In 2016 it was estimated that 89% of British households had internet access, rising to 94% in London and the South East. With 82% of adults logging on daily or almost daily, the impact that the internet has on our day-to-day lives can’t be overestimated.
The financial services industry is definitely not well-known for engaging with consumers. When you combine the often dry subject matter with a negative image shrouded in mistrust, and add a healthy dose of message and data regulation, financial marketers could be forgiven for thinking that content marketing is a non-starter.
Reports suggest that consumer suspicion often leads to a general apathy towards financial businesses. Similarly, because the industry is so tightly regulated content can often lack a human voice due to the vast number of checks it has to go through.
But these challenges are exactly why financial marketers should invest in a content marketing strategy. The challenger banks and Fintech companies are already showing how well it can work, and established banks like Barclays are investing heavily. Content is the perfect method to create material that really resonates with consumers, builds trust, alleviates consumer anxieties and fills any gap in the market where other financial services fall short.
“Where money is concerned, trust is the ultimate commodity,” explains Piers Moore Ede, Head of Digital at Companydebt.
“There’s no doubt that smaller companies with greater digital talent have the agility to come up with solutions the banks have never dreamt of. So how can finance brands on the web establish the kind of credibility that a high street bank, for example, offers by dint of its long history and brand awareness? Some of the answers to this are: exceptional customer service, transparency, and the personalised, frictionless user experience.”
For your content marketing efforts to be truly effective you must implement a well thought out content strategy. This should demonstrate your brand’s expertise and authority and support the delivery of an exceptional customer experience.
In this article we’ve highlighted the steps you should take to start the journey towards effective financial services content.
Before you begin planning your content, identify your reasons for creating it. What are your goals and objectives, as a marketing team and a company? Why are you circulating this information? Who exactly do you want to reach?
Aligning your content to your business goals is crucial in achieving the outcome you want. The most common goals for content marketing are to increase:
• Brand awareness
• Customer retention/loyalty
• Lead generation
Make sure the majority of your goals are measurable. As the name suggests, a measurable goal is one that can be quantified, like sales or leads.
Increasing brand awareness is a valuable objective, but how are you going to tell if you’ve been successful or not? Break it down into metrics you can quantify, like social followers, site traffic or newsletter sign ups, and set targets. That way you can repeat any tactics that work in achieving your goal, and review or stop the ones that don’t.
Whatever your objective, make sure you always have an eye on how this is impacting the bottom line. Revenue and ROI are the metrics that all efforts are ultimately measured against.
Next, identify your target audience and create your buyer personas. These are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers and are a fundamental part of implementing a successful content marketing strategy. A buyer persona will detail the characteristics, wants, needs and challenges of each unique segment of your audience. Make sure you research your audience segments and understand the questions they are likely to ask before they make a purchase.
For the purpose of this article, let’s say we are marketing home improvement loans. An example buyer persona might be a professional parent looking to renovate their kitchen.
The next step would be to flesh out this persona in greater detail:
• What job do they have?
• What motivates them?
• Do they have children?
• How much do they know about personal loans?
• What are some of their possible concerns about taking out a loan?
• Where do they spend their time on the web?
• How do they consume their content and in what format?
Below is an example template from Hubspot, which you can download here. Your personas should help you understand your customer’s wants and needs in more detail, and in turn deliver more targeted content.
Once you’ve identified your personas you need to look at their potential user journey, or purchase funnel. Where is their first port of call for financial information? How do they prefer to consume their content? Which channels do they use?
In order for you to map this effectively, it’s important that your buyer personas and purchase funnel work alongside each other. For example, a 21-year old student looking for advice on student loans might consume content differently to a 65 year old retiree looking for a home improvement loan.
It’s extremely important to understand the cognitive stages an individual goes through during the buying process for a product or service. At Ad-Rank we use the AIDA model when mapping out a customer’s purchase journey:
Awareness: promoting your brand or service/ generating brand awareness. At this stage your buyer is likely to be unaware of your company and the fact they have a need. Content should be focused on your buyer’s pain points – not your brand.
Interest: generating interest in the benefits of your products or services. This is where the research begins as buyers explore their options.
Desire: showing your brand personality and authority. This should move your customer from liking your business to wanting to enlist in your service.
Action: moving the buyer towards taking the next step. This could be downloading your whitepaper, joining your company newsletter or making a call.
Whilst they might move down the purchase funnel in a similar way, the types of content you choose at each stage of the journey will differ. For instance, your student demographic might be more responsive to a social post, whereas your retired demographic might benefit from a tutorial or “how-to” article.
Different content types perform very different roles in the user journey. For a financial services business, the types of content you choose at different stages of the purchase journey might look like this:
Awareness and Interest/Bottom of the funnel content:
• How-to blog posts
• Resource pages
• Social posts
• “Top tip” guides
Desire/Middle of the funnel content:
• Case studies
• Reviews and testimonials
• FAQ pages
Action/Bottom of the funnel content:
• Cost calculators
• Product trials
• Introductory incentives- for instance a free audit
Map the content you deliver to your personas alongside the different stages of the user journey, and it to move them towards your goal. You might also want to associate content distribution channels (eg. Social media, email newsletters)
Keyword research is a crucial part of any content strategy. Quality content that is valuable to users will improve your position in the search rankings and ensure as many people as possible find you and your work.
