As most of us know from personal experience, the first thing people do before making a new purchase — whether they’re buying a car, shares of a mutual fund, or just the latest gadget — is go online. That’s because the Internet gives us access to virtually all of the information we need to make informed buying decisions on our own. According to some estimates, many buyers now go through up to 90 percent of the buying process before ever contacting a sales person.
In fact, I recently read that Google averages more than 100 billion search queries every month. That’s a mind-boggling number that most of us can’t even begin to imagine. But far more important than the stat itself, which is probably already dated, is the reality it points to in terms of how marketing needs to evolve in the digital age.
That’s a huge shift with serious implications for marketers and business communicators alike. It signals that customer relationships that were once formed through personal contact are today forged largely through the content people access online. As a result, if you don’t have good content that’s easy to find, engaging and offers real value to your clients (all factors that analytics tools now let you assess in painstaking detail), you’re in real trouble.
Of course content marketing — the whole notion of creating high-impact content to attract and retain great customers — isn’t exactly new. Although it’s just starting to take off in Australia, it has been around in the United States for several years, with big brands like Coca-Cola making significant investments in developing content marketing programs.
Not surprisingly, the biggest difference that I see in the evolution of content marketing between the two countries is this: in the United States content marketing is becoming an increasingly strategic function while here in Australia it’s still largely tactical. Put another way, in Australia content marketing has thus far largely been activity driven, with companies often not having a real plan in place to guide and direct what they’re doing. As content marketing matures here and becomes more commonplace, developing a strategy to coordinate and optimise those activities will become increasingly important.
For the financial services industry, all of this represents a big opportunity. Since content marketing is still relatively new in Australia, you have a chance, albeit brief, to get ahead of it. Companies like ANZ, with its BlueNotes — a news site featuring content about investing, financial services and the economy — are setting a strong example that could help lead the way.
Yet the opportunity is bigger than just outpacing other industries in Australia — or the financial services industry globally for that matter — which has tended to lag behind the content marketing curve. The real opportunity here is to form stronger relationships with your clients, to win their hearts and minds and turn them into brand advocates. It does happen — I’ve seen it.
To do that, however, you need to make an investment in your content marketing efforts. Simply creating some content may get you jump-started, but ultimately it’s a short-sighted approach. To achieve the full benefits of content marketing, your program needs to be backed by a strategy that ensures that all of your activities are cohesive and focused on driving you toward your business goals.
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