It goes without saying that businesses in the financial services industry have issues building trust with clients. Investment firms are frequently in the headlines, but not because of their above-market ROI. The only time most consumers hear about these businesses is when news breaks about fraud, lost retirement savings, or misappropriated funds. Ask a person on the street to name a financial services company, and they are likely to mention Bernie Madoff, AIG, Freddie Mac, or Lehman Brothers—firms that entered the public eye through notoriety, not reliability.
It’s no wonder that trust is absent.
Content marketing, defined in its purest form as “promotion through value-adding content,” is an effective way to increase trust and grow your business against this backdrop. What follows are some tested and true content marketing principles that have worked for my clients, and can work for you too.
1. Content Marketing Should Provide Clarity
The sad truth is, most people are clueless when it comes to their finances. Once they move beyond balancing a checkbook or paying off basic debt, they are lost. While many factors play into the confusion over finances, one of the most significant is the use of too much technical language by financial professionals. Terminology that is precise to you and others in your field may make your clients’ eyes glaze over.
This is bad news for your company.
When potential clients are confused by the language on your website, they are more likely to either give up their search in frustration or navigate to a competitor’s website where information is easier to understand.
The solution for financial services businesses is to create content that swaps technical lingo for simple, clear communication in terms that are easy to comprehend. For example, instead of using “bottom-up investing” to talk about an investing strategy, say that your company prefers to focus on specific, high performing firms, rather than on industries. Instead of “disintermediation,” explain that funds are being moved away from banks and into investment opportunities with higher yields. And when talking about “risk,” be sure to clarify that you are not talking about the risk of losing everything, but rather the potential that an investment has to deliver expected returns. The more clarity you can offer potential clients, the more trust you will earn.
Content marketing can help you answer common questions and provide clarity on important issues, not only on your own website but also across the Internet and in trade publications. Plus, strong content will increase your SEO ranking and position your company as a subject matter expert in your industry.
2. Content Marketing Should Provide Real Value
The educated client is a loyal client. When you can explain the financial markets to your clients or teach them about products and services they can use to grow their businesses and increase their wealth, you are providing real value and empowering them. And empowerment builds trust.
A recent conversation with the president of a rapidly growing company illustrates this:
He told me his business had quadrupled in size over the past four years. But despite an increase in revenue, clients, and employees, he was not making any more money. In fact, he was working more than he ever had before, yet his business was not able to get ahead. It turns out he was great at building relationships with clients and providing them quality services and products, but because finances were difficult to understand, he “flew by the seat of his pants” in that department. When he finally brought on a financial consultant who was able to educate him about his needs, he was able to pinpoint the problem, take ownership of his company’s finances (which in this case, meant outsourcing them to the consultant), and see profitable growth for his company.
Some financial services companies may be hesitant to provide too much value to prospective clients for fear they will end up working for free. In reality, the more value you provide up front, the more likely people are to become your clients.
As another example, a recent study by Financial Engines showed that 1 in 4 workers is leaving “free” money on the table by not taking advantage of company 401(k)s, including matching contributions. The total in unclaimed funds that American workers could be putting towards their retirement? Upwards of $24 billion dollars! This is a massive opportunity for financial services firms to grow their clientele by educating companies about the shortcomings in their benefits promotions. Or, if your business is focused on individuals, you might grow your company by creating content that educates employees on how to take full advantage of retirement benefits.
Content marketing allows you to proactively reach out to potential clients with information that is of real value to them, which in turn, makes them view your company in a positive light. Also, educating prospects before they are your clients can weed out unqualified leads, and save you time and money when they do come to you for services.
3. Content Marketing Should Connect
Despite the popular claim that business isn’t personal, the truth is just the opposite, especially in financial services where people are trusting someone—you—with their hard-earned cash. Potential clients may browse your website or walk in your door because of the name on your building, but they turn over their money because they feel connected to you on a personal level, and you have earned their trust.
The StoryStudio at the Hearst Bay Area does a great job at building trust by creating emotional attachment through stories. For example, their article on Pioneer Bank focuses on the benefits clients receive from this local bank that they would not get at industry titans like Chase and Bank of America. Readers encounter engaging testimonies from clients whose success was made possible through a partnership with Pioneer Bank. In the process, they learn about the bank and its services and begin to view it as a trustworthy institution.
Content marketing like this works because it allows potential clients to empathize with the stories being told. Another example by StoryStudio is an article about how women can take ownership of their finances. This feature was sponsored by Michel Financial Group. Instead of focusing on the sponsoring company, the article targets a particular client base (women) and empowers them to prepare for the unexpected through financial planning. Unobtrusive links to the Michel Financial Group website are then presented as an asset to readers. By sponsoring this article, Michel Financial Group presents itself as a company that cares about the well-being of women everywhere and wants to help create a worry-free future. This creates a connection not just with women, but also with financially minded readers who have a wife, mother, or daughter they care about.
The results of these two content marketing articles were over one million impressions and thousands of brand engagements for their respective financial services firms—far above the industry norm. Why did these articles work? The content showed how the products and services of the sponsoring companies could ease suffering, relieve anxiety, or fix a problem that potential clients maybe didn’t even realize they had, and in so doing, created a personal connection.
This Thai life insurance commercial was shared by millions around the world because of its emotional connection with viewers.
The adage says that trust is earned, not given. Hopefully, after reading this article, you have a better sense of how your financial services firm can use content marketing to build trust and grow your business. Remember, good content marketing provides clarity, adds value, and connects emotionally.
This article first appeared here.