This post was originally published in May 2019 and has been updated for relevance and clarity.
The main challenges of marketing financial services are very unique to the industry. Strict regulations, complicated subject matter, a lack of consumer trust and constantly evolving technology are just a handful of roadblocks scattered throughout the financial services landscape.
However, we saw some common trends bubble up. The different challenges that these marketers are facing are the same problems we all deal with — issues like generating traffic, staying relevant, measuring the right KPIs and team construction.
Here are four of the top struggles cited by financial service marketers and examples of how content marketing can help ease the stress.
In our 2021 survey, we’ve learned that the same challenges outlined here are still focuses in financial services marketers’ minds today. Issues like reaching the right audiences and finding top talent for internal teams are always going to be important, but the ways marketers go about solving these hurdles can potentially look a little different now than in 2019.
We’ve updated this post to include a “2021 Notes” section to each of the four challenges with guidance on how financial services marketers can work through any roadblocks they face while marketing their products or services.
1. Keeping up with new marketing techniques
The number one answer given when asked about the largest challenges of marketing financial products and services was keeping up with new marketing techniques. In fact, a whopping 52% of marketers stated that as their biggest concern — a 9% increase from last year’s results.
This statistic is one that I completely understand. One of the very first “aha” moments I had while working in marketing was learning that nothing ever stays the same. Once you figure out a tactic that’s successful for you, something new comes along (like a Google update or a shiny new social media platform). Just become something was a surefire win one day doesn’t mean that it’ll still garner the same results a few months later.
Additionally, 40% of respondents cited a lack of knowledge and training regarding content marketing as another struggle they face in their organization.
While it is somewhat comforting to know that so many marketers are in the same boat, feeling lost is not the most fun mental place to find yourself.
Here are some ways that content marketers can stay on top of current trends.
Put a Focus on Self-Education
Take the time to cultivate a blog feed and social network filled with a variety of topics from different publications. Dedicating time daily or weekly to read articles about both the marketing industry as well as your specific field is essential to staying up-to-date on what’s going on in the always-changing marketing world.
- Blogs like HubSpot, MarketingProfs and Content Marketing Institute post about all aspects of content marketing, from SEO to content creation to AI.
- SecurionPay, Ally Bank and Betterment are great examples of financial services companies that create helpful and educational blogs for all stages of their customers’ journey.
Following blogs like this will help you keep track of subjects that marketers are focusing on within your industry, as well as teach you about new information and subjects in the financial sector that you may not have been familiar with.
Attend Events, Both Online and Off
Registering for every marketing conference that pops up might not be in your department’s budget, but those type of events aren’t the only option you have. While those summits are a great way to learn and network on a larger scale, here are some other ways to stay connected to the marketing industry:
- One-day seminars or networking events
- Online webinars or classes, such as events provided by Hootsuite or, ahem, us
- Local conferences
In addition, attending conferences specific to the financial industry itself will allow you to network with professionals in your field that face the same struggles as you. Being present within this community will help you to stay connected to the subject matter that you’re creating content for — learning the ins and outs of what employees of banks, credit unions and wealth management organizations deal with on a daily basis will help you craft authoritative and genuine content.
It’s no wonder that keeping up with new marketing techniques was high on the list of challenges for marketers in 2021. The world was changing at a faster clip than we wanted or were used to, and we were trying to keep up with everything getting thrown at us. Luckily, marketers are used to evolving with the times and should find comfort in knowing that some of the tried-and-true methods of staying up to date with techniques are still applicable now.
- Take full advantage of online events: Digital conferences and webinars aren’t always the most exciting, but event marketers really took the challenge of recreating the live-feel of in-person events on a computer screen. Many departments will still incorporate online events into the mix, so attend while you can!
- Seek out new types of content: The marketing tactic mix is always growing, so find the channels that best fit your style of learning. Not everyone loves a blog feed of educational articles but may get value out of a podcast or video series.
