Picture it! You’re exiting a restaurant with friends and rather than splitting the check on the spot you hear everyone saying “Let me Venmo you my part”.
This is our reality now. Technology is rapidly reshaping financial services on top of societal norms it seems. And what we’re seeing with such growing connectivity are empowered customers interested in the promise of an easy and personalized way to track their financial life.
Money can’t buy everything and financial institutions attempting to build a loyal audience know that quite well. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 73% of marketers plan to create more content in the coming year. Paired with the human attention span of roughly eight seconds, brands don’t have a lot of time to attract let alone keep consumer attention in a noisy marketplace.
In this article, I’ll discuss the changes affecting the state of financial services marketing today and what content works best. I had the pleasure of speaking to Helen Fox, Marketing Community Manager at Elevate Credit, about her work for Elevate’s UK brand, Sunny, and how her company is winning in this new customer-centric world.
Elevate Credit is a leader in the non-prime lending industry and is committed to giving consumers access to responsible and transparent credit options.
More customers want a seamless, customized and online banking experience. A cashless world, so to speak, where the payment process increasingly invisible.
At the end of the day, people want to be known as and targeted as an individual and that’s why banks and credit institutes are increasingly experimenting with the art of personalization. You can’t build up a relationship with an algorithm so brands need to be creative with technology in order to turn their digital banking experience into an efficient business.
“You can’t build up a relationship with an algorithm so brands need to be creative with technology.”
A rapidly changing industry
Marketers are now tasked with improving the customer experience, persuading skeptical millennials, and creating a customer journey that puts the customer front and center, rather than the brand.
It’s not an easy task. Finance is a broad topic full of intricacies that aren’t easy to understand. In other words, winning the loyalty of the modern customer requires a combination of innovative, personalized digital, and mobile engagement, as well as the credibility gained from offering top-notch industry expertise during the physical branch experience.
Content marketers across industries have been trying to crack the code as to how to keep millennials engaged, and in financial services, it’s a shift we’ll be seeing more and more of. Millennials are early adopters and tend to influence other generations as to whether new technology is worthwhile. Winning them over is quite the coup for any brand.
Over the years technology has forced all of us to adapt to the new normal, Elevate Credit has capitalized on this evolution.
Dino: How have digital tools changed the way you communicate and build relationships with your clients?
Helen: Meeting our customers where they are is at the heart of our business. As this is increasingly in the online world, our approaches to both marketing and customer care have become integrated with digital platforms to deliver a cohesive experience to our audience, irrespective of channel. Some 30% of under 35s now cite social media as their preferred method of contact for customer service, and we expect the role of social media in our customer service channel mix to become more prevalent in 2018 and beyond.
The primary role of our social and content channels, and where they add the most value for us as a financial services brand, is building meaningful relationships with our customers.
Our digital magazine, Good Vibes, is a hub of lifestyle and financial wellness content and is the foundation of our social media community. It also gives us the license to run campaigns like our monthly “Pay Off A Loan” campaign, where we give our customers the opportunity to enter a prize draw to have their balance with us paid off.
Since we first launched the campaign this summer, we’ve seen both touching anecdotal responses and an average 160% engagement rate with campaign posts, which is a fantastic result on all fronts.
Marketers are increasingly trying to add value for the customer and get away from that product-only plug. It’s en vogue to engage people by giving them useful information. The orientation in the industry is towards the customer and the need to educate, inspire and demonstrate value to them throughout the customer journey. This requires you to understand them better. Doing so will help you adjust your content efforts to better address their challenges.
Dino: Have you used an approach – which could be anything from a headline style to trying out a new network – where you have been surprised by how effective it proved to be? What was it?
Helen: We take an integrated approach to all our marketing, but the effectiveness of integrating social and content marketing with CRM activity (such as newsletters) in particular has surprised me. Supporting our social and content activity with email communications to our customer base drives significantly more engagement with campaigns than we’ve seen through social distribution alone.
This is a testament to the impact we can have by integrating activity across marketing channels to deliver the best possible results.
Leveraging expertise and building trust
Banks and credit unions, financial advisors, insurance companies or investment managers all sell services and products that are only as good as the expertise and approach with which they are delivered. That makes content marketing crucial to financial services as a medium for showcasing and proving their value.
Users want to see you being unbiased. This might seem counterintuitive since the world of finance aims to protect personal information, but sharing valuable knowledge through interesting content will prove that you genuinely care about your audience’s well-being and finding a solution to their most pressing issues.
You must build trust to sell a service and content marketing helps do just that. So don’t be afraid to be vocal about what makes you the best in the industry and take ownership of your expertise.
