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Personalization versus Privacy… the Banker’s Tightrope.

Is there a big push to monetize customer data and leverage that learning to better personalize the banking customer’s experience? You bet there is. Where, however, does this leave banks as they walk the tightrope between monetizing data, protecting their customer’s personal information and navigating a patchwork of regulations?

There is no doubt that personalization is a big deal in customer engagement. Having that deep understanding of each customer’s unique needs, driven by data and analytics and aided by machine learning, is every marketer’s dream. Knowing what a customer is thinking, feeling, and needing forms the very bedrock of any solid, strategic marketing effort.

According to the Boston Consulting Group, “a majority of people who are either open to or actively mulling changing banks would consider banking with a tech company—such as Amazon, Facebook, or Google—if they could. This is not surprising, because such companies have spurred a desire for more customized interactions and fostered a willingness to trade data for a better experience.”  BCG goes onto say: “Several consumer brands have shown the way forward. Netflix uses personalization techniques to make movie and series recommendations. Yet while many financial institutions are conceptually on board and heavily investing, the Netflix of banking has yet to emerge. The main reason is that true end-to-end personalization requires developing new muscles—such as strong cross-channel offerings, cross-enterprise collaboration, a single view of the customer, and a new technology ecosystem—all of which are difficult to build.”

Agreed… for the most part. Is receiving a “you might like this, too” recommendation from Amazon or Netflix the same as getting one from your bank? I’m not convinced. When Netflix tells me that I might be interested in a certain program because it somehow aligns with one I’d watched previously, I have no concerns about data sharing and privacy. The kind of personal data that a bank needs to personalize one’s digital experience is far different from the data that Netflix uses to recommend their latest docuseries.

I think it might have been one of those satirical commercials done by Saturday Night Live a while back, I’m not sure, but what I do remember was their lampooning of banks using personal data for marketing purposes. At one point in the faux commercial, which featured a young couple, the young man receives a series of SMS messages from their bank. The messages are fairly innocuous at the start 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. The last message really creeps them out: “We have the loan you need when you’re ready to decorate that baby room. Congratulations.” The gag, of course, is that the couple doesn’t know they’re pregnant, yet their bank somehow does.

Granted, this is a bit of hyperbole, but it does point to the fact that monetizing consumer data can pretty quickly run afoul of the consumer’s desire for privacy. Consumers want the convenience of products and services being brought to their attention based on their “buyer journey” and purchasing habits, but they’re definitely conflicted about how much of their personal information they're willing to share in order to make that happen. “Despite consumers’ growing comfort with (and demand for) personalized interactions,” says BCG, “a significant percentage of consumers are still protective of their personal information.” Twenty-five percent of consumers see getting personalized offers as “creepy,” and 32% say that getting personalized experiences is not worth giving up their privacy. More than one-third (36%) feel that companies don’t do enough to protect their private information. Where does that leave data monetization, from a privacy standpoint? What if you received a text or email from your bank saying: “Your oldest daughter is nearly 28 years old. Shouldn’t she be getting married soon? Maybe you should consider one of our HELOCs for that reception.” Or, better still, “Is everything okay at home? Over the past two weeks, you’ve spent $187.50 at the liquor store.”

And then there’s the challenge of Congress, which isn’t helping the matter. In the ABA Banking Journal blog, “State Data Privacy Laws Pose New Headaches for Banks,” author Penny Crosman sums it up this way: “States are stepping up their efforts to protect the privacy of consumer data, and the trend is adding to banks' compliance challenges as stewards of vast amounts of personal information.” If you’re an institution that operates across, say 20 states, you may be looking at 20 different frameworks and bills applying to them and their accounts, some of which are potentially in a state of revision.

So, how will banks personalize their customer experience by monetizing data, while at the same time protecting their personal information and navigating a patchwork of regulations? Opinions vary from “proceed with caution” to “don’t worry, consumers will give you whatever you want if you give them what they need.” BCG estimates that for every $100 billion in assets that a bank has, it can achieve as much as $300 million in revenue growth by personalizing its customer interactions. Banks will certainly appreciate the $300 million in revenue growth… but they’re smart to take a thoughtful approach to trying to be the next “Netflix bank.” After all, isn’t personalization about listening to, understanding, and responding to the wants and needs of customers? Those who are listening are, in my opinion, being justifiably cautious.

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, relevant, and compelling communication that will help you build trust, relationships, and with them, your brand. All while saving you time and money.

To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to in-branch brochures and signage –  visit bankmarketingcenter.comOr, 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. 

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Your Mail? Don’t Worry, It’s On Its Way.

I’m sure you’ve had this experience, as well.  It’s 9 o’clock in the morning on a Tuesday when I discover that there’s an item on Amazon that I simply must have…today.  I place my order. That afternoon, I have it in hand.  Brought right to my door… I didn’t even need to walk to my mailbox (which I don’t usually mind, since it’s one of the few forms of exercise I have time for these days!?) in order to get it.