2. Keeping Up with the Competition
In an industry where innovation is a crucial part of staying relevant, financial service marketers have to work with a proactive, not reactive mentality. Technology, trends and tactics are constantly changing, and it’s important to stay more than a few steps ahead of the game to make sure your organization stays in the forefront of your audience’s mind.
Forty-eight percent of our survey participants said that keeping up with their competition was a main concern in their department. So, how do you stay on top of the game?
Conduct Regular Self-Audits
Keeping tabs on your library of content is a great way to identify your gaps and opportunities. By taking a look at what you currently have published, as well as digging into analytics to see how people are finding your site and what is performing well, you’ll be able to see what you should create that would fill any holes.
While you’re doing these deep-dives into your content, take the opportunity to optimize each area of your brand. Forty-four percent of financial marketers say that staying consistent across all channels is a major challenge that their organization faces.
Consider these questions when auditing your online presence:
- Is your brand voice the same on each platform?
- Do your social media assets match each other, as well as your website?
- Are there any out-of-date campaign hashtags or product promotions that you’ve moved away from?
Once you’ve completed your own audit, it’s time to move on to what your competitors are up to. Take note of who’s successful in your industry. What do they rank for? What type of content do they have on those pages? What assets have they created and what type of language are they using to communicate to what audience?
More importantly: What AREN’T they doing that you can?
Square’s Cash App vs. Venmo
Square, developer of Cash App, took this spirit of innovation and improvement to become a leader in the peer-to-peer payment space. In August 2018, after a few years of falling short of first place in downloads, Cash App became more popular than Venmo, PayPal’s financial payment app.
How? They not only stayed on top of the trends but created services for their customers that Venmo wasn’t succeeding at or even attempting to offer.
- Square shifted their strategy to focus on financial services for the underbanked, introducing a virtual debit card in 2016 and eventually a physical card for customers.
- Users were given the option to buy Bitcoin through the app, a feature that was not available on Venmo at Cash App’s launch.
By reacting to gaps within the market, as well as promoting their unique offerings, Square was able to surpass over 33 million downloads at a growth that was three times faster than its major competition.
One of the main focuses we had at Brandpoint over the last year and a half was the concept of digital transformation and the idea that the homefield advantage companies may have had in their local environments was now gone. Businesses were on an even playing field, all online trying to serve their clients who were at home and at home only. There are some things you can do to not only keep up with the competition but surpass them.
- Look at your website’s customer experience: As our CEO Scott Severson said in his article (linked above) about this, “Customers are increasingly measuring all their interactions against low-friction experiences, such as buying on Amazon. It is important to audit your CX and remove anything that is getting in the way of your customer.”
- Focus on innovation: Your company should always be thinking of ways to grow to stay competitive in the industry. We follow the 70:20:10 rule of innovation when brainstorming new products or marketing tactics: 70% of innovation focus should be on core business, 20% on adjacent projects and 10% should be on brand-new, big-picture ideas.
3. Reaching the Right Audience & Generating Traffic
If you’ve spent time conducing a self-audit on your brand’s presence and your existing content, you should have a pretty good idea of the types of topics your audience is interested in. To set yourself apart from the gigantic sea of other financial services companies, it is key to put a strong focus on your specific customer.
With 42% of financial services marketers stating that both reaching the right audience and generating traffic and new customers are major concerns, dedicating a large part of your strategy to addressing these issues is vital.
What do you have that is unique to your organization? What can you offer current and potential clients that you have the advantage on? What types of questions are leading your customers to your site for answers?
Segmentation in your messaging
The more time you spend determining your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile), the more you’ll be able to create targeted content just for them. However, not all people within this ICP are at the same stage of their customer’s journey.
By creating personalized content, whether in email campaigns or on-page copy, you’ll be able to meet your customers where they are. A first-time home buyer shouldn’t get the same messaging for a customer who is looking to retire. A customer who is on the verge of emailing to set up a consultation to learn about your services should be given content that differs from someone who’s Googling, “What is a 401(k)?”
