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What the cola wars can teach us about banking.

A national bank recently opened two new branch locations in my neighborhood, each of them a little more than a mile or so from each other.  It got me thinking about brick-and-mortar banks… and do we still need them?

Backing up a bit, think of mobile banking apps and branch banks as products, products that are designed to appeal to very specific market segments and like others, can help a bank generate loyalty and earn a customer for life.

Now, as irrelevant as it might seem, think about the cola wars of the 1990’s… the battle between Coke and Pepsi. Those of us in the ad agency world watched this battle closely; not only was it fun to watch, but there were (and still are) a great many lessons, from a marketing perspective, to be learned from it. 

Here is the battle that soft drinks fight.  Soft drinks, like cigarettes, are powerful brands. If you were an insider on the Cola war-era “Taste Test Challenges,” you learned that often an individual who is loyal to a brand of cola, when blindfolded, can’t tell the difference between their preferred brand and a competitor.  In many cases, taste didn’t even matter. Consumers wear their brand as a badge and are extremely loyal.  I remember reading that taste test subjects, when choosing the wrong brand when tested, said that the taste test “doesn’t matter” and that they would stick with their brand regardless.

Here's what Pepsi figured out. They understood that, when operating in an over-the-top brand loyalty category, that they had to “earn” Pepsi drinkers early and count on their unfailing loyalty in order to grow their brand and outsell Coke.  Knowing that young people “graduate” from juices to soft drinks as they enter teen-hood, Pepsi launched a marketing campaign built on “The Taste of a New Generation.” Coca-Cola, seeing what Pepsi was doing and figuring that their image as traditional and “classic” wouldn’t play well with those kids making the transition from juices to colas, responded as quickly (and in as knee-jerk a way possible) as they could… with a new brand that they hoped would appeal to that same, “new generation” consumer: New Coke. 

Well, we all know how that turned out. They shelved Coca-Cola Classic… or at least announced that they would, with the intention of replacing it with a more youthful brand that could better compete.  And what happened? You don’t see New Coke on the shelves these days, do you? How and why someone at Coca-Cola thought that taking their flagship brand — the then-most-popular cola on the planet — off the market was a good idea, I’ll never know.  Why not simply add New Coke as an extension to their beverage line-up?

Back to banking and branches. Do banks need a killer app? Think of Pepsi. Do they also need branch banks? Think of Coca-Cola Classic. Your younger banking customers, who are the future of your business, will more than likely never set foot in a branch bank… at least not for many years.  In the meantime, your more seasoned bankers, who don’t have the same comfort with phone banking that… their children, perhaps, have?... do love the comfort of branch banking. 

There are, of course, a number of factors that contribute to the opening and closing of branch banks and the NCRC, in their article, “The Great Consolidation of Banks and Acceleration of Branch Closure Across the U.S.,” does a good job of taking a deep dive into the subject.  The economy, legislation, competition, consolidation through mergers and acquisitions, and simply “following the money” are all factors. I realize that this is a complex issue. But when I think of branch openings versus closings and where the industry is going, I can’t help but think of it in terms of marketing. It makes sense to have both. Banks need to market themselves by offering consumers the best of both worlds; Branch banking and mobile banking. Which is not too unlike the thinking behind New Coke and how it was marketed; “the great taste of Coca-Cola with the sweetness of Pepsi.” 

As the younger, “taste of a new generation” banking customer’s tastes begin to change, i.e., they learn that there is more to sound money management than using a mobile device to make P2P payments and check balances, they’ll graduate to that more traditional, “classic” flavor of banking. That reliable, more traditional, brick-and-mortar branch.

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

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 October observance 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.

#bankmarketing #communitybankmarketing

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It’s beginning to look a lot like [a BNPL] Christmas.

We’ve talked about BNPL before. Granted, it has been a while, but what we were saying back in April is just as true today as it was back then. The upshot? That BNPL is risky business. Check out this recent article on financebuzz: “Target and 30+ stores offering “Buy Now, Pay Later” for holiday shopping”. The headline pretty much says it all; stores are pushing BNPL hard for the holidays and they’re not waiting until Halloween to do it. Surprised? Probably not, since Walmart (among others) is already merchandising Christmas in their stores. And with the merchandising, lots of messaging around how wonderful your holiday will be if you overextend yourself financially over the holidays. It’s easy; simply buy now and pay later! The financebuzz article explains that “buy now, pay later (BNPL) services have become increasingly popular, especially during the holidays. They give you a way to include potentially expensive purchases in your holiday gift plans, especially if you’ve been trying to crush your debt and want to avoid making any money mistakes.”

Hmmm. Somehow the logic of that statement escapes me. How does buying expensive stuff help you “crush your debt”? Seems to me that this might fall in the category of “money mistake.” As I said back in April and I’ll say it again: I’m no economist, but I do understand the basic principles of sound money management and that hardly sounds like sound financial management to me. The financebuzz article goes onto list what they view as preferred BNPL providers that are participating:

Sezzle: A BNPL service that splits your order into four interest-free payments over the course of six weeks. There are no fees and no impact on your credit… as long as you pay on time.

Affirm:  No hidden fees, however, it’s possible to be charged interest depending on the payment plan you choose. Interest rates can range from 0% to 30% and potential monthly payment plans could include lengths of three months, six months, or 12 months.

