By Clive Gosling, Head of Consulting at Experian's Marketing Services

Financial services brands face unique marketing challenges of a different nature to other industries. New regulations and an ever-changing landscape mean a richer, deeper understanding of the marketplace and customers is crucial, especially if businesses are to benefit from emerging opportunities ahead of their competitors.

There are three main challenges facing marketers in the financial services sector, which if approached correctly, can be easily overcome and mean greater results for your brand and more importantly, your customers.

1. Affordability

Heavy focus is placed on making sure customers can afford the products being marketed to them. New legislation, like the Mortgage Market Review as well as scrutiny from the Financial Conduct Authority, means brands need to be confident that they have the right processes in place to ensure both their brand and their customers are protected.

Getting a customer’s affordability correct comes down to much more than verifying an individual’s income. Extra layers of financial and lifestyle insight can help brands go much further and build up pictures of customers on which to base decisions. Brands need to sell the right products to the right people based on a rich and detailed understanding of those customers.

How can you overcome this? Once engaged with a consumer companies need to ensure they continue to treat them correctly. Circumstances change and what was suitable and responsible one month may not be so the next. Only with a rich data selection will companies be able to take into account customers’ external lives and treat them responsibly.

Predicting how customers will react to future regulation (such as the pension review) is extremely difficult but critical if companies are to offer the right level of flexibility and service. Analysed and modelled data based on customer intentions is key and will provide the required level of insight.

2. Encouraging loyalty and retention

The emergence of online comparison sites over the past 15 years has given customers a wider choice when buying financial products online (insurance being a classic example). For brands this means it is increasingly difficult to connect with customers to provide a positive brand experience. The customer experience is one of the biggest factors for encouraging loyalty and retention – as any marketer will tell you.

How can you overcome this? Developing a predictive customer journey model will help. A data-driven model will clearly show how customers really behave and reveal patterns and trends that can highlight when customers leave and who they are - providing the opportunity to interact with them before they do so.

Acting positively in response to customer needs will improve the customer’s experience. Key triggers for financial decisions such as moving home and retiring, and insight into financial holdings and attitudes, can help brands engage customers with the most relevant offers and information.

It’s also not all about discounting and price. Financial services businesses should consider defining those seeking a higher level of service and whether they would be willing to pay more for it. It could well be that in today’s digital world certain customer segments want reassurance, guidance and increased security and don’t mind paying a little more for it.

3. Making inroads into new markets

Every brand wants to expand into new and previously untapped markets. For instance, despite its huge potential the wealth market remains largely untapped, especially from a digital perspective.

How can you overcome this? Brands can make inroads into new segments by taking a closer look at market sizing and how they compare to others in the industry, in order to spot gaps and anticipate customer needs before competitors. Many brands should look more closely at their existing customer base in order to understand where they could offer more. For example, where the average loan provided to one type of customer is actually lower than average of that group.

When considering a new area in which to expand financial brands should ensure they have a detailed understanding of the individuals within each group so that they can connect at a granular level with desired customer groups.

Putting the customer first is the solution

As with much of marketing it all comes down to putting the customer first. What they want, need and how they behave. With detailed insights financial brands can more easily communicate and craft personalised and tailored experiences. This is especially important in the financial sector when the pressures of responsible lending mean brands need to know who they’re talking to and what they should say.