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The Content Marketing Road to Damascus: Are We There Yet?

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Written by: Nicola Michel

When it comes to content marketing in financial services, the conversation has moved on significantly from the ‘why’ of a few years ago to the ‘how’; specifically, how to optimise a content marketing strategy to achieve measurable results and improve ROI. A lot has changed in those few years and there have been more than a few “Road to Damascus” moments on the way.

The first big milestone on that road was the realisation that effective content marketing relies on social media; and vice versa. Stating the obvious? Just a few short years ago marketers and communicators were hard-pressed to sell either concept, let alone sell it as one intrinsically linked feature that should form an integral part of any marketing or communication strategy.

Against that backdrop, we thought we’d take a look at what we (and others) have been saying about content marketing and social media in that time to see exactly how far we’ve come.

What we found was surprising, even for those of us who’ve long embraced the content and digital revolution and its implications for our financial services clients.

Three years ago business was actively rejecting social media

In the middle of 2012, the Australian Financial Review declared that “Accounting firms have no business on Facebook”, and asked what on earth a social media campaign could possibly offer clients of a financial services firm. The crux of the argument was that B2C communication strategies might benefit from social media, but that it has no place in a B2B strategy.  Our view then (and now) is that social media can and should be used to distribute compelling, consistent and valuable content, and that it can be just as effective in financial services as in any other business. 

By September 2012, BlueChip had attended the Content Marketing World masterclass in New York, and shared the lessons we learned there. Back then, content marketing was described as a ‘buzzword’, presenters were ‘trailblazers’, and we were highlighting the benefits of helping our clients in a ‘new’ way, through content marketing.

In early 2015, the world had moved on enough that we were less focused on what content marketing is and more on how to help our clients use it to improve their business results, collating the best tips from an analysis of the most shared, most liked articles on the subject.

In fact, it’s incredible how quickly some of the early adopters (including BlueChip, by the way!)have moved from big picture concept to the nitty gritty. Now our conversations tend to be so far beyond the ‘why’ that they delve instead into the brave new world of content optimisation, including how best to optimise images, ensure page load times are lightning fast, and exploring the mysteries of meta descriptions. Not to mention highlighting the importance of distribution.

So where are we now?

Our understanding of the moving parts of content marketing is now greater than it’s ever been. We have a better understanding of the benefits (or otherwise) of different social channels and what formats work best with what audiences. Of whether infographics are more effective than video, or if we should be using Twitter or LinkedIn (or both) for particular audiences. Or what works best to attract customers, and what’s best to retain them.

At its heart however, the central message of content marketing remains the same. And that, dear readers, is the ‘why’ – something we should be coming back to time and again to help keep us on the straight and narrow of the road and not the side track.

We sometimes lose sight of the rationale and purpose of content marketing in our excitement about the discoveries we’ve made along that road.

So here it is, folks. Put simply, content marketing is taking thought leadership, or any other compelling story or content about your brand to your audience in a way that delivers them something they want and value. Which means they begin to value and appreciate your brand. (And that something is not always – in fact, almost never – a product or service.)

Why? To paraphrase an old journo (because we’re all still human), one way or another, it’s still all about the story. If you capture the hearts and minds of the reader, and give them something they want or are interested in, you’re top of the queue when it’s time to do business.

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