What is marketing, exactly?

Now if you’ve taken marketing courses and already know all of this stuff, feel free to leave now and go watch cat trick videos on YouTube.  If you haven’t, it might be fun — and maybe even useful — for you to stick around for it, even though it might remind you of being back in a classroom!

So, what is marketing? For starters, there is both art and science to marketing and, in particular, to developing the marketing message. A friend once described it this way; that marketing is the art of making the new seem familiar and the familiar seem new… and I think that's a pretty good description of what marketing is. For me, the simple way to define marketing is with the 4 Rs. The right person, with the right message, in the right place at the right time. Let’s see the 4 Rs in action. 

What sign will get you that ride?

Imagine you don’t have a car and you're hitchhiking to get home for the Thanksgiving holiday. You could have a sign that says “Miami” on it, for instance, because that's where you want to go, or you could have a sign that says, “Home for Thanksgiving with Mom.” Which sign, do you think, is going to get you that ride faster? Why do you think that is? How are those messages different? That’s what we’re going to talk about.

What Shakespeare can teach us.

So, let’s talk a bit about messaging.  Where does good, solid marketing messaging start? How about with Shakespeare… a reasonably successful playwright, right? “Know thy audience” he said. Well, he didn't really say that but he was a successful because he knew his audience and wrote to them; Not the lords and ladies in fancy dress, but those smelly, half-naked ruffians in the pit who liked dirty jokes, drinking, fighting and on occasion, throwing vegetables at the actors. As marketers, we need to know our audience before we can even BEGIN to start a conversation… especially one which we hope will lead to a conversion.

How to create artificial customers.

There's a science to getting to know the people you’re talking to. And an important part of that science is research. There are two primary types: Qualitative and Quantitative. Qualitative research involves interviews and focus groups, while quantitative research is designed to talk to a large sampling group using methods such as surveys. Many companies rely on qualitative research because this is where they can learn the most, then do quantitative research to, hopefully, verify and support their qualitative findings by talking to a much larger group. With the data you gather here, and in other ways, you can then create what are called “personas.” A persona is basically an artificial individual who possesses the character traits and behaviors you’ve discovered through your research. You can then use these personas to better focus your messaging, making sure that it’s truly meaningful and compelling to your target individual now that you know exactly who they are and what motivates them.

What we can all learn from Abe.

Not Honest Abe, but Abe Maslow. Maslow was a psychologist who figured out that each person has about five levels of needs. He called this his “hierarchy of needs.” To illustrate this, he built a triangle. At the bottom of the triangle was the need for basics such as food and clothing. In the middle were safety and friendship. At the top was self-actualization. Why is this important to marketers? When we are developing the marketing messaging around our products, we want to talk to that audience at the very highest level of the triangle, and that’s because the higher up you go in the triangle the more important, and emotional, that level of need becomes. Food and shelter needs, for instance, can be easily met while understanding who you are and why you're on this planet is not so easy. Remember the hitchhiker’s sign. The sign that gets you the ride is the one that appealed to the emotions of the driver who picked you up! 

Laddering up the Needs.

Marketers use Maslow's triangle because it helps us remember that when we're talking to people about products, we have to talk to them not about how our product meets a basic need, but how it meets a need that's very important to them; an emotional need. What are some of those needs when we talk about banking products? You could say that a checking account meets the need of having to pay bills from a distance. Or, that a savings account is a way to put money where you won’t be tempted to spend it. Instead, we want to talk about how these products meet those “higher” needs, such as comfort, security, and peace of mind. This is also what marketers call taking a “user focused” approach to messaging, instead of a “product focused” approach. In other words, you’re focusing on how your product meets a consumer’s emotional need, as opposed to how it works and what it does.

Meet the prospect where they are.

Now we take you on a little journey…the buyer journey. The buyer journey is basically the path that a consumer, (who we have now identified through research and persona mapping), takes when making a purchase and importantly the mindset that accompanies each step they take on that path. It’s often expressed visually as an upside-down funnel and as a three-step journey:  Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. If they’re at the start of that journey and know nothing about your products, they’re at the top of the funnel. Here’s where you give your consumer more information than they need… blog posts, websites, and thought leadership articles, for example, are good for the Awareness stage. As our consumer moves further down the funnel into the Consideration stage, we get more focused on our solution. We may invite them to give us their contact info in exchange for some more-detailed information, such as a white paper or e-book. By the time they get to the bottom, we’re using highly targeted messaging and can do that using, say an email campaign, because 1) we know they’re interested and 2) they’ve given us their contact info.

