The financial services industry touches all people’s lives in one way or another by way of workplace benefits, college savings accounts, business loans, tax preparation, home mortgages, and all manner of investments. Financial services firms serve people in periods of joy and stress, providing stability, stewardship, opportunity, and security.
For this reason, inbound marketing can be very effective for firms in this field. After all, the field of potential customers is incredibly vast.
For financial services firms looking to get found online through organic search, the right content strategy can drive qualified traffic to your site.
However, developing a sound strategy is not easy. Publishing without regular cadence, without on-page SEO best practices, and without an overarching strategic vision will not bring in the results you’re looking for.
Inbound marketing: An overview
At the most basic level, inbound marketing is really simple. It starts off with a basic premise:The internet has changed the way people buy.When customers are thinking about making a purchase, whatever it is, they start by gathering information. They do this with a computer and a search engine.
They begin by typing in questions, and they look for pages that answer those questions. They keep reading and they keep learning, all as they get closer and closer to making a purchase.
If they read a few articles on the same website, that company becomes someone theyrecognize and trust.
A full inbound marketing strategy will require research into industry keywords, deep knowledge of your competitors, and a fully-realized brand identity. Still, you can get started with your inbound marketing initiative by focusing on one question: What questions are your customers asking?
They Ask, You Answer
Today, Marcus Sheridan is a celebrated speaker and author (and co-owner at IMPACT). But fifteen years ago, he ran a pool business in Virginia. When the Great Recession hit in 2008, he saw customers back out of projects, concerned about cost. In a few months, his business went from thriving to the brink of collapse.
Having heard something about content marketing (and having spent years as a salesman), Marcus began an act of desperation that ultimately saved his business.
He set out to write detailed answers to every question he had ever heard from a customer — and then publish these answers on the company website.
He knew that the things customers asked about most frequently were things businesses didn’t like to talk about. He also knew that answering these questions would build trust and make buyers feel informed.
What started as a desperate act became a business philosophy that has since spread around the world, adopted by businesses in a number of sectors: health care, manufacturing, real estate, software, home services, and more.
Despite the differences in industry, these companies share common beliefs:
If a customer asks a question, you should answer it
The content your company creates can also be used to speed up the sales process
Today, we think of They Ask, You Answer as industry-agnostic. For the vast majority of businesses out there who are looking to increase traffic to their website, this is a smart way to go. After all, you know that your customers have questions, and these are getting typed into Google right now.
If you’re the one answering their questions, you have a great chance to make them a customer.
The 5 topics you need to cover to drive traffic
To build a solid content strategy, you should draw from two sources. The first is your sales team. Meet regularly with sales reps at your company to ask what questions they’re getting from prospects.
At IMPACT, we meet every two weeks for an hour for a “revenue content brainstorm” meeting to make sure the content our marketing team is producing matches the questions our customers are asking. This is the surest way to avoid writing the fluffy content that sales teams hate.
To supplement what you hear from your sales team, we suggest you cover the following five content topics. So critical are they to the buying process that we call them The Big 5 — and they are universal for all industries, both B2B and B2C.
Buyers everywhere are asking the same questions. Whether they’re buying a wedding cake, a trumpet, setting up a dog walking service, or planning for their retirement.
Cost: First on everyone’s mind, of course, is cost. We are all skeptical when a website won’t tell us how much a product or service costs. (Does “Call for price” ever actually work?) Sure, it’s hard to say exactly how much something might cost — especially something with as many variables as a financial product — but customers want to have some idea. Addressing cost openly and explaining what factors make that number go up and down will be very appreciated.
Problems: When we make a purchase, we want to know what might go wrong. This is why we’re so drawn to 1-star reviews. Feeling informed about worst-case scenarios helps us feel prepared for whatever could be thrown in our way.
Reviews: Connected to problems are reviews, whether they are of products or of entire companies. According to Inc., 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust the word of a friend.
