3 Cool LinkedIn Features to Help Content Marketing

PropelGrowth Blog - Financial Services Marketing and Content Strategy

LinkedIn tips to make your content marketing strategy sparkle.

Recently author, speaker and Head of Strategy at King Content, Todd Wheatland (@ToddWheatland) gave a great presentation on LinkedIn and SlideShare hacks at the Content Marketing World Conference 2014. In it, he provided several smart tips for getting real business results from LinkedIn. Here is a recap of some of the things Todd discussed along with our recommendations on how you can use LinkedIn to support your content marketing program.

1. LinkedIn Publishing

In the not so distant past, LinkedIn Influencers were the only ones who were able to publish content on LinkedIn, but now, publishing content is an option for all users. Simply go to your profile homepage, click the small pencil icon at the top right of your screen and begin crafting your post.

For marketers, this offers a great opportunity to gain greater exposure to your target audience. When using the tool, as soon as you publish, all of your connections are notified. Plus, once you create your post, it will automatically be positioned at the top of your profile page. If you publish quality content regularly, you’ll have the ability to keep your brand and messaging fresh in your followers’ minds.  Another great thing is that you have the option to include links for driving readers back to your website.

Keep your brand top of mind with your network by publishing on LinkedInIn his presentation, Todd warned that one unfortunate downside of publishing on LinkedIn is that so-called “comment trolls” can be quite outspoken, leaving ill-mannered remarks that may drag down your company’s image. To avoid this, you need to be vigilant about monitoring your profile page, weeding out comments that add no value.

Recently LinkedIn changed the way posts are viewed on their site to be more like Pulse. Now, when someone clicks a link to read your post, it sits at the top of a virtually endless list of other unrelated articles on Pulse. The left sidebar is full of thumbnails and article snippets. This shortens attention spans and virtually guarantees that your reader will be distracted. So include links and calls to action to encourage them to visit your site in the middle of the article, while you still have their attention. If you wait to the end, LinkedIn is already trying to lure them to the next article.

Now that publishing is open to all users, the amount of superfluous content floating around is undoubtedly going to rise exponentially. Keep this in mind when you publish on this platform. Make sure that your content is interesting and addresses real business needs or questions. Content that is thinly-veiled sales propaganda is likely to go ignored – or worse yet, it could irritate people.

2. LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn Groups are online forums where professionals in the same industry or with similar interests can engage in discussions, ask and answer questions, share content, post and view jobs, make business contacts, and establish themselves as industry experts.

LinkedIn Groups are a great way to extend your brand's influence and thought leadership.

Participating in a Group: Participating in groups is a great way to expand your reach and influence. When choosing a group to target for participation, be selective. Consider the topics being discussed, the group membership, and the activity.

You can determine how active a given group page is by checking its statistics. Disqualify groups with a high discussion to comment ratio. For example, in the image to the right, you can see that this group had 128 new discussions started in the week, but they got only 96 comments. That means that many discussions have no comments at all. This is an indication that the members of the group are simply posting links to their blog post, with the intention of advertising their content rather than engaging in discussions. It’s unlikely that your discussion will gain much traction in a group like this.

You can find out this information by clicking the italicized “i” at the top right of a group’s page. There, you’ll see a tab for “Activity,” which will quantify the number of discussions versus comments.

Running a Group: Creating your own group for sharing insightful content is a great way to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry. Click here for tips on starting a group.

If you do opt to start a group, you’ll be pleased to find that LinkedIn offers strong database management and controls, as well as the ability to manually choose the discussions you wish to promote each week. But bear in mind that you’ll need to be consistently active in your group by starting discussions, commenting on discussions from other members, sharing relevant content and moderating comments posted by your members.

Todd mentioned a little known fact about group management. Apparently, well-moderated groups trigger LinkedIn’s algorithm to start promoting that group. So there is direct incentive for group leaders to stay on top of their group activity.

