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UpContent CEO Scott Rogerson was privileged to be part of an informative webinar for financial service advisors who are looking to keep up with the demand for content. The panel was moderated by Marie Swift from Impact Communications. Joining Scott on the panel were Teresa Leno, founder and owner of Fresh Finance, and Chris Lamoureux, COO of Veriday. Together, the three panelists represented the views from a curated, custom, and branded content perspective. During the discussion, these experts in their field provided solid advice on how financial services firms can find the right mixture of content, effectively distribute that content, and maximize the effectiveness of their content marketing strategy. In this post, we'll cover the key takeaways from that webinar.
The first step to understanding how to generate enough content is understanding the current trends that are driving content creation throughout the industry. There was a time when a firm controlled every bit of messaging that came out of the company with an iron fist. Social media and other modern communication methods have brought us all closer than we were in those times. Your employees have a following, and a voice. That's why many companies are now allowing individuals within the company to step up and create their own personal brands, that then enhance the brand of the firm as a whole. It takes a lot of resources for a firm to create every piece of their content from a centralized authority, but if you give a fraction of those resources to the advisors on your team, they can become a powerful resource in themselves, creating content and building an audience.
At the same time brands are extending more control to their employees, customers are changing the way they interact with content as well. People have always relied on others for information, but until recently those recommendations were the only verification possible. Now, when a financial advisor is recommended, most people are going to go online and find out as much as they can about that person. Allowing your advisors to step up and build a personal brand provides a method for that verification and will ultimately drive more customers to your firm.
As more firms trend towards a more open content strategy, there are ramifications on the business world as a whole, and especially the financial services sector. All businesses once wanted complete control over content because with that comes complete control over branding. Financial services firms also have compliance and regulatory concerns to deal with, which adds complications to letting everyone in the firm become a content creator on behalf of the firm. It's an unavoidable situation though. As digital becomes more important, you cannot be successful without allowing your financial advisors to not only stand out from the competition but also to differentiate themselves from their peers. Content marketing is a way for everyone to find an advisor that they connect with, and that can't happen if those advisors aren't given some leeway to create a personal brand.
Another force driving the impact of the changes is that we live in a world of instant information. More than ever, firms need to be putting out timely content that is relevant today and helps position advisors as someone who can solve problems in the future. The challenge is to find relevant content, modify it, and deliver it in a way that lets each advisor shine while bolstering the reputation of the firm as one whose staff is on top of an ever-changing landscape.
Once a financial services company decides to allow a more personalized content marketing strategy, there are still challenges that must be overcome. The benefit, as discussed before, is that hyper-personalized content creation allows each customer to find their ideal advisor. You are no longer a single firm marketing to one or two buyer personas, but a web of advisors marketing to as many personas as you have advisors. This is a situation unique to modern content marketing because it's no longer enough for your company to separate itself from the competition. Each of your advisors that is out there helping to build sub-brands under the banner of your main brand needs to stand out from their own coworkers. It's important that those two philosophies remain distinct though. Your company is competing with rival firms, but your advisors aren't competing with one another. Rather they are working to create a broad customer base that will grow the firm and help it win business from the competition.
At one time, a firm may have relied on individuals to go out into their community and spread the message as an individual, but that was treated separately from the resources that the company spent at the firm level. Those lines are blurred now, and companies must provide their advisors with the resources they need to market themselves. At the same time, those resources have to be provided in a way that passes compliance, and so does the content created from them. Each advisor will have a different preferred method. Some will want to post news sources, while others will want to create the content of their own. Companies need to find a way to not only provide those resources but to do so in a timely manner, so potential clients know that the firm is up to date on the industry.
One of the keys to solving the challenges mentioned above is to view content creation in the proper way. Firms need to develop a content ecosystem. In such an ecosystem, you need to be able to create your own content that speaks to your brand, its strengths, its values, and its unique value proposition, but also have a way to bring in curated or custom content that has been created by someone else. This is where a platform like Digital Agent from Veriday, integrated with custom content from Fresh Finance and curated content from UpContent, comes into play. Such platforms provide you with an official content channel, but also the flexibility to distribute your content on other channels. Blogs, newsletters, and social media posts are an important part of your content ecosystem. A good platform will help you to reach all of those channels and provide you with a feedback loop so you can know what is and isn't working.
