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How Upturn is empowering financial consumers — and raising its profile — with content

 

BBVA | New Digital Businesses | We're Banking on Disruption
Americans understand that having good credit is important to achieving many of their financial goals in life. So why is credit still such an unnecessarily complex and confusing topic? Upturn, a BBVA New Digital Businesses portfolio company, is out to clear up some of that confusion.

Founded in 2018, the startup, described as “the digital platform for credit improvement,” provides online financial tools for individual consumers to monitor their credit reports for changes and proactively report mistakes and errors on them. The platform seems to be working, and Upturn is growing 20% month over month.

In addition to providing those free tools, Upturn also has a bigger objective in mind: to be a trusted educational resource on credit. Upturn is creating articles on personal finance–related topics, with a goal of making “complicated, confusing, sometimes scary topics understandable,” according to Michael Schreiber, who leads content creation for Upturn.

While other marketing tactics are designed purely for converting website visitors into users, Upturn’s content is aimed more at creating a generation of smarter financial consumers — and increasing Upturn’s authority on these crucial topics.

“The ultimate goal is empowerment, whether our readers end up using Upturn as a tool or not,” Schreiber said.

Here are six best practices they’re embracing as part of this ongoing content program.

Get complete buy-in

For a content initiative to be successful, everyone in the company must be bought in to the idea — from the top down.

Rod Ebrahimi, co-founder and CEO of Upturn, first saw the impact of content while building a Y Combinator–backed personal-finance startup, ReadyForZero.

He was skeptical when he embarked on content creation, in part to quickly ramp up his knowledge of personal finance. He published guest posts on Lifehacker, Forbes, and other sites, several of his posts, including “How a Credit Check Can Affect Your Financial Future (and How to Protect It)” on Lifehacker received tens of thousands of views. And after several years of dedicated energy, the content had helped raise the company’s profile significantly.

“Someone described content as this stone wheel: it’s hard to get it moving, but once it starts, the momentum is huge,” Ebrahimi said. “We didn’t take it seriously in the beginning — I would have doubled down a lot earlier if I’d known how successful it would be.”

That’s why, when he started Upturn, he set about creating content almost immediately — to start pushing that stone wheel from the beginning.

Set targeted goals

Too many companies halfheartedly commit to creating content simply because they read somewhere that they need to have content. (Research by PointVisible found that 60% of marketers are committed to content creation, but just a fraction of those businesses actually have a documented content strategy.)

Instead of creating content simply to check a tactical box, incorporate content into an overall business strategy: Build a strategic timeline for creating content, establish the key performance indicators that you’ll measure your program by, and determine what return on investment will look like.

Embracing a startup mentality, Ebrahimi and Schreiber take an iterative approach to content creation by testing new ideas and tracking their results. “We’re super data driven, so we know which articles are converting. We track every click and know what tests worked or didn’t work,” Ebrahimi said.

Be realistic

Effective content creation is about smart allocation of resources, Schreiber says.

“You don’t have to necessarily throw hundreds of pieces of content up in a month — not everybody’s going to be Nerdwallet or Investopedia,” he said.

Upturn made a list of the “bottom of the funnel” articles it needed to publish on the site — that is, pieces that cover the important questions about what Upturn does, how the platform works, and how to get the most out of it.

“You knock out those articles, then make sure they’re constantly improved upon, refined, and optimized. Once you’re in that place, you’ll likely have more bandwidth to test out more experimental, fun content that takes some chances.”

Do your homework

Any company can create content on the Internet — and fintech startups are in an especially competitive content market. That’s why researching competitors’ content-creation efforts is of utmost importance.

“We’re all consumers of this content, not just creators — you have to know what’s out there,” Schreiber said.

Once you know what other content is out there, the key is to cover each topic more thoroughly and more compellingly than your competitors.

Draw inspiration from users

Schreiber has been working in the personal-finance industry for more than 10 years, but he and Upturn writer Shannon McNay Insler still rely on insights from Upturn employees in other departments to ensure the site’s content is hitting the right notes.

“We actually talk to the people here who are getting specific questions from users — it’s helpful to know the questions people have around the topics of credit and personal finance,” Schreiber said.

Cast a wide net

To reach a larger audience as an early-stage startup, Upturn partners with MediaFeed.org, a website that has both original and aggregated content and is owned by Schreiber. MediaFeed helps independent content creators like Upturn syndicate their best content to authoritative news sites — a chance at more eyes that will help build a stronger brand reputation and wider user base.

Content published on MediaFeed must be original, editorially sound, objective, and free from conflicts of interest or “pay for play.”

And the Upturn team’s adherence to these standards in their content creation has earned many of their articles a place on high-ranking websites like MSN and Inc.com., including one “How to Get Your Credit Reports for Free.”

Play the long game

The desire to see results after investing in an initiative is normal — particularly for startups, though well-established organizations often share the expectation of instant gratification.

Through content distribution strategies like syndication, PR or social sharing, websites can see great traffic spikes. But while these trends are encouraging to see on an analytics dashboard, they’re often highly unpredictable, Schreiber says.

“Content creation is a long game. It’s about developing the lifetime value of your users,” he said. “Not everybody’s going to read a piece of content and convert right away — but they know about you now.”

A strategic content plan is about getting people in the door, answering their questions, and ultimately developing an audience that will become your core evangelists, Schreiber says: “Creating content that really speaks to those people, addresses their needs, and aligns with their intent is really important.”

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