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Christine Crandell has marketed to major banks and other financial services institutions for more than 20 years. As VP-marketing at Ariba, a provider of enterprise-level sourcing, procurement and spending management software and services, she's helped the company win business from more than 50 leading financial services companies, including seven of the top 10 on the Fortune 100 list. BtoB asked for her thoughts on marketing to the financial services industry.

BtoB: What are the specific challenges of marketing to financial services institutions?

Crandell: Successfully marketing to financial services institutions means understanding their priorities and challenges, and delivering the right set of solutions to address those challenges. They are sophisticated organizations and progressive in understanding the role that technology plays in business processes and services delivery.

BtoB: How can marketers best reach them and engage them?

Crandell: To reach and engage them takes a thorough understanding of their priorities. One is their need to build internal commitment for their spend management initiative. Financial services institutions are progressive in many ways, but can be more conservative than other industries in the area of spend management. Overcoming this requires a focused marketing effort that directly links demonstrable results to the challenges these institutions face. They want to know about innovative solutions but they also don't want to be the first user. Another priority for them is to support multiple business units or geographies—they are complex, sophisticated global organizations. They want to know if the new product or service can be scaled quickly to other regions and departments. Of course, being able to demonstrate clear, tangible results of how your solutions can positively impact their bottom lines is the key to getting their attention.

BtoB: How can you advance the marketing relationship beyond getting their attention?

Crandell: Technology marketers need to demonstrate credibility to this very doubting audience. Financial services institutions want to hear success stories from their peers and other industries before they will invest their time in exploring a relationship. Ariba focuses on telling that story through case studies and a lot of targeted networking opportunities where financial services executives and users can meet each other and share best practices. We've really learned the value of in-person networking. It is more effective than any amount of direct mail or advertising we do.

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