“Best of” lists: Customers frequently Google questions that help them find the best solutions. “Best 401K alternatives” or “Best mortgage brokers near me” are both well-trafficked.
Comparisons: Roth or traditional? LLC or sole proprietorship? Fixed rate or flexible rate? Consumers want to put things side by side to know how they stack up. Addressing these head-to-heads can help demonstrate your experience and make your potential customers feel informed to make the best choice possible.
You know that customers are asking about these topics, so you can kickstart your content marketing with these areas of focus.
To make inbound marketing work, you need the right people
With The Big 5 as your cornerstone, you can begin to write content that will speak to your customers’ needs. But you’ll need the right personnel to do so.
At IMPACT, we strongly suggest that organizations bring in a dedicated content manager to organize, govern, and execute your inbound marketing strategy.
An internal writer is vastly superior to the outsourced or freelance alternative because they are more likely to “get” your company and its culture, and their presence within the organization will lead to content getting published more regularly.
If you’re not sure how to go about hiring for this role (or why it’s so important) check out these resources:
Note how writer Eric Droblyen clearly explains the factors that make cost go up and down, using visuals like graphs and tables to present data.
Also, a headshot and bio make readers trust the writer’s credentials when absorbing this information.
2. Talk openly about problems
No business is eager to talk about the drawbacks of their products or services, but buyers sure are. In order to feel more comfortable with a big purchase, buyers want to explore the worst case scenario they might encounter.
To build trust, speak candidly about the drawbacks your buyers should know.
I love how this post ends with a “there’s no one-size-fits-all 401(k)” section. As readers, we’re reminded that the ball is in our court. The decision is ours. Thanks to this article, we now have the information to make the best decision for our unique circumstances.
5. Offer candid comparisons
Buyers search for the ability to quickly and accurately put their options side by side to explore differences.
Notice how the article offers tables to organize the information being provided. What’s more, the author puts in real-world examples that demonstrate how the same amount of money might perform differently in different situations.
Anyone reading their post knows that such writing is not a guarantee of performance, but an estimate. Even so, Eric closes with this line: “That said, nobody has a crystal ball about their future earnings and tax rates. If the right choice for you is not clear, you can always split your deferrals between Roth and traditional.”
As a reader, you feel that you have the information you need to make an informed decision.
You can’t ignore video
Remember, content does not just mean text. Consumers today expect to be able to consume content in the form they choose. At IMPACT, when we brainstorm topics, we determine if each would be best addressed in a video, an article, or both. In most cases, we’re making both article and video.
To bring to life a content strategy that includes video, you’ll need an internal specialist who can produce high quality videos at a good clip. They’ll need to be adept at getting people to feel comfortable on camera so that your internal subject matter experts can share their knowledge with the world.
We often say that video builds trust even faster than the written word. In a video, you can truly see a person and feel like you can begin to know him or her. Notice how this example from Employee Fiduciary immediately makes you feel connected to Greg, their CEO. Even a 48-second video can be effective.
A robust inbound marketing strategy can draw hordes of qualified traffic to your site, bringing in leads and sales. While this can drastically cut down on (or eliminate) the budget you’ve traditionally spent on ads, it is not something that should be undertaken without a serious focus. Bringing on a content writer and building out a strategy will help set you up for success.
Using these topics as a starting point, begin focusing on the questions your prospects are asking. If you cover The Big 5 for each of your products or service categories, you’re doing a good job covering your bases.
Your sales reps can then use this content in the sales process. (Remember, listen to the questions your sales team is hearing!) When a customer has a question, a thorough, well-researched piece of content can help alleviate their concerns.
At the same time, all of this content can begin driving organic traffic to your site. More content means more customers. More customers means more questions. More questions means more content. It's a cycle that keeps building momentum.
When we obsess over the questions our buyers are asking, we produce content that educates them and builds trust in our brand. This is true no matter the industry or the sales process.