Content marketing has seen a meteoric rise in recent years. It’s pacing to be a $300 billion industry by the end of 2019 and, by most measures, will take over marketing completely.
Despite its sought-after results (increased web traffic, leads and ultimately sales), content marketing is not a one-size-fits-all solution and can look different for various industries. Financial service brands face unique roadblocks due to strict guidelines and complex subjects that make content marketing especially challenging, but worthwhile.
In this post, we’ll cover three key challenges financial marketers face and how they can use content marketing to address them and create a more valuable relationship with their audience.
1. Meet your customers where they are
According to Brandpoint’s 2018 State of Content Marketing for Financial Services report, the biggest challenge for marketers of financial services is reaching the right audience (52 percent) and generating traffic and new customers/members (48 percent).
The biggest challenge for marketers of financial services is reaching the right audience (52%) and generating traffic and new customers/members (48%).
These challenges are an indicator of the changes that have occurred in the financial landscape in the last few years. Fewer consumers visit brick-and-mortar locations for simple transactions, and the Wall Street Journal reported that more bank branches closed last year than ever before.
They say that, while most of the branch closures in recent years have been a post-recession response from the bigger institutions, “regional banks have only accelerated their closures more recently.” And the rise of digital financial services is one of the leading forces behind the reduced need for brick-and-mortar banks.
Most simple transactions that used to require a bank visit can now be done online, either through a bank’s mobile app or through a third party like Wallet, PayPal or Mint. Branches are still an important part of the institution-customer relationship, but only for MAJOR decisions, according to Bankrate.
In addition, the 2008 recession and the subsequent Dodd-Frank regulation created a “vacuum for innovation” in the financial service world, according to Falguni Desai, managing director of Future Asia Ventures.
“Fintech startups have been able to create business models which avoid the structural formalities of being a bank,” Desai said, “while providing a more efficient means of serving customer needs.”
Customer-centric fintech companies have been able to use mobile technology and frictionless transactions to deliver extreme convenience and relevant content to their audience, and the industry is booming because of it.
These events have had a huge impact on how users today expect a financial service organization to operate. They understand that a retirement planning institution and Venmo aren’t the same services, but they still expect a similar experience and value.
Consumers want quick answers, dynamic and personalized solutions, and extreme convenience.
Content marketing can provide all of these things for financial brands. Good content marketing enhances the customer experience and helps your customers and prospects feel more connected to your brand. You can do this by acknowledging their problems and answering their questions. This could include:
- How much do I need to have saved for retirement?
- How soon can I sell my home?
- How can I pay off debt faster?
- Do my spouse and I need a joint checking account?
Your audience is turning to Google and social media to ask these questions. A strong content marketing program can help you deliver answers wherever your audience is searching for them.
2. Use content to address mistrust
It’s no secret that the reputation of many large financial institutions (and by extension, the industry as a whole) has been tarnished in recent years. Whether it’s misleading business practices, irresponsible lending or negligent data security, the financial service industry is turning off a lot of people.
TrustPilot’s 2018 report, “Trust and Brand Management: Is the finance industry meeting consumer expectations?” found that of 15,000 consumers surveyed, 45 percent of them think that finance companies are less trustworthy than they were five years ago.
While the big scandals catch most of the attention, some in finance see them as a symptom of a systemic industry-wide issue: a shift away from a customer-focused experience.
So what’s the answer? One solution for financial marketers, according to Marc Bellanger, senior strategy director at Merkle Inc., is to take a page out of the nonprofit playbook. “Every decision [in a nonprofit] is made with the donor in mind,” Bellanger says. He suggests that because nonprofits tend to operate with slimmer margins than corporations, they often have no choice but to consider their donor base at every turn.
Financial organizations should view their audience like nonprofits view their donors — as if your business depends on them.
People often think slick technology is the sole reason fintech exploded. But in the CNBC piece, Jon Stein asserts that these fintech companies have been able to successfully provide the kind of value and solutions people need when it comes to managing their money.
Companies like U.S. Bank are focusing a TON of marketing effort on giving customers real answers to their most common questions. For example, here’s part of their checking accounts overview page:
Consumers have several reasons for doing something as simple as opening a checking account. U.S. Bank starts the page by asking customers what they want in a checking account and uses web content to answer their question immediately and give them clear value when they need it most.
When companies are transparent and clearly communicate online how their services work, they can more quickly establish trust with the consumer. Other content such as blog posts, videos and infographics can provide financial advice from experts to prove that your brand is a trusted authority on the subject.
Before your customers ever talk to someone on the phone or in person, your blog post or product page might be the first interaction they have with your company.
3. Work creatively within financial regulation
While the 2008 recession created new regulations for how financial service companies operated, regulation challenges for financial content marketing have been around for a long time.
While finance marketing isn’t subject to lengthy disclaimers and ISI information like healthcare marketing, marketers have to navigate cause-and-effect in a similar way and be careful of the promises they make, even when it seems like a no-brainer:
- Investing in a 401(k) COULD help you retire ahead of schedule
- Consolidating loans MIGHT help you pay off debt faster
- Investing in life insurance MAY help you down the road
When you’re stuck using non-committal language like this, it might seem like there’s not much left to say. But content marketing in financial services doesn’t need to be drab.
Northwestern Mutual, a huge financial service organization based in Milwaukee, uses its company blog (titled “Life and Money”) to address its audience’s most important questions and concerns, including:
- Tips for selling your home
- How much college is going to cost in 15 years
- Things to think about before leaving a job
Northwestern Mutual’s products and services are certainly weaved in throughout these blogs, but their approach has allowed them to become an essential online resource for their audience.
The key is understanding that content marketing isn’t about selling, it’s about providing answers. Managing debt, saving money and planning for retirement can be really complicated matters. But if you use your content to help people make sense of it all, you’re likely to be the first one they turn to when they need help.
BONUS: Answering your audience’s questions in your content also builds long-term SEO value. Check out SEO Tips for Financial Service Marketers to start creating content that will be seen by your target audience in search engines.
Keep your eyes on the prize
Financial service marketers face so many challenges, whether that’s competing against a new influx of innovation, combating distrust in the industry or just good-old-fashioned regulation.
The good news is that you don’t have to have a Northwestern Mutual or a U.S. Bank budget to make a significant impact on your audience. By delivering content that helps your audience feel more confident in their financial decisions, you help build and strengthen a valuable and mutually beneficial relationship with them that will last for years to come.