Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New Gallup Poll:
Banks’ image continues to plummet.

Americans’ perception of the banking industry continues to plummet, according to a new Gallup poll. The poll was conducted August 6th through 9th, 2009. Gallup was seeking Americans overall view of various business sectors. They wanted to know if respondents were “positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative or very negative” of the specific industry.

In this annual poll, Gallup found that many industries that took big image hits in the 2008 poll have recovered this year. But one exception is banking. In 2008 they lost 14 points, one of the largest drops of all industries that year. In the recent poll, banking dropped an additional 8 points, the largest of any industry.

A positive image just 2 years ago.
Surprisingly only two years ago, more Americans viewed banking more positively than negatively. As recently as 2006, a majority of Americans had positive ratings of the banking industry. In fact, banking had a 58% approval rating. As of last week, it’s now at 28%. The following chart shows the image decline along with the automobile industry.

The image decline is understandable with all the events that have occurred in the past year. But what’s disturbing is the continued decline, especially since the survey was conducted just over a week ago.

What this means for community banking.
While some community banks may prosper at the expense of their larger competitors, many smaller banks are still tainted by the overall downfall of the industry. And, others are simply wavering on the financial brink themselves. Bank marketing execs can certainly step up to the plate to help remove the tarnished image. But it will take more than a few ads to rebuild Americans’ perception of the banking industry. Everything from consumer service to financial education to advertising transparency must all be addressed in a successful marketing plan.

To see how other industries faired and the most popular sectors, Gallup has its findings online. In addition, The Economist has a great graphic of the Gallup results.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Is your bank’s brand on parade?

Summer is the time for community festivals and parades. No doubt as a local banker you’ll want to haul out all the crepe paper and chicken wire you can find to create that prize-winning float. Participating in that Main Street parade shows you’re part of the community. In fact, it’s a unique and fun-filled way to reach out to townsfolk. And, it’s a great team builder for bank staffers as well. A lot of goodwill can be mustered during that mile and a half trek down the street.

But as a bank marketer are you watching what your branch banks are floating down that street? Is it in keeping with your bank’s primary message?

Creativity, camaraderie and enthusiasm.
You don’t want to stifle the branches’ creativity, camaraderie and enthusiasm. That’s priceless in itself. And you don’t want to be heavy handed in dictating a theme for a local festival. After all, the local bankers are part of that community and festival, while you’re not. They can judge the pulse of the community easier than you.

Finally, it’s understandable that community banks don’t have the funds or the professional assistance like Key Bank did for their terrific float depicted here for a Portland parade. And, it can be humorous to the crowd goers to view the makeshift floats being pulled by cars, trucks and tractors.

Beware the cringe factor.
It might be in your bank brand’s best interest to outline a rudimentary image requirement before branch staffers go parading down the street. I’ve seen a number of bank messages that made me ask, “What were they thinking?”

Recently I cringed when I saw this crudely emblazoned on one community bank float filled with Hawaiian décor and lawn chairs. . .

Relax. Your $ is safe with XYZ Bank.

I’m not sure that a comical float was the proper venue for proclaiming the bank’s solvency. Especially, in light of the recent bad publicity of large bank bailouts and small bank failures.

Setting guidelines for your next parade float.
Set standards for local festivities. Let your crew be creative, crazy and community-inspired, but within reason. Here are some questions you need to ask when establishing guidelines. . .

- Are your branch managers or staffers sensitivities the same as the parade goers lining the streets with their lawn chairs?
- Does your bank’s attempt at humor or creativity illicit another image in the community’s mind?
- Is their dress or costume too sexually explicit?
- Is the theme too adult and not family oriented?
- Is your theme getting your message across without destroying your brand?
- Are there spelling or grammar mistakes in your hand-printed signage?
- How is your logo or tagline being used?
- Will your next float illicit smiles or gasps?

While your next float might not always project your brand exactly due to monetary and creative restraints, the guidelines will at least protect your image. Think about setting guidelines so your float doesn’t become the talk of the town. . . negative talk that is.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

J.D. Power bank survey gives banks blueprint for customer satisfaction & increased deposits.

View video.

The headline for the new J.D. Power 2009 Retail Bank Satisfaction Study out yesterday screamed that “customer commitment to retail banks declined for a second consecutive year.” Hidden in that dire report was a blueprint for success. One that pointed to increased customer satisfaction and increased deposits. The smart bank marketer just needs to read between the lines.

While the official news release on May 19th from the renowned marketing information company noted some excellent facts, it was the podcast by Michael Beird, director of the banking practice at J.D. Power, that imparted some positive plans for bank marketing. In the current environment, marketing execs may believe that it’s easier to focus on financial goals and shy away from customer satisfaction. But it’s actually customer satisfaction that affects profitable deposit growth.

J.D. Powers analyzed six factors: transactions, account statements, account initiation/product offerings, convenience, fees and problem resolution.

The study found that only 35% of customers are highly committed to their retail bank in 2009 compared to 37% in 2008 and 41% in 2007. Understandably highly committed customers . . .
- use more products
- give more referrals
- are less likely to switch to another bank

Increased satisfaction = increased deposits.
But what’s more crucial is that “customers reporting the lowest levels of commitment in 2009 happen to be those with deposit balances that are 15 percent higher than average,” said Beird in the news release. “With this in mind, it is crucial that banks take steps to address this steady decline in customer commitment, as moving just 5 percent of customers from low and moderate levels of commitment to high commitment can mean additional deposit growth of more than 2 percentage points higher than average.”

In other words, banks ranking in the top half of the customer satisfaction survey had 2 to 5% greater deposit growth.

What drove customers away from their banks?
In a word, fees. One in 3 customers who switched banks in the past year did so because of fees, especially the rising cost of overdraft fees.

How can banks improve customer satisfaction?
Resolve problems quickly seems to be the answer. In addition, the banker should initiate follow-up contact to ensure customer satisfaction. The customer shouldn’t have to continue to follow-up until a satisfactory resolution is achieved.

“Banks with high brand image scores typically engage in practices that focus on strong communication with customers, such as welcoming them to the branch office or following up on problems,” said Beird. “By focusing on aspects most critical to the banking experience, banks can win the favor of their customers, which can lead to considerable financial rewards.”

When customers have a problem, it’s how it is handled that affects their customer satisfaction. In fact, how it’s resolved affects attrition and customer retention. Forty-four percent of customers who are at risk for switching banks reported they had at least one problem with their accounts over the last 12 months, as opposed to 7% of loyal customers who reported they had a problem.

Besides having their problems resolved quickly, customers are also attracted to the number of conveniently located branches and availability of online transactions.

The secret of bank marketing. . .
communicate, communicate, communicate.

Proactive communication played an important role with banks who performed well in customer acquisition, cross-selling and retention . . . key goals in any bank marketing program.

Beird points out that a needs assessment during initial account opening and outbound follow-up within 3 days results in average deposit balances that are 17% higher than other customers. And, customers must feel that questions asked are specific and relevant rather than routine.

The report also broke down how specific banks performed by region. Check out the graph accompanying their news release or view the detailed regional bank ratings charts.

