Building a winning marketing department for Financial Services
The ultimate guide to strategy alignment, organisational structure, and building a top-performing team
Without a clear strategy, no good military officers would undertake even a small-scale attack on a limited objective. Seasoned politicians would only launch a campaign for a major office with an equally clear vision of their strategy.
In business management, however, we frequently find business leaders deploying resources on a large scale without a clear notion of their strategy.
And yet a company's strategy is a vital ingredient in determining its future.
A valid strategy will yield growth, profit, or other objectives the managers have established. An inappropriate strategy will fail to produce results and may lead to disaster.
Corporate strategy is about making intelligent decisions on allocating resources across the different business units. Business strategy is about implementing those decisions to drive growth, create value, and establish a lasting competitive edge.
However, devising the best approach for each business unit is not a one-time task. It requires constant reassessment and refreshing to stay ahead in the game.
A business only prospers if it can satisfy its customers' changing needs more thoroughly and profitably than its competitors.
With digital disruption blurring industry boundaries and geopolitics challenging long-held assumptions, the needs of financial institutions are shifting at an unprecedented pace
A clear corporate strategy is essential for driving growth and achieving business objectives.
Many managers view their company's future as strikingly analogous to the child's picture of themselves. When asked what they want their companies to become over the next few years, they reply, "bigger."
There are a great many rationalisations for this preoccupation with growth. Probably the one most frequently voiced is that which says, "You have to grow or die."
What must be appreciated, however, is that "bigger" for a company has enormous implications for management. It involves a different way of life, one which many managers may not be suited for—temperament or skills.
Moreover, "bigger" by itself may not make economic sense for a large or small company. Companies that are highly profitable at their current size may quickly grow into bankruptcy. Conversely, a company not profitable now may more successfully seek its survival in cost reduction than in sales growth while ultimately being more profitable.
Assessing the effectiveness of your strategy is crucial for achieving the business objectives of your Financial Institution.
Several key factors must be considered when developing a successful corporate strategy for any financial institution, Buyside or Sellside. One of the most critical is consistency with the environment. This means evaluating how well the strategy fits the external environment, including competitors, customers, and market conditions.
A thorough analysis of the external environment should be conducted to align with the environment. This is achieved through market research, customer surveys, and competitor analysis. For example, a bank must ensure its strategy is consistent with the environment to remain competitive. If interest rates are low, the bank may consider an approach that focuses on increasing fee-based income through services such as wealth management or insurance.
In addition to aligning with the external environment, achieving internal consistency is crucial. This entails assessing the congruence of the strategy with the Financial Services mission and vision, as well as the compatibility of individual components of the strategy with one another. By conducting this review, any discrepancies or shortcomings in the strategy can be identified and addressed.
Furthermore, the bank must ensure that the strategy is feasible and can be executed with the available resources. This encompasses evaluating the availability of financial resources, personnel, and other essential assets.
Additionally, risk evaluation is crucial to determine the strategy's feasibility. It's imperative to evaluate the risk associated with it. This includes analysing the potential impact of external factors, such as economic conditions, and internal factors, such as the organisation's ability to execute the strategy.
Finally, the bank should consider the time horizon of the strategy and ensure it aligns with the organisation's short and long-term goals. By assessing the feasibility of the strategy over the short and long-term and determining if any adjustments need to be made to align with the organisation's goals, the bank can ensure the strategy's success in the long run.
By regularly evaluating your strategy against these criteria, you can ensure that your strategy is aligned with the market conditions, adapt when necessary, and remain competitive and profitable in the long run.
A clear understanding of the company's mission, vision, and values guides decision-making and ensures alignment throughout the organisation.
A study by Harvard Business Review found that companies with a clearly defined corporate strategy are more likely to achieve long-term success.
Its mission, vision, and values are the foundation of any successful business. These elements serve as the organisation's guiding principles and North Star, providing a clear sense of purpose and direction. Just like in our personal lives, having a clear understanding of our mission, vision, and values allows us to make informed decisions and achieve our goals with a sense of purpose and direction.
By aligning these elements, an organisation can ensure operational clarity and excellent execution, leading to long-term success.
The mission statement defines the organisation's purpose, why it exists, and what it aims to achieve. It should be inspiring and aligned with customers and employees, communicating the organisation's "WHY" and aligning stakeholders. A clear mission statement helps in decision-making and keeps the organisation focused.
