Friday, November 21, 2014

How many businesses could you start this week?

This week, as we celebrate and encourage women entrepreneurs in honour of Women's Entrepreneurship Day last November 19, I have to stop and remind myself what it was like to have very little.
In 1988 I left home aged 17 with about $35.
I quickly learned if I didn’t manage my money I couldn’t eat, get transport or buy the textbooks I needed that would ultimately help me work my way out of my week-to-week existence.
Fast forward 25 years and I can reflect on how fortunate I was to have access to loans.
Access to a small amount of money can go a long way to changing the future of a woman’s life. For the women Opportunity International Australia assists it can be a matter of life or death for them and their families. A loan of $100 can help them create a more secure future for their children.
As a 17-year-old, I still had options. And in hindsight I was pretty fortunate – I was able to get paid well enough in my part-time jobs, access temporary student loans to make ends meet when it got ugly, and graduate earning enough (in time) to repay my uni fees. Which I did, promptly.
Where would I have been without those student loans? Arguably not where I am now – in a position to give back to younger women, or to causes such as microfinance.
A passionate believer in the idea of helping women work their way out of poverty.
People who struggle financially are more likely to be women. The United Nations Development Program evidence is compelling:
“Many of the world's poorest people are women who must, as the primary family caretakers and producers of food, shoulder the burden of tilling land, grinding grain, carrying water and cooking... Yet some 75 percent of the world's women cannot get bank loans because they have unpaid or insecure jobs and are not entitled to property ownership… When women have equal access to education, and go on to participate fully in business and economic decision-making, they are a key driving force against poverty.”
These comments are backed up by Opportunity’s track record. It shows women who are given microfinance loans go on to repay those loans then re-invest their earnings in ways that help break the inter-generational poverty cycle – educating their children, accessing healthcare and creating jobs for women and men.
BlueChip Communication, the business I own, donates about 2.5% of our billable time (and potential revenue) to help Opportunity International Australia.
We do this because, as a mostly-female business, and as business people in the finance sector, we can see what a game-changer just little amounts of money – hundreds of dollars – can be. Living and working in Sydney, it’s easy to forget what the rest of the world looks like. Our reality is so very different to that of Opportunity’s clients.
Australia’s top 1 per cent of earners take home around an average of just under $400,000 a year. For argument’s sake, let’s assume this average is representative and that ALL of the 180,000 top 1% in Australia earn $400,000 per annum. Let’s also assume everyone earning that much money in our country donated just 1% of their income. (For simplicity, we will say they don’t right now). The resulting pool of funds would be $720 million.
The income alone (if it was invested in fixed income say at 5.5%) would be $39.6 million a year. That’s a lot of small loans – around 396,000 of $100 loans a year!
In four years, Australia’s top 1% of income earners could help more than a million women borrow, work and earn their way out of poverty.
As a business owner, mother and Opportunity supporter it makes good commercial sense to me. This Women's Entrepreneurship Day, what could your 1% of time or money achieve?
This post was first published on the Opportunity International Australia website.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Leadership communication: three things about all great conference presentations

Attending the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) 2014 with 1899 other delegates from the financial services industry, I was struck by a few realisations yesterday. 

Realisation 1: How unusual it is to have an all-female keynote or plenary line-up on Day One

Realisation 2: Truly great keynote speeches all have the same ingredients

Realisation 3: The more information we are faced with, the more meaningless it becomes

These things may not sound like blinding insights, but they do point to some important lessons for wanna-be conference speakers, or those of us who speak regularly but sometimes fall into the trap of telling people what we know, instead of something the audience might actually find both useful and entertaining.

And make no mistake, whether you're an actuary, asset management PhD or Australian of the Year, you need to be both useful AND entertaining. That's the bit in points two and three about using narrative techniques that work well for you and your audience - regardless of the topic.  

If you disagree, think for one minute about a well-known Superannuation Board member and former Central Banker who is like a human sleeping pill. Incredibly capable, a national treasure, well respected and yet induces narcolepsy in even the most well-caffeinated of audiences.