Kapost created a group called “Content Marketing Academy“. This is a great example of a well-managed group.  They have more than 14,500 group members and their comment to discussion ratio is very high. They’ve likely accomplished this through posting thought-provoking discussion points regularly and avoiding blatant advertising.

3. Company and Showcase Pages

Value of a Company Page: LinkedIn Company pages can help businesses build an online presence and drive engagement.  A company page is essentially a general homepage where you can include an overview of your business, a brief description of what makes it unique, and important visual elements such as your logo and banner. On this page, you can share content through updates that include your blog posts and other content you think your target audience will value. Click here for information on creating a company page.

To quickly build up your fan-base, encourage your employees to start following your company on LinkedIn.  They’ll be able to share your updates with all of their contacts, thereby increasing your marketing reach exponentially.

Keep in mind that company pages are most effective when you regularly share updates. On average, the most successful users on LinkedIn are those who are publishing content four times or more per day. This includes a mix of both original company and recycled or curated content.

In Todd’s presentation at Content Marketing World, he emphasized that every time you make a post on your company page, you should also share it in a group. This will help you increase your organic reach. However, while posting quality content often is commendable, be careful not to overdo it or you’ll run the risk of people tuning you out. Here are some useful best practices for creating company updates on your page.

Value of a Showcase Page: Showcase pages are an extension of your company page and are intended to spotlight a specific aspect of your business. This is perfect for users that only want to see updates from your company that are relevant to their direct area of interest. For example, some FinTech companies’ product suites are very broad. They might offer different products for various asset classes or type of industry participant under the same brand name. Setting up specific showcase pages for each of these niches is a good way to keep customers and prospects plugged into the aspect of your brand that is relevant to them. Microsoft is an example of a company with several well-managed showcases pages with good followings.

To be Continued…

Don’t miss part two of this special LinkedIn blog series coming soon. If you like what you’ve read, please subscribe to our blog. We publish articles weekly on marketing strategy, tactics, and financial services technology topics.

Complying With Global Anti-Spam Laws

PropelGrowth Blog - Financial Services Marketing and Content Strategy

Complying with the global anti-spam laws is not an option for email marketers. Find out more.

Email marketers must be cautious to comply with anti-spam laws, but this is not always a simple process given that these laws vary by country.

Below we’ve compiled some general information concerning anti-spam laws by region. We’ve also included some links to resources where you can find more detailed information about the laws. Next week, we’ll go into more detail about the meaning of the term “implied consent.”

Asia

In Asia, the anti-spam laws differ by region.  For example, Singapore’s Spam Control Act of 2007 is based on an opt-out model where businesses are permitted to send consumers an email message without their permission. However, each email needs to give individuals the option to opt-out, or be able to stop receiving the communications if they desire. Australian marketers need to indicate in their subject lines if their messages are unsolicited. For further insight on Asia’s anti-spam laws, it’s best to look up the rules for each country where you plan to send email.

Australia

Australia’s Spam Act of 2003 prohibits marketers from sending unsolicited commercial email messages to their audience using an Australian link. To clarify, a “commercial” email is a promotional message where you are selling any goods or services or promoting your business or an organization. In Australia, emails can be sent based on either express or inferred consent. Express consent means that the recipient directly opted in to receiving an email from a specific business.  Inferred consent means that the recipient signed up to receive emails from one company, and therefore it’s inferred that he or she may be interested in that company’s partners or affiliates. So the affiliates are also permitted to send the recipient email. Find more information on Australia’s spam legislation here.

Canada

In July of 2014, Canada added three new requirements to its existing Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). First, marketers need to have either express or implied consent to send a commercial email. There are very specific requirements needed to meet the conditions of “implied consent.” Second, businesses must clearly identify themselves in their email messages. Last, Canadian marketers must include an unsubscribe option in every communication they send. Canada now has some of the strictest anti-spam laws in the world. So it’s important to bone up on their regulations and make sure you’re in compliance. Here’s more information on complying with CASL.

