Our annual State Of Play survey of financial services marketers revealed that the second biggest challenge to effective content marketing is a ‘lack of a co-ordinated strategy’. Nearly 39% of respondents revealed this fact. A surprising 55% of our respondents said they didn’t have a strategy at all.
So why is creating a content strategy so difficult? The answer may lie in responses to another question in the survey. The overwhelming priority objective for using content was ‘building brand awareness’. Other top of funnel activity, such as lead gen and driving website traffic, also featured prominently. And, while these areas are of course crucial, where are lead nurturing and conversion? The richer engagement that leads to longer-burn results? At the bottom, less of a priority.
Content should be used to usher leads down the funnel in a carefully crafted journey, into the welcoming arms of your front line or point of purchase.
This is what we would consider to be a co-ordinated, defined strategy – one that is mapped against customer engagement and experience across all brand touchpoints, from awareness through to conversion, onboarding and onto retention and advocacy.
This disproportionate focus on the top-end of the funnel also has an impact on one of the biggest challenges facing the financial services sector specifically. Trust. The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer survey showed that financial services is the second least trusted sector in the world. To be fair that’s up one place on last year but that’s only because some of the world’s media channels have behaved so badly over the last 12 months that they’ve claimed last place.
Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, once said: ‘Trust arrives on foot and leaves in a Ferrari’. This is the point. Content is designed to build trust as it is crafted. It tells a story. It isn’t a big bang piece of activity. What it offers you as a brand is lasting, meaningful engagement. Without a strategy, it’s almost impossible to define this story. You don’t know how to walk it like you talk it.
Ironically, our survey respondents agreed that content marketing is the most effective way to help rebuild trust in financial services. So why are they so focused on brand awareness?
‘Trust arrives on foot and leaves in a Ferrari’.
Probably because many financial services marketers are looking for the quickest and easiest way to demonstrate some… well, any… level of engagement. Likes, shares, click-throughs, traffic etc are all well and good, but they don’t demonstrate true ROI in £££.
And, of course, financial services organisations have their own specific challenges. Many marketers will be working in siloed environments, where the digital team sits separately from marketing, which sits separately from brand. At the same time, compliance means it’s difficult, or even impossible, to be reactive and agile. This can make strategising difficult.
But let’s also consider the biggest elephant in the room. Bonus structures. Are the right behaviours being rewarded? If not, is it time for a change, to focus attention on how to drive meaningful, ongoing engagement with brands? It’s easy to measure ATL, so easy to throw budget into it and think it’s achieving something. But this can be the thinnest of results, and will give you short-term gains at the expense of long-term relationship building.
We’ll be discussing this issue, along with the other inconvenient truths coming between you and effective content marketing, in our Financial Services Forum webinar on Wednesday 27 June. Please join us at 10am for what will be an insightful and entertaining event.