AfterPay: You can split a purchase into four different interest-free payments, payable every two weeks. Your total payment period would be six weeks, with the first 25% of the total price happening immediately. If you don’t make your payments on time, you could be hit with late fees that are capped at 25% of the order value.

Why are retailers pushing BNPL so hard for the holidays. It’s obvious. For them, it’s good business. But is it good for consumers? On the upside, I understand that BNPL is convenient and low-cost (as long as you follow the rules) — at least compared to many credit cards — and consumers, especially younger ones, seem to love it. And according to proponents of BNPL, “when used responsibly,” BNPL can actually help consumers manage their budgets.” Although, I think I’ve also heard similar claims about “responsible use” with other products… among them, credit cards and alcohol. And so, it goes.

But despite their growing acclaim and popularity, are these services really safe?  The bottom line, according to financebuzz, is this: “BNPL options offer appealing ways to afford different types of shopping purchases. But be wary of the terms and conditions, especially if there are interest charges or late fees. Not complying with these terms is risky and could put you into debt if you’re not careful.” I would say so: Interest rates that can reach 30%? Late fees up to 25% of your total order’s value? This is certainly the kind of stuff that you want to be “wary of”! Especially when, as cited in a recent Personal Finance article, that “nearly 70% of buy now, pay later users admit to spending more than they would if they had to pay for everything upfront” and that “42% of consumers who’ve taken out a buy now, pay later loan have made a late payment on one of those loans.”

In addition to potentially high interest rates and late fees, consumers seem to be defaulting on these BNPL lending agreements at alarming rates. According to a study by Credit Karma, right now, consumers are “relying on Buy Now, Pay Later amid record inflation, and using their credit cards to pay off their debt. Among respondents who have used BNPL products to pay for an item, 40% currently have an outstanding balance. Those carrying a balance owe an average of $665. When asked about the largest amount ever owed across all buy now, pay later services, one-in-five reported owing more than $1,000. This may be fueling a cycle of debt for some consumers. In fact, nearly a quarter of BNPL users say their debt load increased after using Buy Now, Pay Later products to make a purchase.”

As for those who make their payments regularly — perhaps those younger users hoping that by doing so, they’re building credit — well, there’s some not-so-great news here, as well. That’s because, unbeknownst to many BNPL borrowers, these point-of-sale loans do not routinely appear on most credit reports. That means, of course, that a good payment record on your BNPL account won't help you build credit.

As if high interest rates and late fees, as well as the likelihood of default due to mounting debt weren’t enough, there’s also the potential for fraud. From CNBC’s Criminals love BNPL. “Buy now, pay later services aren’t just popular among consumers. They’re also proving to be a hit with criminals. One of the vulnerabilities is BNPL firms’ reliance on data for approving new clients, instead of conducting formal credit checks.”

These facts haven’t escaped the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). This past January,  the CFPB provided an update on a continuing investigation into five BNPL providers. The update included an invitation to “any interested parties, including consumers, small businesses, consumer advocates, financial institutions, trade associations, investors, state and Federal regulators and Attorneys General, and experts in consumer lending, payments, and marketing to submit comments to inform the agency's inquiry.” That information, says the bureau, will aid them in furthering their investigation. 

And just the other day — in their September 15 article, “CFPB vows to rein in buy now/pay later lenders,” American Banker provided this update:  “After spending months examining the business practices of buy now/pay later fintechs, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has produced 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.”

What does this mean for community banks? Why not take this opportunity to let your customers know that you offer money/credit management guidance, along with the kind of financing that truly makes sense and meets their needs? A low-interest, no-fee credit card, for instance or better still, a HELOC? At the very least, it might be a good idea to remind your customers that using BNPL for their holiday purchases may not make for the most joyous post-holiday season… especially when they get to that “pay later” part of the 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 the below Buy Now Pay Later 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 #homeequitylineofcredit #HELOC #BNPL

 

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They’re phishing. And you’re the phish they’re after.

Did you know that phishing attacks are responsible for more than 80% of reported security incidents? According to CISCO’s 2021 Cybersecurity Threat Trends report, about 90% of data breaches occur due to phishing. Phishing is leading the charge as a profit center for cybercriminals, and with it comes ransomware among other dangers. Not surprisingly, an estimated 94% of ransomware arrives at businesses via phishing emails, which can present themselves as an urgency to act or the impersonation of an individual or brand.

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a time to remind ourselves (and if you’re a bank, your customers) that cybercrime continues to rise. This past year has brought us an exponential increase in fraud and scams… in particular, crimes that involve financial institutions. Every day, in fact, thousands of bank customers are targeted by scammers — often posing as bank employees — who first steal their personal information, then their money. 

Newly released Federal Trade Commission data shows that consumers reported losing more than $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021, an increase of more than 70 percent over the previous year. The FTC received fraud reports from more than 2.8 million consumers, with the most commonly reported category once again being imposter scams, followed by online shopping scams. “While scammers target consumers using every possible method of communication, phone calls were the most common,” the agency states. And, unfortunately, the agency says, approximately 15% of fraud cases go unreported. 

A bit of history. Cybersecurity Awareness Month was launched by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in October 2004 in an effort to help Americans stay safer and more secure online. When Cybersecurity Awareness Month first began, those awareness efforts centered around advice like updating your antivirus software twice a year to mirror similar efforts around changing batteries in smoke alarms. Much has changed since then. Cybersecurity Awareness Month has grown significantly — according to the National Cybersecurity Alliance — in both reach and participation. In an effort to protect both individuals and companies from cyberattack, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) now manages the program, and each year launches a campaign to raise awareness of cyber threats and the importance of protecting personal information. “Operated in many respects as a grassroots campaign, the month’s effort has grown to include the participation of a multitude of industry participants that engage their customers, employees, and the general public in awareness, as well as college campuses, nonprofits, and other groups.”  

