This week we are continuing our “Content Marketing All-Stars” series with Helen Loh, Senior Vice President of Owned Media, Content & Digital Marketing at Charles Schwab. Schwab has been a leader in the financial services industry for the ways they have leveraged their blog content to spread awareness around their brand and corporate values. Helen sat down with us to discuss how Schwab is thinking about new channels for marketing, and her opinion of what the future looks like for content marketing.
Can you start off by giving an overview of Schwab’ s content marketing strategy and how it fits into your overall marketing strategy?
Content has always been a piece of our financial services and brokerage businesses. When you are a client of Schwab, one of the key services that you expect Schwab to deliver is investment expertise and guidance.
Of course, that expertise is usually presented through our financial consultants. But it’s also delivered through the content that we publish every day to react to the market or to give investors advice that helps them achieve the best possible outcomes for their investments.
Our recent strategy has really been about finding ways to leverage this asset that we have always had and apply it to our marketing objectives. Content has always been part of client services, so now we are taking those same assets and thinking about how we can grow our customer base by reaching a wider audience. Our target reader is interested in investing but they also have shared values with our brand. So we are really focused on a multiple facet approach to content because we are using a variety of styles and content types on our channels.
Getting a little more specific, how do you categorize the types of content you are creating?
The first category we look at is content that explains our company, our products, our brand, who we are and what we believe. These are traditional marketing content that’s helpful for investors when they are looking for such products and services, or evaluating Schwab as a firm they might want to partner with. This content can be found on our owned channels like Schwab.com.
The second category is content that expresses our expert insights and perspectives and has historically always been the pillar of our client services. This content is delivered on our owned channels on the web, as a mobile app, and in syndication on Flipboard and in paid media. We also have two magazines, On Investing and Onward, which together have the largest circulation of any financial magazine in the U.S.
The last category is a newer area. We have started creating content that is not about finance or investing but is really about those shared values that the Schwab brand has with our customer’s lifestyles. The purpose of this category is to create conversations on topics that matter to the community and to put our brand into the culture stream.
We have spent a lot of time thinking about where all of this content plays versus our traditional marketing, advertising and promotion tools. We look at content as currency for engagement, and if you don’t have any currency you don’t deserve any attention.
So of course it’s important to talk about brand and tell stories through advertising and all the traditional means, but I think we also have an additional lever with our multi-faceted strategy. We strive to be saying something that connects to larger conversations that are happening and hope that our voice ultimately attracts people to the Schwab brand.
How do you balance more traditional investing advice with content based around your culture and earning trust for your brand?
We are still early in the whole journey of content marketing, so we haven’t found the ideal balance yet.
It’s not really a specific ratio, but it’s more about identifying the situations when we should be focusing on one pillar versus the other. Most of this depends on the context in which we are engaging the audience. That is where media plays a huge role, because the type of media our target investors choose to engage with gives us clues about their intentions and mindset. And our goal is to create and deliver content that maps to that mindset.
Can you tell me what it’s like for Schwab to deal with regulatory issues that govern your content and marketing programs?
Everything that we produce that we put out to the public is subject to the same regulatory environment regulation. Being in the financial services industry, regulation exists to protect the consumer and is a fact of life that affects all Schwab marketing efforts.
But on the whole, I don’t think that regulatory restrictions impact the value of our content to consumers, as many consumers feel better about the perspective of a licensed brokerage firm rather than a media pundit who is not licensed and who is not subject to regulatory protections. So we focus on how we leverage our status as a verified thought leader and use it to really boost our own credibility. It is much more credible when you get a piece of content from a licensed brokerage firm like Schwab versus the opinion of an individual.
How does social media fit in with your content strategy? Do you view them as separate programs or do they work together?
In order to deliver content to consumers, we have to create a distribution strategy that isn’t separating social media from paid media from the owned content on our site. We think of it as a holistic strategy. We start with the right kind of content that is tailored for our target audience, and then we identify where our audience is hanging out, so to speak. It is all about identifying where and when we can be most relevant, regardless of the channel.
Given the evolution of content marketing at Schwab, where do you see it going over the next couple of years?
I think it will evolve to where the investor wants it to be. They want useful and valuable insight into best practices that impact their financial well-being. If you look at the time our target investors are spending with different content types, the great majority is specifically about managing their money and planning for their financial goals. So we have to create the kind of content that is as relevant as the material they get when they’re reading The Wall Street Journal or watching CNBC – but with a uniquely Schwab take.
The analogy we use for our content is that we’re trying to make broccoli sexy. We’re delivering valuable information to our readers and need to continue to improve the ways we make it appealing and easy to consume. Over the next couple of years we will be continuing to work out exactly how we should be engaging with our audience and developing a better understanding of the most effective ways to build relationships with them.