Gather that data!

Last, but not least, there's the science of data gathering and analysis. Thanks to technology, marketers now have the ability to gather information about their users, their behaviors, and how those users respond to messaging. This gives you the ability to modify and improve (if needed) your conversations with your customers (and prospects), so that you better understand if and why what you’re doing is working… or not.

Of course, this just skims the surface. There’s lots more to creating effective marketing messaging that I can squeeze into a blog. And, that’s why we do what we do here at Bank Marketing Center; help you to navigate this very complex and critical discipline.

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. In short, build your brand. To view our campaigns, both print and digital, visit BankMarketingCenter.com. Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.


The Great Resignation. Is your bank resigned to living with it?

“Early in the pandemic,” says American Banker in their recent article, “In the war for talent, bank employees gain upper hand,” “early in the pandemic, the number of job openings at Zions Bancorp. plummeted to less than 200. A year later, the Salt Lake City company has three times as many positions available. Zions is offering certain perks to new employees, including signing bonuses for select positions and the opportunity to enroll in benefits immediately, instead of waiting the standard 30 days. But sometimes those enticements aren’t enough.”

Of course, they aren’t enough. After all, we’re now living in the era of The Great Resignation. By now, you’ve probably heard the term.  If you haven’t, it was first coined in 2019 by Anthony Klotz, a professor of management at Mays Business School of Texas A&M University.  Klotz defines The Great Resignation as “the mass, voluntary exodus from the workforce” which we’ve experienced over the last two years or so.

In their article, “Overwhelming number of Businesses Report Difficulty Hiring Workers and Retaining Existing Employees:” US News & World Report speaks to what the Great Resignation has meant for businesses. “Large U.S. companies” it says, “are finding it increasingly difficult to hire qualified workers while also struggling to retain their existing employees. Citing an April, 2021 survey by the Conference Board, the article goes onto say that “more than 230 human resource executives echoed reports of labor shortages across the economy as businesses and other establishments that had shut down or were otherwise restricted by the coronavirus pandemic rapidly reopen.”

Not only is recruitment an uphill battle, but so is retention. A recent Gallup study found that 48 percent of employees are actively searching for new opportunities. The truth is, the pandemic merely fast-tracked a problem that has been percolating in American business since Henry Ford’s first Model T rolled off an assembly line. What the pandemic did was create an environment where workers who have long felt unappreciated, unengaged, and under compensated could actually act upon those feelings and leave. And between just April and June of last year, over 12 million did.

What’s a bank to do?  Recright, a Helsinki-based firm specializing in recruitment and retention, has the right idea:  Employer Branding.  What is Employer Branding?  “It’s the process of positioning your company as the employer of choice to a target group of potential candidates.”

Jill Castilla, President and CEO, Citizens Bank of Edmond, summed it up pretty nicely in a recent LinkedIn post:

“How in the world does a 1 location, $350 million community bank with 55 team members in suburban Oklahoma City end up on American Banker's 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking list? It's the team! It's the culture! It's the community! It’s the legacy! Culture change is hard. Driving change, encouraging high performance and rooting out negativity, unethical behavior and fixed mentalities should be so much easier. Standing out and being a little different can draw as much criticism as it does praise and it's so easy to let the critics get you down. Our team's focus to not only lead our bank and our community, but to also lead our industry into the next 100 years inspires me every single day. If you like to do big, impactful and sustaining work, Citizens Bank of Edmond should be your partner, your bank, your employer.”

Back to “employer branding.”  This is what it’s all about. If your bank is that employer that inspires, encourages high performance, and roots out negativity, unethical behavior, and fixed mentalities, you need to climb up to the nearest mountaintop and shout it out. If there’s no mountaintop nearby or you’re afraid of heights, you can always get that message out through branded messaging. Toot your own horn a bit, it’s okay. Be the brand that attracts the best and then work hard to get that message out there.  You’ll find that you’ll spend a lot less time looking for top talent… because that talent will be coming to you.

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. In short, build your brand. To view our campaigns, both print and digital, visit BankMarketingCenter.com. Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.