A sign of that significant growth? Participation by the federal government and the banking community. Federal agencies are now paying real attention — and justifiably so — to cybercrime. Valuable guidelines and resources can be found on federal agency websites such as, usa.gov, the US Department of Justice, and the Federal Trade Commission. These sites go into great detail, describing the various types of cybercrimes and what action individuals can take to protect themselves. The American Bankers Association has also become an active participant, having launched #banksneveraskthat back in 2020 and watching this program grow tremendously over just the past two years. Today, over 2,000 banks participate. And, it's not too late to take part. To learn more, visit #banksneveraskthat.

What can you do? As their financial institution, it’s imperative that your customers know that their personal information, and their money, can be lost to fraud if preventative steps are not taken. Remember, too, that your customers aren’t the only ones who suffer. Banks like yours face significant monetary and reputational losses from these increasingly sophisticated scams targeting your customers.

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 with them, your brand. Visit our site now to view our new campaign addressing cybersecurity, which you can customize and put in front of your customers in just minutes.  Here are just a few examples of the new creative:

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. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. #banksneveraskthat #communitybank #bankmarketing #cybersecurity

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What’s in it for me? I’m glad you asked.

What’s in it for me? It sounds pretty selfish, doesn’t it? As if you’ll only give someone the help they’ve asked for unless you somehow benefit personally.  In actuality, the question “what’s in it for me”? or WIIFM — as marketing folks who favor acronyms have dubbed it — is more of an answer than it is a question and serves as the very foundation of all effective marketing communication.

Harkening back to my agency days, which I like to do as you know, I remember the concept of WIIFM being drilled into all of us agency youngsters by the older, more experienced members of the creative department. It is so important a concept, that it is (or at least, SHOULD BE), an integral part of any Creative Brief. It certainly was back at the ad agency. It was so important, in fact, that we never took a single step in developing a campaign without getting the answer to that question. This required a deep dive into the demographic and psychographic characteristics of our target individual, which often meant plowing through lots of research decks or sitting behind one-way glass, eating M&M®s, and watching focus group attendees provide us with their thoughts on the product we were working on. 

The “me” in WIIFM is, of course, the consumer. With the WIIFM concept, you, the marketing person, are putting yourself in the consumer’s shoes and wanting to know the answer to a very simple question: “What’s in it for me?”, or to put it in a blunter form, “why should I care?”

Effective marketing messaging is built on knowing one’s audience and knowing one’s audience certainly plays an important role in our lives, outside of marketing. Say, for example, you’re looking for a job. Do you start an interview by saying “let me tell you about myself?” No. You start by doing research before your interview, learning about the company and the individuals with whom you’ll meet.  Where are they from?  What are their roles? Where have they been and what have they done? What are their expectations?  You use this information to make connections and build relationships. Only THEN, can you begin talking about the role and why you’re the ideal candidate.

One of the best examples I think I’ve ever seen of how an emotional connection can influence a decision was in a self-promotion print ad created by an ad agency.  The ad’s visual was in the fashion of a split screen. On the left side, a young man was hitchhiking with a sign that simply said “Seattle.” On the right, we saw the same young man with a sign that read: “Home for Thanksgiving with Mom.” Which sign, do you think, will earn him a ride? (PS: This is by no means an endorsement of hitchhiking!)

If you perhaps read our early August blog entitled, “The creative brief roadmap. Who needs one?  You do,” we talked a bit about “What’s in it for me?” and how instrumental it is in “getting into the head” (or more importantly, the heart) of your target individual and establishing that emotional connection.  Here’s a community bank example. You have a low interest, no-fee balance transfer credit card that you want to take to market. You could focus on a product feature such as savings with an approach like, “we offer the credit card that will save you money.” Do that, and you probably won’t grab the attention of many people. Instead, what if your approach focuses not on what the card does but what it MEANS; with something like, “now’s the time for you to take a step toward financial security in these uncertain economic times”?

I truly believe that this user-focused (as opposed to product-focused) approach to your messaging is far more likely to resonate with your audience. It’s subtle, but notice the use of pronouns? In the product-focused approach, the word “we” is used, while in the user-focused version, we use “you.” I think you'll agree that your messaging is far more effective when you ask (and answer) the question, "what's in it for me?" And, when you always put your consumer first, using "you" instead of "we."

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

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the development of effective marketing communication, that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. And with them, your brand. Like the below “HELOC” ads, for instance, which you'll find in our portal and, according to American Banker, are "back in vogue as lenders originated some $100.8 billion in home equity lines of credit, or HELOCs, through the first five months of the year." 

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.

#bankmarketing #communitybankmarketing

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3 reasons why you need that DAM solution.

 

Why is digital asset management important?  First, how does one define a digital asset?

Digital assets can be defined as any content that can be stored digitally. In today’s rapidly evolving digital climate — for banks, in particular, as they navigate the age of the enhanced digital experience — there’s no limit to what a digital asset can be.

