Your customers have something to say. Are you listening?

 

By now, you’ve probably heard quite a bit about social listening and its importance. You’ve probably heard, too, that social listening and social monitoring are — despite the fact that they sound like they’re very much the same thing — are actually very different. If you’ve missed the discussions about the difference between the two, here it is in a nutshell: Social monitoring is about the “what”, and social listening is about the “why.” 

What does this mean? Social media monitoring is all about collecting data and monitoring metrics such as brand mentions, hashtags that are industry relevant, competitor mentions, and industry trends. Social listening builds on this data.  After all, what use is good data if you don’t put it to good use? That “good use” can take a number of forms… from an action as simple as posting a response to a customer complaint to taking a stand on an important issue, such as the 2018 announcement made by Dick’s Sporting Goods that the company would no longer sell assault-style weapons.

Not to make this more complicated than it needs to be, there’s yet another facet to social monitoring and listening; it’s called social media sentiment. According to HubSpot, “social media sentiment analysis is a key part of social media listening because it helps you understand how people feel about you and your competitors. Instead of just counting the number of times your brand gets mentioned, you look at what you can learn from social conversations to drive real business results. Being aware of shifts in social sentiment also allows you to respond right away to unexpected changes.”

My apologies.  My intent was to simplify things, but I’m afraid I’m not doing very well. My point is that the thinking behind social monitoring, listening, and sentiment monitoring is a very simple one… a basic tenet of solid marketing. The principle that all good marketing is a conversation.

Like any thoughtful marketing tactic, your social media marketing must be more than content output. The beauty of social media marketing — one of them, anyway — is that it is more effective than just about any tactic in providing an environment for that conversation. And a conversation is what consumers are looking for in social media.

Now, wait a minute, you might be saying… isn’t conversational marketing really about live chat tools, like chatbots and messenger apps like WhatsApp? The answer is yes.  And, no.  

Yes, consumers are certainly warming to AI-driven customer service in the form of chats. In fact, I think I read just recently that somewhere around 80% of consumers would rather interact with a chatbot than a human being.  (Which I personally find a big unnerving). This doesn’t mean that your social media marketing can’t be conversational marketing, especially given the social listening tools that are out there today.  With the proper tools, your social can be conversational, and that’s exactly what you need if you’re going to build and maintain relationships with your brand.

In addition to its beauty in providing a forum for conversation, your social media can do a whole lot more through listening.  You can listen, for instance, to what your competitors are doing.  Are they offering new products or services?  Are they discounting?  Keeping an eye on them obviously provides you with the opportunity to respond directly… and quickly.  Another benefit is the ability to watch how consumers respond to competitor messaging. Perhaps they’re looking unfavorably on a new product that a competitor is offering.  You’ll know not to make the same mistake.  By measuring engagement with your post, you can more accurately gauge what type of content your audience is interested in.  Posts around products, for instance, may not glean much engagement while posts around your participation in charitable community events do. There’s no better way to keep a conversation going than to interact with members of your audience by discussing topics that interest them.

Now, we talked a bit earlier about tools. Last but not least, when it comes to the beauties of social listening, there are a host of options out there that can make it easy for the very lean-staffed bank marketing department. I found this HubSpot blog on the subject extremely useful. Of course, each option comes with its own unique set of benefits… from simply providing you with the ability to schedule posts across all of your social media platforms with basic analytics to “managing your entire social strategy from a single dashboard.”  Of course, as always, you get what you pay for as the saying goes, and these tools are no exception; pricing ranges from absolutely free to nearly $900/month.  The good news for community banks, I think, is that there are solid options here, enabling you to put a listening strategy in place “without breaking the bank,” as it were!

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

About Bank Marketing Center 

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that topical, compelling communication with customers; the messaging — developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the thinking behind effective marketing communication — that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. In short, build your brand. 

To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to social media and in branch signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  You can also contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or via email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com

 

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Video banking was hot for a while. What happened?

Say you’re not feeling terribly well and think you need a doctor’s visit. What do you do? It used to be that you got on the phone and called your healthcare provider, made an appointment, and sometime later, showed up at the provider’s office. Now what do you do?  You get on your phone or home computer/laptop and onto your healthcare provider’s website, make an appointment, and sometime later, your provider “pings” you and you visit with him or her while sitting on your living room couch.

I’m wondering… if I can visit with my doctor via video, why can’t I visit with my financial advisor or loan officer in the same way?  While it seemed to be a hot topic just a few years back, there seems to be surprisingly little discussion of video banking these days. The “digital transformation,” and how critical it is to the community bank’s survival, is still in the news daily, with bankers being warned on a regular basis by tech providers that if they fail to offer a totally automated, lightning-fast online banking experience that they’ll surely find themselves on some substandard-digital-banking-experience scrap heap. And, out of a job. So, why so little interest in taking your digital transformation a step further with video banking? Especially when, according to a Forrester report, adults surveyed said that they would much rather do their banking on their laptop or phone than visit with a person at a branch?

