Just as bankers are adjusting to the terminology and nuances of digital ad campaigns, astute retailers are shifting resources to a more efficient digital marketing medium: content.
Content marketing is the use of articles, videos, infographics, testimonials and blogs – virtually any communication vehicle that influences buyer behavior and stimulates purchases. Content, after all, attracts attention from credible websites, social media networks and search engines – online resources where most consumers do their shopping research. Wise community banks should follow retailers' lead and add the technique into their marketing mixes.
According to a survey conducted by marketing and events media company ClickZ, content marketing ranks as companies' most significant digital marketing trend of 2016 – ahead of pay-per-click, paid search and display ads.
Content marketing has taken center stage among companies for three reasons: it's cheaper, more credible than paid advertising, and it gets around ad blocking technology, which has exploded in the last two years as ever more consumers embrace mobile technology.
Indeed, U.S. adults are now spending a majority of their digital media time on mobile. This spells bad news for digital advertisers because browsers like the iOS 9 version of Apple's Safari are coming with built-in ad blockers. As a whole, U.S. ad blocking grew by 48% (45 million active users) in the 12 months ending in June 2015.
But the most appealing feature of content marketing is the relatively low associated cost of attracting superior leads. Sure, the strongest and most economical leads come from repeat customers, customer referrals and walk-ins, while organic leads from search engines are the next strongest leads. However, content-generated leads are close behind.
As an example, Liberty Bank is a small, Chicago-based institution that relies on digital marketing to attract mortgage applicants. At our bank, pay-per-click costs are averaging $162 per mortgage lead while content-related leads are just $36. Even greater cost-benefit ratios are found in content marketing for checking accounts and credit card acquisition.
It's easy to see why content is king. Prospects tend to discount or even dismiss the barrage of ads coming from the financial sector, and indeed, all retailers. Content, meanwhile, embraces what the consumer wants: messages tailored to tastes and lifestyles, pertinent information that helps decision-makers.
As banks explore using this strategy, it's important to recognize what content isn't, as much as what it is. Content isn't a direct mail pitch, email or video touting a product. In other words, it is not an ad. Rather, it is any piece that informs, entertains or otherwise engages prospects. Content isn't limited to websites either. Yelp reviews, YouTube videos and live streaming deliver popular and persuasive content.
What makes the best content? Anything that engages the customer. Think infographics, quizzes, calculators, assessments, or graders. Stories on improving FICO scores, reducing student debt and calculating retirement needs attract readers. So do compelling first-person narratives. Make sure content pieces appeal to your target market and advance your marketing goals.
The larger your investment is in content, the more prominent your placement will be in search listings – the place consumers are going to shop. Indeed, 60% of shoppers use a search engine to find the products they want, and 61% read product reviews before making any purchase, according to 2014 data from MineWhat. Yet, remember, like any long-term investment, allow a year or so for it to show meaningful results.
Easy access to information has fundamentally changed the way consumers research products and, ultimately, make purchase decisions. By developing content that provides advice and engages the customer, you'll enhance your brand and reduce acquisition costs.
Kevin Tynan is senior vice president of marketing at Liberty Bank in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.