Consider the types of files and assets that are routinely created and shared across your organization. The marketing team, for example, creates and collaborates on print ads, social media content, videos, infographics, white papers, and much, much more. And if they’re working with third-party vendors or providers, you want the content they’re creating to be easily accessible. But only to those who should have access.

So why a DAM solution? Canto.com says: “51% of marketers waste time and money recreating unused or missing assets. Effective digital asset management requires companies to organize and govern every digital file in their media ecosystem.  Everyone can relate to spending too much time looking for a single file. This is the case for most companies operating without a DAM solution.” A digital asset management solution gives your team the ability to create, manage, publish, and share content with anyone inside or outside your organization. 

1. Compliance, security, and consistency

Brandfolder.com reminds us that “customers are more likely to purchase from a brand they recognize and because of this, Fortune 500 companies make a proactive effort to maintain brand consistency in their marketing and advertising campaigns.” Maintaining and communicating a brand identity is easier when you have a DAM platform. You can restrict access to legacy files — ensuring that only the most up-to-date assets are accessible — with the result that only those assets that meet brand and compliance standards can be accessed and shared. For example, once your creative team has finished creating an asset that meets brand and compliance standards, they can streamline production (while safeguarding compliance) by saving the layout as a template in the DAM system. As time goes on, approved users can make changes, share the changes for review, and add comments to the file, to name just a few

In order to streamline a bank’s marketing messaging around mortgage loans, for instance, the DAM platform facilitates the sharing of mortgage lending materials with only those members of the lending team who are designated to collaborate. When the lending officer logs in, the platform can be configured to present only mortgage marketing materials and will enter the individual’s personal information automatically. Brand and industry regulation compliance are never issues. Speaking of compliance, when it comes to regulators, a DAM solution is exactly what you need when they decide to pay you a visit.

2. Time and dollars wasted

Without a DAM solution, digital assets are rarely managed properly. In many cases, the wrong people are using the wrong assets at the wrong time. A DAM system establishes workflows, manages access, and streamlines the approval process so the right files get into the right hands.

If your team is spending precious time searching for mislabeled or disappearing assets, that’s time lost focusing on growing and scaling your business. In addition, your team may also be missing out on the opportunities presented by the repurposing of content. As important as freshness of content is to Google algorithms when it comes to ranking your content on SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages), you can still (and absolutely should) be repurposing your content instead of “starting from scratch” with every new marketing asset.

Plus, the importance of quick and easy access to approved assets cannot be overemphasized.  Today’s highly competitive and evolving marketplace demands a marketing department’s ability to “shoot at the ducks while they’re there,” that is, to respond quickly and turn on a dime when necessary.

3. Free your team for other critical functions

Lastly and probably most importantly, a digital asset management system frees the members of your marketing team to perform other critical functions.  A DAM solution does much more than enable sharing, uphold brand and compliance standards, and enhance your ability to respond to marketplace shifts. It allows your team to focus less on managing your marketing messaging assets and more time taking a hard look at messaging performance and learning from it. Sure, developing and placing strategic, relevant content is important, but knowing how and why it’s working (or not) is even more important. A DAM solution gives your team time to monitor KPIs, better understand your current and potential customers, and apply that learning to future campaigns.

To sum up, we here at bankmarketingcenter.com know exactly how critical a DAM platform is to a bank’s marketing department. That’s why we created one!

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 vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the development of effective marketing communication, that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. And with them, your brand. Like the below “Internal Awards” ads, for instance, recently added to our library of content. 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

#bankmarketing #communitybankmarketing #CRM #assetmanagement #digitalassetmanagement

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Google Analytics. Get way more than you pay for.

If you’re one of those individuals who’s a firm believer in the old saying, “you get what you pay for,” well, here’s a heaping helping of humble pie. It’s called Google Analytics.

We all know that if you want to run any sort of business, you need a website. Your website is one of those top-of-the-funnel marketing tactics that, by providing a visitor with content that clarifies their questions, expounds on their problem, and introduces them to a potential solution, will hopefully set them on their “buyer journey” or “path to purchase.” That’s great. Thanks to your website, you have a potential customer who has learned something about your business and is now, ideally, ready to take the next step; that is, to learn more by stepping further down the funnel and engaging in a podcast or webinar, for instance, or downloading a white paper.

The not-so-great piece of the story is that not every visitor will do that. Some will. Some may, instead, simply surf a few pages and leave. Some may not even do that; they may leave right after they land on your home page. Building and maintaining a website is, dare I say it… useless, if you can’t understand what your site visitors do once they arrive and why.

For this, you need analytics. You see, your website is far more than a marketing tactic, a mere messaging machine. Sure, it informs visitors and, if built properly — taking UX, the User Experience, in mind — can do what we talked about earlier… put people on the path to purchase. But, a site can do much more, though.  It can tell you things.

Google, to no surprise, is at the forefront of implementing and expanding upon the uses of technology while making it more accessible to, and manageable for, its users. And web analytics is no exception. While your visitors are learning about your business via your website, you’re learning about them via Google Analytics.

Google describes their web analytics platform as “a service that tracks and reports website traffic and gives you the free tools you need to analyze data for your business in one place, so you can make smarter decisions.”  Yes, it does all that… and more.

