A year ago, Swiss fintech NetGuardians signed up with FirstWord for a programme of content marketing to help raise brand awareness and build authority. Today, it ranks on page one of Google as a key search term and is regularly called on by commentators and journalists to contribute to debates on anti-fraud and cyber-crime. Sophy Buckley reports
NetGuardians is a Swiss fintech working at the forefront of the global battle against banking fraud. Its solutions are complex, technical and cutting-edge. The potential market is huge, but potential customers conservative. Mine Fornerod, the firm’s global marketing manager, wanted to educate and reassure them, but had limited resources in terms of staff capacity and budget. Her answer was to turn to content marketing.
“We’re a young fintech, very innovative, working in a very specific niche. We had low brand awareness and I wanted to build authority around our approach to financial crime. I wanted to be seen, read and respected. Content was the most powerful way I could see of doing this,” she explains.
Core-banking platform provider Temenos – a corporate partner of NetGuardians – had successfully been working with FirstWord for 18 months and recommended the agency.
“We met FirstWord and with Temenos went straight into our first piece of content. It was the A-Z of Banking Fraud and was smart, readable, informative,” says Fornerod.
NetGuardians distributed the A-Z at conferences and posted it online, getting positive feedback. “It was a great way to break the ice with prospects and really set out a lot of information. It’s been a really good lead generator,” she says.
But it wasn’t just the reaction to the document that impressed Fornerod; it was the process by which it was created and the calibre of the agency’s writers.
Fornerod realised that with minimal input from her colleagues, FirstWord writers could produce first-class content that would help raise the profile of and give authority to the NetGuardians boffins. This was important because as a small, rapidly-growing company, they had enough calls on their time from their day jobs. Working with FirstWord would allow her to open more doors with her limited resources.
“In February we signed a retainer for a set number of content assets a month. The FirstWord team came to our offices for a day of what they call speed dating. They met the key people here, talked about the issues, the technology and our marketing goals, and less than a week later we had a list of story ideas all set out in detail. They really had got what we do and what we wanted to say.”
Once produced, each of those assets – blogs, white papers, thought-leadership articles or infographics – are sweated by her marketing team. They might be placed in journals and newsletters, or tweeted, printed to give to sales leads and, of course, published on the company’s website.
Since starting its content campaign, NetGuardians has seen a 50 per cent jump in the number of visitors to its website, helping generate even more leads. As sales leads turn into prospects, which eventually turn into clients, she is confident of a good return on her investment.
For Fornerod, it’s helping educate the target audience. She says content gives more context than traditional marketing assets on their own, going into far more detail about the solution, helping to accelerate what is a very long sales cycle.
“I do expect to see more sales. I think it’s been really useful to be able to write about how machine learning helps fraud detection or hacking and the SWIFT banking network in relation to our solution, for example. It helps potential buyers get a specific picture of what we can do for them,” she says.
The campaign as a whole is also helping raise NetGuardians’ profile with the press. She says reporters find NetGuardians more easily online and as a result are contacting the company for comment when they are writing about cyber-crime and fraud.
“When you Google PSD2 and fraud, NetGuardians is now on the first page thanks to a piece FirstWord wrote with us. And when you use Google.ch we are third in the list,” she says. She also thinks that reporters are more likely to pick up the press releases she sends out because they know the company has a good line, takes content seriously and has thought about interesting angles. An aggregator has also taken note and added NetGuardians to its list.
“A reporter told me that he looks out for our content now on social media and retweets it,” she says. The result is that NetGuardians’ content is rippling out ever further, landing on new shores to be shared again. “Getting shared is a great indication of the quality of the pieces.”
The internet is an important part of Fornerod’s strategy and she admits there’s still more to do when it comes to search engine optimisation. “Today for SEO it is essential to have pillar pages that cover a subject – say, financial crime – from top to bottom,” she says.
Content should extend beyond the technical solution aimed at sales and Fornerod is looking at using it in other areas. “A blog article on working at a young fintech company would be really good. It can be hard to find the right people and I think content would be helpful for HR branding,” she says.
The FirstWord/NetGuardians partnership is coming up for its first anniversary, but for Fornerod it feels as if the two have been working together far longer. She is impressed by the level of understanding the writers show, how quickly they pick up difficult topics and how they suggest interesting and thoughtful angles.
“If I were told I had to stop using them tomorrow, my job would become very challenging. It would mean rethinking the whole sales effort. It really is the best use of our resources,” she concludes.
Winning the media’s trust
When NetGuardians first decided to use content marketing it was as part of the Swiss fintech’s sales effort. The idea was to create content to drive prospects to its website and generate leads among its notoriously conservative target market: bankers. It quickly became apparent that it was also raising the company’s profile in the media.
The sheer volume of correspondence, emails, invitations, press releases and white papers sent out to reporters makes it very difficult to stand out. Where traditional public relations firms are finding it increasingly hard to promote their clients, content marketing has proved an effective way to cut through.
“I don’t use a PR agency, but we do send out press releases from in-house. I’ve found they are now picked up more when we do send them. I think this is because we have built up an authoritative reputation on the hot topic of cyber-fraud. Reporters also find our content on our website and realise we have something interesting to say,” says Fornerod.
“It’s important to win the attention and trust of reporters and we’ve managed to do that. Content marketing is more indirect than traditional PR, but it is more effective in the long term,” she says.