Content Marketing: The Most Powerful Tool for Financial Agents?

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In today’s day and age, selling financial products and advice is as difficult as ever before. Banks, financial advisors, wealth managers and brokers of financial products face stiff competition, both from traditional competitors and technology-enabled challengers. What is the best Tactic for Financial Agents to separate themselves from the pack?

Why is the competition so stiff in this era of financial services?

A few factors are influencing the increased competition, including automated technology solutions such as robo-advisors and online brokers, as well as increasing global competition, made possible by communicating information through digital channels. These new possibilities may be confusing customers, making it difficult for them to make a decision or even fully understand what options they have.

So, how can financial brands win customers in this environment?

The answer that many financial institutions are turning to, whether they focus on serving businesses or individuals, is content marketing. In a world where 60% of the sales cycle is over before a prospect talks to a salesperson, it’s important for brands to get as much information to their prospective customers as possible. By offering information and provocative insights into potential customer problems and how they can be solved, content marketing can be a major part of a solution selling strategy.

A Powerful Tactic for Financial Agents

60% of Buyer's Cycle

What is “solution selling”?

Solution selling is based on the premise of working with the customer to define their problem. Define their problems based on the symptoms they are experiencing. This is followed up with a solution that helps them solve their problem.

The process involves asking questions about your customer’s needs, problems, and issues and look for the “hook” for your solution. Instead of solely pushing your product, service, or solution, solution selling positions a salesperson to be the ultimate problem solver. Allowing them to earn trust and ultimately putting your business in place to gain a new customer.

This process is how a salesperson can add value on a one-to-one basis through content marketing and solution selling.

Will this strategy actually work for my business?

While there are no guarantees of success through content marketing and solution selling, plenty of brands are adopting these practices and finding great success. 93% of B2B marketers use content marketing, but it is not being used to its full potential. Just 42% of B2B marketers say they use content marketing effectively. Those numbers are even lower in financial services. This can be an opportunity for your brand to jump ahead of your competitors. Take your chance to implement a successful strategy and make your brand more discoverable to your target market.

In fact, content can motivate action, regardless of how ready-to-buy your target customers are. The image below shows what forms of content are effective at nurturing your prospect at every stage of the journey. By providing relevant, useful, original content, your content marketing strategy will nurture customers. When they are ready to contact a salesperson, your brand will be at the top of their mind. Original content should be a cornerstone of your sales and marketing strategy, while fueling your content marketing efforts.

What is the best Tactic for Financial Agents to separate themselves from the pack?

Create Exceptional Cultures Through Education and Awareness

Our Content Marketing Mission is to become the online destination for Advisors looking for useful information, advice, insights, and resources for growing their online presence. If you want to get your content marketing strategy off the ground, or are looking to reinvent how your network of financial agents uses content marketing and solution selling, get in touch with me! We can discuss how your brand can use Digital Agent to maintain a compliant, centrally-controlled content marketing platform for your network of agents.

 

4 Steps That Will Minimize Your Website’s Bounce Rate

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The definition of bounce rate is:

“the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.”

Ideally, your website’s bounce rate should be somewhere between 20% and 35%. However, some businesses can reduce that number below 20% with great difficulty. If your website bounce rate approaches 50%, you are in serious trouble and need to update your site immediately to lower that number.

Does your website have a high bounce rate? You may be attracting plenty of traffic, but does your website convert those visitors into customers? Having high traffic doesn’t mean anything if it is not generating business. What can you do to minimize your bounce rate and win more business from your digital properties?

Step 1: Understand Your Visitors

Why are people visiting your website? To reduce your bounce rate, you will need a solid understanding of what is drawing visitors to your site. Not every visitor will be part of your ideal audience, but uncovering the patterns and details of their journey to your website will provide insights to minimize bounce rate.

So what do you need to understand about your visitors?

Organic Search

Which organic search terms are bringing visitors to your website? You can use Google Analytics to discover your most active keywords. Consider whether you actively try to leverage those keywords, what someone searching for that keyword would be looking for, and whether your website can solve those problems.

Once you understand how (and why) a web searcher might end up on your website, you can optimize your pages and content to increase conversions to minimize bounce rate.

Popular Content

What pages and content drive the most traffic to your website? Once you identify those pages, you can see what pages and topics are drawing people towards your site. Do those pages solve the problems that visitors may be experiencing? Are your most popular pages also your highest converting pages? These questions are important to ask so you can understand which pages of our website are most useful for their intended purpose.

Best Pages

Which pages on your website have the highest conversion rates? Do those pages have a low bounce rate? Are these pages your most popular? Often, your most popular pages will not necessarily be among the highest converting. What type of pages do your customers visit before making a purchase?

Understanding the audience, their interests and how your website caters to those interests, you will know what prospective customers are looking for and how your business can meet their needs. The next step involves using that knowledge to build a relationship with visitors, eventually turning them into customers.

Step 2: Build Email Relationship

The second thing you should do to minimize your bounce rate is getting visitors to sign-up for email newsletters. Most visitors will only come to your website one time, never visiting again. In fact, it takes six to eight touchpoints to convert someone from a passive visitor to a lead. Email newsletters allow brands to remain in contact with visitors to their website, providing more touchpoints in which you can thrill those visitors.

So how can you build an email list to stay in touch with visitors to your site? By placing an eye-popping call-to-action that will motivate a sign-up.To learn more about creating killer CTA’s, check out our article: 6 Tips for Creating Better Calls-to-Action.

Once you have built your email list, you can re-engage with visitors through email, sharing content and information with them, nurturing the relationship until they are ready to convert. By nurturing the customer relationship, you can keep in contact with prospects until they are ready to make a purchase.

Step 3: Re-engage

If people don’t want to sign-up for your email list, and they do not provide any contact information, what can you do?  Well, at this point, you only have two options, both of which involve attempting to re-engage after their visit.

