Every bank should have a solid content marketing plan. If your bank does not have one, you are behind the times.
In order to have an effective content marketing plan, you have to have an individual or team devoted to creating content that is effective and a process that is streamlined.
One of the best ways to create an effective and streamlined approach is to have a universal framework that works and communicates to your audience in a way that is highly informative, valuable and not “salesy”.
Introducing “Story Brand” by Donald Miller.
If you have not heard of StoryBrand, you are in for a treat.
Donald Miller and his team have developed an incredibly effective and simple marketing and communication framework that allows anyone to create messages that sell (without the sleaziness that often comes with selling).
Donald Miller’s approach has been used by thousands of businesses and nonprofits across multiple fronts, helping them increase sales by simplifying their messaging.
It starts with his 8 part Storybrand framework, and can certainly apply to the banking arena.
By using the framework, anyone can create content that is engaging, compelling, simple and clear.
1 -The Character
The character is not you or your bank. It is the avatar or persona of a specific customer. Imagine (or list) all of your major customer personas on a list. You might have 4 to 6 major categories, i.e., college student, young single adult, young married couple, middle aged man (or woman) with kids, retiring couple, etc.
Always start with the character because in the end, every effective message, product and service is supposed to be aimed at helping a specific individual solve a specific problem or fulfill a need.
2 – The Problem
Imagine one problem that character is going to face. For example, the college student is going to face college fees and debt. Define that problem very clearly and list all of the issues it will cause for them both internally (emotionally & psychologically) and externally.
3 – The Guide
Now, position your bank as the guide. As in every great story, the guide is the one with the wisdom and potential solutions to help the character simplify, navigate, and resolve their problems. Think of Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, and how he guided Frodo through the story to victory. Think of the Wizard of OZ in the movie and how he came out from behind the curtain and helped the main characters discover the solutions to their pressing problems. You, as the banker, are Gandalf or the Wizard of OZ in the story. The best kind of guide will have a perfect mix of authority and empathy. If the guide presents with too much authority and not enough empathy, the character will feel alienated and diminished. If the guide presents with too much empathy and is weak on authority, the character will not have much confidence that the guide can help them. Though they may feel understood, they will not have the level of confidence needed to take consistent, appropriate action with the plan.
4- The Plan
The guide in every good story has wisdom and helps the main character with a plan, or the guide helps the main character develop a plan to solve the challenge(s) ahead. This is where you can get very specific and can tailor your products / services messages specifically at helping the character use your plan or develop a plan with your guidance that will bring clarity, simplicity, and a course of action that is easy to understand.
The plan will have to be flexible as well, as the variables of life and the problems can and often do change.
5- Call to Action
Your plan must propel them or challenge them to take personal action. No plan is any good without focused action and intent to follow the plan. The plan also has to give them a sense of hope and help alleviate any sense of dread or failure. The key with the plan is that it needs to be clear, simple, and help them see a sure path to personal success.
6 – Results in Success
The messaging must create a clear picture of success, not just in facts and outward outcomes, but in the psychological and emotional outcomes. It is also wise to provide images of the character’s persona experiencing success when possible. Most people take action due to internal desires. Although they might want to save more money or pay off debt, it is the internal reasons that motivate them to accomplish the outward tasks.
7- Avoids Failure
No good story would be complete without the possibility of failure or tragedy. Your story and your messaging has to reinforce how your plan will help the character avoid specific failure or tragedy. In great content marketing, the guide presents the top negative outward and inward results that the character wants to avoid.
Remember the “mayhem” commercials by All State? The mayhem character shows up and characterizes the individual’s life without Allstate’s plan or “coverage”. The commercials and messages are clear, memorable, comical, and yet effective. Try to identify the character, the guide, the plan, the call to action, and the successful outcome the next time you see an AllState “mayhem” commercial.
When you begin reading stories, watching movies, and reviewing content and advertisements through this Storybrand framework, you will begin to easily see the differences in effective marketing messages and lackluster content.
Let’s use this framework to connect one of your products or services to a character in your customer base.
Let’s use this framework with millennials.
Gen Y, otherwise known as Millennials, were born between 1981 and 1994/6. They are currently between 25 and 40 years old and make up about 72.1 million people in the U.S.
Some of the current challenges that Millennials might be facing are paying off college debt and juggling a mortgage payment.
Now, let’s imagine the 3 biggest internal pressures or fears they are facing. Sometimes doing research or brainstorming with your team are great ways to get the ideas flowing. Gather several and narrow down the results to the top 3 most important or pressing issues related to being between 25 and 40 years old and having a mortgage and college payments.
They might be facing pressures of earning enough to take care of the needs of their 2.5 children while trying to put away some money for retirement. You could segment this character further into married couples, singles, and divorced, or divorced and remarried. You can address specific issues within the same article, creating more value and search engine leverage at the same time so you can draw more traffic and customers to your content.
3 big desires they have are: paying off debt, saving for retirement, recreational needs
3 big fears they might have are: losing a job, losing their home, or losing their retirement in the stock market
Next, imagine your bank and personnel as their friend and guide who has both empathy (you understand them) and authority (you have the ability to help them succeed).
How will you help them be the hero of their own story with your products and services?
In this, and every marketing message you create, you have to remember, the customer has to be the hero of their own story, and you play the guide and support role to help them be the hero they want to believe they can be.
