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Content marketing for financial services: a six-step guide


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With the seismic shift in marketing from 'paid' channels to 'owned' and 'earned' channels, financial services leadership teams and their marketing colleagues have had to re-think. This eBook shares the best learnings from frontier marketers in other industry sectors. Together with the journey we've seen our clients take, and our own experience, these insights are combined to offer a simple six-step guide to making content marketing work in financial services.

Published in: Marketing, Business, Technology

Content marketing for financial services: a six-step guide

  1. 1. f o r f i n a n c i a l s e r v i c e s : c o n t e n t m a r k e t i n g make it work a s i x - s t e p g u i d e t o
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  3. 3. While it’s not always thoughtful, and it’s not always leading (to quote a well-known industry fund executive) this form of marketing is our stock-in-trade. But now, the game has changed. With the seismic shift in marketing from ‘paid’ channels (such as advertising and conference sponsorship) to ‘owned’ and ‘earned’ channels (such as in-person events, published research and social media) financial services leadership teams and their marketing colleagues have had to re-think. That re-think includes the talent, channels and internal capability needed to effectively win, and keep, the attention of those who matter most. In the process, financial services brands are using change management techniques to make the leap to the marketing of the near future – content marketing. This eBook shares the best learnings from frontier marketers in other industry sectors. Together with the journey we’ve seen our clients take, and our own experience, these insights are combined to offer a simple six-step guide to making content marketing work in financial services. Almost everyone in business has some form of marketing – and some kind of content. In financial services the content is often called ‘thought leadership’. 3
  4. 4. Marketers in the intangible world of financial services know that better than most. Most financial brands traditionally leveraged their content (a.k.a. thought leadership) across multiple channels: advertising, roadshows, client events, newsletters and thought leadership campaigns. But in less than a decade the internet has exploded all previous marketing models. Today marketers must contend with the all-pervasive influence of Google search; the ease and speed of online publishing; the proliferation of digital ‘platforms’ and social media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Instagram... all of which are now accessed in mobile format by users on the run. Digital-age consumers expect, they demand, instantaneous access to information. So too do business consumers, as they research companies they may do business with. Indeed, research from Google and the Corporate Executive Board (Marketing Leadership Council) in 2012 found that B2B clients make around 57 per cent (and up to 70 per cent) of their purchasing decisions before they contact the firm in question. Savvy marketers understand that for marketing to work now, it has to deliver quality content pitched at sceptical and informed consumers. And it has to be found in search. Or it simply doesn’t work. Content is everything 4
  5. 5. Producing content has never really been a problem for financial services firms, which have evolved many (usually separate) business units with marketing functions including: communication, PR, digital, campaign, events and strategy. However, the relatively new discipline of ‘content marketing’ brings all these fragmented functions together into a cohesive structure to plan, track and manage how corporate knowledge is delivered to consumers. The good news for experienced financial services marketing specialists is that their knowledge remains relevant. The bad news is that translating it, and the corporate IP, to a content marketing model requires a significant overhaul. This eBook will take you on a step-by-step journey to make the transition to a world where content is everywhere. of B2B clients make their purchasing decision before they contact the firm in question 57% Content Marketing is one answer 5
  6. 6. 6 s t e p 1 re-purpose f i n d y o u r
  7. 7. Financial services is a knowledge business. This IP, talent and content might be more valuable, for longer, than you think. The new communication paradigm doesn’t mean our stores of knowledge should be deleted from corporate memory in favour of an hourly Twitter feed. But its purpose does need to be re-imagined. Best practice content marketing involves working out what you have now, then how to re-use it. Re-purposing your content isn’t complex, but some steps are time consuming and challenging. It also needs to be done, at least partly, in-house. Consultants can help with templates, strategy, production and publishing but content audits are best done by someone in your company. Three major steps to repurposing current content are: Review: Audit your current knowledge stores. This includes content, channels, talent and ‘hidden gems’ such as bespoke research. This can actually be a huge but revealing undertaking. It’s also critical as the groundwork for all the next phases. Refine: Analyse and classify the corporate collective knowledge. What items are relevant now? How do they fit in with current commercial imperatives? Which talent matches what content? And how can you use those ‘brand ambassadors’ who are highly engaged to both help speed up the process and decide which content to publish? Re-publish: Once you know (or suspect) the value of your historical content, don’t be afraid to republish in multiple channels - what may have been an irrelevance last year could be a topic of high currency today. Follow the 1:15-20 rule – create once, republish 15-20 times. 7
