The Evolution of Content Marketing in the Finance Industry


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Content marketing isn’t a new strategy for the finance industry. For many financial institutions, the value of content marketing is the same today as it was 130 years ago: It strengthens relationships with prospects and customers by building trust. But what, specifically, are financial institutions doing when it comes to content marketing — and, more importantly, what do they need to be doing to evolve and stand out? This industry has its own unique considerations, as well, such as the fact it operates in a heavily regulated industry and its customers can no longer be categorized as being interested in only business finance or only personal finance. This white paper provides an overview of the current state of content marketing in the finance industry and explores key examples that can show you ways to evolve your own program.

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The Evolution of Content Marketing in the Finance Industry

  2. 2. 2 Overview Content marketing isn’t a new strategy for the finance industry. In fact, Credit Suisse has been publishing its own magazine, The Bulletin, since 1895. For many financial institutions, the value of content marketing is the same today as it was 130 years ago: It strengthens relationships with prospects and customers by building trust. But what, specifically, are financial institutions doing when it comes to content marketing — and, more importantly, what do they need to be doing to evolve and stand out? The challenges for marketers in financial fields are similar to those in other industries: The marketplace is changing, and customers are no longer responding to “one-size-fits-all” approaches. But this industry has its own unique considerations, as well, such as the fact it operates in a heavily regulated industry and its customers can no longer be categorized as being interested in only business finance or only personal finance. This white paper provides an overview of the current state of content marketing in the finance industry and explores key examples that can show you ways to evolve your own program. Our goal is to help you understand where your industry peers are today, and give you the tools to think about your content marketing program differently in preparation for what may lie ahead. Yours in content, Joe Pulizzi
  3. 3. 3 Research: State of the Industry Before we look at where the finance industry is headed, let’s see where its marketers’ feet are planted today. Usage and budgets Each year, the Content Marketing Institute surveys marketers from a wide range of industries to better understand their content marketing practices. Our fifth annual content marketing survey showed that 78% of financial marketers use content marketing. These marketers spend 18% on average of their total marketing budget on content marketing, and 57% plan to increase their spend. Effectiveness and strategy Of the financial marketers who use content marketing, only 25% consider their organizations to be effective at it. How Financial Marketers Rate the Effectiveness of Their Organization’s Use of Content Marketing 0 10 20 30 40 50 Very Effective Not At All Effective 4% 21% 43% 24% 7%
  4. 4. 4 Throughout our research, there is one trend we have observed among those marketers who are more effective: They have a documented content marketing strategy that they follow. In terms of organizational structure, 45% have a dedicated content marketing group in house. Another 13% plan to have a dedicated content marketing group. Percentage of Financial Marketers Who Have a Content Marketing Strategy Ⅵ Yes, and it is documented Ⅵ Yes, but it is not documented Ⅵ No Ⅵ Unsure 37% 33% 26% 4% 37% of financial content marketers have a documented content strategy; if you are among those who do not, this is the first step you should take to improve your program. Download CMI’s guide, The Essentials of a Documented Content Marketing Strategy: 36 Questions to Answer, to help you get there.
  5. 5. 5 Goals and metrics Financial marketers say brand awareness, engagement, and lead generation are their most important goals for content marketing. Unlike marketers in other verticals, financial marketers are more likely to prioritize customer retention/loyalty over sales. Organizational Goals for Financial Content Marketing 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 Brand Awareness Engagement Lead Generation Customer Retention/Loyalty Sales Lead Nurturing Upsell/Cross-sell Customer Evangelism 82% 82% 75% 68% 64% 63% 55% 51%
  6. 6. 6 How do financial content marketers measure success? Like most other marketers, the majority (71%) look to website traffic. Financial marketers differ, however, in that they put more emphasis on time spent on the website when compared with marketers in other verticals, who are more likely to measure sales and conversion rates than time spent on the website. Metrics for Financial Content Marketing Success 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 Website Traffic Time Spent on Website Higher Conversion Rates Qualitative Feedback from Customers Sales Sales Lead Quality Sales Lead Quantity Inbound Links Subscriber Growth SEO Ranking 71% 46% 41% 36% 35% 33% 33% 29% 29% 27%
  7. 7. 7 How Financial Marketers Rate their Organization’s Success at Tracking ROI 0 10 20 30 40 50 Very Effective Not At All Effective We Don’t Track 2% 14% 14% 24% 32% 13% Like every other vertical we have studied, financial marketers are not confident in how well they are tracking ROI.