Dino: How are you using content to create a greater sense of trust between you and your customers?
Helen: The guiding brand principle for our UK product, Sunny, is “Life Support”, which aims to provide both the help our customers need in any given moment and ongoing support for their journey through life.
Using this principle to guide our approach to Sunny’s products and content led to the creation of Good Vibes. Our digital magazine covers a range of both lifestyle and financial topics and is a platform for us to talk to our customers about topics of interest rather than our products.
We never “push product” with our editorial and social content; to actively promote our products through editorial content would undermine our intention to be genuinely useful. This approach cultivates greater trust between us and our customers.
Multimedia is taking over
Finance is investing more in multimedia assets with the goal to stand out. Video is taking over and is projected to account for 80% of web traffic by 2019.
This niche has most certainly gotten the memo that the future of content marketing is video. No wonder video is being used to educate consumers about wealth management; it is the prime format to provide its viewers with a more human spin on financial jargon.
This is important as financial brands have the opportunity to attract even more traffic if they can translate their complex messaging into digestible videos.
Dino: With so many tactics and formats to play with now – video, Instagram Stories, UGC etc. – how do you pick which to go with?
Helen: First and foremost, we aim to meet our audience where they are in all of our social and content activity. We look at the adoption rates of channels and formats by our target audience and then assess the suitability of it for us as a financial services brand. Not every platform, format or tactic is appropriate for us.There is no sense in chasing the latest developments for the sake of it.
Video is without a doubt the most popular and engaging format available to marketers at the moment, but there are many new developments, particularly in the AI and Bot space, that we’re keeping an eye on.
Educating the masses
Many financial services companies are diving into educational content. The first step was to get consumer attention by convincing consumers that they can manage their own money. Next, brands can easily position themselves as trusted partners for consumers and, after all, if you’re helping people save money isn’t loyalty guaranteed?
Educational content has blossomed into one of the most popular and effective types of content for marketers. Finances are hard to navigate, and institutions able to teach customers something or curate the incredible amounts of data can win customer loyalty.
Dino: How big of a role does data play in your content ideation and creation?
Helen: With all the data available today, it’s inadvisable to use instinct alone to justify content production. We look at various first and third party data sources from search volume data to bespoke segmentation models to gauge the topics that will be of interest to our audience, and make decisions about the ideas we take forward.
We also use previous campaign performance as a benchmark, evaluating which topics and formats performed well, and who they resonated with, to deliver an increasingly personalized content experience to our audience as our offering evolves.
Finance is driven by numbers and content marketing is no exception. Though most admit that proving direct ROI is a constant work-in-progress, measurement is becoming more advanced. For many marketers, it’s less challenging to find the data than it is to sift through it.
Dino: How do you showcase your results? Can you show a clear ROI and how?
Helen: Direct ROI remains a challenge in social and content marketing. We treat our social and content channels as demand generation rather than demand capture channels and take a multichannel approach to attribution.
Therefore, we look at where in a customer’s lifecycle our activity is most influential, and which channels it works best in combination with, rather than assess the number of customers we acquired directly from a particular piece of content.
Dino: Do you track and review your past campaigns? How granular do you get with the performance numbers?
Helen: We constantly monitor and moderate engagement with all our campaigns to track the response we receive to our content. We read every comment and take note of every reaction and share, and learn from both criticism and praise to create the best possible content for our audience. We are granular when we measure the performance of our campaigns.
We analyze performance by each audience segment we target to ascertain which population responded best to a topic or format. We measure both soft metrics like engagements and shares, and interactions with our website. Understanding how our content resonates and the customer journeys that form as a result, is crucial to the success of our strategy.
Dino: Financial content often comes with actionable investment tips, so are you tracking any specific actions in tandem with your content?
Helen: We closely monitor engagement actions associated with our content, such as site visits, pages per session, and repeat visitors. It is our ambition that individuals continue to explore Good Vibes after reading the article that piqued their interest and return to it at different points of need for information and guidance.
Join the best-in-class
One thing is clear, the finance vertical is upping their content game and moving the bar. To stand out, finance brands need to know what kind of content works and what doesn’t. Data plays an enormous role from day one. And marketers need to create a customer experience that’s not only engaging but provides value to customers in all realms of the customer journey.
The truth of the matter is that the brands that are winning have understood what social first content looks like and are ready to put the customer at the center of their marketing.
Dino: What is your advice to those in the financial services industry just starting out with their own social media efforts?
Helen: Not every platform or format is the right fit for a financial services brand, so don’t feel obligated to adopt something for the sake of it. Consider your audience’s motives for using a particular platform, and build your goals around them.
All that is left to say is that I am extremely excited to see how brands will cash in next year.