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 your self 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.

Read our Ellipse proposition case study to see how this proposition development process worked for them.

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 qualitive 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.

If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy reading our case studies of brand strategies we’ve created for Benenden Health and Ellipse.

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.

How to create winning content

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.