When I wasn’t angrily tweeting Sony for cowering to tech-savvy despots while repressing my own anxieties about global pandemics and buttocks-induced Internet shutdowns, I spent a good portion of 2014 consulting with CMOs and the marketing teams of dozens of different insurance and financial services companies about their marketing initiatives. Part of my job is to help companies troubleshoot marketing problems, define strategic objectives and develop customized marketing programs to meet those objectives.
This position has afforded me with a unique perspective in that I oftentimes get to peek under the hood of a lot of companies of different shapes and sizes and in different growth stages working on some very interesting initiatives.
Following are a few of the marketing trends I have seen begin to get traction over the past year, trends that I predict will continue to gain momentum in 2015:
1. Deeper engagement with endemic sales force will be a higher priority.
According to LIMRA, in any given year financial professionals only write business for half the companies with which they are licensed. And they write the majority of their business with just two or three. The race to become one of these favored companies is highly competitive and, for some, lead gen is taking a backseat. I heard repeatedly from marketers as they were developing their 2015 strategic plans that they are trying to figure out how to capture more production from the independent advisors with which they already have relationships.
Let’s face it – the advisor population is aging and doesn’t seem to be getting any larger, so companies are prioritizing growth through increased volume rather than an infusion of new talent. Consequently, they are looking to engage advisors in a number of new and different ways. Marketing strategies and platforms that emphasize engagement and relationship building will assume more prominence than direct marketing campaigns to support lead gen initiatives.
2. Companies will compete for thought leadership.
The financial industry has not exactly been known historically as a hot bed of innovation. Often, when one company launches something new, others are quick to follow. However, financial companies have a lot of very intelligent people working for them and some are beginning to explore ways to differentiate themselves by tapping the collective expertise of their internal subject matter experts and leveraging their intellectual capital as they would any other asset to gain a competitive advantage.
Expect to see large companies organizing their subject matter expertise to colonize increasingly niche markets. The winners will be those who can allocate internal resources strategically to support a sustained marketing presence in the market or markets they choose to dominate.
3. Content marketing will be more than a trendy buzz phrase.
The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) defines “content marketing” as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” Content marketing is one of the most effective tools that companies can use to demonstrate their thought leadership, and we will see more financial companies experimenting with it in 2015 through formats such as social media, blogs, videos, research, white papers, etc. CMI research finds that 86 percent of B2B marketers already utilize some form of content marketing, and they’re creating more and more of it – 70 percent are producing more of their own content than they did one year ago.
The most effective content marketing focuses more on education and insight, rather than advertising and promotion. It is difficult for an industry that has sales in its DNA to keep the “hard sell” out of its marketing content, but the potential rewards are great. Advisors are navigating an increasingly complex marketplace and will be more willing to engage with companies offering educational content to help them do so. Companies will increase advisor loyalty, which is likely to pay dividends given that trust and company reputation are key factors for advisors when making product recommendations to their clients.