By Clare McDermott published December 9, 2012

How Your Content Marketing Strategy Can Drive Growth

Brenda Spiering Bio Pic for Brighter LifeBrenda Spiering is the editor of BrighterLife.ca, an online money, health, and wellness publication created to funnel traffic back to Sun Life Financial’s main website. The publication has been incredibly successful in reaching its goals. Brenda recently shed some light on BrighterLife’s content strategy. 

CMI: What problem are you solving with content?

Brenda: Sun Life Financial wanted to engage Canadian consumers earlier in the sales cycle, before they had considered Sun Life or were even aware that their needs might be met by a financial product.

Visitors to SunLife.ca were already looking for financial products. But there was no communications vehicle for Sun Life to pique the interest of Canadians who were browsing lifestyle-based content or in the discovery phase — where they’re uncovering advice, tips, and information that could inform their money, family, health, working life, and retirement decisions.

BrighterLife.ca targets consumers at the beginning of their buying journey. They may have been exposed to a trigger, such as an upcoming life cycle change, starting a family, changing careers, or retirement. With this in mind, the demographic range of the audience extends from young professionals and young families to mature families and retirees.

Sun Life's BrighterLife.ca

In creating BrighterLife.ca (and its French-language, Quebec-focused equivalent Simplementbrillant.ca), Sun Life Financial sought to establish an online platform for Canadians that would encourage discussion and provide links to tools and resources on Sunlife.ca. The goal is to grow Sun Life’s brand as a knowledgeable, friendly and, most importantly, trusted financial services provider. Brighter Life would act as a muted, no-pressure lead generation tool for Sun Life’s products and advisors — but in a way that added real value to Canadians’ everyday lives.

How did you get buy-in? Did you have to justify internally?    

One of the key challenges of introducing a cross-business initiative within a company the size of Sun Life Financial (over 7,000 employees) is connecting with all of the key stakeholders. Before launching the site, we held meetings with each of the streams of business within Sun Life Financial to explain the Brighter Life content marketing strategy and marketing opportunities that it provided.

Then, we formed an editorial advisory board, made up of representatives from each business unit. The board held regular monthly meetings. This provided an ongoing way for them to help guide and influence the content topics and approach to ensure they are supportive of their marketing goals.

What tactics are you using?

The content is written in plain language, in a journalistic, informative style. The focus is on the challenges and opportunities Canadians face across the key topic areas — money, health, family, working life, and retirement. Brighter Life doesn’t feature Sun Life-branded products and services. Instead, the site engages Canadians and informs the discussions they are already having online about issues that may, one day, lead them to our products and services.

BrighterLife.ca promotes Sun Life’s ultimate goal to drive a more-informed consumer to Sunlife.ca to find product information or speak with an advisor by incorporating relevant, yet clearly set off, calls-to-action in banner ads and underneath articles.

What infrastructure did you need to put in place to be successful (e.g., key team members, technologies, processes)?

Sun Life’s Digital Marketing team leaders built a dedicated content marketing team to support Brighter Life. Our core team works with both internal and external writers, an internal IT department, and an external agency on the development of content (articles, videos, and infographics).

  • I’m the Editor/Site Manager responsible for content strategy and development.
  • A managing editor is responsible for copy editing, approvals, and translations.
  • A digital consultant is responsible for content posting and images.

Once you generate content, how do you distribute it?

We have developed an in-depth marketing plan for Brighter Life that includes sharing our content through both digital and social media channels. From the development of social media channel extensions on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to search optimization, ongoing influencer relations and social media monitoring, to planning paid sponsorships with bloggers and large media portals, the activation strategies are focused on getting Brighter Life content in front of the audiences that matter most to Sun Life.

Brighter Life also encourages readers to contribute their own comments, both on the site and on its social media extensions. Plus, we invite them to subscribe to receive Brighter Life content via daily email alerts, RSS feeds, and a monthly eNewsletter.

What kind of results, specifically, have you gotten since you started using content marketing? 

BrighterLife.ca has proven to be an early success and was named one of Content Marketeer’s Top 50 Brands to Watch in 2012. It has also received numerous industry awards, including the Content Marketing Institute’s Magnum Opus Gold Award for best use of an integrated marketing tool, and a Sabre Gold Award in the Financial Services category.

Since launch in September 2011:

  • The site has posted more than 200 articles that advisors can share to generate referrals.
  • It already receives one-third of the amount of traffic currently going to Sun Life Financial’s corporate site, SunLife.com.
  • Its traffic is on track to rise exponentially and make it a major source of new web leads in Canada for the company.
  • In the first 9 months, it converted approximately 4 percent of traffic to leads with more than 8,700 click-throughs to SunLife.ca.
  • More than 620,000 pages of content were consumed.
  • Site visitors spent an average of 2 minutes and 30 seconds browsing the site.
  • It drew over 13,000 fans and followers across its Facebook and Twitter social media extensions.

Where do you expect to go next? What challenges are you still facing?

On the content side, we will continue to work with all of our business unit representatives to build out our library of content. We will add new videos (both graphical video definitions of financial terms and live-action videos) and introduce new guest blogs, articles, and infographics. Plus, we’ve leveraged the concept in Indonesia and will continue to build it out there as well.

Content strategy Brighter Life Indonesia

On the digital side, we plan to make a number of enhancements to the Brighter Life site in 2013, including:

  • The introduction of drop-down menus within each of our main content categories to facilitate site navigation
  • Tool and calculator upgrades
  • Optimization of BrighterLife.ca for mobile devices
  • Solutions to make it easier for advisors to share the content with clients and prospects

What are the most exciting examples of content marketing you’ve seen, outside of your business?

Companies such as Kraft and Nike were early adopters of the strategy and have built strong community engagement for their brands. Kraft has done it through its extensive library of recipes and mealtime solutions on KraftRecipes.com. Nike has done it through NikePlus by inviting members to join its community and benefit from being able to track their activities, map their running routes, and share their success stories.

The goal of BrighterLife.ca is to offer the same kind of value and build the same sense of community by providing consumers with tips and tools to help them better manage their money, health, family, working life, and retirement — so they can ultimately achieve a brighter life.

You’ll find more behind-the-scenes insight on the best content marketing efforts when you subscribe to Chief Content Officer magazine. 

Author: Clare McDermott

Clare McDermott is the editor of Chief Content Officer magazine and owner of SoloPortfolio, a Boston-based content marketing provider for professional service firms.You can follow her @soloportfolio.

Other posts by Clare McDermott

  • http://twitter.com/adamlundquist Adam Lundquist

    Interesting article, I don’t see specifically how she drives them to the main site though.

  • Philippa Willitts

    A great example of content marketing done really well.