Use Social Media

One way to re-engage with your customers is through social media. Use targeted ads placed on social media to promote your list building efforts. Instead of sending people who click your ad to content, send them to a landing page where they can sign-up for your email. Remarketing using social media ads is an effective tactic because the platforms allow for extensive targeting, based on a number of factors. For more information on remarketing using social media, check out HootSuite’s Social Media Advertising Guide.

Website pop-ups

Website pop-ups can be used to discourage people from leaving your site. Onsite remarketing detects user behavior to determine if a visitor is about to “bounce.” If it seems they will bounce, a popup will appear, either directing them to content they might find interesting or asking if they want to sign-up for your email list. Exit-intent pop-ups have varying ranges of effectiveness, depending on their purpose, but they have proven to lead to an increase in conversions.

Step 4: Convert Subscribers into Customers

The final step is to convert your subscribers into leads, eventually leading to a purchase decision. Conversion is by far the most difficult step in the entire sales process, but there are several activities that can lead to an increased conversion rate.

Segment Leads

Segmentation of leads is an essential activity for any business, but there are many ways you can do it. One can segment their leads based on:

  • Stage of the buyer’s journey
  • Source of the lead
  • Demographics
  • Conversion events
  • Website behavior

All of these methods of segmenting an audience are valid. However, the method you choose should correlate to your business goals. For more information on segmenting leads, check out this Hubspot published informational guide on segmenting leads.

Test and Refine

To boost conversions, you need to keep an eye on your email reports. By measuring the engagement on your email newsletters, you can determine whether changes lead to better conversion rates.

Once you begin measuring your email engagement, A/B testing can begin. A/B is an effective method of determining which strategies yield the greatest results. However, the best part about A/B testing is that even a marketing newbie can use it to determine the efficacy and effectiveness of various strategies.  

Create Effective Copy

Writing copy that converts leads into customers is a difficult undertaking, a blend of art and science that can take years to master. Your copy should be a mix of value adding content that educates the reader and promotional copy. These 7 Simple Tips for Writing Effective Content for Your Website should help you write compelling copy.

There you have it, by following these four steps, you can minimize your bounce rate and increase your customer engagement. Do these steps work for you? Do you have any other strategies for increasing engagement on your website? How does your business turn visitors into customers? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ.

How Financial Agents Can Thrive Using Social Media

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Social media has become one of the most popular tools at a marketers disposal. Nearly every business has at least one social media channel, usually one or two of the big 3: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and with good cause. 64% of Twitter users and 51% of Facebook users are more likely to buy the products of brands they follow online. 91% of retail brands, who are marketing to many of the same people as financial advisors, use more than two social media platforms. There are many benefits for brands who use social media.

The problem with social media is that you can’t just jump in and start going. You need a plan. The plan, just like any other business plan, should be related to your organizational goals. The results will take a decent amount of time to come to fruition, so don’t be concerned if the results aren’t immediate. Having a solid, written plan that guides your decisions will make starting out on social media much more straightforward.

There are many, many, many different social media platforms, all with different use cases and demographics. Crafting a strategy for each platform you choose to use is essential. Planning the strategy will follow the same steps, regardless of the platform. Only the details will be different, to cater to the strengths and weaknesses of a particular platform and their demographics.

Today, we will examine the steps needed to implement a fantastic social media plan. Remember, the steps will be the same regardless of the platform. 

1. Establish Goals

Without clear goals and objectives, you cannot create a plan. Setting goals gives you a path to follow. Even if the program changes down the line, having goals is crucial. Goals let you monitor the plan’s success. 

You know what your business goals are better than I do. I’m not going to tell you how to gain clients; you know how to do that. Just let me give you a few general pieces of advice for marketing on social media:

  1. Your social media goals and benchmarks need to be correlated to your overall business goals.
  2. You should use a variety of metrics, both platform specific (likes, shares, comments engagement rate, followers, etc.) and general (ROI, conversion rate, unique visitors to your website, etc.) to measure social media success
  3. Be patient, results from social media take time, but when they do there is a snowball effect.

Use the various metrics holistically, don’t put too much weight on any one metric. Stats such as likes, comments, shares and follows don’t bring revenue, but they are handy to know. Likes, shares and follows are a good way to see your reach, and comments can be used to see how engaging your posts are.

How and where you set your goals are up to you. Depending on your target demographics, the platform you use, and the platform-specific metrics, your goals can be established in many ways. Regardless of what your goals are, they should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound). Goals of this type force a more focused social media plan, something that will make it much easier to isolate, tweak and test various tactics.

2. Social Media Audit

Step 2 of your social media plan should be to do a social media audit. A social media audit involves combing through all your profiles, analyzing the performance of those pages, and researching which platforms your target audience frequently uses. A thorough inspection will give you an excellent idea of exactly how potential customers can connect with your business. This stage is an excellent opportunity to implement consistent messaging, finding areas where your branding is not uniform and fixing those problems. Your goal should be to understand what aspects of your social presence needs to be improved.

3. Check Out the Competition

Step 3 is just an extension of step 2, but it is important enough that I believe it deserves its own section. To be successful marketing on social media, you need to have an understanding of what your competitors are doing in the digital space. You can learn from their mistakes, successes, and ideas to improve your profile. Even if your social media plan focuses on LinkedIn, you should study competitors Twitter, Facebook and other social accounts. As Sun Tzu once wrote:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.”

You need to have an excellent understanding of exactly what your competition is doing, and why they are doing it. People only need one advisor, you need to win the war for their business. Look at how the competition promotes themselves, their services, and how they interact with people. Then you can learn from, adapt, and tweak these practices, so they fit who you want to be as an advisor. You want to be unique, but you have similar goals to the competition. It does not hurt to see what they are doing and how you can position yourself against it.

Another benefit of a competitive social audit is that you can use competitors as a benchmark for setting your own goals. Take a brief look at the number of followers, engagement, and other metrics you can get publicly and chart your success against them.

4. Create a Content Plan

The next step in the process is to create a content plan. A content plan should include the type of content you want to post, when you should post that content, and how you will promote that content. Posting the content on both your blog and social media platforms can be an excellent way to drive traffic to your website.