Due credit to ASFA for putting together a diverse Day One speaker line-up, all of whom met the "useful and entertaining" test. Due credit also for having a Day One line-up where Rosemary Vilgan and Ita Buttrose were the Day One opening Plenary speakers. Both are exceptional leaders, with an informed view and much value to offer the audience. Both are also women - but it's rare (and laudable) to see two women keynoting.  

Here is the anatomy of what each speaker did, to varying degrees of success.

First: know thy audience
Ita Buttrose and Mark Bouris are paid keynote speakers, household names and leaders in their field. If it's good enough for them to study their audience, in this case superannuation industry leaders, and work hard to connect with us, it's good enough for you and I. 

I am humbled by how much work good professional speakers do to make sure they know who they are talking to and how to relate their story to those people. Ita Buttrose did not make the mistake of turning up and saying what she always says - she (or a speech writer) thought about what would resonate with us as well as serve her own purposes (promoting the cause of dementia and Alzheimer’s' disease).

It's this process of sitting in the audience's shoes, and thinking deeply about our own agenda form their perspective, that humbles us, makes for a generous presentation and help us connect with people who give time and attention to us.

Second: know your "why"
Listening to Russell Investment's indomitable Don Ezra was a delight. And that's despite the fact that I am not a 60+ year old semi-retired investment guru. Don was so passionate and warm in his delivery that he infected me with his own enthusiasm for a better way to think and behave about income in retirement. 

I'm not sure this was always his spiel, but he sounds like a man fired up on behalf of a large and growing group of people - of whom he is one, but also on whom he is a subject matter expert. 

Don is an investment strategist, now semi-retired but also, it seems to me, in the happy place of having arrived at a moment in time during which his work is both a higher purpose and source of income. Perhaps it was always this way for Don. Or perhaps he's worked hard to reach the destination.

Either way, all truly great speakers (Buttrose and Bouris included) are clear about what they care deeply about - and able to infect us with their own passion as a result.

Rosemary Vilgan had a lot more content to impart but also was crystal clear about what matters most - and that's the best possible outcome for Australians who are retired, delivered by a super system that needs to evolve. It's clearly something she cares deeply about, as should we all if we are to work in financial services.

Third: keep it as simple as you can
We all "know" that this is the age of information overload. But do we really use that when we sit down to prepare a conference presentation? Mmmm not often enough if my years of conference attendance are anything to go by.

From an evolutionary biology point of view we are the equivalent of slightly evolved apes staring, confused and aghast, into the matrix. That's sounds a bit harsh, but Google "information overload" and "evolutionary biology", or "behavioural finance choice" and you'll see what I mean. 

The short version is this:
- We live in an age where the amount of information available to us has outstripped our ability to process it
- Most of us living and working in an urban environment experience some level of overload
- The more information we are presented with (or allow in) the less helpful it becomes - and our ability to make good decisions drops accordingly

So what does that mean if you're a conference speaker? You probably consistently over-estimate your audience's ability to absorb what you are saying. And your own ability to make it simple enough to be useful.

In short, the more time invested up front making our subject matter expertise accessible, the better. 

Matt Church (an expert on Thought Leadership) gets this, so I'm very much looking forward to his session on Friday. 

Perhaps that should be compulsory viewing for more conference speakers.

Bouris, Buttrose, Ezra and Vilgan kept it at the right level - there was well thought through content, but there were also clear themes even the most overloaded brain could follow.

There's much more to truly great speaking that three ingredients. That said, even just getting these right is an act of generousity towards our audiences.

Isn't that what leadership and leadership communication is all about - serving our audience, not just ourselves?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Building better financial planners: what we can learn from crowdsourcing GPs

