By Michele Linn published July 23, 2013

Great Content Marketing from Financial Services Firms: Examples and Challenges

When it comes to content marketing, financial services may not seem like the most exciting place to be. With myriad regulations and compliance issues, it’s easy to get caught up in what you can’t say instead of focusing on what you can do.

Mitch Joel from Twist Image joined Joe Pulizzi during our recent #CMWorld Twitter chat to discuss content marketing in the financial services industry. Below are some key questions that were addressed, along with answers gleaned from the chat.

You can also read the full transcript, or view some highlights for each question in the SlideShare presentation below.

While this information is applicable to the efforts of any content marketer, those who work in a regulated industry like finance will benefit particularly from the key takeaways discussed by our participants.

And don’t forget to join us for today’s #CMWorld Twitter chat, where Kinvey’s Joe Chernov will be answering our Twitter fans’ questions about social media and content marketing. We will be holding additional Twitter Chats on a new content marketing topic each Tuesday at noon EST.

(Editor’s note: We have not included Twitter handles when multiple participants offered the same or similar responses.)

The unique content challenges in financial services

To kick off the chat, we asked participants to identify the biggest challenges they see the financial industry facing when it comes to creating great content marketing. Here are some of the issues that were mentioned:

  • The industry is highly regulated; in fact, Joe Pulizzi commented that it is even more regulated than the health care industry.
  • Organizations lack funding because of the recession. (@mitchjoel)
  • Sales are complex. (@mitchjoel)
  • Consumers lack trust.
  • Consumers are not well educated in this area.
  • It can be difficult to differentiate brands and their features. (@mitchjoel)
  • Legal and compliance components can be onerous. (@SFerika)
  • Organizations can be very siloed. (@joepulizzi)
  • Finances seem scary, and it can be tough to get people excited. (@brassMedia)
  • The content can end up lacking a human voice, as it goes through so many checks along the way.(@heidicohen)

Considering the complexities involved in many of these obstacles, it can be particularly tricky — and intimidating — for financial services companies to execute on content marketing and social media campaigns:

@mitchjoel…and I think the regulation issue also expands the fear…#financial doesn’t want to take risks w/content #cmworld —@JoePulizzi

Which financial services organizations are rising to the challenge?

Despite these (and other) challenges, participants were still able to rattle off the names of quite a few financial organizations that are making their mark with great content, such as:

For more examples, check out Kevin Cain’s post, Creative Content Marketing for Financial Services: 3 Examples.

How can financial institutions leverage their data into great content marketing?

Though there are some challenges, financial institutions also have some unique opportunities when it comes to content — such as the massive amounts of data they have at their disposal:

A6: [Financial institutions have] been historically great at data. And they continue to be. Everything you see is/should be data driven. #cmworld —@mitchjoel

Anything financial marketers can do to make use of that data can give them an edge over the competition. For instance, several participants commented that there is an opportunity to repurpose these data for infographics, as well as for other content formats:

A6: My favourite, Infographics 😉 Case studies, white papers. Don’t think financial services even use a 1/4 of their data, tho #CMWorld —@lttlewys

Bridging the gap between traditional and content marketing

In many respects, bridging the gap between traditional marketing and content marketing is the same as it is in any industry. This sentiment from Eric Wittlake sums up the similarities:

@CMIContent A3. It isn’t about conservative industry. Gap is individuals that want to control broadcast message vs help. #cmworld —@wittlake

Here are some additional ideas our participants offered on how to get started with content marketing:

  • You need to get executive buy-in. (@brassMedia)
  • Start with small projects to experiment and prove effectiveness.
  • Hire great storytellers to differentiate your content.
  • Find the right people for your projects.

Moving content through the regulatory constraints

While regulations can certainly make content creation a bit more challenging, our experts urge content professionals not to fixate on what they can’t say and, instead, get creative about what they can say.

Another common theme during the chat that ties into this is education. The consensus was that it is imperative to educate audiences on the basics, first and foremost:

@CMIContent IMO regulation contributes, but it’s also a convenient screen. Look at Fidelity, iShares or USAA. #CMWorld —@wittlake

Again, this advice applies to content for any industry: Figure out your customers’ questions and answer them:

#Education really undervalued as a part of financial #marketing. Huge opportunity to gain customer trust thru education. #cmworld —@brassMedia

What other questions do you have about the financial services industry? Any insights you would like to add?

Want to see more examples of stellar content marketing? Check out CMI’s eBook, 75 Examples to Spark Your Content Marketing Creativity.

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Michele Linn

Michele Linn is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Mantis Research, a consultancy focused on helping brands create and amplify original research they can use in their marketing. Before starting Mantis, Michele was head of editorial at Content Marketing Institute, where she led the company's strategic editorial direction, co-developed its annual research studies, wrote hundreds of articles, spoke at industry events and was instrumental in building the platform to 200,000 subscribers. In 2015, she was named one of Folio's Top Women in Media (Corporate Visionary). You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

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  • Katchooo

    As someone who works in this area, it’s great to see an article dealing with professional service firms and content marketing for a change. I agree with all the points about opening up the firm’s knowledge base and data – though I’ve learnt to be wary of infographics. Dataviz is a very specific skillset and you can risk the firm’s reputation with an ill-thought out graphic. Opening up the data for use by others is another option – let media and others tell stories with the datasets.

    Also happy to see Grant Thornton mentioned in there. I work regularly as a brand journalist for the UK firm’s Thinking section – the fact that they use a brand journalist in the first place says a lot. The external view adds something interesting to the marketing mix I think, not least because a major part of my role is ensuring all digital content is focused on the client and what they want to know, rather than being pushed top-down from a campaign.

    If I had a tip to offer, it would be that feeding information on ‘what works’ and ‘what users are asking’ back to the subject matter experts really focuses what they write about. I can’t advocate enough doing your SEO/analytics works upfront – far better than repurposing untargeted content further down the line.

    Thanks for the article – more on this topic please!

    • Michele Linn

      Thanks so much for the comment — and the solid advice on how to feed info back to SMEs. I’d love to learn more about Grant Thornton’s process as well as it helps other financial firms (or anyone in the content marketing space).

      • Katchooo

        A lot of my inspiration came from a #cmworld talk by AJ Huisman a couple of years ago – that and many years as a journalist. Happy to write something a bit fuller if you’d be up for a guest post on CMI?

        • Michele Linn

          I’d love that. Can you shoot me an email so I can share more details? michele [at]

          Here’s a link to the guidelines for you or anyone else who is interested:

          • Katchooo


          • Fiona Cullinan

            Hi Michele, I’ve sent a couple of emails – are you receiving? Two pitches sent last week based on the CMI guidelines – one a how-to and the others a trends piece. Would be good to get your feedback.

  • Lorena Harris

    Please take a look at Vantiv’s content marketing program – we think it ranks amoung the best. houses 2012 and 2013 campaign materials based on Vantiv’s proprietary customer experience research. We asked consumers how they shop and pay now – and how they expect to do so in the future. Then we asked industry experts what methods they are investing in. Our papers, webinars, videos and infographics explore the disconnects and opportunities in order to help merchants and financial institutions prepare for change. Take a look at!

    • Michele Linn

      Hi Lorena,
      Really appreciate the example. It looks like Vantiv is doing a lot of a nice things in the financial space!

  • Ryan Key

    I believe financial services are able to see past the barriers with regards to content marketing. With added constraints in compliance, they can be even more creative to reach target consumers and clients. Social media has provided an excellent opportunity to directly market to people and financial services can easily leverage this in a surprising way.