What do financial advisers want?

Understanding the pressures and needs of intermediaries

There are roughly 25,900 financial advisers working in the UK today. If a financial provider wants to be successful, they need to connect with a large proportion (if not all) of them.

And that’s no mean feat.

Although 26,000 isn’t the biggest audience in the world (compare it to Uber’s 75 million strong target market) it’s still a complex and diverse range of people. After all, every intermediary has their own highly specific specialisms, interests, and career aspirations – read our follow-up blog posts on adviser personas for more on this!

But amongst this diversity are some fundamental priorities which all advisers hold in common. As a provider, you need to shape your marketing around these priorities to create maximum impact on intermediaries.

To help you, we’ve identified the top four ambitions that all financial advisers share. If you can demonstrate how you help enable advisers achieve these four ambitions, you’ll have a better chance of making a connection with them through your marketing.

So, here are four key things financial advisers want:

1. To make money

Financial advisers are many things: experts, helpers, teachers. But they are also businesspeople. And, like all businesses, they need to make money. That’s the industry we’re in!

Of course, it’s not the done thing for providers to talk to advisers about commission.

Instead, you can talk to advisers about growing their business, and help them to generate more leads. This is a roundabout way of helping them make more money – obviously, since adding more clients will only do positive things to your bottom line.

Can you offer any guidance to help advisers with their own marketing?

There are lots of ways to do this: by providing free marketing materials or resources, giving personalised advice, holding training workshops to teach advisers how to manage it themselves.

If you prove your value and authority to advisers in this capacity, it’s very likely they will turn to you when it comes to recommending products to their clients

2. To do a good job

Financial advisers guide their clients through some of the biggest decisions of their lives. It’s a massive responsibility, and it’s important to recognise this in your communications. It sounds obvious, but you have to show advisers how you can help them deliver better customer outcomes.

When you clearly display how you can help improve their clients’ lives, they’ll find it much easier to connect with you.

3. Less complexity and more time

No matter who you are or what you do, we all want a simple life.

Unfortunately, the current regulatory landscape is making it hard for intermediaries to achieve this. In the last few years alone, we’ve seen the introduction of Mifid II, GDPR and now the Senior Managers and Certification Regime.

Each new piece of legislation represents a significant time investment for advisers. First, they have to educate themselves on the new requirements, and then they have to make sure everything they do is compliant – which can be a serious amount of admin.

Mifid II, for example,  requires FS firms to disclose a breakdown of all costs associated with a client’s investments, adding another 20 minutes of administrative time to each client meeting.

The time pressure on advisers means two things for providers: first, it has a bearing on the way you try to connect with them. Your communications should be short and to-the-point, showing that you respect intermediaries’ time.

Secondly, you need to consider how your products or services enable advisers to devote more time to the things that matter, and help their clients. If you can help save them time, make sure to shout about it (although don’t push this point if you can’t back it up!).

4. Confidence

People expect their adviser to have a comprehensive and up-to-date knowledge of all financial matters. And this is a big ask.

So, you need to be able to give advisers confidence – whether you’re encouraging advisers to broaden their advice offering (i.e. offering more protection advice when their focus is mortgages) or you’re helping them to get to grips with the specific benefits of your retirement income service. If they don’t feel confident that they have the required knowledge to guide their client through the process (and answer any difficult questions they might ask) they won’t want to talk about your product.

Interactive tools can be a great way to help advisers take control of the sales process, since they make it easier for advisers to discuss complicated subjects or highlight the value of a product to their clients.

Our risk reality calculator, for example, helps even the most inexperienced adviser prove the necessity of protection. Similarly, our Sequence of Returns Risk tool allows the adviser to demonstrate the effects of pound cost ravaging and the dangers of income drawdown in the early stages of retirement, so their client can see the direct benefit a fixed term annuity would have on their retirement.


Advisers are a diverse bunch, and this means it can be difficult to create a message that connects with them.

This is something we’ll be exploring more in the coming months. We’re going to dive into adviser personas, and examine how to create a message that works for each of them – so watch this space to find out more!