Which makes for a good segue.  Speaking of mailboxes, why is it that Amazon can deliver a package the same day and it takes the US Postal Service up to eight weeks to take an envelope from Baton Rouge to Atlanta?  This is not hyperbole. Just a week or so ago, I received several letters, all from within a couple hundred miles of me, that had been mailed in the last two weeks of April.

According to a recent Fortune.com article: “Current standards call for delivering First Class mail in one to three days. Under revised standards, delivery time would stretch to as much as five days, according to the Postal Service plan. It also said it would “align hours of operation” at low-traffic post offices. Under the plan, the Postal Service would add a day or more to its standards for First Class mail delivery, increase rates, and reduce post office hours to ward off as much as $160 billion in deficits over the next decade.” There’s no doubt that the Postal Service is struggling to deal with sagging letter volume and dropping revenue. But wouldn’t fewer letters mean faster delivery?  I guess not, and it sounds like for now anyway, we should not look forward to any improvements in delivery times.

I bring this up because I continue to see companies -- many of them financial institutions -- that are still using direct mail to get their marketing messages out there. I may not know if DeJoy’s plan can save the postal service, but I do know this:  The key to marketing effectively is “the five rights”:  get the right message to the right person at the right time in the right place in the right way. That’s a lot of “rights,” I know, but in order to be effective, this is what it takes. In today’s economy, with supply chains and scarcity of materials slowing the production of all sorts of products, does it make a lot of sense to market those products with direct mail?  Recently I received a mailer that got me interested in the product; that’s the good news. The bad news? When I went to purchase it, it was already out of stock and backordered for an indefinite period of time. Why market products you can’t sell?  Lately, when I get a direct mail piece from a bank that touts, say, an interest rate, I can’t help but think that that rate has gone up a quarter point while that postcard was in the mail!  The upshot?  Follow the five rights and make use of media that can offer you the speed and efficiency that effective messaging requires: email campaigns and social media, for instance.  If you have any questions, or would like to learn more about digital marketing, social in particular, we’re here to help. Another potential benefit of not using the mail? Say you’re still printing and mailing statements to customers.  You may want to encourage them to go paperless; one, because their statement is weeks old by the time they get it and two, you can save a lot of money by going paperless.

Believe me, I love getting letters in the mail. Who doesn’t? As an ad guy, I have always loved direct mail. It can be a powerful marketing communication tool and I think, should always be part of your marketing mix. However, I would steer clear in the short term. Unless you can get that Christmas Club promotion postcard in the mail next week.

What do you think?  As always, I welcome your thoughts!

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, relevant, and compelling communication that will help you build trust, relationships, and with them, your brand. All while saving you time and money.

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.

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Customer Service. Can Technology Fix It?

A lot has been written lately about how banks and credit unions need “digital transformation” to succeed.  Is that true?  Sure. If you don’t offer a great app or online banking services, you may as well turn your branch locations into coffee shops.  Note: Some are pretty close to that now!?

But how about customer service?

You know, the best personalized digital banking experience in the world isn’t going to help you keep (or earn) a customer if you abandon customer service. 

This is, of course, a problem across every industry at the moment… probably most notably in food service. The futureofcommerce.com, in “2021 customer service trends: Doubling down, post-pandemic,” states that “this year has put the spotlight on customer service as businesses grappled with an influx of calls from distressed customers as well as wide-ranging disruptions to their operations.” I’m sure you’ve experienced it, too.

While I don’t do fast food very often, I was just recently in a burger joint drive thru where I was told that the wait might be extra long because there weren’t enough employees working.  There was even a handwritten note taped on the drive thru window glass (I’m surprised that letters cut out of a newspaper weren’t used) asking patrons to “not lose it with the worker at the window. It’s not their fault that the food takes so long.” At a local restaurant, I was told that even though the dining room was empty that my wait would be close to thirty minutes. The reason?  Only one server.  When I asked if they were hiring, the hostess told me “yes, we’ve been trying but we can’t get anyone to work.”  On the other hand, get in a Chick-fil-A drive thru line and you can pretty much bet on having your food -- even where there are a dozen cars ahead of you -- in just 5 to 10 minutes.  Which is probably why the line at Chick-fil-A is 12 cars deep and the one at the burger joint is non-existent; and you still have to wait 15 minutes to get food you didn’t order! 

Now, onto online businesses. As for seeking help over the phone for issues I’ve had with some of my favorite e-commerce sites, well, “fuggedaboutit,” as Joey Peeps used to say. Canva, for example.  Canva throws everything but the kitchen sink onto their website in hopes that they’ve covered everything. Unfortunately, like most e-commerce sites, the word “support” doesn’t even make the top navigation. Instead, if you scroll all the way down to the footer, you’ll find -- somewhere under what they call “Resources,” I think -- answers to “commonly asked” questions.  What happens if your question isn’t commonly asked?  It doesn’t get answered, and there is no one to call to get it answered, either.

