Written by: Nicole Leong
Let me ask you… Are you boring your audience? Sorry to break it to you but chances are, yes you are.
Creating good content in financial services is not about what you want to say, or what you think you are great at saying. Because, newsflash: no one cares.
Content Marketing in Australia 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends, Content Marketing Institute/ADMA
If you want to create content that is interesting and engaging, and actually effective, what you say has to be what your audience wants to hear. In other words, the content you put out has to fulfil your audience’s unmet information needs. Hint: helpful content is rarely boring. Sounds like common sense, but it’s surprising how few in the financial services industry seem to understand this.
Trust us, as marketers we understand the tendency to want to broadcast key messages about your company and how awesome it is, but that doesn’t deliver any real value to your audience. It certainly doesn’t help you to be found when your audience is sourcing information in early research stages.
Here’s a quick guide on how to write content that people want to read.
First, understand your audience and what their unmet information needs are. How can you add value and help fulfil those information needs? Most organisations understand this broadly and can map out larger subsets of information that may provide useful content.
Based on your understanding of audience needs, you can also decide the the type or format of content you need to create. Consider the format that best suits the kind of information you are going to relay. Consider also the kinds of channels you know your audience uses. For exploration of more complex issues, for example, a whitepaper may work well. For more practical "doing" information or guidance, a checklist is both valuable and very shareable. Consider also whether you make it a broader, more general “how-to” or a brand/product-specific piece espousing the practical benefits you have to offer. Make your content purposeful by mapping it to your buyer’s journey.
Let the data guide you
Once you’ve got format and broad topic areas sorted, it’s time to use research and data to narrow and finesse the topic and decide on the angle that best suits your audience (and on which your company is, of course, an expert). Zeroing in on specifics, providing tangible examples and offering actionable insights is where you can really hit the interest button. This is a far cry from broad generic content that leaves your audience thinking "so what" instead of "gee whiz".
Validate and refine your topic by doing some quick keyword research using Google’s free keyword planner tool that shows exactly what topics people are searching for and how. Google Trends shows how search volumes for a certain keyword have changed over a specified period of time, helping you identify trending topics.
Let’s work through a financial services content creation example…
Anticipation of the July 1 regulatory reforms for advisers and for providers of life insurance has grown steadily in past months, and recent events have put the life insurance and financial advice sectors in the spotlight, feeding both external pressures and internal uncertainty.
An opportunity here is for insurance companies to reach and connect with their intermediary audiences by addressing their pain points. For example, the term “AFSL compliance” gets an average of 170 monthly searches, presumably nearly entirely from intermediaries. A helpful piece of content could provide information on how advisers can make sure they’re compliant, or provide insight into how the removal of the accountants’ exemption may affect them.
Also make use of your own analytics – examine the volume and quality of traffic your existing content offers. Did certain topics receive more engagement than others? Which pieces brought in quality leads? Take a cue from your own history to gain clarity on what your audience likes.
Skyscraper existing content
Tools like Buzzsumo pick up content from all over the web that’s doing well in terms of social shares. You can even search particular domains, such as your competitors’. Sneaky, huh?
The idea is then to take one of those content topics as inspiration and build on it, making it your own. Add your own expert insights, update it so it’s current, or modify it so that it’s particularly relevant to your niche audience. Why start from scratch when you can take what others have done and make it better?
With the current market volatility, many of us are looking to the 2016 federal budget, to be brought down on 3 May, for guidance. A search on Buzzsumo brings up popular articles about the budget, which in turn show common uncertainties and doubts. An insurance provider could look through these for instant inspiration on angles that would get good audience traction.
Listen in on the buzz
We all know social media’s a great way to get your ear to the ground and hear what people are saying about your brand, but have you thought of also using it for content creation?
Twitter’s unique opinion-heavy “micro-blogging” style particularly suits this purpose. Just by doing a search we can see quickly and clearly what people are pleased, upset, or unsure about, which is handy for content inspiration.
Forums like Quora and Whirlpool are another place for consumer companies to pick up on chatter – look out for popular topics or questions that come up repeatedly.
Talk to your customers
Finally, you can tap into your target audience’s mind by talking to people with whom you already connected. Think about your favourite clients – the ones who are easy to deal with, and most importantly, profitable. Ultimately, your aim is to attract more people like them. Take note of the questions they ask during your interactions with them, or uncertainties they might have. If you don’t interact directly with clients often, speaking with frontline salespeople or account managers might clue you in.
There’s no need to sit in an inspiration vacuum trying to plan your editorial calendar - a wealth of resources exists for you to draw on to create content your audiences will actually want to read.