The following is an excerpt from Contently’s latest e-book, “On the Money: How 5 Finance Brands Build Loyal Audiences by Investing in High-Quality Content.” To get the free e-book, fill out the download form at the bottom of this article.
Canada-based Sun Life Financial had some hype to live up to as soon as they launched their lifestyle and money management platform Brighter Life in 2011. At the time, the Financial Post immediately called Brighter Life “worth taking note of—particularly if you’re an executive developing corporate blogs, web sites and trying to develop a social media strategy.”
Since then, Brighter Life has risen to the occasion. According to the Content Marketing Institute, within nine months more than 620,000 pages of content were consumed on the blog, which helped the platform convert approximately 4 percent of traffic to leads and garner more than 8,700 click-throughs to SunLife.ca—exactly the impact the brand was aiming for.
As Brenda Spiering, manager of content strategy at Sun Life Financial and editor for BrighterLife.ca, put it: “Brighter Life was launched as a way to reach consumers where they are, searching for information online before they may have even considered Sun Life or are aware that their needs may be met by a financial product.”
Starting with quality
Early on, Brighter Life shaped itself as a resource by focusing on useful tips and tools about money, health, family, working life, and retirement. Sun Life made sure their content served consumers, not the company’s bottom line.
“Consumers are quick to dismiss content that’s little more than thinly veiled sales messaging,” Spiering said. “Brighter Life articles do not discuss Sun Life-branded products and services. Instead, the site looks to engage consumers with content that’s credible, unbiased, written in plain language, and free of marketing tactics.”
For lifestyle content like “Five Fun Ways to Get Your Family Fit,” it’s a bit easier to steer clear of a marketing agenda. But even for their investment content such as “How Will Bank of Canada Rate Cut Affect Consumers?,” Sun Life avoids mentioning any of their financial products. These kinds of articles smartly stick to general advice about how consumers will be affected by the financial news of the day.
Once that editorial model was put in place, Sun Life continued to invest in content as it rolled out a French-language edition for Quebec in 2011 called Simplement Brillant, before launching custom platforms in Indonesia in 2012 and the Philippines in 2013. Each platform has its own editorial team tasked with developing content for its region.
And as Spiering pointed out, even shared content is “carefully adapted to ensure the nuances of the language and the cultural references work for their specific audience group.”
Paid content distribution
No matter how refreshingly unbiased content might be, for a brand to grow a sizable audience, people still need to know it exists. When Sun Life started publishing their work, they were buoyed by an advertising campaign that included paid search, ads on popular publications, and targeted ad buys for Facebook sponsored posts.
But even though that strategy worked well in the beginning, Spiering explained it had to evolve as the blog continued to thrive.
Now that Bright Life has a loyal readership and large followings on social media, it has since decreased its paid distribution, which can be expensive and lead to inconsistent traffic. Today, with more than 155,000 Facebook followers across the four international platforms, Brighter Life’s social network is its most powerful audience-building tool.
“As our social media followers and newsletter subscribers have grown,” Spiering said, “we’ve gradually reduced our paid content activation strategies and focused more on activation efforts across our own Sun Life web platforms.”
Those efforts include integrating links to Brighter Life content on both the Sun Life homepage and plan member community site as well as working with business partners to share targeted Brighter Life content.
Leveraging content as an internal tool
While reeling in consumers may be crucial to Brighter Life’s overall content strategy, that doesn’t mean the brand is limiting its audience growth only to potential customers. Sun Life has started to leverage their financial advisors as promoters of the platform, using content to educate and engage their existing clients.
When a particular article relates to a client’s needs, Sun Life advisors now reach out with a direct link or send timely and relevant content to everyone on their email lists and social channels. Sun Life even rolled out a tool to automatically add advisor contact information to Brighter Life pages after an article gets shared. So while the advisors aren’t penning guest posts themselves, they are helping create a culture of content, which is a smart move for any company that wants to seriously transform their marketing from top to bottom.
Banking on content takes support from executives, and any company actively working to get more employees involved in the marketing strategy, regardless of their editorial experience, knows what they’re doing. And for Sun Life Financial, it’s clear they’ve known what to do every step of the way.
For more case studies like this and an overview of the latest trends in finance content marketing, download “On the Money: How 5 Finance Brands Build Loyal Audiences by Investing in High-Quality Content” below.