The vision statement defines the organisation's long-term aspirations and where it wants to be. It should be challenging but reachable, helps define strategic goals, and serves as a motivational tool.
The values statement defines the organisation's beliefs and what it stands by and drives its actions. The values should be accurate, consistent, and integrated into actions. They help in decision-making, align stakeholders, and keep the organisation focused. They also serve as an inspiration to the employees and stakeholders
Having a clear mission, vision, and values helps to guide decision-making and ensures alignment throughout the organisation. It also serves as a communication tool for employees and stakeholders and helps create a sense of purpose and direction for the organisation.
Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, published the Coinbase Secret Master Plan in 2016, but much has changed in the crypto world since then. In 2019, Coinbase held an open house event where Armstrong provided an update on the company's mission, vision, and strategy.
Identifying key business objectives helps to prioritise efforts and allocate resources for your financial services business effectively.
A study by McKinsey found that companies that set specific, measurable goals have a higher rate of achieving them.
KPIs provide a quantitative way to measure progress towards achieving the mission, vision, and values and can help to identify areas that need improvement. For example, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and profitability can be used to measure the success of the mission statement.
These KPIs are specific, measurable, and actionable and can be used to track progress over time. Establishing and monitoring KPIs is an effective way to ensure alignment and accountability throughout the organisation and that the mission, vision and values are being actively pursued.
Here's an example of a table with OKRs for a Hedge Fund:
These OKRs are specific, measurable, and time-bound and can be used to track progress towards achieving the hedge fund's mission, vision, and values. The KPIs provide a way to measure progress and help identify areas that need improvement. It is important to note that this table is an example and should be tailored to the specific hedge fund's objectives and goals.
Align corporate strategy with market trends.
For example, evolving regulation is one of the most critical trends in the digital asset market. Governments worldwide are starting to implement stricter rules on cryptocurrency trading and usage, and this trend is expected to continue. To align its corporate strategy with this trend, Crypto Financial Services should focus on complying with all existing regulations and anticipating changes in the regulatory environment. This can be achieved by regularly monitoring regulatory developments and working closely with legal and compliance teams.
Crypto Financial Services can develop a compliance strategy that ensures the organisation complies with all existing regulations and is prepared for future changes. This could include implementing robust internal controls, conducting regular audits, and training employees on compliance matters. Additionally, the Financial Institution can work on building relationships with regulators and industry groups to stay informed about regulatory developments and to influence future regulations in a way that is beneficial for the organisation.
In this way, Financial Services can ensure its strategy is consistent with the regulatory environment and avoid potential compliance issues that could lead to legal and reputational risks. By aligning its corporate strategy with the trend of evolving regulation, your Financial Services business can remain competitive and achieve its business objectives while being compliant with the laws.
In addition to evolving regulation, another trend impacting the crypto asset market is the rise of decentralised finance (DeFi), the use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs). The emergence of decentralised finance platforms and the growing popularity of NFTs present both opportunities and challenges for crypto brokers. On the one hand, DeFi platforms and NFTs offer new opportunities for trading and investment, which can help to increase trading volumes and revenue. On the other hand, they also introduce unknown risks and regulatory challenges.
One way Financial Services are seeking exposure to digital assets is to align its strategy with this trend is to regularly conduct market and competitive analysis that allows them to stay informed about the latest developments in DeFi and NFTs. By monitoring market trends, tracking new projects and protocols, and analysing competitors, Financial Services can identify new opportunities and potential threats and adjust its strategy accordingly.
This could include investing in new technologies and platforms, launching new products and services, and forming strategic partnerships. In this way, Financial Institutions can stay ahead of the curve, identify new opportunities, and mitigate potential risks while ensuring long-term returns in the market.
Aligning marketing efforts with the company's mission, vision, values, and business objectives ensures that they align with the organisation's overall direction.
Creating a marketing strategy for a Financial Institution requires a clear understanding of the corporate strategy and objectives and the external market forces. These two factors are deeply intertwined; hence, an effective marketing strategy must remain in sync with shifts from the larger corporate strategy. To ensure this, it is essential to monitor changes in the company's objectives regularly and react accordingly.
To achieve this, Financial Institutions can follow these steps:
- Conduct a SWOT analysis to identify internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats.
- Identify the business need that the marketing strategy will address, which should be driven by the corporate strategy and objectives.
- Segment the total market to identify and cluster all sub-segments that will be targeted.
- Create customer profiles of the target customer to understand how to provide unique value.
- Research and validate the market opportunity to ensure the target customer's needs are met.