And do let us know if you think we’ve got anything wrong here or any key insights we’re missing, we’d love to hear from you.

4 things tennis taught me about marketing, entrepreneurship and life

Although today I run my own agency, my first passion wasn’t marketing. It was tennis.

I started playing when I was about nine, along with my brother (who was better than me, damn him).

After a few years, I was representing my county and playing tournaments in glamorous and exciting places like… Sunderland (no offence to Sunderland). As I got a bit older, people started telling me how good my tennis experience would look on my CV. I remember thinking: great, but it’s never going to make a blind bit of difference to how I do my job.

But I couldn’t have been more wrong!

The older I get the more I realise that tennis is a parallel to life, work and business. The fact I’ve done it all before – the defeats (yep, plenty of those), the highs and the lows – has really prepared me for my career in marketing, and running my own agency especially.

I’d like to explore this a bit more – partly because I like writing about tennis, and partly because I hope you might find it useful for thinking about the things that have shaped your own career.

So, here are four things tennis has taught me:

 

1. Hard work trumps talent

You need to be almost pathologically determined to be a good tennis player. Often in a match it’s not the most talented person who will in – it’s the one who wants it the most.

And it’s exactly the same when it comes to running your own business. You have to embrace the relentlessness, in good times and especially in difficult times!

So, it doesn’t matter if you don’t think you’re the best marketeer ever, or the best businessman. I’m certainly neither of those things.

But I’ll be one of the most dedicated (some might say bloody minded) and this has helped me enormously in running my own agency. If you work hard enough at something, you can achieve great things.

2. Learn how people think

When you get to a certain level, tennis becomes 90% psychological. There were moments in really big matches that I just couldn’t seem to play as well as I knew I could – it drove me mad!

This led me to become really interested in the way thoughts influence behaviour, and eventually I ended up doing a degree in psychology.

But it all started with wanting to understand how I was thinking – and how my opponent was thinking – on the tennis court.

This is the best asset you can have for a career in marketing. This industry is all about getting into people’s heads and working out what they’re all about.

And it doesn’t matter whether you learn this doing a professional marketing diploma, or from winning and losing tennis matches. As long as it teaches you to see things from another’s viewpoint, it’s good preparation for the world of marketing.

3. Remember there’s a network around you

In tennis, it feels like you win and lose alone.

But when I think about it, I know this isn’t 100% true: my brother and friendships played a huge part in helping me grow as a player, and I can never thank my parents enough for all the time they spent driving me to the four corners of the UK (especially Sunderland).

Tennis itself is actually a really social sport. So many of the people I played with at juniors have gone on to do amazing things. Some of them have even become part of my working life, as partners, suppliers or even clients.

And herein lies the lesson: even though you’re on your own, there’s a network around you.

You should utilise your network to help build your business – and, crucially, you should always repay the favour and support people in return!

4. It should be fun

This is the lesson I learned last, but it’s arguably the most important.

Whatever you’re doing, be it tennis or building up your own business, you’ve got to have fun.

I definitely played too much and got a bit burned out on tennis. And I’ve come close to feeling that way about work too at times.

That’s why balance is so hugely important. While you have to put in the hours (my lesson number 1!), you can’t work 24/7. If you overwork yourself, you’ll only end up stifling your ability to think – which is pretty important to being a successful marketeer.

There was a time I hated my business as I hated tennis, but now I’ve found the right balance, I actually love them both!

It’s all about people

Tennis gave me the skills and attitudes I need to run my own business. And most of all, it showed me my interest in people and psychology, which has been the foundation for my career in marketing.

This is perhaps the key thing I’ve realised in writing this blog post. Marketing is such a broad industry – it’s really all about people – and that means you can come at it from any angle and find a successful place for yourself.

That’s the message I’m going to leave you with. Let me know if you agree or disagree with anything I’ve said, or if you have any lessons of your own you think I should know – I’m happy to add to my list!

Get to the top with a topic cluster content strategy

It’s no secret that content marketing is an important part of a company’s inbound marketing strategy. In fact, we’ve written previously about the importance of content, including, how to create a content strategy and how to write great content.

