ROI

Finance Marketers Explain How to Capture a High-Value Audience

In 2013, a media corporation told the story of a fearless optimist who treks through an icy winter to free the kingdom trapped under her sister’s powers. The story inspired a generation of loyal toddlers (and their parents) and resulted in a $1.2 billion franchise that bumped the corporation’s first-quarter earnings 13 percent.

The corporation, of course, is Walt Disney—and the story is Frozen. But for our sake, the moral here is not about how to use friendship and bravery to overcome obstacles. Frozen is an example of how the right kind of story can attract the right kind of audience.

In 2016, financial companies understand that this strategy is not reserved for media giants. For Disney, audience success is a toddler belting out “Let It Go” in an Elsa tiara. For a financial investor, it’s getting a millennial to open a Roth IRA. In both cases, creating a storytelling program to nurture a high-value audience enhances brand engagement and creates a lasting exchange.

At the Contently Executive Finance Summit in New York City, marketers from three leading financial services brands set out to address this industry-wide challenge in the panel “How to Cultivate a High-Value Audience.” The panelists used their own experiences to provide tangible solutions for the best ways to build, nurture, and staff a lucrative content program.

Feed the mid-funnel pipeline

Top-funnel content is an important part of the conversation between enterprise and audience. It inspires awareness and keeps brands top of mind. Yet in a marketplace as competitive as financial services, anyone can start the conversation. The challenge is maintaining it.

How do financial brands move their potential buyers further along the customer journey?

For Corey Kaczmarek, a marketing analyst at Humana, a health insurance company, the solution lies in investing in deeper mid-funnel stories. “Two years ago, this was called thought leadership,” she said. “Today, it’s called content marketing.”

Jennifer Grazel, LinkedIn’s director of vertical marketing, echoed this sentiment, advising brands not to become too attached to vanity metrics. “At the end of the day, it’s not about [top-funnel] shares,” Grazel said. “It’s about being informative and inspirational.”

Create a framework

Sages don’t reveal nuggets of wisdom in isolation. Instead, each lesson should fit under a larger umbrella of knowledge. Similarly, strategic content marketing brings together various pieces of content to tell a larger story about a brand and its services.

“Don’t look at individual pieces of content,” Kaczmarek said. “Ask yourself, what’s the overarching story we want to tell? Then assemble it in a way that will be meaningful for the audience.”

Focusing on audience needs will not only guide the storytelling framework, but help make each individual more strategic. “Two pieces of content may cost the same to produce, but only one will be your warhorse.”

Developing a unified framework is particularly important in the financial services industry, where enterprise companies target diverse audience who have needs that continually evolve.

For Eugene Colter, head of strategic messaging and content at BlackRock, this often means addressing both the present and the future. “How can we do things to speak to my clients ten years from now?” Colter asked. “I have to find the budget to invest in that conversation.”

Balance data with creativity

Technology can simplify the editorial process, but storytelling is—and will remain—a people-centric practice. While each panelist had a slightly different idea of the perfect hire, they all emphasized the importance of fueling the storytelling machine with people who are able to use creativity to fulfill business goals.

Colter was careful to note that while effective content marketing involves people, data still plays an essential part in BlackRock’s marketing. “Content production is not a democracy. It’s more of a benevolent dictatorship,” Colter joked. “We should ask executives what they want, but [decision-making] is about A/B testing.”

“We’re looking for natural storytellers,” Kaczmarek concluded. “Natural curiosity is going to keep us sharp, and ultimately, keep us here.”

Image by Diane555/ Getty
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