Using Google Analytics, you can understand your site users, enabling you to better grasp the effectiveness of your marketing content. Google's unique insights and machine learning capabilities help you to make the most of your data, and connect your insights to deliver better business results. Not to mention, all of this “stuff” is FREE. Yes, FREE. There are many other web analytic tools out there that extend a trial period followed by a subscription, or a one-time charge. Others offer services with conditions, such as free for a specific number of tracked users or free for self-hosted users. With Google Analytics, you get the quality service without the hefty price tag... and without conditions or limitations. 

Now, if we were talking about anybody but Google, you might be tempted to wonder just how good their analytics product is, given that it’s free. But you’re not, are you? We all know Google. They don’t make any Edsels. Their analytics product offers the same features as competing web analytic services which we really shouldn’t name, such as A—- Analytics, Mix—--, or Mat—.

What can analytics teach you?

To further assist in making your website a more effective marketing tool, Google Analytics can measure internal site searches and tell  you what potential customers are looking for within your website. This can help you improve the ease with which visitors access information across all of your site pages.  For example, analytics can tell you how many visitors leave your website after viewing only one page. This information is incredibly valuable in that it can demonstrate a need for refining your navigation or homepage design, which can then increase your site's ease of use and performance.

The Audience section of Google Analytics provides insights into visitor traits and behaviors. It can tell you the age, gender, interests, devices, and location of those who accessed your website. Understanding your audience is critical for a host of reasons, not the least of which is knowing which social media platforms to target. Knowing which platforms are driving visitors to your site can assist you in optimizing the dollars you spend on social media marketing, as well as the type of content you create for your customers. Creating the right kind of content can be just the catalyst you need to increase traffic to your website and raise your rankings in SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages). An understanding of what content on your website is gaining the most views and shares is critical to the development of future content in order to ensure that it is topical, relevant, and motivating to your customers.

Google Analytics automatically collects data for you, saving you valuable time; no more inputting data into spreadsheets or documents and moving them back and forth. You can then download your data into one of the many report templates they offer, or your very own customized report template with the dimensions and metrics you’d like to see. Like other Google services, Google Analytics can also be streamlined to be accessible via multiple devices, including your laptop, desktop computer, tablet, or phone. It can also communicate with other Google apps seamlessly, like Google AdWords, to provide you with actionable insights and increase the success of your AdWords Campaigns. 

Lastly, Google Analytics can help you see how your business is growing and expanding based on how customers visiting your website are meeting predetermined goals such as making a purchase, requesting a quote, or subscribing to a newsletter. You can also assign a number of goals that will help you to track the customer’s journey through your website based on their actions. For example, if your goal is for customers to make a purchase and sign up for your monthly newsletter, you may include this in your analytics report to see where you can address any deficits that may exist.  

In short, you can't beat the value of Google Analytics as a tool that can help you maintain a more effective web presence AND build your business.  And you certainly can't beat the price.

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 vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the development of effective marketing communication, that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. And with them, your brand. Like the below “Fraudulent Activity” ads, for instance, recently added to our library of content.

 

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.  #bankmarketing #communitybankmarketing #websiteanalytics #googleanalytics

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Want to attract and retain the best people? Social media can help.

Author Flannery O’Connor once said, “a good man is hard to find.”  Well, you can certainly add “a good woman” to that. I’m, of course, talking about male and female employees. These days they’re terribly difficult to find and, believe it or not, even more difficult to keep. Check this out from Shrm.org’s “Job openings, quits hold near record high”: While employers are offering higher wages to attract talent, many on the sidelines are unmoved: the gap between job openings and available workers remained at 5.5 million in April, or about two jobs for every unemployed worker. The last 13 consecutive months—since June 2021—have seen more than 4 million workers quit. April marks the 11th consecutive month that more than 4 million workers left their jobs. Shrm.org goes on to tell us that “the wave of quitting signals that workers feel comfortable enough, amid record-high openings, to switch jobs in pursuit of better pay or working conditions.”

Of course, just like the old adage about customers — that it's 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep one —replacing employees is expensive. Indeed.com tells us in “Estimating the high cost of Employee Turnover,” that “employee turnover costs employers about 33% of an employee’s annual salary.” This cost comes from factors such as advertising, screening, interviewing, onboarding, lost productivity, and more. 

Besides upping the salary stakes in order to attract and retain top talent, what can employers like small community banks do? Experts say that successful cultures — ones that are conducive to attracting and retaining top talent — have certain “personality traits” and that to develop these traits, leaders need to:

  • Strengthen the relationships between coworkers
  • Give team members maximum exposure to leadership
  • Enhance their skills and abilities so they feel like they are true experts in their field
  • Communicate objectives and paths to their achievement clearly and often so that they see success as attainable
  • Engage with team members on their future goals and help them chart a path forward

Here’s something even easier. Use your social media platforms.  

I know well from personal experience (don't we all??) that effective communication, opportunities for development, and an environment of mutual respect and collaboration are all essential to retaining the “best of the best.” But never forget the power of praise; a few kind words can go a very long way.  And, social marketing platforms are the ideal media for those kind words.  

Many of our banks are extremely active in this regard and I suspect that, as a result, their associates feel pretty good about where they’re working. As Sir Richard Branson has said: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first.” And, well, as far as I can tell he seems to have had some pretty good success with that.

