Inbound Marketing: Building Your Content-Driven Framework12 min read

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(Last Updated On: January 9, 2020)

How Digital-Ready Is Your Financial Institution?

Physical branches have value. However, it’s for a shrinking group of account-holders, as the mobile and online platforms gain more capabilities. 65% of people visit a local branch once a month…or less. 1 in 3 only go a few times per year.

Why? Because the bank is now in the pocket. Mobile banking created a new banking experience with higher expectations. Doing a range of tasks yourself, from anywhere, empowers consumers to manage money on their own time.

Want to learn about a loan or new account? Tap away. Decide to apply for financing or open an account? A click or tap from the couch or bed (and probably toilet…guys, is that really necessary?) accomplishes what used to take a branch visit, and the help of a teller.

Interesting sidenote: One weekend recently, I decided to open another CD account while chatting with my dad. Chatting while laying on the floor with my phone (this is a thing I do), I found the best interest rate I could get, the highest-rated institution, and read some reviews, all in about 10 minutes. Five minutes later, institution chosen, my account was opened and funded. I didn’t even sit up.

Can your institution compete with that degree of ease (and, yes, laziness)?

Of course, there’s value to an in-person visit. Account-holders still visit physical branches seeking financial guidance and support. And those personal connections are the perfect opportunity to do two things: Build your relationship and help account-holders through strategic cross/up-selling of your product portfolio.

But what if there was a way to offer that same guidance and support, while opening sales opportunities, online?

There is. With a content-driven inbound marketing strategy in place, you can get in front of your prospective customers, retain your existing ones, and drive additional revenue that might currently be slipping through the cracks.

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What’s Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is a “holistic, data-driven strategy that attracts and converts customers through personalized, relevant information and content.”

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Today’s customer learns all they can on their own.

Buzzwords and a complicated sentence. Here’s the everyday definition: “Your customers are searching for a trusted resource. Inbound marketing helps you become that resource.”

Most likely, your current marketing strategy is outbound. You work to bring customers closer through advertising, outreach, and more. That’s fine. But what if your potential customers came to you, already knowledgeable about your offerings and trusting of your quality?

That’s inbound.

Inbound tactics follow your audience through the sales process to build trust, while generating ongoing engagement through high-value content. You get to do three things:

  1. Build the top of your pipeline
  2. Accelerate the sales cycle
  3. Continue to nurture and educate consumers, even after some become customers

While most people reference a funnel when talking about the inbound model, we prefer Hubspot’s flywheel model.


Sidenote on why we’re talking about Hubspot and giving them authority: They pretty much invented the inbound marketing concept. Then they built the software for businesses to do it, while creating countless pieces of helpful content. In short, no one knows inbound marketing like them. Ok, back to the article!


Hubspot encourages a holistic marketing experience that treats customers as a driving force of your business. Rather than just finding ways to drive new leads, it’s equally important to provide value to your customers. How? With content.

Building a “content-driven inbound framework”

Sounds like another buzzword soon to be an acronym, right? Ok, since you asked: CDIF. If it catches on, you heard it here first! Put simply, this is your “how” to the “what” of your content.

Content is key to a successful inbound strategy. Why? Because it helps you accomplish the primary goal of Inbound Marketing: Grow organic search traffic.

Content marketing is self-explanatory: you create useful content to educate prospects on your products and services. And we’re talking about more than written blogs! Here are some popular content channels:

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I assume this is your preferred tool for writing blogs.
  • Blogs, of course
  • Social Media
  • E-mails
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • eBooks
  • Webinars 

It’s not essential to create every form of content possible. With a carefully-considered range, and a plan to grow over time (in alignment with what your data shows), you’ll be in a great place.

Valuable content is a powerful force in any business, especially for our world, where financial understanding may be lower than hoped. With relevant content, you build credibility, which helps drive more search traffic (Google search result page 1 FTW!) from questions people really ask.

You become seen as the market authority on a topic. I mean, you are, right? Plus, all those visitors drive conversions while you provide ongoing value to your existing account-holders.

To make it even more clear: The more visitors you can drive to your site, the more will sign up for blog e-mails, follow your social media, and join your institution. Your goal really is that simple.