Then there are those companies that do go the extra couple hundred yards and offer an 800 number for customer service. If you can actually wait long enough to simply get a recorded, audio-animatronic response, it usually starts with “Thank you for your patience.” I’m not sure what makes these people think I’m being patient; I’m not. I’m not just calling to say hello.  I’m calling because I need help and urgently. The shopping cart won’t accept my card, my login credentials aren’t working, an item I want to order is out of stock and I’d like to know when it will be back in stock… Then the recorded customer service person goes through a litany of things that I could have done, rather than try getting someone on the phone.  “If this is a medical emergency, call 9-1-1. Did you know that you can visit us online?”  Yes, I did. In fact, that’s why I’m calling; your online isn’t working!  And this old standby: “This call may be recorded for quality and training purposes.”  Obviously, no quality or training is going on here, so I’m not sure what the point of that is. One of my favorites is “press 1 for English”. Unfortunately, more often than not, the person you’ll finally get to speak with is probably in another country, and however well intended, does not speak English as their first language.

A bright spot in all this?  My community bank. Can we say small community bank? I love these people.  Why is their customer service so much better than everything else out there that I’m encountering?  I don’t know the behind-the-scenes, but I do appreciate the result:  A friendly and knowledgeable individual who answers the phone within about four rings.  Even if they told me that there was absolutely nothing that they could do to help, I’d still appreciate it. That’s because, well, at least it’s something.  Futureofcommerce.com also makes this observation, which I found interesting: “After a challenging year, organizations are looking to the potential of this alignment -- between sales and service -- to improve customer experience, increase revenue, and reduce cost. Too often, customer service is seen as a separate unit, triggered when something goes wrong and customers complain. This mindset causes businesses to miss out on growth opportunities. Aligning sales and service helps customer service agents deliver more personalized customer experiences, which naturally leads to better business outcomes. Also, agents with insight into how customers have interacted with sales teams have increased upsell and cross-selling opportunities.”

Is the balancing act that companies walk in controlling customer service costs without sacrificing service quality a tough one?  Absolutely. I’m even a bit reluctant to say this, since a reliance on technologies helped get us into this customer service mess in the first place, but maybe technology can offer the solution. With intelligent technologies like machine learning and the Internet of Things, companies can automate routine tasks like ticket categorizations, giving service agents more time to focus on value-added interactions with customers in need.

Slaask.com in “5 Ways to Improve Customer Happiness Through Technology:” “Now that we have so many ways to contact customers, there’s really no excuse for businesses to have a poor communication model. The best thing about having so many forms of technology available is that you can connect with customers through their favorite communication media. For example, there’s a huge majority of customers today that would rather use live chat to communicate.”  Hmmm. My experience with live chat has been less than stellar. Instead of chatting with a live human, I end up with an AI “chat bot” who can do little more than greet me, then redirect me to another useless page on their website. Or, my question gets referred, finally, to a real human being who, unfortunately, proves to be no more help than the robot.

In the end, I just don’t know.  Can technology fix the problem?  Maybe. What do you think?  As always, I welcome your thoughts!

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, relevant, and compelling communication that will help you build trust, relationships, and with them, your brand. All while saving you time and money.

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.

 

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Introducing Martech Without the Migraine.

 

Just in case you stepped away from your computer for a few minutes, marketing technology or martech, describes the software and technology used to attract and retain customers. There’s been a lot of talk about it, and rightfully so. According to HubSpot’s recent article, “What Marketing Leaders are Investing in This Year”, 60% of marketers indicated that they are set to increase their marketing technology spending in the next 12 months. The reason, of course, is that investments in marketing technology are the solution du jour when it comes to a financial institution’s ability to, as HubSpot puts it, “retain and delight their audiences and react at speed when necessary. And the options are vast. As of 2020, there are 8,000 different martech tools to choose from, ranging from data analytics platforms to CRMs, to internal team collaboration tools.”

Now, the need for better data analytics, automated processes, and collaboration tools has been around for quite some time.  With the changes we’re seeing from COVID-19, and the trend toward virtual officing, that need has increased significantly. The processes, and the personnel, that facilitated the concepting and execution of marketing messaging no longer live under one roof.  With stakeholders scattered -- the usual players such as product development, sales, brand, and creative -- it’s just no longer possible to simply get together in a conference room and “hammer things out.”

What’s the solution?  Marketing technology. Well, unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as that.  As  Laurie Busby pointed out in her Financial Brand article, “Marketing Automation Doesn’t Have to End in Costly Failure, marketing automation can, unfortunately, end in costly failure. “Some financial institutions are so eager to enter the martech world that they let themselves be sold deluxe software packages and empty promises. Many such teams sign on with tech-giant platforms that charge monstrous upfront costs and require exhaustive training. Months later — sometimes longer — these institutions still won’t have the software up and running. Without the right support, these once enthusiastic folks find themselves stuck wading through massive “bloatware” platforms. No one on their teams has the bandwidth to train new users on properly, let alone manage. Worst of all, they find themselves no closer to their goals and can’t demonstrate any ROI to their key stakeholders.”