  8. 8. 8 Content Creation and Distribution Sixty-seven percent of financial marketers are creating more content than they did one year ago; 41% are publishing new content multiple times per week. On average, financial marketers are using 13 content tactics. Financial Content Marketing Tactic Usage 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 Articles on Your Website eNewsletters In-person Events Social Media Content – Other Than Blogs Videos Webinars/Webcasts White Papers Illustrations/Photos Infographics Online Presentations Case Studies Research Reports Blogs Microsites 89% 88% 88% 87% 80% 69% 69% 63% 62% 56% 55% 55% 54% 52%
  9. 9. 9 On average, financial marketers are using five social media platforms to distribute their content. Financial Content Marketing Social Media Platform Usage 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 LinkedIn Twitter Facebook YouTube Google+ SlideShare 90% 79% 75% 71% 36% 20%
  10. 10. 10 Financial marketers also are using paid advertising methods to promote or distribute content; on average they use four methods. Financial Paid Advertising Usage 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Print or Other Offline Promotion Traditional Online Banner Ads Native Advertising Promoted Posts (e.g., promoted Tweets) Social Ads (e.g., LinkedIn ads) Content Discovery Tools 71% 64% 65% 57% 36% 48% 49% 43% 15%
  11. 11. 11 Challenges Like their peers in other industries, financial content marketers are encountering multiple challenges. Challenges that Financial Marketers Face 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 Measuring Content Effectiveness Producing Engaging Content Lack of Integration Across Marketing Producing Content Consistently Producing a Variety of Content Technology-related Challenges Gaps in Knowledge & Skills of Internal Team Lack of Buy-in/Vision from Higher-Ups Lack of Budget Finding Trained Content Marketing Professionals 66% 68% 46% 45% 46% 44% 42% 41% 40% 40%
  12. 12. 12 Lessons, Examples, and Takeaways While understanding the data is interesting, it is even more useful to understand — and get inspired by — how financial marketers are using content marketing today. LESSON: Follow Your Purpose Example: SunTrust Banks, Inc. prides itself as being a “purpose-driven bank,” focused on “lighting the way to financial well-being.” In keeping that promise, SunTrust’s content marketing has a distinct direction, says Sheri Malmgren, senior vice president and director of social media and content marketing at SunTrust Banks, Inc., which is a client of Imagination. Take its “Live for a Sunny Day” integrated campaign, which puts a positive spin on financial well-being with its concept of living for your sunny days, not just saving for the rainy ones. The campaign has its own website, which acts as home base, but is incorporated across SunTrust’s custom content program. On the site, visitors can pick from one of seven “sunny day” scenarios — from planning a wedding, to having family time, to saving for retirement or college.
  13. 13. 13 Each “sunny” choice leads visitors to a page with content tailored to that purpose — podcasts, quizzes, videos, savings calculators, and email newsletter sign-up opportunities. A Facebook post example for “Live for a Sunny Day” reads: “For kids, a sunny day is an activity they love. For parents, it’s affording it.” Site users who click on the post are taken to a microsite filled with ideas about how to save, cut back, or find creative ways to support their children’s after-school activities. TAKEAWAY:  Create a strong and well-defined mission so your team has clear focus when creating custom content. This also can help your audience better recognize how your company can positively impact their lives.  Think about creating content based on your audience’s needs — don’t create it based your company’s desire to talk about the products or services it sells.
  14. 14. 14 LESSON: Don’t Be Afraid To Evolve Example: Over 15 years ago, Wells Fargo created a print magazine for the small-business audience. The magazine was well received because its content covered topics relevant to the typical small- business owner, explains Doug Case, small business segment manager at Wells Fargo, which has more than 3 million small–business customers. Wells Fargo is a client of Imagination. However, the print version started losing traction with its audience eight years ago so Wells Fargo created a digital platform to bring some of the content from its magazine to online readers. Five years later, the online portal was no longer sufficient, and the company wanted to add dimension to its value proposition as America’s No. 1 small-business lender. “We needed to frame our messages in a way that would resonate better with today’s small- business owners in America,” Case says. That idea was the seed. The Wells Fargo team dove deeper to understand the content interest levels of small-business owners, their capacity to consume content, and the channels on which they wanted the content delivered. Wells Fargo also examined its content competitors — which meant looking beyond its finance industry competitors to all companies that serve the small–business community. Wells Fargo went beyond the surface topics that should attract business owners and explored what would attract business owners. Thus, the Wells Fargo Works for Small Business initiative was born.
  15. 15. 15 “We wanted to create a site ( that was easy to use … We added an immense amount of new content reorganized around the important stages of a small business. We lean toward shorter content such as topical videos, articles, and infographics.” TAKEAWAY:  Don’t be afraid to shift your content marketing strategy, to stay in step with your evolving business and your evolving customers.  Think beyond what topics your customers are interested – look at how, where, when, and why they use content – to create a fully informed strategy with a greater opportunity for success.
