The future of content
Reimagining client comms in a post-Covid world.
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated many of the marketing trends we were already seeing taking shape in the services sector.
In particular, it has led to a giant leap forward in digital adoption among firms and their clients.
The need to create engaging content to connect with clients and prospects has never been greater as firms look to differentiate themselves in the post-lockdown world.
Here are some predictions about how client comms will change in an evolving services landscape.
Firms will up their game to build more empathy and personal connections
Are your comms in tune with where your clients are right now? It’s a scary world out there and clients are likely to want a stronger emotional connection with their advisers. They need to trust services brands as thought leaders and innovators in a changing world, and feel a sense of shared interest and community.
More than ever before, firms need to demonstrate empathy through their comms to win hearts and minds. So, tone of voice is critical. We all know it’s not just what you say, but how you say it.
The key to this is staying audience-specific and relevant. Firms are often guilty of adopting the megaphone approach: trying to say everything to everyone all the time. The future of comms is about listening, not shouting.
The starting point should always be understanding your audience – both their practical and, more importantly, their emotional needs – and what they’re trying to achieve. It’s about how your audience is feeling about the future, not just their objective service requirements.
For many of us, the pandemic has amplified these emotional needs and created new anxieties. Firms need to adjust their comms to make it easier for clients to connect on a more human level.
Developing accurate and meaningful client personas is vital to this – understanding the positive outcomes clients want to achieve and the experiences they want to have, as well as identifying the right channels to reach them at each stage of the buyer journey.
Firms will be more rigorous in their comms planning and governance
Covid-19 has given marketing teams a unique opportunity to take a completely fresh look at their marcomms plans.
Clearly these plans will need to be flexible enough to allow for various scenarios and respond to the news agenda like never before, but firms need to focus scarce marketing budgets and resources.
Coming up with great content ideas doesn’t happen by chance. It requires a rigorous yet creative process to ensure comms are relevant, timely, engaging and actionable.
Above all, firms need mechanisms in place to ensure they stay in tune with client preoccupations – whether through forums and roundtables, formal feedback programmes or training in listening skills internally – these should drive the content agenda.
If you’re not sure whether your content ideas will resonate with your clients, get them involved early in the process and ask them what they think.
A big part of this planning process will be identifying any internal barriers to high-quality comms, whether it’s unrealistic budgets, time constraints or lack of leadership commitment. Marketing teams need to be honest with themselves and their firms about whether they have the time, expertise or budget to do a subject justice, and whether these barriers are insurmountable.
Firms will focus more on brand and purpose
The many challenges facing the world have led to a renewed drive for businesses to have a higher purpose beyond creating shareholder value. This could mean a fundamental reappraisal of the role of firms and their advisers.
Differentiating your brand and cutting through the mass of content available to help inform client decisions is more important than ever to increase client engagement, retention and acquisition.
Arguably, it’s never been more important for firms to focus on brand, work out what they stand for and what makes them different.
Firms may need to take a step back and re-examine their mission and purpose and nail down their place in the world to inform every campaign and brand touchpoint.
This brand DNA is a precious commodity. Identifying and articulating it could help firms move forward with a brand that’s more fit for purpose for what is likely to be a very different future.
Client voice will play a bigger role in services marketing
People and businesses want to know how their peers are responding to uncertain times.
Clients will want the human stories behind success, not just the numbers. All the research shows that we respond to and engage more with stories and remember them far more than facts.
Clients are often services firms’ biggest assets in telling these stories. Of course, involving clients in content generation and giving them a voice through round tables, interviews or case studies is nothing new. But we will probably see firms moving away from investing in traditional quantitative research surveys, towards more agile use of deep-dive qualitative client insights with faster lead times.
Firms will accelerate towards digital channels like never before
There’s no ignoring the fact that the on-demand, convenience culture of the consumer world has spilled over rapidly into B2B services. The pandemic has probably changed forever how clients interact with these brands through their various devices.
We all know that decision-making power is rapidly shifting from Baby Boomers to digital native Millennials who expect a different kind of client experience.
Firms now need to engage with recent digital adopters as well as the new generation of digital native decision makers. The importance of online content that engages, enriches and adds value to prospects before they become leads has never been greater.
Trust and brand loyalty are hugely influenced by word of mouth discussions with peers and professional contacts, much of which now takes place online. Building trust and credibility with clients means finding ways to replicate the offline experience online. Firms need to fully embrace digital as an opportunity to remain relevant to their clients and deliver more value while staying true to their core principles of trust and service standards.
Most firms have pivoting towards greater use of live streams, webinars, online training and discussion forums. They now need to capitalise on this newfound technical expertise by integrating it into a broader client experience.
The key to all of this is effective use of data to personalise the experience.
… But some things never change
While lots has changed in the world of client comms, the fundamental principles still apply. That means focusing on what’s keeping your clients awake at night, bringing useful insights to the table and adding to the debate with content that really resonates with your audiences.