This week I attended the Financial Services Forum’s ‘Conversational Architecture’ for the Financial services industry event  .. or content marketing to the layman.

It was a fantastic two hours where everything that was said made complete sense, it was logical, understandable and there were clear, concise and relevant takeaways – reflective attributes of the subject matter itself.

I think the most surprising fact of the day is how few of us are doing even the basics right, with 29% saying they are ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ at content marketing (Financial Content Marketing report, 2015), perhaps something to do with the fact that only 43% have a defined marketing strategy.

The report also shows that up to 20% of budgets are spent on content (impressive given the relative expense of ATL Advertising), 53% believe this will increase next year and a whopping 76% believe content marketing is more effective than other approaches in rebuilding trust (a key concern for the financial services).

In short, there is a great opportunity to create better content!

So with this in mind I have distilled 10 key learnings from the event to help us and our clients (financial in particular) to keep ahead of the market.

1. Be clear on who you want to reach. Know your audience (and by that we don’t mean their demographic group) really get to know them – what interests them, who do they interact with, what do they read, what media do they consume, what groups of people are they associated with i.e. what are the emotional and behavioural traits of your audience.  This will help you to identify salient points to engage them and start relevant, timely conversations (rich data like this can be bought from social platforms).

2. Know where your knowledge and their interests meet – many companies are still on broadcast mode, we need to engage our audience with subject matters relevant to them (which we have authority to comment on or are relevant to our business/industry).

3. Be clear on how to measure success – make sure your plans include a clean and clear way to show measurable ROI.  Content marketing is growing in importance and the easiest way to secure more budget in the future for your campaigns is to show how well it works.

4. Don’t create content for contents sake.  You don’t need to be a genius to know we are all swamped in content – but to get real cut through it needs to be relevant to your audience, delivered at a relevant time and on a relevant channel. Many social platforms now allow you to test multiple iterations of the same message so that you can see what resonates with your market best, at what time, on what channel.

5. Flex your style with the channel – your business should have underlying core values which are recognizable from opinion, tone of voice, look and feel so that even when you take away your logo you can recognize the brand.

6. Understand your competition to identify where your opportunities lie to build relationships and start conversations.

7. Be concise, clear and accessible – over 60% of us read content on our mobiles or tablets

8. Create content with strong relevant themes – don’t be afraid to be topical or disruptive. If the story has left the Financial times and ended up on a red top it shows that huge amounts of people are interested. If you can make a short video or piece of thought leadership around the subject matter (from your point of view and how it affects your clients and products or services) you will get cut through. Warning – to make sure you strike while the iron is hot you will need a tight team of people with the power to create, approve and publish the work within 24 hours.

9. Content should amplify each stage of the customer journey and move people on to the next stage (using the channel which is most effective and will give you the biggest ROI).

10. Sales and Marketing need to work closely together to ensure a smooth customer journey and to ensure that the content created will be used by the people on the front line. Some of the most successful service businesses have created online apps and tools for their sales teams to use on the move.

So what does this mean for the future of content marketing?

  1. Engaging our audience is becoming more and more complicated as all brands start to add to the content marketing space – Gamification will play a big part in the future
  1. We shouldn’t be afraid to re-use relevant existing content – it can be sliced and diced to give you different angles and has the added benefit of being very cost effective
  1. Automation will play a big part – connecting people with ideas and brands through social platforms
  1. Quality content is becoming even more important – less is more
  1. Sequencing should be common place so we can test to see what the most relevant message is to our audience, at what time, and on what channel
  1. Sales and marketing need to meet in the middle of the engagement funnel and work seamlessly together

Join us to continue the debate at The Financial Services Forum