LinkedIn, with its professional demographics, is interested in educational materials. Its members are looking to become more productive, help them by providing high-quality information. If people realize you’re an excellent source of information, they may ask to join your network because they see you as a valuable member of their network. Becoming a trusted, accessible source of information can allow you to become a thought leader.

5. Re-evaluate

As with any plan, you should be regularly evaluating your social media and content plans. Regular evaluations will make it easier to monitor your goals to see if your desired results are being achieved. If you monitor the various metrics discussed above, you can identify aspects of your plan that may need adjustments. Always be experimenting with different tactics to achieve your goals, and let the plan evolve as new tactics work or fail. Remember, social media takes time to achieve success, some things will fail. Continue to test and constantly improve.

Conclusion

Once you have your social media plan in place, it’s time to get loud. By “get loud” I mean begin interacting, commenting, and otherwise engaging with members your network. On LinkedIn for example, you can join groups dedicated to specific subjects and interact with people who are interested in the subject.“Getting loud’ and using the platform’s unique features will help you grow your network and get better results from social media. You should also begin to branch out. Try out other platforms, see how they work for you.  

Having a strong social media presence is an excellent way rank higher in search results, will make you more approachable online, and improve your contact list. A social media plan will not guarantee positive results, but if you work hard at creating and executing the plan, you can experience excellent returns.

Social media is an essential aspect of a well-rounded content marketing plan. Your marketing efforts won’t go far without it. If “Content Is King,” then social media is the king’s messenger.

Do you use social media for your business? Do you have a social media plan in place? Let us know how you use LinkedIn over on Twitter @VeridayHQ or follow us on LinkedIn here. Which of the social media websites generates the biggest ROI? Find out by reading our article: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter Ads.

The 4 Building Blocks of Content Marketing Strategy

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The 4 Building Blocks of Content Marketing Strategy

30% of B2B and 38% of B2C marketers say they’re effective at content marketing. Those numbers jump 14% and 20% respectively among marketers with a documented content strategy.

To succeed at content marketing, you need to define a strategy. You’ll need to understand what your goals are, what resources you will need to achieve those goals and how you will measure success. Writing down your strategy has proven to increase the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts.

Companies with documented content strategies spend more (on average) on content marketing than those without. Marketers in these enterprises also feel less concerned by the day-to-day challenges associated with content marketing.

Your content marketing strategy will dictate how you will create content to meet the needs of your audience. From the size of the budget to media type, to frequency of content, your strategy will impact how content marketing adds value to your organization.

So what are the four building blocks of content marketing strategy?

  1. Create Your Business Case

What motivated your company to begin content marketing? What do you need your content to accomplish? How do you plan to meet those requirements and your broader business goals using content?  How much will it cost and how much time will it take to achieve those goals? What will you do if your plan is not as successful as you hoped?

These are questions you need to ask yourself and develop an answer. If you cannot respond to these questions, you are not prepared to begin creating content. Having these answers is important because, without them, your efforts will seem disjointed and lack direction. Just like any other activity in your business, content marketing needs to be strategically planned to achieve best results.

There is another question that marketers need to answer before they begin creating content: Who is this for? Marketing personas ensure that content creators have an understanding of their ideal audience.

  1. Define Your Personas

Marketing personas are representations of your ideal customers. These personas should be crafted using data, not stereotypes. That means research is needed to be completed to truly define your personas. You will need to research your audience’s interests and needs, buying habits and how they consume content. Once you have this information, you can build your personas. It’s likely that your audience includes more than one type of individual, so you will need to prepare multiple personas.

Why are marketing personas so important?

They are important because, without them, it becomes difficult to create content that speaks to the unique needs and interests of your audience. The most successful content is targeted at a specific type of person at a specific stage of the buying cycle. Your buyer personas help you ensure your message is on point and you create content that engages your audience and enhances your brand.

  1. Develop Your Brand Story

Every brand has a story. Every brand story should explain why the business exists, but every story has unique details. The main challenge for marketers lies in figuring out how to tell that story in an authentic, engaging way.

Another major challenge in developing your brand story is finding the right tone and voice for your brand. It is easy to come off as flippant or disinterested based solely on the tone of your writing. You need to manage your brand’s voice to project warmth and good intentions to your audience.

Developing a brand story is important because it gives the audience the required information to empathize with you. If your story is engaging, told in a warm, inviting tone and accurately describes why the business exists it can engender a stronger connection between you and your customers.

For more information on the power of storytelling in business check out our article: The Power of Storytelling in the Business World.

  1. Create Your Channel Plan

The final thing you need to know before creating content is where to place your content. There are many options for hosting content. Your website’s blog is an excellent property to host content. If you have a mobile app, perhaps your content would be most at home there. Depending on your target audience and overall business goals, you may want to use a mixture of channels to host your content.

Other factors that need to be considered when creating a channel plan include:

  • How will you share the content with relevant members of the audience?
  • Will you use social media to share your content? If so, which platforms will you use?
  • How can you earn more impressions?
    • Can your content be used in industry publications?
    • Can you earn any media impressions?
  • What channel will our content perform best on?

These are just some of the questions you need to consider when creating your channel plan. Every plan is unique and is dependent on your overall business goals, your target audience and how you want to tell your story. Once you have these four building blocks of content marketing strategy in place, you can dive right in.

Are you ready to start your content marketing journey? Are there any other “building blocks” that we missed? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ or follow us on LinkedIn.

16 Digital Marketing Acronyms You Need to Know

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Digital marketing is full of acronyms, some of which are remarkably similar, leading to widespread confusion. Today, we’re going to examine the most common acronyms in digital marketing and explain their meaning.

CTA – Call to Action

A button, link, or image that encourages a website visitor to take action. That action can be anything, from visiting a landing page to downloading a piece of content. To learn more about CTA’s, check out our article: 6 Tips for Creating Better Calls-to-Action.

CTR – Clickthrough Rate

The percentage of your audience that responds to the CTA, taking the next step in your marketing campaign. One can calculate CTR by dividing the number of clicks that a page (or CTA) receives by the number of total opportunities for clicks.

