With more and more companies — startups and legacy firms alike — increasing content marketing for their customers, it’s no longer much of a “differentiator” as it once was for some fintech startups trying to distinguish their offerings.
For example, Acorns recently ran an article called “First-Time Home Buyers Share What They Got Right—and Wrong.” Chase ran something similar under the headline “How this millennial woman bought a home on her own.” Meanwhile, Wealthsimple ran “How To Know What Kind of Mortgage You Can Afford.” A sea of sameness engulfs these companies, a problem when you’re trying to stand out.
Firms from Chase to Acorns to Bond Street are on a mission to educate customers and promote financial literacy through content marketing — something previously done, for the most part, by employees of the bank — to keep up with customers’ increasing need for control and self-service. It’s clear they’re trying to keep emotional ties with customers strong, since most opt to manage their money digitally now, through a banking app or roboadvisor.
“They don’t want people to park their money and go,” said April Rudin, chief executive and founder of wealth marketing strategy firm The Rudin Group. “Content is one way to make people return back to their site to add more money, to add value… The problem is there’s no one-size-fits-all advice for customers, and the majority of the firms haven’t figured out how to serve up content that’s not one-size-fits-all.”
Good advice — and content — will ensure people will return back to their site to see new updates, buy new products and invest more money. Many of the accounts being targeted in the content are on the lower asset level, but to keep business running, firms need more investors, larger investors and ultimately to grow their assets under management.
“Content marketing is not a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have, but it costs money,” said one conference goer at the Digiday Content Marketing Summit this week. “Where is that money supposed to come from? A sale makes it easier to justify, but you can’t always be selling. That’s a huge turnoff.”
Fintech firms love content marketing. Acorns, the popular micro investing app, has an online magazine called Grow that features news, financial how-tos and interviews with celebrities like Kevin Durant, Ian Kahn and Tony Robbins. Online lending company Bond Street has an online magazine that looks at the cultural and economic impact of independent businesses in New York as well as a podcast. Investing app Stash has a Learn page that aims to help “build a community of confident investors” that includes tips and primers on different money matters and concepts. Last year, Chase redesigned its online banking website to offer news stories as well as advice, guidance and support “the way we have a banker relationship at a bank,” the bank said at the time.
And at a time when people are consuming more content more frequently than ever — and all with one bias or another — so-called advice, education and information offered on their financial services platform can start to become just as noisy as the content coming through their various news streams on their various devices.
“The question is how frequent should it be? They have to figure out what the value is of the content they put out based on how people react to it and if they’re building more confidence and putting more money into their account,” Rudin said. “The fact is that they’re really trying to replace, to some extent, the advisor.”
It’s not just millennials that want advice, and every customer wants to consume advice differently. That’s why despite the popularity of robo advisors, there’s still a role for advisory relationships in financial services, hence the need to create online “communities.”
USAA is addressing this differently. With the creation of its Alexa skill for Amazon Echo devices earlier this month, it’s pushing insights — not advice — to help customers make more sound financial decisions.
“You’ll start to see spending advice as more of a mechanism to make a decision than to get some help,” Darrius Jones, assistant vp at USAA Labs, told Tearsheet at the time. “We think conversationally is the best way to deliver it.”
About 42 percent of ultra high net worth investors will change advisors if they don’t like the digital interface of the company, Rudin said, citing research by Capgemini. But the idea of a digital interface is broader than what people think, she said. It includes communication, not just advice.
In a way, depending on the consumer and his or her needs, content marketing reformats the traditional model of advice. By bringing in technology, as USAA has done with its Alexa skill, financial firms can figure out what customers really need.
“All these things need to be evaluated by banks,” Rudin said. “All that does is give it a remodel instead of a retool. Banks need to take a step back and retool themselves and think: how does this stuff really work?”