Content Marketing: A Worthwhile Investment for Finance Firms?
Global ad spending in the financial sector is expected to reach $164.8 billion by 2017. That’s a lot of brands clamoring for attention. What’s the best way to stand out from that crowded and noisy space? By doing something different: content marketing. While advertising is about making claims — the best this, the top that — content marketing is about adding value.
So rather than tossing yet another competing claim onto the massive advertising bonfire, make your mark with effective, personal content marketing. Finance may not be the first topic that comes to mind when you think about compelling storytelling. When handled with skill and creativity, however, finance can be engaging — people are eager to learn behind-the-scenes insights, timely news, and more.
Here are seven tips for taking your finance content marketing from bland to brilliant.
1. Know what you’re trying to accomplish
As much as everyone (ourselves included) tells you that you’ve got to do content marketing, you need a bigger reason, too. It won’t work if you’re doing it “just because.” So the first step in launching a successful content marketing campaign is to identify both strategic and tactical goals. For your strategic goals: Are you targeting a new category of client? Trying to improve the perception of your brand? Building momentum for a new service or product you’re about to roll out? Or is your goal actual conversions — getting more people to engage your services?
Next, identify your tactical goals, the short-term goals you’ll need to meet on your way to your strategic goals. Do you want to increase the number of people following you on social media? And, if so, by how many? Do you want to get more subscribers to your blog? How many?
It may sound complicated, but it’s really just common sense: You won’t know if you’ve achieved your goals if you don’t first decide what they are. Once you’ve got that down, you can start creating the content that will take you there.
2. Know your audience
You have to know who your audience is before you can understand what kind of content they want. And if you have more than one type of target customer, you’ll need more than one type of content. Single adults, for example, will probably have different financial goals than young married couples, who will have different financial needs than couples preparing to send their kids off to college. And they’ll have different concerns than people approaching retirement age.
One common practice (because it works so well!) is to develop a customer persona for each of your audience segments. A customer persona is a fictitious character who’s representative of that particular customer segment. It includes things like demographics, goals, concerns, behavior patterns, and motivations. You probably already have the information you need to create your customer personae, but, if you don’t, you can use tools like Google Analytics, Facebook Page Insights, and Twitter Audience Insights to find out.
3. Choose your topics
The first rule to keep in mind when you’re trying to come up with topics is to remember that you’re talking to people, not just a number on your social media analytics. Go through each customer persona, and think about what that person loves, hates, fears, and questions. When you address people’s real-life concerns, you shed the faceless corporation stereotype.
If you need inspiration, a convenient place to start is with what your customers are saying or asking about. Where do you find that information? Call center logs, blog comments, customer Tweets, etc. If your customers are sharing that they’re worried about paying for college, write a blog post on options for financing a college education. If they’re expecting their first child and hoping to buy a home, write a post about the types of loans and incentives that are available to first-time home buyers. If they’re asking questions about retirement options, explain the difference between IRAs and 401(k)s.
Once you’re churning out those great targeted posts, keep track of what people are doing with them. Are people sharing your posts about the Fed’s jobs report? Or are they more interested in content that tells them how to avoid credit card fees? Don’t just take a stab in the dark; rely on clear measurement.
4. Follow the 80/20 rule
When a brand posts too much promotional material, people tend to unfollow them in short order. Avoid losing potential customers by following this rule: 80 percent of your content should provide value to your audience, and 20 percent can be promotional. You’ll get a lot more out of posting helpful information than you will from constantly asking people to buy something. By becoming a trusted adviser that consumers can turn to for tips and live help, you’ll build a loyal following. When those followers need financial services, your company will be the first one they think of.
5. Harness the power of social media
Today, the first time a business and customer “meet,” it’s probably online. In fact, Google says that 97 percent of people do online research before selecting a service provider. But just having a company website isn’t enough anymore. In today’s digital world, if you don’t have a strong social presence across several platforms, and posting to them at least three times a day, you don’t really exist in the minds of potential customers. So if you haven’t already, create Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ accounts — today.
These social media channels are where you keep the conversation going on a day-to-day basis, posting content that your audience members are eager to share. Whether you link to blog posts, promote upcoming events and offerings, explain the latest fluctuations in the stock market, or respond to questions and comments, the point is to keep an open dialogue with followers.
Need an example? Take a look at Fifth Third Bank. When they heard that 50 percent of recent college graduates didn’t have a full-time job, they saw an opportunity. They set aside $1 million to provide job-coaching services and asked their audience members to explain via Twitter why they deserved the money. From those Tweets, the bank chose 80 winners per day. Not only did they generate some great PR, but they also got valuable insight into the minds of the next generation of customers.
Social media is also a great way to find influencers, the movers and shakers who are doing it right. Follow Bank of America, NerdWallet, Lending Tree, and other financial service brands with large social media followings. Use hashtags for your own campaigns, product launches, and customer service initiatives to connect your posts to larger networks.
6. Remember that content is the main course
If you Google “content marketing,” you’re sure to see something about the importance of images. And images are important, just not as stand-alone content. Images are most effective when they’re used to support top-notch content. Well-scripted webinars and podcasts, for example, can be a great way to reach today’s audience. But, without the “well-scripted” part, they’re just a collection of sound and light. Although images certainly help draw people in, the essence of content marketing is the storytelling. For an example, look at the way Chase uses storytelling to encourage customers to spend more time on their site. More importantly, this tactic has resulted in a higher number of online product applications.
7. Create an editorial calendar
To achieve your content goals, you need to lay out an agenda and make a plan. You probably already have a calendar noting this year’s events, product launches, and major initiatives. Now create one for your content production. Use it to plan what kind of content you want to create, along with when and where you’ll post it. This shouldn’t be a static item but an evolving, living document that keeps you and your team on the same page at all times. A good editorial calendar not only helps provide assurance that you are producing content often enough and in high enough volume, but it can also be a helpful tool to ensure that everything you publish fits your overall vision and is consistent with the voice you want your brand to convey.
Blog content for financial services doesn’t have to be bland. You just need to know how to give it a kick and bring it to life. Follow these tips, be patient, and, if you’re overwhelmed, call for backup. If planning an editorial calendar and writing endless content is more than you want to take on, we’ve got your back. We can help you develop and execute a marketing strategy that is customized to meet your specific goals. Sign up today for free, no-obligation access to our platform. Let us help you grow your financial brand and attract new customers by creating and implementing an intuitive and laser-focused content marketing plan.