First Interstate, a community bank headquartered in Billings, Montana with more than 150 offices across Idaho, Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming, solved this challenge with a private label portal from BankMarketingCenter.com.

“As a large community regional bank with a diversified suite of financial products and services, we knew that we needed a way to get branded, compliant, approved messaging out into the marketplace in an efficient, cost-effective manner. That led us to BankMarketingCenter.com and the development of a private label portal.”

- Sara Becker, SVP, Director, Marketing & Communications

First Interstate’s portal is a custom designed, automated system that organizes assets, streamlines the review process, tracks projects at every stage of development, archives the entire project process from start to finish, offers high quality templates along with thousands of images, and ensures both information accuracy and brand standards compliance. 

“Anything going through our agency was expensive and had a long turnaround time; sometimes as long as two weeks. And, we could never be sure that the information in those materials was current and compliant. When we access materials in the portal, we know that the information in those templates is current and that it meets compliance demands.”

-  Rhianna H. Tretin, Marketing & PR Specialist

BankMarketingCenter.com allows First Interstate Bank to get their marketing message out quickly, efficiently, and always on brand. Through the portal, the bank’s 1,200 users can access approved, branded materials and customize them in seconds to target their local markets and then have them downloaded or electronically delivered to the approved vendor. The software also builds in controls from a budget and compliance standpoint since there are levels of access and approval for different users. Once a marketing product is ordered, the technology automatically routes the request through marketing/compliance for approval. Once approved, the product is sent directly to the bank’s approved printer or media outlet. 

By working with BankMarketingCenter.com, First Interstate Bank can maintain control of their brand image and empower team members at the local level with high quality, professionally created ads and marketing materials they can customize. The portal has helped the bank save thousands of dollars in marketing costs, facilitate compliance, and respond more quickly to demands for marketing materials. And the bank anticipates that this trend will continue as it expands its use of their customized private label portal.

Busby concludes with this thought: “That is why when choosing a platform and package, you must not only consider your marketing needs, but also ensure that meeting them with martech falls within the scope of your department’s capabilities. Throughout the selection process, remember your end goal: You are aiming for better, personalized communication and smarter use of your team’s capabilities. The right software is out there — you just may need to poke around before you find it.”

We couldn’t agree more.

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, relevant, and compelling communication that will help you build trust, relationships, and with them, your brand. All while saving you time and money.

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.

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The Right Marketing Resource is Out There… If You Can Find It.

There’s no doubt that the gig worker pool has grown. According to Upwork, “the U.S. freelance or “gig” workforce is growing faster than the overall U.S. workforce, outpacing overall U.S. workforce growth at a rate 3x faster. Freelancers are expected to be the majority of the U.S. workforce by 2027, based on growth rates witnessed in the past year.” And it’s no surprise. While gig workers are finding the independent contractor lifestyle appealing, businesses are enjoying the savings they’re realizing from a reduced workforce.

Hiring marketing talent, or any talent for that matter, can certainly have its challenges.  The hiring process is time-consuming and costly, and studies have time and time again shown that nearly 50% of new hires don’t last more than 18 months. As a result, the marketing professionals at smaller, community banks are looking to external providers; ad agencies, design firms, and, of course, the gig worker.

These service providers are not inexpensive.  Long term, retainer relationships with ad agencies, for instance, are tough due to shifting budgets, market conditions, workload, and more. “Project-based” relationships aren’t easy, either. They’re expensive, too and can require a significant investment of your time, as well. Then, there’s the freelancer; the individual who is usually “repped” by an Upwork, Freelancer, or Fiverr… or a recruiting/talent management firm such as Robert Half or Creative Circle. Here, since gig workers are less expensive than ad agencies and design firms, there’s an opportunity to, perhaps, save some money and get the work you need done. 

While I can’t claim to have had experience with all of these resources, I’ve had more than my fair share with some and, in general, the talent I’ve seen is pretty good.  Some quite good, in fact.  But the point is this:  Finding the right freelance help is not about talent. 

Say your bank is launching a new product or service. Perhaps you’ve just re-designed your website to radically improve your customer’s digital banking experience. You now need a multi-channel campaign to get that message out:  In-branch signage, social media messaging, press releases, print and online advertising, a drip email campaign, and blogs. You don’t want to engage an outside agency because of the cost so you take on the role of marketing “general contractor,” and hire the freelancers you need with the goal of managing them just as a contractor would manage the electricians, dry wallers, plumbers, etc. in constructing a new home.

First, you need to find the right individuals for the job. That, in itself, can be your fulltime job for weeks. Here, for example, is what you’ll find on Fiverr in your search for someone who can put together an animated video:

“I’ll do an amazing, animated explainer video for you… starting at $120.”

“I will create an animated explainer video… starting at $5.”

