Trusted Advisor in a Digital Age

By Nick Miller

In the past, we could be advisors to our business clients simply because we had financial or product information they didn’t have.

Now, because clients can download reams of information, advising is becoming less about providing information and more about engaging people in dialog, pointing them toward the information that’s most useful, and helping them draw conclusions.

For this reason, marketing leaders now have the opportunity to position their banks as digital trusted advisors. And they can generate new leads if they offer strategically chosen content to attract SME business owners, engage them in dialog, and guide them through a buying funnel.

Bank marketers are coming up the curve

A few years ago, only a few banks’ websites offered business content beyond product information.

Many of the early starters such as Bank of America (their online business community) and Wells Fargo (Works for Business) crammed their sites with content across a wide spectrum of topics, apparently thinking, “Our clients will find something they like if we put more of it out there.”

Now, mid-2016, noticeably more banks, including TD Bank, Wells Fargo, The Private Bank, Comerica Bank, Scotiabank, and others are offering web site content that’s more tightly focused and helps business executives and owners solve their business problems with information that goes beyond the scope of bank products.

Here are five actions bank marketers can take to position their banks as worthy sources of helpful content, and in effect, digital trusted advisors.

Action 1: Develop a clear editorial strategy, and offer a variety of content types organized around business-owner pain points.

Develop a content strategy and curriculum based on deep understanding of business pain points—the questions business leaders seek to answer through web searches—and the products and services you’d like to sell them to address those issues.

Then, map content to the curriculum. For example, since “business plan” is one of the most frequent searches, offer an interactive business plan template on your website. Position a link to the template on the website pages for SBA loans. (Business plans are a required element of the loan submission.) Similarly, position a link to the ‘loans’ pages next to the business plan template in the business resource center.

Deploy the content in a variety of ways, including articles, videos, business guides, e-newsletters, infographics, case studies of real businesses, diagnostic health checks, and e-learning that will pique visitors’ attention.

Action 2: Position your content so that it moves business executives and owners along the buying path.

Too frequently, banks think of their business resource centers as searchable content libraries. A stronger strategy is to create content marketing plans designed to generate leads.

For example: If you were seeking to capture start-up businesses early in their life cycles, you might:

  • Develop a start-up kit of tools, make it available in the business resource center, and promote it through the website, social media, and other channels.
  • Respond when business owners download the start-up kit, asking their permission to continue contacting them. Then…
  • Launch a second offer, e.g., a webinar about one of the key start-up kit elements. In the webinar, promote the business resource center as a source for additional information (which should always be linked to relevant bank products).
  • For the people who participate in the webinar, launch another offer, perhaps an in-person seminar. During the seminar, offer a free consultation with a bank representative.

Action 3: Make your content visible so that it’s easy to find, and keep it clutter free so that it’s easy to navigate.

You have mere seconds to capture business owners’ attention once they land on your website. Don’t make them hunt for the business resource center or the content they’re seeking.

For example, on some bank websites, the business resource center is nowhere to be seen—and when we use the search feature, we can’t find the business resource center…even though we know it’s there. Other banks bury the links in the small print at the bottom of their ‘small business’ or ‘business banking’ home pages.

Organize your site’s content so that it’s easy for business owners to find what they’re looking for the moment they land on your site. Three clicks at most.

Long lists of articles that require a site visitor to scroll to find something useful are not helpful. Newer and more navigable sites organize content using three or four main topics (e.g., starting my business, growing my business, selling my business).

Action 4: Make it interactive.         

Business executives and owners are likely to be more engaged and stay on your site longer when they are actively participating with your content. While articles, how-to guides, case studies and other static material (if written with the needs of business executives and owners in mind) can be quite useful, your website will become more engaging if you combine them with interactive tools such as video, info graphics, calculators, quizzes and financial health checks where business executives and owners can input their own data and participate in a unique user experience.

Action 5: Train your bankers to use the tools in their conversations.

Branch staff, small business bankers, and business bankers should know what tools and supports are included in their bank’s business resource centers and be able to incorporate them into their conversations with business leaders and owners.

For example, a discussion with a business leader about cybersecurity should lead to the web site. The banker might say something like, “Here, look with me for a moment: We have two articles and a health check in our business resource center that can help with this exact issue. If you have a moment now, let’s go through the health check together and talk about steps you can take and how we can help.”

In an increasingly digital world, marketing leaders can support their banks’ client-facing team members and position their banks as guides and “advisors” by providing digital content in organized frameworks that match their clients’ business growth and management pain points.

Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage, a consulting and training firm focused on helping banks generate more profitable relationships, faster, with small-business and consumer households. Email: [email protected].

Online training in digital, mobile and social media from ABA.