MARKETING OF PERSONAL MICROLOANS AND MICROFINANCE COMPANIES
FEATURES OF THE INDUSTRY
The market for personal microloans is an extremely dynamic segment of the financial sector that provides relatively small ammounts of money to individuals who, for various reasons, do not wish or cannot access traditional banking products. The microloan market, especially its part represented by non-systemic banks, i.e., microfinance companies, presents a rather rigorous phenomenon for borrowers in terms of financial burden and service awareness. From a marketing perspective, the market is extremely interesting and creative, driven by certain peculiarities at the current stage of development. Here are the main characteristics of the market influencing the shape of marketing strategies and marketing mixes for microfinance companies:
- Specific target audience. The collective users of microloans have diverse interests and needs in other aspects of life. However, common characteristics, such as belonging to vulnerable population groups, form the basis for identifying the target audience. Vulnerability encompasses low income, employment issues, low financial literacy, low education levels, dependence on gambling, prohibited substances, and other harmful habits. Even youth can be considered vulnerable due to a lack of financial planning experience and a desire for possessions beyond their means.
- Government regulation. The instability of the legal framework and lawmakers' meticulous attention to the microloan sector create challenges for marketing microloans and consumer loans in general. Legislative requirements for disclosing real annual interest rates (RAIR) in advertising and contracts, despite the shorter loan term, and the central bank instructions on calculating RAIR significantly impede the industry's development. Further regulatory tightening is a real possibility, given the active legislative discussions regarding maximum daily interest rates and other microloan parameters.
- General reputation of personal loan services. Despite being a legal activity, public opinion towards personal loans is generally negative. Psychological aspects contribute to this perception. Additionally, high interest rates and business practices of most microloan institutions do not contribute to building a positive image. Word of mouth plays a powerful role in spreading negative information, hindering the overall development of the microloan industry.
- Risk level. A significant portion of borrowers is unreliable, either irresponsibly repaying loans or not planning repayment at all. The risk of non-repayment contributes to high-interest rates, a fact that must be understood by both the market and legislators. Limitations on the actions of collection companies pose a dilemma for the industry – continue issuing loans to anyone with high-interest rates as a risk strategy or balance the portfolio by attracting more solvent and responsible borrowers. Marketing strategies for microfinance organizations will significantly differ based on this choice.
- Economic situation. The country's economic situation has a multifaceted impact on microcrediting compared to other sectors. Economic downturns increase demand from the least protected population groups, but such demand is too risky and unsupported by borrowers' real incomes. This dual effect requires companies in the industry to adapt both their commercial and marketing strategies.
- Unethical practices. Publicly available marketing research data indicate widespread unethical business practices and violations of current legislation in the market. Deception regarding real interest rates, inclusion of illegal terms in contracts, incorrect calculation of RAIR, and excessive collection of payment amounts compared to loan agreements are prevalent. Although such a situation is detrimental to the industry and hinders overall development, experienced marketers know how to turn industry drawbacks into a competitive advantage for their companies.
The list of industry peculiarities could be extended by examining target audiences or nuances of commercial practices in more detail. However, for understanding the general factors influencing the state of microloan marketing, mentioned characteristics are fundamental.How to compete in such conditions and build an effective marketing mix? SOME GENERAL STRATEGIES AND APPROACHES
The marketing of the microloan industry is highly aggressive and creative compared to other sectors. Market participants often employ the following marketing strategies, approaches, and tools:
- Branding and positioning. Given the somewhat negative image of microloan institutions discussed earlier, one of the main tasks for marketers is to create a brand platform and market positioning that minimizes the overall negative perception of the industry. Experienced marketers use various methods to achieve this goal - from establishing a consumer perception of their organization as a reputable bank by opening branches and issuing cards, to focusing on content marketing and PR to highlight the points that set their organization apart from other microfinance institutions, such as reasonable interest rates and transparent terms.
- Digital marketing ecosystem. Considering social trends, the use of advanced technologies, and the percentage of youth using microloans, a digital marketing ecosystem is a crucial element of modern business for microfinance organizations. This ecosystem includes a quality and modern website, mobile application, social media pages, etc. From a functional standpoint, the system should provide quick and convenient access to microloans while meeting industry quality standards and consumer expectations. From an image standpoint, experienced marketers use all elements of the digital ecosystem to create the desired consumer perception of the company and communicate the advantages to potential borrowers.
- Online advertising. The digital ecosystem alone will not attract borrowers in such a competitive market. Online advertising, characterized by high quality and creativity, is crucial for successful microfinance organizations. Advertisements emphasize attributes and benefits that are appealing to potential clients. Due to the industry's competition, microloans are promoted through all available online advertising channels and tools.
- Traditional advertising. Targeting vulnerable user groups, traditional advertising methods such as outdoor advertising (billboards, lightboxes, public transport, etc.) are highly effective for raising awareness. The task for marketers is to create the most attractive and creative advertising among competitors and attract potential clients to the next step in the sales funnel.
- Unsolicited approach. Some market participants even use unsolicited promotion methods by gaining unauthorized access to contact information from other institutions and organizations, contacting potential borrowers through call centers, SMS, emails, and messengers. Such promotion is ethically questionable but prevalent in many countries.
- Reputation management. The nature of the microloan market, consumer attitudes towards the industry, and the tendency for consumers to leave negative rather than positive reviews make reputation management essential. Skilled marketers employ Search Engine Reputation Management (SERM) tools and mechanisms to work on improving the company's image under unfavorable conditions and prevent critical damage to the reputation of services and the company relative to competitors.
- Engaging influencers. The market often leverages the image of pop stars, athletes, and other prominent figures to integrate secondary associations and enhance the brand image through the reputation and image of influencers. However, this approach must be applied thoughtfully to avoid creating an overly celebrity-focused image that may alienate certain target audiences. A combination of ordinary people in advertising, with whom potential clients can identify themselves, is often needed. Experienced marketers continually analyze target audiences to understand which segments are lagging and which "ordinary" people are needed in advertisements at any given time.
Also, it is necessary to note that within the scope of one article, we cannot show all the pitfalls or demonstrate all the marketing methodologies and tools specific to the microloans. These are just a few examples of quite general marketing approaches that can be applied to personal loans. From a practical point of view, everything is much more complex - the choice of a specific marketing strategy and tools depends on the target audience, competitive environment, and unique advantages of the company, etc. At the same time, it is desirable to understand that marketing of personal microloans may face a number of specific problems that are unique to each individual case and require an individual approach to their solution.
Achieving the commercial objectives of a company through effective marketing requires a deep understanding of the market situation, consumer needs, the ability to analyze and explore alternatives, and a creative approach to problem-solving. Our company has extensive experience in defining optimal marketing strategies for our clients' businesses, creating a strong brand and market positioning, as well as developing a marketing mix and implementing the chosen strategy. You can familiarize yourself with the services and solutions our company offers on the "Services
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