“I’ll do a great animation video for your business… starting at $2500.”

So, after a somewhat exhaustive search that involves judging their creative and strategic-thinking abilities, as well as widely differing pricing, you identify your team. Once you’ve worked with them on their availabilities (add another week of discussion) and they’ve all “cleared their decks” to start work on your campaign, you then need to get them ramped up not just on your campaign parameters, but on your brand. Your deadline still looms.  You’ve gotten them on-boarded and they’re on the job.  Your front-end web developer suddenly needs to go out of town while at about the same time, your copywriter takes on another project that pays better but “can still do what you need.”  Your project’s schedule and timeline have now gone out the window and several of your team members are having scheduling issues. Your “new and improved” digital experience is, unfortunately, no longer that “new.”

You get the picture, I’m sure. As the old adage goes, it’s sometimes easier to do something yourself then to try to explain what you need to someone else. And this can certainly be true when working with hired guns, no matter how talented they are. They’re not employees, so you can’t manage their schedules. Nor have you really gotten to know “how” they work. You know “what” they can do, but skill sets are often not as critical as attitude. 

Freelancers go through a process that, like The Seven Stages of Grief, we can call The Five Stages of Project Work.

1) Initial conversation where parameters and compensation and are agreed upon; both parties are excited

2) First deliverable not up to snuff; freelancer pushes back on critique

3) Timeline changes, forcing all to re-arrange their schedules; freelancer is privately wondering if he/she did the right thing by taking on the gig

4) Second deliverable not up to snuff; freelancer feeling truly demotivated at this juncture

5) Issue of compensation arises with “scope” change; freelancer actively looking for another project.  Yours is now relegated to “if I have time” status

Now, having said all of the above, I’ll also say this. Not every creative project goes this way. Some, by stroke of luck, act of God, whatever you want to call it, go smooth as silk; the work is great, deadlines are met, everyone’s happy. But, when you’ve invested in a product or service worth marketing, and you’re investing more in the messaging around it, can you afford to gamble on talent you’ve probably just met?

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, relevant, and compelling communication that will help you build trust, relationships, and with them, your brand. All while saving you time and money.

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.

 

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Free Stock Photos Often Come with a Price.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” It’s an adage that, in my personal experience anyway, has proven all too true. Whether it’s a once-in-a-lifetime deal on a pre-owned automobile, a “ground floor” investment opportunity, or the “right around the corner” date when I’ll finally be able to get my COVID-19 vaccine, I’ve learned over the years to take such barely believable opportunities with a grain of salt. This brings me to the promises that companies are making when it comes to the use of stock photography.

The reason I bring this up is that 1) my business relies on the use of stock photography, 2) I’ve been hearing a lot about this lately from my financial industry friends, and 3) I hate seeing people get taken advantage of.

Here’s an example. Right now, many banks and credit unions are promoting their mobile banking and thinking that it’s okay to use a photo of an iPhone with an Apple logo on it. That’s because there are stock photo suppliers out there that will tell you it’s okay. Truth is, it isn’t… okay, that is. Apple states this pretty clearly in their Trademark Guidelines: “Only Apple and its authorized resellers and licensees may use the Apple Logo in advertising, promotional, and sales materials.”  Of course, if your marketing department is planning on using it in your advertising, well, that – as Apple states – is very illegal and could put you in legal jeopardy.  (Note: Any major brand is going to have similar trademark restrictions and you must always remain aware of the fact that such use is commercial use, not personal, and the rights, restrictions and fees associated with commercial use are much different from those that apply to personal use.)

Now, you’ll probably find this amusing. I know I did. I did some research into stock photo websites – their available images, how to use them, how much they cost, etc. – and here are some of the things I found. 

Check out this quote from a site I came across when I conducted a Google search using the phrase “royalty-free images”. This comes from a site that supposedly guides you to the best stock image resources around:

“But don’t fret, my friend! Free stock photos are easy to find if you know where to look. Grab this list of over 80 places to get royalty-free images. However, while there are places to find copyright-free images, you need to understand the legalese to avoid getting into trouble using stock photography that requires additional licensing. We are not saying these sites have 100% risk-free images. What we say is theirs are safer than the rest.”

Not exactly helpful, is it? I found this info on another site that supposedly provides guidance in using stock images:

“No free stock photo site can guarantee the author (the uploader) has the appropriate releases on file, so you have to do that instead and do your own diligent research. Or just stay away from photos that are on thin ice or just flat out dangerous to use and choose more generic ones, with non-identifiable people or property.”

Now, I don’t want to name names, but this quotation is from the License Agreement section of Canva’s website. Canva is a very popular web-based design application that gives you the ability to create your own ad designs utilizing an image resource called Pro Stock Media, which states:

“While we have made reasonable efforts to correctly categorize, keyword, caption and title the Stock Media, Canva does not warrant the accuracy of such information and Canva also does not warrant the accuracy of any metadata that may be provided with the Stock Media. If you want to end this agreement you don’t have to get Arnold Schwarzenegger involved. Just shred any printed copies of the design and delete any files related to the design. We can change this license whenever we want. If anyone takes legal action over any Stock Media you are using, you must stop using the Stock Media, delete or remove the Stock Media, and let us know about it.”

