeezed out of business. According to Feder (1991), small businesses are particularly affected by the recessionary economic environment, and Bowers (1991) reports how small businesses are reducing expenses. At the same time, Graven (1990) suggests that mid-size companies, especially those in manufacturing, are undergoing the hardest times.
The idea behind regional statistics is that different regions make up different economic entities which might be experiencing different economic climates with different marketing needs. However, since different regions may also be interdependent, a recession may “roll” from one region to another, making the timing of adjustments to such a climate on the part of the marketing strategy especially important. (Shama, 1993) The principal theory behind sector-level statistics is that different economic sectors may be simultaneously undergoing different, even opposite, economic climates. (Shama, 1993) Mandel (1991) differentiates among different service industries, reporting growth in some and decline in others. Pearlstein (1991) sees the recession in the financial services industry as an example of recessionary pressure in the service sector.
As the paper will further proceed, the findings will suggest that at least in the short term, recession affects the perceived impact of pricing and promotion decisions of managers in various sectors and in various size companies in a statistically significant manner, with large financial service companies reporting the greatest impact. However, no important differences were found in the reported impacts on competitive strategy, marketing strategy, consumer credit policies, selection of target customers, new product introduction, public relations, research and development budget, and distribution. (Shama, 1993)
In order to succeed, marketers need to be aware of the competition that they will encounter when pursuing a position at a media company. Basically, marketers must have a great amount of solid experience and a keen understanding of the media industry and the specific changes which influence the industry they are hoping to work in. Marketers are also familiar with the ways of communicating their messages across a variety of mediums as well as means of connecting with a large customer base. Convergence has greatly erased the borders between print, internet, television and radio. Messaging that used to work for one outlet now needs to be adjusted for a wider audience. In addition, due to the fact that Internet is now becoming more and more available, very diverse and global customer base has emerged. Because of this, marketers build their awareness of different cultures and respective sensitivities.
Chapter 03: Research Methodology
As mentioned earlier, this is a meta-research with contribution of ideas from various researched conducted in the past regarding the Financial Services firms in Germany and how they use marketing to achieve their organizational goals. The database of this study included several journals and books which were referred to get a complete and thorough understanding of the topic whose details can be found in the References section. To get the fundamental understanding of marketing concepts and working of the financial firms, several articles and journals were consulted, the details of which can be found in the references section.
Chapter 04: Data Analysis & Findings
Marketing managers, especially in small financial service businesses, tend to develop and use more systematic procedures to determine the economic environment that their companies are facing and act upon it. Implementing these steps will make it possible to modify marketing strategy and action to the specific economic conditions facing their companies, strategic business units, or even product lines. In fact, some of the mangers have their own informal economic indicators. On the other hand, the majority of marketing managers of small companies, one of the fastest growing segments of German economy, do not use any systematic procedure to determine the nature of the economic environment facing them. Most of these managers in the small companies often rely only on national statistics. At the same time, a more formal procedure can be more helpful.
In order to frame correct marketing strategies, managers of small financial service companies need to understand the context in which they are operating and for that they begin with such national statistics as change in GNP, LEIs, interest rates, unemployment, and productivity. International companies also need country-by-country statistics and consider changes in currency exchange rates and world economic outlook. (Shama, 1993) Industry statistics like market growth, sales and profit are also taken into account, followed by company statistics such as market share, revenues, profits, and interest rates, as well as trends and regional differences in these figures. According to these data, marketing managers can develop a set of indicators of the economic environment facing their companies, making it possible to formulate beneficial marketing strategies and actions.
To my mind, in future marketers in Europe will need to enhance their skills in Internet marketing, since, for instance, many media companies now look for marketers who have at least 10-15 years of internet marketing experience. Given the fact that the internet industry is quite young, and has not always considered marketing to be as reliable as other functions, there are few marketers who have considerable Internet experience. At the same time, for those who can improve their internet marketing skills, or have the experience, the demand has completely outstripped the supply. Currently, there are two areas of Internet marketing that provide the greatest growth potential: search engine marketing and advertising sales marketing.
Today, in a highly competitive, overly cluttered financial marketplace, financial services organizations need focused, market-driven branding strategies to efficiently leverage organizational capabilities and generate incremental business. Firms such as Suasion Resources have for two decades focused on implementing marketing consulting services to clients in all segments of the financial services industry. The firm offers marketing strategy, the implementation of targeted marketing programs, and monitoring and analysis of results.
The implementation of successful marketing strategies can be illustrated by the following example. In Germany, successful marketing strategies are employed by public and private transit operators where farebox coverage of operating costs frequently ranges up to 70 percent, especially in the newer CityBus systems.
