11 Takeaways from HSBC’s Content Marketing Strategy

HSBC logoAmanda Rendle, Global Head of Marketing for Commercial Banking at HSBC, shares key learnings from their content marketing strategy.

During a recent interview Amanda Rendle explained her concerns about marketing and hopes for a customer-centric future with TFM&A Insights. Here she shares some of the key insights that HSBC have learned through their content marketing:

1. There is value in community websites

Like many in the financial sector in recent years, HSBC have created a community – an editorially-driven website – in which to publish a great deal of content from a variety of authors and partners.

HSBC Global Connections has produced a ridiculous amount of content, probably too much.

“The reason we launched the Global Connnections site was because HSBC itself is a global network, and having a community is a way of us telling that story. We used to organise many live events where we’d fly a hundred customers to a destination country to talk to them about doing business in that country. That was great for those customers but we only touched a minority so we  thought, let’s do this in an online environment instead.”

HSBC Global Connections

With Barclays recently announcing they are closing the Barclays Connector community, is the tide turning on financial services organisations investing in communities?

“The reason that many organisations are stopping communities is because they are asking, ‘how do you measure the ROI on it?’, and that can be hard to measure directly. I have a different view on it. I believe that you need to have the community to talk to customers, and that it can plays a key role throughout the customer journey.

“It is important to be proactive with community management, however.  Communities will only exist if you manage them, feed them with regular content – they won’t manage themselves.

2. The real value comes from distribution

Amanda explains that the real value HSBC derives from community content is how it is used through social media channels and as part of conversations sales teams have with prospects.

“‘Do we promote our  content enough?’, is something that I worry about as we have a lot of content that could be distributed more effectively.

“To date, apart from emailing our own database the only way we’ve been able to crack content distribution has been through Linkedin where we have 110,000 followers consuming our content. It is the combination of good content and how our sales team use it on LinkedIn which is proving to create the real value for us.”

3. LinkedIn creates better sales conversions

HSBC is currently piloting using LinkedIn Sales Navigator to give their sales team the tools to make better use of their content to helping them to become more relevant to customers.

Linkedin Sales Navigator


“In the old model, we’d our sales team telephone directories and they’d have to go through them and make appointments. LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator it gives our team the 1st, 2nd, 3rd degree contacts and the ability to reach out to new prospects through people you already know.

“The tool allows for us to track how salespeople are using LinkedIn and to tag their usage. It’s really helpful if we have limited licenses, I can see who is using it and ensure it’s effective.

  • Linkedin have developed a free tool to measure your personal social presence on the network. If you are on LinkedIn simply click here to view your social selling dashboard.

4. Content is a nurturing tool

Amanda talks about the need to equip the HSBC sales team with the right content so that they can have a productive conversation.

“We’ve found that those who are really good at using LinkedIn is using it for rapport – they might go to a contact and ask them how they are and about their family. Potential customers are much happier responding to a quick text message than a phone call, so the response to a short ‘do you want a coffee?’ message has been amazing.

“The great power of social is that it’s not so intrusive. It’s quick and you can respond to it at any time.

“We have generated loads of business off the back of using LinkedIn in this way. It’s paid for itself ten times over. In fact, I think that kind of social media is becoming the way of doing business.”

5. Content needs a clear, focused proposition

We need to be clear what our role is with regards to content.”

“Are we content curators? Yes – but only of content related to banking and what we do, and fortunately there’s a huge amount of interest in international business.”

“But I don’t think we should become a content company! That’s the fine balance between the two.”

6. Niche content resonates more strongly

An interesting finding has been that the more niche the content HSBC produce, the better the response.

“We have published a large amount of content on Chinese currency (RMB) and with 12,000 readers that absorb that content a high amount is active.”

7. Proprietary content is winning

HSBC partner with highly respected media brands such as The Wall Street Journal and The Economist Group to publish content on their behalf. However, they have found that their own content is proving more successful.

“We’ve found that our own proprietary content has proven more successful than content we have got through partnerships”

“The reason our own content seems to do better is simply that it is genuinely good content. Our global research department writes excellent papers and have interesting views on the world. As a brand we are quite trusted about our world view, which gets picked up.”

8. Interactive content is part of the armoury

HSBC have created an interactive Trade Forecast Tool which is updated with the latest trends in world trade.
HSBC Trade Tool

“The Trade Forecast Tool is a thing of beauty,” says Amanda. “ We set it up about three years ago and it has proven to be a really useful tool. A lot of businesses have used it because it helps them understand trade flows, so we keep it regularly updated.”

Does interactive content provide better value for money than writing several hundred blogs?

“It cost a fair amount of money to setup something like that, but whether it’s better value than other forms of content is hard to say.

“The tool gets a huge amount of visits, our sales team use it, and it gives us massive PR coverage when it is released every quarter. How do you quantify that rather than producing loads of other content?

“It’s one of the content tools in our armoury to use.”

  • The way that HSBC use the combination of the daily articles from the Global Connections community combined with quarterly releases of the Trade Forecast tool creates a regular rhythm of content similar to the ‘1-7-30-4-2-1’ rule explained here.

A Basic Content Rhythm, also known as the '1-7-30-4-2-1' rule

9. Country Guides App

“We produce Country Guides for all the principle countries we’re in on doing business in that country.

“Downloadable from the App store, these country guides get good numbers of downloads and usage so we’re developing them further.

“ We would also like to start making them as relevant to a personal customer as much as a business customer.”


10. Live events

HSBC also brings their content offline, so it can work at conferences and events and continue to tell that story.

“HSBC  run hundreds of events. Live events are for us the physical binding of relationships. Our customers giving up their time to come to an event is a huge commitment.. For us, they have to be quite far down that sales funnel to the point where they are already customers… not just prospects.

“Our events have to be a value exchange if people are giving up their time to meet with you, then  content plays a key role in making an event worthwhile.”

11. The need for agility

As a final point, Amanda explained how any plans need to be flexible enough to change approach when necessary.

“One of my main learnings is that my team and I need to become much more agile when it comes to content. There is no one right way to do things.

“If open rates are going down on emails, it could be that the copy isn’t right and we need to try different way of doing things. We should always strive to be more creative and to think about ‘what would make me want to open that email?’.”



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Luke Bilton

Luke Bilton

Director, Digital & Content, UBM

Luke Bilton is Director of Digital and Content at UBM EMEA, one of the world’s largest event organisers, where he is responsible for live and online content and digital products.
Luke has worked in publishers such as Future Publishing, IPC and the Chelsea Magazine Company where he has launched magazines, websites and events.
Luke is a member of the IDM Qualifications Advisory Board, advising on business-to-business digital marketing.

Connect with him on Linkedin or Twitter

September 16, 2015


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