Pick me! Pick me.

Author:Payant, Sean C.
Position:Marketing strategies and customer value in bank sector - Haberfeld Associates - Interview


Two captains are appointed, and they take turns picking their team from the kids on the sideline. "Pick me! Pick me," some students plead. Others stand quietly, just hoping to be noticed. No one wants to be picked last.

As an industry, we spend vast amounts of money, not to mention time and internal resources, for the purpose of marketing our banks--to get prospects to choose us. A 2013 study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, called Navigating the Market, reported that financial institutions and other financial service providers spent approximately $17 billion in awareness advertising and direct marketing in 2012.

We brand. We market. We craft creative campaigns and blanket with direct advertising. We create television and radio spots. We orchestrate social media initiatives. The role of the marketing professional is to get consumers--the team captains--to pick our bank first. We are the kids standing in line saying, "Pick me! Pick me!"

What happens when you get picked?

Perhaps you've had this experience: You walk into the restaurant and read the specials board while you wait to be seated. Later, when your server approaches the table, you ask about the daily specials. The server's response: "I just got here," or "Let me check." The specials board, aka "marketing," did its job. It got you to ask questions and initiate a conversation, but the server didn't have answers. This is a major failure.

Our banks are no different. Experience has taught us that targeted, narrowly cast marketing gets people in a bank's doors. But, your team must be equipped to respond appropriately. Far too often, frontline employees are the last to know about our marketing initiatives, let alone equipped to respond effectively when asked about our products and services.

When marketing gets you picked, it unfortunately doesn't always mean you make the team. Making the team requires an organization-wide effort to capitalize on every opportunity. Marketing's job is to create opportunities. The bank employee's job is to capture the sale. If these two purposes aren't aligned, our efforts don't just fall short, they can cause lasting damage.

With social media, the repercussions of an unprepared employee's response to a consumer can be severe. With consumers holding more and more control over your brand message as they post and tweet, the customer experience is paramount. Simply put, unless there is alignment between marketing and execution, much of the marketing department's effort is in vain.

How do we build alignment?

For marketing initiatives to truly succeed, an organization must commit to on-going education. Every employee must be prepared to respond appropriately to opportunities. In any situation, employees must have one of two types of expertise:

  1. Knowledge regarding the specific product or service being discussed, or

  2. The knowledge and skill to make a professional referral to the expert.

Building true alignment between marketing and execution depends on four factors:

* Product knowledge.

* Customer service.

* Accountability.

* Incentives.

How Well Are Your Employees Interacting with Customers and Prospects?

Each year, Haberfeld Associates sends mystery shoppers into many bank branches, including client, competitor and prospect branches. The experience varies from extraordinarily good to just plain awful. The following is an experience (captured by one of our shoppers) that typifies a common interaction between a bank employee and a potential customer who has just entered the bank:

A teller greeted me as I entered the lobby. I explained that I was interested in a checking account, and she replied, "That would be Julie." She then walked over to Julie's desk. Julie looked up and said, "It will be just a minute, I need to finish counting this money." Julie offered me a seat while I waited.

After about a minute, Julie finished counting and said, "You're interested in a checking or savings?" I replied, "I'm interested in checking." Julie asked, "Alright, can I have your driver's license?" I asked to see what the bank offered first.

Julie said, "Sure." She opened a brochure so it faced me and said, "We have several accounts." She then told me about each of the accounts. She finished by saying, "Our interest rates are pretty low right now. There's nothing outstanding. We don't make saving money a high priority these days. We just can't give the interest rates right now. So, are there any questions I can answer for you?"

I looked at the brochure and then said, "Those look good." After a moment, I added, "I guess I just need to choose which account?" Julie replied, "I'll let you take that with you, and you can look over it with your husband."...

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