A recent article at Tearsheet briefly discusses the content marketing strategy for the online lending platform Bond Street. Content marketing is not something I hear people in the fintech industry talking about much, but they should. In this post, I’m going to discuss what content marketing is, why it’s important for online lenders in particular and fintech firms in general, and get into specific types of content marketing that fintech companies can use to build their brands. In this discussion, I’ll also pinpoint Bond Street’s content marketing strategy and tell why certain tactics they’ve adopted are important for fintech brands.
Ready? Here we go.
A simple Google search for “What is content marketing” prompts Google to provide its dictionary-like definition right out of the box. Here’s Google’s definition of content marketing:
a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.
I like that. But investigating further, there are some reputable marketing firms that have their own definitions. Here’s one from the Content Marketing Institute:
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
A bit too technical for my taste, but accurate. I prefer the more conversational Google definition. Here’s one from Marketo:
Content marketing is the process of creating high-quality, valuable content to attract, inform, and engage an audience, while also promoting the brand itself.
Oh, and let’s check out what Wikipedia has to say.
Content marketing is a form of marketing focused on creating, publishing and distributing content for a targeted audience online.
Interestingly, Wikipedia defines content marketing as creating, publishing, and distributing content for a targeted audience online, yet, in the history section of the Wikipedia page for the content marketing entry, they go back as far as 1895 to illustrate where the concept comes from. However, the term “content marketing” didn’t come into use until some time in the 1990s–Wikipedia says 1996, but does anyone really consider Wikipedia a wholly credible source?
Okay, rhetorical questions aside, let’s consider that each of these definitions has some element of truth in them. What is content marketing? In a nutshell, I’d say it’s any type of marketing that is essentially based on the creating, publishing, and distribution of content in any form. That can be online or offline, though it typically is in reference to online content. I like the Google definition because it mentions that content marketing is not necessarily about explicitly promoting a brand. While the Marketo definition mentions brand promotion as a key ingredient, that simply shows that definitions can vary. My own take is this: While content marketing does inherently promote a brand, it is not done for the purpose of directly promoting a brand. This is a nuance that is important and a very fine distinction that simply means promotion is not always a blatant activity. It can occur by pursuing other goals and achieving other means.
Here’s what I mean. P.T. Barnum was a consummate showman and promotional expert. Everything he did was blatant promotion. Brand positioning, however, does not have to be that blatant. It can be subtle and still be effective, and that’s where content marketing comes in.
It’s difficult to conduct business today without having some kind of online presence. That’s just as true of lemonade stands as it is for online lenders. One of the great ironies of the online lending space is that so many platforms use traditional marketing channels. If you conduct business online, you should seriously consider online marketing channels.
The question any business has to answer (and it’s no different for fintech companies) is, Which marketing channels will be most effective in reaching my target audience? The answer to that question depends on many variables, but one of the most important considerations is where you can find your target audience.
If you sell lemonade, you’ll be hard pressed to sell a cup in the middle of winter in the northern U.S. states. You might be better off selling hot chocolate. But in the middle of summer in the south, you can sell cool glasses of lemonade to every passerby with the right marketing. If you want to sell a lot of it, go to a busy street corner, or a park. The key indicator is, where do people who want and need lemonade hang out? Who wants it? And at what price? These are the questions you should ask. Once you have those questions answered, then you talk about your marketing plan.
There’s no question that the customers of online lenders are online. Even if all you provide for your customers through your online channel is an application, borrowers have to go to your website to get that application. They have to go online. But where were they before they got online to apply for that loan?
There’s a good chance they were hanging out at Facebook or Snapchat. They may even have been watching a Netflix movie. Or perhaps they were shopping at Amazon. Maybe they conducted a Google search for “Where can I borrow $1,000 online?” If that is the case, then you want to be the one to answer that question for them in Google. You want to be the top search result. And if the borrower was chatting it up with friends on Facebook and didn’t realize they wanted a loan, you could persuade them of that need simply by putting the right offer in front of them. Any way you look at it, you have to get your brand in front of the customer. Content marketing is one way to do that.
So, what types of content can fintech companies use? That, again, depends a great deal on who your audience is and where they hang out. If you provide small business loans, you’re more likely to find an audience at LinkedIn than Tumblr. If you provide payday or auto loans, Facebook and Instagram are likely the places your audience is hanging out. But that doesn’t say what content will appeal to them.
When it comes to choosing the right kind of content, there’s no fail-safe method that works every time. It’s not entirely guess work, but it’s not an exact science either. Some experimentation is in order, but, like investing in the stock market, you have to measure and weigh the risks against potential gains. Calculated risks are more likely to produce positive returns than willy-nilly guesstimates. The key is in understanding your audience and knowing where to find them. That’s where you begin any marketing campaign. The value of content marketing, however, is that you can reach your target audience quicker and more enticingly by drawing them to you rather than putting on some circus act.
Content marketing is a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.
The Tearsheet article I mentioned in the first paragraph above briefly mentions four distinct content marketing channels Bond Street uses to build its brand online. These include:
Additionally, Bond Street manages its marketing budget by partnering with other businesses, but that is less about content marketing than simply good business sense. A look at the Bond Street website shows that the company has branded social media accounts at Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. That’s a very good good move, in my opinion.
So let’s talk about each of these content marketing channels and how they may benefit Bond Street as they seek to reach out to their target market:
Finally, I want to make mention of Bond Street’s social media accounts. Their Instagram is highly visual and dedicated to telling the stories of independent small business owners, and they make liberal use of effective hashtags. Their Twitter stream proudly supports independent businesses and links back to For New York in the profile description. Again, it is highly visual and promotes the small businesses the company writes about in its branded magazine. The Bond Street Facebook page is another visual representation of the motif about small businesses. Each one of these social media accounts is branded with the Bond Street logo and colors to make them recognizable to the company’s target audience.
All in all, I’d give Bond Street a big A in branded online publishing. They’re doing content marketing right.
As mentioned earlier, the first question you should ask is, Where does my target audience hang out? No use setting up a Twitter account if your audience isn’t on Twitter.
Another thing you want to know is what kind of messaging your audience finds most appealing. Are they easily persuaded by video content? If so, a YouTube channel might help you promote your brand effectively. If your target audience are top executives in technology businesses that cater to other businesses, then white papers and case studies are more likely to be persuasive. To key is to understand that there is no single path to content marketing Nirvana, no one path that will work for every company. The content marketing you perform should be tailored to your company.
That said, here are some types of content marketing you should consider. Each of these content marketing types are designed to make you an authority in your niche, not just another company that sells machine learning widgets.
These are just a handful of types of content that any company can use to position itself as an authority online. You may not want to pursue all of these, but you can start with two or three and add others as you begin to see results. Content marketing doesn’t need to be your only marketing channel, but it can complement other marketing channels, even traditional ones, quite well.
Are you ready to boost your authority? Looking for ways to expand your reach and deliver the best content for your niche audience? Download my free report, “14 Types of Authority Content“. Learn the 14 types of content that will keep your audience coming back for more and instantly make you an authority they can rely on.