Content Marketing for financial servicesThe financial services (FS) industry still has something of a strained relationship with content marketing. Things have steadily improved in recent times, but it’s still a little way from being harmonious.

The dynamic is summed up nicely in this finding from Editions Financial: 24% of FS firms are unsure if content marketing is more effective than other approaches in rebuilding trust.

While more and more people within the sector are seemingly being won over by content marketing (the figure stood at 58% last year), a significant group still don’t want to commit to it as they believe there could be a better approach out there.

Naturally, we’re here to tell you that content marketing is the perfect way to repair and build trust with consumers. Don’t just take our word for it, though – look at the success of early adopters, such as Barclays and Compare The Market, whose efforts we will cover later in the piece.

Let’s be clear about something first, however: the FS industry’s nagging doubts about content marketing are entirely understandable.

Here at M2 Bespoke, we have a number of clients who operate in the sector, giving us first-hand knowledge of the factors acting as a barrier to implementation of content marketing.

Three hurdles facing FS firms

1. Regulations

It’s no secret that financial institutions are subject to certain requirements, restrictions and guidelines. Quite right too, as it is these regulations on which integrity is built – giving consumers that much-needed confidence and protection in the financial system.

However, the very strict sets of criteria, which need to be met in order to attain regulatory compliance with the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority), leave little room for creativity – not exactly ideal for marketing.

2. Consumer apathy

British consumers are notoriously blasé about money management. This has been exacerbated in the last decade, with student maintenance grants doing little to help young people understand the value of money, for instance. Meanwhile, the financial crisis has only made things harder for the FS industry to gain trust from consumers – just 28% of consumers trust financial advisers, according to a study from PwC.

It hardly makes for a strong argument to pour more resources in to something like content marketing, which relies upon trust and consumer loyalty.

3. Proving value

The FS sector effectively asks consumers to spend money in order to save money – not an easy thing to get your head around if you’re not clued up on the benefits of personal finance planning in the first place.

While other brands can place an emphasis on the ‘value’ they are offering their customers, financial organisations cannot do this so readily. You won’t see financial firms boast they are able to offer “financial advice at a cheap price” all too often – and if you do, a certain amount of suspicion will rightfully overtake.

As such, what angle should FS firms take on their content marketing efforts, if they are unable to highlight the value of their services?

Overcoming these hurdles

All that said, nearly nine out of ten of FS companies say that they expect content marketing to become more important within their organisation in 2015, according to Editions Financial’s latest ‘Financial Content Marketing’ report.

What do they know that others might not?

Once you get your head into it, content marketing for FS firms is not all that different from other brands. More than that, it’s an optimum way of overcoming some of the hurdles outlined previously, by offering a platform to engage with previously disengaged consumers and prove value to those who have never had top-of-mind awareness of financial planning.

What I’m saying is that for financial institutions, content marketing has the potential to be every bit as powerful in winning over consumers as for any other industry. You’ve just got to know how.

Content marketing principles for FS firms

Identify a brand voice

One of the first things you’ll have to decide on is what sort of tone you will take with your audience in your content. This is something that all brands have to identify when they first embark on content marketing, and is perhaps one of the most important they will make.

Adopt an overly formal tone and you run the risk of turning off your readers; make things too colloquial and you might have them thinking you can’t be taken seriously; if you take a while to work it out you might confuse readers as they will not know what to expect.

For FS firms, it’s all about finding that happy medium: informative yet engaging.

Create a content strategy

What do you want your content to achieve? What sort of content do you need to be creating in order to get there? Without a clearly defined content strategy, it is anybody’s guess where you will end up.

As the FS industry knows best, nothing should be left to chance – although you’ll have to accept that not everything is going to come off as you had expected. In fact, the “you’ve got to speculate to accumulate” mantra fits pretty well with content marketing – although things might get off to a steady start, by investing enough resources in your efforts, the returns can prove very worthwhile indeed.

Demystify complex subject matter

For those that have a poor education in personal finance, the prospect of reading content on financial planning is hardly enticing – unless you can clearly make it in their interests. By explaining complex topics in “real” speak, you might be able to welcome an entirely new wave of customers.

Appearance can be everything, so look for ways to incorporate visuals or videos. Although you might assume the FS industry is not tailored particularly well for visual content, there is a surprising amount of scope for its inclusion. While an infographic on how to start a pension might not answer all the questions they have on the subject, it’ll prove a good way to ignite a relationship between you and the customer.