Below, we provide steps on what to do once you’ve got someone within your content.

How to Use Content Marketing to Drive Demand and Increase Adoption

Note: If this seems confusing, go back and read our first article in the series, where we help you create a “buyer persona”. This makes planning a lot easier and more effective.

Like any effort, if you want your content creation and inbound marketing strategy to actually work, you’ll need a plan. Consider it your savings account. This is totally a metaphor you can appreciate!

Let’s say your goal is to retire early. If you want to reach your goal, you need a plan. And a big part of that will be regular contributions.

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The more consistent you are (and the better your contributions), the more you’ll get in return.

Content is similar. You need to be consistent and your contributions need to be worthwhile. Otherwise, you can kiss your results goodbye! To finish the metaphor, what’s an early retirement represent?

New and more engaged customers attracted to you through content!

Inbound marketing and content strategy can help your financial institution achieve a range of goals. We’ll look at two of the most common:

“We want new customers!”

You need to create top-of-funnel (or beginning-of-flywheel) content to stimulate interest and drive new leads. This isn’t the time for “sales-y” (Really, there’s no good time for “sales-y”). Instead, ask yourself, “What challenges are they looking to overcome?”

How-to guides, eBooks, and prescriptive blogs are great examples of interest-generating content. Here are a few more:

  • E-mail nurtures
  • Videos
  • Direct mail
  • Webinars

Special Content

Pro tip: Stimulate interest by offering un-gated access to your content. That means anyone can get to it. Then, drive new leads by offering a “content upgrade”, where prospects can earn a premium piece of content (like an eBook) by providing their e-mail.

Example: You post a blog titled “5 Tips to Help You Get Approved For Your Car Loan”. When visitors get to that article, they’re shown a pop up with an offer to download “The Comprehensive Guide to Getting Your Dream Car: From Auto Loans to Purchase” in exchange for their e-mail address.

Browse through our own Learning Library and you’ll see this practice in action.

More Than Account Statements and Marketing

E-mail nurtures are another powerful way to generate revenue. It’s estimated that for every $1 you spend on e-mail, you get $32 in return. 81% of small businesses rely on e-mail for customer acquisition (and a similar percentage rely on e-mail for customer retention).

Computer on Wooden Table

Consider starting a weekly or bi-weekly newsletter that includes educational content and promotional offers. Just aim to keep promotional content to a minimum. Remember, this is about building trust and connection, not selling.

You can also use e-mail to get back in touch with prospects who may have started (or finished) a loan application but never moved forward. Combine e-mail with other channels like video or direct mail to maximize views and results.

“We want to better engage existing customers!”

Ongoing education helps empower customers to make the most of your product offerings (and drive more cross-sell/upsell revenue). Your goal: Find strategic ways to promote your product portfolio with tailored content engagement.

Here’s a scenario that might look familiar: A member applies for a car loan online. Your system delivers a fast approval and also offers the loan forms for e-signatures. After it all processes, the member excitedly goes to the dealer and, using their credit union’s draft, purchases the car.

Congrats! You earned a direct loan. Great work on building a digital platform that’s simple and functional. But…there’s a “but”.

Though you secured a new customer, you missed the chance to upsell your protection products. Sure, your online loan platform does mention them, but it’s a sales piece with an easy “Next Step” that most applicants just breeze through.

Thus, they aren’t well-educated on your offerings, nor do they know what your pricing may be. So they get the hard sell at the dealer and buy their products for twice the price.

Timely Education

For many applicants, the first they see of your protection products is when finalizing the loan. That’s not enough time (and definitely the wrong place) to educate them on what products might make sense. Instead, start that process earlier.

Email Marketing Laptop and Papers

At loan approval, enroll them in a “drip” e-mail campaign educating them on your range of products (to help them “get the most out of their loan and relationship with ABC CU”).

Another path is providing a “Congratulations!” e-mail with a section at bottom labeled, “Other members who secure auto loans with us also purchase…” What’s down there? You guessed it: Modules to explore credit life and disability insurance, GAP, and VSC.

You may also use direct mail for this, but after completing an online application, digital is where they expect you to be. Plus, it’s a lot easier for your institution.

