Ditch the product pitch: Winning through customer-focused content

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April 2015

Great brands are built on emotion

Brands stand out in a content-saturated world by crafting stories that put customers first.

Customers today are inundated with marketing messages—by some counts, thousands of messages each day. They've also changed how they consume content. In addition to traditional channels, customers are interacting with new channels, such as web, mobile, and social media. When they seek financial advice relating to critical life events like buying a home or starting a business, they find themselves awash in information, with little sense of how to use it. The result? They find it easy to walk away.

Most human decisions and behaviors are driven by instinct and emotion. The best way to tap into those instincts is through targeted stories that reach people by connecting ideas with emotions. If financial institutions want to rise above the flood of content, they need a more human-centered approach that uses storytelling to reach the right customers at the right places and times—to make their customers feel taken care of and say, "This organization gets me."


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Watch the video: How financial institutions can win through customer-focused content

Pitches don’t sell products—emotional connections do. How to win customers’ hearts through personalized content.

Financial services marketing is old-fashioned

Most financial institutions have changed their marketing techniques very little in the last half-century.

Only 33 percent of financial services companies have acquired a customer through Facebook, compared with 73 percent of retail and consumer goods companies. A Forrester report found that one-quarter of US online adults would consider banking with a firm that did not have any branches.1 Another study by Google found that 40% of Americans will leave a bank’s website if it is not mobile-optimized.2

In the past, customers often built strong one-on-one relationships with individuals at their financial institutions. Now with customers’ attention spans shorter, they are turning to a variety of sources for their financial needs. As seen in the figure below, one study found that 90% of consumers move from one device to another at different times to accomplish a task. How can financial institutions today ensure a seamless customer experience, when content is being delivered across multiple channels (such as mobile, online, branch, and social media)? 

A consistent message, informed by knowledge about the customer, and organized in a way that guides her, is key. Successful companies achieve this consistency regardless of where or when the customer looks for information.

As advances in technology make it easier to shift money or manage multiple accounts at different companies, financial institutions that don’t build emotional connections with their customers are at risk of seeing their revenues fall as customers jump ship. They must ensure a seamless customer experience and message when content is being delivered across multiple channels. However, their efforts to change are hampered by isolated marketing teams, inefficient processes, and an inability to clearly measure impact. Marketing teams within organizations are fragmented, often working towards different goals, and they may spend a lot of money on content, but set priorities and strategy without a clear understanding of what works.

What do we recommend?

We believe marketing organizations need to reorganize their content production around customers. For most people, how they manage and spend their money is a very personal matter. It follows that financial decisions can be emotional for many customers. Customers are no longer seeking the best products based solely on figures such as return or cost. Instead, they're increasingly looking for companies they think highly of and feel comfortable doing business with. By adopting a human-centered approach that distills complex content into targeted, engaging stories, financial institutions can create emotional connections that are memorable, celebrate customer achievements, and drive behavior.

Smart use of data and metrics helps employees focus on what's working and identify opportunities to collaborate and reuse ideas and content. All content, including long-form, social media, video, multi-media, and user-generated content, should resonate emotionally with customers.  Content should be coordinated, so that efforts across all channels are telling parts of the same story.

We recommend focusing on eight key capabilities that give employees more time and energy to focus on generating engaging content without increasing expense:

  • Joint planning and coordination
    Marketing, business units, and IT need to work hand in hand to define overall goals for the marketing organization.
  • Content coordination
    Use tools and mechanisms to foster collaboration, so that people responsible for implementing human-centered design and storytelling can work together easily.
  • Knowledge sharing
    Sharing knowledge about which practices, tools, and content work—and which don't—is crucial to a marketing organization's success. Start by adopting tools and processes that make it easy for employees to locate, organize and gather high-performing content. Establish forums to encourage sharing, and build the right culture to retain knowledge.
  • Metrics-based optimization
    Financial institutions should use consistent processes and metrics to gather feedback and enable a clear, unified definition of success linked to business goals. Leveraging insights from campaign measurement will allow you to make decisions quickly about what's working, what's not, and illustrate opportunities for improvement.
  • Human-centered design
    Adopt a mindset that puts people, not products, at the center of your messages. To achieve human-centered design, companies need to craft personalized content that is based on the needs and interactions of their customers. Campaigns should bring forth positive emotional reactions, rather than simply providing information.
  • Storytelling and narrative
    Content uses a narrative structure and arc: it is more story than information, designed to elicit an emotional response from people. Frame stories, combine content, execute creatively, and adapt your stories in response to feedback.
  • Touchpoint management
    Every interaction with customers should be consistent, managed, and streamlined. Understand where and how your customers engage with your content so you can customize content to their needs.
  • User-generated content
    Develop platforms to encourage customers to create and share brand stories and customer experiences. User-generated content is more important than most marketers know, especially for the younger demographic. According to one study, more than eight in ten “Gen Yers” say user-generated content from people they don't know influences what they buy, and 51% say it’s more important than the opinions of their friends and family, and far more trustworthy than website content.

Transforming and aligning your marketing content means overcoming high barriers to change. Begin by understanding the gaps in your organization, setting priorities, and making selective, high-impact bets to find the right paths for change.

To continue reading, please download the full article.


[1] Peter Wannemacher, “Must-Have Features on Banks’ Secure Websites.” Forrester. www.forrester.com, accessed February 23, 2015.
[2] “Mobile Banking Trends 2012.” Google. www.thinkwithgoogle.com/research-studies/mobile-banking-trends-2012.html, accessed January 15, 2015.

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David Schiff

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