There’s apparently a discrepancy between having a digital strategy and successfully executing it. In the financial services industry, at least. Research recently published by Accenture – the European Financial Services Digital Readiness Index – suggests that while the major financial institutions of Europe happily embrace a comprehensive digital strategy, successfully implementing it is a real challenge for nearly half of the 53 institutions surveyed.
Content marketing plays a key role
Now, digital strategy is a broad term, encompassing an entire digital infrastructure from app development to secure payment systems to cloud services. From our perspective as a creative content agency, content marketing as a practice is just one part of a comprehensive digital strategy. But it’s a key one that underpins numerous parts of the ‘Digital Readiness Framework’, which is described in the report.
The content of a digital strategy
Accenture’s report talks of the cyclic nature of digital strategy, and content marketing plays a key role in number of areas through the cycle of ‘Plan’ (i.e. encompassing strategy and budget), ‘Make’ (i.e. design, production and delivery), ‘Sell’ (i.e. the customer experience) and ‘Manage’ (i.e. assessing success of the strategy and making improvements, which also includes finding new talent for the job).
So where does creative content fit in here? In the production stage, ‘Make’, digital strategy requires the design and build of new or refreshed products and services underpinned by digital technologies. This will include communicating the value of these new offerings to customers and staff alike through relevant content such as brochures, web pages, videos and so on.
The same is true when we reach the ‘Sell’ stage, where creative content can be used to create and support the kind of endearing and valuable experiences that turns prospects into paying customers.
And finally at the ‘Manage’ stage, where content comes into its own as part of the hiring and talent management processes, helping companies to attract and retain top talent. In fact, on the topic of recruitment content marketing, Southerly is hosting a breakfast event on May 25 in London, where our expert panel will discuss the future of attracting talent. Find out more and register for the event here.
The kind of endearing and valuable experiences that turns prospects into paying customers
While each stage of a digital transformation journey is subject to myriad new challenges, content plays a vital and fundamental role to helping achieve the ultimate goal.
An instrument of change
Sushil Saluja, senior managing director of Accenture Financial Services in Europe, Africa and Latin America, comments: “[The index] tells a story of an industry that recognises the importance of digital as an instrument of change, but that has yet to find its footing for the level of transformation it needs to execute.”
Accenture’s index ranks banks and insurers based on publicly available data such as annual reports, PR and website data, to reflect customer and investor perceptions of a company. Organisations that scored high on the index performed well financially; they tended to have lower cost-income ratios, generated higher returns and maintained a higher average share price.
Organisations that scored high on the index performed well financially
The shortfall could be down to a lack of ownership of the strategy. Accenture’s report suggests that the disparity stems from the fact that, while most firms recognise digital is key to their growth, this often amounts to little more than a series of dispersed initiatives. In content terms that might mean low level of sporadic social media activity here, a blog post or ebook there. It’s a tactical rather than a strategic approach, and that can require a whole new way of thinking.
To give an example, in a recent interview with IT Business Edge, David Rogers, author of new book The Digital Transformation Playbook and faculty director of digital marketing and digital business strategy programmes at Columbia Business School said digital transformation is keeping company directors awake at night, especially for pre-internet companies that need to maintain their relevance in a post-internet age.
Content marketing can be the glue that holds this new strategy together
He believes that the problem isn’t fundamentally about an inability to keep up with the daunting progression of technology. It’s more that a complete change in attitude is required, and companies are finding it hard to let go of the old ways because they don’t have a clear idea of their future direction.
Once that’s clear, seeing how and where new technology can meet your needs is arguably the easy bit; it’s a case of finding the best solution to a problem. You just have to identify the problem first. Rogers points out that businesses that have had to adapt to the digital revolution aren’t automatically at risk of extinction. They just need to evolve their thinking.
He makes an example of Encyclopaedia Britannica, saying: “Most people assume they went out of business because they stopped printing 30-volume, leather-bound encyclopaedias. They’ve actually completely changed their business model, and they’re as profitable now as they’ve ever been.”
This has echoes of the digital transformation of Reader’s Digest, which I reported on last year.
Digital strategy is massive undertaking that goes far beyond content, and it’s little wonder why some companies only manage it in bite size pieces. A more fundamental, company-wide attitude change is needed – it’s the business model that needs overhauling, rather than specific parts – and content marketing can be the glue that holds this new strategy together.