The content opportunity for financial services firms

In an age of information overload and back-to-back Zoom calls, it’s hard to get people to stop scrolling and actually delve into content. And yet, some companies are finding a way to do just that. One firm is producing daily podcasts. Another is serving up bite-sized facts and figures to clients who use its app. And a third is promoting its brand every Monday night to anyone who pays attention to gossipy tweets that include the hashtag #TheBachelor.

These examples, which sound like standard fare in the consumer and retail space, are actually from financial services. The companies behind these initiatives are finding ways to stand out in a crowded content marketing space while, of course, being mindful of their bread and butter—such as hitting targets for assets under management (AUM) and boosting net income.

All the while, they must deal with industry-specific hurdles, including legal and principal approval; filing and record-keeping requirements; and regulatory scrutiny of content, suitability, disclosures, and even typography—all of which can hold up publication or require content to be removed from websites, pending revision.

In short, creating and executing a financial services content marketing strategy is no easy task. So where should firms start? Four best practices can help firms get—and keep—their audience’s attention.

Find your North Star and stick to it

Have you met many fund managers or asset group leaders who believe their expert analysis doesn’t deserve a broad audience? We haven’t.

Most are certain that their research findings deserve a far-reaching marketing campaign—or at least prime real estate on the company website. Their thinking is understandable, given the degree to which their professional success depends on their ability to impress potential investors and ultimately to enhance AUM and revenue.

But that doesn’t mean that your content should run the gamut of all things financial. Instead, homing in on your leading messages and objectives—and leaving everything else on the cutting room floor—is imperative. If your goal is to be noticed in a highly saturated market of ideas, your overarching content calendar must be streamlined so that you can map out the details of multiple campaigns but ensure they only tie back to central messages that can deliver against the company’s near- and longer-term objectives.

To be effective, a content marketing calendar must be tightly aligned to the corporate objectives and financial targets for AUM, sales, and income. It should balance quick wins with initiatives whose results cannot be measured immediately. It should also help guide the effort to create and disseminate compelling content from selected streams of research. When used consistently, this approach ensures that every marketing effort is clearly linked to the established messages.

Streamline your output

As most financial marketers have learned, feeding the wide-open maw of the internet can disrupt your ability to meet client expectations and needs because there’s always the desire for more content, produced at a faster clip.

But more is not necessarily better. Carefully curated material that guides audiences through a narrative can have a big impact. As such, content teams in financial services can consider the following questions to help fine-tune their strategies:

    • How well are we staying on-message?
    • Which channels and topics are capturing our users’ attention, and which are not worth further investment?
    • How well are we packaging related content?
    • How robust a site can we realistically maintain?
    • Can a returning client quickly recognize when we have updated our site with timely and relevant content, or do our pages feel stale?

By answering these questions, you may find you’re able to nail down what makes your content stand out among competitors. It may be an edgy voice or unique campaign design or the capability and willingness to develop time-sensitive content that sails through the regulatory process with the bare minimum of caveats and disclosures.

Explore different formats

At first, you might think that TikTok, the fastest-growing social media platform, doesn’t belong in a financial firm’s wheelhouse. And that’s exactly why you should consider it: using nontraditional platforms can broaden your audience and introduce your brand to a new generation of potential clients, while also tapping into the moment with a dose of memorable levity.

Brands such as Chipotle, Nike, and Walmart are taking advantage of the platform’s popularity. The opportunity to market and advertise has already attracted 1 in 12 Fortune 500 companies, according to a recent report, but financial services firms have been slow on the uptake.

Instead, a raft of young “experts” in financial literacy is filling the void, often with incomplete or misleading information about investing and borrowing. These individual influencers find themselves competing for viewers with small financial firms like The Credit Brothers, which posts funny, emoji-filled videos about debt, credit scores, car loans, and collection agencies for its 206,000 followers. While the regulatory hurdles for many financial services firms may be daunting, the possibility to reach 800 million monthly active users—who on average spend 45 minutes a day on TikTok—makes it worth considering.

Strike the right tone

In the past year, people have faced a number of concurrent struggles: health concerns, job instability, financial uncertainty, isolation. Content creators must consider and work to connect with their audience’s current realities and concerns—both through the duration of the pandemic and beyond.

One of the areas in which financial services firms can really move the conversation forward is in the environmental, social, and corporate governance space. By finding the unique angle of impact investing—whether that involves showcasing your minority asset managers or discussing how your concerns about carbon footprints affect your business and investment decisions—financial services firms can break through the noise and grab a greater share of the market’s attention. To do this well, however, takes tact, and content teams should consider how to produce pieces that reflect the broad range of existing and future clients. Because, perhaps more than ever, clients want—and need—solutions instead of a hard sell.

Ellen Comisar, a Leff consultant, contributed to this piece.

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