Why blog – we’re an IFA!?
Despite the Financial Service Industry’s general reluctance in embracing social media (Veenswyk, 2013), digital marketing and industry experts alike suggest blogging as a successful means of acquiring new customers online (McDermott, 2015); when done properly! Efficient blogging was found to increase traffic, inbound links and indexed pages simultaneously (Advisor Websites, 2011). (In the ever-changing environment of digital marketing, this research is somewhat dated. However, the principles are still applicable). Furthermore, if your content is hosted through your company website, a well-constructed blog which follows the principals of SEO such as linking to reputable sources can improve your business’ search engine ranking (Feairheller, 2016).
If your content becomes popular enough over time, there is also the potential to build an online community of regular readers comprised of your target demographic (Faraj et al., 2011); a recurring opportunity to acquire clients, so long as the content is of high quality. One method of building a visible online community would be to encourage readers to post their opinions, as research suggests that up to 90% of online community participants are ‘lurkers’; those who read content but do not post themselves (Hartmann, Wiertz and Arnould, 2015).
Additionally, digital content marketing is an inbound marketing technique which can be utilised as a useful tool for achieving and sustaining trusted brand status (Holliman and Rowley, 2014); this is imperative within the financial service industry whereby trust is key to long-term success (Garrett-Cox, 2014 and Nilsson, 2013). However, it is important to bear in mind that content must be consistently accurate when applying this theory to the financial services industry, as a lack of diligence when creating and distributing content could cause unnecessary reputational damage if the information is found to be incorrect.
Sharing such knowledge can also be beneficial to both the industry and society at large, as people who seek this information will become more knowledgeable of the services on offer.
What should we blog about?
This matrix displays the suggested types of content that businesses can create in order to cater for different audiences. Due to the fact that financial service clients tend to be financially rational and in need of sound information regarding investments, trends etc., it is likely that creating content based on the bottom-left quadrant is a good place to start your blog and generate leads. However, it is important to remain open minded and merely employ this infographic as a guideline rather than limiting your ideas to its components. As many financial advisors offer an introductory meeting whereby questions are explained to prospective clients, a blog which is informative and authoritative can encourage readers to ask for an initial meeting whereby their personal queries can be discussed; leading to more potential to earn all-important trust and customer acquisition.
When creating digital content with the goal of acquiring customers, it is important to ensure that is it useful, relevant, compelling and timely (Holliman and Rowley, 2014). In a fast paced industry such as financial services where laws, regulations and fluctuations can have a large impact on clients, these elements can be exploited even further to create truly valuable content. For example, if a new regulation was implemented which affected investments within a particular industry, a blog post explaining the nature of the regulation and the effects that it may have on investments could prove particularly popular. This can be used to drive visitors to your site if you combine the effective communication of benefits to potential clients with a salient call to action to link them to your website. However, marketers stress the importance of projecting yourself as a ‘helper’ through your blog rather than a salesperson if customers are to be acquired through digital content creation (Pulizzi, 2012).
Drawbacks for consideration
Despite the numerous potential customer acquisition benefits of running a successful blog, there are also drawbacks which need to be carefully considered.
- Time – writing content which is consistently engaging requires time. A blog which has not been updated in a long time can have the opposite of the desired effect and deter customers from contacting your business. Prior to blogging, ensure that you are able to commit the required time.
- Measurement of value/cost – due to the intangible nature of some of the components that make up a blog, many companies struggle to calculate the value of content marketing, as is shown in the chart below. Bateman (2017) breaks down the costs of blogging into calculable segments in order to evaluate ROI (Return on Investments), and explains that content marketing can be very costly with all elements considered; particularly if it is not expediting client acquisition.
- Poor blogging – As Holliman and Rowley (2014) suggested, an insightful, engrossing and well thought-out blog can produce numerous reputational benefits for a brand. Conversely, a blog which appears to have been rushed, ill-considered and/or poorly written can give participants a negative view of both your brand and personal expertise; thus having the opposite of the desired effect of acquiring clientele and fostering relationships with them.
All things considered, it is important for businesses to carefully assess the pros, cons and costs of blogging prior to engaging so as to ensure that you are not proverbially ‘biting off more than you can chew’ and risking your business’ reputation.
For those interested in delving deeper into the concept of blogging for customer acquisition, I have compiled a few links below. As always, comments and opinions are appreciated. @SpeirsTom1994.
Advisor Websites. (2011). The Impact of Blogging for Financial Advisors on Their Website Traffic. Available: http://advisorwebsites.com/blog/social-media/the-impact-of-blogging-for-financial-advisors-on-their-website-traffic/ Last accessed 5th Apr 2017.
Bateman, S. (2017). A blueprint for evaluating content marketing ROI. Available: http://www.smartinsights.com/content-management/content-marketing-strategy/blueprint-evaluating-content-marketing-roi/. Last accessed 9th Apr 2017.
Bosomworth, D. (2014). The Content Marketing Matrix. Available: http://www.smartinsights.com/content-management/content-marketing-strategy/the-content-marketing-matrix-new-infographic/ Last accessed 8th Apr 2017.
Faraj, S., Jarvenpaa, S.L. and Majchrzak, A., (2011). Knowledge collaboration in online communities. Organization science, 22(5), pp.1224-1239.
Feairheller, C. (2016). Blogging for SEO: How to Write Blogs that Rank on Page One. Available: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/blogging-for-seo#sm.00001tzi4gmp5jflwx81cs9nace4i. Last accessed 7th Apr 2017.
Garrett-Cox, K. (2014). Trust: an essential word in financial services. Available: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/finance/investments/10624799/trust-financial-services.html. Last accessed 8th Apr 2017.
Hartmann, B.J., Wiertz, C. and Arnould, E.J., (2015). Exploring Consumptive Moments of Value‐Creating Practice in Online Community. Psychology & Marketing, 32(3), pp.319-340.
Holliman, G. and Rowley, J., (2014). Business to business digital content marketing: marketers’ perceptions of best practice. Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing, 8(4), pp.269-293.
McDermott, P. (2015). 3 Customer Acquisition Strategies for Financial Planners. Available: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/3-customer-acquisition-strategies-financial-planners-peg-mcdermott. Last accessed 5th Apr 2017.
Nilsson, J. (2013). The Importance of Trust in the Financial Services Sector. Available: https://www.brandwatch.com/blog/the-importance-of-trust-in-the-financial-services/ Last accessed 8th Apr 2017.
Pulizzi, J., (2012). The rise of storytelling as the new marketing. Publishing research quarterly, 28(2), pp.116-123.
Veenswyk, M. (2013). Why has the financial services sector been slow to adopt social?. Available: https://econsultancy.com/blog/62215-why-has-the-financial-services-sector-been-slow-to-adopt-social/ Last accessed 5th Apr 2017.