By Biff Motley
In a recent book, Ethics in Marketing and Communications: Towards a Global Perspective, various writers demonstrate the importance of establishing trust and reliability as a component in a company’s business plan.
Mary McKinley, the book’s editor, sums it up best, “Research indicates that the integrity demonstrated by a business can have a positive impact on its bottom line.” In other words, marketers must focus their attention not only on doing the right things, but also doing things right.
As we move in areas that are new and often experimental, this admonition is paramount. Missteps can tarnish a brand’s trusted image, from which recovery can be both lengthy and costly. Marketing is more than a functional area of the bank. Marketing activities span the boundaries of the enterprise and are the glue connecting its various stakeholders. This is well articulated in the book: “Marketing activities embrace not only typical functions such as customer research and advertising, but also the importance of communicating the ethics and values held by it’s owner’s, managers and industry.”
Here are four principles on which you, as your company’s marketing voice, should use as guideposts in your march to the future:
- New products should truly please customers. The world of business today is spinning with new ways to do things. Some are great. Some are not well thought out and have proven costly to their providers and/or disappointed customers. Examples of successes include credit cards, debit cards, online banking, remote check deposit, etc. Things that make the daily routine of financial management easier, faster and more trustworthy. Disappointments include offerings from well-respected providers such as Windows Vista, New Coke, AT&T’s “bundling” of horoscopes, ringtones, and other third-party offerings stuffed into almost indecipherable monthly statements. New offerings must be simple, save time or money, add value and be well tested while conforming to the guiding principle of satisfying our three stakeholders in this order of priority: customers, then employees, then shareholders.Disappointments include offerings from well-respected providers such as Windows Vista, New Coke, AT&T’s “bundling” of horoscopes, ringtones, and other third-party offerings stuffed into almost indecipherable monthly statements. New offerings must be simple, save time or money, add value and be well tested while conforming to the guiding principle of satisfying our three stakeholders in this order of priority: customers, then employees, then shareholders.
- Access must be easy, timely and well suited. Financial products generally facilitate some other objective that customers seek rather than providing direct satisfaction. As such, they must be simple, easy to use and, most importantly, timely. Because of this, people increasingly prefer immediate, online, do-it-yourself solutions. However, there are advisory services such as retirement planning, business capital planning and others that require more in-depth advice. Over time more services will lend themselves to self-service, but this slope will be gradual.
- Pricing must be fair, simple and understandable. Banking has always been perceived as a trustworthy business offering meticulous service by professional people who stand by their offerings. As customers increasingly go online to select or add to their portfolio of services, prices must be visible and comparably fair. In today’s growing marketplace, trust is still at the heart of customer satisfaction for online, intangible services.
- Advertising must express simple values with emotion. While there will always be bankers, in the future there may be fewer of them, and they will focus on the more complex financial issues. Advertising will need to step into the communications vacuum to articulate your company’s values, trustworthiness and personality.
Some say broad-based image advertising may fade away as marketers try to unravel the mysteries of people’s ever-changing exploration of the morphing
Web. While this “whack-a-mole” exercise will undoubtedly continue to be refined, marketers should not forget the importance customers put on the emotional dimension of dealing with trustworthy bankers.
In the final analysis and despite all of today’s technological opportunities, in the end, banking is still a public trust devoted to the protecting a community’s resources while enabling them to grow and prosper. Achieving this dual objective will always require devotion to preserving customer trust.
Biff Motley is president of Motley & Associates, New Orleans. Email: Bypher@Mac.com