Here are just a few examples of the more popular topics that our client banks are using social for:

  • Recruiting
  • Birthdays
  • Anniversaries (and nothing says “this is a great place to work" better than a multi-decade anniversary post)
  • Recognitions for advanced certifications received
  • Awards and achievements (both professional and personal)
  • Congratulating employees for their commitment to community organizations and volunteer groups

I’ve also seen posts that don’t take themselves quite so seriously, such as acknowledging the employee with the biggest smile, or “Today’s Best Dressed Employee.” As you can imagine, social media posts that focus on your associates also go a long way with potential employees… and customers. They reinforce that brand perception that is so important to small banks; that unlike the big national, you’re a neighborhood institution that is trusted and knowledgeable, and that you take a personal interest in the people who bank with you.  And to think you can accomplish all of this… with just a few social posts! 

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 vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the development of effective marketing communication, that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. And with them, your brand. Like the below “Internal Award” ads, for instance, recently added to our library of content. 

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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The creative brief roadmap. Who needs one? You do.

Marketers like to talk a lot about tactics, i.e., direct mail, social media, print advertising, broadcast, etc.  And that’s because we marketing folks see the development of tactical assets, well, the fun part of marketing. I do. Don’t you?  At least, that’s been my experience over decades spent in the creative departments of ad agencies. Creating the social media posts, videos, print ads, radio spots, etc. was the step in the process in which everyone wanted to participate.

Many, many times over the course of my career, I’d be presenting creative work in a client meeting when, at some point, everyone in the room would take on the role of either writer or art director. Headlines and visuals that had been sweated over, often for weeks, were now open for discussion with the goal of improving them significantly over the course of a one-hour meeting.  At first, I was bothered by this. My writer partner and I had spent weeks developing this, say, campaign of print ads, and now this committee of individuals was going to make the work “better” by throwing out suggestions and “fixing” the campaign before lunch was brought in. As time when on, I grew a thicker skin, resigned myself to this being just another part of the process, and enjoyed lunch when it arrived.

While it’s all well and good that everyone wants to “contribute” to the creative because it’s fun, there’s a part of the process that’s not so fun, but even more important than creative development; the development of the strategy behind the creative, which takes the form of a creative brief.

Penning a creative brief is the first step in the development of any marketing messaging. The best metaphor for the creative brief is the roadmap, as it serves as a guide that will take a creative project from concept to completion. Take it from me, (after having to write many myself) writing a creative brief is hard work. While it’s tempting to simply wing it on strategy and go directly to creative development — because a brief is so challenging — the results can be disastrous. Without a roadmap, it’s very easy to take a creative project in the wrong direction. The brief serves to keep everyone on the same path, which is essential in getting to the desired destination, that being a marketing message that’s truly effective.

In brief, a creative brief is a relatively compact document that sums up the key points that must be considered in the creative development process and to ensure alignment across all of the project’s stakeholders from start to finish. Not only does that ensure the desired outcome in terms of the creative product, but it also facilitates the process, making it far more efficient and cost effective. With no diversions, we all get their quicker, which means we get to our destination faster and save some money in the process.  We’re all familiar with “scope creep.” A brief can help you avoid it and here are a few of the basics in developing a brief. (PS:  There are hundreds of creative brief templates on the web. Simply google “creative brief.”)

Step 1: Provide some background/context

Context is critical. Start your brief with a short, concise paragraph of 10 sentences or less (a guideline, not a rule!) that answers questions, according to Hubspot, like these:

Has the company launched a campaign like this before?

Why is the company choosing to launch this campaign right now?

What's happening in the market and how will this campaign respond to it?

Step 2: Deliverables

I.e., what is the team tasked with delivering? This is an easy one! Is it a campaign of print ads, a video, a social media campaign across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn? Here’s where you let everyone know what the expectation is.

Step 3: So, what’s the objective here?

I guarantee you that this is the first question that your creative team will ask. Makes sense, right?  What are we trying to accomplish? As with all of these steps, make it concise and specific. Hubspot provides this example: A messaging objective of, say, “To create a more inclusive workplace culture" is an admirable and important one, but it's vague and too broad to measure. How will you measure effectiveness? An objective such as “a 10% increase in women in leadership positions,” for example, is a much better objective. So, be specific. Perhaps you want to grow deposit accounts by 10%. Specificity now will make it much easier to determine effectiveness later.

Step 4: Who are we talking to?

Now, who is your target audience? Here’s where your personas come in handy, providing you with real insight — both demographic and psychographic — into the individual to whom you are speaking:

Demographic: Age, geographic location, household income, education, occupation, ethnicity.

Psychographic: This is how the audience thinks and feels about your brand and the product or service you’re offering. Stage of the buyer journey, personality, lifestyle, social status, activities, interests, opinions, and attitudes are all components of a persona’s psychographic profile. These insights will help you personalize your messaging, giving your audience that much-desired “emotional tug.”

Step 5: With whom are we competing?

Knowing what your competitors are doing is of tremendous benefit here. They’re offering similar products and services, right? How are they positioning them?  Talking about them? Use data on your competitors to gain insights into what seems to work, and not work, in your space. An effective brief provides the answers to questions like these: Who is the competition and what is the competitive environment? What are the competitors doing? What is their position? What are their strengths and weaknesses?

Step 6:  And now, the USP. Unique Selling Proposition

What is your USP or key message?  And don’t say you have several. You can’t. There’s an old saying around key messaging.  When you have more than one, you have none.

The key message includes the pain point, what the audience's experience might be like without the pain point, and the benefit they'll receive from your solution. That’s why this is the most difficult section of the brief; identifying the single most important benefit of your solution to your audience. Another old ad agency adage: Put on your consumer hat and ask yourself this one, simple question:  What’s in it for me? The answer is your USP.