There’s another tendency of marketing strategies development in Germany. There is a shortage of basic information on the typical eastern German consumer, for instance, knowledge of brand names, brand loyalty and purchasing habits. Therefore, Western-style market research was one of the first activities after unification of the two parts of Germany. Many western German market research companies signed cooperative agreements with eastern German market research institutes. Even after unification, the former GDR is still perceived as a unique market. Even though the development of the market economy in the western sector grew slowly over decades, consumption patterns in the former GDR will be modified rapidly. Generally speaking, eastern German customers are careful with their budgets. As the currency union took effect a survey demonstrated that 85 percent of eastern Germans expected to be careful in spending their money, at least for the first year. Older people taking part in the survey planned to travel, while younger people were more interested in purchasing capital goods. Apparel, colour televisions, video recording machines, stereo gadgets and cars were high on the list of planned expenditures for 10-13 percent of the households surveyed. (Koehnke, 1991) About 7-10 percent of survey respondents were interested in redecorating their homes; 5-7 percent wanted new furniture and household appliances. There’s no doubt that there are some regional differences. (Koehnke, 1991) Urban consumers were more prepared to change their purchasing habits compared to those people who lived in rural areas. Consumers are interested in purchasing fresh fruit and vegetables, beverages, sweets and chocolates, cosmetics, televisions, video equipment and textiles. In a consumer preference study of 210 eastern German shops conducted last summer by the German company Euro Scan GmbH in Nuremberg, main products of interest included food in general, sweets, preparations for hot beverages (coffee, tea, etc.), soft drinks, fruit juices, cleaning materials and pet food. (Koehnke, 1991)
Indeed, marketing strategies are an essential tool for improving the business’ performance in all financial service firms. It allows seeing the strength and weaknesses from aside and grasping the new ways of business development. (Hicks, 1997) In the eternal question of marketing centralization vs. decentralization in Germany (united corporate marketing department vs. separate marketing department for each business part) one can observe the trend towards centralization – perhaps it is even too evident. (Mentzer, Bienstock, 1998)
The goal of internal marketing campaign is to create awareness of and persuade the employee target audience of the need for an extensive program of planned change. For example, if the company has been undergoing problems and senior management has determined that a fundamental change in how the company operates is required, a more marketing-oriented approach is adopted and the company will have approximately 30% salaried and 70% hourly paid unionised staff. Indeed, there are many factors that can affect the financial service firms and the results of its operations, its success or failure, some of which are beyond the control of the firm. Below is a description of some of the significant factors that may be useful for an internal marketing campaign. They include adopting a more marketing oriented approach as well as persuade the target audience in the need of extensive change.
Any general economic, business or industry conditions that cause customers or potential customers to reduce or delay their investments in any industry, the electronics one in particular could have a negative effect on the company’s strength and profitability. For example, a softening of demand for electronic equipment and services may result in decreased revenues (or at least declining revenue growth rates) for electronics manufacturers in general and the company in particular and may result in pricing pressures for products that the company sells. (Hicks, 1997) The electronics equipment industry in Germany is highly competitive. The intense competition inherent in the industry could bring about the loss of customers or pricing pressures. Moreover, the company’s future growth rates and success are in-part dependent on continued growth and success in international markets. (Mentzer, Bienstock, 1998) As is the case with most international operations, the success and profitability of the company’s international operations are subject to various risks and uncertainties such as local economic and labour conditions, political instability, tax laws, local and national government regulations.
It is necessary that the financial service firms effectively manage product transition and incorporate technology that will improve customer service and demand. (Mentzer, Bienstock, 1998) The company’s ability to manage its inventory has been enhanced by favourable supply conditions in the industry. The company’s manufacturing process requires a high volume of quality components that are procured from third party suppliers. Reliance on suppliers, as well as industry supply conditions, generally involves several risks, including the possibility of defective parts, shortage of components and reduced control over delivery schedules and increases in component costs. The company regularly utilizes derivative instruments to hedge its exposure to fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates and interest rates. (Morris, 2003) Thus, it can be deduced that the external factors mentioned above can be identified as primary factors in the financial service firms which may affect the sales of the product as well as overall success of the business.
Another method for evaluating risk in making marketing decisions is through the use of simulation. (Morris, 2003) In fact, simulation involves the process of imitating the performance of the project under evaluation. This can be done by randomly selecting observations from each of the distributions that influence the result of the project, and continuing with this process until a representative record of the project’s probable outcome is assembled.
