Five Things High Performing Marketing Teams do Better than Their Peers

Five Things High Performing Marketing Teams do Better than Their Peers

The role of marketing teams is changing. A recent study – The 2016 State of Marketing – published by Salesforce Research indicates that high performing marketing teams are shifting their mindset and tactics, taking a more intelligent approach to stay ahead in changing times. These teams are moving away from marketing at customers and toward connecting every touchpoint into a cohesive customer journey. According to the study, these are the top five things high performing marketing teams do better than their peers, with tips from us on how financial institutions can apply them.

Adopt a customer journey strategy

The study defines the customer journey as all interactions customers have with a company’s brands, products or services across all touchpoints and channels. High performing marketers are mapping these journeys to better understand what the buyer does and how she thinks along each step of the buying journey.

Financial institution application: Compare your brand’s delivery channels. Do your marketing materials, website and branches all have the same look and feel? Also, study how easy it is for your consumers to find something (rates, loan products, checking information, etc.) on your website. Research what it’s like to use your bank or credit union’s mobile applications. In other words, look at how your consumers interact with your financial institution from their perspective.

Integrate the customer experience

By bridging the gap between marketing, sales and service, high performing marketers create a single view of the customer’s buying (or in your case banking) behaviors and deliver a unified customer experience.

Financial institution application: Give your customers or members a memorable, unified experience at every touchpoint, be it phone, app, e-mail, online chat, text or in person. If a customer or member initiates an online chat about a loan, capture that conversation so it can continue if the consumer chooses to call or apply in person. Start creating a behavior profile for each consumer by documenting customer service issues, sales conversations and marketing interactions all in one system.

Invest in the latest technology

Top performing marketing teams are more likely to use marketing analytics and predictive intelligence, among other technology tools. According to the study, “72% of top teams will increase spending on marketing tools and technology in the next two years.”

Read the remaining tips in the April newsletter posted on our website. Also read about “grocery store karaoke” and what version of that you can adopt to enhance your financial institution’s brand. When you have the right atmosphere, consumers will respond.

Presidential Branding and Your Bank or Credit Union

Presidential Branding and Your Bank or Credit Union

Love it or hate it, it’s definitely full-swing political campaign season in America. Candidates on both sides will spend ridiculous amounts of money and time trying to sway voters in their favor.

To differentiate amongst ideologies and compete for limited media sound-bite time, candidates often develop a core branding message. Republican 2016 front-runner Donald Trump, for example, has cornered the market on “Make America Great Again.” Bernie Sanders favors “A political revolution is coming.”

We also touched briefly on this subject early this year before primary season hit full-swing.

While discussing presidential campaign logos, a New Republic article gives three tips that could just as easily apply to the brand message of your bank or credit union.

  • Your brand must embody an “essence of personality” and evoke an intended emotional response. In other words, your bank or credit union brand must offer the completely distilled, 99-proof version of who you are and what you do. Are you fast? Are you reliable? Are you friendly? Whatever your brand professes, your staff must live it. And the brand itself must also elicit some type of emotional response. Yes, emotions in banking are tricky, but not impossible. Your angle might be consumer relief in finally finding an institution they can trust, excitement over that first home loan or the warm fuzzy that comes from successfully saving for your childrens’ college education.
  • Your brand must be timeless and memorable. You don’t want a brand that sounds terrific today but won’t work in a few months or few years. You can’t tie your brand to something date-specific or topical, cool or trendy at the time. For example, if you tied your brand to a “swinging disco” feel in the 1970s, it might not translate well today. Go for the ephemeral.
  • Regardless of the medium, your brand must perform in a wide range of formats. Your brand must translate into all possible mediums. For example, does it perform well in print? How does it work on broadcast media? And how does it look and feel when positioned on social media platforms? Finally and most importantly, how does your brand translate through that most important of mediums — your staff?

It seems like we are always in some kind of political season and the 2016 general election is still months away. So hunker down and get ready for lots of mudslinging. In the meantime, give some thought to how your brand can learn from the presidential branding examples of the past and present and how you can use these ideas to better it.

Brand Lessons from SpongeBob SquarePants

Brand Lessons from SpongeBob SquarePants

I admit it – I am an adult fan of SpongeBob SquarePants. It doesn’t hurt that my kids love the show and that it seems to be on the television all the time. But I get a kick out of it, too. There’s enough adult edge in it to keep my interest and it offers the type of zany comedy that appeals to me.

