1. The Willy Nilly Strategy Never Works
Many financial institutions utilize content marketing tactics today. They may have a blog and pump out social media posts, but few have organized all their content around a clearly defined strategy. Who are you writing for? What you should write about? How often? And what are the benchmarks that will measure success?
“If you have any hope of seeing a return on your content marketing investment, it’s time to start treating content as a strategic asset,” cautions Adobe in a 24-page report focused on the subject. “In a nutshell, your strategy spells out how you’ll use content to meet the needs of your target audience and, ultimately, add value to the organization.”
According to Adobe, there are at least four fundamental components to any content marketing strategy.
First, you must spell out the business case. Many banks and credit unions start a blog (about financial education, for example) or dive into social media channels without having a firm understanding of their endgame. What is the goal? It’s hard getting the C-suite at a financial institution to green light new ideas when the impact on the balance sheet is vague or ill-defined. This is particularly true with content marketing, where a little more work can be required to connect the dots back to the bottom line. Before launching any content marketing initiative, you should build a clear case and be prepared to answer the ultimate questions: How will you generate more leads, grow loans and acquire more deposits?
Part of this process involves defining “personas”. In its report, Adobe describes personas as “fictional representations of your ideal audience” segmented according to their interests, needs, buying habits, and preferences. You then use these segments to craft your messages, being sure to link each persona back to the content marketing goals central to your business strategy.
Adobe also recommends developing a core set of brand messages. With each piece of content marketing you create, you should be looking for opportunities to insert and inject these brand messages. If you have already created a list of pre-approved messages, it will be much easier building your content and keeping the focus pointed in the right strategic direction. No one in your organization should ever have to ask, “What’s the point? Why are we writing about this, and sharing it?”
Once you’ve outlined your business case, defined personas and identified your core brand messages, you can finally create your channel plan. Determine the best placement for your content – whether it’s your website, blog, social media, or mobile app – and identify which personas match each channel. Adobe also recommends determining how you’ll structure your content and which calls to action make the most sense for each channel.
Key Fact: More than two-thirds of marketers say the biggest challenge to producing good content is a lack of clear direction, including the absence of content strategy, guidelines, workflows, and understanding of their audience.
2. Put Them Front and Center, Don’t Talk About Yourself
Adobe says it’s critical for any organization pursuing a content marketing strategy to build a culture of content around the customer. You must shift away from a product-focused perspective to one that puts the audience front and center.
You can’t won’t be creating compelling content if you’re talking about your organization, your products and their features. In other words, don’t talk about yourself; this is the same self-centered approach that turns people off in cocktail conversations. But if you shift your perspective and develop content from the customer’s point of view, you’ll find your messages are more relevant and more engaging.
You need to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. What problems are they facing? What are the burning questions they wrestle with? What are their pain points and sources of frustration? What are they searching for on Google? What kind of advice are they looking for, and from whom? When do they prefer insights from a respected expert, and when do they turn to friends or peers for input?
For that matter, look at your own behavior. How have you (or a family member) tackled a financial need or challenge? What kind of information did you seek? Who did you find to be the most credible? The most thorough and informative? The most helpful? And why?
Only when you approach a content marketing strategy from this perspective will you be able to develop messages that people want to read, believe and share with others.
“Today’s buyers expect you to deliver relevant, meaningful content when they want it, in the way they want it,” Adobe says in its report. “You can’t create relevant content for someone you don’t know.
Adobe says that’s why you have to be passionate about understanding the interests, goals, and aspirations of the people you want to interact with your brand.
3. Don’t Ignore The Story Your Data Tells
Adobe says you should find out everything you can about how your audience engages with your content, and then bringing all of those bits and pieces of data together.
“Every time someone clicks on a Facebook ad, shares your content on Twitter, follows an email call to action, or downloads a piece of content from your website, that person is telling you their story about what they want to consume and how they want to consume it,” Adobe says.
You should also consider which formats make the most sense for your content. For instance, what search terms do they Google before landing on your website? And then what pages do they visit after engaging with your content? Does your audience watch videos and read blog posts on their phones but prefer to download longer form content on their desktop? And think about the type of messages you’ll be sharing – video and infographics, for instance, are alternatives that may work better than the written word in some situations.
