In the struggle for visibility, differentiation and engagement, financial advisors and asset managers have been pursuing proactive marketing in the form of website blogs, informational email campaigns and social medium messaging. According to a Kurtosys digital marketing survey, two-thirds of asset management firms are planning to increase their investment in content marketing, determining that it is the most important channel for generating more website traffic and leads. But many are realizing their posts are not heat-seeking missiles going to the hearts and minds of prospects and clients.
The fact is that retail customers have increasingly been evolving in their resistance to being sold. But they do want to learn before they buy. They want to be educated instead of being pitched. While traditional marketing approaches tended to be product-oriented and talk at people, a well-designed content marketing strategy can develop conversations by engaging readers. The bottom line for success seems to be in consciously crafting the nature and quality of your messaging by understanding that content, for the sake of content, is not effective.
The Content Marketing Institute reports that top marketing performers get that content marketing must connect to the core business. According to their 11th Annual B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends: Insights for 2021, they see a promising trend where more content marketers, through the pandemic, are recognizing the value of strengthening their relationship with their audiences:
“Two years ago, only 68% of all respondents said building trust was a goal. In this year’s report, the number has jumped to 81%. I honestly can’t think of a more important goal right now. Also, two years ago, only 54% of all respondents said building loyalty with existing customers was a goal, while that number jumped to 68% in this report. With trust comes loyalty. If this isn’t a top priority, it’s time to rethink your content marketing strategy.”
To get a better understanding how to rethink and implement a more strategic and efficient firm strategy around content, we reached out to new Institute member Scott Rogerson, CEO of UpContent – a powerful content curation platform. In a hyper-competitive marketplace, it is essential to transform a time-consuming manual process into a strategic engagement approach to cut through the noise and demonstrate your value to your target audience.
Hortz: Can you tell us about your motivations in starting UpContent?
Rogerson: UpContent was initially inspired by an internal need by a small group working within a marketing agency. Namely, the process of discovering, vetting, seeking approval for, and then distributing valuable curated content that will stimulate, engage and add context to our clients’ original perspective, was taking way too long!
As part of a client’s content mix, we knew the strategy of leveraging curated third-party articles worked from both an engagement and conversion perspective, but we needed a way to more easily discover the articles that would matter to our clients’ audience and easily review and distribute them to these individuals. After evaluating several other solutions that were available, we concluded that we would have to build our own solution to get what we needed.
Once the initial version was created, we spoke with our agency teammates again about how they would see it fitting into their workflow. These conversations quickly highlighted that adding another tab on their browser was not beneficial. They already used far too many disparate technologies to deliver on our clients’ goals. Further, nearly every client’s technology stack was slightly different based upon their internal preferences and needs.
It was from this feedback that the strategy around UpContent was formed – to serve as the “air traffic control” solution for an individual and organization’s often iterative content curation process. Rather than trying to own the “last mile” distribution to social media, email, website, or other digital channels, we decided to partner and integrate with the best in class in a way that both amplifies the value our clients get from each of those technology investments and allows the curation process to shift from a single team member’s perspective to one the entire organization can influence and be proud of.
In 2017, this same small team made the leap to leave the agency and focus entirely on achieving that goal. The market’s perception of how best to leverage third-party articles has evolved quite a bit since we began this journey and, through the many amazing customers we work within all areas of the globe, we are humbled to think we may have helped to influence at least a small part of that transformation and are excited for what’s to come as momentum accelerates.
Hortz: How do you define “valuable content” and how do you go about finding it?
Rogerson: Valuable content exists at the intersection of what your audience is interested in reading and what your brand is uniquely capable of offering, whether original or curated. Valuable content moves your brand forward in the minds of your audience – positioning your organization and team as trusted experts in solving their current and future problems. You must first decide what your brand narrative is, and what your goals are, in order to identify valuable content. And this can shift depending on the developments of your company and brand.
Once these criteria are in place, the best way to present this content on a steady basis is by creating the pieces that you have a unique perspective or expertise in and then using artificial intelligence (AI) to discover third-party content that provides context, stimulates action, and meets your brand goals. That’s where UpContent comes in. We built an engine that enables content curation by automating the discovery and distribution so your team can focus on the value. It’s like having a team of experts that understand your business scouring the internet for you.
Hortz: How exactly are trust and loyalty formed by providing valuable content? How does it lead to converting prospects into clients and enhance current client retention?
Rogerson: Trust comes about in a few ways.