Your goal is to educate account holders while directing them towards products and solutions that match their needs. This isn’t selling. You’re helping loan applicants decide what makes sense in their situation by providing the needed information.

And do you know what people love? Unbiased and relevant information. In essence, you’re becoming the place for, “yeah, that’s exactly the question I had; I’m so glad they answered it!”

A popular way to do this is to actually look at what people are saying in reviews, social media posts, and on other sites. Then, answer the question you see often, in exactly the same words.

This will help turn your customers into advocates and champions for your brand. Advocates tell others about their positive experience. And that brings more customers through the (digital or physical) door.

Welcome to the Club

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How’s it feel to be exclusive?

Consider creating content that’s only accessible to your customers (like a login-secured resource hub). Exclusive access is a nice membership perk. Just ensure it’s easy to use and understand (keep an eye on the reading level and use of jargon).

Simply learning this exists (despite not having access) can be a “show, don’t tell” aspect of attracting prospects. What better way to engage someone looking for that extra value?

While the content you create for customers includes many of the same channels as top-of-funnel content (e-mail, video, direct mail, etc.), the messaging and positioning should be different. Your focus is on teaching your customers how to be successful. Brand awareness comes as a bonus (especially with consistent video themes and visual design).

Finally, their actions help you identify opportunities to introduce new product lines. Because while your content isn’t sales-y, it can lead to greater sales.

Maximizing Your Content

Remember the savings account metaphor? I know, it was a while back. We connected saving for retirement with creating content.

So here’s the thing: Making contributions to your content pool doesn’t always mean you have to create new content. Instead, you can repackage your content across different mediums to extend its lifespan and reach more people.

Recycling Logo

Here’s a few ways you can reduce writing labor, reuse what you’ve already done, and recycle great topics:

  1. Turn a blog into a video and share it on your social media.
  2. Repackage an eBook into a brochure and mail it out to your customer list.
  3. Take a popular guide and break it up across an e-mail series.
  4. Revisit old content. Refresh it with updated information and republish.

You’re being more efficient while raising the chance of your ideas reaching people. After all, some people prefer watching a video to reading articles. Others have thousands of unread e-mails, but follow your social media updates.

Paid Campaigns

Speaking of social media, consider running paid social campaigns to reach a wider audience and drive traffic back to your website. You can also run Google PPC ads for popular search terms (like “auto loan”, “business loan”, etc.) and link to specific articles or product pages.

Blogging Word Map

If you choose to go this route, use the platform’s tools to determine search volume and best interests/keywords to reach your target market. No sense promoting auto loans to a city-dweller using public transit. Nor would you want to pay to engage a grandmother in a nursing home (though do give her a visit…she misses you!).

Paid social campaigns are great for both brand awareness and lead generation. They also allow a crazy degree of targeting for relevant products or services. For example, you could advertise your VSC options to customers who were recently approved for an auto loan. Or advertise your new small business checking accounts to customers who are small business owners.

And that’s just the high level. Consider connecting strategies to preferred activities, music styles, check-ins, and much more.

Look for an article dedicated to doing Paid Social Media Marketing right in the coming weeks.

Measuring Your Content

To measure the success of your content:

  • Monitor your site traffic and identify which pages get the most views (use to help guide future content planning)
  • Analyze your paid social campaigns and iterate frequently to swap out copy, creative, or content offers
    • Consider running A/B sets to get the best of a few great ideas
  • Check e-mail open rates and split-test these as well (with a simple change of the subject line, you can do this to the same recipient)

Content Strategy Success…Strategy

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A successful content strategy requires consistent iteration and improvement. Keep your content fresh. Find ways to breathe new life into old content. Ask your customers what they want to know. Look online to see what others are asking.

Write about things which interest you (while keeping in mind your target audience!) and get your staff involved in the content creation efforts!

If you do this, you will attract, engage, and delight new customers and capture revenue that previously slipped through the cracks.

Our Inbound Marketing section has other helpful content. Be sure to Subscribe to the Learning Library and check back weekly to see what’s new!

This article was composed with the assistance of Ballie Ward.