One of the main reasons for creating regular content is to improve organic SEO, however, as more and more brands create and implement content strategies, competition to get found in search engine results is getting increasingly difficult once again.

One way to help you get ahead of the competition and improve your ranking is to implement a ‘topic cluster model’ when it comes to planning and uploading your content.

So, what is a ‘topic cluster’

Topic cluster exampleA ‘topic cluster’ focuses your content around an overarching topic, which is pre-determined from your content strategy.

A content ‘pillar pageis created around this topic which covers all aspects of the topic in a single page.

Alongside this are multiple pieces of related content, which are your ‘cluster content.

Each of these cluster content pages are then linked back to your pillar page.

It is this linking which is the most important part. By linking all internal content within that topic to a pillar page, search engines can easily scan all the content and understand, not only that there is a relationship between the pages, but that there is real breadth and depth in the content. This model of ‘linked’ content helps to position yourself as a subject expert, which, over time, will help you to rank higher and higher for the topic it covers.

Now you know the benefits of Topic Clusters, here are 4 simple steps to follow to implement the model for your content.

Four steps to creating Topic Cluster

Step 1: Decide on your Pillar content

The first thing you need to decide is what topic/ topics you want to rank highly for. It should be specific enough that you can cover all the different aspects of one pillar page, but broad enough that you can write several articles about this topic. It should also, of course, be relevant for your audience and what you do!

An example:

‘Employee health and wellbeing’ is too broad a topic to cover even the key points in one pillar article. Instead, focus your pillar content on one aspect of employee health and wellbeing e.g. ‘Employee mental wellbeing’. Within this, there is still plenty to write about for your cluster articles but it is focused enough for you to cover the key points off in one pillar article.  

It’s worth noting that pillar pages can, and often are, longer than usual blog posts. They could also take the form of an e-book for example. When deciding on your pillar topics, remember to refer back to your content strategy for inspiration as to what these pillar topics should be. For more information and examples on creating a content strategy, see our Benenden Health content strategy case study.

Step 2: Determine your content clusters

Once you have decided your pillar topic, you now have to focus on your content clusters. Try and write 5-10 cluster articles per pillar. Again, refer back to your content strategy and your personas and themes to help you identify what these should be.

Also consider other online tools to see what people are searching for, such as AnswerThePublic, which generates a list of the most frequently asked questions about the topic you chose based on search queries.

Cluster content doesn’t have to just be a written blog. They could also incorporate infogrpahics or video, however if you do use these formats you need to ensure they are tagged correctly so that google can still search and log the content.

Step 3: Review your existing content

As part of your content strategy you should have completed a content audit. Refer back to this to see what existing content you can update and link to your pillar page.

This way, you make the most of your existing content, but can focus your content creation efforts and budget to filling any gaps you might have.

Step 4: Link your content together

Once you’ve completed your content clusters, you need to make sure that you link them not only to the pillar page but also to each other.

When you’re linking your content, make sure that the links are two-way. Your pillar page should also have links back to each of your content clusters.

 

Have you recently shifted your content to a Topic Cluster strategy? Let us know what benefits you’ve started to see.

Or do you need to create or update your existing content strategy? If so, get in touch with us today and see how we can help you – whether it’s working with you to develop the strategy or helping you create regular website and social content.

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

Is it time to abandon the traditional agency pitch process?

A friendly prospective client approached us recently asking if we could send on an outline of a typical pitch process and briefing template.

When we started looking at the standard RFI templates and multi-stage pitch processes that are still often used, it made us question whether this was actually the best approach in today’s world of agile and fast paced working practices.

Admittedly, for some large budget, global advertising accounts, a longer, more detailed pitch process is required but surely for the majority of pitches today, there are better options.

In fact, the argument for a new pitch process isn’t actually a new one. Research by Creativebrief found that respondents were largely in agreement that the traditional pitch process is no longer “fit for purpose” in today’s environment – with 61% of brands and 93% of agencies wanting to see change.

This same research identified that less than half of brands questioned (44%) believe that the pitch process offers a “true sense” of what it will be like to work with an agency.

