This post comes from Neil Wilson, a senior finance specialist here at Axonn. Read his previous posts on how banks can use content marketing to build trust and how financial institutions can use seasonality in their marketing.
Ask financial industry marketers what their biggest challenge is and the word ‘compliance’ is heard all too often. Legal teams lurk in the background like shadows and every marketer knows that any blog post, article, guide, campaign needs to be signed off.
Compliance poses two big problems in financial services content marketing.
One, it paralyses activity on the content marketing front. This is dangerous as it results in often bland, non-descript content. It’s like the girlfriend that’s comfortable but doesn’t get your pulse racing. It’s doormat content; compliant but dull.
Rather than coming up with great ideas that push boundaries you’re stuck with the same old stuff.
Understanding compliance issues and potential areas of concern from the outset allows us to craft our strategy appropriately and push the limit. Sometimes you might slip into unsafe territory but it’s better than always staying safe.
Two, it results in chunks of unusable content. This takes us to the point of understanding the issue. Content that passes muster at the marketing table but falls foul of legal is a big cost, it’s very wasteful. It’s not even going to produce results - good, bad or indifferent - that we can then measure and analyse.
So as a marketer it’s important to ensure all the content can stand the compliance test before it’s produced to order for the return on investment to be positive.
Bland content or unusable content? It doesn't have to be this way. Like New Labour there is a third way that comes from understanding compliance issues before they rear up.
The FCA Handbook is quite a read. Finra and SEC rules in the US are similarly detailed. A lot of this revolves around what constitutes a financial promotion - ie, selling a product or service. While content marketers like to see the process as non-interruption marketing and not overtly salesy, the relevant authorities do not agree.
We can take the basic principle (number 7 of the FCA’s Principles for Businesses, incidentally) that all communications, including financial promotions, must be fair, clear and not misleading.
Tweeting a link to a page about your charity work is not a promotion. A page about your mortgage offers is. A blog post explaining the Budget's impact on mortgages may just be good information for potential customers, but it's got promotion written all over it, so we need to careful.
FCA guidance highlights how each communication, whether it’s a tweet, a Facebook post or page, article, or blog post, needs to be considered individually and comply with the relevant rules.
The big risks about financial services marketing communications - complexity and long-term nature of products - can also be an advantage.
The FCA says: “Financial promotions may be the consumers' main or only source of information that they base their decisions on.”
In other words, the content is king. It’s the only thing that consumers can refer to. This is good for the financial marketer, particularly content marketer, as it shows just how crucial it is to speak directly to consumers through this channel
Moreover good content marketing at any level, for any industry, adheres to the basic principle for financial promotions; that they be “fair, clear and not misleading”.
“The clearer the advert and easier it is to understand, the more likely the next step taken by the consumer will be the correct step for them, whatever that might be - to buy, to get more information, or to walk away,” the FCA explains.
This is the way that good content marketing should work anyway