It's also important that this ecosystem, and all of its resources, is available to everyone. Some companies want to reserve the best resources for the best performing advisors. The thinking is that doing so creates competition and encourages everyone to strive to do better. In reality, it really just denies your company the opportunity to use its full pool of advisors as content creation and marketing resources.
This flow of resources should go both ways as well. It isn't just about giving everyone the resources they need to create content, but about allowing the rest of the team to help craft the message. Your advisors are the ones out there discussing the challenges that your clients face. They know these clients personally, and they know how to reach others like them. That doesn't mean you let them go rogue and produce whatever they want, but it does mean that they should be a part of the feedback loop that you use to guide your content strategy.
We mentioned that our webinar covered curated, custom, and branded content. Before we talk about the importance of each, let's take a quick look at what is meant by each of those terms.
Branded content is the content that your team creates for itself. This is the content that most closely matches your brand's voice and is often the one doing the heavy lifting of selling a potential client on your brand.
Curated and custom content have a different goal than branded content does. With this form of content marketing, you are trying to establish your brand as knowledgeable experts in the field and gain the trust of potential clients. These types of content aren't so much about directly building your brand, but about solving problems your clients face and providing them with information that makes their lives better. They differ from each other in the fact that custom content is written specifically for use by your business whereas curated content comes in the form of third-party media that you can share.
Branded content is important because there are different personality types and receivers of content. We've talked about how you can expand to reach a much larger pool of buyer personas by allowing your advisors to create their own sub-brands, but that doesn't work if it's chaotic. A strong, firm-level branding that everything ties into is important for creating the type of impression in clients or potential clients that you want them to come away with. Branded content is how you communicate to your audience what your brand stands for, and how it stands out from the other firms in your area.
As you move into the custom content arena, you are looking to talk less about your brand and more about the problems your clients face. In the hero, hub, and hygiene model popularized by Google, your hero content is your big marketing campaign. This is your branded content. Custom content fits nicely at the hub layer. This is regular, engaging content that is meant to showcase your firm's knowledge on industry topics while also building upon your branding strategy. Curated content can do a little of the lifting in this regard, as long as you provide some additional commentary on top of the third-party content you're sharing, but it can't do it all. Custom content allows you to take topics that are important to your audience and relay them in a way that reflects your branding.
Curated content really shines at the hygiene level of the hero, hub, and hygiene philosophy. You need to produce content that your audience finds useful to drive more of them to the hub and hero pieces. Curated third-party content is perfect for that because you can get very insightful information to your audience and add a little of your own personality and insight to it. Sharing this information is much quicker than creating it yourself and cheaper than paying to have it written.
While it's great for providing the volume needed for the hygiene portion of your marketing, curated content also helps to establish your own credibility. It's a way of showing your audience that other experts in your industry are saying the same things you are. Furthermore, It shows them that you are actively engaging with news related to the financial services industry and that you care about expanding your knowledge and keeping up with changes.
Creating a content calendar is a good start to ensuring that you have enough posts going out to drive a successful content marketing strategy. The problem is the calendar doesn't serve much purpose if you can't create enough content to keep up with the schedule. The solution goes back to allowing various members of your organization to create the content. By creating a template of how content should be created, and providing your staff with the focal point for a given piece, you can get lots of quality work. You can let them know if you want them to approach it from a certain way, or focus on a certain set of keywords, or whatever other requirements you may have. When you provide a structure like this, your staff doesn't have to be expert content creators to help with your content strategy. If you regularly have a slow period during the week, set that aside for writing and instill the habit of creating content into the staff.
You should also be making full use of the content you create. Create once and use it multiple times, but also never let good content die. Every time you create a blog post, you've got a social media post baked right in just by sharing it. If an old piece of content becomes relevant again, re-share it or take pieces of it to craft an updated version. Of course, as discussed earlier, curated content plays a big role in filling out the volume you need, and the same rules of stretching its usage can be applied.
