Want to create better content? Start with design thinking
Borrow these effective CX principles to improve your content marketing
- Financial services companies are trusted by their clients to offer advice and direction in times of change. Their marketing tactics and messaging needs to align with this.
- The challenge with traditional advertising is that it’s increasingly blocked or ignored by consumers, and personalization is especially challenging in this industry because data compliance regulations can be inhibitive.
- To truly position yourself as a trusted authority, approach content marketing from a data-driven and human-centric perspective.
As a financial services company, you’re seen by your clients as a pillar of stability in a sea of change. In fact, your reputation relies on it.
And your first priority is to help your customers navigate the uncertainties of their financial future—even while you’re weathering the choppy waters of digital disruption. The message you project is, “The world is changing, but you’ve always counted on us, and you can continue to count on us no matter what happens.” This consistency is what people bank on when it comes to something as sensitive as their money.
But between new and changing technologies, competition, regulations, and demographics, the financial services industry has never been more complex—nor ripe with opportunity. As you begin to rethink your longstanding products and business models, consider how your marketing needs to keep pace. Where broadcasting a message was once the standard, today consumers expect narrowcasting. They want exactly the information they’re looking for at exactly the time they need it. And they expect the same high quality interactions from their financial services providers as they do from any other marketing leader.
In this new landscape, paids ads aren’t as effective as they used to be
Many financial services companies still rely on traditional advertising to reach their customers. That means two things: long planning cycles that limit their ability to pivot, adapt, and personalize; and an emphasis on a medium that interrupts customers instead of delivering value to them in new and innovative ways.
Forward-thinking marketing teams at companies like WealthSimple, Bank of America, and State Street Global Advisors are placing their focus on content that resonates with specific customer segments in real time. But how are they maximizing their impact with the stories they produce?
Some companies launch a content campaign based simply on what they think their users will want. A few of them back it up with data-driven research, analyzing keyword and search trends to deliver stories that answer the most common customer queries of the moment. But is there more they can be doing?
The short answer is yes. A lot. And it starts with design thinking.
What would a designer do?
Design thinking is an approach to problem solving that starts by understanding users on a deeply empathetic level, and defining key challenges from their unique perspectives. That enables the problem solver—whether that’s a product developer, an engineer, or a business advisor—to ideate around how to address this problem in a concrete and effective way. So what if this same methodology was applied not to the development of products or services, but the creation of content?
The best place to start is with customer journey mapping: plotting customers’ needs, mindsets, pain points, and decisions at different stages of the marketing funnel, from awareness to conversion. By examining customers’ end-to-end experience, it’s clear that content opportunities are everywhere—as are glaring gaps where would-be customers are getting lost along the way.
For instance, many financial institutions want to talk to customers about retirement, not only because of the current boomer exodus, but because many millennials don’t even seem to have retirement on their radar. So where do you start?
You might kick it off with top-of-funnel stories that help young people relate to retirement on a more personal or philosophical level; topics such as health and wellness, popular science, or current events can help you craft engaging pieces around the financial realities of ageing. Once they commit to learning more about the topic, you can introduce middle-of-the-funnel content, like an ABCs of retirement terms, or what kinds of plans and funds they can start investing in and why.
At the bottom of the funnel, your stories can show them the direct benefits of your business, such as infographics that more creatively illustrate their projected savings, and CTAs that connect them to advisors. Post-conversion, you could provide unique, entertaining content that continues to demonstrate the value of their investments—for example, spotlighting a customer success story of early retirement, or illustrating their total savings in creative, tongue-in-cheek ways.
The journey mapping process helps marketers create assets that speak directly to customers’ needs, nurturing them down the funnel with practical calls-to-action that connect them to new stories or services, and encourage them to keep learning more.
Design thinking tells you what to do, data tells you how to do it
Taking an empathic, human-centered approach to understanding your audience’s journey can surface the themes you need to address in your content campaigns. This can then be combined with a data-driven strategy to determine the specific angles and topics each asset should cover and the best channels and formats to deliver those messages.
We know that companies are trying to build design thinking into their business models—in the past five years, Google searches pertaining to “customer journey mapping” have increased in frequency by over 350%. But many financial services companies haven’t fully grasped the fact that the customer journey is more subtle and complex than the traditional sales or marketing funnel model. Nor are they making use of data to uncover the content marketing opportunities that will help customers navigate this journey.
Ultimately, you need design thinking to map out where customers are coming from, where they want to go, and how content can help them get there; and you need data to know what content to produce. All of these elements complement each other. Customers have unique needs and challenges, and it’s up to financial services companies to prove that they have the technical knowledge and human understanding to help solve them.
Investing in the customer experience
Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes will always be best practice, regardless of industry, but creating empathy is especially important in such a sensitive space as financial services. Your customers aren’t just buying your product, or using your service, they’re trusting you with their wealth, their future. By incorporating a design thinking framework into your content strategy process, you can identify the most meaningful points of conversation to connect with them—and then use data to figure out how.