Content marketing is one of the digital trends that have been emerging in the past couple of years. As in many other aspects of digital marketing, the largest players in the financial services space have been ahead of the rest of the business world. For example, the OPEN Forum launched in the mid-2000s by American Express is a large-scale content strategy that uses a combination of proprietary and user-generated content to engage and market to small businesses. And in the banking space, Wells Fargo provides on its website a broad range of educational materials to deeply engage visiting customers, including My FirstHomeSM, an interactive tool that educates first-time buyers. The tool requires buyers to subscribe, which provides Wells Fargo with a point of contact.
Among mid-market and smaller institutions, however, the situation is quite different. Many are still cautious not only on how to engage in content marketing, but also on why they should engage. There are many reasons for this reluctance. The biggest one, as pointed out correctly by a recent article in The Financial Brand, is the perceived lack of ROI. And yet, as the article points out, a well-executed content marketing strategy can be a source of revenue for a bank.
So where are the sources of ROI from content marketing for a bank? The article points out three ways that banks benefit.
1) Cross-content selling from online banking
2) Overall increased conversion
3) Using a blog as a sales conduit
The article lists the sources, but does not go into depth on how a bank can actually implement marketing ideas that activate those sources. So here are some practical ideas on how to create value in those three areas.
Cross-content selling from online banking
The article points out that 90 percent of people go to banking websites to access online banking. If you put good content next to the online banking login, you may get your customers to spend more time on the site and may get them to buy new products. The key to success is obviously the quality of the content. So how do you go about creating compelling content to put next to the online login? My suggestion: Rather than just setting up a blog feed and letting the newest piece of content be found there, choose strategic pieces of content that have high engagement. Look at three sources of information to select the right content:
a) Your knowledge of your customer base: Choose topics that reflect their demographic and financial needs. If you have the ability to dynamically serve content once you have identified a visitor, display content based on the user’s profile.
b) Seasonality: During the year there are events that generate specific financial needs. Tax season. The holidays. The real estate buying and selling cycle. Choose topics that are relevant to the season.
c) Site behavior: Look at your site’s analytics, and look at the most popular pieces of content. What generates the most engagement? Display those in a prominent place close to your online banking login.
Overall increased conversion
Not all consumers come to your site ready to open an account or apply for a loan. Many are just researching. And while rates are a big factor in the decision about which institution to bank with, they are not the only factor. Financial decisions are complex and intimidating to many customers. Creating good educational content that makes the decision simpler can give customers confidence during the shopping process and create an affinity with your brand. More important, in creating interactive educational tools, you can move your customers along the purchase funnel while providing value to them. Finally, many customers want to do business with a bank that is part of their local community, and they want to have a personal relationship with their bank. You can use a combination of content around your branches and employees and your involvement in the community to give potential customers a sense of what their interactions with you will be like. Content can be a truly differentiating factor.
Using a blog as a sales conduit
Great blogging results in free traffic, and free traffic gets conversion and generates revenue. The logic is unassailable. The challenge, however, is not the “what” – it is the “how.” How do you create a blog that generates valuable web traffic for your bank? After all, a bank site is not the first place one would go to read a blog. The key to success in blogging in any field is to create great content that has unique value. For a bank, the best way to do this is to focus. Choose a limited number of topics and build a constant presence, creating deep content in those areas. It may seem challenging, but it doesn’t need to be. Here are two ideas that you can start with:
a) Business to business: Are there industries where your team has developed real expertise? For instance, are you really good at retail financing? Create a blog focused on the business needs of companies that operate in that industry. Follow the trends and the news of the industry and comment on what is happening. Provide valuable advice. Ask some of your customers to be guest bloggers and share their perspective. Interview famous competitors. And leverage your in-house knowledge.
b) Consumer focus in a small or midsize market: You can dedicate a blog to what is going on in the community. Follow the high school team. Share the news from important city government decisions. Publish reviews of local restaurants. Profile small businesses. Keep a calendar of events and invite people to submit their events to it.
You may ask why I am not mentioning general financial education content as a way to generate traffic. Financial education content is one of the most competitive fields in terms of online content. Using it to try and generate traffic can be very challenging. It is very important to have it on the site to improve conversion once visitors get there, but it is not the first place to go to generate new traffic.
Learn more about our 4 New Rules of Bank Marketing.
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