Let’s face it: Consumers don’t have much trust in the financial industry right now. The recent financial crises have led to a trust deficit; half of consumers say their confidence in the banking industry decreased in 2012.

But smart firms are regaining consumers’ confidence by leaning on the people consumers actually do trust – customers like them – for their paid and owned media.

Reviews drive acquisition on the brand site

As is the case for most high-consideration purchases, consumers research financial products heavily before choosing a brand. Many of them consult feedback from other people before committing to a service, and when they do, those opinions have a big impact on their end choice. One study found that four in ten buyers read reviews while making financial service decisions – and all of them reported being influenced by those reviews.

LendingTree finds that site visitors who view reviews start the loan process 83% more often. Tom O’Neill, Director of Site Innovation, says this has everything to do with the confidence consumers have in each other’s opinions:

“Ratings and reviews have added context and confidence to our process – and that’s clearly having a positive impact on conversion.”

Customer words power marketing campaigns people trust

Since customer feedback certainly works in owned media like the brand site, it’s not surprising to see it working just as well in paid media. Consumers rate “listens to customer needs and feedback” as the most important attribute for financial services in building trust. And what better way to demonstrate a brand is listening than to push the feedback they gather outward through paid media campaigns?

Doing so creates more effective marketing, as customer words back up firms’ claims. USAA found that including review content in banner ads drove a 32X increase in acquisition compared to ads without reviews, and now includes customer-created content in offline marketing including radio spots and direct mail campaigns.

Personal stories differentiate commoditized products

Banking products are largely commoditized. Consumers are focused on interest rates, annual fees, cash back benefits, etc., making it difficult for firms to differentiate their product portfolios from competitors without falling into a price war.

While many financial products appear the same, the goals customers accomplished through their services vary greatly – and telling these stories can create an emotional connection to the brand for the storyteller and readers alike. A twenty-something’s tale of her cross country roadtrip made possible by an auto loan, a retired couple’s account of how they financed their dream home in Florida… these human stories put a face on a finserv brand’s products, differentiating them on an emotional level. American Express and Capital One both capture these stories on their sites, and push them through other channels like mobile apps and paid marketing.

We included dozens more stats and case studies on how financial service firms drive revenue, lifetime customer value, and product development in our recent paper, Social meets financial: How customer conversations drive acquisition, retention, and innovation. Download the full paper for examples from Nationwide, American Express, State Farm, Fidelity Investments, Discover, and more.