EU

In 2003, the EU issued a Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive intended to control spam activities across the whole region. However, be careful when marketing to the EU, as some aspects of its email marketing legislation have been left up to each individual country to decide. For example, some member countries have enacted strict opt-in requirements, while others have not. Also, many EU countries differ on how they individually interpret the wording of the directive. To avoid any confusion, be sure to research the email laws of each EU country you intend to market to. Here is a related fact sheet that may help. The EU can be tricky, because in some of these countries, individuals can bring suit against other individuals for violating the SPAM laws. So use caution.

New Zealand

New Zealand’s Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act came into effect in 2007, and defines spam as any unsolicited commercial email message. The law requires senders to include accurate information about the business that is sending the email. Similar to many other regions, New Zealand requires that all promotional emails clearly outline a way for recipients to opt-out, or refuse receipt of any further communications.  Get more information about New Zealand’s anti-spam legislation.

UK

The UK has perhaps one of the strictest policies regarding email marketing, as it requires an opt-in approach. This means that no direct marketing email can legally be sent to a recipient without first obtaining that recipient’s express consent. This is however unless a pre-existing business or commercial relationship has already been established. Furthermore, an email’s opt-in option must be ‘clear and distinct’ so individuals can fully understand what they are opting into when they tick a box or provide their email address. Rules are somewhat relaxed if you are emailing a person’s work address for business purposes related to that person’s role in the company. This resource may give you further insight.

US

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 is more liberal than other countries and follows more of an opt-out approach. Under the law, businesses must identify themselves and use subject lines that accurately reflect the content of their emails. They must also provide a physical postal address of where operations are located. They must give clear direction on how recipients can opt out of future messages. Then they must honor these requests or face fines. Get more information here.

Best Practice

The best approach for a global email program is to follow the strictest rules, requiring all subscribers to “double opt-in.” This means that members of your list sign themselves up and then receive a confirmation email asking them to click a link in order to confirm their desire to opt into communications. Then, every email should contain a conspicuous method to opt out or unsubscribe. Marketers can add a subscriber to the list only with verbal or written consent – and even then, the email system should send out a confirmation email asking the recipient to click a link to subscribe.

Final Thoughts…

Lots of companies have instituted opt-in and opt-out email campaigns to scrub their list of non-compliant contacts.

I’ve seen a number of different opt-in and opt-out approaches, most of which are not particularly effective. Opt-in campaigns should be strategic, planned, targeted to specific recipient personas, and executed carefully. Review your list and segment it according to the contacts’ titles, roles, industries, departments, and how you obtained their email addresses. Then develop buyer personas that help you understand the interests of each segment. Think about the value of the content you’re planning to provide to each persona, and market that content. Help the recipient understand the value they’ll receive if they elect to opt in.

Remember, opt-outs are just as important. Proactively disqualify and remove leads that don’t represent your targets. So your opt-in campaign should also seek to help those leads self-identify and opt out.

It’s also important to manage your database carefully and scrub it frequently. Process opt-out and unsubscribe requests immediately when they’re received and make sure you remove them from all lists. Consider purging recipients without any opens or clicks in a 12-month period. By not emailing contacts who haven’t opened or clicked in the past year, you can reduce ISP complaints and gain higher reputation scores, which leads to better deliverability.