You have content on your website, but you also have it in other places. You send out newsletters, post to social media, maybe even run a YouTube channel. So how does all of this tie together? We've already talked about Digital Agent, which is a great platform for publishing your content to your website while also making it available through those other channels as well. Digital Agent extends its platform into an entire ecosystem when integrated with tools like UpContent and Fresh Finance or with integration to your CRM, local listings, or SEO optimization tools. This makes it easy to ensure that your website and your other channels are behaving cohesively. More importantly, it allows you the flexibility of choice and ease of use required for your advisors to be able to focus on giving financial advice instead of managing content. Ideally, the whole process is integrated into your compliance methodology so not everything has to go through compliance for approval before it can be posted, further increasing productivity.
Creating content to scale is difficult, but how does curated content fit neatly into your compliance requirements without becoming a huge bottleneck? Thankfully third-party content provides some benefits in this regard. Your compliance team can white list a publication, so you will only have to get approval once for that outlet and can then use as much content from it as needed. Tools like UpContent make it easy to filter searches to only include publications that have been whitelisted by compliance and search through them using keywords that have been approved as topics for discussion. UpContent also has the ability to connect to your company’s compliance policy and ensure all articles, regardless of source, adhere to these requirements.
The key to making the process as smooth as possible is to find sources that you know won't cause problems. Trusted outlets are an easy sell, but any outlet that provides unbiased information is a safe bet. With an easily defined compliance policy, it's easier to guess which publications will make it through and which won't. If a refined enough policy is created, it might even be possible to automate some, or all, of the compliance checklist, so things move quickly when a publication that hasn't been whitelisted comes up.
Curated content has what UpContent CEO Scott Rogerson called a barbell-like life cycle. In the beginning stages, a reader doesn't know you and is wanting to see if they should learn more. They are looking at what lifestyle things you care about, what you are reading, and what your perspective on all of it is. Curated content does well at providing a lot of that information to readers. The other end of the barbell is after they've gotten to know you. They've read your custom and branded pieces and know the types of things you'll say there. Now, they are more interested in your take on current events and the type of content that curated sources bring.
Custom content, much like it does in the hero, hub, hygiene strategy, fits a more well-rounded position. The goal is to cater to readers throughout the life cycle, but certainly, there's a little focus on bridging the gap between curated content and branded content.
As something that's written personally from the firm's perspective, branded content shines after relationships have been established. This is when you know the client best and can cater the message to their particular situations.
Video is now a prominent form of content, but how should you fit it into your strategy? Do you need to spend a lot of money creating the most professional video possible? Ultimately, it depends. The content of the video will always be the most important thing. You could have the budget of a Hollywood blockbuster, but if you aren't providing useful information nobody will watch it. As a good rule of thumb, the amount of effort you put into video should equal the amount of use you expect to get out of it. Training videos or other videos that are meant to have a long life should be fairly well-produced, but quick screen shares and authentic short videos that just deliver a timely message can have much less effort put into them.
What are we using, what do we have on hand, and how can we get started? These are the first steps to almost any change. Evolving your content marketing strategy isn't something that can happen all in one step, so it's important to look at where you want to go and decide which direction to take based on the tools available to you. As you begin to expand your content creation, you can bring in more tools to further the growth.
What types of content do you have, and what buckets do they fall in? We've discussed the importance of a well-rounded mix of the three content types quite a bit. Finding the perfect mix for your firm starts by looking at where you are overweight and where you are underweight and beginning to fill in some of the gaps.
How are we improving? You've started taking your first steps to create more content, you've begun the process of improving your mix, but how do you know what is working? It's important now to set goals. There are many measurements of content success. Bounce rate, eBook downloads, traffic, social media engagement, and more are metrics you can track to measure your success.
If you ask yourself these questions and follow the advice given throughout this post, you'll find that your content strategy can become one of the most powerful marketing tools you have.
Check out our other blog posts for more on marketing, content curation, user stories, and more.
How to achieve the benefits of mass personalization without sacrificing your brand standards or risking noncompliance.