How to develop a content marketing strategy

We often refer to an inbound content marketing strategy as hiring a 24/7 sales person who doesn’t sleep, who never actually tries to sell but has loads of people calling and enquiring months, even years, after communicating.

It’s not surprising therefore that content marketing is becoming increasingly important in a company’s overall marketing strategy, especially in the B2B world when the purchasing journey is often much longer. Content marketing also enables you to build a stronger relationship with your customer, which is crucial in the financial services sector, where trust is even more important due to customers’ heightened financial and emotional investment.

Whilst the majority of companies are doing some form of content marketing, 63% don’t have a documented content  marketing strategy.  However, the most successful  B2B content marketers are far more likely than their less successful peers to have a documented content marketing strategy (65% vs 14%).

A content strategy enables you to ensure that what you are creating is relevant to your audience, to the channel you are using and ensures it works towards your overall marketing and business goals.

If you haven’t done so, it’s time you created your content strategy. Here are 8 elements to include.

What your content marketing strategy should include:

1. Objectives and KPIs

The content strategy firstly needs to outline your objectives. Generally, two of the core marketing objectives will be to:

  1. Improve your organic SEO – enabling prospective customers to find you when they need you which is much more valuable than outbound lead generation as their already have a need
  2. Position you as a thought leader with a genuine desire to add value, rather than just sell. This helps to improve positive brand awareness, putting you in a much better position when a prospects need is identified

However it’s important to outline any specific KPIs you want to achieve e.g drive more traffic to your website, generate more lead data, improve conversions, increase social following etc. Outlining these up front will also enable you to measure the effectives of your content later on.

2. Audience personas

These personas focus on your audiences specific media and content habits, enabling you to understand what content to produce, and where and when to share it.

Use social and google analytics, focus groups and existing customer and prospect data insights to understand:

  1. Where are they in your buying funnel?
  2. What are their media habits?
  3. What channels are they active on?
  4. When do they access content?
  5. What their needs are and what content they might be looking

3. Existing content and SEO audit

If you’ve already been creating content, carry out an audit of what you have so far. Which, if any, of your audiences is this content relevant for? What pieces were most popular? Also review competitor’s content. What are they writing about which you aren’t? Can you see any blogs / posts that readers have engaged more in?

This will help in planning future content and understand which pieces, if any, can be repurposed.

You should also incorporate an SEO audit on your site to identify any technical SEO issues occurring on your existing posts that can be rectified. 

4. Preferred content types

Use the insights you’ve gained so far about your audience, channels and existing content to decide and outline what type of content you want to create.

Most successful strategies include a core set of blog posts featured on your own site, which are then supported with other content types and shared through other channels.  Video content should also be an essential party of any content strategy, as audiences are 10 times more likely to engage, embed, share, and comment on video content than blogs or related social posts.

If you want to ask your prospects to provide their data in order to access your content, therefore generating potential leads, you will need to create larger thought leadership and research pieces. This ensures there is a big enough value exchange to encourage readers to give up their data.

5. Channel plan

Again, with the information gathered so far you should begin to have an understanding of what channels will resonate best with your audience and content types.

In a B2B world, you will likely find your audience on  LinkedIn, so this should form an important channel, alongside your website and potentially relevant trade media partners.

6. Content themes and pillars

Once you know what you’re creating you can start to think about what topics you want your content to feature. Some tools that can help you to brainstorm content ideas include:

  • Google trends – to understand what content topics people are searching for on google, including trends across different months and upcoming topics
  • HubSpot’s Blog Ideas Generator – enter general topics or terms you’d like to write about, and this content idea generator suggests post headlines
  • Feedly – use this RSS feed to keep on top of topics that are trending in your industry

From here, aim to identity 3/ 4 overarching themes which you can use for your content pillars. This will help you ensure all future content remains relevant and in-line with this overall strategy.

7. Content calendar

Once you have your list of topics you can complete a content calendar. This should include the:

  1. date of posting
  2. proposed channel
  3. content title
  4. proposed audience
  5. relevant content pillar

This helps you to clearly see whether you are posting regularly, reaching all your audience segments, making use of all your channels and creating content that is a good mix of all your pillars.  It also helps you ensure you don’t forget to post!

Don’t forget though that your content needs be current. You need to be able to adapt and create new content in line with any breaking news stories and / or legislation changes.

