Any long-term relationship founded on trust and respect can survive even the most testing times. It’s especially true in the current credit climate – treat a customer with respect, and they are likely to turn to you for support, but treat them like fools and the association can quickly fall apart.
For many people, an online journey will begin with keywords typed into a search engine such as Google or Yahoo! Their visit may or may not conclude with a transaction, but the same principle applies: build trust, optimise the online experience and push the consumer towards a relationship-founding purchase.
It is this part of the process that is crucial for advertisers; the whole idea of paid for search is to allow customers to have a range of options at their fingertips, and not just be led to one destination. The fact that consumers may type one word and expect a range of results, opens up the market so that a number of brands can compete for the customer’s attention simultaneously.
This should not mean however, that brands can be allowed to mislead or give out inaccurate information in their sponsored links. A Financial Services Authority (FSA) review of 200 sponsored links, published last December, claimed to identify a large proportion of firms falling short of required standards. This included showing low interest rates that were unavailable or lacking details of conditions of credit, lack of APR information and offers of ‘free advice’ that turned out to be anything but.
Although this is hardly a representative sample of the industry, and these findings would be a weak basis for introducing new policies on the matter, the report does serve as a timely reminder that we must keep information relevant and be clear to the customer at all times.
We believe the first step in transparent communications online is for brands to work out their key sales points and extol the virtues of their product and service offering. This can then be tied into paid-for search campaigns so the advertiser can honestly and openly boast about their USP. There is no point bragging about rates and services that aren’t accurate just to get attention; consumers are savvier nowadays than they are often given credit for, and when they find out the truth through further online research this tactic will quickly backfire.
There may be well be trouble ahead, but financial companies which do their best not to hoodwink consumers, and instead build long-term relationships based on trust, will be the ones reaping the rewards.
By Matt Mills