In this installment of our Perspectives in Financial Services, Digital Marketing Manager Gavin Haag explains how Mission Capital Advisors connects with customers through visual storytelling. 

Gavin Haag is the Digital Marketing Manager at Mission Capital Advisors, a real estate capital markets firm based in New York City. Mission Capital offers a variety of transaction and management services and diligence and consulting services. 

While its offerings are complex and varied, Mission Capital aims to create sleek and refined brand identity by telling a simple story through design. Haag explains, “The more concise our narrative is, the more it tends to resonate.” In an interview with L&T, Haag explains how visual storytelling can elevate a financial services brand and help firms connect with new clients. 

1. Translate data into customer-friendly visuals.

While Haag dedicates most of his time to marketing for Mission Capital, he’s also a classically-trained actor and seasoned performer. That interest in the arts — and in visual communication — has heavily informed his approach to digital marketing. 

Financial services do not always translate to accessible, visually appealing designs, and the information financial firms need to present can be sometimes overwhelming for users. “There’s only so much information that people can process at a time,” Haag explains. It’s up to marketers to transform complex offerings into consumer-friendly forms — something at which Haag excels.

“What I find the most challenging, but also the most fulfilling, is finding ways to convey some of these complex financial problems in a nice packaged narrative,” Haag observes. “I’ve been able to steer our marketing toward the heavily visual, even though most of our business exists on thousands and thousands of lines of a spreadsheet.” 

Under Haag’s directive, Mission Capital’s website tells the firm’s story through visual elements, highlighting the firm’s asset management experience and impact with graphs that pop and showcasing their offerings with intuitive icons. The design also adds a human touch by featuring photos of team members on their home page. 

2. Create strategic customer touchpoints to increase engagement and trust

The digital marketing wisdom that permeates many industries doesn’t always apply to financial services. “We’re not like traditional retail marketing. Our funnel doesn’t follow that same shape of consideration, brand recognition, purchase, and so on,” Haag explains. 

Though trust in a brand matters across many categories, it’s especially important in financial services where individuals, families, or companies are putting their financial futures on the line. Since fewer than half of all customers fully trust their primary financial services provider, financial institutions should consider that trust to be precious. Trust can’t be developed with one ad or meeting; financial services companies have to build it over time. The ideal financial services customer journey uses multiple touchpoints – from digital ads to brochures to in-person meetings – to develop trust over time. Fortunately, visuals can be a powerful tool for communicating values that engender trust. An easily-navigable website UX demonstrates that your company prioritizes customer needs, while images of your employees show the real people behind your digital products.

Furthermore, financial services companies must constantly optimize their touchpoints to determine what’s resonating with clients. “We’ve created strategic touchpoints where we can place CTAs, or place landing pages, or offer reciprocal information in exchange for contact info,” Haag says. “We’re always A/B testing to try to optimize these touchpoints and see what’s getting clicks and what isn’t.”

Haag acknowledges that financial services companies do benefit from more stable client relationships than retail brands, and have an easier path to customer retention — especially after the first two years.  Since onboarding and moving assets can be difficult, clients tend to stick around provided that they are receiving consistent services. That being said, financial institutions must maintain customer trust in order to keep clients in the fold. That means providing a consistent visual experience and always keeping functionality top-of-mind

3. Draw inspiration from unexpected sources.

When Haag led the charge on Mission Capital’s website redesign several years back, he pulled from some unexpected sources for inspiration. After spending some time examining competitor sites, he was unsatisfied with the trends he saw. “We didn’t want to introduce anything where visitors had to click, click, click, to get to more information — it’s not the 1990s anymore,” Haag says.

Haag and his team found themselves increasingly drawn to examples of UX found elsewhere on the Internet — not just in the financial services industry. “We are aware of the industry standard, but there are reference points for great design everywhere,” Haag says. “We didn’t want to represent ourselves as just another templatized financial services company.”

Mission Capital eventually decided on an infinite scroll UX, which was inspired by a previous design of the music website Pitchfork. Haag is betting that while the financial services industry has unique demands, companies don’t have to exclusively fall back on design that’s been tried and tested by their industry peers — an unexpected look just might pay off.

Digital tools and platforms offer firms new ways to communicate the benefits of financial services products and distinguish their offerings. Finding the right design takes time, and companies will need to experiment to find the layout and design elements that work for their target clientele. But as Mission Capital demonstrates, innovative design solutions begin with something deceptively simple — thinking about the user journey. 

Author Oliver Cox

Having originally joined the company as a writer in 2013, Oliver works with L&T's clients and prospects to build and manage their storytelling strategies. Oliver is a graduate of the University of Liverpool and is a prolific musician and author.

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