The lesson for community bankers.
While the study highlighted larger banks in each region, community bankers can use the information to beef up their own bank marketing programs. Initiate a needs assessment campaign for new prospects with relevant questions, follow-up with new customers promptly, set-up a customer satisfaction program and be pro-active in resolving problems. Follow these suggestions and you may be on top of that next J.D. Powers survey.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Can creative genius John Cleese
improve your bank marketing?

Funny man John Cleese has the creative chops to shake up any bank marketing department. After all, he’s one of the writers and actors behind Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Faulty Towers and A Fish Called Wanda. He has since moved into creating business training videos and online courses for professionals. But what should be of interest to bank marketers is the British-born actor’s lecture on The Importance of Creativity which he presented at Trinity College in Texas last month. In that talk he revealed insights which could help any bank marketing exec with marketing strategy, tactics, creative and general problem-solving.

Cleese cracks the code to creativity.
It’s the system that this creative genius employs that can unlock your marketing department’s thought-process, too. If you’ve ever been stymied about strategy, terrified over tactics, cornered by creative or deadlocked with deadlines, Cleese’s suggestions will boost your thought-process.

* Use your unconscious mind to find solutions. “Every great breakthrough comes from the unconscious, ” says Cleese. While our culture favors the analytical mind which uses logic to solve problems, the comedic talent believes that an overreliance on our right brain creates its own set of problems. We try to become too efficient. “We are always trying to save time and we become anxious because of deadlines,” he explained.

* "Don't suppress creativity; it's like driving with the brakes on,” warns this now professor-at-large at New York’s Cornell University. Unlock your unconscious mind with a good night’s sleep when working on a project or problem. Often the unconscious mind works best on a solution while you are not awake.

* Avoid interruptions. Interruptions are the most destructive roadblock to creative thinking. Find a place and a time to think creatively without outside interference. . . no phone, TV, computer. Creative thoughts can be realized if people give them time and a non-interruptive environment. You can train yourself to be creative by just leaning to be quiet. If people put the time and effort in, something happens, Cleese said.

* Do not get anxious if a solution does not come right away. A highly creative person realizes that a more patient, less deliberative type of thinking is good for solving problems.

* Once the unconscious mind starts working, the results will be surprising. “What you will get is unarticulated ideas – vague notions and whims, “the actor/writer notes. “You will have no idea what will come up.”

* Don’t analyze the information or thoughts too soon. Cleese believes “you have to give it time. You have to wait until it begins to make sense.”

* Repeat the entire process. “Take the information from your unconscious, see what works and what doesn’t, and then relegate it back to the unconscious,” explains the Monty Python star. After all, Cleese wrote 13 drafts of the screenplay "A Fish Called Wanda" before it became a film!

The unconscious mind works for everyone.
Cleese demonstrates how the system actually worked for him. Donna J. Tuttle recounts this story in her blog entitled, Writeontime. The blogger attended a dinner party with the famed actor prior to his lecture. Tuttle writes. . .

“True creativity, Cleese says, comes from the unconscious portion of the mind. For example, Cleese once wrote down a problem. He left it for a couple of days, and the answer arrived in his head quite naturally when he wasn’t tumbling the issue over and over in his brain. He lost a script and rewrote it from memory. When he found the original script and compared the two, the second was almost word-for-word — except, well, better. Cleese believes his brain edited that work while it simmered in his unconscious, safe from real-world, task-driven edit mode.”

While I’ve read about this incubation/unconscious mind theory in various books, I’ve never really heard someone validate its practicality. I know that from now on when faced with a bank marketing problem . . . whether it’s strategic, tactical or creative , I’ll be thinking about John Cleese.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New survey hints at bank marketing
strategies and forecasts.

The 16th Bank Executive Survey was just released on April 21st and it could signal where your competition will be spending its marketing dollars in the months to come. The study conducted by Grant Thornton, a global accounting and consulting firm, in association with Bank Director magazine contacted CEOs and other senior officers of banks and savings institutions in early November 2008.

It’s interesting to note that 62% of the respondents report assets of less than $500 million, with 38% reporting assets greater than $500 million. One-third of the bankers reported that their institutions are publicly held, 55% are with private corporations and 12% have mutual charters.

Bank marketing recession plans go back to the basics.
While the study examines bankers’ outlooks for the economy, the causes of the credit crisis, credit and lending issues, future funding sources, exec compensation and strategic planning, it does offer insight for bank marketing execs. What actions do bank execs anticipate taking to grow and compete in the next 12 months? Cross-selling tops the list of strategies. Eighty percent of bankers plan to increase cross-selling efforts to current customers. Seventy-seven percent will conduct promotions to attract new customers to existing products and services. The chart outlines other marketing endeavors considered by bankers.

In a news release, John Ziegelbauer, national managing partner of Grant Thornton LLP's Financial Institutions practice said, "As evidenced by our respondents, many banks are going back to basics and refocusing on their existing service offerings."

Deposits remain important in bankers’ minds.
Increasing deposits should be on a bank marketing execs agenda since 94% of those surveyed cited that core deposits will be the most frequently anticipated means of funding bank growth in 2009. While funding is a key issue, 44% of bank execs stated that finding adequate resources is currently a challenge. And, 48% believed that core deposit balances will remain flat or decrease this year. According to the survey, some observers have suggested that banks could see an increase in deposits as consumers move away from declining returns on mutual funds. A more likely scenario, cautioned the study, is that consumers will simply have fewer discretionary funds due to debt and rising unemployment. If that occurs there would be net deposit shrinkage. Despite those possibilities, 51% say they will be increasing their share of deposits in the marketplace as a reaction to the credit crisis and subsequent consolidation in the financial services industry.

Bankers looking to GenY.
Many banks are gearing their retail efforts toward capturing GenY customers. In responding to the survey, 85% of the bankers claimed that they are moving internally and externally to meet the needs of this generation. For example, about 34% of larger banks and 21% of smaller banks will be investing in mobile banking as a way to attract this group. Only 15% said they are not meeting future generations’ needs.

Recession predictions for
consumer & commercial lending.

With lending promotions taking a significant portion of bank marketing budgets in the past, what do bankers predict for the future in the loan arena? Here are the anticipated changes:

Commercial loan demand:
27% predict increase; 28% no change; 45% decrease
Consumer loan demand:
14% predict increase; 36% no change; 50% decrease
Core deposits:
52% predict increase; 35% no change; 13% decrease
Customer refi-s:
35% predict increase; 54% no change; 11% decrease
Residental mortgage demand:
18% predict increase; 36% no change; 46% decrease

Read the entire survey on the Grant Thornton website.

Related articles in Bank Marketing:
Using refi promotions to strengthen relationships and cross-sell . . . before your competition does.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spooked about authoring a financial article?
Hire a ghostwriter.

I’m a big proponent of having a bank president or CEO craft his or her own message, especially if it’s for the troops or customers. According to our research with email newsletters, the President’s Message or CEO’s Letter always scores extremely high. In fact, it wipes out all the other articles in the newsletters as far as readership numbers. That’s why I always encourage bank execs to author their own communiqués. The message rings with authenticity and readers get to know the person behind the suit.

