Most financial services experienced significant disruption to their marketing when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the UK. Many were forced to halt marketing campaigns, pause advertising spend and “bunker down” by diverting resources inwards to keep the ship afloat. it felt natural for many financial marketers to pause what they were doing. What is often less clear, however, is what to publish and promote with your content marketing during a time of national crisis.
Should you put out compassionate, empathetic messages to your audience(s) to try and show the “human side” of your brand? Or, should you try and rise above it all by continuing your articles and other content marketing efforts as if nothing has changed?
The former risks coming across as inauthentic or tone-deaf, whilst the latter runs the danger of appearing uncaring or unaware of what’s going on and how it affects your market.
How do you strike the right content marketing balance as a financial services business during such difficult times? It’s a crucial question – and one which we seek to address here. Below, our team here at MarketingAdviser offers some thoughts on how to adapt your financial content marketing strategy when the prevailing environment takes a turn for the worse.
Withdrawing in a time of heightened engagement
As a financial content marketing agency which has been active in helping financial services firms during the pandemic, we’ve noticed an interesting trend since lockdown started in March 2020. Across our digital marketing campaigns we’ve seen a rise in user engagement. This has been surprising for many of our clients who have seen more people reading their monthly newsletter, commenting on social media posts and visiting the content on their financial websites.
Anecdotally, the evidence suggests that clients generally want to hear more from their financial services firm during a time of crisis – not less. This picture seems to be backed up by evidence from various marketing studies which have been conducted in Q2. For instance, this report shows that, across multiple industries and sectors, email open rates have risen by an average of 25% during the pandemic. More people have also been engaging with live chats on websites, and traffic has generally risen.
All of this suggests that it is a mistake for financial services firms to “bunker down” in a time of crisis. We get it. Budgets are put under more strain as revenues shrink, leading to a drive to find areas where money can be saved. Content marketing appears to be a non-essential spend which can be halted, albeit temporarily, whilst you navigate through the market turbulence. Yet the evidence shows that these kinds of conditions are exactly where your content is most needed.
The question is, of course, what kind of content marketing should financial services firms be publishing during a crisis such as a pandemic? Let’s tackle this question more closely, below.
Gathering thoughts in the gathering storm
The very nature of a crisis is that there is considerable uncertainty. As we all watched the news come in about COVID-19 in February and March 2020, nobody knew how events would pan out. Almost no-one foresaw the lockdown and economic damage that would ensue. This makes it very difficult for marketers to plan for the conditions ahead of them. How can you know which way the waves will throw you, and which course will best steer your brand through the turbulence?
As the storm gathers, therefore, it’s often a good idea to start with planning what you will not do with your content marketing. Just as the captain of a ship knows certain things should not be done as a gale approaches (e.g. keep far away from port), financial marketers should be reviewing their planned marketing campaigns and put on pausing them temporarily (if possible) whilst this review goes on. Is that advertising campaign still appropriate given what’s going on? Should the tone of that article be changed?
A new content plan
Here at MarketingAdviser, we often outline a 2-3 month content plan for the articles we propose to craft for clients. Since March 2020, however, we’ve needed to craft these plans on a monthly basis – and sometimes even weekly, since circumstances kept changing. It was hard to know whether a planned article in two month’s time would still be relevant, accurate and appropriate given all that was going on! A new content plan was required – for our clients as well as for ourselves.
One thing that shouldn’t change about your content marketing during a crisis time is the focus on providing real value to your audience. The key question to ask yourself before any social media post, blog article or newsletter goes out should be: “Is this genuinely helpful to people right now – or is it just adding noise?”
Another good question to ask yourself is whether all of the marketing channels you normally use to publish your content are still suitable/appropriate during this crisis moment? As a financial firm, perhaps your client newsletter is still going to be very important to communicate market updates, yet maybe your promotional direct mail efforts will be less well-received right now.
Whilst you want to avoid the danger of being silent during a pandemic or similar crisis, you also should be careful not to overload your audience either. Pay careful attention to your analytics and other engagement tools during these times to try and gauge how your audience is reacting to your content marketing. Has there been a dramatic change in behaviour? If so, how might this affect the volume and cadence of your content going forwards?