Case Story: How RBC Successfully Scaled Content Across 22 Teams
Contently Case Stories is a series highlighting some of Contently’s most successful clients.
Marketers love to talk about scale. Brands that scale seem successful because their output is growing. And why would a company invest more money in something that wasn’t successful? Well, it turns out that happens more than you’d expect.
According to Forrester, 60 percent of buyers think their vendors give them too much material. On top of that, 54 percent of buyers believe much of the content they receive is useless. If you add in the fact that 80 percent of marketing assets are not used by salespeople, the picture becomes ever clearer. Every company wants to scale, but that doesn’t mean every company is scaling the right way.
When Royal Bank of Canada decided to invest in content marketing, it knew that scaling at the right pace would be crucial. As one of the largest financial institutions in the world, RBC serves millions of customers, employs more than 80,000 people, and earned more than $11.5 billion in new income last year. To make sure it was set up for long-term success, the marketing team took a methodical approach when developing a content strategy.
“We needed to make sure there was a consistent flow of content,” said Caroline Paxton, senior director of social media, content & strategic initiatives for RBC. “When it comes to competing for attention, we’re really competing against all media organizations, whether it’s national newspapers, the BuzzFeeds of the world, etc.”
At first, RBC started with a modest goal: have each division publish one piece of content per week. Over time, however, RBC has grown that pilot program into one of the most prolific content marketing operations around. As of 2018, 22 divisions, lines of business, and teams create content, all of it driving toward a cohesive strategy that ties the brand together.
For such a large enterprise business, the logistics of that system can be overwhelming. So how did RBC figure out how to scale while so many other brands are still struggling with the challenge?
The starting point
When RBC initially partnered with Contently, in 2016, the brand made a key decision before jumping into the creative process: It decided to conduct a content audit.
With the help of a content strategist, RBC gathered all its existing content and marketing assets to identify any trends and use the information as a guide for its strategy. After crunching the data, one takeaway stood out from the rest. While only 19 percent of what RBC had in market was top funnel, and 27 percent fell in the middle of the funnel, more than half of all content was classified as bottom funnel.
The top two rungs of the funnel encompassed news, stories, and utility tools like a mortgage payment calculator. The bottom of the funnel is where brands make offers for acquisition. In other words, RBC had a huge opportunity to educate and entertain consumers before promoting its products.
“We like to use the analogy: Rather than going straight to marriage, how do we go on a date first and guide you along the path?” Paxton said. “Let’s not throw that acquisition offer at you right away.”
After establishing a new mission to have a better balance across the funnel, the brand was ready to bolster Discover & Learn, its central hub for top-of-funnel content. RBC’s personal and commercial banking division was the first to start creating content through the Contently platform. Over time, many other groups joined, including, Insurance, wealth management, and even RBCxMusic, a platform that connects Canadian music fans with music experiences.
“Rather than going straight to marriage, how do we go on a date first and guide you along the path?”
Every time a new department joined, it was responsible for defining its own audience as well as producing and distributing its own content. That data-driven strategy helped RBC grow at a steady pace since new departments had their own goals that laddered up to corporate goals. Today, the blog is full of stories that cover everything from retirement advice and business news to home ownership tips and education reports.
“Quality and quantity are equally important to us,” Paxton said. “Across the organization, there was interest in leveraging the Contently platform to augment, expand, or continue with existing content strategies.”
Even as the program scaled, the execution led to some impressive results. Today, users have an average engagement rate of 81 percent with RBC’s content, which is 10 percent better than the standard for finance companies. While more users are engaging with the content, they are also reading more of it. RBC has an average finish rate of 71 percent in comparison to an industry average of 56 percent.
Not only did RBC’s content marketing resonate with an external audience, it also had a major impact on the internal employees as well. Getting buy-in was painless once decision-makers saw how these departments could operate more efficiently.
With story ideas coming from the marketing team, the product team, and a number of other places, optimizing the content review process was the final piece of the puzzle. During the rollout of significantly more top-funnel content, RBC identified the need to develop a streamlined legal review process that ensured they could publish more frequently across all lines of business.
“We were very clear about what constitutes top-, middle-, and bottom-funnel content,” Paxton explained. “So everyone understood that the Discover & Learn platform’s strategic focus was to feature top-funnel content rather than push product messaging.”
Perhaps most importantly, they worked out a way for a single member of the legal team to review all content for the sake of familiarity. The move was easy to make, since RBC could integrate that person right away using Contently’s custom workflow feature. Over time the legal and marketing teams worked together to outline a system that helped eliminate hours of gridlock for each individual piece of content. They created a document full of key “watch-outs” that the content creators could reference regardless of the subject matter.
The simplified review process paid big dividends. In some cases, it used to take weeks for RBC to take its content live. Now, some teams can create content at the speed of news, publishing stories within a day or two.
Lastly, to make sure content always serves a purpose, departments started answering a simple question before proceeding: What’s the driving force behind a story? Teams have been tasked with mapping content for the customer journey, linking articles together in a way that supports the business. As a result, RBC has managed to scale with a purpose, connecting news to tools and expert advice before ending with product offers.
“Content marketing has become table stakes. It’s much easier to convince other groups that there are benefits. The real challenge now is how do you execute it?” Paxton said. “Contently really allows all of these groups to share content across platforms. That’s already happened, and I think there are more opportunities for it in the future.”Image by iStockPhoto