First, people are viewing content online all day. By serving as an outlet that can cut through the noise and elevate the worthwhile pieces, you are harnessing a dynamic that is already happening while building credibility and providing value to your audience. You are not afraid to share content that is not your own if it’s helpful to the consumer. Yes, even if it might have ads for your competitors (Earning business due to ignorance of your competition isn’t a winning business plan!).
Second, people start to see your brand and your team as resources, not just another marketing campaign. They begin to look to you for on-topic information, not just self-promotion. This helps credibility and trust with both clients and prospects.
Hortz: What process do you use to match content that is valuable and relevant to different clients?
Rogerson: Specificity begins with breadth. We uncover over 150,000 articles each day to ensure unparalleled coverage – regardless of the interest area. Each uncovered article then moves through a litany of “hygiene” classifications and scoring processes to understand how beneficial the content would be when presented to an audience interested in the content’s topical area.
Relevance begins with specificity. Rather than providing a finite set of hierarchical categories or fixed feed list, we leverage our own proprietary crawler to discover, index and present the content that is most applicable to our customer’s goals. Customers are able to create their own custom topics via our guided or advanced builder process in order to be as broad or complex as they would like. Further, customers can specify the language and region to further narrow the articles discovered.
We recognize each of our customers have their own approach to curation and provide a full continuum from 100% automated to 100% manual, but all within a central solution.
Hortz: What are some of the features you built into your platform to help advisors?
Rogerson: One of the most pressing challenges for advisors is in achieving the level of authenticity they have long experienced in their analog conversations using the current digital formats of social media, email campaigns and microsites – and doing so in a scalable, compliant way.
Our ability to easily manage access, our partnership with Proofpoint to ensure compliance of curated articles against the specific policies of the firm (rather than a generic filter), the opportunity to leverage these curation efforts to support all digital communication channels (both internal and external), and the output being thoughtful curation of content that brings the reader to the publisher’s site, has helped us directly address the needs of the advisor community.
Hortz: Tell us about how you built out elements of your offering with strategic partners. Why did you decide on strategic partners vs building everything yourself?
Rogerson: While many of our customers will leverage the articles they discover within our content platform for social media posts, email campaigns, and website content (just to name a few), UpContent does not have the capability of sending a social post, delivering an email, or hosting a website – and yes, this is intentional and is rooted in our past.
When growing an agency, there were two things that could always be relied upon:
1. There was always a new technology or solution just around the next corner that our new or current clients would need us to use in order to seamlessly deliver on their marketing and sales enablement strategy.
2. The analytics reports from one tool to the next never matched – causing us to spend countless hours investigating why the numbers weren’t the same or even more time explaining the differences in how each tool in their technology stack counted each activity.
We couldn’t bring ourselves to being another solution that did “some of the same things” as other tools that would be common to our customer’s stack and also knew that most of the market we were looking to serve had already selected a social media management, email marketing, customer relationship management, and content management system for other reasons – why try to duplicate something that is working and instead innovate alongside these delivery tools?
While this is a starkly different approach to many other curation solutions, it is not new. The process of creating content has almost always been distribution independent. An organization would create a compelling piece and then optimize it for each delivery channel to drive their audience back to a unifying next step. Why would the approach to curation be any different?
Hortz: Any other thoughts or recommendations you would like to offer advisors on the topic of strategically using content for their sales and retention efforts
Rogerson: Absolutely. First, we suggest you begin to view your marketing as a resource for people, not just self-promotion. Yes, you can direct your content curation based on your brand’s goals and offerings, but you can also do so while remaining useful to people.
Second, begin to view your marketing as thought leadership and as a source of useful information on topics that are interesting to your clientele while remaining relevant to your service. It’s hard to do this with all your own writing, which is why UpContent is available.
Finally, don’t forget to recalibrate by viewing engagement numbers and listening to client feedback on your communications efforts. Slight tweaks here and there could result in a client referral that really moves your bottom line.
We welcome you to learn more about our technology and how to maximize your curated content strategy by visiting our Resources Library where we are happy to share access to our eBooks, webinars, podcasts, and downloadable resources.
Institute for Innovation Development is an educational and business development catalyst for growth-oriented financial advisors and financial services firms determined to lead their businesses in an operating environment of accelerating business and cultural change. We position our members with the necessary ongoing innovation resources and best practices to drive and facilitate their next-generation growth, differentiation, and unique client/community engagement strategies. The institute was launched with the support and foresight of our founding sponsors – Ultimus Fund Solutions, NASDAQ, Pershing, Fidelity, Voya Financial, and Charter Financial Publishing (publisher of Financial Advisor and Private Wealth magazines).
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.