The popular Michelin Guide first published over 100 years ago that gave French motorists suggested interesting destinations — thereby wearing out their Michelin tires along the way — is one of the earliest examples of great content marketing.
Today content marketing has evolved and expanded far beyond print to include digital articles, videos, infographics, and more. Many financial institutions dip their toes into it, often by posting blogs. However, the results they hope for rarely materialize, however, because the entire effort gets off to an unplanned start.
“You need to be agile, but you still have to have a plan,” believes Sean Tyson, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Quietly Media. Tyson shared his insights on content marketing in the banking industry in a webinar, “Add Value Without Ads: 9 Essential Content Marketing Strategies for Financial Institutions.”
Farewell Advertorial, Hello Timely Information
One reason content marketing continues to grow is because ad blocking continues to increase, according to Tyson. Over 70 million web users in the U.S. block traditional digital ads, and close to 1 billion will be blocking ads internationally within a few years.
Tyson has heard from advertisers using programmatic digital ad buying platforms who joke that they are becoming “hyper-efficient at providing things that no one really seems to want.”
Key Question: How can banks and credit unions punch through with messages that consumers want to read (or listen to), and that result in more business?
While the role of print publications overall is declining, Tyson points out that consumers still pay for serious magazines that contain articles that they want or need to read. Whether or not you use print, the message here “is that if you want attention, you must provide something of value.” That means that content must be informative, not promotional. And that it be well-written or, in the case of video, well-produced.
Reality Check: Content marketing isn’t “free” — consumers trade their time for it. Therefore, brands must earn attention with great content, instead of paying to interrupt it, cautions Tyson.
Successful content marketing takes more than having someone write a monthly personal finance blog on a bank or credit union website on whatever comes into their head. Tyson believes there must be a purpose and goal behind each message that ideally guides consumers through the sales journey for some product or service. Many institutions struggle with this — a poll taken during the webinar found that 32% of listeners, the largest group of respondents, have had trouble showing that content marketing produces results.
“There is an insatiable need for content,” said Tyson, and those who can provide it with the appropriate quality to the right consumers at the right time can see business improve. “It isn’t easy, and it can cost more than advertising.”
Here’s a recap of the nine key content marketing strategies Quiet.ly outlines for financial institutions, or you can watch the entire webinar — just enter your email address in the form below.
1. Content should be data-driven. Quietly recommends financial marketers use data to remove subjectivity from their creativity, and that they look beyond their institutions’ own data. For instance, Google Analytics and other tools can help an institution decide what to use content marketing for — ideally, to select those subjects consumers most crave information on.
2. Look at competing offerings as a guide. Especially in the Google Age, consumers don’t confine themselves to a handful of information sources. They roam the “library shelves” and “newsstands” of the world with abandon. What are they reading and viewing already? Services like BuzzSumo can show banking providers what other content marketers are publishing.
3. Create content for a specific purpose. To determine what messages should be presented when, you need to understand both consumer personas and the journey maps for various banking products. For example, Quietly outlines what a basic content marketing strategy for a bicycle shop might look like:
- First article: 7 Reasons Cycling is Great for You
- Second article: How to Choose the Right Bike for You
- Third article: How to Get the Most Out of Your Road Bike
- Fourth article: When You Need New Tires for Your Road Bike
Content marketing for financial products can follow a similar path. “Remember, you want to convert them to being a customer,” says Tyson. “So always ensure your target audience has a clear next step or call-to-action at the end of each piece.”
4. Focus on quality over quantity. The purpose is having an impact on sales. Know why a piece of content is going to be produced, and what results are hoped for. “If you can’t define success or an ideal outcome for a piece of content,” Tyson cautions, “then don’t create it.”
5. Be agile, and constantly iterate. While financial marketers should have a plan, they should be careful that they don’t get stuck in it. A content marketing effort may begin without all the answers, but as results are seen at each stage, things can be reevaluated. When a campaign is repeated, Quietly suggests a “60-20-20” rule:
- 60% of the plan – use what you know works.
- 20% of the plan – use a bit of highly experimental, highly risky content
- 20% of the plan – use the best of what you tried experimenting with the last time
6. SEO optimization is critical. While some institutions will buy search terms — search engine marketing —sometimes a financial institution’s focus may be around a more-nuanced term that it can work with and not have to bid for. “Google is one big focus group,” says Tyson. “Use search engine data to understand what people are searching for and why.”
7. Being topical is good, but long-tail content is better. A posting with page views that rise like a rocket plane because of some “ripped from the headlines” connection sounds great, but Tyson adds a dose of reality: “Often the long-term traffic for an evergreen posting is higher than that for shiny topical pieces.” Such perennial topics that pull steadily are called “long-tail” content.
8. Ensure that your content is seen by the right audience(s). “A piece of content that no one sees is like a tree falling in the forest when no one is around to hear it,” says Tyson. With the tools available to financial marketers today, they should be able to effectively target messages to intended audiences. “Content can act as a great honeypot,” Tyson adds.
9. Measure the right kinds of content in the right ways. While every piece of content produced should start with a business purpose in mind, not every piece needs to be a “closer.” Content can be addressed to different parts of the marketing funnel. As a result, different key performance indicators may be needed for measuring effectiveness — the overall conversion rate may not be the only KPI you want to use.