Given the digital transformation, and the need that customers have for real, face-to-face guidance when it comes to financial products, why aren’t more community banks offering video banking? Wouldn’t it be great if customers could have a video call with a bank staff member, using their desktop, tablet, or smartphone and get advice from a financial advisor while at home, at the office, or on the go? According to Deloitte, three quarters of U.S. retail bank consumers want their banks to provide financial advice or guidance, and sixty percent of consumers told Deloitte they want that guidance delivered digitally.1

Just recently, a Windstream Enterprise survey reported that 72 percent of C-suite executives indicated that video banking is a critical area for their business and that attracting/retaining digital customers is also a top priority. Imagine a highly valued customer has a quick question for her favorite banker. In the modern era, this customer would rather meet face-to-face but doesn’t want to worry about the health risks or travel time of visiting the branch. Rather than pick up the phone and call, this customer prefers to discuss their account question over a video call.2

So, why isn’t video banking more prevalent, when nearly 75 percent of C-suite executives see it as important? I’m not quite sure. What are the downsides? A few years back, that obstacle seemed to be technology, but the technology is certainly here now. Is it security and compliance? Could be, given the myriad number of regulations that banks face when implementing technology of any kind. As usual, the restrictions and constraints put on this type of technology have evolved as fast as the technology itself. Here are just a few that apply to the use of video banking.

  • Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act: This law requires financial companies to share information-sharing practices with customers and safeguard sensitive customer data.
  • Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA): This act’s non-discrimination requirements apply to interactions by video, as well as those in person.  Bank Secrecy Act: Large and suspicious transactions don’t have to occur in-branch to fall under this law’s reach. Many records around certain transactions must be maintained for up to five years regardless of how the transactions are made.
  • Interagency Guidelines Establishing Standards for Safety and Soundness: This regulation includes several components requiring strict operational and managerial standards for internal controls and information systems and follows safeguards to protect the security, confidentiality, and integrity of customer information.

Back in 2018, Businesswire reported on just how much consumers love video banking. “In addition, those organizations that have a fully deployed video banking service cite positive customer/member experiences and improved perception as the main benefits of the initiative. Survey findings highlight that:

  • 65 percent report an increased perception among members that their organization is an innovator.
  • 56 percent report increased customer/member satisfaction.
  • 56 percent report faster customer/member service.
  • 42 percent report better customer/member intimacy.
  • 25 percent report increased customer/member loyalty.
  • 21 percent report that video banking is a driver in recruiting new customers/members3

So, what happened? Is the seeming lack of interest due to cost, the challenges of implementing a new technology, the fear of a compliance misstep? I don’t know. But I do know that video banking can bring customers, and community banks, the best of both worlds: the convenience of a digital experience and the personal connection that only community banks can offer. 

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that topical, compelling communication with customers; the messaging — developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the thinking behind effective marketing communication — that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. In short, build your brand.

To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to in-branch brochures and signage, visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  

 

1Deloitte. “A Vision for the Future of Retail Banking” 2022.

2Windstream Enterprise. “Is your financial institution compliant when using video chat?” June 28, 2022. 

3Businesswire. 2018. “Global Survey: Online and In-Branch Video Banking Experiences Yield High Consumer Satisfaction.

 

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Every personal relationship has its price. Are you willing to pay it?

Personal relationships are built on trust, right?  And trust is a pretty simple concept. Or, is it?

When it comes to banking, trust — as we all know — is predicated on a consumer’s belief and expectation that they can rely on their bank to do what’s right. And maybe it’s this notion of doing what’s right that has become murky waters for not just financial institutions, but businesses in every industry. 

We all know, too, that trust is critical to success; for banks, in particular. Banks, after all, have a more important relationship with their customers than other businesses have; a relationship where an individual puts their quality of life and financial future in the hands of an institution.  

Of course, over the years, banks have been laser-focused on building trusted relationships and rightly so; the ability to own a trusted relationship with customers is a tremendous “arrow in the quiver” for community banks, one that is vital in their fight to fend off the neobanks and the big nationals 

But consumers seem to have a tough time with trust and, as a result, a lack of trust in institutions has been with us for quite some time now. A few years back, a Gartner study that focused on trust in institutions stated that “across every area of external interaction in a consumers’ life that we’ve tested for, from how people perceive their family and community, to how they perceive big brands and the government, trust in those areas is down. We are simply living in an environment of diminished trust.1

I’m wondering… how are we doing with trust these days?  Last year, the Chicago Booth/Kellogg School Financial Trust Index reported “a new wave that indicates a decrease in public trust in financial institutions to approximately 31.3 percent, after reaching its highest level in 2019, at 33.3 percent.2 Not great news, is it? 

Why is trust so hard?

Nearly one in three people don’t trust their bank. I ask myself, why do there seem to be so many issues around banks, trust and whether or not they’re deserving of trust, especially when banks seem to have made such tremendous strides in building personal relationships with the customers? I think it comes down to the expectations that consumers now have when it comes to their bank “doing what’s right.” 

Edelman’s Trust Barometer finds that with the rise of trust in business comes the expectation that companies also stand for something and use their influence for good. “A whopping 86% of consumers expect CEOs to publicly speak out about one or more social issues, including the impact of job automation, societal issues or local community issues. Especially in times of uncertainty, we know that purpose-driven brands drive trust and loyalty and consumers seek out brands that play an active role in improving society.”

Personalization. The double-edged sword.

As banks focus on personalization and strive to build personal relationships with customers,  the expectations that customers have in this relationship have become far more personal. These expectations are now built not just on products, and services, but a sharing of beliefs. And those beliefs include where banks stand on social issues.