There’s a ton of goofy and lovable characters in the world of Bikini Bottom, but amongst my favorites is the irascible Mr. Krabs, money-obsessed founder of local burger joint the Krusty Krab. Krabs, somewhat like the old Jack Benny radio character, values money above all else. He is also an absolute defender of all things Krusty Krab. The way it looks, the way it is run, how the food is cooked and presented, the way customers are taken care of — all of it. Mr. Krabs is, in many ways, the ocean world’s ultimate brand cop.

Following are a few examples of the way Mr. Krabs protects his brand.

  • The Krabby Patty. Amongst all the fast food of the sea, the Krabby Patty and its secret formula are the stuff of legend. Mr. Krabs goes to great lengths to protect not only the secret ingredients to his patties, but also to ensure he has those ingredients on hand at all times to service customers the same addicting food.

Action Step: In many ways, your secret formula is your brand. You must work hard to protect the integrity of your brand and also ensure that it cannot be duplicated by a competitor. Your brand is the secret ingredient in what makes your bank or credit union unique in an ocean of competition.

  • Uniforms. Much to Squidward’s chagrin, there is a required uniform at the Krusty Krab, right down to the nametag. Frequent uniform inspections help ensure all (two) employees are up to scratch.

Action Step: Presenting a unified visual front for all consumers is an important part of your brand integrity. Whatever route your bank or credit union takes (shirt and tie, business casual, logo wear, etc.) make sure that every employee is aware of the dress code and is also held accountable to it.

  • Training. Krusty Krab employees are put through regular training that includes a manual and video depicting exactly what is expected of them as brand ambassadors.

Action Step: Training is not a department. Trading is a mindset that must permeate every level of your bank or credit union. While training may start with human resources on the first day of employment, it must continue in some way with all employees throughout their tenure at your bank or credit union. Employees that stop training stop learning and employees that stop learning stop caring.

All animated fun aside, there are definitely branding lessons for banks and credit unions here. For example, can your consumers expect the same treatment from every employee in every interaction? Is your staff attired in such a way that represents the brand in a positive manner? And are your employees regularly trained to the brand and held accountable to his standards?

If not, you could learn a thing or two from Mr. Krabs and his successful brand experience at the Krusty Krab. Make it the Best (Brand) Day Ever!

Forget the Elevator Speech and Tweet!

Forget the Elevator Speech and Tweet!

For a while we’ve heard about the importance of developing an “elevator speech” for your bank or credit union. The thinking here is that, as a brand ambassador for your financial institution, you should be able at all times to describe who you are and what you do in a few brief moments to anyone. In other words, you should be able to give an eloquent brand statement to a stranger in the amount of time it takes to get between floors in a high-rise elevator.

While there’s nothing wrong with elevator speeches, maybe it’s time to update our thinking. As an avid Twitter user, I can tell you that it is sometimes difficult to condense your thinking into a 140 – character tweet. The beauty of it is, though, the strict size limitation really requires you to pare-down your thinking to the essentials.

Therefore, it’s time to ditch the elevator speech and think more in terms of Twitter when it comes to your financial institution brand.

Using that 140 – character limit, how would you describe your bank or credit union to a complete stranger? With every character precious (including commas, spaces and punctuation) how would you choose to invest your space and words?

When writing your financial institution Twitter manifesto, consider the following:

  • Link back to your bank or credit union website. This is a gimme. It takes little space and zaps the reader right over the plenty of information about your financial institution.
  • Consider hashtags. These symbols give your tweets context and can help solidify brand concepts in just a word or two. Examples might include #memberserviceleader and #fastestloanreplies.
  • Use images. Tweets with images really pop and you definitely want your brand to pop. Images also lead to greater social media engagement. What kind of picture would you include with your brand tweet? The logo? An ecstatic consumer?

Again, there’s nothing wrong with the traditional elevator speech. Just like there’s nothing wrong with the traditional eight track player. Both had their time and place and both are dated in a fun and quirky way. To bring your brand into the digital age, consider exactly how you would tweet and present it to consumers.

Do You Have Brand Blisters?

Do You Have Brand Blisters?

I recently bought a new pair of running shoes. Since I’m also training for a half marathon race, the next run in my training schedule was for 13 miles.