The key to a successful marketing strategy for a financial institution is to combine the top-down and bottom-up approaches to centre your corporate and marketing strategy around your primary customer segments and profiles.
Starting with the top-down approach, the corporate mission and objectives provide the foundation for the marketing strategy. The situational and SWOT analysis provides insights into the internal and external factors that will inform the corporate and marketing strategy.
However, the bottom-up approach is equally important to understand and truly serve the target customer. Through market segmentation, profiling, and validation, the target customer is identified and placed at the centre of the marketing strategy. The marketing mix, including product, price, promotion, and place, is tailored to meet the unique needs and wants of the target customer.
By combining the top-down and bottom-up approaches, financial institutions can create a marketing strategy that aligns with the overall corporate strategy and objectives while also providing unique value to the target customer. This approach ensures that the financial institution is meeting the needs of its customers and staying competitive in the market.
Regularly evaluating progress and gathering feedback from the target customer allows for continuous adjustments to the marketing strategy to ensure that it stays aligned with the target customer's evolving needs and preferences.
By following these steps, Financial Institutions can create a customer-centric marketing strategy aligned with their corporate strategy, which is essential for maintaining customer loyalty and staying competitive in the market. It is important to regularly review and adjust the strategy to keep up with the market trends and changes in the external environment.
An adequately organised Financial Services marketing organisation is essential for driving growth and achieving business objectives.
Effective marketing is vital for driving growth and achieving business objectives for both Fintech and Financial Institutions. One crucial aspect of this success is a well-organised early-stage marketing organisation. A clear reporting structure, with a defined hierarchy and clear lines of communication, is essential for effective decision-making and accountability.
This is supported by research from McKinsey, which shows that companies with clearly defined reporting structures experience faster decision-making and improved financial performance.
Building a marketing department from scratch can be daunting, but I have done it multiple times with startups in the financial services industry. My experience includes Crypto Finance, now part of Deutsche Boerse Group, and MoneyPark, now part of Helvetia. From this experience, I've learned that every company's marketing team will look different and that there are a lot of different sub-functions within marketing.
Early-Stage marketing departments
When starting a marketing department, it's crucial to identify the functions you need now and in the future and to stay focused on specific job titles or hiring someone who fits a certain mold.
In my experience, the three most essential roles to hire for first in a financial services startup are growth marketing, product marketing, and content marketing.
However, it's important to note that PR and media can also be important in the crypto industry, as advertising and marketing regulations in many countries prohibit crypto financial products from competing with traditional financial institutions.
As the head of a marketing department, it's critical to understand the differences between each function and to set strategies for achieving business goals.
For example, growth marketing focuses on launching and optimising programs and campaigns across multiple channels, while product marketing communicates the product's benefits to the audience. Content marketing focuses on creating and distributing engaging content, while PR and media relations handle earned channels and communicating with the press.
Scale-up and maturity stage marketing departments
Once you grow bigger, assigning specific roles and responsibilities to your marketing team members is crucial for the efficient and effective execution of tasks. A study by Deloitte found that companies with clearly defined roles and responsibilities have a 20% higher rate of successful project completion.
By establishing a clear reporting structure and assigning specific roles and responsibilities, Fintech and Financial Institutions can set themselves up for marketing success.
In the following, you can review my generalised recommendation:
Building and hiring a marketing team is crucial for operational excellence and rapid execution.
When building a marketing team, it's essential to prioritise hiring versatile individuals with expertise in multiple areas. The ideal candidate should have a deep understanding of at least one area, with proficiency in the other.
For instance, a product marketing/growth marketing hybrid is valuable as they excel in one area and possess a solid understanding of the other.
Additionally, a content marketing/product marketing hybrid is valuable as they excel in one area and possess a solid understanding of the other.
It's rare to find an individual who excels in all three areas: product marketing, content marketing, and growth marketing. These individuals possess the ability to build marketing teams and have hands-on experience in each area. They are likely to be at a VP or CMO level, and while they are an asset, they may take time and are rare to find. Finding one early on is a lucky find, and you can be proud of yourself.
A company's culture plays a crucial role in determining the kind of individuals hired to join the team.
While candidates may not necessarily fit a specific mold in terms of personality or style, they must align with the company's values and embody them in their work. In our example culture, we prioritise hiring respectful, humble, skilled, results-oriented individuals with strong integrity.
The dynamic becomes electric, enjoyable, and productive when a team is composed of such individuals. It is vital to remember that people are the backbone of a company.