It is important therefore in your strategy to agree any sign off process in advance, as compliance could slow down the creation and posting of these topical pieces if they need to approve very piece.

8. Measurement and refinement

Finally, don’t forget to outline how you will measure the success of your content against your KPIs. Chances are you will need to utilise social and google analytics to understand metrics such as views, shares, comments and website engagement. Don’t be afraid to edit and refine the strategy as the campaign progresses.

 

Now that you have your strategy, you might want to read our next post to find out to create great content.

Read our case study to see out how we developed content strategy, regular creation and gated thought leadership content for lead generation for Benenden Health.

The importance of creativity in a data driven world

There’s no denying that technology has helped us better understand our customer and how they interact with products and services.

The stuff you can track now is a direct marketers dream! Going back a decade or so ago, you could pretty much only afford to create and test a few different message variants in your mail packs. Now however you can easily, and cost effectively, personalise everything – down to sending bespoke triggered email automatically.

It’s clear there are a huge amounts of benefits to this level of data, including:

  • The ability to make communications more relevant and personalised
  • To help marketing decision making
  • Develop more detailed customer journeys for each audience segment
  • Enable ongoing campaign optimisation
  • Help measure ROI on both a campaign level and individual channel level

Whilst this is all great are you focusing too much on the scientific detail of marketing and forgetting the importance of creativity in our messaging? Surely it’s still the creative message that will achieve the cut through needed in an ever cluttered market place? Here we look at the dangers of getting lost in the data details and losing the art of great communication.

Losing an emotional connection with the customer

Perhaps the biggest danger of too much data is the effect it’s having on developing creative that makes an emotional connection with the customer.

Whilst data can tell us a lot, it can’t always explain the emotional barriers and motivations behind our customers actions. After all, everyone is still a human being and understanding their mindset and psychology is needed in order truly connect with your audiences. Especially when it comes to financial services; as financial decision making is so personal simply because of customers’ heightened monetary and emotional investment.

Hard data simply can not provide this level of understanding. It’s quant research that will enable us to truly understand the barriers and motivations behind people’s actions. And only with this understanding can we can create campaigns that our consumers connect with emotionally.

If we focused purely on data insights rather than emotional insights we would never have amazing standout campaigns like the Cadbury’s Gorillas or the John Lewis Christmas ads.

Becoming afraid to be creative

With a greater emphasis on measurability, it’s becoming too easy to stick to easily measurable, “safe”, campaigns rather than push for greater creativity and innovation.

If you just followed the data there would never be any new ideas, resulting in a collection of similar creative, with no one product or brand having any kind of stand out.

As marketers we still need to be able to trust our gut instincts during campaign development. It might take a strong marketing and brand director to do this but this is often where the biggest gains are.

Getting lost in the detail

With so much data available, it’s inevitable that it can sometimes cause us to get stuck in the detail. There may be 20+ metrics to review at every consumer touchpoint and it would take weeks, or even months, to fully analyse and draw meaningful learning’s from all the data that is available to us. It’s also likely that this data will be contradictory, and most wouldn’t even be relevant to our objectives.

Before we get lost in the detail we need to be able to identify those key metrics that are relevant for that particular campaign, and focus purely on those. This will enable us to really utilise the data that is meaningful, and will make a real difference to your business.

Being too tactical rather than strategic

With so much data there is often a danger of focusing too much on the short-term metrics rather than long term success.

As an example, we had a client (who shall remain nameless!) whose digital team were diligently reviewing the site analytics and making weekly enhancements to optimise site performance. However, after we spent some time reviewing the site, we could quickly see that the information architecture and messaging wasn’t aligned to the various prospect personas needs at this core consideration stage of their decision making journey. After a year of constant refinement the web analytics team were a little frustrated when we recommended fundamental changes to the site based on simple common sense and audience insight. The marketing team however agreed with our point of view and made the bold decision to ‘rip off the band aid’ and restructure the site and its content based on our recommendations.

The results led to an increase in website visitor conversion to customer of X%. This experience demonstrated to us that sometimes you don’t need analytics to improve things or tell you what’s improvable, sometimes you simply need to put yourselves in the shoes of the audience for a moment and the answers soon become abundantly clear!

Misleading data 

Let’s also not forget that, quite often, data can be spun in different ways to meet different objectives. It’s therefore difficult to remain single minded as you can always read the data differently. In fact, it’s worth remembering the quote ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ when reviewing and taking learnings from data. Whilst data can be useful we shouldn’t be putting all our faith, and basing all our marketing decisions purely on the numbers.

