5-step Storytelling for Financial Services Marketing

Turning stories into engaging content requires a systematic approach.

an illustration of wood blocks creating stairs and a wood cutout of a person walking up the stairs

Financial services institutions need to be telling stories. Lots of them. And, boy, do they have the stories to tell.

Here’s why: Storytelling starts with conversation. And what industry has more conversations than financial services? Firms hear about individuals struggling to get out of debt, starting businesses or handling the estates of loved ones. More importantly, these firms know how real people overcame those struggles. Telling their stories provides answers for clients and prospects — and gives them hope.

These conversations are gold mines for marketers. But documenting the raw stories and bringing them to life through content requires a smart, thoughtful approach.

Consider this from Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal: “We are creatures of story, and the process of changing one mind or the whole world must begin with ‘Once upon a time.’”

With this five-step process, financial services organizations can author their own narratives.

1. Capture the raw financial stories

At a bank, the branch is the front door for financial storytelling. For insurance companies, it could be individual agents’ offices or customer service channels. At investment firms, it’s the financial advisers with a calendar full of client lunches and meet-and-greets.

People shaking the hands of clients and prospects or answering phone calls and emails truly have the pulse of audience pain points, needs and financial successes — their stories. Capturing them can be done with the right process in place.

Start by getting management buy-in. For instance, provide regional bank branch managers with a vehicle to capture field-level conversations for use in content. This vehicle could be a one-page questionnaire that an employee could fill out to summarize client interactions. For example, “What questions did the client ask on her visit?” or “What life circumstances — new baby, retirement, new home — is she going through?” or “What stood out from other conversations you had today?”

Offer incentives. Employees have myriad day-to-day responsibilities. So to effectively motivate them to help with storytelling, they need a little push. The importance of financial storytelling to brand awareness and overall customer sentiment can justify tying these goals to performance metrics.

2. Determine what’s actually a good story

Coca-Cola uses the following criteria to evaluate the strength of its stories:

  • Does it answer the “Why Should I Care” test?
  • Does it surprise you?
  • Does it have universal appeal?
  • Does it generate interest?
  • Is it new—something you haven’t seen before?
  • Is it different from what your competition is offering?
  • Is your content being measured systemically?

Your organization may have other criteria, but this core set is a good place to begin the story evaluation process.

3. Turn raw stories into the right content

Shifting from capturing the stories toward turning them into content is a key next step. Storytelling can take many forms — engaging prose and imagery comprising a long-form piece, a series of captivating podcasts or videos featuring individuals on screen telling their tales.

Identifying the right vehicle to tell the story comes down to:

Your audience’s demographics and psychographics

Based on your target, whether millennials or midmarket executives, your content medium should reflect those groups’ consumption preferences. For example, if you have a mobile-first audience, longer-form storytelling may be less appealing than digestible, quick-hitting anecdotes.

Your content hub

How can you package your stories for a more holistic experience? A video could be your anchor, but a related podcast may allow for further exploration on a particularly interesting nugget.

Your distribution channels

If YouTube is a destination for your audience to consume brand content, video should be a focus of your social media strategy. If blogs are more appealing, leaning on LinkedIn’s built-in publishing platform can be your financial storytelling arena.

4. Identify your expert storytellers

With your content types identified, it’s time to think about who can tell your stories best. If your primary storytelling medium is articles, quality writers and editors are a must. Writing financial stories, unlike educational articles with tips and how-to approaches, is a journalistic style that’s difficult to pull off without the right instincts, training and experience.

If live-action video is your preferred medium, careful consideration must go into whom you feature on camera. Two great options are your own people in-house and your clients.

Your in-house subject matter experts have the pulse of the client base and can tell powerful, relatable stories with that intel in mind. And having your clients tell your brand’s story on your behalf is invaluable.

Partnering with third-party experts is effective in providing your audience with a known entity. Ideally, this third-party expert has a popular blog and a strong social presence, allowing you to tap into that following and bring them to your content hub.

5. Share your stories on multiple channels

Think of the last story you read, watched or listened to. Did you relate that story to your own experiences? Were you compelled to post your reaction on social media or call a friend and discuss how the story impacted you?

People want to share their stories. Whether it’s on social media, a blog platform, via website comments or other avenues, people to react to stories by sharing their own. You never know what kind of user-generated content may come out of that kind of forum.

Don’t forget to look within your own walls, either. Sharing these stories internally creates awareness among employees and fosters buy-in for future content efforts. Remember, as a financial services firm, stories reside with your people in the field.

Implementing a financial storytelling process isn’t easy, but following these five steps can help form a foundation for content marketing success.

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