The Content Marketing Conundrum in Banking

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Most online content in the financial industry just fills space. It doesn’t engage the viewer or accomplish its communication goal. For effective online content, segmentation, strategy and simplicity are key.

By Tony Quin, CEO of IQ

The financial industry faces two big challenges with online marketing content. Products and value propositions are complex, and consumers are ambivalence about banking. The audience has an interest level in the subject that ranks barely above dental work. That makes the battle to attract and hold consumers’ attention a tough one.

The good news is that pretty much everyone has to grapple with important financial matters at some point in their lives, whether they want to or not. The riddle for financial marketers becomes whether their brand can truly engage prospects and leverage each interaction.

Consumers know they cannot go it alone as they march down the financial road. That’s why financial advisors are still so essential. But there are shifts afoot, and on a number of different levels.

First, consumers want more knowledge and insight than ever before. While they are afraid of being overwhelmed by the complexity of the financial category, and they still want help and advice, their expectations of you are heavily influenced by what they are experiencing elsewhere.

Financial Institutions’ Digital UX Lags Behind

“The real battle for the consumer is now being won or lost in digital channels.”

Slowly but surely, banks and credit unions are starting to recognize that it is time to engage consumers in new ways, and that the extremely complex consumer journey is now predominantly digital. While TV campaigns and print may still be an effective tool for awareness and brand positioning, the real battle for the consumer is now being won or lost in digital channels.

Key Question: How do financial services companies engage consumers with low passion for the category, little tolerance for complexity, and yet have high expectations?

The answer is content.

In our early work for Wachovia before they became Wells Fargo, we experimented with what that right content might be. Then with work for Wells Fargo, Suntrust and others we worked to integrate video, animation and different graphics approaches. We also developed educational approaches based on different learning styles for brands such as iShares that worked to change the nature of the interaction. In every instance we quickly discovered that the key to content, in its many forms, is to be valuable as in this app for Allstate.

( Read More: Banks’ Future Hinges On Sharpening Digital Marketing Skills )

Crafting a Killer Content Strategy

Engagement for engagement’s sake might fly with a category where little knowledge of the product is required (such as soft drinks), but in an education intensive category like financial services, strategic messaging must be part of that engagement.

This is why content strategies have become so important. It distills what to say to whom, when to say it and how to say it most effectively. A content strategy process allows you work through the challenge of aligning the (often conflicting) points of view — from internal stakeholders to various consumer segments — within the context of each interaction point on the consumer journey. An effective content strategy will prioritize the many different aspects of a value proposition and tailor messages for each context and persona.

For example, a content strategy should help you determine when a video is appropriate versus static graphics, text or other imagery. It should also tell you how to structure experiences to specifically fit the common use cases that personas will have.

You should only start to think about execution and creative techniques after all your work on the content strategy is done. While it’s always tempting to jump straight to creative and skip over the strategy work, the hard won truth is that without it, you may win awards, but your risk of missing the mark jumps dramatically. But have no illusions, true content strategy is not easy.

( Read More: 7 Tips to Building Campaign Landing Pages That Work Harder )

Focus Creativity on Simplicity

Every interaction with every consumer is an opportunity. But we must always try to remember that — in the early stages of their research — consumers have not yet committed the time and effort required to fully understand the complex financial product they are investigating.

Simple, easily-consumed bites of knowledge presented from the consumer’s perspective makes an otherwise messy value proposition more digestible. This is where using tricks like visual metaphors have proven very effective.

The trick is to entice consumers into your story step by step, with each step building on the last to lead people to a more personalized, relevant experience. At the right moment, the consumer will find themselves motivated to invest time and effort. You have to understand when and where in the “engagement arc” consumers are ready to really dive in. But up until that moment, you must hold them by the hand and make their journey effortless and intuitive.

A Tough Challenge

Wrestling with a content strategy forces you to face some thorny issues. Do you really have a value proposition that consumers will care about? What are your competitive differentiators? In reality, the products and services offered by most financial services companies are so similar that this is often very hard.

The good news, however, is that the financial services industry is turning to the wind, and the shift to digital seems to be driving fresh approaches to content, value propositions and competitive positioning.

It is clear that some of the most exciting competitive marketing in the next few years is going to come now in financial services and that it will be led by marketers who have figured out the content conundrum.

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