Also, by basing all your decisions on data you are relying heavily on that data being correct. If there is a glitch in the system at any point, e.g data not cleansed properly or sales data not being pulled in from a particular source correctly, you will find yourself making key marketing decisions based on incorrect information.

Unfortunately, managing data quality is tougher than it sounds, especially in a B2B world where data decays so rapidly. When left unchecked, data decay can not only wreak havoc on your data-driven marketing but can also take a drastic toll on your company’s bottom line. Also there can be many factors that are affecting the immediate success of a campaign – a big news story or even unexpected weather for example, that data just can’t pick up.

Conclusion

There’s no denying that data has opened up a heap of possibilities for learnings and more personalised marketing. The real skill however is being able to connect the data insight with emotive ideas. When the two are used together, that’s when the real magic happens.

Is there a time you trusted your marketing instinct and it paid off? Let us know.

 

Is it time to pull the trigger on marketing personas?

Persona development in marketing a really important. They’re a great way to make you think about your target audience in greater depth.

But sometimes we need to approach them differently.

Think about yourself as a persona for a second. (Because we can all be sure that someone in some marketing department somewhere is trying to pin you down.)

Have you always been the same person throughout your life? Probably not.

Going to university, buying your first home, getting married, getting divorced, getting married again, having kids, your kids leaving home, making that career move, becoming a grandparent – all the things that we go through in our lives that inadvertently, and yet inevitably change our perceptions and priorities.

At the time, we’re not always conscious of going through a life change. But we all are at some point.

These ‘transition states’ are real sweet spots for financial services marketing. It’s at these points of flux and transition that we’re open to re-imaging our lives. If we can align our campaigns with these life triggers, then you’re onto a winner. They’re the things that create, or bring to light, the need for a financial product or service.

And they’re also completely within reach when it comes to paid channel of audience segmentation. Don’t forget that Facebook knows everything about you. Targeting marketing efforts based on life triggers seems like the smart thing to do.

But there’s an added layer of complexity – these triggers don’t actually have to happen to you. For example, your neighbour over the road gets diagnosed with a terminal illness. You don’t know them that well, but it doesn’t matter. Just being exposed to the reality of ‘what if…?’ scenarios totally changes your mental calculations when weighing up the pros and cons of protection products.

Let’s stop looking at personas in terms of age, hair colour and what car people drive, and instead focus on the things that both help to effectively segment your audience and deliver marketing messaging that matters to them, here and now.

 

Why you should add an educational edge to your Financial Services marketing content

1. Establish trust

Arguably, Financial Services rely on trust more than other industries. And yet according 

to a survey by PWC, only 32% of respondents stated they have in their retail bank, with 27% trusting insurance providers:

5 pie charts showing levels of trust for different financial services

One of the best ways to build trust is to share knowledge, inform, educate, and ultimately, empower people to make independent decisions.

Make sure your marketing content is jargon free, digestible and not riddled with acronyms. 

2. Add value

Aim to simplify and demystify the complex. When you live and breathe financial product every day, it’s easy to forget that not everyone knows what you’re talking about. To the average person, financial services can be confusing and intimidating – the stakes are high when you’re talking about your hard earned money.

Use simple, visual and informative marketing content like explainer videos and infographics to get across your product features and benefits in a simple way.

3. Let your expertise shine

There’s no better way to position yourself as an expert and thought leader in a space than to impart knowledge. In fact, it’s the ONLY way.

And this doesn’t mean spending 50% of your time on theasaurus.com.

Run your content through the Einstein test –

Benefits to making financial services marketing content educational

4. Be more shareable

Educational marketing content is more shreable

You’ve got two brochures in front of you for similar pension products from two different providers. You can’t split a hair between them.

One brochure goes for a hard product sell, pushing the features and benefits of their product.

The other gives you useful information on top of this that will help you to make a considered decision.

Which of the two are you more likely to pass onto your gran when you next see her? Which of the two is she most likely to have stuck on the fridge 12 weeks later?

Useful content sticks. And so does the name of the brand that went the extra mile to add value to your buying decision.

What makes content great

Content marketing is an increasingly important part of a company’s inbound marketing strategy, with companies now spending an average 30-40% of their total marketing budget on it. And for financial services it is even more important, as it can help to build trust between your customer and your brand/ product.

