- Finance ,
A Complete Guide To Planning and Creating Content In The Finance Industry
Sidse SorensenMay 2018
‘I choose my financial services on price because in the end banks are really all the same.’ That’s a quote from the Wall Street Journal article ‘Lenders looking all too similar’ published in 2003.
Back in 2003, the financial industry was becoming a rather boring one with dozens of banks and financial institutions offering more or less the exact same products.
Fast forward to 2018.
New, innovative and disruptive fintech startups are turning the traditionally stale industry on its head and pushing it onwards and upwards. The traditional boundaries, experience and wealth, have been demolished with technology.
The financial sector has never been more competitive and the barriers to success are changing rapidly.
If you want your financial service company to thrive in this turbulent but exciting time, you need to think about how you’ll compete with newcomers.
In this article, I’ll show you a way that you can really pack a punch and push your company ahead of the pack.
In this article, I’ll tell you about content marketing.
What is financial content marketing?
Our daily life is plastered with ads and people trying to sell their services and products to us. Content marketing is a breath of fresh air in the sea of ads and promotional emails.
Where traditional marketing is built on selling a product or service, content marketing is a more customer-based approach.
Content marketing focuses on providing solutions to problems and offering them in the shape of a list, blog, infographic, podcast, case study or another piece of content.
That’s a little abstract, though. Let’s look at an example.
Although Santander is a mahoosive global bank (and won’t necessarily have much in common with your local Glasgow accounting firm) it’s a banging example so I’ve included it anyway.
In 2016 Santander realised that targeting heads of families and wealth management prospects simply wasn’t a viable strategy any longer.
They did tonnes of research (presumably) and then launched a new long-term content marketing strategy aimed at millennials.
As opposed to marketing their services to the age bracket approaching retirement, the so-called wealth management prospects, they wanted to target young people early on in their decision-making process, and build loyalty.
One of their main tactics was creating a blog: Prosper and Thrive.
Split into three sections — Save Up, Master Debt and Live Life — the main purpose of the blog was to be there for young individuals in their in-between moments, before looking for a home equity loan.
Where do you think these millennials will go when they need a mortgage?
I’ll tell you where. They’ll go to the bank where they’ve regularly picked up tips and financial guidance from over the last seven years. They’ll go to Santander because at a time in need they offered timely and valuable content – no strings attached.
Santander used content to build long-lasting relationships, and so can you. If you can provide no strings attached, relevant and brilliant help – then your customers will love you for it.
Why content marketing is the ultimate marketing machine
A recent study from Kapost showed that when comparing paid search advertising with content marketing, content marketing had both a lower upfront cost and better long-term benefits.
Because content marketing is so problem/solution specific, the results are often compounding. A good blog post or downloadable PDF will keep building momentum with no extra investment required. And content marketing isn’t just better for traffic. Oh, no. Its conversion rates are up to six times higher than traditional marketing methods!
When comparing to traditional outbound marketing, content marketing costs 62% less and generates three times as many leads.
One of the many strengths of content marketing is that it is created so tightly around the pain point and problems of the target personas. This means that the content is hyper-specific, super relevant and therefore highly likely to provide tonnes of value.
If we go back a few years, marketing was all about getting your brand message in front of as many prospects as possible. Don’t get me wrong, old-fashioned broadcasting tactics can still work really well depending on who you are and what marketing goals you have. But spending a lot of money to target a big unqualified group of people is (usually) a rubbish investment.
If you’re not sure whether content marketing is for you, then head over to my colleague’s blog “Does Content Marketing Work For a Finance Company’ for some cracking examples and more intel on why content and finance are a match made in heaven.
And if you’re anywhere near as pumped as I am right now, let’s crack on and discuss how you get started with planning content for your financial service company.
Planning and creating financial content
Personally, I like a well structured and easily digestible article — so I’ve split this section into the 6 stages that I go through when planning and delivering a piece of content for a financial client.
I’ll briefly explain the main purpose of each activity, give you a quick ‘how to’ guide on it and then share some bonus tips to get you going.
Let’s do this.
Step 1: Research
Content marketing is about answering the questions that your potential and existing customers have. To be able to deliver in-depth answers and solutions to problems, you need to have a solid understanding of who your target customers are and what they’re searching for/how they’re searching for it. It’s easy maths, if you don’t know the question, then you can’t answer it.
How to research content
If you want an in-depth understanding of your customer’s needs and wants, then you need to carry out persona research. In researching and creating buyer personas you can make sure that your employees know exactly who they’re writing for, what they need to cover and what tone of voice to do it in.
This brings us back to knowing what question to answer, before trying to answer it. When content is created with a specific persona in mind, it becomes hyper-specific and thus hyper-relevant to the target audience.
A buyer persona is created through research, surveys and interviews with your target audience. I’ve added a quick list of things you need to know about your personas below:
- Approximate income
- Hobbies and interests
- Things that they struggle with — problems and pain points
- What they want to accomplish — personally and professionally
The better and more accurate your personas are, the better and more targeted your content will be. Here’s an in-depth guide (and it’s a good one) on how to carry out customer interviews by Business Casual Copywriting.
