“Creating content that is so valuable that people would pay for it, yet you give it away for free, is a reliable way to earn the public’s trust.” - Don Peppers
The financial advice sector in the UK has been established for hundreds of years and has a rich heritage. However, the industry is having to adapt to a number of challenges including the impact of technology on business practices and how it engages the consumer. Here are 9 reasons why financial planners should include content marketing in their business strategy.
It’s fair to say that since the banking crisis in 2008, the finance industry has had a major issue around trust. This hasn’t been helped by a string of scandals such as LIBOR fixing and other examples of lapses in market conduct. In fact, the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that globally, the financial services continues to be the least trusted industry.
Consumers are rightly sceptical and more keen than ever to ensure they’re receiving value for money. In a survey of financial marketers, 76% believed that content marketing is the most effective way of rebuilding this trust. Providing clients with relevant, high-quality content - whether video, audio or text - is an excellent way of reassuring them that they are.
The number of individuals who are most likely to use financial advice are going digital. Research by Cogent Research and LinkedIn shows:
Furthermore, CapGemini’s World Wealth Report 2014 concluded that “regardless of age, wealth level, geography and need for advice, [high net worth individuals] are demanding digital capability from the wealth management industry.”
These statistics show that those who avoid social media networks are missing out on another way of generating new business. Going further still, as the Banker’s Umbrella sums it up, “not being where your clients and prospects expect you to be is a recipe for bankruptcy.”
In their assessment of the financial landscape in 2014, PwC concluded that growth opportunities would come from embracing digital practices. One of the ways of achieving growth is to engage with “digital natives”, an ever-expanding group of young people who have grown up with digital technology. Having a content marketing strategy will reach those already online (see previous point) while making sure you’ve got a foundation to build upon long into the future.
Along with trust and apathy, another challenge for financial planners is spelling out what makes you different from your competitors. A quick survey of IFA websites reveals the same buzzwords appearing again and again: knowledge, quality of service, experience, etc. Saying that they have these virtues is fine because after all, that’s what the consumer is looking for.
However, rather than saying that you are these things or that you possess these skills, it’s far more persuasive to demonstrate them. To illustrate the point: in a job application anyone can say that they’re passionate about their work. But if that person has achieved nothing in their previous jobs or they haven’t done anything that’s relevant, then how “passionate” can they really be? They could be the ideal candidate, but without evidence they would be a risky option.
The same principle applies when converting leads. It’s what marketers call thought leadership. We can all say that we have superior knowledge over our competitors. It’s working to put that knowledge into action that benefits your client and sets your services apart from your competitors. Content marketing is an ideal way to show, not tell, what makes you different. High-quality content boosts your profile and shows you applying your abilities, giving consumers yet another reason to choose you and your firm.
People don't buy pensions or life insurance on impulse. They generally research financial purchases over a period of time. Almost invariably, they'll look online. While having a website is fine, it’s no longer enough to drive traffic and distinguish who you are and what you do from your competition. Not only do you need to create content, it needs to be produced in a way that ensures it’s relevant and that it’s going to be seen.
This requires a strategy and an understanding of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Since Google Panda launched in 2011, Google (currently the world’s most used search engine) has prioritised websites by the quality and trustworthiness of their content and information. Using a mixture of content like video, infographics and blog posts will not only provide clients with helpful information they want to read and share - it will also boost your company’s online profile, attract your target clients and generate leads.
The Furrow, a magazine launched for farmers by John Deere, is cited as the first example of content marketing.
Although content marketing has been around since as early as 1895, the number of financial planners investing in content marketing is still relatively small. That said, a survey of financial services marketers revealed that 88% expected content marketing to become more important in 2015 (up from 81% in 2014), and 53% expected their content marketing budgets to increase. As more firms see the value, the more they will invest in online content. If you haven’t started, it’s fair to say your competitors will be at least considering it.
The world wide web has given businesses access to international markets. Many financial planners target high-net worth individuals in their local region, which makes sense if you want to manage the client relationship face-to-face.
But with communication tools like Skype and WebEx becoming more sophisticated, it’s now possible to win clients and manage relations from across the globe. At Ember, since starting content marketing we’ve generated leads from around the world and work regularly with clients in the USA and Europe. Because the nature of the internet isn’t geographically grounded, high-quality, easy-to-find content can lead to work from areas and markets that you didn’t have access to before.
For many people, personal finance is not the most exciting subject. Investors are deluged with printed material that is often unread. They're far more likely to engage with visual content such as videos and infographics. In the right hands, complicated subject matter based on facts and figures can be made more engaging and accessible for investors, such as this video explaining the dynamics of market pricing.
If you can engage and educate your leads and clients on the basics, the more likely they are to recognise the value of your hard work on their behalf. And once they do, there’s a bigger chance that referrals will start happening.
Compared with other professional sectors such as healthcare, the financial services are heavily regulated. Creating online content is tricky if you don’t want to get into trouble with the regulator. The result is that, as Michele Linn from the Content Marketing Institute puts it, “it’s easy to get caught up in what you can’t say instead of focusing on what you can do.”
But in our experience and the experience of other financial planners already online, regulation doesn’t mean that financial planners can’t publish great educational content that helps develop relationships with leads and clients. Explaining the impartial basics of personal finance doesn’t constitute financial advice - save that for your offline meetings with them.
Here’s a summary of the business case for content marketing for financial planners and wealth managers:
1. Build trust with your clients
2. Meet your clients where they are
3. Future-proof your business
4. Stand out from the competition
5. Strengthen your online presence
6. Keep up with your competitors
7. Expand into new markets
8. Attract and engage your target audience
9. Compliance and regulation are not a hinderance
In my next post, find out where financial advisers can start content marketing (or where they can improve) with 20 quick hints and tips.
This post is an extract from the eBook "Attract and Retain: A Content Marketing Guide for Growing Fiduciary Businesses". Download it here.