CPC – Cost-Per-Click

The amount of money spent to get one click from digital advertising. CPC is a metric used to measure the cost effectiveness of your campaign. To calculate CPC, divide the total cost of your marketing campaign by the number of clicks you received.

CPM – Cost-Per-Thousand

CPM is a pricing model for digital advertisements where ad space is purchased 1000 impressions at a time. Publishers only need to show the ads to consumers to get paid. CPM is most effective when trying to increase brand awareness.

CPL – Cost-Per-Lead

CPL is a term used in digital advertising. It shows how much one lead costs from a digital ad. CPL is very similar to cost-Per-click (or cost-Per-action) but is more specific. For an action to qualify as a lead, they need to sign up for something on the advertiser’s website.

PPC – Pay-Per-Click

Pay-Per-Click is a model of digital marketing where advertisers pay a fee every time somebody clicks one of their ads. It’s a method of paying for visitors to your site, one that is very different from SEO and earning traffic through organic methods.

SEO – Search Engine Optimization

A mixture of strategy, techniques, and tactics used to increase the number of visitors to your website. The goal of SEO is to rank higher on a search engine’s results page (SERP) for a particular keyword. The higher your website ranks, the more traffic is (typically) generated.

SERP – Search Engine Results Page

The results page on a search engine (such as Google or Bing), generated after a keyword search. The goal of SEO is for your website to place as high as possible on the SERP.

SEM – Search Engine Marketing

Search Engine Marketing is a form of internet marketing that involves using search engines to increase the visibility of your website. SEM primarily involves paid advertisements, but can also include elements of organic SEO.

SMM – Social Media Marketing

SMM is a form of marketing that uses social networking platforms as a marketing tool. The goal of SMM is to create content that users will share with their networks. SMM helps brands increase exposure and broaden the reach of their marketing. Social media marketing is a core component of any inbound marketing strategy.

KPI – Key Performance Indicator

Metrics that demonstrate how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives. KPIs vary between organizations based on; objectives, marketing channels, and the overall level of marketing maturity. For more information on KPIs, check out our article: 6 KPIs of Customer Experience in Financial Services.

RT – Retweet

A retweet is a Twitter-specific method of sharing posts. If somebody RTs you, it means they are sharing your posts with their followers. Counting retweets is a simple (and not very accurate) method of measuring engagement on Twitter. Other simple social media specific metrics you can measure include likes, shares, and comments.

SaaS – Software as a Service

SaaS is a software licensing and delivery model where buyers pay on a subscription basis. Most enterprise software is sold using this model because buyers get lower up-front costs, ongoing support with the product, and do not have to manage physical copies of the product. Purveyors of software enjoy this model because it makes it easier for them to update software for their clients. The SaaS model gives them the ability to update their product continually. 

CMS – Content Management System

A CMS is a system used to manage an organization’s digital content. Using a CMS to power your website could be one of the best investments you make for your business. While a CMS can be a significant investment, it can be a great asset for your business in the long run. To learn more about CMS’s check out our article: 7 Reasons it Might be Time to Upgrade Your Content Management System.

UX – User Experience

UX refers to the overall experience a person has when using a product or service, especially when it concerns how fun and easy it is to use. A positive user experience will help you build trust, and increase the likelihood of a user returning to your website. This guide by Fast Company can help you turn a good UX into something great.

CX – Customer Experience

CX is the product of many interactions between an organization and a customer over the course of their relationship. Every touchpoint throughout the buyer’s journey impacts CX, including digital and more traditional touchpoints (such as a billboard). Customer experience is one of the most discussed concepts in organizations undergoing digital transformation.

For more information on CX, check out our articles:

Are Banks Failing at Customer Experience?

How do Customer Experience Improvements Impact Revenue?

Customer Experience Vs. Digital Experience

Sometimes, digital marketing acronyms are confusing. However, these 16 acronyms are important for anybody undergoing a digital transformation and need attention paid to them. If you understand the importance of each of these acronyms, it means you are well on your way to becoming a digital master. If you want to discuss any facet of digital transformation, let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ!

What is Inbound Marketing? [Infographic]

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In 2017, ads are everywhere. Billboards, TV commercials, print ads, sponsored social media posts and banner ads are constantly bombarding consumers everywhere they turn. As a result, they are losing their effectiveness. 84% of TV viewers who were surveyed admitted that they want to fast forward through TV ads. Newspapers are struggling to remain profitable, shedding employees while losing subscribers and ad revenue year-over-year. Billboards are very costly and do not provide data to prove their effectiveness, making them somewhat of a gamble. Digital advertising requires brands to put their trust in the hands of platforms, giving up control of what content their advertisement is running alongside. Digital advertising also suffers from somewhat murky attribution techniques, making the success of campaigns difficult to determine.

Advertisements are common in today’s society and well understood by the general public. But did you know there is another marketing tactic, less well-known than advertising but that may very well be more effective? Inbound marketing involves creating and sharing content to educate an audience about the topics surrounding your business. It is far more cost-effective than advertising and has seen widespread adoption over the last five years. In our article, Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing we discussed the differences between the two forms of marketing.

This infographic by The Whole Brain Group, does an excellent job explaining the basics of inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is not difficult to get started and can return significant results. 

What is inbound marketing?
To learn more about inbound marketing, digital engagement and creating human connections through digital channels follow us on Twitter @VeridayHQ.

The Power of Storytelling in the Business World

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Storytelling is one of the most inherently human activities that exists. No other species has the documented ability to tell stories the way we do. Stories greatly affect how people view topics. Storytelling, as opposed to any other method of communication, has the capacity to plant thoughts, ideas, and emotions into the audience’s brain.

Science has shown that our brains react differently to stories than to information with no narrative elements. When we hear a story, many different areas of the brain are activated. When hearing a story, the entire brain lights up with activity but when information is presented in a non-story manner, only the brain’s language processing areas become engaged.