But there is one time when I suggest you rethink this strategy. . . that’s when an established publication comes calling and asks for an article as an expert in your field. First, a good article takes time. There’s research, plus the writing and editing. You could literally invest hours and hours in the project. You may not have the luxury of penning your thoughts. Second, if you’re not an accomplished writer, you could be in for a rough patch. Most important, you’ll want to maintain your reputation. I’ve seen a number of CEO essays where readers wondered about the author’s credentials due to poor sentence structure, confused logic and uninteresting content. So how can you maintain your expert standing yet polish your prose? Hire a ghostwriter!

What can a good ghostwriter do for you? The writer can. . .
Save you time. Your time’s at a premium. A writer can carry the heavy writing load and bring you a draft for approval and revisions.

Gather the important ideas and facts, plus do additional research if needed. Then organize those fragments into a logical, coherent article. A really great writer can run with any nugget of info and polish it into a real gem.

Replicate your style into the writing so it sounds original and incorporates your personality. After all, you’d like to instill some of your personality into the piece if it calls for it.

What you should look for in a ghostwriter?
Sharp, quality writing that engages the appropriate audience. Your ghostwriter’s samples will give you a clue. Is the writing intriguing? Does it hold your interest? Is it easily understood?

Experience & knowledge. Look for someone whose background you feel comfortable with. Depending on the type of article, you’ll want someone who has knowledge or experience in your field. Look for someone who can relate to the audience or express a complex subject with simplicity. If the person is more knowledgeable about your topic, the less time you’ll need educating them. That writer will just be able to run with your topic. Remember, the more knowledgeable the person, justifiably the higher the fee.

Compatibility. You’ll accomplish more if the two of you are on the same wavelength. Establish a good relationship at the beginning of the process and you’ll be working from an advantage.
Getting the best possible written results. If you follow a few simple caveats, the process will be smoother and the results will be sharper. You’ll have a running start if you. . . Identify your goals for the article. Do you wish to educate, state an opinion, inspire or encourage?

Explain the task. Do you have a topic in mind? All the better. Do you have any background material to share about the topic, resources to recommend or information about the publication? What’s the deadline, word count or other specifics the publication has mandated? The more you have ready, the faster and more smoothly the project will progress. You may even wish to outline the topic or prepare a rough draft. Don’t have a specific topic? At the very least, offer the writer some direction, otherwise you both will just be frustrated and spinning your wheels. On the other hand, find an extremely knowledgeable writer in your field and that person may be able to suggest appropriate topics.

Be willing to let the writer do his or her job. If you do write that first draft, be willing to accept changes. That’s why you hired a writer. A professional is able to view the topic from the reader’s viewpoint. You may be too close to the situation to see it from various angles. Too many times I’ve seen execs change the copy back to their original version. A good writer doesn’t mind being corrected, especially if there is an error. But you’re defeating the purpose of using a professional writer if you go heavy on the edits.

Define the audience for the writer. Are you writing for the Harvard Business Review or a Junior Achievement magazine? You’ll want someone who can match the content of those publications.

Outline the specifics you want to include in your article. . . any quotes, stats, keywords.

Spend some time with the writer. If it’s important that your personality come through in the article (esp. in a journal where people know you), spend some time with the writer so he can judge your style of expression. An experienced writer can pick up on your personality and express it in the article. You don’t want an inexperienced writer literally putting inappropriate words in your mouth or writing from their perspective. I once read an article “authored” by a male bank president in which the writer used expressions that would have definitely been used by a female writer.

Don’t pass the finished article through a committee or group for their feedback. Fine, if you need to go through compliance. But send it through the meat grinder and you’ll come up with incoherent hash. You hired a pro, trust that person.

You don’t need to be a bank president or CEO
to hire a ghostwriter.

Even bank marketing execs, lenders, branch managers, or commercial bankers may be asked to pen a few words for a publication. If it means maintaining the bank’s reputation, don’t fear hiring a ghost writer.

Related articles in Bank Marketing:
What can the “President’s Message” do for your marketing?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

No fancy corporate jet for Colorado bank.
Just a tiny biplane dwarfed by a big message.

While some big financial institutions arrogantly touted their corporate jets and big bonuses in the face of taxpayers after taking federal handouts, a Colorado bank was flying their own “corporate plane.” FirstBank wanted to set itself apart from the jet-tripping, high-living, bonus-grabbing fat cats that were stealing the headlines. Instead the largest locally-owned bank in Colorado hauled out a rented biplane and tied a banner to its tail. Then they circled Coors Field during the opening game of the Colorado Rockies baseball team. Trailing behind that little plane was a great big 30’x115’ banner that read. . .
This is the closest thing we have to a private jet.
A big message behind a tiny plane!

The promotion, costing about $7,000, was seen by about 50,000 baseball fans at the stadium. FirstBank with assets of $8 billion and 120 offices in Colorado alone, plus a handful in California and Arizona, worked with Boulder-based TDA Advertising and Design, the ad’s creator.

According to an article in The Denver Post, the bank has been promoting its long-standing conservative lending practices since late last year and steered clear of risky loans.

In reviewing the comments on The Denver Post website, I haven’t seen a single negative comment about the clever stunt . . . only amusement. Even in this economic time when bank customers are furious with many bank practices and marketing tactics, this clever promotion tells me that a smart bank marketer can make a great impression and spread a little humor, too.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Use refi promotions to strengthen relationships and cross-sell . . . before your competition does.

While customers are looking to take advantage of the lowest mortgage rates in 35 years by refinancing their homes, bank marketing departments can jump on the bandwagon and gain momentum, too.

"There are 7 to 9 million people across the country who right now could be taking advantage of lower mortgage rates," said President Obama in a televised statement on April 9th. And, smart bank marketers should be steering their customers into more favorable rates before their competition moves in on them. If you don’t plan and take action, your competition may be seeing your customers walk in their doors.

Use your advantage over the competition.
Your knowledge of the customer's mortgage.

Right now, you have a huge advantage over the bank down the street. The types of loans, rates and balances of your mortgage customers are right in front of you. Take the initiative to contact your customers with a personalized, sincere message. Fill it with information that could save them money in these economic times. They’ll appreciate that gesture. Right now you can be supplying them with specific cost-savings that your completion cannot deliver . . . “save $215 this month alone!” . . . all because you have that data at your discretion. Give them the right information and incentive and you’ll be arming them with a solid reason to stay with your institution. You could be seen as a banker who’s interested in their well-being. Don’t let your competition be the first to express this concern.

More than a mortgage loan, customers represent
cross-sell opportunities.
Loose these valuable customers and you’ll be eliminating a steady income stream. A typical $200,000 mortgage can generate net interest income of up to $5,500 per year. Remember, your customers are more than just mortgage loans! They represent hard-earned relationships and opportunities to cross-sell other income producing products. . . products that can retain relationships for years to come.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

66% of financial institutions fail to use their website's home page to tackle economic crisis.

“The majority of financial services companies - 66% - have been silent recently when it comes to communicating about the troublesome economy on their corporate Web site home pages” reports Weber Shandwick in an April 8th news release. The global public relations firm looked at a diverse segment of 55 U.S. and European/EMEA financial services companies including investment firms, commercial banks and financial data service firms. They tracked the organizations weekly since mid-October to determine their reactions as the economic news worsened. The study covered a five-month period.

“Since corporate home pages are a prime gateway to a company’s positioning, messaging and reputation, we examined them to determine how an industry under intense scrutiny rises to the challenge of building trust in tough times,” noted Barb Iverson, president of Weber Shandwick’s financial services industry practice group in the news release. “It is not enough for leading financial services companies to communicate only in good times.” She went on to urge financial services organizations to use their low cost, high impact home pages in communicating with customers and investors.

