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Why blogging is good for our business

Blogging is growing in popularity among many businesses as a means of engaging with a wider audience. Giles Cross, head of Marketing and Public Relations for Sanlam UK, talks to Adviser Business Review about turning traditional financial services marketing methods on their head and offers his tips for blogging

Adviser Business Review: What made you decide to start blogging?

Giles Cross: I grew increasingly frustrated with the traditional financial services marketing methods, which are too heavily focused upon access to product or qualifications. I wanted to reverse the conversation so that it’s no longer about the company and what we offer, but about the consumer and their needs. As an industry, we are guilty of placing too much emphasis on our own abilities and a lot of our mistakes come from trying to be too clever.

At the forefront of my mind was ‘how can we make it easier for the client?’ How can we engage and interest consumers? We need to show that we understand the issues and questions consumers have and blogging allows us to communicate directly with them, and win back their trust and respect.

Having a social presence is crucial; there is real value in letting people see behind the logo, cut through all the financial jargon and genuinely see who you are. We currently have two blogs and will soon launch two more.

ABR: How did you go about setting up the blog?

GC: It’s very easy to set up a blog, there are various different blogging platforms available, but I would advise starting small which is what we did. We purchased bulk mailing software with an unsubscribe facility and started on the understanding that nothing is ever perfect and we would learn as we went along. You have to consider cost, both the cost of production and distribution and look at your customer tolerance – are you sending out too much, too little? What is a viable delivery rate and can you stick to it?

We now use American software called Act-On, but I would recommend reviewing your software as you go along to ensure it still meets your needs.

ABR: Who is responsible for generating the content?

GC: We write all our own copy as a team effort and take our inspiration from everywhere. We keep a very close eye on what’s going on in the media, and base a lot of our content upon our own experiences as well as conversations we’ve had with people. Recently, a friend of mine passed away which raised the subject of life insurance and how valuable it can be, which I am using as the basis for the next blog.

In the social space, people don’t want to be told what to do; they want engaging and topical copy they can associate with and understand. In a world full of noise, to be heard you’ve got to be real and relevant. Whether it’s having babies, putting children through school, knowing the best ways to save or plan for retirement, invariably we face the same challenges and it’s important to us that consumers align themselves with us.

ABR: How have you gone about building your database?

GC: We send our blog to both clients and advisers, as well as our contact list and people whom we’ve engaged with at various events. We are active on Twitter and LinkedIn and also use those channels to share our copy. Over time, you build up a wider audience. However, if someone comes to us and says they’re not interested in receiving our blogs, we instantly remove them from our database.

ABR: How does blogging fit with the rest of your marketing strategy?

GC: Blogging is a very important part of our overall marketing strategy and we combine it with various other methods. If you look at how people receive their information, the majority of it comes from online so having a social presence is crucial. Video is growing increasingly important and that’s an area we will look to capitalise on going forward.

We want to do everything we can to engage with the consumer. While awareness of financial matters is greater than ever, so is consumers’ disengagement with the financial services industry. All marketing has to be a creative process; enjoy what you do but create your own narrative and tell your own story.

ABR: Do you measure the success of your blog?

GC: The click-to-open rate provided by online software allows you to measure how successful your blogs are. A good average rate within financial services is 19% and we are always in excess of 20% so we believe we are doing well. If something regularly dropped below the 19% mark, we would remove it. The key to blogging is not to be afraid to take criticism and edit or refine as much as you need to.

We occasionally receive reader feedback, both good and bad, and it helps give us a good idea of how our content is being received and which subjects strike a chord with our audience.

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