With this in mind, we have put together some alternate approaches that you could use. Obviously the one that works best for you will depend on:

  • Your internal procurement process – your internal due diligence and procurement process may impact which pitch process is right for you
  • The type of work/pitch – if the pitch is for a one-off project it might be more cost and time effective to use a shorter, more agile process
  • The size of the prize – more often than not a larger budget would justify a more detailed pitch process
  • Your timings – obviously if you need the campaign to start in a matter of weeks you won’t have time to go down the more traditional process route!

The ‘standard’ pitch process

As mentioned, there is likely to be time and a place for the original agency pitch approach. It is however a long old process, which goes something like this:

A standard pitch process flow chartThrow in a couple of chemistry meetings and tissue sessions you’re looking at investing a lot of time and expense for both the agency and the client. Admittedly, this full process isn’t required for all pitches but even the core stages (briefing/ RFP/ Q&As/ Creative development / presentations) are a lot of work for all involved.

So what is the alternative pitch process?

Skip the RFI and chat instead

Woman laughing on the phone. Pop art style.Most of this information however you could probably get from the agencies website therefore consider whether the RFI is really necessary. Instead, spend a day looking over your potential agencies websites, and have 15minute phone conversation with them (or even face to face if they are local) if you did want to find out a bit more about their particular structure/ style or approach. After all, you can quite often get a good sense of what the agency is about and whether you’re likely to get on from an initial conversation.In its simplest terms, the RFI simply outlines the agencies structure and why they are right for your business, introduces the team that may, or may not be working on the business, and showcases case studies of similar problems. It might also outline the overall approach to your problem. From this, you should be able to whittle your long-list straight down to a short list who you can invite to respond to the brief.

The non-creative creative pitch

paints and coloured pencils with a 'stop' sign over themWhen considering a potential agency what you are actually interested in is their creative thinking, and how they would approach and resolve your particular problem and objective. And this should be seen through their strategic response. Consider therefore asking your shortlisted agencies to avoid sharing creative work and focus on the strategy response only. You can then see their creative ability through their creds and case studies of previous work.

Not only will help you to focus on how the agency proposes to meet your business objectives rather than getting distracted with what that solution looks like, but it will also enable you to really understand their strategic approach.

 The workshop

illustration of workshop elementsAnother alternative is to hold workshop sessions with a short list of agencies. You’d spend half a day, or a day with the agency team, briefing them in the morning and actively participating in the session to understand the dynamics of the team, working processes and creative and strategic approaches. The agency would then present their ideas back at the end of the day.

The benefits of this approach is that you really get under the skin of how the agency thinks and approaches problems. More importantly though, you also get to understand the chemistry between you and the agency, giving you mu ch more of an idea what the actual process will be like.

The test drive

Illustration of person driving in a convertible carThe best way to get to know an agency, and to understand if they are a good fit with your business, is to actually work on a project together.

Therefore, consider briefing an agency, or a couple of agencies on smaller sperate projects. You’ll be able to get to know the team who will be working with you, get a feel for how they understand your business, approach your challenges and get a good idea of how you might work together. You will need to do a bit of research before hand to get an idea of whether they would be right for your business, which could include:

  • Reviewing similar work they’ve done in the same sector and channels
  • Speaking to their network and looking on linked in for shared connections
  • Speaking to their clients

No matter what approach you think might be best, one of the most important things to remember is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Depending on your brief and agency requirements, a different process might be more relevant, and we need to be flexible to adapt where necessary.

Here at Moreish we’re big fans of the ‘test drive approach’ so if you were looking for a new agency, we’re happy to work on a one-off project first, so you can see just what we could do for you. Feel free to get in touch for a chat.

Have you recently taken part in a pitch that differed from the standard approach? Or have you have found an approach that works for you? If so, let us know!

Tips for developing a powerful value proposition

What is a value proposition?

I’d best describe a value proposition as a unifying and motivating statement of how you can add value to your customers’ life, which all your future communications should feed off. Value propositions can be created your brand as a whole, or for specific products and services.

Why are value propositions important?