Surprisingly the European institutions studied communicated earlier on their home pages about the crisis than did their American counterparts. U.S. firms eventually caught up and surpassed their European peer sin home page communications.

Only 24% (in Feb. 2009) and 13% (in mid-Oct. 2008) linked to a message from a CEO/Chairman. Weber Shandwick reported that when these same execs were used on home pages, they helped “humanize the crisis and put a face on the company.”

Iverson noted in the release that “for many, the Web sites of these financial services companies are one of the first places that customers, investors and others go to in search of information and reassurance.”

Home page recommendations.
Incorporate the following into home page messages, recommends Weber Shandwick:
  • Explain unfamiliar financial terms and add hotline numbers, contact names & photos, as well as FAQs
  • Convey empathy in messages, as well as acknowledge customers’ confusion, concerns and loss of trust
  • Use social media tools such as podcasts, Webcasts, blogs and customer discussion forums in an attempt to make relationships more personal and interactive

The release featured additional stats and charts illustrating the agency’s findings.

The message for community banks.
While the sites studied were of Fortune 500 firms, smaller financial institutions can learn from the Weber Shandwick study. We know that all financial consumers, whether they are affiliated with a troubled institution or not, are concerned and fearful. The financial climate is not business as usual. And, smaller bank marketing departments are not immune to the fallout of the current economic situation. All financial institutions need to step up to the plate and to the challenge of relating to your customers. Your home page is the face of your institution. . . in good times and bad. And from our own observations working in financial communications, we’ve learned that the President’s Message is valuable real estate for your bank’s marketing. Mesh the two and you’ll forge a strong link with your consumer.

Related articles in Bank Marketing:
Ohio community banker talks “tough” on his website.

How do you combat negative headlines?

What can the “President’s Message” do for your marketing?

Fifth Third “dreams” of quelling consumers concerns.

Readers & employees respond to Wells Fargo “Las Vegas” blog post.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A superhuman marketing resource. . .
your branch manager.

Community banks have a secret weapon that larger banks cannot disarm. It’s the local branch manager. . . your Superman or Wonder Woman. He or she is usually a pillar of the community, a friendly loan officer and a trusted investment advisor all rolled into one dynamic personality. . .or you hope they have that added charisma. Some larger banks have done away with branch managers altogether and others are charging fees just to interact with a teller. Therefore, that affable manager can go a long way to market your bank and solidify your brand.

In 2007 Booz Allen Hamilton, a strategy and technology consulting firm, studied over 4,000 bank branches. The researchers identified the traits of top-performing bank managers. Those bank managers are. . .

1. Willing to be held accountable for both their success and failures
2. Proud of their bank, branch and employees
3. Creative in coming up with new ways to drive business
4. Driven to succeed and motivated by their branch’s success, not just their own salary and bonus packages
5. Confident in their ability to meet their goals
6. Typically hold an integrated view of all aspects of their business – sales, service, people, core operations. . . in other words, they run their branches as if they were their own businesses

Sounds like the perfect person who can personify your bank’s brand!

These traits bring in the clients, too.
Booz Allen found that the best branch managers are worth between $500,000 and $1 million in incremental revenue to the bank. And branch managers who settle in at an office tend to do better than those who are transferred. According to the study, branches with managers who have stayed put or who have moved only once enjoyed an average growth in deposits of 13.2 percent, whereas those with managers who have transferred to new positions more than five times had an increase of just 3.2 percent.

What’s in the psyche of the perfect community bank manager?
If you have a bank manager who sees himself or herself as a “town mayor”, you definitely have an asset. This person identifies strongly with the bank and the community rather than the overall organization. Maximizing the branch’s performance and the communities’ ability to prosper ranks high on this manager’s list of goals. This type of manager also has few ambitions to move beyond branch manager. They’ve found their niche.

Keep them in the loop & you’ll have a marketing ally.
While this person is a natural for promoting your bank’s brand and message, they shouldn’t be left in the dark as far as your marketing goals. The Booz Allen study noted that well-trained branch managers produce significantly higher customer-service and customer-satisfaction scores. Keep them in your marketing loop. Play off their strengths. Keep them happy by letting them interact with the community. In fact, encourage it. Your manager already identifies with the bank and the community. Give them the ammunition to continue to spread your message and they’ll become your bank marketing ally.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Ohio community banker talks “tough”
on his website.

While other banks were issuing letters and written statements about the state of their financial institutions, Bill Carr, president and CEO of Liberty National Bank, decided to literally roll up his shirt-sleeves and talk to the public. Carr is featured in two video podcasts which appear on his bank’s website. And, his message isn’t buried deep within the site. It’s front and center on the homepage. When accessed, the podcasts appear as a pop-up on the site.

While I’ve seen other bank presidents give video presentations on their websites, I prefer the genuine appeal of this one. First, this is a community bank with only 5 offices located in central Ohio. They can’t rely on slick, expensive videography. Second, Carr’s content is quite compelling. Rather than give the perfunctory, “we’re just fine” spiel, the president and CEO of this bank with $192 million in assets gives a tough and frank assessment of the economy. He hits the topic of subprime mortgages head on and reflects on their effect on community banking. This 40-year bank veteran addresses cost -cutting measures the bank intends to pursue including e-services (online statements), but pledges to retain employees. Carr even remarks on the new administration in Washington, D.C. His podcast is definitely a refreshing look at the entire banking situation. Because he is so honest, the customer definitely feels confident about Liberty National.

“Even at our shareholder meetings, he pretty much tells it like it is,” explained Heather Cox, Liberty National’s assistant vice president of marketing in an interview about Carr’s style.

Why should community banks consider
presidential podcasts?

Through my work with e-newsletters for our clients, we know that the President’s Message
garners the most readership each time these newsletters are broadcast. In fact, I’ve done a post on the importance of the President’s Letter, entitled “What can the ‘President’s Message’ do for your marketing?” And, I’ve encouraged bank marketing execs to take advantage of this prime real estate in their communications efforts. Liberty National has taken the President’s Message to a new and impressive level. And, I applaud this community bank for their ingenuity.

Podcasts supported with traditional media.
Rather than just let the podcast stand on its own merit, Cox supported the online video with news releases, newspaper ads and radio spots. The traditional marketing efforts helped drive traffic to the podcasts. Cox reports that the 1st video in the 2-part series received appox. 400 hits in February alone.

An advertising consultant produced the two podcasts for the bank’s marketing department. Each podcast is roughly 3 minutes long. . . a nice, concise length that keeps the viewer engaged. Rather than an interviewer quizzing the president or a continuous monologue, the presentation is broken by a couple of “fades to black” on which a question is posed to the exec.

The Liberty National podcast ends with Carr informing viewers that he will be retiring this summer. Let’s hope his successor keeps up the “talk”.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Using altruism to draw consumers
to your social networking sites.