  16. 16. 16 LESSON: Have a Hub + Promotion Strategy Example: SunTrust has content hubs for all its target audiences (B2B and B2C) across the bank, including the Personal Banking Resource Center. It features recent headlines for articles, videos, and infographics with images, followed by a larger library of content below. Users can navigate to a specific topic of interest. Bank products and services are incorporated alongside the content when relevant but are never the subject matter of the content. But SunTrust doesn’t just expect people to find the hub on their own — it proactively reaches out to them by including banner ads on its main website, and by using pay-per-click campaigns to leverage distribution platforms such as CNN, Fox Sports, and Forbes. SunTrust also incorporates Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn into its content promotion. “The audiences have different expectations when they’re in those channels. We’ve had tremendous success with sharing content from our resource center,” SunTrust’s Malmgren says. TAKEAWAY:  Think about where you audience is congregating, and use both organic and paid methods to drive new visitors to your site. (Remember: On average, your financial marketing peers are using five social channels and four paid methods to distribute and promote their content.)  Use a central resource point to which you drive traffic. When readers click on an article headline, they not only can read that piece but can explore other content on your site.
  17. 17. 17 LESSON: Think Print Example: TD Ameritrade went old-school in 2007 when it launched thinkMoney — on paper. Though a mobile app and digital version are available as ungated content, the print version gets mailed directly to clients and is distributed at the company’s branches, at industry events, and in its onboarding kits. The quarterly publication features 40 content pages that are full of fresh thinking, humor, and trading how-to’s from equities to futures. At one point, TD Ameritrade called the magazine its best marketing investment. Why? It found that its readers trade five times more than non-readers do. TAKEAWAY:  It doesn’t have to be “the digital highway or no way.” Given the exodus from print, companies that publish in this traditional format are finding it to be a good way to stand apart from the crowd.  Look for ways to measure how your content contributes to bottom-line results. While the customer journey is easier to follow for online content, you can still leverage your CRM systems to compare your readers to your client list.
  18. 18. 18 LESSON: Think About How Employees Interact With Customers Example: Individual bankers are financial companies’ greatest asset when it comes to making an impact on a customer or prospect. Given Wells Fargo’s 6,200 locations, that’s tens of thousands of in-person engagements every day. “There’s no better way to deliver content than from a banker in the store. We love it when owners find their way to the content online, but in combination with our bankers, it’s a strong leverage point for us,” Case says. “The conversation we’re having with business owners through content marketing is very much aligned with our visions and values, [as well as with] the conversations our bankers are having in our stores.” TAKEAWAY:  Content is not an island unto itself. Find ways to involve your team members in promoting and sharing your content with your customers and prospects at all points of interaction.  Your best research comes from the people who work directly with your customers. What concerns do your customers share with them? What are problems do they have in common? What questions are they asking your staff? These conversations can be essential for informing the direction and topic selection for your content efforts.
  19. 19. 19 LESSON: Don’t Forget The Fun Example: T. Rowe Price uses a fun, illustrated video-storybook telling of the couple who discovers how much college could cost for their child. Now, most parents already recognize the high cost of college, but the video offers a light way to remind them that having a 529 plan is an excellent way to save and reduce that college-funding stress. The video, which is hosted on the company’s YouTube channel, is just one component of the College Savings Chillout microsite, which also allows visitors to order a print version of the story and offers six lessons to help them get started saving for college. TAKEAWAY:  Tell stories in ways people can relate and recognize themselves in personally – they want to know you understand them and their struggles.  Have fun — the topic you choose may be serious, but your content format and tone don’t have to be. Look for ways to inject a humor into your content or make the conversation a little less formal.
  20. 20. 20 LESSON: Capitalize On Relevant Trends Example: Fifth Third Bank translated a jaw-dropping statistic into an entire platform of content. When it learned half of recent college graduates don’t have full-time jobs, the bank posed a question to its audience: What can Fifth Third do to help this next generation? Then, it ponied up $1 million in free job-coaching services and asked job seekers to post on Twitter with an explanation of why they deserve the money. Fifth Third selects 80 winners a day, and participants can post one entry tweet a day. Using the hashtags #BrandofYou and #53Enter, entrants are creating a conversation (originating on Twitter and shared on the Fifth Third microsite), and in turn, the bank is receiving interesting insights into the minds of the coveted millennial audience: “I need to win this because an $80,000 + education doesn’t need to go unnoticed. Aside from that I’m pretty awesome too. #BrandOfYou #53Enter” @ShelbyNoellexx “I’ve worked a different job every year and need help finding the right job to pay my school debt off right away! #BrandOfYou #53Enter” @AndynotJeff “As a college grad with a double major, I believe it’s time to stop grooming dogs and start grooming myself for success. #BrandOfYou #53Enter” @Lizificator But it’s not just a contest. Fifth Third’s Brand of You microsite also shares inspiring stories of recent college graduates and offers practical guidance, like tips for taking a professional headshot or templates for creating a resume.
