How Finance Execs Measure the ROI of Content Marketing

Financial firms are willing to spend a lot to reach people where they are. That’s because over time, those people can be worth a lot.

But if there’s one thing finance managers don’t want to do, it’s waste money.

Making sure marketing efforts pay off can be a challenge, given the competing metrics, an array of screens to consider, shifting consumption patterns, generational gaps, and new digital channels constantly arising.

At LinkedIn’s FinanceConnect conference in New York this month, executives from the likes of Oppenheimer, JP Morgan Chase, and AXA—as well as marketing and media companies—gave a hard look into ways they drive ROI by tying their content to specific results.

(Full Disclosure: JP Morgan Chase is a Contently client.)

Define goals and map to them

Marketers unabashedly love generating pageviews, social shares, likes, and other indicators of attention. It takes some work, though, to figure out whether being popular also contributes to the bottom line.

“It’s a long game … building that relationship with your consumers,” financial services media strategist Rod Kurtz said.

Before getting overly excited about the simple metrics such as inbound traffic, session times, or newsletter signups, institutions are taking steps to understand how those metrics can indicate that more revenue is on the way.

A financial firm may have to study, for example, whether a higher proportion of people who sign up for newsletters become customers than other folks, or whether those who sign up use more of the firms’ financial products.

If the answer is “yes,” then it makes sense to try to cost-effectively generate as many newsletter signups as possible in target communities.

A sophisticated marketer will also test different designs, language, and layouts, and run them against a control group. They can dig deeper to see if clickthroughs and newsletter-generated phone calls lead not only to inquiries, but also additional sales.

Done well, and iterated over time, the effort will pay off. The expense—the cost of creating and managing social and digital media efforts—will remain relatively stable, but as effectiveness increases, so will revenue.

David Edelman, a partner at the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., said that by evaluating “the steps somebody takes to give a crappy evaluation,” a client was able to “create a map” of touch points—website, emails, branch visits—and improve customer satisfaction.

Track, dammit

A surprising number of efforts in social media, blogs, and elsewhere are measured crudely—or not at all.

Yes, web analytics can say how many referrals came from Twitter or Facebook, but how much more can be learned? Experts at the conference advocated adding tracking codes on social posts to measure what works for specific customer segments. Looking more deeply at session times, pages or videos viewed per visit, repeat visits, and other loyalty measures also help, especially if they can be mapped to goals, as noted above.

It’s also crucial to create taxonomies and tag content so that it can not only be accessed and elevated quickly for people trying to find it, but also parsed and categorized in measurement tools to create more full pictures of who is consuming content, and how.

One executive told me how his bank provides content to other financial institutions in geographies where they don’t operate. His bank then gets a percentage of the presumed value of new customers, if their signup can be traced back in some way to that content.

The executive’s team puts pixels (images or code that are invisible to the human eye) in their articles so the bank can then track people who access them. That way, when readers do take an action, his bank is more likely to know.

Facebook recently introduced tracking pixels to help companies understand whether a clickthrough they’re getting from a post on the platform leads to a conversation event like filling out a form, signing up for a newsletter, or clicking to receive a call.

While this kind of categorization helps any content manager, it’s especially crucial for financial firms, which often offer a multiplicity of complex financial products addressing very different needs—and whose content requires careful vetting and organization before being presented to customers.

And sometimes, the data individuals share can provide great clues for financial institutions.

“Train advisors to focus on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter,” said Frédéric Tardy, chief marketing and distribution officer at AXA. When someone updates their profile and shows that they’ve “moved from company A to company B” that alone can indicate they’re ready for some financial help, he said.

Not just numbers

Not every media effort of course leads to a direct sale, or has to. Sometimes the goal is simply to create brand awareness or impart a sense that a bank shares values, or is “cool” or fun.

Transamerica hired an artists’ collective named Mr. GIF to travel throughout the U.S. and tell visual stories on the bank’s Tumblr about positive community efforts in promoting diversity.

The bank was happy to see increased traffic and positive comments and show that it stood by values it promotes, executive Allan Gungormez told me. Sometimes that’s the simple return on investment you’re looking for. You just have to know your goals.


Image by Sergey Nivens

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