Embrace the ‘boring’

For many, finance might considered something of a “boring” sector – and they are entitled to their opinion, of course. However, for those that are switched on to the advantages of being finance savvy, they might be less inclined to shy away from something simply because it’s “too serious”.

Granted this audience might be a little smaller than the other, but they could prove a very valuable segment indeed for your business. Therefore, don’t be afraid to embrace the “boring” nature of the industry and offer up some long-form articles from time to time.

Offer some insight

The UK government is forever changing the rules on what consumers can and can’t do when it comes to personal finance – especially where pensions are concerned.

No doubt your business will have an opinion on the latest government proposals – make them known. By simply offering some insight into the latest changes that will affect consumers, not only will you be empowering your audience with a knowledge of what is happening in the world of personal finance, your comments might be picked up elsewhere.

FTAdviser, for example, is forever quoting financial advisers to add some perspective to a national story. Before you know it, your company’s name is making its way from publication to publication.

Tell real-life stories

Financial firms are sometimes guilty of using too much in the way of theory to explain their point. Obviously there is occasionally some value in using hypothetical examples for clarification purposes, but it can sometimes overwhelm readers as they get lost in the numbers.

Use real-life examples instead which will encourage the reader to become more engrossed in the content through its relatability. This will likely see them read the piece more attentively, allowing them to get a stronger grasp on the facts and figures – rather than wheel away in despair before they’ve got to your call to action.

Go the extra mile

As we said earlier, regulations can make it a little hard for financial firms to express themselves – but there are no rules against having a light-hearted discussion with your audience on social media now and then.

Actually, make it a regular occurrence to avoid building up a relationship with your customers becoming a long, drawn-out process. Simply asking a question is often enough to spark some debate and, with the nature of the discussion at your picking, you can make sure things don’t go too close to the edge as far as regulations are concerned.

A case (or two) in point

Barclays

By offering advice in the form of content to entrepreneurs, Barclays has positioned itself as something of a go-to resource for business owners.

Barclays has recognised that the business building cycle can be complex and often daunting, sympathising with entrepreneurs through the medium of content.

While its advice is helpful, it’s far from comprehensive, which plays into its hands when it comes to calls-to-action, as the bank has offered just enough advice for initial trust to be built.

Although content marketing should be handled with a deft touch – keeping selling speak to a minimum – there is no harm in introducing your services, or showing customers where they can go to find out more.

To make the distinction between advisory and advertising content more obvious, some financial intuitions have chosen to build a dedicated resource centre, i.e. a micro-site.

Compare The Market

It’s no exaggeration to say that Compare The Market’s meerkat campaign put the firm on the map. The very fact it needs little explanation is proof in itself.

It’s a great example of a “serious” business not taking itself too seriously and seeing itself through the eyes of the customer.

It all started when the insurance comparison website rolled out a campaign in which Aleksandr “told off” consumers for wrongly visiting his meerkat comparison site looking for car or home insurance.

Six years on, Aleksandr is something of a household name, with consumers falling over themselves to get their hands on some meerkat merchandise – only available when you buy insurance cover via Compare The Market, of course.

The meerkat family, as it is now, has a complete backstory on the Compare The Meerkat micro-site, with customers showing few signs of growing tired of the campaign.

Conclusion

For financial firms, it’s easy to conclude that the majority of consumers are not engaged enough to justify a content marketing campaign. However, if you have any aspirations to turn that around, content marketing is a great place to start.

Millennials, who are likely to make up a large part of the target audience, were born into the technology age – it’s all they know. What I’m getting at is the first place they go in search for advice, financial or otherwise, is online. If you’ve got no content to be found, how do you expect them to become exposed to your business?

Young people are also becoming more personal finance savvy, quite simply because they have to, what with it proving harder to get a mortgage than ever. Dependence on technology and growing financial knowledge makes for the perfect combination from a financial firm’s point of view.

With a clever content marketing campaign, you’ll be able to satisfy their urge to become financially astute, while ensuring that the content that you’re producing is getting exposure in their vicinity, via social media.

If you want help getting your content marketing off the ground or simply scaling up your activity, please get in touch. Here at M2 Bespoke, our content strategists and specialist writers can help you produce expertly written content and share it directly with your target audience.

Ben Hollom

July 14, 2015