In 2012, news from the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) was that a medical study suggested 57% of adult Australians were receiving “appropriate” (read ‘good enough’) GP care. That left a whopping 43% in the sample group of more than 1,000 who did not receive “appropriate care”.
Sound familiar? Reminds me of a recent ASIC report and media announcement about life insurance. While there are key differences (churn of life cover for commission perhaps) there are enough similarities to think more broadly about what might be most helpful to advisers who want to do the best by their clients – which most do.
Medicos and crowdsourcing
Consider this:
  • GPs are among some of the most overburdened in our health care system
  • They have limited time and resources to see, diagnose and treat thousands of diverse conditions
  • They’re not God. And we’re unreasonable if we expect them to be.
So how does a busy GP ensure (i.e. be certain or near enough) they’re doing better than getting it right half the time? They use a MJA “wiki” – a social, collaborative tool a la “Wikipedia”. Overseen by experts, it is intended to provide a “dynamic, centralised and inclusive platform — openly available to all to contribute to and use — that will help empower clinicians to deliver the best care”.
This is a huge leap for medical practitioners, who had been (and often still are) complaining about their patients’ propensity to resort to “Google Doctor”, while at the same time, on occasion, being well behind the eight ball when faced with an intelligent, curious and well researched (read, Google-doctored) patient.
Which brings us to the question: if this approach is good enough for medicos, why isn’t it good enough for our banks, insurers, wealth advisers, financial planners, credit card companies and financial services providers as they serve us on our own personal journeys towards better financial futures?
Here are a few key lines from the 2012 MJA abstract covering the study, which was designed to measure how well we deliver “appropriate care” to patients in Australia (doi: 10.5694/mja12.10510). Change the aim of “appropriate” or “recommended” care to “appropriate” or “quality” advice and its applicability to financial planners and others in the wealth industry is immediately apparent.
  1. “The researchers were aiming to reproduce a landmark 2003 study that found that only 55% of patients in the United States received “recommended care”…findings are essentially the same — that almost half of patients are not receiving appropriate care….
  2. “…challenge that practitioners regularly face — how to access reliable, updated and credible information about appropriate care, and how to make clinical decisions in the absence of this information.
  3. “…Runciman et al suggest a way to achieve national agreement on clinical standards…we (the MJA) are already working with the Cancer Council Australia to deliver a “wiki” guideline tool on our website … a dynamic, centralised and inclusive platform — openly available to all to contribute to and use — that will help empower clinicians to deliver the best care.”
We can’t reasonably expect our GPs to be God, or even close to omnipotent, but we can expect that when such a tool exists, they can use it to improve their diagnoses and treatment plans.
Still wondering about social media in financial services?
How long before such a wiki helps financial planners, and their clients, arrive at better decisions about long term financial planning? Or helps you make better decisions about the cheapest and best credit card? Or when to flick the mortgage provider and change banks? Choose a super fund? Or how to really cost the services the bank provides?
Hopefully such solutions will be made possible by joint industry efforts, collaborating with consumers, to develop social tools that give us all access to better financial decisions.
It would seem that whether we seek to be healthier, wealthier or wiser, the long-predicted democratisation of information through social media is now a reality.
This blog is an edited and updated version of a blog first published on 16 July 2012 on

Thursday, October 09, 2014

The two best things you can do to improve your marketing results

I admit it. It's true. I've spent as much time as any marketer justifying my role. And often I've thought less than kindly of sales... those people who just wants tactical marketing guff and don't "get" the bigger picture about brand, reputation and marketing. 

This was probably particularly true when when I worked inside a certain company (we'll call them Big Consumer Finance Brand A), and in my time early on as a consultant advising another firm (we'll call them Asset Management Brand B).

Of course these days that just doesn't wash. I was converted from a "marketing is good, sales is bad" view shortly after the commercial realities of running my own business hit me, hard. I found myself doing both sales and marketing. And I developed a new, healthier respect for salespeople. They, of course, are where the money that pays us all comes from. And as a marketing consultant I now understand that people who actually talk to customers or clients (sales and service roles) usually know a lot more than the marketers do about customers, and potential customers. 

But my respect for their marketing nous probably hasn't shifted quite as far. 

Turns out that's actually my fault.

My experience is this: marketers often do see the big picture a bit better - how marketing might connect to strategy and help sales by delivering quality leads, more enthusiastic prospects or better informed customers. But not always do they (and I mean "me") invest the time to make sure they really understand the depth of customer and prospect knowledge that sits inside many salespeople's heads. Nor do they (we!) always then engage sales in a truly collaborative marketing (or content marketing) process that brings the best of both capabilities to the table to solve the problem we're both paid to solve: attract more customers, at a lower cost and keep them. 

