Many firms in the highly commoditized financial services industry struggle with the same thing: how to build awareness and credibility for their expertise, and truly differentiate themselves from other players in the space. After all, one company’s money is as green as the next, right?
One way financial service firms can achieve true differentiation is by developing and publishing value-added thought leadership content that offers information clients can really use across multiple channels and formats on an ongoing basis.
ComBlu was recently tasked with developing a strategic content roadmap for a regional commercial bank. To develop the roadmap, we started with a competitive scan to see how a variety of national, regional and niche players were leveraging thought leadership and social media to differentiate themselves. Simply put, we learned that few companies in the financial services sector have a strategic approach to thought leadership content. In fact, among the firms we looked at, very little content exists beyond collateral information.
Here are the major content trends and issues that surfaced in our scan of financial service companies:
- Thought leadership content in the financial services space is very high-level in nature and largely tied to the economy and market activity. In many cases, firms offer their perspective on economic data they have purchased around topics such as interest rate fluctuations, investment outlook, consumer spending, pricing fluctuations, economic reports/indicators, etc. Companies that do a nice job offering this type of content include Wells Fargo and Regions.
- Few companies offer thought leadership content pertinent to the specialized and emerging industries they serve. Wells Fargo is a rare example of a company that offers some of this value-added content with reports on specialized industries to pay off their knowledge of the industry.
- Financial service companies tend to house all thought leadership in one area or hub. Check out Chase’s Executive Connect and PNC’s Ideas hubs for a look at the most robust hubs we found.
- It is rare to find pertinent thought leadership content when browsing capability information. GE Capital was the only financial services provider we looked at that exhibited some of this.
- While the thought leadership hubs are a nice way to pull content together, by and large they are not well-organized. In many cases visitors need to work really hard to find something specific and can get easily lost on property. Search functionality is also not well-used in these hubs.
- Despite the fact that research shows a preference for blogs among commercial financial leaders, company authored blogs are rare (we did not see any in our search)
- Other company social assets (Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) are not well-developed or integrated into commercial sites
- Although financial services is largely a relationship-driven business, the “people” pages are not easily found and tend to focus on bank leadership alone and only include basic biographic information
- High consideration deal content is included but not always well leveraged. Two companies that do a good job in showcasing this type of news is PNC (includes a Done Deal section that enables visitors to sort deals closed by location, type of financing provided and industry) and GE Capital (utilize storytelling to showcase Our Customers)
- With a few exceptions, little voice of the customer, third-party content and partner strategies were found
A proactive and strategic thought leadership program will go a long way toward helping financial service firms stand apart, deliver value to existing clients and attract new customers. And there are clearly many areas for improvement across the board. Has thought leadership content helped advance your brand? Please feel free to share your ideas.
Pam is adept at fostering relationships with respected thought leaders and influencers. She has 20-plus years of experience in social engagement, media and blogger relations, thought leadership, community building and copywriting.