Unlocking the Power of Content Marketing in Financial Services

One of the biggest challenges facing financial marketers today is how to create content that stands out in a media- saturated world. In one of the best white papers seen here at The Financial Brand, PwC explains that great brands aren’t built on product pitches. By crafting stories that put consumers first, great brands reach the hearts and minds of their customers and create a greater sense of loyalty in this fast-changing world.

Consumers today are inundated with thousands of marketing messages every day. They’ve also changed how they consume content. In addition to traditional channels, consumers are interacting with new channels via the web, mobile and social media. How can financial institutions break through all this chaos to connect with people?

Many financial institutions have started adopting new media channels without understanding how best to leverage them to engage consumers. As a result, busy consumers feel bombarded by disconnected messages. They hear about savings accounts, life insurance policies, and retirement saving products — all in a day’s time, across a multitude of different channels. Instead of adapting messaging to how people consume media today, many financial institutions produce product-centric content that focuses solely on features and benefits. The result: frustration and even distrust.

As consumers seek financial advice relating to critical life events — such as buying a home, or starting a business — they find themselves awash in information, with little sense of how to use it. The result? People find it easy to just throw up their hands and walk away.

Stories Connect Ideas With Emotions

Stories are just data
with a soul.
— Dr. Brene Brown,
University of Houston

Storytellers, including the best marketers, have always known that most human decisions and behaviors are driven by instinct and emotion. PwC believes banks and credit unions can tap into that basic human psychology through targeted stories that connect ideas with emotions.

PwC says financial institutions need a more human-centered approach that draws on storytelling if they want to rise above the flood of content. The question is how to transform a marketing operation into one that can deliver content that reaches hearts and minds, deepens customer loyalty, and does it all in a cost-effective way. Many financial marketers understand this, but face a number of barriers when trying to create connections with consumers. Efforts to affect change internally are hampered by marketing teams working in isolation, inefficient processes, and an inability to clearly measure the impact of marketing. Without stronger coordination and shared objectives, marketing teams find themselves spinning off in all directions, delivering mixed messages to consumers while unnecessarily inflating marketing production costs.

To tackles these challenges, PwC says financial marketers need to rethink their approach, and organize content around consumers needs on the path-to-purchase. PwC prescribes a two-pronged approach that starts by addressing the operational barriers that keep marketing organizations from being efficient content producers. Improving efficiency provides opportunities for marketing organizations to improve effectiveness by fostering stronger customer engagement. By producing highly targeted, thoughtfully produced content in a collaborative, cost-effective way, financial institutions are better positioned to help drive the customer behaviors they want.

PwC has identified eight capabilities that can help marketing organizations reach this goal by improving the efficiency of their operations while becoming more customer-focused.

  1. Focus on human-centered design. Ensure the needs, wants and limitations of customers are prioritized at each stage of the content lifecycle.
  2. Use storytelling. Build a strong, unified storytelling approach across channels, platforms and content types. Stories should anchor back to an overarching brand vision. Organize content across a timeline, and adapt content based on consumer feedback.
  3. Manage touchpoints. Filter, measure and coordinate touchpoints along the customer journey. Produce a consistent branded experience.
  4. Use customer-generated content. Develop programs that encourage consumers to create and share their brand stories and experiences.
  5. Create alignment and consistency. Establish a formal governance structure and common set of guiding principles for the whole organization.
  6. Coordinate content. Control content timing, calendars, mix and messaging across divisions and product lines.
  7. Share knowledge. Leverage key learnings, best practices and shared skills from across the organization.
  8. Optimize measurement. Create feedback loops both during and after content marketing campaigns to measure, report and optimize content.

Effective Content Marketing Means Telling Stories

Content uses a narrative structure and arc. It is more story than information, and it is designed to elicit an emotional response from people. Storytelling gives you the form you need to draw people in and create memorable moments. PwC suggests four steps to help banks and credit unions create stories that will foster deeper consumer engagement and loyalty:

1. Frame stories. Humans thrive on stories, not how-to manuals. Good content has a narrative arc, whether in a web piece, video ad, or series of social media posts. The central figure in the story is always the consumer, while the story links back to the brand’s broader narrative.

2. Combine content. Don’t view individual pieces of content in isolation. Decide which channels or mix of channels best conveys your brand’s values and message, then use a combination to build brand narratives — leveraging each medium to its strength(s).

3. Execute creatively. Plan, create, deliver and optimize creative content. Empower marketing staff to take risks with the narrative style — everything from style and tone, to presentation and execution. And be sure to provide them with the tools and resources necessary to enable creativity.

4. Listen and adapt. Adapt your stories and brand narrative based on analytics that reflect user behavior and engagement. Listen to the feedback that consumers give you, both directly (via comments) and indirectly (via data).

What Success Looks Like

According to PwC, financial institutions that adopt a human-centered approach to content marketing will “engage the right person with the right message, at the right moment and place, to drive the right action.” By adopting a human-centered approach that distills complex content into targeted, engaging stories, financial institutions can create emotional connections that are memorable, celebrate customer achievements, and drive their behavior. In its white paper, PwC describes what success looks like from three different perspectives:

Consumers will have a deeper loyalty to financial institutions with committed, two-way relationships. They will participate in and provide feedback on customer forums. They will consume more of their financial institution’s content, and the quality of their interactions will be higher — for example, by generating product leads or suggesting service model enhancements. These consumers will spend more time on their financial institution’s websites and social media networks. Deeper engagement will lead to higher product usage.

Marketing employees will develop and have access to high-quality content. They will be able to use it more efficiently and collaboratively across channels, and they will be able to measure its effectiveness. All employees will have access to high-performing content and leverage it to scale their capabilities.

Financial institutions will see growing product sales, lower acquisition costs, and better returns relative to how much they spend on marketing. They will capture a higher share of wallet based on increasing customer engagement, usage, and product sales.


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