So the first run in my new shoes was for 13 miles. Bad idea. Note to self: never, ever go on a long run when breaking in a pair of new shoes. Needless to say, I developed one heck of a blister on the outside of my left foot (yes, lots of blood was involved).

In regards to size, the blister is not all that large. Yet it is still extremely painful. It’s hard to believe that something so small (a blister) can cause such pain.

It’s the same way with brands, however. Some small things can actually cause quite a lot of damage to your brand. Do you have any brand blisters? Here are a few examples of small “blisters” that create a great deal of damage to your brand:

  • How your bathrooms smell—How your restrooms smell and how clean they are communicates something about your brand. When conducting marketing audits for clients, we routinely do the “bathroom smell test.” One of the best ways to improve your brand is to improve your bathrooms.
  • How your employees answer the phone—People can hear your smile through the phone. Your employees should answer the phone with an engaged voice. They should also answer the phone the same way (you’d be surprised at the lack of consistency we hear with phone greetings). One of the best ways to improve your brand is to improve your phone greetings.
  • How your employees dress—The first impression of your brand is often not a marketing piece but rather an employee. So how are they dressing and how do they look? Sloppy attire and poor personal grooming send the message that your bank or credit union doesn’t really care how its employees appear. One of the best ways to improve your brand is to improve your dress code.

When it comes to branding, details matter. Especially the small details. If you don’t pay significant attention to these details, then you will develop blisters. So make sure you don’t attempt a significant branding project without addressing some potential blisters.

Closing the Awareness Gap

Closing the Awareness Gap

When it comes to awareness most marketing professionals think about brand awareness. How well do consumers know about your financial institution? We conduct focus groups, complete market awareness surveys and study a myriad of other data to better understand if people are aware we even exist.

But when it comes to awareness, there is more than just a brand awareness gap. There often also exists a gap between your existing customers or members and your products and services. In other words, the vast majority of people using your financial institution probably don’t know half of what you offer.

Think about this: what if you didn’t add one single NEW consumer to your bank or credit union this year? But, you got all of your existing members or customers to add just ONE new product or service? What would that do to your bottom line? It would increase significantly.

All simply by closing that awareness gap.

Many financial institutions are obsessed with adding new consumers. While new people are both the “lifeblood” and “fresh blood” for you to mine the reality is you have quite a large pool of existing people to target. From a return on investment (ROI) standpoint, it is also about seven to 10 times cheaper to get one of your existing consumers to add a product or service than it is for you to acquire a new one. Closing that awareness gap internally is a good use of your marketing funds.

Remember this key point: while you know all about all your products your existing consumers do not. Never make the assumption they know all you offer.

So how can you close the awareness gap with your existing members or customers? Here are a few quick and easy steps to take:

  • Teach your staff to close every conversation with “Did you also know we offer ________________? I can tell you how other people just like you are benefiting from it.”
  • Place a marketing message on every single piece of material that leaves your financial institution. Whether it is teller receipts, e-mail footers, statements, letters, etc. have a place to highlight either a product benefit or a testimonial (note: you don’t market product features).
  • Market checking accounts to people who have auto loans with you and promote auto loans to people who have checking accounts with you. Both of those products are “sticky” and if they have one with you they are more inclined to have both of them with you.

Not all of your existing consumers you talk with are going to take you up on your offers. But if five, 10 or even 15 percent did that would boost your bottom line significantly. I have heard many a consumer say, “I had no idea you offered XYZ product.”

The average consumer has 10 financial products and services spread across more than four financial institutions. You need to capture some of that business. And you can do so by closing the awareness gap.

Five Ways to Improve Your Brand Today

Five Ways to Improve Your Brand Today

In today’s fast and furious age, we are always looking for quick ways to improve. Fast diet plans that guarantee you can drop 20 pounds in two weeks. Quick exercise regimens that offer ways you can move from the couch to a 5K in a month.

In a similar vein, last year I wrote a post called Five Ways To Improve Your Marketing Today. As the title implies, these suggestions are designed as action steps you could implement right away to see positive and immediate results with your marketing.

Improving your branding does not quite work that way. In fact, as Tom Asaker says in A Clear Eye For Branding, “branding is an ongoing process of renewal.” There is no such thing as a branding “project” because you are always doing branding at your credit union or bank.

Most branding efforts take months and even years to fully implement. Branding is strategic. However, there are some immediate steps you can take that will yield positive improvements sooner rather than later.

