Brands

A Transforming World: How Merrill Lynch Wins by Arming Its Financial Advisors With Great Content

By Natalie Burg May 5th, 2015

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.

A wave of finance brand publishers is rising in the marketing world right now, and those riding at the top have one thing in common: A focus on publishing content that people can use to make smarter decisions. This trend is epitomized by Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s two-year-old publication, A Transforming World, which contains insightful content on five investment themes—people, innovation, markets, government, and Earth—with that very concept in mind.

“[A Transforming World] is really about providing content to our clients that describes how what’s happening in world around them might be impacting their investment strategy,” said Bob Mirales of Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “Rather than read a dry research report on something to get some insight, you might need someone with more expertise to help unravel it.”

Advisor action

Fortunately, clients always have an expert within reach if something isn’t clear at first: their financial advisor, or FA. Joseph Corriero, Merrill Lynch’s director and head of digital marketing for its Global Wealth and Investment division, told Direct Marketing News that FAs are at the heart of everything the company does and have become one of the most important delivery channels for A Transforming World, similar to how other companies send salespeople into the field armed with white papers and other content to educate prospective customers.

“We now have FAs send out emails on any particular piece of content they’re interested in sharing with a client,” Mirales said. On top of that, Bank of America Merrill Lynch gave advisors unique content privileges. With certain articles, they can access an “advisor side” that’s only available internally, which includes additional information on the topic and helps the FAs provide more insight to the client.

One of the key tenets of successful content marketing is the ability to give your audience content they can’t get from competitors. Not enough brands use exclusivity to their advantage. But for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, this exclusive content not only allows for FAs to quickly connect with a ready-and-waiting audience, but it also gives them the opportunity to explore the site and become loyal readers on their own.

Covering all the bases, all the time

When A Transforming World went live in 2013, it was built as a place that could complement the company’s existing content platforms, such as Merrill Lynch Edge.

“The Global Fight Against Obesity,” for example, appears as just a video within a webcast library on Edge. But on A Transforming World, the video is accompanied by a transcript and text. With this system is place, the many divisions of Merrill Lynch can tweak A Transforming World content for their unique needs.

“The strategy is to have really deep curriculum so we can align with the conversation that is going on,” Mirales said.

In an interview with Direct Marketing News, John von Brachel, Merrill Lynch’s director of content and publications for its global wealth and investment division, gave a concrete example of how this plan plays out. The blog will prepare a piece of content about, say, gold fluctuations before the topic is newsworthy. Then, if gold starts trending on Twitter, Merrill Lynch can send out a link to their piece and offer insight on the topic before others have time to publish.

A lot of brands want to publish at the speed of news, but for a huge company like Bank of America Merrill Lynch, there are going to be certain compliance checkpoints that content creators can’t bypass. But as Mirales and Brachel have shown, just because a company is large doesn’t mean it can’t be nimble and ambitious with its content marketing efforts. The lesson here: Plan what you want to publish in advance. With a lot of foresight and a little luck, brands can stay relevant regardless of the situation.

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.

Image by Elnur