Okay, so now that Canva has made it clear (sort of) that they take no responsibility whatsoever for what they’ve just told you, they’re then going to confuse you further with other parameters that you maybe should or shouldn’t be concerned about:

  • Your final designs can be no larger than 600px by 800px
  • You cannot remove any embedded copyright notices from the stock image.
  • You cannot use the stock images in a way that competes with Canva
  • You cannot use the stock images identified as relating to events that are newsworthy or of general interest and expressly excludes any advertorial sections

We reached out to a couple of the photographers that have photos on Canva and asked them if they have releases on their iPhone photos. We received responses similar to this one: “Unfortunately I don’t, which is why I don’t sell this photo (and instead I give it away for free).”

If all of this sounds confusing, and perhaps even a bit frightening, that’s because it is. What’s really frightening, however, is that with companies like Canva, that tell you that you can use their images without getting sued, well, you can end up getting sued. What do you do then?  Just follow Canva’s advice, “You don’t have to get Arnold Schwarzenegger involved. Just shred any printed copies of the design and delete any files related to the design.” Then, since that advice is completely worthless, get yourself a good lawyer as your bank or credit could be on the proverbial hook for damages; in which case, even Arnold probably won’t be able to help you.

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical and compelling communications with your customers and prospective customers; messaging that will help you build trust, relationships, and with them, your brand. In customizing our layouts, you'll have access to thousands of images. Since we have a relationship with the stock image provider, you can use any image you choose, worry free. 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.

 

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Auto re-fi loans can lead to additional revenue down the road.

I’m one of the lucky few who, at the moment, doesn’t have a car payment.  And when I say “few,” I really mean it. Just how many auto loans are out there these days? A lot… 113 million, by recent estimates. To give you an idea of the dollars involved, at the end of the fourth quarter of 2019, TransUnion estimated that Americans were carrying a total of $1.3 trillion in auto loan debt with the average auto borrower carrying a balance of roughly $18,500.

If I were making monthly payments on a car loan that was somewhere between 2 and 5 years old, I’d probably be looking to take advantage of historically low interest rates and refinance that loan right now. If I were a banker, and I was looking to bring new customers to my bank or new members to my credit union, I would probably be looking to use auto refinancing as a way to do that.

Unfortunately, now is the perfect time to market auto loan refinancing.  I say unfortunately because there is good news and bad news; together, they are making this a good time to refinance an auto loan. On the one hand – as you can see from the chart below, courtesy of Statista – there’s good news; rates are ideal for an auto loan re-fi right now. 

On the other hand, there’s bad news; Americans continue to face uncertain times due to COVID-19.  The pandemic has not abated and, as a result, the economy continues to take baby steps toward recovery, with tens of millions of Americans trying to find some kind of economic relief.  Saving just $100 each month by reducing their car payment would provide some of that relief.

While no one seems certain about the future of rates, one thing we know that we can all bank on; if you borrowed money a year or so ago to buy a car, you’re very likely paying more than you could be. Which brings me to why financial institutions should be marketing their low-interest auto loans to those who borrowed within the last two to five years. First, as you well know, it’s not easy to get someone to leave their financial institution and take their business elsewhere. Attracting new customers to your institution is hard work, and it can be costly. According to Bain & Company researchacquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer. ”In financial services, for example,” the study says, “a 5% increase in customer retention produces more than a 25% increase in profit. Why? Return customers tend to buy more from a company over time. As they do, your operating costs to serve them decline. The success rate of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%, while the success rate of selling to a new customer is 5-20%.”

In order to make is easy for banks and credit unions to get their auto loan refinancing message out there, we’ve created a campaign of ads, both print and digital that can be customized quickly and easily.

Now’s the time to attract new customers and members.  Borrowers are turning to online lenders such as Lending Tree and Credit Karma for the ease and convenience they offer.  But you can offer them something more; not only competitive rates, but the personalized service that can, potentially, help you attract customers and members for life.

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.comour 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. 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.

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Why use a credit card when your PAL will Pay?

Credit cards are important to banks, right?  Important enough, it appears, that some banks will – at least allegedly – risk bending some of the rules. As the American Banker pointed out this past August in an article on the topic, “one particular firm that drew the regulators’ attention,” says the article, “was Bank of America. Between 2016 and 2018, Bank of America was among nearly 50 large and midsize banks that underwent a special regulatory exam, which focused on sales practices, by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.”  The bank was also singled out for close review by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which launched an investigation into whether the bank had opened credit card accounts without customers’ authorization, as Wells Fargo had done back in 2016.  So, yes, credit cards are important to a bank’s bottom line. Bending the rules, however, is not an option. How, then, can banks hold onto this extremely valuable revenue stream?