What's the first thing you can do to improve your marketing results?

The first thing many financial services marketers can do to improve their results is to help their colleagues in sales see the value of content, and content marketing. 

What sales person doesn't want it to be easier to convert prospects? What sales person doesn't want a buyer who is more ready to buy? What sales person doesn't want a better success rate?

Back when I was inside Big Consumer Finance Brand A, and advising Asset Management Brand B, I worked with marketing to build stuff and throw it over the metaphorical fence to sales.

Did it work? Did the sales teams use it? Not sure. Probably not.

Why? Because I didn't go about creating content or marketing communication the right way.

The right way would have been to help sales see how honest, transparent and high quality content, served the right way, can make their life easier.

The right way would have been to take them on a journey: ask for their engagement upfront, understand their challenges and then use their very own content (outbound emails, calls and meeting content) to create marketing that worked far better.

That's marketing that educates prospects before they get a call or sales visit, marketing that answers the logical questions potential customers want answered, and marketing that's so good our customers would pay for it.

What's the second thing you can do to improve your marketing results?

The second thing we can do to improve our marketing results is take the time to explain to the leadership, sales and marketing teams why we need content marketing or integrated marketing.

The path to digital and marketing greatness is steep and sometimes far too tricky. It can't be navigated without leadership and employee buy-in. 

A good place to start is by having one-on-one conversations with what I call "the conversion pack". I have one of those now, and it takes most decision-makers from "skeptical" to "ready to go" in about 12 slides. 

Another starting point is a company workshop -  explaining WHY we need content marketing but starting by asking about the challenges sales and marketing folk face right now in their jobs. 

Many of those problems can be addressed through better collaboration, which in turn delivers high quality marketing because it's real - informed by what the people closest to customers see.

Yes, it all sounds too easy. And in practice these two things to improve our marketing results are not that easy to actually do. 

But they're worth it. 

Because soon, as digital marketing and the dominance of search is accepted by leadership teams, we'll be forced to collaborate better because our wealth management, insurance, fund manager or banking colleagues will be doing it better and beating us in the market.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Former PM Julia Gillard's three lessons for women in leadership

Gender, leadership, communication lessons relevant to financial services

One thing no one can take from Julia Gillard is that she was Australia's first female Prime Minister.

And as such, political and personal views aside, there's a lot to learn from her tenure - how it was portrayed, how she and her team handled perceptions, and how gender plays a role in our view of leadership. 

In person, at this morning's Business Chicks Breakfast Julia Gillard was warm, personable and funny. In the media as PM she was more often portrayed as cold, disloyal and ineffective as a leader.

There are also simple lessons for women in leadership that have little to do with gender - about how to do well once in the top job.

So what can we take from this as marketing and corporate affairs people, women in financial services, or as those with an interest in leadership?

Lesson one: ignore the whisper of gender stereotypes

Gender does matter, for starters, it's clear that almost universally our notions of leadership are gendered. Whether we are female or male, the most educated of us in business judge women leaders harshly for displaying the kind of traits we laud in men. We might not like hearing that but reams of research over several decades back up the finding. The Columbia Research is just the latest in a long string of empirical evidence supporting this. The research shows we are pre-programmed to judge women more harshly. Question that. Hard.

Lesson two: make time for the "important" not just the "urgent"

Secondly, making time to think in a schedule of "busy and urgent" days and weeks is critical to success. Gillard says she always made time for this. But upon reflection, she'd carve out even more time for the "important" versus the "urgent". Being an ever-busy people pleaser isn't going to help any of us steer a sound long term course of action.

Lesson three: be women who support other women

Gillard makes the point that Keating got to be judged on his merits, despite the manner of ascension to Prime Minister. Did our first female Prime Minister get the same opportunity? Even feminists condemned Gillard for the leadership spill, and it went on to define her term, her place in history and in many women's hearts and minds.

The problem with bias is that while we can sometimes (just) see other people's faults but often not our own. Good leadership starts with realism - about how we all see the world, about how female leaders are portrayed and what we all need to do in response to "what is" rather than what we'd like to be. 