Step 7: How should our message look and sound?

This section addresses tone, manner, and attitude. This is, or at least should be, the easy part.  The tone and voice of your messaging should be consistent with the tone and voice of your brand…which you established already and have been adhering to all this time, right? Is the voice conversational and casual, or formal and authoritative? What colors and fonts should the designer use?  The answers to these questions should be found, ideally, in your brand standards guide. Don’t have one?  Better get crackin’!

Step 8: What do you want your audience to do?

You want them to act. It helps, as always, to be specific.  In order to do that, you need a Call to Action (CTA). Here’s where you take your audience to the next step in their buyer journey.  Do you want them to visit your website, or provide their contact information in exchange for a white paper?  Here’s where your marketing funnel comes into play. Are the members of your audience in the awareness, consideration, or decision stage of their journey? Make sure that your CTA is suggesting that they skip a step in their path to purchase or to “learn more.”  Do that and you lose them.  You should be able to go back to Step 2 and your objective for guidance here.

Step 9: What’s the timeline?

Oh, right.  After your creative team has asked their first question, “what are we trying to accomplish here?” they’ll probably ask you how much time they have.  Not a whole lot of creative thinking goes into this one.  Set a deliverable date, ideally with milestones, and stick to it.

Step 10: Get buy-in from everyone involved.

Make sure to get input from all stakeholders and, most importantly, agreement. A roadmap does you no good if you have a bunch of people in your car who can’t agree on the destination or the best way to get there.

Step 11:  What not to do. 

Or, you could simply follow the advice of the Marketoonist:

 

 About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the development of effective marketing communication, that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. And with them, your brand. Like these deferred auto loan payment ads, for instance, recently added to our library of content.


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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Can and should we do more about student debt? You bet.

 

It all started with American Banker’s July 22 article, Alleviating the Student Loan Crisis through Digital Banking. It really got me thinking. About student debt, yes, but lots of other things, too; our system of higher education and its value, financial literacy, borrowing, parenting, and my own personal experience with financial matters.

For starters, I’m guessing that many of you reading this also have some personal experience with student loans. Perhaps you took one (or more) in your college days. Perhaps you have a child or children who are borrowing for college. I think it’s reasonable to make this assumption because, as the article points out, there are approximately 45 million borrowers in the U.S. — with an average debt of about $38,000 — bringing our total student debt as a nation to $1.7 trillion. Want just a tiny bit of perspective on this dollar figure? According to Statista, in 2020 the US manufacturing industry added $2.2 trillion to the US GDP.

The article goes on to state some of the “primary causes of the student loan crisis," citing a lack of state funding for higher education, tax cuts, higher tuition, and among others, loans that are awarded without adequately screening the borrower. Another reason? Borrowers are often unprepared to take on the debt because they do not have an adequate understanding of financial matters. And, believe me, borrowing for college demands more than just an understanding of money management basics, like sound investing strategies and managing one’s credit. If you’ve any doubt that borrowing for college isn’t a complex process that really requires advanced degrees in both accounting and law, try to make sense of the “guidance” provided here on studentaid.gov. Imagine trying to navigate this process as an 18-year-old high school senior.

“As future business owners, leaders, and members of society, banks and credit unions need to support these individuals with the right tools to alleviate their financial burden. Without guidance and true financial education, people with student debt will not be able to secure a successful financial future for themselves and their families,” says the article. And I couldn’t agree more. I’ll add a few thoughts to this: 1) With “support,” these young, indebted individuals are more likely to become more valuable banking customers earlier in their lives and, 2) that “support” needs to start way before they owe, on average, $38,000.  It needs to start before they even think about borrowing for college.

Now, I am a huge proponent of higher education. I am also a huge proponent of financial education. We all know that far too many Americans are, to put it bluntly, truly unable to properly manage their personal finances. “Most individuals lack a foundation for financial success,” says the article. “In fact, less than 17% of high school students are required to take at least one semester of personal finance in high school and only 34% of Americans can answer four of five basic financial literacy questions."

Clearly, more financial education is needed and individuals with student debt are certainly hamstrung when it comes to securing a financial future for themselves and their families. But where will they get that guidance and financial education?

Can young people learn financial literacy from their parents? Perhaps, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. It didn’t happen in my home. While my father certainly taught me the importance of working hard and paying my own way, with a little bit of “save your money” on occasion, that was the extent of the financial guidance I got from dad. I’m guessing that many young men share that same experience. And for young women and their parents, I doubt that there’s much conversation at all about financial matters.

When this is so important, why isn’t this learning taking place at home? I learned a little bit about why from reading cnbc’s “Who should teach kids about money? Americans say parents, but many don’t talk to their own children about it.” You can pretty much guess “why” from the title of the article. “While most Americans believe it is the job of parents to teach their kids about money,” it says, “many don’t actually talk to their children about finances.” Certified financial planner Tom Henske, managing partner at the Affluent Insurance Advisor, tells us that parents don’t talk to their children about money because “it seems like a herculean task, an endeavor to take on to teach your kids about money when you don’t really feel comfortable about the topic of money yourself.”   