For more insight on effective email marketing, check out our related blog: How To Generate More Opt-ins With Your Email Marketing Campaign

FIX and Trading Transparency

PropelGrowth Blog - Financial Services Marketing and Content Strategy

Insights on the 2014 FIX Solution regional meeting from Candyce Edelen of PropelGrowth

Last week, the FIX Trading Community hosted a regional meeting called “Trading and Transparency – the FIX Solution.” It was focused on electronic trading execution transparency and transaction cost analysis. The speakers were:

  • Ian Domowitz, Managing Director, Head of Analytics, ITG
  • Vlad Rashkovich, Global Business Manager, Bloomberg L.P.
  • Brian Lees, AVP, Trading Application Manager, Capital Group
  • Phil Mackintosh, Head of Trading Strategy & Analysis, KCG Holdings
  • Kevin McPartland, Head of Research, Market Structure and Technology Practice, Greenwich Associates

The process of buying and selling securities incurs both explicit and implicit costs. Explicit costs include items like commissions, taxes and fees. Implicit costs are variable and are based on the effect that trading activity has on the security. Examples include costs around implementation shortfall, delay, opportunity cost, and information leakage. Transaction cost analysis (TCA) is the process for analyzing these implicit costs.

The meeting panel members discussed issues around execution and routing transparency and how to obtain the information needed to effectively analyze the true cost of execution. They covered a lot of ground. Being relatively new to this topic, I found the discussion quite interesting. Here are some of my key takeaways from the discussion. Forgive me if I sound like a TCA neophyte. It’s true…I am.

(Note:  The meeting was conducted in accordance with Chatham House Rules, which means that we can write about the content but cannot attribute quotes to any speaker or organization. Therefore, I have not identified the panelists quoted below.)

Venues are Ahead of Sell-Side Firms in Providing Transparency

Since the FIX TCA Working Group added tags to FIX messages to provide execution information, certain buy side firms have begun to gather this data via execution data from the venues. The venues varied in their speed of adding the functionality. Some were able to add the information to their FIX messages very quickly and promptly started transmitting that information with execution reports. Other exchanges, particularly those using vendor gateways and/or more complex legacy systems and took longer. One of the panelists reported that today, they’re receiving this data from about 90% of US equities venues and about 80% of the European venues. Asian venues have a different market structure, and I didn’t catch the status with these exchanges. The panelist said he’s seeing much less participation from their sell side counter parties.

Information Leakage

One of the key goals for the buy side is evaluating how much information leakage is impacting their trading results. One of the speakers commented, “If you’re on a venue routing mechanism, then you’re probably leaking information.” The speaker was talking about the issue of routing orders to brokers with the goal of getting the best price. The broker routes the order to a venue, but if the venue doesn’t have the NBBO (national best bid/offer) at the moment when it receives the order, and if the order is not set to cancel immediately, then the venue is obligated to route it to where the best price can be obtained. In this case, the market can move during the routing process, resulting in slippage and the potential for the order to bounce around between venues like a ping pong ball. The buy side has little or no insight into those routing decisions or which venue actually executed the order.

In this case, the speaker pointed out, it’s less about transparency and more about objectives. “Sometimes, it’s more important to sweep and signal less. It’s better to focus on avoiding leakage than getting the lowest price at any moment.”

Strategy Must Be Considered In Venue Analysis

The moderator reminded the group that we can’t compare venues without considering market conditions and trading strategy. He said, “We’ve generated 20 years of collective amnesia with respect to venue analysis. In the 90’s, we realized that you can’t analyze the venue without knowing something about the strategy. For example – OMX in London used to have an 80% cancellation rate. But it was because the equities exchange was linked to the options exchange, and the strategies required an execution on the options. So when you looked at the strategies being executed, the high cancellation rate made perfect sense. It’s not just a routing decision – it’s a strategy decision.”

The panel agreed. You’d never evaluate an algorithm without taking into account the market condition. You should not do it for venues or routing decisions either. The fee structure at each venue also has an impact on routing decisions. These also need to be considered when doing thorough venue analysis. I’m guessing that this is part of the issue for the buy side. Are routing decisions made because of fee and rebate structures, or because that route made the best sense for the objectives of the order?