After many years of working in the same industry you’ll no doubt have a deep understanding of all the complex nuances of the product types and features that are available in the market. And you may truly believe your products and services to be the best things since sliced bread. The hard part is convincing your customers to feel the same, as not everyone is as interested in financial services or your brand as you are (crazy I know!).

Defining your brand or product with a simple and clear value proposition will help customers ‘get what you can do for them’. After all, if you are unable to clearly explain what you do in one sentence, how do you expect your customers to understand it? An analogy I often use when discussing propositions … if I were to throw you a tennis ball you’d probably catch it. If I was to throw you 4 tennis balls at the same time you’d likely catch none!

A clear value proposition will also help you to stand out and provide cut through in a competitive marketplace.

How to go about creating a value proposition

There are two different ways to undergo a value proposition development process:

1. A proposition workshop – The quickest way is to have a day’s proposition workshop, to be chaired from someone externally, like us, to avoid any feelings of internal bias. It should include key stakeholders from across the business, with breakout sessions to discuss the insights, proposition and reasons to believe. Followed by group sessions to craft into one set of answers.

2. A period of consultancy – This is a deeper and longer route. You’d employ a consultant or agency like us to do lots of insight gathering from within and outside the business i.e. staff questionnaires; employee interviews, qual and quant market research. This insight is then used to develop the proposition outputs which are presented and debated in key stakeholder sessions.

We’ve seen both approaches above work brilliantly. The right process will depend on the specific brand/product, personalities, and the timings and budgets involved.

What you need to understand to create a strong value proposition?

1. Who you are trying to reach and what they want/need – What are the issues that you are attempting to solve? What are their potential motivations and triggers for what you offer?

2. What your company/ brand capabilities are – How will interacting with your brand improve your audience’s life?

3. Understand how competitors are positioning their products and brands – What makes you a better choice than your competitors?

Top tips for developing your single-minded value proposition statements

The customer insights are the driving force behind your proposition and your reasons to believe will absolutely need to support it. But it’s so important to make every word of your single-minded proposition count. Here’s our top tips on nailing the final articulation of your proposition statement. Ask yourself:

Is it simple?

As complex as your business might be, it’s essential to keep your value proposition is simple as possible. Why:

  • You want your customers to remember it/you. If it’s too complex they won’t.
  • With so many distractions and noise out there, it can be difficult to get your customers to engage in what you do for even for just a few seconds so you’ve really got to make your message instantly connect with them otherwise they’ll just ‘jog on’
  • We all love to put people and brands into simple boxes – making your proposition simple will help you take control of what you want to be known for
  • The more single minded the message the more creative you can be delivering that message

Making your proposition a truly single-minded statement can sometimes be a brutal process. Some stakeholders may feel that certain key USPs or messages key to the decision making process are being lost. But a proposition statement doesn’t have to say everything to sell, that’s not realistic, it’s about the best way to get your potential customers to engage with you.

I understand you will have different customer personas who will have different mindsets and needs and therefore different message stands – we’re not saying to forget these. We absolutely encourage you to segment communications according to customer personas for marketing success. But it’s always good to have one unifying proposition that resonates through all communications.

Will it resonate with your customers?

Ask yourself – does it genuinely align with their needs and mindset. Or even better if you’ve got time consider some customer research or just ask a few friendly customers what they think of it?

Does it differentiate you from competitors?

This doesn’t necessarily mean highlighting a specific USP! This is more how you talk about how you can help your audience, that’s differentiated from how your competitors do it? Is your point of difference coming through?

Does it make an emotional as well as a rational connection?

We know that people make decisions based on their emotions, rather than logical thought. That’s why emotion-focused marketing is so effective.

Is it authentic – can it be delivered by your company?

It’s also important that your customer proposition is truly represents the company values and offering. People have to believe it internally otherwise it will never transcend into the hearts and minds of consumers. But it can be ambitious – it just needs to be credible and aligned with the businesses purpose, skills and values. For your brand proposition model to be effective, you need to be able to deliver on your promises.

Have you recently gone through a brand positioning workshop? How did it go for you? Or are you considering the process? Let us know if this is useful and if you need any further guidance.

See how this proposition development worked for Ellipse Benenden Health and Key Partnerships.