A few posts ago, I blogged about how Dairy Queen was incenting bloggers to write about their new menu by awarding the first 250 to a $5 gift card. Now, author Tim Ferriss is encouraging people to “follow” him on Twitter, the fast-growing 140-character microblog. Billed as the “Tweet to Beat: Paying $3 per Twitter Follower”, Ferriss notes that he and an anonymous matching donor will give the funds to high-need schools in the U.S. via DonorsChoose.org Through this altruistic approach, Ferriss is sure to gain continued PR for his book and gain popularity in search engine rankings. . . all due to links connecting to his website and blog. He even provides readers with the appropriate links to use to direct others to his sites. Ferriss, who started the promotion at approx. 22,500 followers (those who sign-on to watch what he writes or “tweets”) will cap it at 50,000. The author of the NY Times bestseller, The 4-Hour Work Week, has set up his challenge with rules, regs and deadlines.

This is definitely an interesting approach to fundraising, public relations and social networking media. Simply it encapsulates all three in one tight package.

How can bank marketing executives use this same approach?
If you don’t already have a blog, FaceBook or Twitter presence, now is the time to consider one. Some time down the road, it will be essential to add these forms of social networking media to your marketing mix. Your younger consumers will demand it. And, you might be surprised how many of your “older” business and retail clientele is already dabbling with it. Starting now you can get your feet wet and experiment before your competition becomes adept at the increasingly popular media. A similar campaign from your bank marketing department would be a great driver to your social networking site. You’re introducing them to your new form of communication and identifying yourself as a community activist. Plus, you’ll be getting your employees backing that new bank promotional tool.

Many banks, especially community banks, are involved with altruistic endeavors in their various locales. But often times, the support is scatter-shot. . . giving to many different charities. I have recommend in the past that community banks choose one major charity . . . at least for the year. . . and commit to it. In effect, “branding” their bank with that charity. It could be the local fire department, an animal shelter or. . . . a tie-in to a financial product or service (supporting a military platoon which co-insides with your SBA Patriot Express program).

In the meantime, sign-on to Ferriss’ campaign, see how social networking works and help out a worthy cause.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Talk about transparency. . . YES Bank displays its diversity. . . graphically.

In preparing various marketing materials for my clients, I’m instructed by their compliance departments to include diverse clientele and employees. In other words, a microcosm of our society. No problem with that. Mumbai-based YES Bank (which I introduced in my last post) has found a unique way to show its workforce profile. . . AND build its brand. The Indian financial institution boldly announces its “diversity” of “human capital” with a series of graphs covering an entire webpage.

In fact, their reference to “human capital” seems so apropos for this financial institution. The bank uses it to define their entire HR section (a fairly good-sized section at that) of their website. The term isn’t new. It was first defined by Adam Smith, an economist in the 1700s.

Building its brand around its workforce.
YES Bank has a reason for defining its workforce graphically. Apparently the bank is building its brand around the quality of its employees. Their stated objectives include:

- To build a strong employer brand.
- To attain a preferred employer status in the Banking and Financial Services industry.
- To ensure that the Bank is able to attract, engage and retain high quality human capital for its long-term success.

And, YES Bank seems to be achieving their branding goal. According to EECH – the largest source of management case studies in the world, YES Bank has established a strong employer brand and projects itself as an 'aspirational' employer in the Indian banking sector. EECH notes that the 200-branch bank has “differentiated itself from its competitors with its unique 'knowledge banking' approach and its emphasis on human capital.”

The bank has outlined a number of impressive employee programs including entrepreneur and mentoring programs. And, they’ve earned their stripes with the “Continuous Innovation in HR Strategy” Award.

What does all of this have to do with Bank Marketing in the U.S.?
While Americans may see the Indian bank’s “diversity” as a little lopsided, you must remember that you’re dealing with a different culture. But, there is a message here for financial marketers. First, YES is defining its brand around its employees. Their graphic approach drives that point home and works for them. It’s much more direct than the typical “we have great service” claim. And, second, your bank marketing (no matter what your brand) is only as good as your employees. . . i.e.,the knowledge and service they put forth. On the surface, YES Bank receives an affirmative grade on both fronts.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

YES BANK gets a big “yes”
from a former U.S. President.

I’d call it a pretty good marketing coup when a bank has an actual endorsement by a former President of the United States on its website’s homepage. And, that what this Indian bank, aptly named YES BANK, achieved. I don’t care what your political affiliation; you have to admit that this bank has moxie.
The homepage allows for a pop-up so the website visitor can read the actual transcript of President’s Clinton’s message to the bank’s founder. In fact, Clinton used the YES BANK’s calling card to pen his personal hand-written message. . . even better. The note is in response to the bank’s backing of the Clinton Global Initiative. The Clinton message rotates with a note from the Indian Union Minister of Commerce thanking the bank for their “efforts in stimulating the economy.”

Here’s a little insight into YES BANK from their “Press Room”. It’s from an article in The New Economy entitled, “A Bank to Be Positive About?” It calls YES founder Rana Kapoor a far-sighted entrepreneur who “has the chance to carve a lucrative and rewarding niche based on technology and highly responsive, top quality service.” The article notes that India is hugely under-serviced in terms of banking services. A country of more than one billion people has only about 250 million bank account holders. Meanwhile India’s banking industry grows by 15-17% annually, versus the 1-2 % growth rate of European banks.” (Note: Winter 2008 article) Kapoor said YES BANK is also the first Indian signatory to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and has engaged with global thought leadership forums like the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).

YES BANK has more interesting aspects to their bank marketing strategy that I will explore in my next post. . . one being entitled as “Human Capital." An intriguing concept for a financial institution.

And, YES I do like their name!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Energize your small business clientele
& you'll earn entrepreneurs' loyalty.

Small business is the backbone of many community banks’ customer base. And, being a small business myself, I must admit it’s a favorite topic of mine. Many bank marketing departments sometime overlook their small business segment. . . perhaps because retail banking seems so much more exciting. Since bank marketers are literally employees of the bank, and not entrepreneurs, they can easily relate to the average consumer’s point of view. While it’s difficult to put oneself in a business person’s suit, especially if you’ve never been there, you can still develop some exciting promotions.

As a bank marketer and small biz owner, I was excited when I received an email from the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal announcing their first Power Breakfast of the year. It’s entitled, Born in a Recession. The event will feature a panel of three business owners from companies that were started in a previous recession. According to the email, the panelists "will give insights into what has made them so successful and will share ideas on how to take advantage of the opportunities this economy presents.” Kudos to Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. My only regret is that is wasn’t the brainchild of a community bank!

Right now small business owners need all the encouragement they can get. With the constant news that lending is down, SBA funds down. . . (whether correct or incorrect), your small business clientele needs the support of their banker. Why not set up a similar optimistic seminar for your small business customers and prospects? And, in an economy like this, many former employees are looking to start a business. . . more budding prospects for your bank. What about a seminar on How to Start a Biz in a Recession. Partnering with the likes of SCORE could be a logical option. If you wish to be more ambitious, consider an online webinar.

I understand that your financial institution may not have the manpower or budget to host such an event. Then use the topic as fodder for an audio or video podcast on your website, but be sure to promote it to your small biz prospects & clients. Or at the very least, write an appropriate newsletter article. During this economy, step up and position yourself as a small business leader.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Incenting bloggers to spread your message.

Dairy Queen is treating bloggers like royalty. They’re trading $5 gift cards for blog posts. Why am I bringing up DQ in a Bank Marketing blog? Because bank marketers need to look beyond their industry for inspiration. . . especially if it’s a great idea that can be transferred to their financial arena.