Here are five ways to improve your branding starting today:

  • Talk about your brand with your staff—Every single time employees gather for a routine meeting (all staff meeting, branch or department meetings, etc.) you should start the conversation with your brand. For example, if it’s a branch meeting carve out time for employees to answer the question, “how did you live the brand this past month?” Or if it’s some type of management team meeting, ask “how will the decisions we make today impact our brand?” What is not talked about is not addressed. So talk about your brand.
  • Desterilize your branch—Most financial institutions are sterile. In technical terms they are “banky.” You don’t have to completely remodel your branches to have a powerful impact. It’s amazing what a few bright colors can do. You can even take some simple steps like offering free WiFi, comfortable couches, charging stations or a modest kids play area. Visuals and looks matter. So spruce up and brighten up your branches.
  • Tell brand stories—Your brand has stories to tell. These include ways you’ve impacted your consumers’ lives, ways you’ve impacted the community and ways you’ve made financial dreams come true. One practical step you can take immeditately is to start collecting brand stories on a regular basis. Make sure you systemize story and testimonial collection. People connect with stories, not products. So start telling stories.
  • Conduct brand surveys—Branding involves research. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend tons of money or time analyzing and crunching numbers. It’s amazing the kind of information you can gather through just doing a simple questionnaire through Survey Monkey. Brand questions to ask include, “What words describe our financial institution?” “When you think of banking, what comes to mind?” and “ What makes us different?” Knowing how your own customers or members perceive your brand is valuable data. So ask people what they think about your brand.
  • Improve your bathrooms—Branding touches everything, including your bathrooms. When we do marketing audits for our clients, we actually do bathroom smell tests. That’s right: how your restrooms smell communicates something about your brand. Make sure you use two-ply toilet paper, use a nice smelling aroma scent, and clean the bathrooms more than just once a day. Your restrooms are actually a form of a brand ambassador. So take care of your bathrooms.

There you have it. Five things you can do today to immediately improve your branding. These are simple steps that provide powerful results.

Brand Beginnings Matter

Brand Beginnings Matter

“Good seasons start with good beginnings.”
—Sparky Anderson, Hall of Fame Baseball Coach

How you start matters. Whether it is the first of baseball season (like now), the first few miles of a marathon (when you can sprint too fast), the first words to your kids in the morning (encouraging or discouraging), beginnings are critical. They set the tone and they offer direction.

Brand beginnings matter as well—especially with your new employees. There is only one chance you have to make a great first impression with your new hires. And that is in the first few hours and days they spend with your organization.

What is the first thing you have them do when they arrive for their very first day? Is it complete a bunch of H.R. paperwork, read policy and procedure manuals or watch a boring training video? If that is the case, you just blew a prime branding opportunity. Remember, it is your staff that lives the brand every day. The tone and example you set with new hires is what they will carry to their job.

We often talk about “onboarding” new members or customers. But what about how we “onboard” our new employees. Developing brand standards for how you initially present your financial institution to new hires is critical to your brand’s success.

According to Scott Bedbury, in his outstanding book A New Brand World, Starbucks requires all new employees to attend Brew U., where you learn all the ins and outs of the Starbucks culture, value and brand.

At Neighbors Credit Union in Baton Rogue, Louisiana, they literally roll out a red carpet for their new hires and have tenured employees cheer the new people.

When strategically rebranding one of our clients recently, we spent a great deal of time during a brand workshop with the executive team discussing their new hire onboarding process. They changed the new hire process to now include a unique welcome, an overview of their brand and strategy, and having lunch on the first day with an executive team member. They won’t turn to H.R. training and paperwork until the afternoon. That first morning will all be about brand, culture, strategy and the connection their job has with the brand’s success.

Concerned about social media and its negative effect in the workplace? Some financial institutions turn that negative into a positive on the first day by having new hires take “selfies” of themselves at their new work station and post it to their social media channels.

The key is to look for creative ways to “wow” your new hires.

Many coaches exhort their players to “finish strong.” While finishing strong is certainly important, when it comes to your brand and your new employees you also need to “begin strong.”

People Don’t Choose a Bank Because of an Ad

People Don’t Choose a Bank Because of an Ad

Remember the days when one ad would send consumers flying into your branches ready to open an account? We don’t, either, because it doesn’t work that way. If anything, getting consumers’ attention is harder than it used to be because advertising is everywhere – online, offline, on our devices, on the side of the road, on grocery store receipts and even on gas pumps. That old rule of seven, which suggests consumers have to be exposed to a marketing message at least seven times before taking action, has easily increased to 777 exposures if not more.