With such a large spend it’s important to ensure that your content is working as hard as it can. The likelihood is, the aim of your content is to improve positive brand awareness amongst existing and potential customers. To do this successfully you need to ensure your content satisfies two very different audiences:

  1. The end reader e.g. your prospective customers
  2. Google and it’s ever changing algorithms

There’s no point in creating insightful content if nobody can find it, however if you write purely for Google, you risk of providing a bad user experience by creating content that does not flow or read well.

To help you write content that works for both, we’ve put together 8 key tips that will turn ‘ok content’ into ‘great content’.

How to write great content for the end reader

1. Don’t use your content to explicitly sell your product or service

90% of the top-performing B2B content marketers put audience’s informational needs. This means that, whilst the content you are producing should relate to your industry to give you the authority to write about it, it shouldn’t explicitly promote your brand or service.

Primarily it should help your reader by answering a problem or need that they have. If relevant to the content you can incorporate your product into the story, however don’t be afraid to write a blog post with no direct links to your product or service if it doesn’t make sense.

In fact, one of the most popular pieces of content we have created for Benenden Health is Alcohol free socials. Whilst the topic has nothing to do with selling business health insurance, and doesn’t link to any of their specific products, it is about the wider topic of employee health and wellbeing.

When you put the audience needs first like this, and create your content based on theirneeds, you’re creating a bond with your customer. And it’s this bond that leads to greater trust of your brand and/ or service.

2. Check your audience wants to read about it

It’s no good creating great content if only 2 people will be searching for it. Before you start writing make sure you do some research on whether your audience will be looking for it.

Carry out keyword and google trend analysis to see what people are searching for. If you have existing content, carry out a content audit to understand what topics and themes your audience has previously engaged with. Also have a look at competitor and trade media sites to see what they are writing about and to stay on top of industry trends.  Also use tools such as Hubspot’s idea generator for further inspiration.

3. Add value to the reader

Make sure the information you are providing is genuinely useful to your audience.

It’s all well and good recommending that your readers should purchase and install multi-million pound technology systems and processes, especially if you’re the ones to provide this, however chances are this would be a major business decision which they are unlikely to make do until they’ve built trust in you.

Instead think smaller. Provide hints and tips that can be used and implemented in your readers day to day jobs. This will increase engagement, help you to be seen as an expert in the area and increase positive awareness, and trust, in your brand.

4. Don’t simply duplicate content

Although it’s good to see what others are writing about to get inspiration, it’s important not to simply duplicate exactly what they are saying. You’re not going to build engagement with potential customers if they have read it already, plus google will penalise you in their rankings.

This doesn’t mean you have to think of completely unique themes. This would be near impossible to do and, if you did find something that nobody else had written about, chances are no one would be searching for it.

What this means is that you should always put your own viewpoint or slant on it. This could be using a guest blogger or even carrying out your own proprietary research in order to identify and share new insights.

How to write great content for Google

1. Don’t under- estimate the power of your headline

In online content the headline has even greater importance as it forms the H1 tag on the web page, the key piece of code google uses to analyse and rank the site.

A good online headline/ H1 tag should:

  • Feature the keywords your audience will be using in their searches
  • Describe the topic of your post
  • Be around 20-70 characters (too long and you’ll be diluting the power of the tag)

Again, consider using Google Trend analysis, keyword analysis and tools such as Hubspot’s idea generator for inspiration on good headlines.

2. Ensure effective SEO tagging

As well as H1 tags it’s important not to forget the rest of the tagging when it comes to uploading your content to your site.

Remember H2, and H3 tags within your main copy, as image alt tags. Also use plug-ins such as Yoast to complete your meta data (titles and descriptions) as all this helps google to find and rank you effectively.

3. Feature internal and external backlinks

Backlinks help google in a number of ways – they’re how it finds new pages to analyse and rank, how it ranks reputation and credibility of your site, drives external traffic to your site.

When writing content therefore it’s important to include links to other blogs/ articles on your website, as well as linking out to other articles on external website. Not only does this help google, it also keeps users engaged with your site, and therefore your brand, for longer.

4. Use terminology your customer is using

For content to work your customer needs to be able to find it. You therefore need to use the same terminology that they will be using in their search terms, in your H1 and H2 headings. This is especially important if you refer to a product/ service differently to how your customer refers to it.