Back in 2020, in The Financial Brand’s article, “Banking Can’t Remain Silent on Social Issues,” the prevailing wisdom seemed to be that financial institutions should take a stand on social issues. “The question becomes, can the banking industry continue to avoid taking a public stance on sensitive issues like Black Lives Matter despite the potential of polarizing key stakeholders? More importantly, is it time for financial institutions to invest in initiatives that can bring about change?” Then, just recently in the same publication, I read this article (inspired by Chase and Kanye West) on the subject: “Yet while banks may want to take a stand on important issues, they may have more to lose than they gain in doing so, Bradley Hecht, Chief Customer Officer at RepTrak, tells The Financial Brand. Hecht notes that — unless a bank has a long-standing position on a particular issue and historical context — “the blowback is typically not worth it.”

So, where do banks stand? I guess the real question is, where do banks stand on taking a stand? Financial institutions, community banks in particular, need to decide just how personal they want their consumer relationships to be. And, if truly desirous of a personal relationship, must be prepared to show their customers that they are not only trustworthy when it comes to providing reliable products and services, but that they also share their customers’ beliefs. That won’t be easy as belief systems are far from universal. 

But this is the new, personalized-banking-experience world that we now live in. Is the potential “blowback” worth it? In my opinion, it absolutely is. In fact, banks have no choice. It’s the price that comes with the personal relationships they’ve worked so hard to create. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject

About Bank Marketing Center 

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that topical, compelling communication with customers; the messaging — developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the thinking behind effective marketing communication — that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. In short, build your brand. 

To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to social media and in branch signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  You can also contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or via email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com

 

1Tim Barlow. September 2020. “Proactively build trust through a seamless digital experience.” https://blogs.gartner.com/tim-barlow/proactively-build-trust-through-a-seamless-digital-banking-experience/

2Chicago Booth/Kellogg School Financial Trust Index. 2021. http://www.financialtrustindex.org/

 

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Why you should add a student athlete to your marketing team.

Influencer marketing has become a critical component of social media marketing campaigns and that trend is likely to continue. You can see it in the numbers; the spend on influencers has grown from $1.7 billion in 2016 to $10.24 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $84.89 billion in 2028.1  Why? According to StatSocial, “influencer endorsements carry more weight and can influence their followers’ purchasing decisions compared to more traditional marketing tactics due to the relationships and trust they create.”2 

An Influencer for Every Need

There’s a range of Influencer “types,” along with a range of followers. Micro-influencers have smaller audiences — typically have between 5,000 and 30,000 followers — and can reasonably ask for a dollar amount in the low three figures per post. Counterintuitive as it may seem, many brands prefer working with these small-scale promoters because they typically have higher levels of audience engagement. There’s probably another reason, too. Bigger-time, “major leaguer” influencers can have hundreds of thousands of followers, if not more. And the money is huge. Just how huge? An influencer with 1 million Instagram followers will make $10,000 per post. If you are an influencer with more than 1 million followers, you can charge anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 per post or campaign. Look at Christiano Ronaldo, for instance. The international football star turned celebrity influencer gets anywhere between $800K - $1M for a single post.

As The Financial Brand recently pointed out, deep-pocketed brands such as Current and Amex have jumped on the influencer train, but social media stars like Ronaldo, and Shaquille O’Neal for Amex (is there any product he WON’T hawk, by the way?), are obviously quite pricey, and out of reach for local community banks looking to give their social media marketing campaigns some celebrity glitz. But thanks to a change in National College Athletic Association (NCAA) rules, there are now athletes out there who are affordable.  And, becoming quite effective as celebrity endorsers. They’re college student athletes.

What NIL can mean for community banks. 

For years, student athletes were forbidden from using their “NIL” — that is name, image, and likeness — to make money. That changed about a year ago, when the NCAA decided that Division 1, 2, and 3 student athletes could use their name, image, and likeness o make money. And many are finding that there is quick and easy cash in “influencing” followers on social media platforms.

All of this is driven largely by what’s become known as the “Creator Economy.” What is it? Signalfire, a company that specializes in “creating creators” defines it this way:  “The Creator Economy is defined as the class of businesses built by over 50 million independent content creators, curators, and community builders including social media influencers, bloggers, and videographers, plus the software and finance tools designed to help them with growth and monetization.”  The company goes on to tell us that more than 50 million people around the world consider themselves creators and that this has become the fastest-growing type of small business. Sadly, according to Signalfire, “a survey found that more American kids want to be a YouTube star (29%) than an astronaut (11%) when they grow up.” Okay, granted I never really had my heart set on becoming an astronaut, but I do find this statistic more than just a bit disappointing and not just a little disturbing.

I could kick myself.

I’m a bit saddened too, that I was born a few decades too early to cash in on the influencer bandwagon. Back when I was a kicker on the Auburn University football team, the NCAA would have given me a kick — right out of school and off the team — if I had accepted money of any kind, least of all, thousands of dollars for some sort of product endorsement. I think I would have made a great influencer. I imagine a short video that shows me kicking one of those critical, game-winning field goals, for instance. I have a big smile on my face as I enthusiastically extol the virtues of my Nike footwear. I wonder, though, if I would have stayed in school and gotten my degree if I’d discovered that I could make a living endorsing stuff on social media! (Of course, none of this was even possible as social media didn’t even exist at that time).