To make sure your content has the greatest impact, thoroughly research the most valuable keywords to your business. You should always have these in mind when creating any new content piece, and look to include them and link back to your website where possible. Your quality content will hopefully be shared many times, which can be hugely beneficial for your backlink profile. Use the Google Keyword Planner to find and quantify them.
As with content types, consumers will use different keywords at different stages of the purchase journey.
By reviewing the keywords searchers are using, you can tell (with reasonable accuracy) where they are in the decision making process. The content you create to target them should reflect this.
Someone searching for “personal loans for home improvement” has already identified the kind of service they are after, so creating content that targets your users’ intent will help you gain more targeted search traffic and develop stronger leads.
To find your top converting keywords, in your Google Adwords or Analytics accounts, look at the "all time highest converting keywords”. You will often find your converting keyword will be a long tail phrase rather than a generic term. Visitors are more likely to use long tail keywords when they’re closer to a point-of-purchase.
Keep your eye out for potential keyword opportunities. Identifying a search term with a high search volume and low difficulty score can be a real win. The search advertising marketplace for financial services is very competitive, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Identifying a gap between supply and demand you can help bring in a healthy flow of targeted traffic to your site.
Keyword analysis tools like the Moz Keyword Explorer allow you to identify keywords that have a high monthly search volume and a low difficulty score. The search volume indicates the number of people using that particular keywords while the difficulty score suggests the amount of websites competing for that particular search term.
When creating your content, remember that search engines are looking for high-quality items that benefit the users, not just pages stuffed with keywords, so it’s important to leverage them where you can but not to the point of sounding like a robot.
When you start planning your content strategy it’s also useful to consider broad themes and financial trends throughout the year. For example, your calendar of events might look something like this:
January-Feb: debt consolidation, interest in mortgages from first time buyers
March-April: ISA season
May-July: Travel credit card interest peaks
Aug-Sept: Search interest for student credit card peaks
Oct-Dec: Tax returns, Christmas holiday spending
Ideation is the process of generating ideas to form specific titles and pieces of content. There are many different methods, but the important thing is to use all the research above to get into the mind of your audience. Create content titles you think they will find valuable and useful.
You can use this comprehensive guide from the Interactive design foundation to help you. To focus your thinking, map your ideas into the broader trends above.
Repurposing should also form part of your strategy. Once you’ve got a great idea for a blog, think about all the other formats you could reuse the information for. Could you summarise the main points in an engaging video? Are there enough interesting stats for an infographic? Could you expand on the idea and create an ebook?
Repurposing content ensures you get as much mileage as possible from your good ideas.
The most important objective for reporting and analysis is to quantify the success of your content strategy and look for ways you can make it more efficient and more effective.
Reports and dashboards should be focused on measuring your performance against the goals and objectives you set out at the start. Each goal will have a different set of metrics, like these set out by Moz.
When assessing your Google Analytics, observe your visitors’ behaviour on your content pages. Don’t get tied up in traffic volume alone. Make sure you have a view of how much time your visitors are spending on your site. What is the average number of pages they are viewing? Take a look at this article from Google to understand how to track behaviour flow. This should help you have a better view on which areas of your site are getting the most engagement and which areas need improvement.
It's crucial to ensure you're using reports to take action and inform strategy going forwards.
As part of any content production process, you must keep the FCA in mind and your compliance team in the loop.
Give them the opportunity to review and feedback at various stages throughout the process. Whilst you might not have compliance teams present at the brainstorming stage it is recommended they at least see the content plan once initial ideas have been discussed. You don’t want to spend hours on a great piece of content, only for it to be rejected at the final hurdle.
Often the biggest challenge for marketers is not the processes or number of guidelines, but the fact that the governing boards that enforce the rules are constantly changing them. This presents difficult challenges for marketers who are forced to alter the way they communicate and market their products and services.
Keep informed and up to date with latest regulations to prevent this. We recommend subscribing to the governing board’s newsletters or alerts, which will provide you with a notification when something changes.
Every successful brand will have their own style and personality. For financial brands, creating a unique brand identity can seem like a challenge because of oppressive compliance constraints. However, it’s one of the most important (yet unquantifiable) ways that will set you apart from your competitors - just look at First Direct.
While compliance has to come first, it’s not a license to be bore consumers with jargon. In fact it’s a good reason not to.
Piers Moore Ede explains:
“Brand identity in finance is even more important than most other industries. People have lost faith in traditional finance providers, to some degree. While this represents a huge opportunity, it also means the starting point for a Fintech brand is the back foot. Trust needs to be clawed back, and this means an impeccable digital presence, and a keen eye on current innovations.”
Rather than trying to emulate the most comprehensive of marketing hubs straightaway, start small. Identify the low hanging fruit and iterate and improve as you go. Of course, if you do find you need some assistance we’re always here to help.
We have a tried and tested methodology for helping you to plan a finance content-marketing strategy
that will deliver strong, sustainable results over the long term. So if you would like to learn more about how we can help you achieve your content marketing goals, get in touch today!