Whilst Google understands synonyms, both literal and contextual, with very competitive terms, these will always be ranked lower than those pages using the exact term.

An obvious example of this is life insurance vs life assurance. The average consumer would not know the difference between the two terms and would simply search for life insurance; therefore your content should match this even if other literature refers to it differently.

 

Find out more about creating great content with our post how to create a content strategy and read our content strategy and creation case study to discover how we created great content for Benenden Health.

Marketing 101= ‘Quit your Jibba Jabba’

When Stephen Hawkins successfully summarised the history of the universe in 236 pages for his book, ‘A Brief History of Time’, he broke records by occupying the UK best-sellers list for 234 days. Hawkins shocked academic doubters by proving how well non genius’ respond to complex information put simply. It begs to reason that if the history of Earth and the Universe can be made digestible enough for Joe Average, it is also possible for us all to cut down on jargon.

I get it, jargon and acronyms can be useful when communicating internally but let’s be honest – when communicating externally, in practice it works similar to a Mean Girls inside joke – alienating those who don’t understand. Isn’t it better to stand out as that one company who understands both their client and their subject enough to make things simple?

We find it’s best not to assume your audiences knowledge – as Richard Branson illustrates,  “As somebody who didn’t understand the difference between net and gross for many years, despite running several billion dollar companies, I have always preferred when financial issues are explained clearly.”

Furthermore, making things complicated is one sure way to ensure people lose interest. Instead, acknowledging the typical frustrating break downs in communication between corporations and consumers can be the basis of quite successful marketing, as Virgin Money have displayed with this hilariously candid video, in which they explain the basics of investing.

Keeping it simple requires understanding your target and your subject material to a high level and then de-constructing both to determine the most effective way to communicate. When explaining a complex product or service, structure is key. It is important to think about the order in which your audience will have questions, and then the most logical way to go about answering them.

“If I had more time I would have written you a shorter letter” – Winston Churchill. Our Moreish Director, Simon Martin,  loves (and frequently uses) this quote. It illustrates that it actually takes more time and thought to “quit your jibba jabba” and simply communicate what needs to be said in the best way. In our experience, despite the time it takes to keep it simple, it is always well worth the effort.

 

Social Media: If Life is a dance floor, don’t do the robot

5 Ways To Be Human Online

Recently something awkward happened. Sitting on a characteristically cramped train to Waterloo my eyes made contact with a complete stranger. I know what you are thinking, how reckless of me, and well I don’t know- it just happened. Of course I sought to rectify my feckless actions with respectfully averting my eyes away immediately, as did my victim.

Ok so sure, I am being a bit dramatic, but the revelation remained- if it is such an infraction to look at another stranger how much more taboo is it to speak to them in person? It seems the new golden rule is– Love thy neighbour, just don’t talk to them directly- or make eye contact on The Tube… Oh God no.

It was not, of course, always this way, as I am sure your nana loves telling you. There was a time when our main interaction was face to face. Now, wait hold the phone, in fact I will… because that device in your hand is actually what has made us this way.

The digital era has transformed us into a people who are far more comfortable with approaching strangers and starting conversations online, than we are having conversations in person. This is a universal epidemic that has become even more critical in cities, where despite encountering swarms of people daily, we probably will talk to very few of them. Depressing for humanity yes, but with change comes opportunity and this current climate should be music to a brands ears.

Why you ask? Well, because when conversations and interactions are moved online, there is an opportunity for brands to influence, start and yes even control them. Of course marketers jumping on the digital band wagon is nothing new. Everyone knows the potential benefits of social media, however like a new dance craze, not everyone knows how to do it right. Well, in the brutal world of social media there are no A’s for effort, you either get it right or risk looking more uncool then if you sat this one out. Daunting I know but fear not, I am going to show you the way to electric slide into your consumer’s heart.

Your consumer and you are the same species: human.

Now this may sound obvious, but in fact is the single most forgotten thing when it comes to brands communicating to consumers. Brands put on their brand hat and forget how to interact normally. Being human in fact your biggest asset, so put aside the robot (that dance is out dated any way) and learn to be more human. The rules for digital conversation are quite similar to the rules of face to face interaction, in case you are a little rusty, here they are.