Does that mean you shouldn’t advertise? Absolutely not. Even the most recognizable brands in the world advertise because they want to remain top-of-mind. Coca-Cola wants to be the first brand consumers think of when consumers get thirsty. But Coca-Cola doesn’t put all of its worth in one ad, and it relies on more than marketing to grow and succeed.

Here are some tips to help you succeed.

Understand why people switch financial institutions. Most studies point to life circumstances as the primary reason consumers switch financial institutions – marriage, divorce, new job, etc. The one they choose is either convenient, has been recommended by friends or family or is a financial institution with which they already have a relationship. That’s according to a study conducted recently by Bank Clarity, which also indicates that nearly 80% of consumers are unlikely to switch at all.

Spend more time focusing on existing customers or members. Consumers have to know you, trust you and actually need what you are selling before they respond to your marketing efforts. Every financial institution has a captive audience of people who already fit that description – existing customers or members. How much time and money do you actually spend marketing to them versus new consumers? MarketMetrics.com says selling to existing customers is 50% easier than selling to new ones. Existing clients convert at 60-70% compared to new prospects at 5-20%. Engage those people at every touch point.

See the March issue of our monthly newsletter for additional tips to help you succeed. Also in the newsletter, learn the right way to respond to negative consumers on social media. Before social media, consumers would actually pick up a phone and call customer service to resolve an issue. Now, they would rather complain about it on social media to an people who can’t fix the problem. Learn how you can.

The Cool Factor of the Justice Brand

The Cool Factor of the Justice Brand

This blog entry authored by Taylor W. Wells,
Communications Director for On The Mark Strategies

As a single dad, you learn to develop a thick skin. However, a couple of things have always and still do terrify me. And both have to do with little girls. One is hair. Beautiful braids, pigtails and other styles completely elude my pitiful fumble fingers. It’s ponytail or bust for me.

The other is clothing. If you ever want to know true fear, as a father, walk into a large big-box clothing store and try to find things that will fit your daughters. Boys sizes I kind of get. But little girls? It’s a mystery to me.

That’s one of the reasons I was glad to find the Justice brand. Billed as a one-stop-shop for trendy styles for tween and young teen girls, Justice is now my go-to place for young ladies clothing.

And why is that? With all the many choices out there?

It’s not price. While reasonable, Justice certainly isn’t the cheapest.

It’s not location. There’s only one store in my town and it is a twenty-minute drive.

It’s not digital access. While their website looks fine, I’ve never made a purchase on it.

For me, it all comes down to the brand experience. When I walked into Justice, the staff there knows me by name, knows my daughters and their respective sizes and knows roughly the budget I’m willing to spend. It is precisely that kind of consumer engagement and bewitching brand that keeps me (and my dollars) coming back.

For most people, the world of banking is equally puzzling and, sometimes, scary. When consumers don’t understand something, like money, they tend to shy away from it, sometimes making poor choices. Your bank or credit union has an awesome opportunity to fill this knowledge gap and provide consumers with a Justice-style brand experience within the walls of your financial institution.

This goes beyond just the “know your consumers by name” application. That’s pretty much brand engagement 101. You must go deeper than that. You have to care enough about your consumers to actually get to know them, what they need and actually anticipate what they might need before they themselves know it. That’s one of the reasons why the sales reps at Justice are so terrific at cross-selling me on things. You must also work to develop a culture of retention, in which stellar frontline staff are kept in their positions and amply rewarded for their production. Having a revolving door at the consumer relationship specialist position is a recipe for disaster. Consider that application for your bank or credit union front-line staff. If they knew their consumers, really knew them, how much deeper could your overall product penetration be?

Branding and employee retention work hand-in-hand. If you have a strong brand, word will get around in your workplace community and qualified candidates will want to work for you. And it is these qualified candidates who are more likely to stay onboard and become seasoned, long-term employees that can then, in turn, deliver consistent brand experiences to your consumers.

If the sales reps at Justice simply sat behind the counter, refusing to make eye contact or help in any way, I would have left quickly and searched out another store. But they didn’t and the rest is history. To realize similar consumer engagement and brand exposure success in your bank or credit union, fine-tune your skills at consumer engagement training and qualified employee retention.