Questions and answers are edited and summarized from the Problem Solvers Panel, NEFMA Fall Conference.
Brand or product?
Q: We have a new, simplified, feature-rich checking line up we are excited about launching. How do we market – consumers aren’t often excited about checking products. Do we stress brand or product?
A: All the panelists were in agreement when they answered “neither!” While it always seems to be a question – do you lead with brand or product – the real way to engage an audience is to lead with the benefit to them. What pain point does our product/service/approach solve for you, the consumer. As always, your product/service/approach should come out of your brand position and who you are as an organization, but any messaging should be less about features (in this case, no fees, ATM rebates, added interest, perks) and more about the benefits for the consumer. Things like making the most of your money.
Unique onboarding ideas
Q: What are some unique ways to successfully onboard both consumer and business customers?
A: The panelists had a lot of great ideas from personalized “thank you” cards (handwritten by the bank manager), to sitting across the table from a commercial customer and getting to know the good, bad and ugly of their business, to personalization in all communications. The latter is something that has really taken off in the past few years. We are not talking just personalizing an email or postcard with someone’s name (variable data). What we are talking about is curating content that is interesting to the individual or business you are serving. Definitely personalize names and businesses everywhere you can, but try to deliver a more personalized approach by having intel on your customer so you can provide them with hand-selected products or services that fit exactly what they need. Using predictive modeling and other data gathering and analysis, you can better target and segment your new and existing customers so they are getting a truly personalized experience.
Street visibility vs. micro branch
Q: My gut along with the latest trends tell me I should go with small, even micro branches. Yet, I continue to see competitors putting up large branches that essentially serve as billboards. Does street visibility outweigh the economics of running a branch?
A: Branches have the opportunity to be so much more than just a place for transactions. The panelists thought there would always be a need for brick and mortar, that even millennials want to see a person nowadays when they are doing something as important as getting a new mortgage or personal loan. The opportunity lies with what you do with that branch – so it isn’t just a big expensive billboard. It was encouraged to look at your brand and DNA to find the answers. What do you stand for…and then what can you do in your branches to bring that to life, to make that real estate investment pay out better. Where everyone has a community room, if you position yourself as a bank that educates and advises people, perhaps you set it up for regular community classes surrounding some of the issues your clients are facing. If you are a brand that gets behind small business, allow your branch to take orders for your clients, or give a client a space for a period of time to build their awareness and be able to utilize a better storefront than they might have. There was also some talk of using the branch as an incubator space, to help others launch their ideas. In this way, your bank branch becomes a much bigger presence and offering in the community than just a place to cash checks.
Another interesting point was brought up – your website should be considered your largest branch. For those customers looking for the convenience of transacting online, imagine if your financial institution spent the same amount of money on your website that you do to keep up an actual brick and mortar branch. With that kind of investment, you could create an unbelievable customer experience that could really allow your financial institution to stand out.
How do you create evangelizers?
Q: I know my customers have very high regard for our service and trust us, but our growth is slow. What are some of the simple steps I can do to turn our customers into evangelizers on our behalf?
A: Our panelists agreed that in order to create evangelizers you need to take a look at your internal culture. Are your people brand evangelists? Do they live and breathe what you stand for, can they recite your brand position, do they know what you do better than anyone else and can they deliver on your brand promise day in and day out? It all starts on the inside, if your people aren’t passionate about what you do, there’s no way your customers will be.
If you are lucky enough to have great employees who are on board with your vision, mission and position, there are a number of ways to cultivate your customers. For one, personalization rears its head again. Whenever you can make a product, service or transaction personal, it will delight your customer. There are also tons of ideas for refer-a-friend programs. Another idea is to create an advisory group of customers to take the pulse of what is important to them. Not only will you get great insights, but you will make the people in the group feel important, connected, valued. You can have a special event just for this group, you can try out ideas for new products and services and show marketing concepts before you go to market. By creating an advisory panel, you are inviting your customers to help keep you relevant – and to encourage them to spread the word.
Digital vs. Traditional
Q: I have a limited footprint so using mass media implies a lot of waste for me. Yet, I know nothing gives a kick like broader media. Also, while it’s easy to prove numbers through digital tactics, it is harder to sell the board on something they can’t see.
A: One of the panelists (okay, it was me) joked that sometimes you have to buy a billboard just to appease the board. Despite all the numbers, people want to see themselves in lights. While a billboard may or may not be a good use of marketing dollars, you do sometimes have to invest in simple awareness and buy-in from those who hold the purse strings. With that said, digital marketing definitely has a lot going for it: it’s highly targeted, you can measure results, you can change directions quickly, you can reach people via their demographics, psychographics, buying habits, or even behavior and attitudes. You definitely get a bigger bang for your buck over traditional advertising. Today, it is worth it to educate those in the C-suite or on the board about the possibilities and results of a strong digital program; as numbers people, eventually, they will get it. Further, it takes a much bigger investment to make an impact with mass media – especially if you have a limited footprint. Often if you are buying a radio station for instance, maybe only 5-10% are actually in your service area; it doesn’t make sense to buy pay for the remaining 90% of people to hear your message when they aren’t your target consumer. Same thing goes for print – we often hear the argument that “all our competitors are in the paper.” That is great, except if your customers and prospects are not reading the paper, what does that matter?
Once again, these answers are edited, abridged and ad-libbed – there was a lot of great conversation that happened with the attendees as well. If you’d like to chat further about any of these topics, or if you have a few questions of your own, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We love solving problems!
You might also be intested in learning about our unique process for developing financial brands. If so, check out our Banking on Success whitepaper here.
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