Gillard admits she maybe underestimated a few things along the way - Australian's perceptions of her and female leaders included. She's not alone. From Germany's Angela Merkel (pilloried in her own press for her appearance) to FaceBook's Sheryl Sandberg (who admits her own bias) we're challenged to get this right.

That's not an excuse to not turn our face away, to ignore the issues or to accept the status quo.

As leaders we do have to accept reality. Leadership also about striving to improve it. So let's keep the conversation going: about female leaders, how they are portrayed and what role our communication about them should, and can play.

I attended this morning's Business Chicks breakfast as a guest of CBA.

What Kevin Spacey said about content marketing

His top three tips for marketers and how they apply in financial services


Joe Pullizzi, founder of Content Marketing World welcomes Kevin Spacey (House of Cards, American Beauty, The Usual Suspects @KevinSpacey) to Cleveland’s CMW 2014

You’re probably thinking what I’m thinking: why the hell would Hollywood legend Kevin Spacey care about content marketing, much less talk to 2,500 marketers about why it matters?
The short answer is a shared passion for good stories.
Stories that contain conflict, stories that are authentic and stories that connect with our audience.
Content Marketing World
A little over a week ago the world’s largest gathering of content marketers invaded Cleveland’s centre and spilled over into the city’s outer suburbs in order to learn about the latest, greatest in content marketing. I was there with a narrow focus – to find out what we in financial services, wealth management and professional services in Australia need to learn or adapt from others who (frankly) lead. With a particular interest in search engine marketing (SEO), analytics (Google analytics but also the wider tool set) and lead nurturing for the finance sector I picked those sessions. Most sessions were great and are entirely translatable to our sector. More on that another time, but for now let’s focus on Mr Spacey’s wisdom…
What makes a good story?
With remarkable generousity Kevin Spacey took the audience on a journey through parts of his own career and his experience as a storyteller. He singled out conflict, authenticity and audiences as the three critical ingredients in the magical mix that makes good narrative.
And in that regard, we’re not so different: Kevin Spacey and marketers in financial services who ‘get’ content.
Conflict, he said, is “the essential thread of own lives…that tension between who we are, and who we want to be. How we respond to life’s events and which roads we choose often define our lives”.
This thought is so very evident in “House of Cards” where characters make choices that increasingly take them down a certain kind of path – often successfully, but with bloodless calculation and in a way that defines their character and narrows their future options as their own choices box them into increasingly narrow ways of being.
Sidebar: I’d argue financial sector brands face a similar defining set of choices right now about their marketing, content and online (social, search and the whole shooting match) direction. The choices we make now (for example about content marketing) could (in good or bad ways) define who we’re able to be in the future.
“Choose with care” might well be a financial services digital marketer’s motto as well as those Machiavellian House of Card characters’.
Spacey described how a decade ago he was interested in doing something outside what he’d already achieved, chosen and was expected of him. He took on the role of Artistic Director at London’s famous Old Vic theatre. Spacey describes the move as “something challenging, at the edges of my experience, that made me a better actor.”
“Our stories become richer and more interesting when they go against the subtle order of things to achieve something different and unexpected,” said Spacey of his personal journey, but also of the journey characters take in film.
And what is that idea, if not analogous to marketing’s “differentiation” holy grail? Seth Godin said it all when he asked us to make our businesses Purple Cows. While that’s a lot less subtle than Spacey’s message, it’s still asking us to buck the trend, be different – resist the usual.
“In an environment of spin, how do you keep in mind something that feels genuinely authentic to an audience?”
It’s a question for film-makers but equally relevant to financial services marketing – especially the corporate affairs folks telling a corporate or solution story.
The answer is good content. Whether film, TV or marketing, it must be narrowly conceived for, and delivered to increasingly niche audiences – so it really meets a need, solves a problem, delivers value. Spacey cites Netflix as a business that embraced brand and target marketing. Brands need to do the same.
Lose sight of our audience and we lose the game says Spacey. “We must strive, as Buzzfeed has done, to give them good stories…device and length are essential to understand. The audience doesn’t care about the platform, they care about the content”.
All true. For the finance industry, and creatives seeking to touch the hearts of viewers. These are the viewers who most likely are device hopping, time shifting and on the move as they consume content.