Information in a story stimulates the brain in a way that makes it feel as if it’s experiencing the story itself. If I was to describe someone with leathery hands or a velvet voice, the sensory cortex of your brain would react. If I described my movements in the thirty minutes after getting out of bed, the motor cortex of the brain would be stimulated. These are the same parts of the brain that would be activated if you touched leather, a velvet curtain or when you experience motion.

People are moved by stories in ways that other forms of communication simply cannot match. Stories create emotional and psychological connections that help information gain traction in the audience’s brain.

Businesses across all industries work to take advantage of people’s natural attraction to storytelling. By communicating relevant information in the form of the story, it will engage the audience in a way that simply detailing the relevant information never would.

There are 4 main areas to consider in order to tell the most effective stories about your brand:

1. Humanize your message

Conveying information in the form of a story has the effect of humanizing your message. Storytelling can convey feelings of trust, authenticity, and sincerity; traits often associated with other humans.

Authenticity enables feelings and emotions to be conveyed. Authenticity is a leading reason why content associated with individuals within an organization has become so important to how brands interact with their audiences. It is best practice in content marketing to attach a name to company emails, blog posts and other forms of content. Content created by a brand’s CEO, the users of a product, or a customer-facing employee is more successful than content labeled with just the brand name.

People relate to other people, and storytelling evokes that connection. The most successful brands create emotional attachments with their customers. Consumers want to trust brands, and it is far easier for consumers to trust another human than a faceless entity. Storytelling can create that human connection and increase the trust consumers have in your brand.

2. Be emotional

Stories are a fantastic way to convey emotions to an audience. If someone becomes emotionally attached to an idea, it will stay in their mind. By creating an emotional connection with an audience, you can draw their continued attention.

One way you can use emotions to create more effective content is by drawing on empathy to forge connections with the reader (or viewer). You can easily create more effective content by putting the audience at the heart of the story and explaining how the information affects them.

In the competitive market for people’s attention, a story without an emotional connection will be ignored and quickly forgotten. Perhaps the most important feature of a story is connecting the information within to a human lens. In some situations, emotion can be more important to a decision-maker than facts.

3. Framing context

Humans think in terms of cause and effect. Regardless of the activity, people think in narratives. People create short stories about every little thing that happens to them. They enjoy sharing personal conversations and anecdotes. People naturally communicate first and foremost through stories, and brands can take advantage of that fact.

Storytelling affords brands the chance to talk in terms of cause and effect, and explain how their message directly affects individuals. People want to relate information to their own experiences whenever possible. Storytelling gives brands an opportunity to explain why the information they are providing is relevant to their target audience. Framing your content in this fashion will allow you to retain the interest of your audience.

4. Retaining interest

Listing facts and figures is not an engaging way of communicating information. Powerpoints, academic papers, and lectures are jam-packed with information but are not as effective a medium for communicating information as storytelling. They do not engage audiences as much as stories because they can come across as “dry” to most of the intended audience.

Storytelling, unlike other methods of communicating information, can maintain audience interest in a world of information overload. By creating peaks and valleys in the “flow” of the story, brands can create suspense and stakes within their story. Consider your favorite novel, movie or play. It is very likely there are suspenseful moments sprinkled throughout the content to create suspense.

Stories allow brands to retain their audience’s interest by motivating “action centers” within their brain. You can use various narrative techniques to engage audiences, peaking their interest and keeping their eyes on your content. No other form of communication has this benefit.

These facts about human psychology boil down to one lesson: People may forget facts, but they never forget great stories.

How to convey warmth through storytelling in financial services?

The financial services industry is no exception to the rule. Storytelling is still the most effective way to communicate relevant information to an audience. You can incorporate stories into all aspects of your marketing campaigns, client loyalty, and sales efforts.

Most people will say that they understand the importance of saving for retirement, but many do not invest enough in their 401(k) or other retirement plans. If you tell them “save more”, they might not listen to you. Provide that information in a narrative and the psychology of storytelling can help them understand the importance of the information you are providing.

Tell them a story of a family who did not save enough for retirement, and as a result suffered consequences, putting immense pressure on their loved ones. This story can help illustrate the importance of saving for retirement in a way that your audience can relate to.

You could explain how you would help a potential client plan for retirement, but that might not motivate people to make smarter decisions. Tell a story about a young couple who you met with the exact same mindset the audience has. Use the story to show how your advice made their life better. That story will resonate better and will influence their emotions to motivate action.

You can tell millennial audiences a story about one of their peers in a dire financial situation. Explain how with your services, you can help them save for their dream vacation. When you tell a story, your goal should be to have the audience empathize with the characters in the story. 

Any financial services professional can use storytelling to help their clients understand the importance of various financial situations. When pure information doesn’t motivate client action, a story can evoke emotions that may cause your client base to take action.

Does your business tell stories to better relate to your audience? We would love to hear the story of your brand. Let us know your story on Twitter @VeridayHQ or contact us on LinkedIn here.

Financial Marketers Not Ready for the Future?

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The financial services industry spends $8.37 billion (USD) per year on digital advertising. But with 615 million devices blocking ads worldwide, marketers need to adopt an inbound marketing strategy if they want to improve the success rate of their digital marketing efforts.

Every financial services organization is attempting to become more efficient and effective in their digital marketing efforts. From investing in new technologies to leveraging data to improve personalization, financial services organizations are working to drive more engagement in their marketing campaigns.

Trends in financial services marketing include increasing efforts in developing their brands, utilizing web-based selling, developing interactive content, and doing a better job of targeting individuals using mobile channels. The business goals associated with these marketing trends are to improve their capacity to up-sell and cross-sell while growing their overall client base.

These goals prove that the industry as a whole is embracing the digital age. There are a few difficulties financial marketers face, including difficulties in measuring ROI, an inability to get the most from their data, an inability to efficiently personalize their marketing efforts and overwhelming expectations from upper management. All of these difficulties come coupled with a systematic lack of funding for digital transformation efforts.

