Using content to grow mindshare and earn business in financial services

Using content to grow mindshare and earn business in financial services

Recently, the Financial Communications Society (FCS) Young Members Circle hosted a webinar titled Enhancing Engagement with Content Marketing. The webinar was moderated by Tim Rickards, Hearsay’s Director of Social and Content Strategy, and featured the following panelists:

Elizabeth Coleman-Chen

Head of Strategic Content Marketing at Morgan Stanley Investment Management

Michael Gannon

Head of Enterprise Marketing at Equitable

Petra Hailu

Senior Content Marketing Consultant at LinkedIn

Panelists answered key questions about the role content plays in their organization’s marketing, each from a unique perspective: 

  • Elizabeth leads marketing efforts in two verticals within a large firm
  • Michael manages marketing at an established but newly refreshed financial services brand
  • Petra helps firms, agents, and advisors leverage LinkedIn as a relationship-building tool

Top key takeaways:

  • Human and emotive content will continue to be relevant and perform in turbulent market environments, especially when communicating complex topics.
  • Bite-size, short-form, and consistent messages will help brands stand out in a crowded space populated with short attention spans. 
  • Financial firms need to embrace authentic, human content in the social space to be timely and build a strong reputation with prospects and clients, particularly younger generations.
  • Brand awareness and demand generation both have an important role to play within the content marketing ecosystem.
  • Relevancy is key – whether it’s understanding where your customer is in their journey or testing localization tactics 

Now to dig a bit deeper, here’s a summary of the panel’s discussion. 

How do you use content within your organization’s marketing efforts?

Morgan Stanley uses content to develop brand awareness and consistency and facilitate sales. Elizabeth says, “One of the things we think is most important is facilitating dialogue for sales. [Content] is a way for them to reach new audiences.” To support these efforts, Elizabeth and her team focus on providing educational rather than promotional content. They also use content as a feedback mechanism; analyzing engagement to learn what’s resonating helps strengthen their brand. 

Equitable uses targeted educational content as an extension of agent and advisor-led financial planning and advice. Michael says, “We create things our advisors can and want to use with their clients from the prospecting stage to meetings to nurture. [Talking about product] isn’t content’s role; that’s the advisor's role.” The team also organizes content by life stage and wealth stage to make it easy for agents and advisors to find the most relevant assets. 

On LinkedIn, Petra encourages agents and advisors to use content to build “mental availability”; that is, enhance share of mind to increase brand recall in buying situations.  

What are some of the best content strategies you’ve uncovered? 

Morgan Stanley has found the best business outcomes are born out of diverse voices, and Elizabeth found the same to apply to content. Content that appeals to different types of learners— analytical, word-driven, and visual—as well as to those who crave emotional connections,  works best.  By breaking up copy with graphics, using charts and graphs where relevant, and tying in titles and headers that tug at emotions, her team creates inclusive content across social, digital, and brand assets. 

Equitable recently invested in a documentary-style video series for advisors. Each video allowed individuals to share in their own words why they joined the profession, how they serve clients, and what kind of impact they hope to have on their community. Personalized yet focused, these videos serve as fantastic brand stories and bring a human element to marketing. As an added bonus, they also helped the internal Equitable team align on core values and objectives.

On LinkedIn, Petra cautions agents and advisors to minimize the amount of focus they put on lower-funnel content–that is, content focused on transactions or product information. In-house research suggests that only 5% of buyers are in-market at any given time, so an agent or advisor's role on LinkedIn should be to provide engaging, educational, interesting content that resonates with potential customers. Petra says, “Don’t miss the opportunity to nurture out-of-market buyers, so you’re top of mind when they move into that 5%.” 

How do you measure content success?

To see the big picture, Morgan Stanley uses a blend of qualitative relationship status reporting and digital metrics. Elizabeth says, "We spend a lot of time educating our salesforce about the content we're creating, letting them know when we're planning for it to come out so they understand the cadence and can plan when to feed it to compliance." Their sales teams find content particularly helpful when a conversation has stalled. Leveraging assets relevant to a particular prospect's pain point helps move conversations to the next stage.

Morgan Stanley also relies on consumer behavior analytics to inform future content decisions. Is a prospect reading through an entire article? Did they click on a related article? Are they visiting bio pages on the website or watching a video? These details provide insight into the best follow-up approach based on a prospect's priorities and preferences.

Having recently refreshed its brand, Equitable measures success based on what content is doing for the brand's position in the market. Overall, they found high-level advertising increases awareness, while content influences consumers' opinion of the brand and defines what they can expect.

LinkedIn looks at content effectiveness across the customer journey, evaluating effectiveness at the top, middle, and bottom of the conversion funnel. Top-of-funnel content is measured based on its ability to improve reach; middle-of-funnel content success is based on its ability to help financial services experts gain traction as an expert in their field, and bottom-of-funnel content success is marked by an intent-to-buy action. 

What’s next for content marketing in the financial services space?

Elizabeth at Morgan Stanley says, “People are so distracted; that’s our biggest challenge.” She explains that the best practice used to be repeating a message three times, but studies now show that people require seven to 10 repetitions to retain information. So how do you achieve that?

Elizabeth suggests creating constellations of content. To do so, take one meaty piece, then create derivative content that breaks it down and repeats your overall messaging. This allows you to get to that 7-10 repetitions without continually promoting the exact same piece of content. Content that repeats messaging without feeling duplicative is critical to building familiarity and loyalty. 

Equitable is focused on using the latest technology to simplify the process of planning and distributing social content. Mike also encourages agents and advisors to get comfortable with the concept of not aiming for perfection, as the most successful content today is human.

On LinkedIn, financial trends include focusing on localization and on serializing content by chopping it up into digestible pieces. Petra encourages catering content to audience segments. Gen Z is behaviorally very different in regards to how they relate to content. They want interactive content and are heavily invested in ESG and creating equitable futures. She also encourages being human and using humor and compassion to signal understanding of the audience's pain points. “Show up in a holistic manner,” she says.

The big takeaway

Content should be used to support relationship building, and it’s a long game. Each panel member stressed the importance of not getting too married to leads and demand generation, especially in the early stages of implementing a content strategy. Above all else, focus on the big picture and be human, relevant, helpful, and consistent. If you follow this formula, the rest will come.

Jessica Cates
Jessica is a content creator and strategist dedicated to publishing engaging content across Hearsay's corporate channels. The Gilbert, Arizona-based mom of two loves to tackle a blinking cursor on a blank page – and as a former Nebraskan, is totally down with the southwest's interpretation of winter.

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