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 communiqu├ęs. 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.