How are these difficulties hampering financial marketers? Let’s examine 6 of the challenges faced by financial marketers:

1. Measuring ROI

92% of organizations in financial services believe that measuring marketing performance and proving results are a challenge. As you can see in the graph below, more than half of financial executives believe their organization could do a better job of establishing marketing ROI. This number increases even more when focusing on marketing executives.

Financial Services Marketers Not Ready for the Future

Why do financial service providers struggle to quantify marketing ROI? The answer may lie in the fact that financial service organizations were slow to adopt digital marketing tactics. This late adoption meant that financial service providers are still playing catch up. Especially when it comes to digital marketing analytics.

Even though digital marketing produces an insane amount of data (click-through-rate, engagement, reach, etc.), they are of little interest to those outside of marketing. Non-marketing stakeholders are generally more concerned with ROI and sales. If an activity does not drive revenue, it is hard to justify the expense. Marketers in financial services (and other industries as well), must work to prove their value in dollars and cents.

2. Limited Skillsets and Insufficient Use of Data

These two challenges are very closely related to each other. Many marketing departments in financial services lack the skills required to effectively draw conclusions from data. By no means is this problem solely experienced in financial services. Every industry is facing a similar challenge. To offer personalized experiences to your audience, you need to be able to draw conclusions from data. Data silos need to be broken down, results need to be measured and insights need to be drawn. These activities can only be accomplished if marketing departments have the required data skills, this can be done by hiring personnel with adequate data skills.

Only 11% of organizations in financial services said that data analytics was not a problem. This shows the widespread need for data professionals with robust analytical skills in marketing. Without these skills, marketers cannot draw accurate conclusions about their audience. Without an accurate view of your audience, how can you produce content that speaks to their interests, pain points, challenges, and questions?

These missing skills also factor into why financial services companies struggle to calculate ROI from marketing. The department simply does not have the skills available to calculate these stats. In order for financial marketers to make better use of data, investments need to be made in human resources that can break down data silos and draw conclusions from available data.

3. Lack of Personalization

Personalized marketing is one of the goals of most, if not all, digital marketers. An increasing percentage of marketing budgets in financial services are going towards digital channels. This has made mass media buys a less popular option for marketers. One way to succeed in digital marketing is through producing content that is relevant to your target audience.

Offering personalized content and communications increase the rate of success for content marketing. 71% of respondents cited brand awareness and thought leadership as the most common objectives for content marketing in financial services. Customer retention/loyalty was a close third, cited by 69% of respondents.

The lack of personalization in financial services can be attributed to two main factors:

  1. The first factor preventing greater personalization in financial services is that thought leadership and brand awareness do not have a tangible, easily calculated impact on ROI. Since financial services executives are heavily focused on increasing profits and ROI, content marketing budgets can be difficult to justify.
  2. The second, more systematic reason that financial services marketers struggle to offer personalized content and communications can be attributed to the constraints surrounding regulations. All content and communications from financial service providers must be recorded and pass a compliance review. It does not matter if it is a blog post or direct email. If it is a marketing activity, it must be reviewed for compliance. The delay between drafting communications and gaining approval hamstrings the ability for marketers to personalize communications.

If financial services marketers could pass content and communications through compliance without massive delays, personalized content and communications could be produced and published more effectively.

4. Inability to Effectively Automate 

A major difficulty for marketers in financial services is the inability to effectively automate marketing functions. Marketing automation can be used in many ways and is a very valuable tool for any digital marketer. So why hasn’t automation been used to its full potential by financial services marketing teams?

In financial services, there are many rules regulating communications between organizations and individuals. Regulations are also in place to protect customer data, and to regulate branding and marketing All these regulations must be considered by financial marketers when creating and distributing content. Because of these regulations, marketers may be hesitant to employ automation. The penalties for non-compliance are so high that marketers may not trust automation with following the rules. The risk simply is too high to justify the reward. Another reason why financial marketers might be hesitant to adopt marketing automation technologies are the existing legacy systems. The legacy systems in place at financial institutions might not have the technological ability to automate their processes.

Without the ability to effectively automate certain processes, a limited number of initiatives can be undertaken at once. Automation can improve a company’s ability to:

  • respond to customer requests in real-time,
  • help the company alter details of a program in an agile manner,
  • make scheduling social media posts, emails, and content more efficient,
  • marketing in real time,
  • reactive marketing,
  • event marketing.

5. Overwhelming Expectations, Underwhelming Budgets

It appears that the final, and potentially most impactful challenge that financial marketers face is overwhelming expectations from leadership. Thanks to the increased popularity of digital marketing over the last few years, there are many areas that marketing departments need to quickly improve upon. Financial marketers need to develop skill sets for dealing with data, they need to find ways to quantify their impact on the bottom line, and they also need to revamp their marketing plans to make better use of digital channels.

Since marketing has changed so much, there are many changes that marketing departments need to undergo in order to overcome digital marketing challenges. These changes need to occur in short order, as there is still a “race” to capture digital marketing authority amongst financial service providers. The amount of change that needs to occur relatively quickly has lead to high expectations from leadership.

The graph by The Financial Brand (below), shows the biggest challenges for marketers in 2017.

Financial Services Marketers Not Ready for the Future

The main challenge for marketing departments in financial services is due to budget constraints. The quantity of change that needs to occur in a tight timeframe, along with tight budgets, has lead to some financial marketers feeling overwhelmed. They are simply being asked to do too much with too little.

Takeaways for Financial Services Marketers

To all the financial services marketers reading this, I feel your pain. Due to the increasing ubiquity of the internet, we have seen an unprecedented change in the way goods and services are marketed over the past decade. Because of the complex, far-reaching regulations that affect marketing financial services, this change has been especially difficult for financial marketers.

All the problems discussed in this article are interrelated. You cannot properly utilize your data unless you have the skill set to analyze it and break down silos. If you cannot analyze the data to draw conclusions, you cannot prove the ROI of marketing efforts. If you cannot prove ROI to executives, they will not increase your marketing budget. Without an increased budget, you cannot hire people with the skills to break down silos and analyze data.