So you know what sort of problems your potential customers are experiencing. Now what? Well, you’ve got to work out how they are trying to solve them and, in today’s digital age, that means what they’re typing into Google. It’s time to try and translate their problems and pain points into search queries and keywords.
Translating pain points
The next step is to take your pain points and translate them (through some basic keyword research) into search queries.
Whatever your niche, now is the time to give Google a spin. Start by opening up a spreadsheet in one window and Google in the other. Then type in some of your services and keywords related to your persona and the problems and pain points that they face.
Have a look at the picture below where I’ve initiated a search around payroll.
As you type a query into Google’s search bar, it gives you a bunch of suggested searches. Try and let Google take you from one suggested search to another, and note down anything interesting on the way.
As you note down keywords, related keywords and search queries, it’s a good idea to have your full customer journey at the back of your head. This is to make sure that you’re divvying up your time and keywords into categories that help solve problems in all three stages of the journey: Awareness, Consideration and Decision.
Once you’ve got a big list of keywords, take some time to run through the keywords and consider their commercial intent.
With good content you can drive loads of traffic to your site, but what’s the point if the people you are attracting aren’t buying your services or products.
That’s where commercial intent comes in.
With each keyword, you should ask yourself, “How likely is it that the person typing this into Google will end up buying something from me?” The more likely they are to buy, the better.
Keywords with high commercial intent will often contain purchase modifiers, product keywords or information keywords. Basically, keep an eye out for keywords like the following: buy, coupon, discount, deal, shipping, review, best, affordable, top 10, how to, ways to, best way and so on.
Now that you’ve got your list of qualified keywords, it’s time to check their traffic and see if people are actually typing them into Google.
If you’ve got access to fancy software like Ahrefs or SEMrush, you can copy our list into the keyword explorer section and take a note of the traffic. If you don’t have a fancy piece of SEO software, you can use Adwords Keyword Planner, which is just as good and absolutely free!
Along with the keyword volume, you should also get the keyword difficulty, which is just an indication of how competitive the search term is. For example, you will struggle to rank for ‘home insurance’ because there are thousands of websites competing for it but you should be able to rank for ‘semi-detached home insurance in Dundee’ because there are far fewer websites competing for it.
Once you’ve got your search traffic and ranking difficulty, sort the list so you have keywords with low competition and high traffic at the top. These are your target keywords that you’ve got to match to your potential customers’ problems.
For a full breakdown of how to do keyword research, check out Brian Dean’s Definitive Guide to Keyword Research for SEO.
Tools and tips
SEO tools such as Ahrefs, Moz Pro, SEMrush usually have a free or discounted trial period. This means that you can sign up, get your work done and cancel your subscription before a hefty bill comes your way. There’s no point paying a monthly subscription if you aren’t going to use the software.
“Another good way to really get up close with your target personas is to find the online communities, networking groups and forums your target audience frequent then tag along. Listen to their pain points and then build your content around that.”
David Vallance, Content Manager at LeaseFetcher
Step 2: Planning
One of the most important things about content marketing is that it is regular and unique. Whilst a content calendar isn’t necessarily something you must have, it provides a clear roadmap and helps make sure that your blog posts are written and published, and that you’re progressing with your bigger pieces of content.
How to plan content
At this stage, you should have a good list of keywords and you should have matched them up to the pain points you discovered via your buyer persona research.
Now you need to turn these keywords into pieces of content that you can produce.
Here at Digital Impact, we’ve got a standard template where we detail out all the nitty gritty specs and technical stuff.
Tools and tips
“Content for financial services is often created from a reactive position, for example, after the UK budget or in February where everyone is trying to recover after the Christmas Credit Card spend. By creating a calendar of content, you can prepare for these key dates and have content prepared and published before they roll around.”
Will Craig, Founder of LeaseFetcher
When you’re planning your calendar, make sure to include important dates and events that you know will always happen. If your content is current and relevant, it’s likely to get an extra boost in traffic and perform better. Plan for it and write proactive content instead of writing about what happened two weeks ago.
Step 3: Creating
This is an important step in the content production line. Your piece of content needs to be sharp and provide value or your efforts will go in vain.
How to create content
The first thing to do is have a snoop around Google. What comes up when you search for what you’re writing about? And is the content unique?
Skim through top five results and note down things you think are awesome. It could be anything from a really well-written author bio to cool CTA buttons to a certain type of integrated multimedia.
Now that you’ve got a list of pretty awesome elements in the pages that are ranking on Google, you are ready to create your piece of content.
Depending on where your piece fits into the buyer’s journey, there are different formats of content that suit the aim of the stage your prospective leads are in.
When you’re creating your content, you need to be specific. Your personas have got a set of problems and pain points, and it’s your job to solve them.
Everyone is on a tight schedule so if you can’t deliver a super informative piece of work that’s relevant to them, your potential customers are going to close your website and go elsewhere.
Tools and tips
“When you’ve created your content, go back through it with an SEO checklist in hand. Make sure you have optimised the title, the slug, the meta description as well as the H2 headings to name a few. Does your page take too long to load? Is it easy to read and in digestible chunks?”
