Building relationships through authentic content

Author: James Maddison, Head of Content Marketing, iwoca

The lasting success, or failure, of a financial institution often boils down to a single theme: trust. If you gain trust, people will invest with you, they will take credit from you, they will place their life savings in your hands. If trust fails – well, we all watched the lasting socio-economic earthquake that the 2008 financial crisis caused, the aftershocks of which continue to rumble on to this day.

It used to be that banks gained trust through their branches; large and imposing buildings with marble floors and thick steel vaults that gave reassurance to their customers that their money was safe. Nowadays, the banks have taken the trust battle into the topic of cyber security, protecting the customer’s accounts against fraud. That’s an important battleground for sure, but what if you’re a newer company without a 200 year pedigree? How do you go about gaining enough trust from a skeptical consumer for them to have an account with you in the first place?

As a fintech business, we at iwoca have a tough challenge on our hands. Our brand awareness is much lower than any bank, and we have the added hurdle of operating within the small business lending sector, a polarising space in today’s climate, where debt is looked upon warily by many small business owners.

The Sixty Percent
To overcome this inherent distrust by small business owners, and reach these customers who have been left behind by traditional financial services, required us to take an innovative approach to grab a very high hanging fruit.

We developed The Sixty Percent, named after the small business owners responsible for six in 10 employees within the private sector. Going a step beyond just another company blog, The Sixty Percent is a content hub focused entirely on celebrating and championing the small business owner, in all his or her forms. The site features how-to guides, fun articles, news and insights for all types of small business.

How does the hub work?
Through the content we create, we hope to nurture an authentic and meaningful connection with small business owners long before they ever need a loan with us. The premise is simple in theory, if frustratingly hard to pin down in actuality: give your customer something of value, something intrinsically enjoyable to consume and when they come to require a loan – perhaps many months down the line – they’ll look favourably on the brand they’ve already built an enduring emotional connection with.

At the same time, through our content we can help destigmatise the concept of debt and educate the reader to our view of credit as one of the best ways to help a business survive, grow and expand what’s possible for its owner.

The challenges
This content marketing approach has a number challenges. As it nurtures low intent customers for a long time, the actual value of your interactions takes many months to become apparent (when the customer takes a loan out), so it’s hard to optimise performance.

The distribution of the content can also be a minefield. Finding the best way to put your content out into the world is a learning process based entirely on your own customers’ consumption habits – it could be through paid social, paid influencer strategy, earned via the press or by another means entirely and again is much harder to calculate than any direct acquisition campaign.

For example, how much should you pay for a read article compared to an email sign up? These are all questions that you should prepare to navigate and they are not easy to answer. 

The biggest takeaway
Regardless, if financial services want to nurture a relationship built on trust and create meaningful interactions with their future customers, then I believe they should be creating content. However, to do this approach well requires authenticity – you actually have to mean the words you write – and have a focus on intrinsic excellence. No poorly written, waffling text, but crafted literary pieces that you yourself would actually want to consume.

If, through intrinsically valuable content, you seed brief moments of fun, education and inspiration with a customer outside of trying to sell to them, I believe you sprout the beginnings of a true human relationship – not merely a transactional one.