Finding your authentic voice: Step 3 in the Honner Content Model, to Connect, Converse and Convince
We’re living in an era of low trust in experts – whether they are people, governments or organisations. The Australian financial services industry in particular has come under scrutiny as the fallout from the Royal Commission continues to bite. Yet according to PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey , more than one in three consumers surveyed ranked “trust in brand” among the top three factors, other than price, influencing their purchase decision.
So, when the Honner Content Team pulled together an outline of what a firm needs to do to transform its content marketing process – we recognised the need to elevate the idea of authenticity to be a major element of the process.
The Honner infographic: Turning Content Marketing into Conversations details the key steps to executing a winning content marketing program and how to nurture a conversation with your customers. In last week’s blog we dealt with the Ideation and Mapping step. In this week’s blog, we’re focusing on the important third stage of the process – Seek Authenticity.
The need for firms to be authentic has altered the content marketing landscape in recent years as consumers are becoming increasingly immune to the traditional communication practices and are fatigued with paid and owned promotions. But many firms are still struggling to understand the importance of integrating authenticity into their content marketing.
So as a content marketer – how do you embrace and embody an authentic approach? Here are eight strategies that bring a more authentic style to your content marketing process:
1. Find your voice: Customers today will ignore self-promotional, and biased or manipulative, content. People want to connect to other people – not bland corporations – and one of the biggest mistakes we see at Honner is a lack of personality with content. A brand voice allows a firm to deliver this personality. It could be entertaining, quirky, or inspiring and help to differentiate your firm – especially in the financial services sector as the language many financial services firms use is notorious for still feeling artificial, convoluted and product focused.
2. Harness the power of user-generated content (UGC): Some of the most authentic forms of content you can use are produced by your own customers (user generated content). According to recent research by Stakla, the influence of User Generated Content is unmatched across industries. Nearly 80% of people say user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decisions (up from 60 percent in 2017), but marketers are still slow to adopt the use of UGC.
Tripadviser is the ultimate example of afirm which grew into a global brand based on the wisdom of the crowds and an ever-growing army of contributors who provide their services for free.
User generated content can also work for financial services brands. A good example of this comes from Mint (the personal finance app) with the #mymintmoment campaign. Mint encouraged submissions of photos of special moments, such as paying off a loan, weddings or a holiday – and offered $1,000 to the winner. This was an excellent way to build authentic content that appealed to people’s emotions.
3. Develop case studies: A personal case study can be an effective way to showcase your firm’s role in solving customer pain points, regardless of the level of sophistication of an audience. When building case studies:
- Consider using real client examples. In some cases, however, the customer might want to remain anonymous.
- Try to focus on the customers journey. Start with defining the problem the customer was trying to solve and the process from their viewpoint (rather than the product promotion). Quantify the ultimate benefit a customer received.
- Use images that reflect real customers (not cliché stock images).
4. Conduct customer insights research: Customer insights studies, done right, reveal an understanding of the behaviours and perceptions of certain customer segments. This is a powerful way to echo the voice of customers and present a true view of the community mindset. This strategy can also bring greater awareness to certain issues in society and start to quantify the social impact of those issues. As an example, in January 2019 market researcher Momentum Intelligence undertook a survey of 6,000 borrowers, looking at their sentiment towards mortgage brokers in the lead up to the final Royal Commission Report. The research highlighted that Australians are much happier paying commissions than suspected. A white paper was built off the back of the research and generated strong coverage across mainstream and consumer media.
5. Utilise your opinion leaders and influencers: Your target audience is far more likely to trust a person rather than a corporate message. Particularly if that person has already built up a solid reputation. Many firms utilise the profile of their CEOs or other key executives to deliver their content via their LinkedIn connections.
6. Prepare for the hyper-personalised content to redefine the future of content marketing: AI and personalisation will eventually allow firms to offer consistent, personalised experiences – based on customer preferences and past behaviour. The downside is the investment in technology and resources needed. The underlying premise of personalisation is for financial services firms to not just “flog product” but to become a trusted advisors to their clients. We are already observing the role of AI in content curation where personalised recommendations are based on a user’s interest. Strategies include using online surveys to find out more about customer preferences, the use of geolocation, website behaviour data and email engagement. The State of Marketing Report from SalesForce stated “53% of customers now expect the offers they receive to always be personalised, and 62% expect companies to anticipate their needs”.
7. Highlight the purpose-led approach of your brand: Brands are increasingly expected to make a difference and contribution to our society – not just earn a profit. The 2018 Accenture report To Infinity and Beyond found that “Companies are under the spotlight like never before as they struggle for competitive advantage in the context of this reality. Their customers aren’t just making decisions based on the stalwarts of product selection or price. They’re now assessing what a brand says. What it does. What it stands for.”
8. Bring to life your positive corporate culture: This purpose described in the previous point also extends to how firms treat their employees. Many firms are now more overt with exhibiting how their culture is coming to life within a firm. Today customers care less about corporate philanthropy and more how the firm treats their employees and is helping to solve the world’s social problems (e.g. financial literacy). The 2019 Deloitte Global Millennial Survey revealed that “millennials and Gen Zs are putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to supporting businesses that make a positive impact on society.”
Resources and stories to help you harness a more authentic voice
- Paul Cheal’s SmokeSignal Blog: in an age of distrust; trust matters
- ‘the key: how corporations succeed by solving the world’s toughest problems’ by Lynda Gratton: Organisational change expert Gratton shows that it is now critical that corporations step up to play a more positive role in the world by building inner resilience and leveraging their unique capabilities to address complex global challenges such as climate change, financial literacy and youth unemployment.
- rachel botsman is a leading expert and author on trust in the modern world. Her highly acclaimed work Who Can you Trust? explores how technology is revolutionising human trust. Botsman reveals this is the age of “distributed trust” and if we are to benefit from this radical shift, we must understand the mechanics of how trust is built, managed, lost and repaired in the digital age.
- Harvard Business School professor Frances Frei gives a crash course in trust: how to build it, maintain it and rebuild it – something she worked on during a recent stint at Uber. “If we can learn to trust one another more, we can have unprecedented human progress,” Frei says.
- simon sinek – ‘start with why’: Sinek developed what he calls the “Golden Circle which reinforces that it’s not how you do what you do, but why you choose to do it. The why is what motivates and inspires us – and it ignites the spark within us”.
- The 2015 HBR article ‘the new science of customer emotions’ highlighted…… “when companies connect with customers’ emotions, the payoff can be huge”.
- Read our Honner Blog “Purpose is now a comms must-have, but it’s got to right true to label.
Next week we’ll publish the fourth in the eight-part content marketing series, Create. Curate. Multiply
If you’d like help creating a well-researched content marketing strategy, or more information on Honner’s 8-Step Content Marketing Model, contact Honner’s Head of Marketing Solutions Craig Morris.