It’s a vicious cycle that will be very difficult to break out of. To break the cycle, marketers will need to gain buy-in from non-marketing leaders. The key to everything is proving the value of digital marketing in terms executives can understand: dollars and cents.

Do you want to get more out of your digital marketing efforts? Do you want to expand your content marketing strategy through your affiliate marketing channels? We might have the product for you. Digital Agent is a marketing compliance platform, built specifically for financial service providers. It can help your agent network create personalized content that can be easily approved by compliance for publication. For more information, you can go to www.digitalagent.com. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us. Follow us on Twitter @VeridayHQ.

Content Marketing Vs. Public Relations (PR) [Infographic]

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Communicating information to your audience is a very important element of gaining their attention for your brand. Marketers are always looking to new mediums to send their messaging out to the audience.  Advertising was very popular in the days before the internet, but today’s digital age has lead to two main strategies dominating marketing departments across multiple industries: content marketing and public relations (PR).

The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as:

“a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience. Ultimate goal is to drive profitable customer action.”

The Public Relations Society of America defines public relations as:

“a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

As you can see, both of these definitions are quite similar. This infographic from CJG Digital Marketing examines the differences between the two practices.  

At Veriday, we believe content marketing is an effective strategy for regularly communicating relevant information to your audience. If done correctly, you will increase customer engagement and therefore increase the size of your client base. While public relations has its merits, we believe that content marketing is the more effective of the two marketing strategies. We believe it is more effective because PR is usually used during special events or crises, while content marketing is a regular occurrence.  
Content Marketing Vs. Public Relations

9 Star Wars Quotes That Can Make You A Better Financial Agent

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In 1977, George Lucas released his third film as a director: Star Wars. It was a massive success, leading to five more films before the production company behind the Star Wars franchise (LucasFilm) was sold to Disney. The space epic is centered around a series of intergalactic conflicts, exploring how your destiny is forged by the decisions you make. 

Throughout the course of the series, a variety of characters deliver quotes of great wisdom. The advice and ideas they share in these quotes are not only useful within the context of the films, but teach lessons that can be applied to the financial service industry. The lessons from Star Wars involve: keeping your business secure, having self-confidence, being patient, finding value where it might not be apparent, and making smart decisions.

I’ve compiled 9 of my favourite Star Wars quotes that I believe give insights into how you can become a better financial agent.

1. “You are unwise to lower your defenses.” — Darth Vader, Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)

This quote by Darth Vader was delivered while dueling his son, Luke Skywalker, on the second Death Star. While you probably won’t need to defend yourself against a lightsaber anytime soon, this quote can still be of consequence. It can apply to a variety of scenarios for financial agents, but it is most fitting when considering digital security.

You would be unwise to lower your defenses, especially those surrounding your company’s data. If you do not ensure that your data is heavily protected, you risk losing confidential information to hackers. In the financial service industry, this means breaking industry regulations and putting sensitive information at risk. Your clients would not appreciate a data breach; an event that would jeopardize your relationships with them.

You should take every possible measure to ensure you protect your data. This means training your employees to spot vulnerabilities and investing in a secure solution to store your data. 43% of cyber attacks target small businesses, and 60% of small businesses go out of business after a cyber attack. Digital security is a big deal, and you need to be constantly vigilant of potential breaches.

After being scolded about lowering his defenses, Luke promptly had his right hand cut off in a duel with his father. You don’t want your business to suffer the same fate.

9 Star Wars Quotes That Can Make You A Better Financial Agent

2.  I find your lack of faith disturbing.” – Darth Vader, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)

Our second quote by Darth Vader is another versatile statement that can be applied to a variety of scenarios. In the original movie, this line is delivered right before Darth Vader does something evil. Today, we will frame this quote as positive and make it about believing in yourself.

If you come to a decision, in business or in life, be confident that you made the right choice. You meticulously research and work with your key decision-makers to make the right financial plan for your client. Don’t let doubt creep into your mind and shake your confidence regarding the decision. Unless a strong amount of evidence comes to light that you made an error, stick to your guns. Believe in yourself. You are very capable and have the experience and knowledge to make the right decision.

Darth Vader was a villain, dominating the galaxy with the Emperor. It’s very sad because, in another life, he probably could have written a very successful self-help book.

3. You know better than to trust a strange computer.” — C3PO, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

9 Star Wars Quotes That Can Make You A Better Financial Agent

C3PO, the overly formal protocol droid, has the second lesson about security on this list. After R2D2 commented that the hyperdrive of the Millennial Falcon was broken, C3PO delivered this line. The ship was in the middle of a space battle, and R2D2 was given the information by the enemies computer. While the information R2D2 received was ultimately correct, C3PO raises a good point. You shouldn’t trust strange computers (or systems, or emails, or anything).

If you receive a notification, an email, or another alert about a problem, you should independently investigate that problem. If you don’t have the resources or knowledge to investigate, you should find someone in your organization who does. The most common phishing techniques can be combatted simply by being vigilant and questioning things that don’t seem right.

Also, be aware of strange hardware. USBs and other storage solutions can be used to upload viruses, ransomware, and other malware onto your computer. Do not plug in a USB that you don’t know the origin of. Don’t trust a strange computer and be aware of potential cyber threats.

4. Patience you must have, my young Padawan.” – Yoda, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

This quote was originally delivered by Jedi Master Yoda to the young and inexperienced Luke Skywalker during Luke’s training. Luke was rushing his training so he could go fight his father Darth Vader. Yoda, on the other hand, felt he needed more training. Despite his unconventional way of speaking, Yoda always conveys great wisdom. There are many ways that patience benefits financial agents, but today we will take a look at two in particular.

The first scenario where patience applies in finance is when trading stocks and securities. When you look to make a trade, you must set your rules for entry. At what price point will you make the trade? At what point will you sell what you currently possess? Should you sell after turmoil? These decisions are all very important. Being patient can ensure that you make the right decision at the right time.