  21. 21. 21 TAKEAWAY:  Monitor studies and trends that relate to your target audiences to identify ways to create timely and relevant content.  Marry paid advertising campaigns (Fifth Third has invested significantly in traditional advertising, including TV ads, to promote its contest) with content-focused platforms. By driving traffic to your home base, you have an opportunity to provide additional information that can exceed the visitor’s expectations.
  22. 22. 22 LESSON: Think of Text as a Visual Example: First Round Capital, an investment firm with fewer than 50 employees, works hard on its blog, First Round Review, to provide creative content that’s of interest to its entrepreneurial audience. Not only does it break down the content into easy-to-follow categories, such as management, products, and people & culture, it breaks down each long-form post by adding sub-headlines as well as pull quotes, shaded boxes, and numbered tips. Readers can skim through the post and know what information is most important or helpful by the typographic clues. TAKEAWAY:  Don’t assume your readers will read a post from beginning to end. Most readers scan, so think of ways to include visual elements — e.g., call-out information you want to emphasize, frequent subheadings to break up long blocks of text, a bold font to highlight key statements.  Use a similar format for each of your posts to ground your readers. If they know your blog posts are set up the same way, they can quickly find what parts they want to read.
  23. 23. 23 LESSON: Honor Your Audience Example: Family Investment Center is a small Missouri- based investment firm that always looks for ways to engage at the community level. Many years ago, it created the Impact Award to recognize individuals who have made a positive difference in the community. It incorporates the award as part of its annual client recognition event. FIC also hosts a community book club. Its outside-the-firm activities create a casual, friendly, and somewhat unconventional approach that has helped differentiate it from its competitors. TAKEAWAY:  Think outside the box for ways to involve your audience — provide opportunities that they may want but are currently unable to access.  Ensure your engagement activities reflect your brand strategy and messaging.
  24. 24. 24 LESSON: Have a Real Conversation Example: MassMutual created the Society of Grownups in 2014 – it offers small classes with fun names to take the chill off difficult finance-related topics. Last fall, for example, it hosted a group of couples with a four-course dinner, wines, and a seminar by a Certified Financial Planner and a behavioral anthropologist. TAKEAWAY:  Don’t limit your content marketing to print, digital, or video. Go outside – create content programs that bring people in front of you.  Be creative with names and purpose. If you want people to patronize your content programs in real life, think of what will attract their attention and motivate them to attend.
  25. 25. 25 Research Demographics The data for this white paper was generated through the fifth annual content marketing survey, which, was mailed electronically to a sample of marketers using lists from Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs, Brightcove, Blackbaud, the Business Marketing Association (BMA), EnVeritas Group (EVG), The Association for Data-driven Marketing & Advertising (ADMA), the Direct Marketing Association UK (DMA), Industry Week, New Equipment Digest, WTWH Media, and Corporate Financial Group. A total of 5,167 recipients from around the globe—representing a full range of industries, functional areas, and company sizes—responded throughout July and August 2014. This report presents the findings from the 117 respondents who said they were for-profit marketers working in Accounting/Banking/Financial Institutions in North America (62 B2B, 17 B2C, and 38 both B2B+B2C).
  26. 26. 26 About Content Marketing Institute Content Marketing Institute is the leading global content marketing education and training organization, teaching enterprise brands how to attract and retain customers through compelling, multi-channel storytelling. CMI also runs the Intelligent Content platform focusing on content strategists, and the Content Inc brand platform on entrepreneurs and startups. CMI’s Content Marketing World event, the largest content marketing-focused event, is held every September in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, and the Intelligent Content Conference event is held every spring. CMI publishes the bi-monthly magazine Chief Content Officer, and provides strategic consulting and content marketing research for some of the best-known brands in the world. CMI is a 2012, 2013 and 2014 Inc. 500 company. Watch this video to learn more about CMI. Visit CMI to access more content marketing examples and our library of original research.
  27. 27. 27 About Imagination Imagination is an award-winning, Chicago-based content marketing agency for thought leaders, helping clients achieve their business goals and build customer relationships that last. Imagination is a leader in content strategy, creation, management, curation, integration, distribution and measurement for a diverse group of B2B, financial services, association/ nonprofit, retail and senior living clients. In 2012, the Content Marketing Institute named Imagination large Content Marketing Agency of the Year, and in 2014 NewsCred called Imagination one of the world’s 21 most creative content agencies. For more information about Imagination’s strategic content marketing capabilities, visit or contact Erin Slater at