Provide Valuable Content
Another way to generate the right type of traffic (and, in turn, leads) is to create value-added content. Value-added content, sometimes called a lead magnet, is something exclusive to your site that provides highly useful information or a way to make their life easier.
Some examples of value-added content created by banks:
NerdWallet’s Mortgage Calculator
By creating this on-page tool, NerdWallet was able to provide useful help to their potential customers free of charge, building trust and brand recognition.
Mint’s Free Budget Template
Some of the best pieces of value-added content are incredibly simple. Mint created a series of monthly budget Excel sheets for users to download and track their spending. The templates aren’t flashy and neither is the landing page itself, but the tool gets the job done, especially for beginners who’ve never kept a budget before.
Jyske Bank’s Video Series
Denmark’s Jyske Bank used storytelling as a tactic to turn internal videos into trust-building (and traffic generating!) content. In an interview with Content Marketing Institute in 2015, editor-in-chief Lasse Hoegledt said the key to earning that trust was to think of themselves as journalists and to “be fair and transparent, even if it means reporting on topics that might be in the best interest of the bank.”
Jyske Bank’s consistent output of video content earned multiple awards and helped make the organization a household name in Denmark.
Reaching the right audience was the number one challenge that financial services marketers said they face in our 2021 survey, which is not surprising. It can feel like a scattershot trying to publish the right content on the right channels at the right time with the right SEO strategy, but it doesn’t have to be. Step back, take a breath, and remember — you’ve been doing this already, pandemic or not! Here are a few more tips:
- Double down on SEO and messaging: Audience intent is 100% the name of the game when it comes to growing your traffic in the right way. Make sure that the keywords you’re targeting make sense to the audience base you’re looking to reach, and that the content you serve up after they click your link on a SERP is answering their query … and then some.
- Align with sales: As much as marketers wish, Google Analytics doesn’t paint a full picture. Your sales team is on the front line talking with your future and current clients. Brainstorm content ideas there to help drive new business by speaking directly to the challenges your leads are looking to solve.
4. Not Enough People
With an 11% increase from last year’s results, almost 42% of financial marketers say that hiring top talent is a problem they face in their organization. In the same vein, a lack of resources needed to generate quality content was cited by 44% of survey respondents.
The content marketing industry has exploded over the last few years and is expected to be valued at over $400 billion globally by 2021. With more and more companies allocating budget to staffing content marketers, competition for top talent only grows.
Focus on Employment Branding
Work with your HR team on any external-facing communications when it comes to hiring. By creating well-developed About Us and Career pages for your company, you’ll essentially be marketing yourself to future applicants. Think about the type of people you want to attract to work on your team and craft your messaging to fit that audience.
Utilize an Agency
If you don’t have a large enough budget to grow your in-house staff, consider using an outside source for help. Working with an agency to boost your marketing efforts can help your team with both content creation and strategy development.
Many companies — especially ones in the world of financial services — have a one-person marketing department. At Brandpoint, we consider ourselves an extension of your team. Our strategists and content creators work with your company to come up with a plan, help with execution, and adjust any strategies over time while monitoring results.
While competition has gotten fierce for businesses online selling their products and services, hiring talent is an entirely other subject. Between hybrid, remote work, perks, PTO and flex time, companies have to up their game ten-fold to stay enticing and relevant to jobseekers. That’s where marketing comes in.
- Expand your hiring horizons: Before, most companies were mainly in-office, which limited their applicant pool. With WFH and remote becoming the norm, talent acquisition isn’t stuck in a 20-mile radius any longer. Marketing and HR should work together to find the best employees for each team, even if they’re states away.
- Boost your employer branding with thought leadership: The influencers in your company are the ones who love working there. Use that! Recruit your non-marketing staff to create content around what it’s like to work in your financial services institution, either via blog article, social media post or video. Hearing it straight from the source will definitely help your applicants decide to send in their resumes.
Marketing for financial services can be difficult to wrap your mind around, but the struggles involved are similar to ones all marketers face. Keeping these challenges in mind when planning and executing your marketing strategy will help you keep a leg up on the competition.