In general, most of the standard recommendations and best practices surrounding content marketing tend to hold more or less true across a wide variety of industries. There is, however, one notable exception to the well-worn rules: the financial industry.
From asset managers to brokerage firms, banks and credit unions, financial services providers face their own unique challenges when it comes to content marketing.
In a recent study from the Content Marketing Institute, 78% of marketers in the financial industry reported using content marketing, but only 25% of those considered themselves effective. That’s pretty much the definition of challenging.
There’s no sense in sidestepping or sugar coating it – financial content marketing can be a difficult beast to wrangle. (Oh, for the carefree lives of those fortunate souls peddling simple spa or pest control services!)
Challenging, however, is not the same thing as impossible. And while there are certainly limitations to keep in mind, financial content marketing can not only work, it may actually offer unique advantages and opportunities compared to other industries – yes, really!
Here are three of the most common obstacles financial content marketers must overcome, along with tips to make it happen.
Challenge #1: Regulatory and Compliance Concerns
Nothing throws a wet blanket on the creativity and potential of content marketing quite like the compliance review process.
Expect that every word you use will be subjected to some level of internal review, and anything even carrying a hint of an investment recommendation or advice is going to be shot down in short order.
A formal review process will also likely limit your ability to be as timely with your content as you might like, especially on social media.
Of course, most industries have some sort of legal checks and balances in place; few marketers these days don’t face some degree of imposed restraint, after all. But the more stringent limitations in the financial industry are generally well-founded. (After all, it wasn’t the dairy farmers or yarn-spinners of the world that sent the economy into the abyss back in 2007.)
How to deal with it
When it comes to compliance, you can’t fight city hall. If you think it’s frustrating to create content within the narrow guidelines laid down by regulators or your in-house staff, try really pushing those boundaries and you’ll likely learn a new definition of the word “frustrating.”
This is not to say, of course, that you can’t attempt to make small creative inroads here and there. But this will take time, tact, and open communication.
The less confrontational and demanding you are, the more likely your compliance team will be willing to bend on some of your requests. Over time, you may find yourself under a less draconian set of standards and restrictions. Patience, young grasshopper.
Challenge #2: Social Media
Social media content is clearly one of the most fertile areas for marketing these days, but that hasn’t always been evident in the financial industry. Legal mumbo-jumbo and multi-paragraph disclaimers just don’t translate well in a 140-character world.
Due in large part to the compliance and regulatory concerns noted above, what passes for social media at many financial firms is often nothing more than posting press releases or sharing links to content found elsewhere rather than authoring substantive new thought leadership content directly.
The review process at financial firms also tends to bog down the potential nimbleness, interactivity and immediacy of social media.
Social media isn’t just about content for content’s sake, either; it’s about your ability to generate sales. Your next generation of brokerage customers and loan applicants are millennials. Guess where they consume most of their marketing content?
How to deal with it
Many financial firms are trying to do more on social media, but it’s often more like stepping into the shallow end of the pool rather than jumping into the deep end where other industries play. Still, it’s something – it keeps them in the conversation.
Even if you’re just dipping your toes into the baby pool, there’s something to be said for maintaining a robust presence in whatever way you can. If you can expand this and work with your compliance colleagues (yeah, I said it) to make social media a more integral piece of your content marketing strategy, all the better.
Original financial marketing content for social media? Now THAT would be a win.
Challenge #3: Making Sales
The ultimate goal of content marketing is to make sales. But often that’s a taller order in the financial world than it is in some other industries.
A bank competing for a lending customer, for instance, is going to be up against a lot of other banks (not to mention a host of new non-bank lenders) all offering essentially the same loan. The offering rate and terms can only stretch so far for what is, essentially, a commodity.
So what will be the differentiator that makes the sale?
It’s not going to be any single piece of content. It’s going to be the relationship.
How to deal with it
Finally – one area of financial content marketing that actually represents a huge opportunity!
After all, financial firms are in the relationship business.
In the CMI survey noted at the top of this post, sales was not a major driver for most financial firms. In fact, sales ranked fifth for organizational goals related to content marketing, well behind such objectives as brand awareness, engagement and customer loyalty.
So just because you may struggle to directly link your financial content to closed deals, that doesn’t mean you’re not succeeding. (Measurement is a whole other topic – and not just for financial firms.)
In most cases, increasing the visibility of your brand, building trust and deepening the customer relationship are just as valuable to a financial firm as a straight sale. Booking one more loan is great, but wouldn’t securing a banking relationship for the life of a customer be far better in the long run?
Of course, even financial firms will still want to adhere to some of the best content practices that guide companies in other industries. But by finding ways to overcome these three industry-specific challenges, you’ll be better equipped to tame the very particular beast of financial content marketing.
Before you start developing your content, make sure your overarching content strategy is sound. View our Complete B2B Content Strategy Guide for guidance and helpful tools to get you started!