  8. 8. 8 s t e p 2 stay sharp g e t s h a r p
  9. 9. Now you understand your raw materials and have a content delivery plan – don’t forget it takes real people to deliver the process. Instilling an effective content marketing culture in any organisation requires co-ordinated effort across multiple business units. It typically involves many individuals who previously acted independently, or only in a loosely connected way. For the content marketing strategy to achieve the targeted ‘cut through’, then the relevant business areas (PR, digital, social, legal etc) must focus on the end game – and the skills of all the right people must be honed to achieve that goal. As a manager tasked with making content marketing work in your organisation, you need to concentrate on three fundamental areas to ensure your people have skills sharp enough for the job: Upgrade and/or outsource: Content production and management talent may be scattered across the company but bringing staff up to speed with the new strategy will usually require extra training. Alternatively, the solution could be to hire people with existing content marketing skills or outsource functions where you have identified a gap in your own organisation... often a mix of all three of these strategies will make sense. Structure for accountability: Content marketing is a multi- disciplinary process. Many teams and individuals pitch in. For that to work, one key person needs to have responsibility for the content marketing program – both at an overarching level and within each of the supporting teams. Make an educated investment: To ensure your staff’s content marketing skills don’t dull over time it’s essential to invest in ongoing training and development – improving career opportunities and bringing a constant flow of new people into the process. 9
  10. 10. 10 s t e p 3 and minds w i n i n - h o u s e h e a r t s + =
  11. 11. If the first two steps in this content marketing journey could be seen as putting the technical necessities in place for further motion, step three is all about acceleration. Gearing the ‘hearts and minds’ of the entire company workforce towards the content marketing agenda does, however, take more than an enthusiastic kick-start email from the CEO. This is change management 101, really: how do you make content marketing sexy, compelling, in your staff’s best interest and something that everyone wants to be part of? Well, you don’t sell the proposition by leaving it all to chance, hoping content marketing mysteriously and organically takes hold within the company. It won’t. But you can nurture a content marketing culture by carefully planning how teams and individuals mesh together to achieve the collective goal. Corporate experience comes into play here. It takes a deep understanding of company functions, centres of power and personalities to create a friction- free cultural transition. If you take just three top-line elements, we’d suggest these: Align cross-function teams: For content marketing to work it inevitably needs the collaboration of cross-functional teams (for example, PR and legal). Taking these diverse functions on the journey is important – sharing the business case for content marketing, how it will work in your firm and what their role is. Agreed processes, meeting rhythms and KPIs for everybody, helps teams learn their respective roles and how to co-operate to reach the goals. Create in-house ambassadors: In almost every firm we’ve ever worked with we’ve found a reservoir of untapped potential. People with unique skills, energy or interest in particular fields (for example social media or macro-economic trends!) that can help the content marketing push. Identify these people (they might not be obvious) and make them ‘ambassadors’ of change. Enthusiasm is contagious. Manage internal relationships: Any change of culture, structure and tasks will probably also shake-up some relationships. You can (and should) control this risk carefully: A seasoned manager should know which individuals could be affected and avoid potential conflict with explicit guidelines and a nuanced personal approach. 11
  12. 12. 12 s t e p 4 into stars t r a n s f o r m ta l e n t
  13. 13. 13 The previous step showed you how to create an in-house ‘buzz’ around the content marketing concept. In a big picture sense, though, content marketing is about projecting your organisation’s vision, mission, strategy, IP and short-term objectives into the public arena. But just as all movies need a script, they also need star performances from human actors to lift the plot from mundane to magnificent. An important part of your job as a marketing manager is to cast the right people in roles they can shine in: some of these individuals may already be talented performers; while others might be minor characters who could rise to prominence with a quality script and top-notch direction. A well-crafted content marketing plan opens up plenty of opportunities for both traditional corporation communication actors and exciting new digital-age roles – if you get the combination right, the result could be a blockbuster. However, a couple of rules apply: Cast with a commercial eye: Yes, your company might be teeming with talent but it won’t all be applicable to the bottom-line corporate performance. Identify the kinds of talent you need (for example, consumer savings advocate or a fixed income commentator) and be open to auditions from anyone, while keeping an eye out for other hidden talents. Back talent with ongoing support: It’s not enough to simply cast a talented performer in a potentially starring role and wait for the magic. All performers need mentoring and direction – support them into leading career roles and they will likewise support the ongoing success of your firm.