Understanding the Impact of Market Movement

One panelist said, “When we’re trying to understand how the brokers are behaving on our behalf related to a given strategy, we’re not looking at all the routing decisions that were made. For example, we’d like to know if when an order hits one venue, the rest of the market runs away.” In this case, the buy side is trying to understand the behavior of their selected algorithm so they can predict performance and potential market impact, and adjust their orders and strategy in real time. “We didn’t write the algo, but it’s our order out there, and we need to know how it’s behaving.” Another panelist said “We need to understand how market movement affects us.”

The Current FIX Message Structure is Insufficient

The panel talked about how much data this level of transparency would require. They all agreed that the current FIX specification does not include sufficient tags to cover the information needed. A panelist said, “You don’t just need the tags we have. You’d also need print size, market cap, volatility, and spread.”

Trading Transparency Requires Massive Data

To evaluate how a sell side algo is routing an order, the buy side would also need all the routing information. But that’s a huge problem to manage. A panelist from the sell side commented, “It’s your data, but it’s so much data that it’s a huge problem to manage. A single order might have 50-60 rows of routing.” Another panelist added, “If you’re looking at an average institutional order, you’re likey to get 200 fills. If you look at them fill by fill and get 5 bad fills, it’s just noise. If you get 100 bad fills, you’ll see it in other places.”

All agreed that firms need to understand where they can get the highest ROI before investing in in getting the information. Most buy sides lack the processing power, technical expertise and budget needed to actually digest and use this information, even if it were available to them.

Why Do You Care?

The moderator asked the panel, “Why do you care? Why are so focused on the full process? One of the panelists responded, “If I’m a trader on the buy side, my key priority is understanding the need, for example, the urgency of the order versus the TCA objective. What is my order? Who is the best broker and how will they take it to market?” Because the buy side doesn’t have the visiblity they want into the broker’s decision process, they put pressure on the sell side to manage transaction cost and to provide transparency. However, the panelist conceded that even having the data doesn’t really deliver the desired transparency, “The market structure is so complex that it’s hard to understand even if I do have it.”

The algos themselves add even more complexity. Brokers are allowing substantial customization of their algos, and each trader can configure as desired. A panelist asked, “How do I disentangle the performance of the algo from the customization and the strategy the trader is trying to execute? I need to tease out what’s gone on on the broker, algo and routing side.”

Obstacles to Real-Time Transparency

While delivering data for this kind of transparency technically possible, it’s nearly impossible to actually use it to impact trading strategy in a real-time basis. It’s the classic big data problem. The moderator posed an important and valid question, “Is it just a silly exercise?”

A panelist responded, “My traders have not asked for anything in real-time, so we’re evaluating the data we have access to  post trade, looking to see if there are anomalies and if a router disadvantaged us.”

There is a lot of information, and the data needs to be transferred either in batch or as it’s happening. FIX is suited to the latter. The TCA Working Group sketched out what an exchange of FIX messages would look like to transfer this information in real time. For example, they could stamp routing decisions on the fill and drop-copy the actual routes. This would prevent the fills from being backed up in queues and negatively affecting the order routing. All agreed that the information would need to be asynchronous.

One of the members of the Working Group conceded, “It would take a lot of resources to analyze this in real time, assuming the broker is able to feed the data, and we’re able to consume it in real time. When we got to that point in our process, no one on the committee was interested in moving forward. There was no budget and nowhere to store the data. But at least we’ve sketched out the process.”

For now, nobody has the answer of how they can use the data and actually change their trading strategy in real time. As a panelist put it, “The practical constraints are the cost. But to my mind, the end-of-day batch files are going to deliver very little information for a venue by venue comparison. The real-time data is what will actually work on the desk to impact results. For example, if you had intra-day information about fade, you could gain more insight about a strategy that’s running.”

What Should the FIX Community Do Next

Before he closed the session, the moderator asked panelists, “if you could wave a magic wand and ask the FIX community to do something to improve transparency, what would it be?” Here are their responses:

“I need these tags standardized. Tag 851 mapping needs to be done. I have traders and quants breathing down my neck needing this data to be complete. There are several large buy sides saying the same thing.”