The Financial Brand alluded to the battle for credit card users and “payments disruption” in their recent blog entitled, 7 Major Trends that will Shake Up Banking in the Year Ahead. The FB cites an Accenture study that “points to credit cards as the payments segment with the highest susceptibility to disruption. The primary cause: Point-of-sale lending, also known as buy now pay later (BNPL). These solutions, pioneered by fin-techs such as Affirm, Klarna and Afterpay, enable consumers to select a credit card or installment plan either at the time of purchase or after their purchase, and typically charge only a flat fee. Research by The Ascent, a personal finance service, describes how and why Americans are taking advantage of BNPL. “Over a third (37%) of U.S. consumers between 18 and 54 have used a BNPL service,” states the report. The reasons for the switch are simple: 39% say to avoid paying credit card interest while 38% use it to make purchases that fall outside of their normal budget. The most popular BNPL at the moment? Bill Me Later/PayPal Credit.

Then there’s the digital wallet options: PayPal Wallet, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, to name a few. These companies offer their own versions of ways to pay, some of which, like banks, even offer their own cash-back cards with rewards. The Apple Card, for example, is one. The card offers daily cash back and is accessed through a convenient-to-use app. A survey by Deloitte shows that the share of shoppers making a purchase on mobile phones has doubled in the past five years. In addition, according to the survey, this year will mark the first time that more than half of those surveyed plan to use their smartphone, in some capacity, for holiday shopping online.

In order to keep their share of wallet, credit card issuers seem to be continuing to merchandise their cards with low promotional rates and rewards. Deloitte’s U.S. Payments Leader Zach Aron says “the stakes are high for banks when it comes to credit cards. It’s one of the relative bright spots for banks in payments and the top payments revenue driver, with a compound annual growth rate of between 8% and 9%.” Mobile, he says, is “far and away” how people want to pay going forward, which puts pressure on banks to become the top credit card or payment method in a person’s actual mobile wallet.  How do banks become that top digital wallet payment and can credit cards continue to be one of their “relative bright spots?”  We’ll see.

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.

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.

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Are you simply serving up Spam?

We all know email marketing, right?  Of course; our inboxes are inundated with emails on a daily basis. Campaignmonitor.com says that “the number of email users is expected to reach 4.5 billion by 2022. Experts generally agree that 121 business emails are sent and received each day.” That’s a fair number of emails, and I’m guessing, far fewer than most of us are receiving and sending each day. For most businesses, email marketing is a critical piece of their overall marketing strategy.  And, despite the downside we just mentioned – the sheer number of emails we get each day – email marketing can still be a very effective tool.

So, how is your email marketing performing?  Could it be more effective?  Chances are, you’re already using one of the many email service providers out there, such as HubSpot, MailChimp, or Constant Contact.  Hopefully, you’re continually updating your lists and building your messaging based on the recipient’s stage in the buyer journey. And, hopefully, you’re continually testing your emails to make sure that you’re sending the right message to the right person at the right time.

You’re not testing, you say?  That’s a shame because, with the right data, you can understand how, when, where and why your customers did, or didn’t, take the desired action upon receiving your email. And then, you can act upon it.

How does testing work?

Split testing or A/B testing as it’s sometimes called, is a method of testing where the various components that make up your email, such as the copy, images, call-to-action buttons, design, etc., are altered to form a variation of the original or “treatment”. That treatment is then compared with the original or “control” and their performance compared in terms of metrics such as opens and click-through rates. An A/B test, which is actually a lot easier to do than it may sound here, is a great way to learn how to:

  • improve the amount of traffic driven to your website,
  • generate webinar registrations,
  • incentivize recipients to download educational materials such as video and e-books in exchange for contact info, and more.  

What are the “variables” that you can and should test?

Start with your format, your design. There are hundreds of templates out there, each tailored for a specific purpose.  A few examples. The “dedicated send” layout, for is a good choice for an email that is designed to communicate a short news item, such as the introduction of a new product or an offer.  Short copy followed by a call-to-action to “learn more.”  Newsletter layouts are best for, you guessed it, newsletters. Personal or “friendly” letter formats can work well in those instances where your message is more brand focused than product focused.  And so on. The short of it is this: Pick a format that aligns with your objective.

Another variable worth testing is your layout, which is defined by the elements you’re including as well as their placement or “hierarchy.”  Try short copy versus long.  Try a call-to-action button in the middle of your copy and then at the end. Try different colors, fonts, type sizes.

Timing is worth testing, too. As you might imagine, Monday mornings and Friday afternoons are not good sending times.  Generally, at least according to “the experts”, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are best.  However, with time testing, you can be sure!  It’s important to know when your recipient will be open to seeing your message. Otherwise, there is no point in sending it, is there?