We’re all, in the end, talking to the same people.

How well we do it determines whether or not we deserve a first look, a regular read or cult-TV series addiction status.
Can your content cut it?

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Brogden's Swan Song: Leave Super Alone

John Brogden has just delivered his final speech as CEO of the Financial Services Council (FSC).

Predictably he referenced the scale and importance of our industry - as he has consistently since taking the role. It's this theme that most, in my mind, defnes his tenure as the FSC's leader.

Let's face it, when Brogden took the helm from well-regarded predecessor, Richard Gilbert, not all the industry thought it was the best hire they'd seen.

In part this was to do with the new CEO's lack of industry experience. What the critics underestimated was that this former politician understood a far bigger picture and could, in time and with shrewd political calculation, place our industry well in that bigger national picture.

There is no doubt he has done that - getting across the issues, engaging Canberra on all sides of government and raising the industry's profile to the point where our industry debates are often front page news. This is, overall a positive and reflects the national importance of having our people well served by the financial system, it's institutions and the products and services it delivers.

After our health and relationships, the state of our finances is the next most significant determinant for many people of their happiness and well-being. Added to that super plays a key role in the financial stability of the nation as the pool of retirement savings has grown to become a globally significant capital base.

It's perhaps appropriate then, as Brogden leaves the industry that he mounted a defence of what works, and called for a halt on "tinkering" - instead asking that we leave the reforms in place for enough time to allow them to do their job.

Today he spoke of a system in it's infancy, a system that needed to be allow to grow into it's own free from further tinkering. Quoting Churchill, Brodgen said, in effect, it's the best worst system we have (see the video for an excerpt). In super's defence, Brogden cited:
  • Global research suggesting the larger the retirement system, the higher the returns. Size, along with competition and other key features that exist in our super system are shown to correlate with stability and returns
  • Today's data from Chant West shows median fund return over the long term is 8 per cent per annum, some 5.4 per cent above inflation, net of fees and tax. This is well above typical return objectives of CPI plus 3 per cent. Evidence the system works, says Brodgen
  • Citing the Deloitte super report, Australia has the world's third highest returns.
  •  Fees are in fact dropping, and at an accelerating rate
  • It's too early to assess the effect of My Super reforms: while the Grattan Institute calls My Super a failure, Rice Warner data suggests the reverse, showing drops in fees accelerating, indicating an immediate decline in cost of default funds.  Total fees moved from 1.3 per cent to 1.2 per cent 2002 to 2010 then between 2011 and 2013 declined on average from 0.92  to 0.73 per cent
  • With 80 of Australians in default funds, most of us are getting immediate benefits from super reform and competition
  • On a global scale these numbers compare to CALpers fees at 0.77 pe cent and a return of 3 per cent and the major Canadian fund at 0.92 per cent fees and 5 per cent returns.
So our system may in fact be pretty good - and as Brogden says it's only today's ten year olds who will have the benefit of a lifetime of 12 per cent of their earnings being saved for their retirement.

And that's a good note to end on: our industry is one that should be thinking about lifetimes to come, not just this year's shareholder returns.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Disruptive thinking in financial services: first stop Cairns

blog fsc
I’m not sure if Dr Michael Hewitt-Gleeson can teach me to think in under an hour at next week’s Financial Services Council (FSC) annual conference in Cairns.
But I’m willing to let him try. 
Our industry would arguably be better for consumers if more people did the same.
Next week’s annual industry gathering comes at a very interesting time. We have, as I’ve blogged before, and Deloitte called this week, reached a digital tipping point. That’s a tipping point that involves traditional financial services and wealth management business models and value chains being disrupted.
At the same time – perhaps not coincidentally – financial advice as a profession finds itself at a crossroads of sorts.
We as individual consumers want greater trust, transparency, value and less BS from the brands and individuals serving us financial solutions.
The circumstances cry out for new ways of thinking. Ways of thinking that help deliver radically better service, for less money and with greater openness about underlying business models.
So Hewitt-Gleeson’s teachings resonate right now. Here are my top five takeaways from his writing, and the things I hope most to learn more about next week.
  1. Thinking, in any situation, is escaping from your current view of the situation (cvs) and searching for a better view of the situation (bvs)
  2. The switch from cvs to bvs can be made by using something Hewitt-Gleeson calls Universal Brain Software (cvs2bvs)
  3. Using this we can switch our brains from one parallel universe to another
  4. This very moment (NOW) is a cvs – in each ‘now’ moment we can use our brains to either defend the cvs or escape it
  5. If we chose to escape then we open up the opportunity to search for (create) a better view. That better view (bvs) = cvs x10 i.e. a bvs can be ten times better than a cvs
This echoes much of the latter day positive psychology movement thinking around empowerment and creating positive future alternatives.