I guess I never really thought of a discussion about money with my son or daughter as herculean or uncomfortable… at least compared to some of the other discussions we’ve had to have with our children about topics that I’m, well, too uncomfortable to mention here. So, as in many cases where children aren’t learning what they should from their parents, we turn to the schools. And there’s good news on that front, according to cnbc:

“The trend towards in-school personal finance classes is slowly building. Recently, Florida became the largest state to mandate a personal finance course for high school graduation. Twenty-five states now require high-school students to take personal finance coursework, either in a standalone class or integrated into another course. ‘Research shows that students who are able to participate in financial economic education class in high school make better decisions about their college financing,’ said Nan Morrison, president and CEO of the Council for Economic Education. 'They have better credit scores and lower loan default rates.’”

Back to American Banker, which quotes “student loan expert, Mark Kantrowitz” as advising us that the best way for students to overcome student debt is to avoid overborrowing in the first place. To accomplish this, “students should limit their total debt to less than their starting salary in the first year of their job out of college, allowing them to pay off their loans in less than ten years.” Now, that seems like sound advice. However, I’m not sure it’s all that practical. I don’t know when and where Mr. Knatowitz went to college, or if he borrowed to do so, but I do know that in today’s world, it is pretty impossible for a student to limit their total debt to less than their first job’s starting salary. That’s tough to do when the average cost of college – tuition and fees — runs around $20,000 per year. According to the May 5 USA Today article “College students expect to make $103,880 after graduation – almost twice the reality,” while college students expect to make about $103,880 in their first post-graduation job, the average starting salary is actually about half that at $55,260. I was able to borrow less than my first year’s salary, but my cost of attendance at the time was less than $9,000/year. The COA at this same university today is $52,000/year.

So, if you’re reading this as a parent, hopefully you’ll have these “herculean” and “uncomfortable” dinner table conversations about money management with your children. And, if you’re reading this as a community banking professional, hopefully you’ll encourage everyone within shouting distance to take a financial management course and to share what they learn with their children. Perhaps then, both students and parents will make more informed decisions when it comes to borrowing and truly reap the benefits — and the value — of a college education.

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 vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the development of effective marketing communication, that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. And with them, your brand. Like the below financial education ads, for instance, recently added to our library of content.

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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Marketing Dollars are Back. Are you Prepared?

I recently saw some news, pretty good news I believe, concerning financial industry marketing budgets. Now, I can't help but reminisce a bit at the mention of the word “budget.”

Back in my ad agency days, never a day passed without some conversation about budgets. Your survival, of course, depended on it; the client’s budget, that is.  Every one of us in the creative department was either working or worrying; working to grow the brand and the business, or worrying that the client might find a reason to cut their budget. A cut could come for any number of reasons, but more often than not it was a downturn in the economy.

Maybe I’m imagining it, but it seemed easier back then to know when those cuts would come. And maybe that’s because when the economy was good, you knew it was good. Conversely when it was bad you knew it was bad. Not today. There seem to be some very different opinions about the state of things these days… 

I’ll start with the bringers of bad news. According to the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects Report: “Amid the war in Ukraine, surging inflation, and rising interest rates, global economic growth is expected to slump and several years of above-average inflation and below-average growth are now likely. It’s a phenomenon—stagflation—that the world has not seen since the 1970s.”  Doesn’t exactly make your day, does it? 

But then I read this; a July 1 American Banker article entitled “PNC Financial CEO ‘confused’ about market’s recession worries, impact on banks” where PNC Chairman, President and CEO William Demchak stated: “I am personally confused about all the concern that sits out there on banking reserves and the coming recession and the impacts on profitability of banks.” According to the article, many in the financial industry agree with Mr. Demchak. "Little of the data I see tells me the U.S. is on the cusp of a recession," said Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser. "Consumer spending remains well above pre-COVID levels with household savings providing a cushion for future stress and, as any employer will tell you, the job market remains very tight." Robert Bolton, president of the bank investor Iron Bay Capital, shared Fraser’s optimism: “A lot of the bankers I’ve met with are still pretty confident, and that’s based on what they’re seeing with credit quality and hearing from their commercial clients in terms of positive sentiment. Businesses are growing, hiring.” Peter Sefzik, Comerica’s Executive Director of Commercial Banking, agrees: “Overall, we feel like the sentiment of our customers is still pretty good at this time. Our pipeline is strong. Our activity levels are good, so it's hard to see any sort of immediate concerns.”  

Since I would much rather believe good news than bad, I’m going to go with the optimists on this one!

I also read, just recently, that banks are going back to spending on marketing; moving those dollars that were being spent on Mar-Tech over the last year or so back to spending on building  their brand and selling products. comcouncil.org says that “average marketing spending across industries has increased to 9.5% of overall company revenue this year. Financial services firms lead the way with the highest marketing budget at 10.4% of company revenue, up from 7.4% in 2021.”

While this is good news in terms of a bank’s ability to market itself, it can create challenges for community banks with limited resources. With more marketing dollars to spend, but no new hires planned for the immediate future, a community bank’s in-house marketing team can quickly find itself overwhelmed. When the objective is to grow the customer base and share of wallet through digital channels and better digital engagement — in other words, to do more with less — where can bank marketers turn for the marketing communication content they need?

About Bank Marketing Center

This is where bankmarketingcenter.com and our library of professionally designed digital assets can be just what a bank’s in-house marketing team needs. Take, for example, these digital ads we’ve created around fee-free checking.  These layouts can be quickly and easily customized;  select the logo, colors, fonts, and images you need, then simply drag and drop. No design software or skill needed.

 

 

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.