Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Five Bank Marketing Leadership Takeaways from the ABA School of Bank Marketing Management

Lance Kessler introduced a new subject to the ABA School of Bank Marketing Management (SBMM) this week... Marketing Leadership.

A few months ago, he asked me and two other marketing experts to be on a panel for the class. I rejected the moniker "marketing expert". I may be an expert on a couple of topics, but marketing is not one of them. But I applaud Lance and the school for putting a finance and strategy wonk on the panel to get some outside perspectives on how the marketing function can be a significant contributor to the evolution of our respective banks from what we were to what we can be.

The class was a combination of lecture, questionnaire, and panel. So there was not a list of key takeaways displayed in a slick PowerPoint presentation. But I was taking notes on key items identified as critical takeaways for marketing leadership. Unfortunately, I left my notes back in Atlanta. So you, my readers, are stuck with my memory.

Key takeaways for marketing leadership:

1. Speak the language of the C-Suite. As much as marketers read and discuss the increased number of "impressions" they get from a witty Facebook post, your CFO could care less. If you talk social media impressions, you better know how that translates to greater unaided brand awareness, and ultimately more at-bats for your sales force that leads to greater balances than you would have otherwise achieved without the increased impressions. Tell the CEO/CFO how you will drive volume, increase margin, or drive down costs, and their ears will spike like a German Shepard that heard a rabbit shuffling in a thicket. Otherwise, check the marketing-speak at the door.

2. Take your CFO to lunch. But first take heed of (1) above. Building internal relationships will be critical to improving the marketer's influence on the future direction of your bank. Having stronger relationships with bank executives will give you the opportunity to demonstrate you do more than run the ad budget and branch merchandising. 

3.  Be analytical. Many if not most marketers got into the profession to leverage their creative nature. But the marketing function is evolving to be more analytical. Correlating organizational actions to outcomes based on statistical analysis gives the marketer far greater internal credibility than a discussion on how different primary colors impact the senses. You're going to have to trust me on this one.

4. Don't wait to be asked for help. It grates me when marketers focus on retail account acquisition when the bank's strategy is to grow commercial customers. I have not yet concluded that this is because it is within the marketer's comfort zone or that commercial bankers simply don't think they need marketing's help. Maybe a combination of both. If marketers' want to be an integral part of executing bank strategy, then go to the senior commercial banker and show them how marketing will be helping them achieve their objectives.

 5. Grow revenue. Position marketing expenditures as the fuel that grows organizational revenue. Having a well thought out campaign that shows multiple financial outcomes should result in funding. Delivering on the results improves your internal credibility and will make it easier to fund your next project, reducing the need to "whine for dollars" (i.e. can I puhleeezzzz have $50,000 for a direct mail campaign?).

Five is all that my memory will allow. There was a lot of great discussion, and marketers had excellent questions for panelists. 

What else is critical to marketing leadership?

~ Jeff

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Barriers to Entry In Banking Spell Opportunity. But Do We Seize It?

There are numerous and significant barriers to entry in banking. Regulation, capital requirements, competition, and the concentration of customers at the largest institutions have all contributed to only one bank charter being granted over the past three years. 

But I rarely hear of opportunity as a result of high barriers to entry in bank strategy sessions. I mostly hear lamentations and gnashing of teeth over the sluggish economy, aggressive regulatory environment, and irrational competition.

We are missing an opportunity, in my opinion. Here are the 10 strategic issues banks should address to position themselves to take advantage of high barriers to entry:

1.  We have thousands of customers, but do we understand who they are and what they want? Don’t believe me, ask your head of retail or commercial for an analysis of your customer base, including trend. If you get it immediately, good for you. I have my doubts.

2.  Do we have employees that grip old habits with white knuckles?  And, if yes, have failed to move them forward or out?

3.  We speak of relationships, but have we defined in detail what that means?

4.  We spend tens of millions in operating expenses, but do we direct expenditures to strategic priorities? Or have we failed to identify strategic priorities?

5.  We talk of service, but have we communicated service expectations?

6.  We expect customer contact staff to reach out to customers, but do we train them to do so?

7.  We speak of sales, but what percent of our staff have sales responsibilities?

8.  We spend millions on technology. But breaking it down, does our budget look like we are more focused on replacing Windows XP than building the distribution network of the future?

9.  Do we focus more on building the bank of the future or making budget?

10.  Do we identify the bank of the future, and the bank we want to become? Or do we remain some slightly modified version of the bank we were in 1950.

It is time for bold thinking to break from our past. We can no longer be some slightly modified version of what we once were. If we don’t bust our business model, someone else will.

And hey, I need community banks to thrive. So do your communities. So let’s get to it.

~ Jeff