Here are 5 tips to get you started on the right digital foot

1. Get Real

First of all, ditch seeing them as ‘the consumer’, its creepy, and it keeps you too far removed from the situation to interact effectively online. In essence what you are seeking is to become easy friends with your ‘consumer’. So from now on, let’s refer to them as potential friends instead.

2. Research

If you wish to talk to a certain type of ‘friend’, research where they’ll be before you approach. This is basic knowledge in the real world, yet in the digital world, it seems that brands are comfortable with the wide net approach, getting on a social soap box and yelling to anyone who will hear them. This is in fact uncool, and results in a similar reaction as it would in the real world… people walk past. An interested few are better than the disinterested masses. So do your research, and work out where your consumers are… then go there. Oh, and here is a hint- it may not be Facebook… think outside the (soap) box. Forums are a great place to find people specifically interested in your specialism.

3. Why are you even here?

So you have found where your ‘potential friends’ reside online, now what? Now before you walk up to that virtual bar and make a fool of yourself, consider what is the purpose of your interaction? What behaviour you are trying to encourage? Let me relate this back to life, if you were going to approach a girl at the bar, it would help if you knew what you wanted out of the interaction, as the desired outcome would affect the approach no? The same is true for online, decide why you want to talk to your ‘potential friend’. What’s your desired outcome, once you know- it is time to get you’re A game on.

4. Say something worth saying

So now you are in the right place, and you know what you are here for, great – now what?

Well this is simple. You should by now know your consumer, if you don’t go back to step one and conduct more research. Now that you are here say something worth saying. Instead of going in there and talking all about you, offer some information that will be of interest to your new friends. If you picked the right forum or social platform – you have the benefit of an expert’s perspective. You can also bring up subjects and interesting stories. Become that cool interesting guy at the party. Be humorous, intelligent, interesting and above all be natural. It’s not all about selling your side, it’s about interacting.

5. Engage

Speaking of interacting, another basic rule good conversation is to reciprocate. Ask your new ‘friends’ questions, and leave room for them to answer back. Comment on comments, seek out who follows you and interact with them back. Don’t be obnoxious. Go beyond your profile and show interest in those who show interest in you.

So there you have it. In an age where you can seldom have a conversation without being interrupted by a smart phone, the conversations worth having are often digital. Offering a great opportunity to truly impact your consumer, *cough* I mean friend, in a meaningful way. Don’t waste it by being a robot.

 

Computers don’t lie : online calculators in financial services marketing

Over the years we’ve designed and developed a number of online calculation tools for the financial services industry. It’s become something of a niche of ours.

We tend to group online calculators into two different types –

  1. Creating a need

We love these kinds of calculators – they’re massively powerful if you want to instantly demonstrate the value of your offering. They’re especially great when used as part of an advice conversation in an intermediary context.

This kind of calculator is best used when there’s an element of shock factor associated with the content. Take for example, the Risk Reality Calculator we developed for LV=. A simple online tool designed for Financial Advisers to use during client conversations. It helps their clients to grasp the importance of financial protection in just a few seconds.

There’s a level of impartiality and credibility in algorithmic calculations that’s hard for us mere mortals to emulate. There’s a perceived difference in neutrality; a feeling that the computer never lies.

  1. Comparison tools

You’d be hard pressed to find someone that’s not used online comparison tools at some point when buying car insurance, or holiday insurance or a flight to Lanzarote.

As consumers and purchasers, we’ve become comfortable with them as a way of quickly discerning value when confronted with an array of choice in a competitive market. They should always be presented as provider-neutral.

Online comparison calculators are more often than not, consumer facing-tools, but can also be used in an intermediary context to inform advice models.

What makes a good online calculator?

FS Marketers certainly appreciate and acknowledge their value, but being tasked with creating one isn’t typically on their Christmas list. For good reason – they require long, complex development and testing and deep technical knowledge. If you’ve never done it before, how do you know where to start?

1. Design backwards

First up, don’t start designing a calculator because online tools are ‘in’. Start with the crux of what you want your calculator to achieve, asking how it can help support and fill any holes in your sales cycle.

Building a calculator in isolation won’t do much for your business – you should think of it as one element of a wider campaign. How are you going to get people to the web page? What are you going to do with them afterwards? You should be thinking about these questions from day one.

2. Ease of Use

It’s doesn’t matter how mind-blowingly complex the back-end is, the user doesn’t need to know. Simplicity is key.

We’ve found that the more interactive you make it the better – sliding scales, drag and drop and toggles work well.