  14. 14. s t e p 5 corporate DNA c o d e c o n t e n t m a r k e t i n g i n t o t h e 14
  15. 15. 15 The previous four steps have shown you how to evolve your marketing operations from a dinosaur roaming the relatively simple plains of the old-media world to a top-of-the-range mammal adapted for the speed and diversity of the digital-age communications jungle. In short, the change process starts with a thorough audit of the corporate gene pool – keeping what’s good, adapting what else you can, throwing out the unnecessary – and ends with a corporate structure and a talent pool intelligently designed to implement a content marketing plan. But while you may have come up with a survival-of-the-fittest prototype, it still needs to be hard- coded into the corporate DNA to effect a permanent cultural change – and here’s how to do it: Repeat, repeat, repeat: Once you have content marketing systems and processes in place, and the right people delivering them, it’s all about repetition. Getting into daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual rhythms. While it might take a lot of energy at first, once momentum builds the process becomes like breathing – essential, yet effortless and almost unnoticed. Keep fine-tuning: Your content marketing plan might be working well, but nothing’s perfect. Adaptation is an ongoing process. So experiment, tweak the system, note the results. Give clear KPIs: Tempting as it is to keep goals ‘woolly’ (it feels safer) ultimately this is actually a trap. Under the persistent pressure of well-considered KPIs your content marketing organisation will develop much more effectively. Just as ‘feedback is a gift’ (it’s the grit the oyster needs to make a pearl), KPIs show us whether we’re winning or losing – without them we’ve seen content marketing efforts drift.
  16. 16. s t e p 6 the results c o u n t t h e c o s t s , m e a s u r e 16
  17. 17. 17 If you have followed the previous five steps, content marketing should be ingrained in your organisation and people. However, the transition from an old-world, corporate-controlled marketing model to one adapted to the multi-channel, consumer-led reality of today will take an investment of time, energy and, ultimately, money. And to know that investment is worthwhile you need to keep track of costs and measure the results. Don’t simply weigh up results in ‘hard’ monetary terms – although, of course, the bottom-line numbers are critical – but also via other qualitative metrics such as downloads, leads or subscribers. Analyse your customer behaviour carefully. Find out what content and which delivery channels are more effective with different client segments. Content marketing works but you need to prove it to your stakeholders, which these two final points make clear: Measure the returns: Whether it’s Return on Investment (ROI) or Return on Objective (ROO), or both, you need to introduce robust, coherent measurement systems that can demonstrate your new marketing approach is delivering as intended. Sell the success: If the content marketing strategy is working, and you can prove it, don’t keep quiet about – the rest of your company, and the world, needs to know about it. Market the marketing.
  18. 18. 18 Summary of the six-step guide Watch the full presentation at: Step 1: Find your re-purpose Review | Refine | Re-publish Step 2: Get sharp, stay sharp Upgrade and/or outsource | Structure for accountability | Make an educated investment Step 3: Win in-house hearts and minds Align cross-function teams | Create in-house ambassadors | Manage internal relationships Step 4: Transform talent into stars Cast with a commercial eye | Back talent with ongoing support Step 5: Code content marketing into the corporate DNA Repeat, repeat, repeat | Keep fine-tuning | Give clear KPIs Step 6: Count the costs, measure the results Measure the returns | Sell the success 18
  19. 19. EXIT @carden Carden Calder has advised CEOs, businesses and Government how to communicate about financial services for more than 20 years. She leads a specialist team of communication consultants who help clients with social media, content marketing, public relations and reputation risk management. In doing this they reach between two and 20 million Australians every day with messages that help them make better decisions about their financial futures. Along the way BlueChip has worked with brands such as AMP, ANZ, ASFA, ASIC, BlackRock, BT, the Financial Planning Association, the Financial Services Council, ING group of companies, JP Morgan, the Macquarie Group, MLC/NAB, Principal Global Investors, RaboDirect, Vanguard and many others. Carden is a regular speaker about financial services marketing communication and her experience as a business owner.