The company’s direct-to-customer business model supported up by a breakthrough approach to supply-chain management has allowed it to deliver personal computers to its customers cheaper and faster. Success here has also enabled various companies to achieve sustained leadership in its traditional market and enter new ones with drive and innovation that disrupts the incumbents. In order to succeed, a company should have the capability to operate in five areas: information technology (IT); human and organizational development; marketing and customer management; finance and performance management; and supply-chain management. Results strongly suggest that mastery within any one of these functions pays off in creating growth and competitive differentiation within an industry. (Armstrong, 2001)
After a financial service firm has created and worked out its algorithm, committed the resources to it, and started to build it out, it begins the process of constant improvement. The idea behind is not to improve the algorithm incrementally, yet dramatically, by continually setting stretch goals for the organization. (Mentzer, Bienstock, 1998) Top performers achieve this by employing fast learning loops processes that quickly transform insight into how to improve the algorithm into actions that result in precisely those improvements. (Armstrong, 2001)
High-performance financial service firms look for unique insights into drivers of current and future values, anticipate changes and translate rapidly into differentiated operating models and business architectures. (Armstrong, 2001) Furthermore, high-performance businesses concentrate continuously on business model and service innovation, making markets rather than just riding them. Apart from concentrating on market position and scale, top performers also centre on mastering distinctive capabilities relevant to their target customers. (Mentzer, Bienstock, 1998) If distinctive capabilities can be thought of in terms of functional mastery, performance anatomy is about the organizational characteristics that underpin these capabilities.
High-performance businesses unleash the organization’s energies and core competencies; speed up insight into action to out-execute competition; and manage the balance between today and tomorrow. (Mentzer, Bienstock, 1998) Performance anatomy is not just a fancy term for culture. It is determined by the mindset top management brings to such diverse areas as strategy, planning and financial control, leadership and people development, performance management and use of information technology. (Schwartz et al., 2006)
Indeed, financial service firms are oriented towards marketing from a production, product, sales, or marketing perspective. Strategies, structures, and cultures, which reflect a company’s basic orientation, must be integrated to ensure that marketing efforts communicate a clear corporate position. The most effective sales orientation is always observed in the for-profits. At the same time, their selling efforts tended to be internally focused, with product development activities divorced from the planning and marketing functions. Only the for-profit companies show the beginning of a marketing orientation. (Schwartz et al., 2006) Developing a marketing orientation, especially in line divisions, requires a careful, well-orchestrated effort and the presence of several key factors: access to capital and an emphasis on long-range planning and strategic spending, the availability of hospital-specific market research, key distribution channels, talented middle managers, modern systems and structures equipped to serve new values and strategies as well as leaders capable of communicating to the organization a vision of its role in the community. (Armstrong, 2001)
Various services are available to a multitude of customers in the company, each of whom may have different needs, goals and audiences. Communication from any one part of the campus must present clear messages that accurately reflect the values and goals of the entire company. The integration of divergent viewpoints, styles and philosophies into a comprehensive image and message of the company is essential. Significant time and resources are needed to ensure that messages to the company’s myriad audiences are appropriate and complementary. (Schwartz et al., 2006)
Overall, the marketing communications campaign for the service firms addresses several programmatic and resource issues. The long-term success of many of the institution’s initiatives may rest, in part, on our ability to communicate aggressively and comprehensively. The company’s strengths and successes gain greater importance and produce more benefit when communicated effectively.
Overall, marketing organization models are an essential tool for improving performance of financial service firms. They allow seeing the strength and weaknesses from aside and grasping the new ways of business development. In the eternal question of marketing centralization vs. decentralization (united corporate marketing department vs. separate marketing department for each business part) one can observe the trend towards centralization – perhaps it is even too evident.
Chapter 05: Conclusions
It has been noted that European financial service companies adhere to a strategy throughout an organization, by creating strategy tactics that then become strategy objectives for the next level or group. Each group is thought to take that strategy goal and develop a set of tactics to attain that goal. Therefore, it is imperative that every company makes each strategy goal measurable and reasonable. Marketing strategies are dynamic and interactive, for they are partially planned and partially unplanned.
Thus, a wider product portfolio, new launches and enhanced distribution reach will enable financial service companies to establish themselves as one of the leading players in the today’s business. The relationship between international diversification and performance can be traced by using a sample of German service firms. Evidence was found in favour of a U-shaped curvilinear relationship between international diversification and performance. Some changes can also be made in the area of unfair competition law, especially in the multimedia and internet sectors. They include the judicial and extrajudicial implementation and defence of injunctive relief and claims for damages. In addition, advising in a preventive capacity on the design of promotional material and the drawing-up of marketing concepts.
Nowadays, as financial services markets in Germany have become very competitive, financial service firms have to rigorously concentrate resources on main elements that determine their value-chain and customer value propositions. Given the fact that baby boomers liquidate and reposition assets for wealth preservation in their retirement years, the competition among firms is said to increase, and just as the pressures from industry regulators. Encouraging outside specialists for non-core processes can help financial services organizations by significantly reducing costs, increasing speed to market, and giving aid to maintenance of a concentration on the management team and the firm’s long-term goals. Overall, marketing strategies in Germany prove to be rather successful, which is demonstrated by the thriving economy of the country.
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