The corporation claims to have over 200,000 mentions in the blogosphere and they want to sweeten that number with this promotion. DQ launched its own blog, Creating Smiles and Stories, only this month. The blog, which will be written by employees, will include “stories, news, products, events, promotions, DQ in the News, advertising, fun stuff, DQ people in the community, and around the world.” In a Feb. 25th post headlined “We Got A Sweet Deal for You!”, the DQ folks asked the question of bloggers,“what deal you’d make with us to try our Sweet Deals for free?´ The blogger is asked to send an email to DQ with a link to their post. The first 250 bloggers to do so received the gift card. In a matter of hours, DQ had surpassed their goal. In addition, the writer of the best blog post will receive DQ Sweet Deals every week for a year.

This is a very inexpensive promotion for a company the size of DQ. The value of the cards was only $1,250. And, I can guarantee you that their message about their Sweet Deals meals will spread faster than melting soft serve. Their word of mouse was a quick and effective way to launch their blog, too. In upcoming weeks, I’ll examine how bank marketing departments can harness the power of the social media. And, how a little promotion just like DQ’s could get you some positive press.

The company also launched a Twitter account just two days ago. It’s sure to follow the success of their year-old Facebook presence with its almost 85,000 fans.

(Do you suppose this post qualifies me for a DQ treat?)

Monday, February 23, 2009

There’s humor in the Etiquette Guide for Banks. . . and a message, too.

I know it's totally inappropriate, irreverent and edgy, but I found a blog piece entitled, "A Bailout Etiquette Guide for Banks Looking to Survive 2009". The post in the blog, Wrecking Ball Report, takes a few shots of the cannonball variety at the state of bank marketing. I know their viewpoint is shared by many consumers today. While there's a lot of sarcasm in the piece, there are some nuggets that bank marketers could take to heart. If you are a fan of political satirists such as Bill Maher, then take a look at this colorful piece. If not, stay clear - YOU'VE BEEN WARNED! For me, I saw humor in the post. But, there’s a real message behind the facetious remarks. Just look a little deeper and I hope you’ll see it, too.

Here's some sample rhetoric some the post:
  • Try not to talk about anything that actually has to do with banking. If you have to mention something, talk about the thickness of the vault's door.
  • If you’re meeting with anyone in D.C., ride a bike or a unicycle, or . . .
  • Wear a nametag that says "Bob the Banker" no matter what your name is.
  • Consider an architectural makeover - perhaps a two-story mattress or coffee can circa 1931 Maxwell House.
  • "David" from Bangalore will be right with you to assist you with your bailout - a look at outsourced customer service.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Valentine’s promotion
that will steal your heart!

As promised, here’s an update on a heartwarming bank promotion I covered earlier. In my February 12th post, I introduced you to Cash, First Arkansas Bank & Trust’s (FAB&T) new mascot. He was rescued from a local humane association by this 29-branch community bank. In the true spirit of a family-owned bank, Cash has literally become part of the “family”. He resides with the bank’s compliance officer. And, the idea for the rescued dog was an inside job as well, after several bank employees had a brainstorming session.

In a personal interview with Roger Sundermeier, FAB&T’s vice president-marketing officer, said, “We started out simply wanting a new face for our Kids’ Savings Account, and it has blossomed into a full-blown face for our brand!” The bank had a “Cash is Coming Soon!” teaser campaign which caught the attention of the community. “And that doesn’t even begin to touch on the excitement we have generated among our employees,” noted Sundermeier. “We’re hoping that soon people will see a yellow lab in public and say, ‘Hey! That looks like the First Arkansas Bank and Trust dog!’”

Partnering with Build-A-Bear Workshop
In a heartfelt banking promotion, FAB&T partnered with Build-A-Bear Workshop to create 300 miniature plush Cash replicas wearing logoed T-shirts. The bank marketing promotion carried the theme, “Give a little Cash 2 the one U love!” Cash replicas were available during a short 1 ½ week window just before Valentine’s Day. The net proceeds of over $2,000 from the sold-out sale of these stuffed animals are being donated to local animal shelters. Sundermeier explained, “With the situation of our economy now, pets are sometimes the first thing a family will let go.” FAB&T said the bank wanted to draw attention to overcrowding in animal shelter due to the economic downturn.

Cash will soon have kennel mates (of the plush variety). With the success of the Valentine’s promotion, FAB&T's is rolling out “Cash’s Crew” in early March. Up for “adoption” will be five additional pups. Their names, Farley, Austin, Barksley, Andy and Tiffany, spell out the bank’s acronym FAB&T.

More dog-gone good promotions!
FAB&T’s upcoming customer appreciation events will revolve around Cash and be billed as “Dog Daze.” Some of the bank marketing events will include a mobile pet grooming service giving free baths and haircuts to dogs, free pet photos using a local photographer, a basic obedience class and mobile pet adoptions sponsored by local animal shelters.

Alright, I’ll admit it. I’m a sap for animals! Just wish some of those banks who are currently in the dog house with negative press could create more heartwarming promotions. They need it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Studies contradict online banking activity?

Two recently released studies seem to be contradicting one another when it comes to online banking stats.

One study was conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Fiserv, Inc., an information technology services provider for the financial industry. In a Fiserv news release dated February 12th, Fiserv said
“U.S. consumers are paying more attention to their finances and using the online banking channel more frequently to access their accounts during the current global financial crisis.”

The release went on to say that. . .
“Online banking usage increased far more than any other banking channel, with 28 percent of consumers indicating they are using online banking more than they did a year ago.”

“In these difficult times, financial institutions are looking for new ways to reach out to consumers and provide value,” said Todd Lesher, division president, Fiserv Electronic Banking Services. “This survey indicates that online banking is still a great opportunity for financial institutions looking to strengthen their ties with consumers. Consumers are using online banking more frequently to monitor their cash flow, manage their finances more actively and save money on stamps.”

In contrast, a report from another researcher, comScore, seems to see the situation differently.

According to a comScore news release on January 22nd, consumers are spending less time on their bank’s website due to the poor economy. Marc Trudeau, senior director of comScore’s Finanial services commented in the release. . .

“We’re seeing shifts in the way consumers manage their finances online, such as less frequent and shorter visits to their banking Web site. . .”

The Reston, Va.-based digital marketing research firm noted that. . .
“Engagement at many of the top banking sites declined in Q3 2008 versus a year ago. Four out of the top 5 online banking sites experienced declines in the average number of minutes spent per visitor in the third quarter of 2008 versus year ago.”

comScore studied the top 10 online U.S. banking sites which included Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase.

My interpretation of these studies? To me they seem like a contraction with the Forrester/Fiserv study claiming an increase in online banking, while comScore’s research sees a decrease in activity. The discrepancy could be that comScore only looked at the top 10 online banks. Do others view the research in the same vein?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

First Arkansas Bank & Trust has gone to
the dogs, but we love’em!!!

With all the bad banking news, here’s one financial you’ve got to love and and love! Or, maybe you could claim that First Arkansas Bank & Trust has gone to the dogs. . . literally! The bank has headed straight for their local animal shelter and found “Cash”, yellow lab who had apparently been hit by a car and has a bum leg. The dog will be the mascot of the kids’ savings account program which will be renamed the Cash Account. The dog left the Jacksonville Animal Shelter for FAB&T on Jan. 29th.