Endorsers can be powerful partners, especially with a younger demographic. And, as a community bank, isn’t this the demographic that you need to compete with the neo banks and big nationals? And with that, build your share of wallet? These are the individuals who may not be the most revenue-generating customers at first, but will grow into your revenue-generating products such as loans and investment vehicles. And they’re much more likely to listen to (and trust) someone they can consider “real,” (like a well-respected local college athlete) than a corporate marketing department. 

So, who knows?  You may have an influencer right in your own backyard… or on the track, the court, or the football stadium of a nearby college. Now might be a good time to start looking.

About Bank Marketing Center 

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that topical, compelling communication with customers; the messaging — developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the thinking behind effective marketing communication — that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. In short, build your brand. 

 

To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to social media and in branch signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  You can also contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or via email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. #bankmarketing #communitybankmarketing ​​#influencer

1Jacinda Santora. Influencer Marketing Hub. 2022. “18 Influencer marketing trends to watch in 2022.” https://influencermarketinghub.com/influencer-marketing-trends/
2StatSocial. August 25, 2022. “Influencer marketing. How it works and why it’s so effective.” https://www.statsocial.com/influencer-marketing-how-it-works-and-why-it-is-so-effective

 

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"The check’s in the mail”… and so is your personal information.

As if community banks needed another reason to encourage customers to “go digital,” i.e., use online bill pay and e-statements, here is yet another one.  In our last blog we talked about this being the season to overspend…. Now, it’s also the season to be judicious about what you put in the mail… not just the USPS’s blue boxes, but that mailbox at the end of your driveway, as well.

 In a press release issued just a week or so ago, and posted on POSTALTIMES.com, the USPS issued this stark warning: “Don’t use post office drop boxes on Sundays or holidays!”

If there really and truly is no such thing as bad press, I must give creds to the USPS public relations team. Over the last 6 months or so, there has been no end to the craziness at the USPS, a branch of the federal government that was once hailed as one of our most respected agencies. In fact, it was just about 6 months ago when we posted about the USPS getting into banking.  Unfortunately, the USPS isn’t ready to provide banking services.  In fact, the Postal Service seems unable to perform even the most basic of services; that being the safe, timely, and efficient delivery of mail.

To be fair, it’s not entirely the Postal Service’s fault. Fraudulent activity is at an all-time high, especially as it concerns the financial services industry and yes, some of that activity is mail related. One such mail related crime is check washing… something relatively new to me but, apparently, a huge problem. I found this on the United States Postal Inspection Service website:

“Have you ever sent a check that was cashed, but the recipient said it never arrived? You may be the victim of check washing. Check washing scams involve changing the payee names and often the dollar amounts on checks and fraudulently depositing them. Occasionally, these checks are stolen from mailboxes and washed in chemicals to remove the ink. Postal Inspectors recover more than $1 billion in counterfeit checks and money orders every year.”

In its press release, the USPS explains that the collection bins have become hot spots for criminals looking to steal identities. They target the blue collection boxes after the last collection of the day or during Sundays and federal holidays knowing that the volume of contents will be at its peak.

So, what should customers do? The USPS advises, "If customers simply used retail service or inside wall drop slots to send their U.S. Mail, instead of depositing it to sit outside overnight or through the weekend, blue collection boxes would not be as enticing after business hours to mail thieves for identity theft and check-washing schemes."  They go onto to say that if you happen to see someone who does not look like a postal worker with both arms stuck in the dropdown chute (I’m kidding about this part) that you should report it to your local police or call postal inspectors at 877-876-2455.  Good advice.

But what should community banks advise? I think they should get this message out to their customers: Forget the mail and go digital. Mail fraud is a huge problem. Consumers reported losing more than $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021, a 70% increase over the prior year, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Almost 2.8 million people filed a fraud complaint, an annual record. 

Why should your customers risk having their personal information stolen or becoming a victim of check washing when every banking service they could possibly want – from depositing checks and transferring funds to paying bills quickly and securely — can be accessed through your website or via your mobile app? Seems pretty simple, and compelling, to me.

About Bank Marketing Center 

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that topical, compelling communication with customers; the messaging — developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the thinking behind effective marketing communication — that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. In short, build your brand. Like these International Fraud Awareness Week campaigns, for instance, which you'll find in our portal and will help you get the message out to your customers quickly and easily.

To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to social media and in branch signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  You can also contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or via email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. #bankmarketing #communitybankmarketing

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This holiday, market your goodwill.

 

 

 ‘Tis the season, isn’t it? So, what does this holiday season hold for consumers? From here, it seems like there’s a perfect holiday season storm brewing… that is, not a lot of comfort and joy. I consider myself an optimist, but this holiday is going to present a confluence of challenges: an impending financial crisis (according to some, anyway) in early 2023, mounting consumer debt ($16.5 trillion this year versus $13.8 in 2019), rising interest rates (prime rate of 6.25%, nearly double from this past March), fraudulent activity like we’ve never seen before (1.4 million cases of identity theft have been reported to the FTC thus far this year)… hmmm, what else? Oh, an overwhelming consumer desire to spread holiday cheer with gift giving that they truly cannot afford. What’s a community bank to do?