It may be a cliché, but attracting the right individuals cannot be overstated.
Even if the initial idea or plan is flawed, a top-notch team can navigate and find success.
In the eyes of venture capitalists, a world-class team trumps even the most advanced technology. Thus, building a team of exceptional people should be the top priority for any company.
Assemble a dream team to reach for the stars.
The people you bring on board will define the culture and standards of the company.
Like Hong Kong saying "add oil" as encouragement, your initial hires will attract similarly talented and driven individuals, creating a cycle of excellence.
Please don't settle for mediocrity in the hiring process, as it sets a precedent for future hires and ultimately determines the company's trajectory.
Assemble a team of elite players.
Hire only "A-players" as they will attract and hire other top-performing individuals.
Avoid the pitfall of hiring "B-players" as they tend to hire "C-players" and set off a downward spiral.
Maintain high standards and take time with the hiring process, even temporarily having fewer team members.
Hire individuals who are more intelligent and skilled than yourself, and don't be afraid to feel insecure, as building a successful company requires humility and a willingness to learn from others.
Hire individuals who are smarter than yourself and whom you have a high level of respect for, who complement your weaknesses.
Ensure they possess the necessary skills, cultural and team fit. Personal chemistry is crucial in a small office, even as a remote-first company; a video call can be exhausting, as one person can significantly impact the team's productivity and creativity.
Even if a candidate is highly talented, if they are not a good fit for the culture and team, do not hire them as it can harm the overall organisation.
Be selective in the hiring process, and have multiple team members interview and decide on the candidate.
The cultural and team fit should be equally important to the candidate's ability to do the job.
Hire individuals who align with the values of your company culture and who fit into the team.
In successful startups, it's crucial to have individuals who can hit the ground running and make an immediate impact, as there is little room for training and development.
Prioritise candidates who have relevant experience and can contribute fully from day one.
In a startup environment, it's essential to have people who know what to do, set priorities, and understand where they fit in.
Assemble a team of A-players who have a proven track record of success in their field.
Prioritise those who have shipped and delivered products before, as they possess the knowledge and skills to navigate the entire process and overcome obstacles to create a successful outcome.
In particular, seek out those who have a knack for finishing projects on time and schedule, as this is a crucial ability in any organisation.
People who have shipped products in the past have demonstrated the ability to see a project through to completion, and this is a key trait to look for in potential hires.
Hire individuals who have failed before.
Those who have failed have developed a sense of resilience and have learned from their mistakes, making them less likely to repeat them.
They have a deeper understanding of potential pitfalls and have internalised the lessons of failure.
Failure is a crucial part of the learning process and helps people to be more sensitive to essential issues.
People who have never failed may not thoroughly learn everything and may not be as equipped to handle tough times. Startups and venture capitalists often seek out individuals who have "died" in their previous ventures, as they have gained valuable experience navigating difficult situations.
Therefore when recruiting, look for individuals with deep scars, as they have the most to offer.
Hire individuals who are adaptable and can handle change.
In a startup environment, change is inevitable, and it's crucial to have people who can adjust to new situations, shifting roles, and changing priorities.
They should be comfortable working in a constantly evolving and fluid environment, where answers are only sometimes immediately clear, and the landscape is subject to frequent change.
Look for individuals who can handle ambiguity and uncertainty and thrive in a constant flux environment.
Hire individuals who are comfortable with minimal resources.
In a startup environment, there is often limited infrastructure and support, so it's crucial to have people who can take the initiative, be resourceful and be comfortable working with minimal support.
Individuals used to working in large companies with ample resources and unlimited support may need to be more sufficiently suited for the startup environment.
On the other hand, those who are used to working with minimal resources and support may be more comfortable and better able to thrive in a startup environment.
When building a startup, hiring individuals motivated by the potential for future success rather than job security is critical.
One way to do this is by offering stock options to all employees, as this creates a sense of ownership and pride that can drive individuals to work harder for the company's success.
Additionally, stock options should be distributed based on performance rather than seniority to ensure that the most valuable contributions are rewarded.
This motivates employees and creates a sense of accountability and equity within the company.
Furthermore, offering employees pay in equity during a liquidity crisis is essential. This helps keep the team together and motivated during difficult times.
Hire multifunctional people at the company's early stage and specialists as the company grows.
The ideal team for a startup is a combination of people who have worked in large and small companies and can adapt to scaling from 10 to 200 employees.