“Get all the tags for the child orders and child routes linked to the parent orders, give it to the buy side and let them go crazy. It’s probably going to call their bluff to see if they can do something with it profitably.”

“The completely unrealistic idea would be to store all the data in the cloud in one place – let everyone in to see their specific data. Won’t ever happen, but…”

“FIX needs to continue hosting these discussions. We’ll see more tags and more transparency. I’m not keen on putting everything in one place. Brokers want to protect proprietary information, and there is a hacker risk. A cloud approach is unrealistic.”

My Take Away

I have my doubts that we’ll see a lot of progress in this area in the next 2-3 years. I don’t think that most members of the buy side have the budget or processing power to actually make meaningful progress with the transparency data that is already accessible. But it will be interesting to see where we get in the next 5 years, as data volume and computer processing power follows Metcalf’s Law.

3 Major Pitfalls of Content Marketing

PropelGrowth Blog - Financial Services Marketing and Content Strategy

Tips on avoiding the perils of inadequate content strategy

Let’s face it, a lot of content floating around today is — to put it bluntly — crap. The truth is that many businesses are sacrificing quality merely to publish content as frequently as possible. Recently, I came across a website for a technology firm targeting financial advisory organizations. While the firm was doing a good job of blogging consistently, the topics they were covering were all over the place—and most were not applicable to their core business.

This firm’s strategy was based on publishing content in volume in order to improve search ranking and attract an audience based on being found in Google. None of the content is particularly authoritative. It just contributes to the content echo chamber.

For a few years, this tactic worked. If you published a high volume of content around a set of key words, you could lift the site’s page rank. But Google’s algorithms are getting smarter. Today, the algorithms focus more on surfacing the best answers to searcher questions. Google is no longer focusing just on keywords, but on user intent. And it is deliberately penalizing thin content. So marketers using this technique will find their search ranking declining rapidly. In addition to publishing thin content, this company is writing about a lot of topics that are unrelated to their core offering. As a result, Google has a hard time understanding what the site is about, so the content is not positively affecting their ranking for topics where they are experts.

Finally, the firm’s content writers did not have direct access to key subject matter experts in the company. Since they weren’t working closely with the firm’s leadership, they couldn’t share the core expertise that the firm is best known for. As a consequence, the content never establishes the leaders of the firm as trusted advisors with their target audience. While I’m making an example of one specific firm, really there are many financial services marketers out there who need to rethink their content strategies. Below I’ll discuss the three major content marketing mistakes this firm and many others are making.

1. Using a Generalist Agency

If you target financial services; using a generalist marketing, social media or ad agency to produce your content can be a total waste of time and money. By generalist agency I am referring to marketing firms that take on any work that comes their way, from virtually any and all industries. The writers from these generalist firms are not specialized and usually lack depth of background in a particular market or industry niche. Instead, they are always bouncing around, having to change direction and pick up unfamiliar subject matter as each new client project comes rolling in.

In my experience, companies targeting financial services that use a generalist agency are left with one of two undesirable outcomes.  The first one is that they spend a tremendous amount of time teaching the agency’s writer basic insights about their industry—information that a specialized financial writer would already know. If you’re in this camp, you may grow frustrated and feel like you’re spending too much time being an educator and need to get back to your day job. Eventually, you’ll realize that it’s easier for you to write the darn article yourself.  See what I mean by total waste of time and money?

The second undesirable outcome might be that you don’t spend time educating the generalist writer, and so the writer, left to his or her own devices, ends up producing content that completely misses the mark. This seems to be the pickle that the FinTech firm I referenced in my opening has found themselves in. In this case, they are using a generalist content marketing agency to create their content. The agency creates the content without sufficient direction from their client. The agency writer reads industry publications to find trending topics and then riffs off news articles to create blog content. But the content is not central to the company’s core product line. In fact, many of the blog topics are unrelated to what they sell. This helter skelter content is causing the company to miss a great opportunity to communicate their core message to their audience.