I read these words of wisdom in a recent article posted by The Financial Brand: “Associating a financial institution’s values with consumers’ values is always good practice — and the holidays activate people’s value systems like nothing else. It pays to remember, however, that one of those values is frugality. In 2022, many bank customers and credit union members are shopping in a state of financial anxiety. Easing their fears — and starting early — with cost- and credit-sensitive products may be the most valuable thing a marketing strategy can do during the holidays.”

So, again, what is a community bank to do? In terms of marketing — and, of course, that’s always the lens through which I view everything — I’m reminded of the holiday film, Miracle on 34th Street and the Macy’s/Gimbel’s strategy. If I recall, in a nutshell, that strategy was centered on the belief that goodwill (especially when folks are thinking “goodwill toward men”) is the most effective kind of brand marketing.

I’m not saying that you should go out and actively tell your customers that they’d be better served by another bank. What I am saying is — and this is a basic tenet of marketing, right? — that you should consider a short-term sacrifice (if it comes to that) in order to realize a long-term gain. Sure, sometimes marketing is about taking the short view, i.e., product promotions, but by and large it is, or at least it should be, about the long game.

Yes, you could market, as The Financial Brand article suggests, your “cost- and credit-sensitive products.” Not a bad idea, I think. But I think I might take it even a step further. As we approach the holiday season, which is right about now, don’t market products. Instead, market your concern about your customers’ financial well-being. After all, isn’t the empathy on the part of community bankers what separates community banks from neo-banks and the big nationals?

Instead of pushing those cost- and credit-sensitive products, why not encourage your customers to take the long view and “shop responsibly”? Use cash only, for instance, instead of adding more to an already burdensome credit card bill. Research shows that we Americans spend a lot of money at holiday time, and often add to our debt in the process. According to the latest data from the National Retail Federation (NRF), holiday sales will total $1.45 to $1.47 trillion during the November through January timeframe.  It also shows that American consumers spend an average of $997.73 on gifts and holiday items each Christmas; nearly two car payments for the average American. 13% spent $3000 or more. And when many don’t have $400 set aside for an emergency, $1000 is a pretty big chunk of change.  A just-released MoneyGeek survey reveals that over a quarter of Americans are currently living with regret over their last year’s holiday spending and are still paying off 2021 holiday debts. 65% of them used credit cards. 

Based on what we know of the past, we can be pretty sure that many Americans will be buying on credit; perhaps going the BNPL route, figuring that making four “easy” payments is better than plunking down the entire amount at once on each of their purchases. Or, telling themselves that when that first credit card bill comes that they’ll pay the entire amount. Not a good idea. With a tough 2023 heading our way, now is the time to market goodwill instead of products and really help your customers manage their financial futures. While you may not sell them on a new credit card, loan, or HELOC, for instance, you’ll sell them on something much more important: Your brand. And there is no putting a price on that

As a final thought, what can we all do this holiday as an alternative to over-spending on holiday gifts? Spend some time helping those in the community who are less fortunate than we are.

About Bank Marketing Center 

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that topical, compelling communication with customers; the messaging — developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the thinking behind effective marketing communication — that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. In short, build your brand. Like these November observances, for instance, which you'll find in our portal and will help you get the message out to your customers quickly and easily.

 To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to social media and in branch signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  You can also contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or via email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. #bankmarketing #communitybankmarketing

 

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The future of personalized messaging is here. AI-driven SMS.

Like many of you, I’ve been doing a bit of reading on the subject of SMS marketing. It’s a pretty hot topic. After all, at first blush it seems like an absolute no-brainer for financial institutions and for a whole host of reasons. Take this endorsement of it in The Financial Brand’s article, “The Untapped Power of SMS Marketing in Banking”: “When it comes to direct marketing, no channel is more immediate or impactful than SMS marketing. 68% of people say checking, sending, and answering text messages is the activity that they’re most engaged with on their phones throughout the day. In addition, 82% of consumers say they open every text message they receive.” In a more recent article on the subject, The Financial Brand points out that “by not using SMS text messaging for marketing, you are missing a channel with a 98% open rate and a rapid response rate. Consumers love the convenience and are open to receiving personalized and relevant texts from their bank and credit union.”

It is absolutely true that SMS can be a far more effective way to reach consumers than, say, email. And the stats you’ll find out on the web confirm this. MailChimp says that the average email open rate is around 20% with incredibly effective emails earning open rates scoring between 30 and 40%.  By contrast, according to podium.com, “with SMS marketing you can take advantage of the only channel with a 98% open rate and campaigns that get immediate responses and measurable results.”

There’s no doubt that when it comes to notifying customers of overdrafts, stolen credit cards, late fees, payment reminders, or suspicious activity, text messaging is a great way to communicate that information to customers, AND a far more effective way to do it than emailing.

But does the above constitute real marketing? I’m just not seeing it. At least, not yet.

Marketing is about delivering value and do notifications deliver value? I suppose they do… to a small extent. But true marketing messaging touches on much more; it’s about the why, not the what. Sure, an SMS notification that tells me that a payment is due, or that my credit card is being used by someone at a car dealership halfway across the country, is indeed helpful. But I hardly consider these “personalized” messages, even though they pertain to me and only me. Simply because I’m the only one receiving the message doesn’t mean that it's personalized… at least not in the marketing sense. Where is the emotional connection, which we all know is so critical to effective marketing messaging?

