Question:

I’m curious why some people see “content marketing” as a new thing for financial institutions?

In the asset management business it has always ben the 4 “P’s P – people, process, philosophy. and performance, all of which are communicated and understood through the use of content. Everything from a wholesaler presentation to a portfolio manger conference call to a road show is content. The industry has been doing it for decades. Now that it is called “content strategy” or “content marketing” is it somehow different?

Answer:

Yes, it is different, and new.

Financial institutions have long put out white papers and informational brochures and web content, Content Marketing responds to new realities of the market. It is an integrated multi-channel strategy for finding new ways to connect to and dialog with  a changing audience in a new media envirnonment.

5 Criteria of Content Marketing

The question of “what’s the difference between Content Marketing and content in traditional marketing”  is a reasonable one. After all, traditional marketing has “content,” doesn’t it? And aren’t its aims just the same: engagement, recognition, consideration?

The answer lies in a changing technological landscape, demographic, and psychographics. The old methods of pushing out promotional content and expecting it to get read and acted upon are just no longer effective.

The answer lies in generating content that will act as a brand ambassador at every customer touchpoint.

In today’s interactive media society, the importance of image is giving way to the primacy of the personality behind the image. A brand needs to be more than a transaction; it needs to be personal, and its personality is defined by content that is:

  1. Valuable
  2. Relevant
  3. Integrated
  4. Influential
  5. Consultative rather than Transactional

Here are brief descriptions of each of these characteristics of Content Marketing, which I will expand on in subsequent posts:

1. Valuable

Pull, Don’t Push

Content Marketing is designed not to tout the virtues of the marketer’s products or services, but to inform target customers and prospects about key industry issues, sometimes involving the marketer’s products. Why is this necessary?

It acknowledges the reality that today’s consumer that is connected, informed, analytical, social, demanding and vocal. Today’s customer is deeply cynical and distrustful of all the institutions around him/her that are so obviously not transparent – governmental, financial, social or corporate. The customer is looking to be educated, not sold, and has little patience for manipulative or disingenuous tactics.

Content Marketing acknowledges that educating the customer can result in the brand’s recognition as a thought leader and industry expert.

Content Marketing doesn’t abandon conversion but moves the sale from transactional to relational.

2. Relevant

Overcome the Irrelevance of Traditional Advertising

Because consumers have shut off the traditional world of marketing, and become so adept at online “surfing” that they can take in online information without attending to banners or buttons, traditional marketing is rendered less and less effective, thought leaders like Seth Godin have concluded that content marketing is not just the future of customer communication but the present.

But imagine if your customer looked forward to receiving your marketing. Further imagine if when they received it, via print, email, website, they spent 15, 30, 45 minutes with it. According to the Roper Public Affairs, 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. 70% say content marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company, while 60% say that company content helps them make better product decisions.

Customer-centric content will ignite customer conversations, build your brand and ultimately drive leads and sales. 

2. Influential

Help Them Get Involved With Your Brand, and to Involve Others

Through Content Marketing, the  institution has an opportunity to engage in a more genuine interactive approach, which today’s consumers demand. Hollis Thomases of Inc. offers another definition for Content Marketing:

Producing and leveraging one’s own branded content for marketing purposes, rather than ‘renting’ advertising time and space on someone else’s media.

In other words, Content Marketing creates a forum for prospects and customers to interact among themselves, engage with your brand and magnify your brand equity through participation in the brand. If it engages, it will be shared, and the power of peer sharing will differentiate your brand in a crowded field.

When a brand goes viral, there is an exponential effect that breaks the barriers of traditional marketing and lets your brand soar ahead of the pack.

How to Become a Viral Idol: Consider what video content has done to launch careers. Justin Bieber was discovered in 2008 on YouTube and his first single was released in 2009. Other singing stars who got a viral start include Colbie Caillat and The Ellen Show’s favorite 12-year-old Greyson Chance, a sixth grader from Oklahoma, who sang Lady Gaga. [Clip 1 | Clip 2Here are some additional stars who got their start on InMusic.com.

Colbie Caillat auditioned for American Idol but was rejected at the pre-audition stage and was unable to sing for the judges. The second time she auditioned for the show, she sang her own original song, “Bubbly“, and was rejected once again. However, she expressed gratitude at the judges’ decision, saying “I was shy. I was nervous. I didn’t look the greatest. I wasn’t ready for it yet. I was glad, when I auditioned, that they said no.” TIt was the popularity of Caillat’s MySpace profile that led her to become the number-one unsigned singer in her genre for four consecutive months.

Here are two rules for creating the conditions for going viral:

  • Is it engaging? What would make your viewers read it and share it with their friends? That means it needs to be educational, informative, humorous or strike a personal or professional chord. Focus on creating stories that can catch fire with your audience.
  • Is it shareable? Look at how easy Pinterest makes it for even non-techies to share their posts. But that’s a whole other topic of rambling.

3. Integrated

Create a Synergetic Symphony of Touchpoints 

Content marketing utilizes an integrated media approach, including custom magazines, print or online newsletters, digital content, mobile, websites or microsites, white papers, webcasts/webinars, podcasts, video portals or series, in-person roadshows, roundtables, interactive online, email, events.

While multiple channels aren’t necessarily new, what is new is the creative utilization and integration of these media to drive engagement, interest and excitement.

A “content engineer” describes a new breed of marketer who creates, optimizes, and distributes the different types of content required to engage customers on the social web, based on the data of many analysis tools. It requires new knowledge (such as the use of SEO techniques and new metrics.

New Roles, New Teamwork: The many perspectives involved in content strategy and execution can involve numerous professionals with varied training and education. Some may specialize in content analysis, involving work with metadata, taxonomy, search engine optimization, other ways to support content. Another discipline is web editorial, which involves strategies, guidelines, and tools, and may extend to organizational change management as it  may require developing new forms of content, such as multimedia, or various “presence management” technologies like microblogging. Another discipline in content strategy is information architecture. Content strategy may involve writing site copy for new website pages or adapting the content on existing ones.

4. Engaging

Captivate them

According to Jodi Harris in her piece and slideshop published here:

Right now, marketers are coming to terms with the fact that a financial transaction is no longer the end-all, be-all of the customer relationship. Sure, achieving a sale is an undeniable win. But it isn’t always enough to drive the loyalty, evangelism, and repeat business that a durable business thrives on. That’s what engagement is for.

We are witnessing a wide-sweeping, fundamental shift in the way we communicate and market to customers-and ultimately, do business. And it starts and ends with engaging content.

To get your brand noticed today, marketers must now be storytellers within their market sector and deliver engaging content. 

5. Consultative, not Transactional

Help the Prospect Self-Identify his Need

Consultative selling involves identifying clients’ needs before recommending solutions. Any call to action must be based on an identified and recongnized need.

The call to action will vary according to the goal of the marketing campaign. Marketers may use content marketing as a means of achieving a variety of business goals including: thought leadership, lead generation, increasing direct sales, introducing specific brand language and improving customer retention.

However, the sale or call to action must be a win/win for both parties, a partnership or equal relationship.  In the context of Content Marketing, this means that you must develop an understanding of the needs of the target customer. The most winning marketing campaigns use ethnographic research to plumb the depths of clients’ attitudes and behaviors.

Because the purchase process begins with the creation of desire or a sense of need in the client, you must understand and reflect the client’s beliefs and values and present him the information to conclude that you are a reliable partner to help him meet them.

The chart below shows some of the functions that Content Marketing can serve in the purchase process.

Resources

Check here for some of my blog posts relating to Content Marketing.

See Content Marketing research here.

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