Oh, and your results need to update in real-time despite those complicated, dynamic algorithms.

3. Don’t ask too many questions

Treat your calculator like any other webform. What’s the bare minimum of information you can work with?

Aim for your initial screen to take no longer than 10-15 seconds to complete. Don’t forget that you can put additional questions on a second page (within reason). Initially, focus on getting them to click ‘next’ or ‘submit’. By that point, you’ve piqued their curiosity.

4. Put the results into context

So you’ve calculated that I’ve got a 6% risk of kicking the bucket before I reach retirement age.

Ok. Is that good? Bad? Should I be worried? Am I in the top 10% for my age group? (Not that I’m competitive or anything, but do I deserve a medal?)

Design an online calculation tool for financial services with benchmarking figures

Putting the results into context makes it easier to digest.

Where your results aren’t self-explanatory, give an the user something to go on. Some simple bench-marking instantly turns an set of calculations onto something that can provoke a reaction – or better still, action.

5. Where next?

Sounds obvious, but make sure you’ve got a clear call to action. Whether it’s adding an insurance package to your cart, or giving them the option to have an online chat with an expert, think through what you want the next steps to be. Strike whilst the iron is hot.

It’s best practice to also give the option to email the results afterwards. It’s a good idea from a lead gen perspective and it can be especially useful for high-commitment, long sales cycles where users are unlikely to make a snap decision – mortgages and pension schemes for example.

6. Analytics

Basically, your online calculator is a fantastic opportunity to do some market research.

There’s a wealth of data surrounding online calculators – make sure your systems are set-up to make the most of it. Aggregated, anonymised data can be really useful for creating data-filled content like infographics. Or to enrich your company’s understanding of their target audience.

Oh, and on the topic of analytics – Google Analytics is a must. UX-monitoring tools like CrazyEgg or ClickTale can be really useful to offer insight into how people interact with your tool and inform future design decisions. If you’re not familiar with them, check them out.

Why are online calculators so hard to develop?

Having delivered more online calculators than we can count on our collective fingers and toes, at Moreish, we’ve come to the conclusion that getting the angle and approach right is actually the really crucial, difficult part of the job. Even more so even than the design and build.

It’s probably safe to say that 99% of companies don’t have the skills required to develop a complicated online calculator in-house end-to-end. We’ve spent a long time honing a network of the perfect skills for the job from creative development, to algorithm busting that makes your brain bleed, to designing snazzy sliding scales that work responsively. You’re in safe hands.

If you’re looking for some advice, get in touch. We might be able to give you some pointers or help you out on your project.

Do you need to turn up the heat on your marketing campaigns?

When you see a really gutsy, daring ad, what goes through your mind?

Me, I don’t think about the inspired creative team who came up with a moment of pure genius. No, I always think about the Marketing Director prepared to put it all on the line and convince a large multinational corporation to go with a bonkers but brilliant idea when there is so much – not least your brand reputation – at stake.

But isn’t that what marketing’s really for – to make an impact? And sometimes you’ve got more to lose by creating a mediocre, vanilla campaign that slips under the radar and does nothing to revive brand awareness or sales figures. Now that really will cause a row, even though it might feel like the safest, most comfortable thing to do at the time.

Sometimes our clients come up to us all fired up, seeking a ‘wild creative idea’. And we simply love that. Because the appetite do something extraordinary and fun usually makes for a really standout campaign.

At Moreish Manor, we like to calibrate campaigns we come across against our Campaign Curry Calculator.

It’s super-scientific and it looks a little bit like this:

How to create high impact marketing campaigns for financial services
Ok, so not every campaign can be a Vindaloo. But too many end up being somewhere between a Korma and a Bhuna – just not that exciting.

We think there are 2 main reasons why so many campaigns lack spice:

1. The all you can eat buffet

Stop cramming everything in.

It’s nigh on impossible to create a SLAP, BANG, WOW campaign when you’re trying to get across a million different messages and product features.

Don’t stifle your creativity with clutter. Less is more. (Or Moreish if I’m being a smartass about it.)

2. Can’t handle the heat?

Behind every shit hot Vindaloo campaign is a Marketing Director with some serious balls.

It’s one thing to stick your neck above the parapet and go with the conviction of your creative hunch and a sprinkle of research. It’s another thing entirely to convince the rest of the business to take the risk and fund it.