Most marketing messages miss this most important point, and make the messaging all about their bank, their wonderful products, or their great history and track record.
While all of this is important support material, it is not the highlight of any good marketing story.
Your customer, their challenges and their ultimate success is the center of your messaging.
There’s an old saying among the pioneers and gurus of marketing and it’s called WIIFM.
It’s the one “radio station” that every individual consumer is tuned into.
WIIFM = What’s In It For Me?
Customers don’t care about your bank, your great online banking technology, your awesome app, or your products unless they can see all of those things as an essential part of their own success journey.
This is the #1 test for every great marketing message, advertisement or campaign: WIIFM!
If you keep this idea central, most of your messaging will fall into place and your results will improve.
Next, how will your plan help the main character pay off their mortgage, secure their retirement, while providing for some much needed leisure for their family? Your message needs to paint this story with words and pictures so that they can imagine themselves using your products and services to achieve their desires and avoid the perceived tragedies of failure.
In fact, the story should draw them in so that the introduction of your plan and products is seamless and does not feel like an invasion of the story, but a natural piece of the puzzle, an essential piece.
Next, call them to take action along the lines of your plan. Every good message has either a direct call to action, or a call to a “baby step” in the right direction.
Sometimes the call to action is to open a savings account, or to visit a branch and talk with a Universal Banker. Perhaps the next step is to fill out a form or download a simple PDF tool or guide.
The better you understand your customer’s story and journey, the better you will know what the next appropriate step is.
Being the guide, it is your responsibility to lead them to the next clear step or action. That action is a positive step toward being a customer or a baby step at developing a long-term relationship with your bank by filling out a survey, using one of your simple online tools, or chatting with an online service rep. The possibilities are endless and you can test each step of the process and continually improve the conversions rates by testing.
Finally, paint the picture of failure for your character. Remind them what will happen if they do nothing, or choose an inferior bank or inferior product or plan. Every good guide (or coach) reminds the main character of the possibility of failure if they fail to take the proper action, or take no action at all. There are various ways to paint this picture, just be sure to do it in a tasteful way. By reminding them of the possibility of failure by not using your plan, you are doing them a real service.
A well-known marketing guru said, “find their pain and bang it with a hammer”. He then said, show them how to alleviate their pain with the obvious choice being your product or service. While we don’t recommend literally banging their pain with a hammer, the skill of agitating the pain points in your marketing messages is essential to getting them to take action.
There are 2 basic ways to “bang it with a hammer”. One is to describe the future pain and failure with great detail so they are wrapped up in the reality of what can and will happen if they take the wrong action or take no action at all.
The other way to agitate their pain point is to paint the positive picture of other successful clients that are currently experiencing the success that is out of reach to the character. You can show pictures and talk about other successful clients and the enjoyment they are having because they have used your products to alleviate the problem.
This can also be done with “future pacing”. Future pacing is taking the character 12 months (or some significant time) in the future and you ask them what they will feel like when the mortgage is paid off and the retirement fund is getting “fat” and vacations are a normal part of their life.
A great example of agitating people’s pain of debt in a positive manner is how the Dave Ramsey organization goes about it.
If you have ever seen a Dave Ramsey ad or read one of his books, he often shares pictures of individuals or couples with a hand-printed sign that tells how much debt they have paid off and the time frame. They always have great big smiles on their faces too!
Not only is this effectively agitating the pain of the character who is currently under the strain of debt, but it is showing them their possible future and freedom if they stick to the Dave Ramsey plan. Also, it is providing another powerful piece of marketing without any effort… social proof.
Social proof is the real-life evidence that other people have successfully used your products and services and have reached the level of personal success that the main character is seeking through your guidance.
Testimonials, success stories, positive feedback, social media shares and followers are all elements of social proof. Social proof also gives the new customer the “gift of being second.” In other words, when the character is beginning his or her journey with your bank’s products or services, by seeing other people’s success stories, they become more confident of their own success with your guidance because they see proof that others have gone before them and have reached the same “happy ending” they want to realize in their own life.
Finally, paint the picture of inward and outward transformation your character will achieve by going through your process with you as their expert guide. What kind of positive growth will they experience? What kind of lifestyle will they have? How will their options, confidence and overall happiness in life improve?
Describe their transformation and you will communicate to them in a way that most banks can not. And, in doing so, your bank will become the leaders in your market region and you will get the lion’s share of the market.
Your competitors will be scratching their heads wondering how you are able to connect so well with your prospects and draw in customers by the droves.
What should you do next?
The next step you need to do in order to launch an effective content marketing strategy with your bank is to print out this article and share it with your team.
Schedule a brief meeting where you will share the 8 points of the Story Brand Method and have a fun and productive meeting while brainstorming different characters you are guiding and their stories. Then, position yourselves and your products & services into their stories so that they can become the heroes of their own stories.
The more you practice, the easier and more effective this process becomes.
Schedule a complimentary strategy call with one of our experts and we can help you accelerate your marketing process and improve the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.
It’s not rocket science, but it does take consistent action, using the right plan and taking the right actions.
Schedule with us today!
(Co-authored by Tim Scholten & Aaron Schulman) Let’s be honest- no one really knows what will happen in the next 10 years with our economy and the entire banking system… however, doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of “insanity”….
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