We had a bit of fun with this a while back in a blog about marketing messaging and personalization. The point, at the time, was to drive home just what personalized SMS marketing can be. We talked about a young couple simply relaxing at home when the young man begins receiving a series of SMS messages from their bank. The messages are fairly innocuous at first, but become progressively more disconcerting. The first text seems ordinary enough: “We hope you’re enjoying the new truck you purchased with one of our auto loans.” When it’s followed shortly afterward by, “we’ve noticed that you made a large purchase at the grocery store just the other day… having a party?” the couple gets a bit concerned. By the last, they’re totally creeped out: “We have the loan you need when you’re ready to decorate that baby room. Congratulations.” Thanks to personalization, the bank knows they're expecting... even before they do.

A bit of hyperbole, for sure, but you get the point. Personalized messaging must “strike a chord,” as well as a balance between being informative and being invasive.  But it must certainly do more than simply inform. In order to develop that messaging, one needs data; info on the consumer’s buyer journey; the who, what, when, where, why, and how of their brand experience. And the technology can enable the harvesting of that kind of customer data is out there.

Utilizing AI-driven data management tools, a bank has a real opportunity to truly use SMS as a marketing tool. That’s because AI can automatically analyze huge volumes of consumer data and identify user trends and behaviors. Rather than targeting individuals based simply on age and gender, AI gives you the ability to more accurately identify their behaviors and purchase patterns. For example, monitoring an individual’s use of products and services, AI can help predict a future purchase.

Now, with the help of AI, you can deliver a relevant, compelling, and highly personalized message to an individual just at the right moment in their path to purchase. A great way to deliver that message? You guessed it. SMS.

About Bank Marketing Center 

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that topical, compelling communication with customers; the messaging — developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the thinking behind effective marketing communication — that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. In short, build your brand. Like these November observances, for instance, which you'll find in our portal and will help you get the message out to your customers quickly and easily.To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to social media and in branch signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  You can also contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or via email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject #bankmarketing #communitybankmarketing #smsmarketing

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The tug of war over embedded financing. Who will win?

Ranking Republican Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., recently had this to say about embedded financing: “Regulating these products too quickly or stringently would stifle innovation and hurt consumers. This is a reminder that market competition is typically better at helping consumers than the government — whether the product or service is in the financial sector or another category.” 

Toomey went on to applaud Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) products “for providing credit to people often left behind by traditional lenders, including low-income and young people.” Interestingly, he closed with this cautionary caveat: “…as long as consumers have truthful and accurate information about financial products."

On the other side of the political aisle, we have Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who gave us this warning in a recent Senate Banking hearing. “We're now seeing a migration in the non-regulated part of the financial industry. I think we focus sometimes almost exclusively on the benefits and not on some of the challenges. There are reasons that we have regulated financial institutions.”  Warner wrapped up his POV by likening the coming BNPL storm of “emerging technology-based lending products that lack consumer protections” to the 2008 financial crisis.

Embedded financing, as we all know now, allows consumers to pay for a product, often bought online, in a set number of installment payments over a predetermined period; usually four payments over six to eight weeks. And the appeal is obvious. For the consumer, embedded financing provides a “one-stop shop” that makes it easier to access goods and services when and where they’re needed. For the business, embedded financing not only generates more sales but also provides consumer data than can later be used to drive future business.

Embedded financing rose in popularity during the pandemic as lockdowns drove consumers to online shopping. According to a study from Juniper Research, the value of the embedded finance market was $ 43 billion in 2021 and is highly likely to exceed $ 138 billion. According to Oracle’s estimates, the value of the market is expected to exceed $7 trillion in the next 10 years, making it worth double the combined value of the world’s top 30 banks today.

All of this growth depends, of course, on guys like Warner and Toomey, doesn’t it? But, what will drive the decisions around embedded financing and determine the industry’s future?  Will it be the CFPB? The Consumer Federation of America? The Financial Technology Association?  Sorry about all of the questions, but I seem to see lots of questions with very different — even conflicting — answers to them.  And I’m hoping that our legislators are getting better, more consistent data. One thing we do know for certain: The structure of these services has so far allowed many providers to avoid requirements that apply to traditional lending products, including credit cards… or can we even be certain of that?

On the one hand, for instance, just this past month the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released an 82-page report that will help develop "interpretive guidance or rules" to cover gaps and consumer risks in the booming BNPL niche. The CFPB's market-monitoring exercise began early this year when it surveyed five top BNPL providers — PayPal, Affirm, Afterpay, Klarna, and Zip — and focused specifically on the "Pay in 4" style of loans that are spread over four equal segments, bypassing traditional lending regulations. Skeptical about the real benefits, the agency highlighted questions about whether consumers are accumulating an unsustainable amount of debt, and whether companies are skirting regulations or engaging in unfair data collection. Their three primary concerns are around discrete harms to consumers, data harvesting, and overextension.  Also this past month, the FTC reminded businesses that if they offer embedded financing that they must comply with “the three basic consumer protection ground rules of the FTC Act: 1) Claims must be true for the typical consumer, 2) Consider consumer understanding, not just conversion, and 3) If things go wrong, companies can’t disclaim liability by pointing to others in the ecosystem.”