Cash will accompany bank personnel when they visit schools, senior centers, and nursing homes, as well as attending community events. The bank is family-owned and based in Jacksonville, AR with 29 offices.

Larry Wilson, Chairman, President and CEO of FAB&T stated on the bank’s website,
“We have chosen a dog for several reasons. A dog personifies everything that we want our bank to stand for: Trust, Loyalty, Protection and Compassion. These qualities are the same qualities that we want our employees to exude, and that we have lived by for 60 years, and we’re excited to have Cash around as a reminder of our core values.”

Mr. Wilson also went on to say,
“By choosing a shelter animal, we are drawing attention to the overcrowding of animal shelters across not only the state, but across the country. It is during difficult economic times like these that many shelters see an increase in animals turned over to them, as pets are one of the first “non-essentials” that are let go."

Can anyone top this bank marketing story? In fact, this story is too good to let go. I’ll have a follow-up. (Read updated post on 2/22/09 "A Valentine's promotion that will steal your heart."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bank marketers, take note of Australia’s Individuum. They’re individual, irreverent and marketing to Gen X & Y.

I like these guys. I like their look. . . and I’m not even in their target market – geographically or age-wise! I like their message. While they are not a bank or credit union, Individuum has something to teach bank marketing departments. Individuum is a financial services firm targeting what Australians call superannuation. That’s a compulsory pension plan whereby employers are required to pay a percentage of an employee’s salary into a superannuation fund.

The firm is young, barely a year old. Here’s how their website characterizes Individuum. . .

“Individuum was conceived at the end of 2007, when a group of us agreed that younger investors weren't being 'looked after' by many of the big banks, fund managers or superannuation providers. Sadly, most of the financial products on the market are still being targeted towards Baby Boomers who are on the brink of retirement. But hello, that's not right!!! What about younger investors???

As one of Australia's few young investor focused superannuation providers, we've set out to create an offering that is relevant, easy-to-understand and more in line with the needs of people in the early stages of the investment life cycle.”

Their website is as individual as a fingerprint. In fact, it literally bears that imprint. Besides three different website blogs, a Facebook page and Twitter followers, the firm has launched an Academy of Dreams, a sponsorship program that hopes to uncover musical artists, athletes and educational causes that require, as Individuum says, “a little. . . .well. . .ummm. . . help (if you know what we mean).” And, Individuum promises to educate its customers. . . a favorite goal of mine.

Even their behind-the scenes look at their “team” is ingenious with irreverent profiles of “The Boss”, “The Strategy Guru”, “The Marketing Check”, “Desk Jockey”. . .

Surf their website. I hope you’ll be impressed as I was. And, hopefully, you’ll take away some ideas on how to connect with your younger banking customers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fifth Third "dreams" of
quelling consumers concerns.

Fifth Third Bank, based in Cincinnati, has launched a program called Dream Guard. The program is intended to help quell consumers concerns about the economy. In-branch brochures and website tips and tools explore ideas on talking to kids about the economy, dealing with stress, following a budget and selling a home in a buyer’s market. According to a press release, the bank wants to “help consumers save more, spend less and guard their dreams.”

In the release, Terry Zink, executive vice president and head of Retail and Affiliate Administration, noted that

“we wanted to take this opportunity to be more proactive and enhance our planning tools to help our customers stay true to their long-term goals and dreams. Now is the time to act, and the Dream Guard initiative provides us with the opportunity to remind consumers that Fifth Third Bank is here to help.”

This is the second campaign of this nature for Fifth Third. Earlier last year the bank initiated “You Have Options”, a campaign to educate and communicate with customers who may be having difficulty making mortgage, credit card or other loan payments.

Having developed and written kids’ savings newsletters, I do like the 10 points listed in the bank’s Talking to Your Kids About Finances. It’s probably the best and strongest of the Dream Guard features on the Fifth Third website.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Readers & employees respond to
Wells Fargo “Las Vegas” blog post.

I have been counseling my clients on the power of the blog and how customers & prospects can campaign for and against their services using the electronic word. While blogs like the Moleskinerie can be a love fest for the product (in that case a simple notebook), other blogs can spew venom about a company. I tell clients that, in either case, they need to be aware of what is being said about them. . . whether it’s from customers or employees.

Wells Fargo has been proactive in the blogging department. And, yesterday’s post in The Wells Fargo-Wachovia Blog, carried the headline “Wells Fargo Responds To Misleading Reports About Team Member Recognition Events.” They issued a very corporately-worded news release defending the bank’s position on the Las Vegas recognition event. And, what followed were a number of comments from readers, including some employees. In fact, some of the employees began arguing with respondents. This unfortunate exchange only compounds the PR nightmare for the bank and further angers the public. One respondent remarked to an employee, “shouldn't you be thankful you have the job and not like one of your fellow co-workers that have been laid off?”

blog.Truebridge picked up on the same Wells Fargo post and had this reaction, “Wells should be careful that their employees are not arguing with the customers who are responding.”

Wells Fargo does request that employees identify themselves in the interest of full disclosure. With the exchange that took place on the Wells Fargo blog, should bank marketing departments forbid or control employees’ access to commenting on the blog? Or, are employees foolish for even posting a comment, especially if it's negative? Is it similar to high school students posting photos of themselves engaged in illegal activities in which they're asking for trouble?

But back to the bank’s handling of the initial response to the event. I’m in the unusual position of having planned incentive programs with vacation awards to even more exotic places than Las Vegas (although not for Wells Fargo and not in the current economic environment). I understand the pros and cons of sponsoring such events for employees. But in this case, with the negative press (whether right or wrong), my PR brain tells me I would have issued a simple statement. A three word statement just as President Obama did concerning his problem with cabinet appointments. . . “I screwed up.”

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

ING Direct promotes savers’ pledge on microsite, YouTube & Facebook.

ING Direct wants citizens to step up and be counted as a saver! In fact, they’ve literally installed a counter on their “We, the Savers” microsite which tallies the number of visitors who have signed their online “Declaration of Financial Independence.”

The 10-point declaration asks savers to pledge that they’ll adopt good savings and borrowing habits, remember what matters, take care of possessions, and finally, be heard by government representatives. Visitors can also check who are their fellow signees and the states in which they reside. The site also includes a poll, forum, video and other interactive options. We, the Savers campaign was launched the day after Thanksgiving, along with visibility on YouTube and a Facebook page.

Arkadi Kuhlmann, CEO of ING Direct USA, commented that "with ING Direct's online tools, savers can see the real advantages of saving and pass along the knowledge to people in their online networks. Since reversing long-term spending habits can be difficult, ING Direct has made saving as straightforward and informative as possible for new savers and investors."

I applaud ING for their efforts to promote savings, albeit the approach advances their primary business. It’s definitely a step that a lot of financial institutions haven’t followed in the past. . . encouraging and educating their customers about good financial habits. Hopefully, more CEOs and bank marketing departments will follow ING’s lead and take their own pledge to consumers.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bank considers recession when producing
TV commercial.

