22nd November 2019
How to write a great financial services blog
Believe it or not it’s more than 20 years since the term ‘weblog’ was coined (although nobody’s really sure when the first two letters were dropped). In that time, blogging has become a marketing staple and the internet is now home to about 500 million blogs, with literally countless individual entries. Daunting.
Of course, your blog isn’t trying to compete with all of those, in fact it shouldn’t really be about competition at all. Blogging isn’t just about clicks and numbers, especially in finance. It’s important to get your blog noticed, but that’s a topic in itself and all the attention in the world won’t make up for a blog that doesn’t give the reader value.
Rather than looking at how to get your blog seen, let’s explore how you can make sure it’s worth seeing.
Why are you writing it?
Who is your blog aimed at, what does it help with and what would you like your readers to do? As a financial professional you’ll already know the importance of understanding your audience – their attitudes to risk, what interests them and what keeps them awake. All of that should come through in your blog. A great blog asks thought-provoking questions, but also goes a long way to giving the reader the answers. It’s a way to demonstrate your grasp of the full financial landscape and instill confidence in working with you.
Here’s a good example from wealth planners Capital Asset Management. Their blog landing page is full of entries that raise and answer practical questions – how to avoid retirement mistakes, why you should watch out for inflation, how to put your kids through university. It’s not that Capital doesn’t use the blog to push their services, they do, but what’s important is the broad spectrum of financial and lifestyle experience they demonstrate.
How should you present it?
We can boil the types of blog down to seven – ‘how to’, ‘what is’, ‘why you should’, the ‘list’, the ‘curated’, the ‘fun’ and the ‘infographic’. In short, the format you choose will be decided by the points you’re trying to make. List articles are popular and often very useful because they’re easy to follow and they set out key takeaways in numbered points. BOS Invest uses a ‘checklist’ format that manages to be both list and how-to in one.
But they’re not the best format for everything. It you’re about to give a data-heavy statistical download to your clients, it might be kinder to use an infographic that shows the top lines in a digestible format. Again, it’s not always appropriate. The nearest thing to a ‘fun’ blog in financial planning might be a team update, including say, job shuffles, an award nomination, charity work and a testimonial. Clearly an infographic or list wouldn’t work here, this kind of blog should read more like a communication from the heart.
What should it say?
You should absolutely know what it needs to say before you start writing it, otherwise you’ll end up with waffle. Your subject matter can be as broad as you like, as long as there’s always a thread leading back to why it matters and how you can help. Your blog must be relevant, whether it’s up-front or you take a meandering journey that comes back to how the issue relates to your readers.
‘How to’ and ‘why you should’ blogs take a functional question and pick it apart, but blogging is a useful way to demonstrate a wider knowledge and engage the interest of clients in broader topics too. Metis Ireland for example recently produced a series on behavioural biases, the instinctive behaviours that lead us to unconsciously damage our own financial outcomes. Here the goal is to pique interest, demonstrate a broadness of knowledge and crucially, lead the reader to the conclusion that not only does this company know its stuff, it may very well be worthwhile getting in touch.
Who’s going to write it?
You could write it yourself, after all, it’s your business and your clients – you know them best. If you’re not comfortable writing, you could buy ‘off the peg content’, which is cheap and fast, or use a ‘curated blog’ bringing together links to content on your subject. But these should probably ring alarm bells if you’re interested in quality. The more generic and impersonal your content ‘sounds’, the less likely it is to engage your readers. You’ll be compromising SEO value too, not to mention your own brand voice.
The other route is hiring a professional writer, whether a full-time employee or a freelancer. It divides opinion and it’s always a trade off – you know more about your business and clients, but they know how to get it down in writing. Writing is a strange semi-trade to deal with, it’s not like being a lawyer or a doctor, most people in the developed world can write – it’s just that some do it better than others, for a fee.
But it’s not just about bashing out 1,000 words and getting it online. Besides helping to develop or stick to your tone of voice, a professional writer will also know about structure and flow. They’ll take your subject and turn it into a narrative that sets out a problem and a solution. It still gives your reader useful information, but it also paints you in the best possible light and keeps SEO in mind too.
Where should it go?
Writing a blog and then putting it on the website with no further strategy is like opening the window and shouting into the street. Passers-by might hear you, or they might not. A smart blog strategy weaves your content into your marketing plan.
One approach is well illustrated by Citywide Financial Partners with their guide to keeping both your personal and business finances in order. Citywide spotted a tendency for business owners to neglect personal financial planning, so they wrote a report on the subject, structured in a way that also worked as a series of blogs. Each key takeaway made up an entry and ended with a call to action to get in touch, sign up or download the full report, backed by a social media campaign. Getting the right mix is essential – we want to draw attention, not exhaust patience.
When is a blog not a blog?
As a final thought, you need to be certain that a blog is the right way to publicise the information you want to put out there. If you’re just looking to push the abilities of your business, that content belongs in a brochure, or on your ‘about us’ page. On the other hand, if you’re looking to post your annual results, that’s useful and important information, but it’s still not really a blog.
A blog sits somewhere between advertorial and educational. It prompts or answers questions a company knows its clients will have, then gives them advice they can act upon. In the best-case scenario, the reader reaches the CTA and gets in touch. In the worst case, they go away feeling that the question they had is answered, or the question they didn’t realise they had is now on their radar.
Either way, it’s much more likely that they’ll come to associate your business with knowledge, experience and the ability to explain it clearly, so they’ll come back again, even if not today.
If there’s a rule to live by, it’s this – a great blog isn’t look ‘how much we know’, it’s ‘here’s the information you need, let us know if you’d like to chat’.