A few years ago, I wrote a post on thought leadership in the highly commoditized commercial real estate (CRE) and financial services and how folks in the 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?

A few years forward, the struggle remains. This is true relationship-driven business and the value of face-to-face interactions and multiple in-person touchpoints will never be replaced.  However, developing and publishing value-added thought leadership content that offers information clients can really use across multiple channels and formats on an ongoing basis, and then implementing a content marketing strategy to leverage the heck out of that content will go a long way in helping these firms achieve true differentiation.

ComBlu recently conducted topic modeling to inform a strategic content roadmap for a regional commercial bank with a solid CRE footprint. 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 them. 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 CRE and financial services companies:

  • Thought leadership content in the CRE and 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. Chase 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 services companies tend to house all thought leadership in one area or hub. Check out PNC’s Ideas hubs for a look at one of the most robust hubs we found.
  • It is rare to find companies that do a nice job at weaving in the voice of the customer. Capital One is an exception, leveraging video and quotes featuring key clients.
  • 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.
  • Even though research shows a preference for blogs among commercial financial leaders, company authored blogs are rare.
  • 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 always easily found and tend to focus on bank leadership alone. Once again, Capital One does a nice job in this arena.
  • High consideration deal content is included but not always well leveraged. PMC does 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).

A proactive and strategic thought leadership program will go a long way toward helping CRE and financial services 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 Flores

Pam Flores

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.