We salute you.

And we also understand the temptation to create a Cautious Korma. When there are mortgages to pay, reputations at stake and jobs to lose, it’s only natural to want to smother every campaign in a cooling dollop of yoghurt when it comes to campaign sign-off crunch time.

But remember:  When you’re the nutter ordering a Vindaloo and everyone else around the table thinks ‘rather you than me’, if it all goes viral, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ll be wishing it was rather them than you.

At Moreish, we’ve been lucky enough to work with Marketing Directors who are ready to do something extraordinary and add a bit of spice into the mix. And the best thing about it is that the fun, excitement and challenge that we have in creating the campaign transcends into the sentiment it delivers to the audience.

Fancy a taster?

How about our series of advertorials, dripping with innuendo that added some sauce to the rather unexciting topic of EU legislation?

Or our totally relevantly irrelevant campaign. Confused? Take a look, it might come in handy for your next pub quiz.

In it to win it. Awards – a hygiene factor or just willy waving?

You've got to be in it to win it. Stop talking and start doing

Blow your own trumpet – or at the very least show you have a trumpet

You’ve already heard the phrase –

“You’ve got to be in it to win it”

And even today it’s still relevant, especially when it comes to awards and endorsements.

I was once naive when it came to awards… I had no idea that in order to win an award you had to nominate yourself/ your brand/ your agency/ your campaign/ your product… let alone pay for the privilege.

But over the years we’ve become very aware of how important they are in establishing trust and credibility and we’ve been very successful in winning awards for ourselves and our clients. Winning ‘Marketing Week Best B2B campaign 2013’ after our first year in business was unprecedented and significantly helped the credibility of our business. And in the years since we’ve consistently delivered marketing programmes that have helped our clients win many awards (too many to mention) so we feel we’re at liberty to dish out some advice on what we’ve learnt along the way:

Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted.

Firstly, research what awards are available (is it an industry award, a marketing award, a customer service award or perhaps a business award), research the deadlines.  This will help you to define a schedule and plan your approach.

Carefully consider which categories are the most appropriate to you, asking yourself the following questions:

  • What would be the benefit to your business?

and

  • What is it that you do which makes you unique and worthy of winning?

It’s a lot of work (and not to mention money!) so is it worth it?  

Well that depends on your business and your customer and clients expectations. Ask yourself, is it an award which would enhance your brand values and positively influence target audiences opinion of you?

Is it a popularity contest?

Awards which are won on ‘votes’ can appear to be, but there will need to be dedicated sales and marketing resource and budget to help canvass support. But this has to pitched in the right way to not be too ‘chest beating’ and where possible give some compelling incentives to vote (but be weary of rules/boundaries surrounding ‘inducements’) to meet the human response of ‘what’s in it for me?’.

Fail to plan, plan to fail

The award entry itself takes time and effort, we’d recommend scheduling time for input from those who perhaps aren’t as close to the entry as you are, but who will be honest enough to provide opinion. Each award will have different requirements to entry. A questionnaire, a case study or even an interview.  But what is always expected is the ability to substantiate your claims. For the campaign itself you’ll need a clear strategy for achieving the desired outcome, for example this may be encouraging quality, rather than quantity of votes if you only need a small number of votes to qualify.  Then there’s marketing and sales resource planning, incentives/gifts, messaging, creative, media and comms planning which are all essential elements for success.

Top 5 hints and tips on awards

If you’re hellbent on winning an award Moreish can really help with tried and tested strategies and a carefully crafted creative campaign, here’s just a few of the things you should consider…

HINT #1

Research the awards available, understand their criteria, understand the nomination process and finally assess the relevance to you and your business before entering.

HINT #2

Think about whether you can maintain momentum. It’s easy for an award nomination/ win which was intended to be a good news/ validation exercise to become a hygiene factor.

HINT #3

If you have to canvass votes, consider how you can harness support without damaging relationships with those who have you have worked so hard to obtain and build.  There are ways, without breaking the bank or falling foul of the rules.

HINT #4

Always say ‘thank you’ to those who helped you win an award.  Whether it was those who voted, the judges or your partner who remained subjective whilst reading and re-reading your submission!

HINT #5

Where will you use the awards?  Once you’ve won them, give careful consideration to how and where you will blow your awards trumpet?  After all that hard work, you need to make sure that they add value to you and your business.

…But remember, no one likes a smart arse.