Why you need a clear brand strategy and how to go about it

Why a clear brand strategy is important

Effective marketing campaigns can help deliver business. However, without a clear brand strategy it’ll be difficult for employees and customers to connect with your brand at a deeper level – resulting in more functional and transactional relationships.

Arguably it’s more important for financial brands to invest in their brand strategy than other sectors as there is no tangible product and a general lack of consumer trust.

And over the years we’ve seen many financial companies simply telling customers to ‘trust’ them which instinctively has the opposite effect. The only way to truly change or enhance the way your customers view you is to a) be clear on your values and purpose and b) live by and demonstrate those values in everything you do.

What is a brand strategy?

The manifestation of a clear brand strategy is usually series of statements that will articulate what’s special about your brand and should include:

  • Why you do it: your brand purpose and vision
  • How you do it: your brand proposition or essence. This will be supported by:
    • Customer insights leading to the proposition
    • Reasons to believe
  • What you do: your products and services
  • What you stand for: your brand values
  • Who you are: your brand personality and your brand story
  • How you say it: your tone of voice

Key steps to developing your brand strategy

Step 1: Insight into context

A brand will only have the power to change behaviour if it’s based on truths and real beliefs. So the following areas of insight are suggested: a questionnaire sent out to all staff; one-on-one interviews with employees across a range of departments and seniority; analysis of recent qualitative and quantitative market research; and competitor brand reviews.

Step 2: Brand strategy development

Every agency might have a slightly different way of presenting this information, but it generally includes most of the statements in the ‘What is a brand strategy’ section above and will often be summarised in some sort of brand pyramid or matrix.

Over time it’s easy to lose sight of the reasons of why the company exists. Profits and growth targets are necessary, but you’ve got to stand for something more. A human factor and a reason for being that everyone can get behind. You’ve got to inspire people and take them with you on a journey towards something meaningful that you can be proud of. Watch: Simon Sinek’s the golden circle: with how starting with the ‘Why’ is key to how great brands and leaders inspire action and change behaviour, that we often watch to inspire us before developing our clients brand strategies.

 

Step 3: ‘Brand workshop’ with key internal stakeholders

This is a session to:

  • Replay the lead insights from the immersion process that informed the approach
  • Present the proposed brand strategy statements
  • Debate and refine strategy statements during breakout sessions and group discussions
  • Reach a group consensus on the message and the approach to each statement, whilst all key stakeholders are present

Step 4: ‘Brand strategy refinements’

Refine the brand articulations following group feedback, for board sign off.

3 top tips for developing a powerful brand strategy

1. Agree the outputs upfront – so everyone is clear on what you want to achieve. The template above should a good starter for 10

2. Make the process inclusive – by listening to and debating employee and key stakeholder input upfront and throughout the process you will ensure a more authentic and therefore more powerful approach to the new brand. It also means that everyone within the business will be much more invested and engaged in the new brand as they’ve felt part of its inception.

3. Get external support – This isn’t a blatant push for our services but ideally you should have someone external or an external company help you with this. Why? Because external support shows you’re taking it seriously and ensure it’s seen as an impartial process with no internal agenda’s or departmental biases.

What’s next after creating your brand strategy

  • Ongoing internal engagement – In order to strengthen your brand and live it, it must be visible. Agree ways to make sure every team member understands the refreshed brand positioning and can see it, feel it and believe it every day within their working environment.
  • Review the brand identity – Review if how you talk (your tone of voice) and how you look and feel (your visual identity) needs to be reviewed to align with your new brand strategy.
  • Brand deployment – Once you’ve got all this sorted bring it to life through all your brand touchpoints and communications.

Smart campaigns can drive business but if you want to take your brand to the next level you may need to define or refine your core brand strategy.  Get in touch if you think you need to realign your brands compass to take your brand to the next level or read our case studies of brand strategies we’ve created for Benenden Health, Ellipse and Key Partnerships

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, and help google see you as an expert in this topic.

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, read our next post to find out to create great content or find out more about content topic clusters and pillars and how they can help your SEO.

Read our case studies to see out how we developed a 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.