Ross Dempsey, Head of Digital at Digital Impact
As you write your content, it can be a good idea to have a printed persona lying next to you. This will remind you that you are writing for a specific person with specific needs.
Here are a few super awesome blogs and lists that can help you create your piece of content:
As you’re planning and creating your content, consider if there are any experts that can offer some input that could add value to your personas.
Not only are you getting a second opinion but you’re incentivising experts in your field to share the piece of content upon completion. Would you share a blog where you were featured as an expert accountant? I certainly would!
Step 4: Promoting
Regardless of how exciting, groundbreaking or life-changing your content might be, you need to promote it if you want it seen. If you don’t know how to promote and push your content, people will not see and read your work.
How to promote content
Contact your sources and experts — If you’ve gathered any expert quotes, sources or ideas from thought leaders, now’s the time to hit them with the good stuff. Email all of your sources and experts to thank them and let them know that the piece of content is now live. Kindly ask them if they would be so kind as to share it on their social media.
Heck, why not go all the way and throw a few suggested tweets in there for convenience?
Share your content on social media —Social media is a super effective and cheap way to get content out to your audiences. Write up a catchy post that’s targeted to the media you’re posting on, and make sure to tag your influencers and experts. If they’ve spent time contributing to your article or infographic, they are likely to hit the share button. If you get your contributors to share your content, you’ve instantly gained access to all their followers.
Contact people you think might be interested — Say you’re an SME accountant and have written a super comprehensive eBook on how to do your own taxes in Scotland. You’re likely to have loads of contacts in your address book or people that you know of that desperately need your fresh from the press piece of content.
Write up a quick generic email saying, “Hey, I’ve written this eBook that I’m really proud of. I think it’ll change your life.” Then personalise it and hit send.
Tools and tips
Long story short, you don’t need to log into Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Instagram. You can do all your posting and scheduling from one platform with one login.
Step 5: Auditing
The great thing about creating content is that you can always get better.
If you make sure that you do a basic audit your content every so often, you’re likely to see an upward trend in the performance of your blog posts and your gated resources. It can be anything from increasing organic traffic to decreasing bounce rates, to further targeting your content so that you boost your conversion rates.
How to audit content
There are many in-depth and intricate ways of doing this type of audit but we’re going to keep it super simple.
Every quarter (before we draw up new content calendars) we export our Google Analytics data and manually analyse how our blog content has performed. We look at the traffic, average time on site and where the traffic is coming from (social media, direct, organic search, etc.).
When you find content that has performed above average, you can start to drill into what made that piece of work stand out from the crowd.
Did you nail your keyword research? Is your written work super engaging with lots of stunning graphics? Perhaps your content is just really well written and grabs the users attention from the very first word?
Whatever it is, make it your little mission to find out why it’s doing well.
Once you’ve identified what content kicks ass in your niche, produce more of it!
Tools and tips
When filtering through your blogs and other pieces of content, make sure to leave two columns. One for notes and one for actionable next steps.
Google Analytics is a superb tool and is all you need for a basic content audit!
Step 6: Improving
Constantly pushing out award-winning content is extremely hard and tremendously time-consuming.
There are loads of ways that you can upcycle an old blog or a piece on content and make it hyper current again attracting new traffic to your website with fairly minimal effort.
How to improve and upcycle content
When you start thinking about upcycling content, you should only consider content that is evergreen for round two. Evergreen content is content that will always provide real value for its readers. Compare that to topical content, which is only relevant to one particular event in time.
There are endless ways to repurpose and upcycle content.
If you’ve got an old blog post that has done well in the past, why not make it into a fresh new downloadable guide?
Say you’ve got a really successful (but outdated) blog post on how to manage your personal budget in 2016. Whilst some facts, figures and minor details might’ve changed, the advice is likely to be the same.
You’ve done the groundwork already so all you need to do is update your work, put it into a nice layout and fire it up as a downloadable PDF on your website.
Tools and tips
‘Don’t forget about the user comments, if your readers address anything that you haven’t previously mentioned – add it in later on.’
Ross Dempsey, Head of Digital at Digital Impact
As you get into the habit of doing content audits, you will come to know what content performs well in your niche. Once you know what performs well, you can tweak old content to suit your findings.
When you’re looking at upcycling and repurposing content it’s a great idea to consider trending topics.
Our client Cardswitcher had a few successful blogs on credit card surcharge. So when the new surcharge legislation came into play in early 2018, we upcycled the old pieces and went after the huge volumes of topical traffic. Updating bits and pieces and stirring with some current affairs sent the blog traffic rocketing!
Content marketing is the ultimate 21st-century marketing machine!
I hope you walk away from here with some brilliant new ideas and a deeper understanding of how content can work in your financial service company.
If you’ve got any questions please fire them into the comments and we’ll do our best to answer!
Sidse SorensenDigital Marketing Coordinator
With experience in tech, startup and the public sector, Sidse brings an unbelievable wealth of talent to the marketing team at Digital Impact. Sidse heads up the internal marketing team at Digital Impact and writes for a wide range of clients and niches.
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