According to a September rollcall.com article, Rachel Gittleman, financial services outreach manager for the Consumer Federation of America, expressed similar concerns: “We would argue that most consumer protection laws should apply to buy now, pay later, as it's being structured more and more like open-end credit,” she said. “Federal regulators should supervise buy now, pay later providers and ensure that they're not engaging in unfair, deceptive or abusive acts and practices, or unlawful discrimination.”

While there seems to be considerable momentum behind taking significant steps toward regulations, there are certainly opposing points of view that support Rep. Toomey’s. In the same rollcall.com article, Penny Lee, CEO of the Financial Technology Association, supported Rep. Toomey’s POV with this: “Only 4 percent of buy now, pay later users missed at least a payment,” she said, citing a March study by the Financial Health Network. A September poll — not surprisingly commissioned by Lee’s association — found that “94 percent of users said they easily understood the terms and conditions of buy now, pay later services,” Lee said.

Lee went on to say that “BNPL products are also subject to consumer protection regulations, including anti-money laundering, fair-lending, debt collection, privacy, fair treatment of consumers and electronic fund transfers. They are also subject to similar state consumer protection laws.” Admittedly, she said afterward, “in some cases the products may not be considered loans if they’re structured as credit sales or retail installment sales through agreements with merchants selling the goods or services.”

I’m not a betting man, but if I were, I’d be putting my money on a much-transformed, much more highly regulated embedded financing industry in the coming year(s). There seems to be mounting evidence, to me anyway, to support this. I would also bet against Oracle’s prediction of a $7 trillion industry 10 years from now. And I’d place that bet using cash… not a Pay-in-Four loan.

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that topical, compelling communication with customers; the messaging — developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the thinking behind effective marketing communication — that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. In short, build your brand. Like these mobile banking campaigns, for instance, which you'll find in our portal and will help you get the message out to your customers quickly and easily.

 To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to social media and in branch signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  You can also contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or via email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject #bankmarketing #communitybankmarketing

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Can Social Media Help Smaller Banks Find Friendlier Waters?

At one time — and it wasn’t that long ago, it seems — small banks worried that they’d lose their customers to the larger, national banks. But that’s not the case anymore. For small banks, the threat of losing customers, both commercial and retail, is coming in the form of a two-pronged attack; from the large nationals on one front, and from digital banks and fintechs on the other.

According to a recent Forbes article, “The growing domination of Chime, Cash App, and PayPal in Banking,” a Capstone Advisors study reveals that Americans are moving their primary accounts, i.e., checking, from traditional banks to digital banks and fintechs, such as Chime, PayPal, and Square. “More than a quarter of Gen Zers (21 to 26 years old) and nearly a third of Millennials (27 to 41) now call a digital bank their primary checking account provider. Meanwhile, Arizent recently conducted a survey of small-business stakeholders in a variety of industries that had, on average, 129 employees and revenues of approximately $8 million. What they learned about commercial customers was very much in line with what Capstone Advisors learned about retail customers: Roughly half of the small businesses surveyed said that they use more than one banking services provider on a regular basis. 

There’s good news and bad news.

This, of course, gives providers such as community banks the opportunity, with a foot already in the door with their customer, to build on that relationship. That’s the good news. The bad news is that their competitors, such as the digital banks their customers are also using, have the same opportunity. 

This is what I found most interesting about the Arizent study. While both small business customers and individuals do indeed want more personal interaction, they're happy to have that interaction take place via online chat, video, or phone. Charles Potts, Chief Innovation Officer at the Independent Community Bankers of America, had this to say in the Forbes article. “Many consumers need a banker, not just a bank—and the relationship banking model is at the heart of community banking.” Interestingly, according to the Arizent survey, that relationship no longer hinges on meeting bank personnel in branches. Consumers can “meet” their bank in a variety of ways, anytime, and from virtually (no pun intended) anywhere.

Thanks to our digital transformation in customer service, it seems, today’s banking customer is just as happy (perhaps, in some cases, even happier!) to converse with a chatbot as they are a real person.  This is further supported by a recent report from digital services firm, westmonroe: “73% of respondents to our customer survey said a completely digital experience would improve their banking experience. Our survey confirmed that while banks might be meeting basic digital needs, customer expectations have already moved on from basic functionality to next generation digital experiences.” 

Of course, banks need to continually upgrade their digital banking experience. For me, and from a marketing perspective, here’s a great case for social media and its power to personalize. Yes, for community banks their USP (Unique Selling Proposition) has always been personal service, relationship building, and connection to community. That hasn’t changed. But, something else is changing; it’s the attitude consumers have toward digital experiences.

So, what’s a small bank to do?

Focus on your social media marketing. We now have a myriad number of ways to interact with consumers, socially, and since consumers are increasingly comfortable with social media as a personal interaction, small banks need to take full advantage of social media marketing. The 9-5 way of doing business is gone. Consumers expect information at their fingertips 24/7/365. Thanks to social media, banking customers and their community bank can now communicate all day, every day… through posts, webinars, infographics, ebooks, videos, and more. That communication isn’t simply about products and services, either. It’s about what’s happening in the local community, about the commitment of their employees, the organizations the bank supports, and more… in short, the kind of conversations that digital banks and the big nationals simply can’t have with their customers. And, it’s not pushed on consumers but, instead, it’s offered to them. They choose when they want it, and in what form.