There is a wealth of information out there that you can use to guide and shape your content marketing strategy, you just have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and do the work to (1) obtain it, and (2) distill it into actionable insights.
According to Adobe, all this data will give you a better picture of the customer journey – and where and how your content fits within it. You should take a good look at how customers interact with content at each stage of their journey, uncovering any issues that negatively impact those interactions, and immediately testing and troubleshooting to ensure you deliver highly relevant content exactly when the customer needs it.
4. ‘Content’ is About Collaboration, Not Just ‘Marketing’
Good content isn’t just about marketing; you need good stories to tell. That’s why Adobe says you should also incorporate input from frontline staff into your content marketing strategy. Every time someone calls your contact center, has a service issue, sends you an email, or talks to a rep in one of your branches, you have opportunities to learn more about what’s on people’s minds.
Think about it. You can learn about positive experiences that you can turn into testimonials. Or turn a negative experience into a “teachable moment” – a learning opportunity or parable conveying to consumers and your staff alike how your organization should respond in such situations.
By talking with service reps in your call center, you might discover that people frequently have the same questions, concerns or issues about a particular product (a trend you might also see echoed in the search terms people use when they visit your website). You should refine your content marketing accordingly, creating material laden with advice – and SEO keywords – that cover the topic from multiple angles. But don’t stop there. Work with product managers, operations, IT and service teams to figure out how the product you offer can evolve to meet people’s expectations.
Adobe says this notion of cross-team collaboration is a two-way street. Marketing shouldn’t just seek information from other departments, it should provide it to them as well. You should “democratize your data,” as Adobe puts it. Give people real-time access to data. Test your content, and compare notes with other departments. And empower everyone.
“Optimization shouldn’t be relegated to those with special skills,” Adobe writes in its report. “Everyone from the C-suite to customer support agents should be empowered to test different versions of content to find out which resonate best with customers so that they feel ownership of the journey.”
Adobe recommends creating a common real-time environment for sharing and coordinating project scheduling and details among content producers, analysts, and optimization teams.
“Give staff access to a shared dashboard, set of metrics, and goals to work from,” the report says. “Give them project reports, results dashboards, the power to comment and share information directly.
Adobe also says you should keep it fun. You can create themes, give outstanding employees rewards and recognition, and encourage healthy competition with varying flavors of content contests.
Taking this approach, you may find more good ideas for great content than any marketing team could ever hope to come up with on its own. You never know where than next buzzworthy, viral content idea might come from – Adam in Accounting, Olivia in Operations, or Shirley in the Service Center.
5. Never Stop: Keep Cranking It Out at Lightning Speed
If you’re going to take content marketing seriously, you will need to banging out big volumes of material. There is a myriad of media channels out there today, and all of them have an insatiable appetite for content. It’s not like the old days, when you just had a newsletter, an annual report, and a few direct mail pieces. These days you have to worry about new digital- and social channels – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Yelp!, etc. – in addition to established digital channels like your website and email.
According to IDC, 71% of marketers say they have to create 10 times as many assets to support all these different channels, and 85% say they’re under pressure to create assets more quickly.
Speed is as important as volume. People are looking for timely, relevant material. Google knows this, which is why they stress the “freshness” of content in their algorithm that determines search results.
Timeliness should be a priority in your content marketing strategy. You can’t wait months, weeks or even days for your content marketing messages to weave their way through the “bureaucracy of approval”.
Adobe says financial institutions need to invest in processes and systems that not only allow creative teams to produce high volumes of quality assets quickly and efficiently, but also empower marketers to publish those assets and update content without having to wait unnecessarily for anyone else to approve or assist. This can be a tricky proposition in the banking industry, but it isn’t impossible. Those institutions that solve this problem will have a competitive edge.
“With these processes and systems in place, organizations have the power to deliver relevant, consistent experiences in a flash,” Adobe says.
They make a compelling case. After all, companies with a well-defined process for managing content development see an average website conversion rate that’s 55% higher than other companies.