2. Being Superficial vs. Being a Trusted Advisor  

Another mistake I commonly see is content that is superficial and lacks any real substance. This obviously can result from using a generalist firm, but it can also happen when you use a specialized content agency, but don’t spend time guiding them on what topics to write about and which angles to take. The truth is that no agency, regardless of how specialized they are, can have as much experience with your offerings as the actual product leaders in your company. These leaders spend extensive time talking to clients and helping them solve complex problems. They are also continually thinking about how to apply technology to specific customer needs.

No marketer is going to have the story down as well as your experts. If you outsource your content marketing to a specialized agency, you must still stay in close contact, to discuss strategy. You also must make time for them to regularly interview your subject matter experts and clients about emerging trends, advancements in your industry, etc. That’s the only way the writer will be able to capture and articulate your company’s specialized expertise.

This approach will not only help you deliver content of real value to your audience, but will also help establish your key leaders in the minds of your audience as trusted resources and advisors. Here’s a tip on crafting truly meaningful content. Prospects that are researching new technology solutions really benefit from stories where you present a customer challenge and show how your technology saved the day and fixed it. Such problem/solution case studies are compelling because they showcase real results of your product in action. Plus customer testimonials in the form of complimentary quotes never hurt.

3. Creating Content that’s Not Helpful  

Content that is too company-centric or product-focused is not helpful. It is NOT going to engage your target audience or allow you to win their trust. Instead it’s going to come across as a product pitch or advertisement. We see a lot of technology company email nurturing campaigns take this approach. They send out self-serving press releases, product pitches and company-centric newsletters. They’re so busy talking about themselves and their product that they don’t even consider the customer’s needs.

Product-centric content is also not likely to be sensitive to the distinct stages that buyers go through prior to making a purchase. Therefore, such assets will not be useful or helpful to your prospects as they attempt to make an informed buying decision. Content that is truly customer-centric should educate your audience on how to do their job better. The way that you go about educating them should be directly aligned with their needs and  with the capabilities you provide.  To be sensitive to their journey to purchase, your content should essentially be packed with useful information that your prospects need in order to:

  • Fully understand and diagnose their situation
  • Effectively evaluate all of their options
  • Manage the risk associated with committing to a solution
  • Understand the full scope of what it will take to deploy your technology

There are a select few specialized content agencies out there that are equipped to help firms develop this caliber of customer-centric content. One hallmark of such an agency would be that they spend ample time researching the characteristics of the real-life buyers of your products, or your buyer personas. This action is essential to ensuring that your marketing assets address actual questions and concerns that members of a buying committee might have. View our template for guidelines on constructing your own buyer personas.

Final Recommendations…

Here are some final recommendations that can help you avoid falling victim to the common pitfalls outlined in this post:

  1. If you’re a FinTech firm, you need to work with a content marketing agency that has expertise in your target niches. This is the only way you’re going to be able to craft the kind of thought-provoking content that drives your target audience to action.
  2. If you’re working with a content agency, you need to allot time for the agency’s writer to interview your subject matter experts. This step will help the writer get a better handle on your story and allow him or her to properly capture your thought leaders’ voices.
  3. Your content needs to be customer-centric. Put yourself in your prospects’ shoes instead of writing from your company’s perspective.
  4. You’ll also need to be sensitive to your prospect’s specific stage of the buying cycle, fueling them with appropriate content that meets their needs at a specific point in time.

For information on producing meaningful content that is aligned with your prospect’s buying cycle, see our post: Facilitating The Buying Cycle With Content Marketing.

Top Takeaways: B2B Content Marketing Study

PropelGrowth Blog - Financial Services Marketing and Content Strategy

Results of the 2015 study by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs are shared by Candyce Edelen of PropelGrowth

Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs just released their 5th content marketing survey, titled B2B Content Marketing: 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America.

