Banks and Credit Unions Must Join The Content Marketing Revolution

Content marketing is big, it's real and it's here to stay. Here's how banks and credit unions can capitalize on this major marketing trend, and craft their own killer content strategy.

So your financial institution decided it should launch a blog? Congratulations… millions of other businesses have their own blog too, and many of them are the banks and credit unions you’re competing against. How will your content marketing strategy be any different?

For that matter, does your organization even know what “content marketing” is? The truth is that most executives in the banking industry don’t really know. Content marketing is educational (but not necessarily promotional) material used to help consumers advance further down the path to purchase, hopefully turning them into loyal brand fans along the way.

One of the first cases of successful content marketing came from a small business attempting to sell their patented gelatin dessert in 1904. They released a recipe book and distributed it to housewives. This recipe book helped propel the brand to become a household name: Jell-O.

The same thing can happen to your brand if you put in the care, effort and skill necessary to craft killer content — i.e., something worth reading. Here are the steps you need to take to make sure your launch and ongoing efforts in content marketing are successful for your financial institution.

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Crafting Content vs. Creating Copy

A lot of blogs and books will tell you to just roll up your sleeves and start publishing content. But that’s not the right approach, at least not if the content will have any marketing value or reflect your organization’s brand. Instead, you need to diligently craft your content with a disciplined focus on how it will help your institution achieve it’s strategic goals.

It’s very easy for anyone to create “content” today. You can simply write a couple of sentences selling a product and post it to Facebook. In fact, that’s exactly what many financial brands currently do. But this isn’t content marketing; it’s just regular old marketing — the kind of crummy tin messages that consumers have conditioned themselves to ignore.

Many marketers like to give themselves a pat on the back when they simply create copy. However, when you use skill and strategy to actually craft your content, every piece plays a part in building your brand.

Bottom line? There’s a big difference between “content” and content marketing.

Indeed, it’s shocking how many companies with strong brands and great marketing teams leave “marketing” out of their content strategy.

Most of the time, a blog is created because someone somewhere said, “Let’s start a blog!” They get a blog up and running, publish a post every now and then, and suddenly they think they’re doing “content marketing.” No, that’s just content, with no strategy or reasoning behind it. Content marketing should be focused and purpose-driven. It should be something you do to get people to read your message, engage with your brand and ultimately convert. That’s what makes it strategic.

With any content marketing strategy, it helps to start with “why”. Your “why” should be easily explained and summed up in one sentence. If not, keep tweaking it until you can. For instance, try using your company’s vision statement and see how your content can become an extension of your organization’s brand.

This “why” sets the stage for every single thing your company does. By living out and showcasing your “why,” your brand’s message will resonate with your members and your employees. This is what makes many major brands forces of change, setting the stage for them to lead the way and inspire other people and companies. So why is your company doing what it’s doing, and why is content marketing a good way to showcase that?

When you begin creating the actual content, remember that you can use more than just words. Videos, pictures, audio and infographics are all valuable forms of content you can craft, but keep in mind that these individual pieces mean nothing if the overall “why” is lost and your brand story isn’t being told.

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Three Resources You Must Leverage

1. Your Own Channels. Brands don’t promote content on their own channels like they should. Your website, your blog website and your social media profiles are great, easy and mostly free outlets to market and promote your content.

The biggest initial boost you can give to your content is placing it on your business’ main website for visitors to see. Did you know that many content marketing leaders experience almost eight times more traffic than their non-content marketing counterpart? Promoting your content on your website is guaranteed to get you more readers, and businesses that place content on their website see conversion rates that are six times higher than those that don’t.

You already have a good number of social media followers, right? It doesn’t matter if you have 100 or 10,000 followers, your content can live a good life on social media. Simply posting your content to your Facebook page is likely to drive traffic to your post.

2. Your Money. Unfortunately, most financial institutions don’t pony up any cash to help distribute and circulate their content. But the beautiful thing about Facebook is that for a small advertising fee, you can send your content out to thousands of people who match your specific targeting criteria — geographic, demographic or psychographic. It can take as little as $10 or so to push a good post to people that are in the market for the products and services you provide in the cities your institution serves.

If you find yourself having a tough time arguing for advertising dollars to promote your content, try making the case by focusing on the value proposition. Explain to your budgetary overlord how each blog post is an asset to the organization and its overall mission. Show them how a small amount of funds can show an increase in brand awareness, conversions and, eventually, return on investment.

3. Your People. Get your staff involved. Do they have family or friends that would find the content interesting, helpful or entertaining? Encourage employees to share the post to their Facebook pages. Send your content to staff in a company email to let them know you’ve published new material, and explain how sharing it on social media can not only help the company but help them as well.

You might be surprised how hungry your sales team is for content. They are more than willing to share materials that help them get new leads or close on existing ones. They are always looking for a reason — any reason! — to reach out to their contacts, and fresh content is a great excuse.

Measuring Success and Determining ROI

The last thing to do when crafting your bank or credit union’s content strategy is to figure out how you will define success.

First and foremost, your content strategy should be an extension of your brand. Having something completely separate from your brand and its mission that doesn’t benefit any of your institution’s goals is not going to give you any kind of meaningful lift.

Start with your organization’s strategic plan, then write down everything you expect to see from your content marketing. Are you looking to see an increase in leads from your website? More word-of-mouth referrals? Perhaps you’re looking to increase brand awareness for your bank or credit union in specific service areas? Whatever the case, knowing your main goal(s) will be crucial to measuring success.

Next, think about how your CEO might define success with content marketing. Think about what will make them say, “Wow, I can clearly see how our content is helping us achieve our goals!” Are you, your CEO and your content strategy on the same page? Do the content goals complement the company goals? If not, your CEO, CFO and board will be ignore your initiative… or kill it outright.

Lastly, think about how your target audience will respond to your content. What types of actions or behaviors are you hoping to see from them? The answer to this question will be critical to how you define your success metrics and figuring out what you must measure.

Whatever your goal(s) may be, it’s crucial that you consistently collect data on a regular, periodic schedule, and continue comparing results over time. Don’t forget to capture your baseline metrics — what did your data points look like three months before you started?

Closing Thoughts: If you don’t measure success, you won’t be able to make the case for an increased content marketing budget or a bigger team. And remember: While it would be great to see your content marketing reaching hundreds of thousands of people every month, just know that it can be a long and winding road to the top. Expect to start small and work your way up.

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