So, can smaller banks find a place where only they can go, one that is safe from the threats posed by the nationals and the Chimes of the world?  Absolutely. And social media will take them there.

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that topical, compelling communication with customers; the messaging — developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the thinking behind effective marketing communication — that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. In short, build your brand. Like these balance transfer card campaigns, for instance, which you'll find in our portal and will help you get the message out to your customers quickly and easily.

 

 To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to social media and in branch signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  You can also contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or via email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. #bankmarketing #communitybankmarketing #socialmediamarketing

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Big revelation from the SEC: Actors paid for endorsements!

This just in! According to an article in the Wall Street Journal just a few days ago, Kim Kardashian will pay $1.26 million to settle a claim she had failed to disclose she was being compensated to promote a crypto, the Securities and Exchange Commission said. The reality-TV star endorsed EthereumMax tokens in an Instagram post for $250,000, in violation of an “anti-touting” law. The settlement includes a $1 million penalty, plus her agreement not to take money for promoting tokens for three years. Celebrities have been cashing in on crypto as an asset aimed at individual investors, and the SEC's announcement fueled speculation about who else may be in regulatory crosshairs.1

I found the latest news surrounding EthereumMax and Kim Kardashian a bit humorous. Apparently, Ms. Kardashian committed a crime – one which comes with a hefty fine (for most people, but probably not Ms. Kardashian) — by endorsing a product and not disclosing the amount she was paid.

Hmmm… don’t actors get paid to endorse products and services on a pretty regular basis? William DeVane pitches gold. Rosamund Pike endorses some investment product, the name of which currently escape me. Martha Stewart hawks pet food. (Oh, that’s right. She actually went to jail, didn’t she?) One of my favorite actors, the guy from Magnum P.I., sells reverse mortgages.

I guess the real issue stems from the fact that Kardashian endorsed an investment product. But, what about these actors who pitch products for Schwab, Fidelity, and Vanguard? I don’t recall ever seeing a disclaimer at the bottom of the screen that says, “Actor Bob Jones was paid $150,000 for endorsing this product. Beware, he’s simply a paid actor and probably knows less about investing than you do.” I guess the SEC is okay with this because these pitchpersons are not celebrities. Apparently, they’re concerned that I’m more likely to be taken advantage of by a self-proclaimed, reality television “star” in a tight-fitting dress than some guy from Central Casting in business casual.

And what about this? What is an “anti-touting” law? Could that term be any more vague?  Everyone on television, social media, the outdoor boards on the highway, the print media (if anyone is even paying attention to that anymore) is hawking or “touting” something…. And BTW, getting paid to do it. “Celebrities have been cashing in on crypto as an asset aimed at individual investors,” the article says. Like cashing in on selling is something new. And remember Matt Damon’s crypto commercial “Fortune favors the Brave”? I don’t recall any mention of his compensation. Maybe he was never paid. Or, maybe he took his comp in crypto, poor guy.

In explanation, the head of the SEC, Chairman Gary Gensler, had this gem of wisdom to offer… on none other than Twitter!? “When celebrities / influencers endorse investment opps, including crypto asset securities, it doesn’t mean those investment products are right for all investors.” Wow, thank you, Mr. Gensler. So, perhaps that nearly-one-hundred-grand, “influencer-endorsed” Grand Cherokee isn’t for me after all; it could be that I’m simply being seduced by an influencer/endorser.

Do we know if EthereumMax is even a good product? No. Is it risky? Of course, all investment products are. Is eating red meat risky? One could make the argument that it is. False and misleading advertising has been with us since the first soap commercial aired in black and white on one of three networks. I wish that the FCC was just as diligent about scrutinizing claims about advertised products as the SEC seems to want to be. How many times have you seen commercials for supplements that promise everything from losing weight to becoming “more of a man” that mention, in type at the bottom too small for the average human being to read, that the product claims have not even been reviewed by the FDA?

Mr. Gensler goes on to say that “Ms. Kardashian’s case serves as a reminder to celebrities and others that the law requires them to disclose to the public when and how much they are paid to promote investing in securities.” Am I a Kardashian fan? Hardly. Do I think that endorsers, simply because they’re celebrities, should be forced to disclose their compensation? No. I take every sales pitches, whether supplements, automobiles, fragrances, or investment products, whether celebrity endorser or just-starting-out actor, with a grain of salt. Maybe a bit more salt when it comes to investments as they’re much more of a “considered” purchase, but a healthy dose, nonetheless.

Ironically, and this is always the case, I now know more about EthereumMax than I ever wanted or needed to… and I never even saw Ms. Kardashian’s pitch.

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that topical, compelling communication with customers; the messaging — developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the thinking behind effective marketing communication — that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. In short, build your brand. Like these mobile banking campaigns, for instance, which you'll find in our portal and will help you get the message ou to your customers quickly and easily. 

To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to social media and in branch signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  You can also contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or via email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject #bankmarketing #communitybankmarketing

1Cate Chapman.  LinkedIn News.  October 4, 2022. https://www.linkedin.com/news/story/kim-kardashian-fined-for-crypto-ad-6021218/