As always, the study is very informative about where B2B marketers are in their evolving understanding of content marketing. Here are some quick takeaways.

1. Content Marketing Strategy is King. If it’s Written.

35% of the respondents have a documented content marketing strategy, while 48% have a verbal strategy. Writing it down makes a big difference. 60% of those with a documented strategy rate their content marketing as highly effective, compared to 32% of those with a verbal strategy.

While CMI attempted to go a bit deeper on this topic in this year’s survey, I still think it came up short by not asking marketers what’s included in their strategy. I think we’d find a lot more clarity on which marketers are most effective if the study dug into the actual strategy components.

I get to review the strategies for a lot of companies. In most cases, they include only superficial buyer personas and focus on tactical plans rather than on a customer-centric messaging strategy. Almost none consider the buying cycle and information needed at each stage. These superficial strategies are unlikely to deliver the kind of performance that a more in-depth, research-based, customer-centric strategy could provide.

2. Distribution is Also Critical

In the content marketing strategies we do for clients, we’ve always focused on distribution over search optimization because our target audiences rely less on search and more on trade media, events and word of mouth to find financial technology solutions. Now, it seems that the rest of the content marketing industry is beginning to think this way too, as they focus more on getting their content out where it can be found. The number one approach for promotion is still social media, and LinkedIn still tops the charts. 94% of marketers are using LinkedIn to support distribution, and this platform is also rated as the most effective. Twitter is #2, and YouTube is #3.

Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs results on advertisingIn addition, 80% of marketers are using at least one paid advertising channel, with the average being 3. The top 4 most used advertising methods are search engine marketing (SEM), print/offline promotion, online banner ads, and social ads.

SEM and promoted posts/tweets are the top two most effective types of paid advertising. Banner ads continue to be a poor performer. Only 26% said this method was effective. Frankly, I’d even question that. The survey didn’t ask how they define “effective.” If the measure is based on website traffic or click-throughs, they might be measuring the wrong thing. Instead, I’d be looking to make sure that the right audience is clicking, and that they’re converting.

Apparently 34% have tried native advertising (this is similar to advertorials but more like journalism and less like advertising). Only 36% of the respondents mark this as effective. What I didn’t see included is publishing editorial content on third party sites like trade publications and professional forums where niche audiences live. In this case, it’s not really native advertising, as you don’t usually have to pay. This method continues to out-perform all other methods for our clients.

3.  Persistent Challenges

Producing engaging content (54%) and producing content consistently (50%) continue to top the charts as the biggest challenges marketers face in executing their content marketing strategies. These are followed closely by measuring content effectiveness (49%) and producing a variety of content (42%). Budget is #5 (41%).

If marketers spent more time talking with customers and doing more interviews, I think they’d struggle less with producing engaging content. The problem is, marketing continues to sit in its silo with little or no customer contact.

Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs study results on marketing challenges

This is Why We Developed the Buffalo Program

The challenge of producing engaging content consistently and cost effectively is why we developed the Buffalo Content Program. The whole point is making sure we’re creating resonant content within a reasonable budget to feed a year-long content strategy.

When creating a content marketing strategy, we do a lot of research and interview multiple representatives of your target market to determine the content angles, identify messages that will resonate with your target audience, and capture your audience’s voice. Then we use those insights and additional research to produce a key piece of premium content (like a white paper or research study) and a series of derivatives in a variety of formats (e.g., articles, blogs, infographics, videos, events).

It allows you to take advantage of economies of scale to produce more volume at a lower cost per piece than if you approach the content in a piecemeal manner. This addresses the budget issue. The approach also helps address the content distribution and discovery problem by giving you a series of articles that can be published in multiple locations. Each article is designed to draw the reader back to your site where he or she can read more and subscribe.

If you want more information on this methodology, please contact me.

Charts and data courtesy of Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs