Taylor W. Wells, Communications Director with On The Mark Strategies, authored this post.

In late June, I was traveling in another state working on a marketing audit when I visited a local department store to stock up on a few necessities for the trip. I won’t tell you the name of the store, but the initials are Target.

Anyway, what stopped me in my tracks was the site of a few workers putting together a display area for the “back-to-school” section of the store.

Really? Back-to-school? In June? I mean, backpacks from the last day of school last year were still on the floor of my house at that time.

I know “back to school” is an annual ritual of anguish for children that dread the end of the beloved summer vacation. And honestly, I tend to dislike it as well. I know people are looking for clothes and supplies deals, but my thought was — “can’t we just let them enjoy summer vacation a few weeks before we cram back to school down the throats of kids and parents?”

Whatever the marketing research behind it, I think this is a good example of presenting the wrong product at the wrong time. Banks and credit unions are guilty of this on occasion as well. Especially at the macro level. By that, I mean the crucial point of consumer engagement in which your bank or credit union employee is learning more about unique financial needs of the consumer is attempting to pair that with a product or service solution.

All too often, bank and credit union employees attempt a “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to consumer engagement. Unfortunately, they are often driven to this approach by larger goals such as “you must sell at least five checking accounts a month” or “you must actively refer at least five used car refinance opportunities every quarter.” The old-school “flavor of the month” marketing calendar approach leaves a lot to be desired.

Guess what? Not everybody is in the market for checking account every day. Similarly, not everyone is in the market for a used car refinance opportunity every quarter.

This is a gap of presenting the wrong thing at the wrong time. And it is usually the result of a bank or credit union employee (often well-intended) working under the dictates of a cross-sell philosophy that just doesn’t work.

Rather than going “back-to-school” on your members and customers, your bank or credit union is much better served by diving deeper into a culture of consumer engagement. Consumer engagement allows your employees the latitude to get to know consumers on a personal level, uncovering their financial needs and desires and then matching those to a product or service your financial institution offers.

This often works a heck of a lot better than a constant “please buy everything we have all the time” approach and is more likely to endear consumers to your financial institution once they recognize you have actively listened to their concern and searched for a viable solution to address it.

Back to school — in June? I’m still shaking my head over that.

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