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

Sunday, January 18, 2009

George is mine in ’09!

Comedian and talk show host Ellen Degeneres set a goal in 2008 to land actor George Clooney for her show. Her mantra then was “George Watch ‘08”. She mounted a continuing campaign enlisting popular stars to help her capture Clooney. In fact, she had some quite clever promotions . . . from lining up the Miss America contestants in his parking spot . . . to sending him a 3-D cutout of Dolly Parton . . . to hiding people dressed as potted plants outside his office . . . to a banner in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And, more important she didn’t give up. In 2009, her slogan became “George is mine in ’09!” She hit pay dirt when actor Noah Wylie told her Clooney had an affinity for Cincinnati Reds heroes Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan. Cincinnati happens to be Clooney’s hometown. Degeneres booked the baseball stars and Clooney melted, taping her show with the legends.

What does “George is mine in ‘09” have to do with bank marketing?
I think there’s a message here for your staff and marketing dept. Has your banking team targeted a goal for 2009. . . maybe even a seemingly insurmountable marketing target? But more important, are you ready to truly stick with that goal for a long time. . . like Degeneres did? Is your staff enthused enough not to give in to disillusionment? Are will you willing to try everything to attract your prospect. . . and keep the momentum moving? Another thing the talk show host did was to keep everyone engaged. . . from other guests to her staff. You’ll need to continually bolster the enthusiasm with your staff, too. . . from the clean-up crew to the senior execs. Remember, you’re not just selling your prospect, you’re selling your staff, too. And, she employed an impressive array of clever ideas. Are you willing to go to the well to drink in some new tactics?

Take Degeneres’ lead so you’ll be able to say, “The goal is mine in ’09!”

Monday, January 12, 2009

These cartoons are worth a thousand words!

Dangers of Debt Cartoon Contest
I’m not sure how to grade this one. . . thumbs up or thumbs down. Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, held a “Dangers of Debt” Editorial Cartoon Contest. On their website,, Consumers Union encouraged young people to think about the dangers of debt. In their intro, they also noted that “credit card companies on virtually every college campus are luring young people into debt that could spell financial ruin at a young age.”

Amateur illustrators, age 15 – 25, could submit cartoons until Nov. 3 and then the public was invited to vote for their favorite until Dec. 5. You can see all the cartoons and the voting results. The cartoon garnering the most votes won $500, while a panel will award a grand prize of $1,000 to one worthy participant.

On one hand, you could argue the contest is promoting responsible handling of debt. On the other, it definitely gives the credit card industry a black eye. Would you conduct such a contest?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Would someone defend your financial institution with passion?

If you haven’t read Detroit Free Press sports writer Mitch Albom’s impassioned piece for Sports Illustrated (Jan. 7,2009), it’s a must read. Albom, is also the author of the best-selling books, Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven and For One More Day. In his SI article entitled, The Courage of Detroit, he passionately defended his city of Detroit, the Lions and the auto industry. He also did an interview regarding the article for the Charlie Rose Show on PBS. His interview was even more compelling.

This got me to thinking whether anyone would stand up and be counted if their local bank simply disappeared one day. . . whoosh. . . gone in an instant. Would anyone stand up and plead your cause? I’m not talking a closure due to mismanagement where there would be mass outrage. I’m more interested if you’ve become so entrenched in your community that one branch would be truly missed.

There have been articles and broadcast coverage of how catastrophic it would be if some of the car dealers in smaller communities went out of business. First, because they are the only dealer for miles. And second, they’ve become part of the community’s fabric. They have a history there. They are the community. I’ll admit that the loss of a bank in a small town would definitely cause attention. But in my suburb there are 10 branches within a 1 mile radius. Would anyone plead their cause like Albom did for his state’s industry? While you may say, some of my employees are involved in various community activities, I ask, "Are they truly involved or they they just networking to gain more business?" If you chose one community activity or charity to hang your hat on or become a leader in that endeavor, would that endear you to your community. . . your neighborhood? Let’s say, you’ve become a solid advocate for (you name the organization, i.e. your local fire or police dept., the Red Cross). . . an organization that would become synonimous with your financial institution, would that up your standing?

Do you have a champion for YOUR financial institution . . . one like Mitch Albom?

Again, if you haven’t read The Courage of Detroit”, please do so.