In short, this kind of thinking is game-changing.

It’s also what we’re all going to need to catch, and successfully surf, the wave of disruption that’s coming with digitally-enabled financial services.

This post was first published on the BlueChip blogIf you’re not going to the FSC Conference you can follow the action here (I’ll be blogging) and via @carden @FinServCouncil

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Insiders's Guide to Australian Financial Services Content Marketing: top 5 trends to watch

This financial services content marketing thing we've been talking about for the last few years appears to have gone crazy. 

In a seemingly correlated event, my blog has yet again gone very, very quiet. 

The short version is that we've been too busy doing the work to talk about it. The long, and infinitely more interesting, version you can ask me about over a drink!

Here's a quick insiders' guide to what we've seen so far in 2014 and how we think content marketing will evolve into 2015. This post deals with two of the top five trends. My next post (really!) will deal with the next three.

TREND ONE: Getting of religion

Last year and this year we've seen a massive turn around in financial services C-suite and marketing thinking. 

We're no longer having to have the "why digital, social or content?" conversation. Thankfully.

The conversation now has turned to "how do we do digital, social and content?".

The answer is as varied as the context, the client, and their customers, clients or stakeholders.

A logical starting point is a discovery exercise. These too, are massively varied. Answering the "how?"question might start with:

  • a social media listening exercise
  • a comprehensive online audit
  • a digital strategy review
  • a content and channel audit
Regardless, we can't answer the question without quality research and thinking. So no, there are no effective quick wins (see my next lost for more on that!) without discovery.

Trust me, we've tried it. And failed. 

TREND TWO: The "Oh sh!t" moment

After discovery, comes the proverbial "oh sh!t" moment. It goes some thing like this:

"Our digital, social and content is a) non-existent b) shabby or c) nowhere near good enough now that we've had a proper look at it"

"We are SO far behind on this. It's overwhelming. Where do we even start?"

"We have limited resources but the opportunity/challenge looks like a bottomless money and people pit. What now?"

"We don't know this stuff - and certainly don't have the expertise to make it happen anytime soon. BUT we're going to lose the race if we don't get started."

Or a personal favourite?

"The Board want to know how we are planning for social media / online reputation risk / digital strategy. We're kind of not. Well, not well enough."

It's not a fun feeling, being in this moment. The good news it's temporary. As long as you keep moving.

By keep moving I mean:

1. Get clear on what matters most - now, and medium term2. Choose the right mix of inhouse expertise and external help3. Plan carefully - perhaps a well resourced trial before a full commitment 4. Set clear milestones and 5. Review, refine and repeat

And yet many are doing it right now - trying to quickly get content strategy up and running without proper planning, get a super-fast digital rollout in place - without a sense of where audiences are online...and more. 

But "sssshhhh" - don't tell them how to do it properly or they just might! ]

Overall the "oh sh!t" moment is a good thing - it's a realisation more is needed. And the moments are just going to keep coming as digital marketing, social media and content marketing practice proceed faster than many can keep up in practice.

The inside tip here is simple: dedicate capable people from inside and out, keep your BS detector on and for Pete's sake TRY something. The sooner you fail, the sooner you learn.

My next post on Australian financial content marketing will talk about another three things we're seeing:

TREND THREE: Quick and dirty (aka quantity over quality)
TREND FOUR: The rookie error: create more content
TREND FIVE: Getting it together: strategy, planning and implementation in harmony.