Q&A: How to develop a content strategy

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

Hazel Pitchers is the Founder of Merakiting, a marketing consultancy. Her 20 years’ experience in the financial services industry includes major marketing leadership roles at AXA Investment Managers and BlackRock. In this Q&A she explains the tenets of a good content strategy.


  1. What are the good and bad reasons for creating a content strategy?

Firstly, I’d argue there are only good reasons to create a content strategy! But don’t do it simply because everyone else is doing it. Make sure you have clear goals in mind before getting started.

The main reason to build a content strategy is to establish your firm as a a thought leader, to build brand credibility, and to differentiate you from the crowd by engaging with your audience authentically.

Within that strategy, firms need to align to the business objectives and understand their customer needs and what they want their brand to stand for.

Internally a clearly defined content strategy helps you to prioritise, allocate the right resources, have the right conversations and not get distracted by ideas which don’t bring brand value, help convert sales or keep your existing clients satisfied.

It’s important when your creating and distributing content to be super clear on the following :

  • Who is it for?
  • What are we trying to achieve with the content? i.e what do we want the recipient to think, feel and do as a result of reading/receiving our content
  • What are the problems at a brand and client/owner theme level which we are trying to solve?
  • Is there a commercial link we can make to our brand, capability, or product?

Be clear on the difference between thought leadership content and other forms of content and their role within the sale and marketing funnel.

Thought leadership, for example, is content which is thought-provoking and which reflects a firm’s thinking on a particular topic or issue. It prompts readers to consider new ideas, take a new perspective on a topic or to gain deeper understanding of a topic. Its role is primarily at the top of the sales funnel, but it is also valuable at the client retention and cross-selling phase.


  1. How much do people engage with content from asset managers?

Surprisingly, some recent research I’ve worked on shows that engagement levels can be high if the content is valuable, relevant, and resonates with the audience’s needs. 80 to 90% of financial professionals say they engage with financial content.

However, there’s often a gap between the content produced and what investors seek. In investment management, for example, there are differences between wholesale (fund selectors, distributors, advisors) and institutional: 45% in wholesale engage with content more than once a week whereas institutional only 23%. Both are more likely to take an hour a week at most and many an hour a month. With that in mind – content needs to pack a punch!

We often make the mistake of thinking professional audiences aren’t just human beings and serve up long-form pages and pages of dry content! But what they are really looking for are short-form articles and lots of infographics/charts first and foremost. If what we have to say is interesting, they will read a longer form.

LinkedIn as a medium to broadcast content is significantly increasing in engagement levels but is now very crowded. Since 2018, 67% of institutional investors have increased their social media usage and 79% are using weekly88% have taken an action based on viewing financial content.


  1. What should a content strategy be looking to achieve?

The purpose of a content strategy is to describe your objectives and proposed activities within all your content touchpoints, to support the fulfilment of firms’ brand and client-related objectives.

A strategy should aim to educate, inspire, and ultimately influence the audience’s decision-making process. It should foster trust and loyalty amongst your target audiences.

I like to think of it as a pyramid – you have content which aligns to your brand pillars – what you want to stand for: e.g., active, trusted, socially responsible, problem solver. Then you have pillars aligned to client problems: what are they worried about and how can you help. Finally, you have capability-led content.

Always ensure there is a commercial link to the content you are producing. Different types of content are relevant at different times:

  • To opportunistically engage prospects on social media a short video can speak to themes we know prospects are interested in.
  • A speech at a conference can be useful in positioning and differentiating a firm with prospects, stakeholders and influencers.
  • White papers can be used to educate existing clients on big themes as well as specific topics.
  • An e-newsletter is a useful tool for cross-selling other offerings to existing clients.
  • Short-form stories which news jack to link capability can be used for prospecting and media

Content is essentially the ideas or the information that are conveyed through any communication channel.


  1. What are some components of a good content strategy?

Differentiating Yourself

Stand out by showcasing your unique expertise, perspectives, or proprietary research. Share stories, case studies, and insights that others aren’t offering.

Also, content which touches on topics close to your clients’ minds does well. For example, macro-economic, big mega trends, AI and ESG drive way more hits to product content than product content. We saw this in Italy for one company where they had a 35% uplift in fund factsheet downloads when served content on megatrends and inflation etc.

Most Effective Formats

Video content is king in today’s digital landscape, but don’t overlook the power of written content, podcasts, and interactive tools. Experiment with various formats to see what resonates best with your audience.

I’ve found that podcasts are particularly favoured in markets where people drive to work e.g. Netherlands, Switzerland, and Germany. Charts and infographics are very popular in Japan.

Distributing Content to the Right Audiences

Use a mix of owned, earned, and paid channels. Leverage social media, email newsletters, guest contributions, and partnerships to reach and engage with your target audience effectively.


  • Designing Content for New Channels

Keep up with emerging platforms and trends. Tailor your content to fit the unique characteristics and preferences of each channel. Be agile and ready to adapt as new opportunities arise.


  1. How can firms measure and iterate their content strategies?

It’s important to look beyond vanity metrics like views and likes. Focus on metrics that reflect real impact, such as engagement rates, conversion rates, and customer retention. Measure brand sentiment and thought leadership recognition. But don’t sign up to KPIs which you can’t control!

An example objective might be achieving a certain percentage uplift in interest on content, messages and thought leadership. This could be measured in banner click-through rates, social engagement, and email interactions.

Another objective might be providing resources and tools for sales teams to share with prospects in order to drive a percentage increase in sales. This could be measured in email CTOs, fund centre landing, factsheet downloads, product content downloads, webinar views and new visitor page visits.


  1. What are some examples of firms getting this right?

Look to industry leaders who consistently produce high-quality content that resonates with their audience. Vanguard’s educational resources and BlackRock’s thought leadership are excellent examples of content done right.

Others include Fidelity International, Now Pensions and the Pension Gap report, SJP, AXA. A personal favourite of mine isQuartz. They give executives bite size chunks of content to help them look smart and knowledgeable. Need to know soundbites on current affairs but also some dinner party quirks.


  1. What are some final top tips?

Know Your Audience: Understand their needs, pain points, and Tailor your content to provide valuable solutions and insights.

Be Authentic: Share genuine stories, experiences, and expertise.Build trust and credibility by being transparent and honest in your communication

Differentiate Yourself: Showcase your unique perspectives, research, or proprietary tools. Offer fresh insights and thought leadership that set you apart from competitors.

Provide Value: Offer educational content that empowers your audience to make informed decisions. Solve their problems and address their concerns proactively.

Embrace Variety: Experiment with different formats such as articles, infographics, videos, webinars, podcasts, and interactive tools.

Stay Relevant: Keep up with industry trends, regulatory changes, and market developments. Offer timely insights and analysis to demonstrate your expertise and relevance.

Engage Consistently: Maintain a regular cadence of content distribution across multiple channels. Foster two-way communication by encouraging feedback/ interaction.

Measure and Adapt: Set clear objectives and KPIs to track the performance of your content. Analyse data regularly and iterate on your strategy based on insights and feedback.


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