The Invisible Hand of Marketing


A sagacious painter neglected to include hands in this portrait of Smith.

A sagacious painter neglected to include hands in this portrait of Smith.

We’ve all heard of Adam Smith’s idea of the “invisible hand” before. We take this term to mean that the market will regulate itself (though this may not be what Smith was actually saying). But not only is there an invisible hand of the market, there’s one that can guide marketing too.

The invisible hand of marketing works when you sell by not selling.

It allows you to engage your audience with something more than a new low rate, helping you to define your brand and give your customers a great experience.

Here’s a great example: Think about the back of a cereal box. Maybe there’s a maze or a crossword puzzle on it. Maybe a recipe. These are different types of “content”. In practical terms there’s nothing ad-like about these things, but they can be very powerful marketing tools. They help to invisibly build a brand experience that engages customers.

Not only can financial services use content in their own way, they have a huge opportunity to succeed as more people move online.

The online browsing options that banks traditionally offer are important, but usually not extensive: Rate info, product info, branch locations, online banking. This is all great stuff to have, but doesn’t really qualify as content. Yesterday I saw not one, but TWO ads for 1.99% APR loans from different banks. Why would I go with one and not the other? Content can be a driving factor when someone has to make this decision. Which brand has given them a better experience?

WORKSHOP: Learn how banks and credit unions can drive sales with content

Rather than work entirely in traditional ads, financial institutions should be offering content: Articles and info throughout all their channels that will teach, not sell.

Instead of a kid who’s bored at breakfast, your audience is someone who has to make an important financial decision. Maybe they want to buy a house and need to learn about mortgages. Maybe they need a loan for a car. They’ll be able to find plenty of ads out there on banks’ websites, yet not a lot of info that can help them understand the buying process and what’s right for them.

If you can teach customers before you try to sell something to them they’ll want to buy from you. You’re in effect using an invisible hand to market your products and services.

The irony in this metaphor is that you want to make your content as visible as possible, promoting it through channels where customers ignore traditional ads.

Convince people that your brand is the best to bank with. Check out our next workshop.

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  • How to provide high value that leads to personal engagement
  • How to have customers see you as the first place to go for future needs
  • How to leverage both branch and digital channels to reinforce this engagement