Be realistic and prepared to let go of team members who cannot keep up with the company's growth.
Hire appropriate people for each stage of the company's development.
In summary, it is beneficial to hire people that you or someone in the company know and has worked with, especially in the early stages of a startup. This eliminates worries about team dynamics and assimilation.
However, it is vital to be objective when hiring and resist the temptation to hire friends or relatives unless they are exceptionally skilled and possess the necessary skills for the job. As the business grows and matures, this becomes less important but remains crucial in the early stages.
Streamlining the Marketing Ecosystem: Leveraging Internal and External Teams for Success
Now, as the leader of your organisation, you have carefully assembled an elite team of top performers, each with unique skills and expertise.
But even the most skilled team is like a finely tuned engine that needs oil to keep running smoothly. To ensure that your vision and strategy are translated into action, you engage with agencies that serve as the lubricant that keeps your team running at peak performance.
Decision-making in any organisation is a complex process that can be viewed from two distinct perspectives: top-down and bottom-up.
The top-down approach is characterised by a centralised flow of information, where decisions are made at the highest levels of the organisation and then communicated to the rest of the team.
On the other hand, the bottom-up approach is characterised by a decentralised flow of information, where decisions are made at the lowest levels of the organisation and then communicated upward.
But in reality, every decision is influenced by an intricate web of information triggers and transmitters that work together like an interconnected ecosystem, constantly feeding information back and forth in a never-ending loop. Imagine each team or function in your organisation as the anchor point in the middle of a circle, with internal stakeholders, external stakeholders, and partners surrounding it.
Together, these groups form the backbone of your organisation and play a crucial role in shaping its direction and success.
With this in mind, it's important to remember that effective decision-making requires a balance of both top-down and bottom-up approaches.
By keeping a transparent and open line of communication with all stakeholders and actively seeking diverse perspectives, you can ensure that your team makes informed and effective decisions that drive your organisation forward.
In short, hiring a top-notch team is only the first step in building a successful marketing organisation. To truly excel, you must also engage with the appropriate consultancies and agencies, fostering a culture of open communication and collaboration that allows your team to thrive.
The teams that deliver services - whether internal or external - must function as an interconnected "ecosystem" to achieve success. One of the early decisions that must be made is figuring out what should be handled internally and what should be outsourced to an external partner.
The real complexity comes in orchestrating all the teams to work together seamlessly.
For this model to work, agencies can no longer be simple inputs in a linear process. Instead, they must be partners collaborating with customers and each other to create campaigns and assets. Agencies help founders and marketing managers set aligned targets, establish clear deliverables, and develop metrics to measure success.
Some companies are already creating incentives that reward teams for their ability to work together, not just for their contributions. Marketers are investing in tools that internally coordinate teams and external agencies, creating greater transparency in tracking progress.
Supporting this model requires the role of the traditional marketing manager to shift from leader to orchestrator. Marketing managers need to understand each specialist's area enough to work with them effectively and be adept at working within a networked organisation where they sit in the middle of a web of internal teams, agencies, customers, and suppliers.
To do this effectively, marketing managers need to set shared KPIs, communicate clear accountability to each partner, develop a "rapid reaction" governance structure, and create flexible guidelines so that partners can quickly make decisions on the front lines.
As you can see, hiring people who are specialists in being a generalist with knowledge in most marketing disciplines pays off. They bring value from the get-go and start putting your vision and strategy into action without an extended onboarding period.
Last but not least, when it comes to organisational structure, there are several distinct styles, such as functional, divisional, matrix and project-based. However, for the purpose of this article, I focused on one specific example of how an organisational structure can lead to success.
As a professional who is highly skilled in connecting various disciplines, skills and industry experiences, I would like to share how Nike's organisational structure helped them surpass their competitors, Adidas and Puma.
While it's important to note that success is not always guaranteed and competition can be fierce, this example illustrates how a well-thought-out organisational structure can give an organisation a competitive edge.
As your Financial Services business scales, navigating the complexity of building a sustainable marketing organisation can be daunting. Let MEHRHOFF DIGITAL be your guide. We specialise in meticulously crafted marketing solutions to help C-suite executives and founders build their marketing teams and strategies.
From crafting a comprehensive marketing org chart to providing expert guidance, we have the experience and knowledge to help you succeed. Refrain from letting your competition hold you back.
From crafting a personalised marketing strategy to providing valuable feedback, we're here to guide you every step of the way.
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