Central Pacific Bank launched a new TV campaign yesterday, February 1st, in its home state of Hawaii. Rather than flashy video, the bank marketing department chose to features nostalgic black and white scenes which depict the dreams of the bank’s first customers. According to a statement in Pacific Business News by Andrew Rosen, Central Pacific’s chief marketing officer,
“In this economy, while we’re in a recession, it’s even more important to emphasize the ways we help people in the community.”
A news release from the financial institution noted that “the message reflects our roots — founded by World War II veterans to serve working folks.”

Incidentally, the bank has a very unique history. The bank was founded by WWII vets (second generation Japanese American war heroes) who found themselves with limited opportunities in Hawaii after the war. They met over fifty-cent plate lunches and founded the bank.

The launch coincides with a unique exhibit of rare World War II memorabilia to be on display in March at Central Pacific Bank’s Main Branch in downtown Honolulu. The display of artifacts and photos honor the legacy of Hawaii’s veterans; some of whom were founders of Central Pacific Bank.

Central Pacific Bank has adopted the marketing tag line. . . “Work. For You.”

Will other bank marketing departments take the economic downturn into consideration when producing campaigns. . . or will it be business as usual? This was considered in a former post, "How do you combat negative headlines?"

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Position yourself as a small business bank & promote your credit card, too.

Bank marketing execs who wish to court small business might take a lead from a Turkish bank. GaranatiBank, headquartered in Istanbul, is running their third “Turkey’s Women Entrepreneur Competition”. Their goal is to draw the public’s attention to women’s “entrepreneur soul” and help increase their numbers in Turkey to match that of other emerging countries. And, they want to “help increase women entrepreneurs’ contribution to the Turkish economy overall.” The bank is also looking for social entrepreneurs who are involved in environmental, cultural , social or educational issues.

During tough times, show small business a little respect. . . and position yourself as a small business advocate.
Now, when many American small businesses are facing an uphill battle, a little recognition from the local banking industry might be in order. A similar competition would help position your financial institution as a small business bank and gain you some well-deserved advocates and customers.

What’s even more interesting about the Turkish bank promotion is their reward system. Winners receive a bank credit card loaded with a specific amount:

1st Place: 20,000 TL (Turkish Lira) (approx. $12,000) loaded on Garanti’s credit card

2nd Place: 15,000 TL (approx. $9,150)

3rd Place: 10,000 TL (approx. $6,100)

Social Entrepreneur: 5,000 TL (approx. $3.050)

A great way to promote their Bonus Credit Card, too. . . and perhaps yours, too!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A treat for the feet at Sri Lankan bank.

I don’t claim to be an expert in international banking, but I did find this kids’ savings account promotion interesting. It’s sponsored by Sampath Bank, a Sri Lankan bank with 113 branches. The month long bank promotion ends at the end of January.

The accounts, the Pubudu Triple S Children’s Savings Account and the Sapiri Super Investment Account for Children, have various “slabs”, or as we’d call them tiers. For a deposit of 1,000 Sri Lankan rupees (approx. $9), the kids receive school supplies. For Rs. (rupees) 2,500, a voucher for a “trendy pair of shoes” comes with the supplies. And for Rs. 5,000, the ante goes up to shoes and additional school supplies. The gifts are valued at more than 50% of the deposit amount. The bank claims to have attracted more than 10,000 customers (both existing and new) within the first 20 days. Commenting in The Island Online regarding the new launch, Marketing Manager of Sampath Bank Upul Nawaratne Bandara said,

"Even though this gift scheme is costly, Sampath Bank thinks that it is an investment, as it eventually facilitates to make well educated future leaders to our country. Our tag line ‘We Present Your Future’ suits ideal along with the new gift scheme. The success of Sampath Bank is our customers and we are ready to offer them the maximum benefits, while developing the habit of saving among the rest of the community", he said.

"Furthermore, the gifts received by the children are valued at over 50 percent of the deposit amount, so the more you save the more you get with this tremendous offer from the Sampath Bank. We want to accommodate people who can save something and to increase their practice of saving. So, this note is for the wise parents in this country who care about their children", he stated.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How do you combat negative headlines?

MERRILL CEO’s DECADENT $1.2M REDECORATION. . .Thain forced out of BofA
Huffington Post - Jan. 22, 2009

Banks Foreclose on Builders with Perfect Records
NY Times – Jan. 19, 2009

Bailout is a Windfall to Bank, if Not to Borrowers
NY Times – Jan. 17, 2009

Loss of confidence in banks causes huge shifts in deposits
USA TODAY Nov. 11, 2008

The articles that followed those headlines were even less flattering. These headlines and articles could be just the beginning of things to come. . . especially as the public turns its frustrations to the banking community. Bank marketers may not be hit from just the traditional media. The increase in bloggers and new blogs gives voice to a whole new grassroots communications sector. Rather than promote products, bank marketing departments could be hit with the possibility of defending their institutions.

First, I’d be cognizant of what products I was advertising. Right after the foreclosures started raining down, some bank marketing departments still proudly pushed their interest only mortgages with the obligatory disclaimer for a looming huge balloon payment. Were the bank marketing execs asleep at the wheel?

Second, be sensitive to the consumer’s perspective right now. Many are currently angry and it’s NOT business as usual. Even if your financial institution is pure as the driven snow in regards to the financial disaster, you’re being painted with one broad brush. You can’t ignore the situation. Have you seriously reached out to your customers. . . not just with a curt “don’t worry about us” letter loaded with FDIC logos. Keep those valued customers that you fought so hard to obtain updated. Use your consumer newsletter to the fullest. Shoot them an email. But be sure you are giving them relevant information. How about providing good, solid consumer help. . . . such as explaining the loan process, FICO scores or how a couple can have up to $3 million in FDIC coverage at your institution. Be honest. Be upfront. Isn’t it a company’s responsibility to educate the buying public about their products? Now’s the perfect time.

Third, don’t pull back on the budget. Don’t eliminate that newsletter or other advertising. If you “go away”, your customers may also. They could perceive it as a trouble indicator. In the end, if you stay on top of the headlines, you may not be buried by them.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Coming to a competitor bank near you. . .
Free FICO® scores for consumers?

A couple of days ago, Fair Isaac Corporation, the pioneer of the FICO score, announced that it was expanding its Scores On Statements program. The corporation had just signed an agreement with Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union to provide their online checking customers with free credit scores. Scores On Statements authorizes lenders to give free FICO scores to their customers through online consumer accounts, along with educational information to help them better manage their credit rating.

With all the concern these days with credit and credit scores, this seems like a great program for bank marketing departments to implement. It’s a great incentive to attract prospects with this unique benefit. And, since the scores are only available online, it’s an even greater encouragement for patrons to sign-on to online statements. Many banks are trying hard to encourage customers to switch to the more economical online statements. It’s a great segue to up-selling other banking services such as Bill Pay. When a customer learns that 35% of his or her FICO score is comprised of bill payment history, that’s a good reason to enroll in Bill Pay with its bill payment reminder notices. And, as customers become accustomed to tracking their credit score, they are less likely to leave the fold. According to Fair Isaac, customers who know and understand their FICO scores have lower rates of delinquency.

Fair Isaac has a chart showing how Scores on Statements engage customers and move them from offline to online, then to eBill and Bill Pay. Businesses seeking more information about Scores On Statements can contact Fair Isaac at scoresonstatements@fairisaac.com