Subject lines. Subject lines are the email equivalent of that initial handshake, the part that sets the stage for the conversation. With an inbox full of emails, a subject line must grab your recipients’ attention immediately, then convince them that it is worth opening and reading. You really want to get the subject line right or you’ll never get a decent open rate.

Now, for the test.

While conducting your test is fairly straightforward, there are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind:

As we talked about, now that it’s test time, you should have two versions of your email; your control and your treatment. Remember, you can only change one variable per test. Only then can you be certain that the element you changed is driving the changed response.

Last but not least, your audience. In order to achieve conclusive results, you need to test with two or more audiences that are equal. In order to conduct a “fair” test, both of your email variations must have as similar a group of recipients as possible. Divide your list in two so that you can be sure that the individuals are similar demographically and psychographically. If you don’t, your test results will not be conclusive.  Last but not least, hit “send” and see how your audience responds to each.

It’s time to fine tune.

Granted, there’s a great deal of science in developing and executing an effective email marketing campaign and testing merely scratches the surface. Hopefully, though, if you’re already utilizing emails, and most of you probably are, this can at least help you fine tune your efforts.

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.

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.

 

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Let’s not take Community out of Community Banks.

The CEO of Chime, the U.S. technology neobank company that provides fee-free financial services through a mobile app, just a week or so ago had this to say about traditional banks in an article on cnbc.com: “COVID-19 and the pandemic have just accelerated the trend that was already in motion. There’s an increasing willingness to provide and manage your finances through a mobile app. Particularly for the younger generation, the notion of going in to fill out forms, to get basic financial services is really becoming a relic of the past.”

Which begs the question, if you’re a community bank, what will your community look like in the not-too-distant future?

 By that I mean, is the online community all that’s left for banks? Individuals who seem willing to trade personal data for convenience? Those who would prefer to never consult with a human being, an expert, when it comes to managing one of the most important and difficult areas of their lives? Their finances?

Personally, I believe there is still a place for that “off-line” community… the one surrounding your branch locations, the one that consists of individuals and local businesses who are connected with each other and value that connection.

But, hey, what do I know?  Seems like every time you open a news page in your browser there’s some article about digital transformation, monetizing data, turning branch banks into internet cafes… is that really where we’re headed?  And, should we?

Granted, I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Britt, Chine CEO, that “the pandemic has just accelerated the trend that was already in motion.”  This finextra article from just the other day included this proclamation from Paul Walker, GM of Q2 BaaS. “Now any bank can have its own Marcus or Chime in a matter of a few weeks.”  Wow, the race to trade one community for the other is really is running full steam ahead.

Further proof is a recent Financial Brand blog about digital banking insights that can be learned from China’s We Bank. The Shenzen-based, digital-only bank has experienced exponential growth since its inception in 2015. How? The cynic might ask this question: Could it be that they are raking in cash not because of a digital banking model worth emulating but, instead, a model that allows them to monetize data and loan money to high-risk individuals without fear of running afoul of regulatory agencies?

Case in point. We Bank has built a business of over 200 million customers by opening accounts with an average revenue per user of around $10 USD.  Their per-account operation cost is only 3.6 RMB, or roughly $.50 USD. And, they can process a loan application in just 5 seconds.  5 seconds!  How is that possible?  Henry Ma, CIO explains it so: “We work with a lot of internet platforms. Essentially, we embed our financial products into our partner platforms. And we also work with our partner platforms and leverage the data and the user base that they have and do a lot of pre-underwriting on the users. When we work with a particular platform, the user will get pre-underwritten and receive an invitation from us. Once the user accepts the invitation, we have already gotten some idea of what kind of a credit worthiness this user deserves.”

“We leverage the data and the user base and do a lot of pre-underwriting…”  Hmmm.  Where does this data to which Mr. Ma refers come from?  Sounds to me a like it might be Big Brother Banking, where your bank, in bed with Big Data Bad Boy, knows everything about you and then uses that information to sell their products (which of course, are products that create the revenue they didn’t generate when they sucked you in with a bait-and-switch offer.)

If this sounds a bit skeptical and cynical that’s because, frankly, it is.

Back to the original point here.  What “community” are digital banks serving and do our true, traditional, local community banks want to go there? The pandemic may have accelerated the digital banking trend, but that doesn’t necessarily signal progress or a direction in which banks need to necessarily go. People need community and connections. Yes, they want convenience, but once this pandemic is behind us, will those digital customers still feel the same way? Perhaps, but perhaps not. I could see the pendulum swinging back the other way with a re-birth of the branch bank. 

And why not?  E-tailers are doing it.  In “Why are Online Retailers adding Brick and Mortar Stores?” DeFi Nucleus Vision says, “Online shopping lacks human interactions. Customers don’t get a chance to ask in-store stylists for advice, it’s a solitary experience and customizations aren’t as easy to organize. Having a salesperson who greets you, tells you what looks good on you, gives you the right size, and offers a better color scheme can help brands build a deeper connection with the customer.”  A “deeper connection.” That sounds a lot like community banking to me.

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.

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.