The second scenario where patience is a virtue in finance is anytime you help a client with their finances. You are a professional. You have the training and the knowledge to help them make a plan that fits their needs. Be patient, and encourage them to be patient, when investing or saving for the future. It takes time to save for things such as retirement. Be patient. When working with clients, you should be like the Master Yoda of the conversation. Convey your wisdom and speak the truth.

5. Judge me by my size, do you?” – Yoda, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

9 Star Wars Quotes That Can Make You A Better Financial Agent

Yoda is full of grammatically incorrect quotes brimming with wisdom. As he accuses Luke Skywalker of misjudging his power, Yoda asks a question that should be asked more often. You should be very cautious when judging opportunities. Just because a company is small, doesn’t mean it is a bad investment opportunity. That small company could grow to become extremely profitable. Perhaps a great investment opportunity is severely undervalued. When it comes to trading, be careful of judging things by their size.

Just because a client doesn’t have a lot of assets, does not mean that they should be treated as such. There are a number of reasons not to judge somebody by the size of their wallet. That person could win the lottery tomorrow, and be a multi-millionaire. They could inherit a large fortune, or simply work their way up the corporate ladder quickly. All of these scenarios leave that person with more assets than they currently have. If you treat them poorly while managing their wealth (pre-windfall), you risk driving them off when they “make it”. Simply disrespecting clients of lesser means, may hurt your assets under management in the future.

Take millennials as an example. Financial advisors often ignore them because they currently don’t have many assets. In reality, millennials are the future for financial service providers because of their growing spending power. In due time, they will control a significant amount of the world’s wealth. Financial advisors who can draw a millennial client base before the generation fully realizes their wealth will have an advantage over their competition.

6. “You can’t stop change any more than you can stop the suns from setting.” – Shmi Skywalker, Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace (1999)

The mother of Anakin Skywalker (AKA Darth Vader), Shmi Skywalker, was a relatively minor character in the Star Wars franchise. She spoke this line to her young son before he turned to the dark side. The quote applies to finance (and life) in a number of ways.

You cannot do anything to stop change. It is a constant. Governments will put in place regulations that impact the financial services. Businesses will make bad decisions, and things will fail. What makes a good financial agent is your ability to anticipate and react to these change in order to benefit your client base.

Since you cannot stop change, you should embrace it. Stay on top of modern trends. Understand what technologies and strategies are emerging and how you can take advantage of them. Look for opportunities for success within changing situations. Anakin Skywalker did not heed his mother’s advice. Anakin tried to stop change and in doing so he lost everyone he loved and became Darth Vader. Do not make the same mistake.

7. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Yet another quote delivered by Yoda to Luke Skywalker during his training. This quote is about determination. Your actions have real effects, and you should have the patience, knowledge, and confidence to follow through with your plans. If you say you are going to “try”, you are subconsciously admitting that your plans might fail.

When you go to the store to get milk, do you say “I’m going to try to get milk”? No, you don’t. You say “I’m going to get milk” with the confidence that you will be able to get the milk. You should have confidence in your plans. Believe your plan can be accomplished. Do not try. Just do it.

If you cannot ensure that you can make a plan and 100% follow through, then you may need to re-evaluate. Break down what you need to accomplish into manageable pieces, and make a plan for each of those segments. To gain trust from your customers, you need to be able to communicate exactly what you can do for them. If you can highlight what you can 100% achieve for your client, you will better be able to provide tangible value.

You need to constantly be communicating your value, highlighting what you do for your clients. Service providers face a challenge that is not faced by distributors of goods. The physical existence of goods serves as a reminder of their value. When people see their car, they are reminded of the value it provides. Services do not have that reminder, so service providers need to constantly remind their clients of the value they provide.

8. Who’s the more foolish, the fool? Or the fool who follows him?” – Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)

Old Obi-Wan Kenobi spoke this line to Han Solo while aboard the Millennial Falcon. Han was calling him “an old fool”, and Obi-Wan returned with this biting comeback. Obi-Wan has a serious point here. If you know better, why would you follow bad advice? For financial agents, this goes two ways.

You should resist the pressure to sell financial products you don’t believe in. Major financial institutions often push their agents to promote particular products. If you don’t believe in a product, why would your client be interested in it? You are an expert. Every product or service you recommend to a client should be tailored to their unique needs. Don’t be unwise when recommending action. It is your responsibility to make the most logical, well-intended decisions, regardless of what expectations are held by leadership.

The other side of the equation for financial agents comes when they are the ones providing guidance or advice. Your clients will not be happy if they believe you have made “foolish” decisions. They lose faith in your ability to manage their finances. Bad decisions and mismanagement will result in clients using trust in you, damaging your reputation. Ensure that your decision-making process is justified and easily explainable. People understand why taking risks is important, however, they will not be understanding of foolish mistakes.

Be mindful of every decision you make; as even if made in good faith, decisions can easily result in negative results. You do not want to be seen as a fool (because you aren’t one). Ensure you advocate for the right decisions are made… even if they are out of your control.

9. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” – Multiple characters, Star Wars: Multiple times (1977-2016)

9 Star Wars Quotes That Can Make You A Better Financial Agent

Arguably the second most iconic line of the series (behind “May the Force be with you”), this quote speaks volumes. Every time a character proclaims: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”, something bad happens almost immediately.

The lesson you can take from this quote is that you should trust your “gut”. Financial markets can rapidly change, with government actions or small changes in an industry having a widespread effect almost immediately. If data isn’t available to accurately forecast the expected results you should trust your intuition. Mistakes and missteps are bound to happen. You can justify your actions in those moments if you know that you stuck to your convictions and trusted your instincts.

If you have a bad feeling about something, as Luke Skywalker did right before he saw the original Death Star for the first time, you should trust that feeling. You have training and experience. Rely on that to make the correct decision.

As you can see, you can learn a lot of lessons from the Star Wars saga. Through the many adventures the heroes faced, we learned lessons to apply to finance (and business in general). What other Star Wars quotes relate to the financial service industry? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ! Have an excellent day and may the Force be with you!