How to Avoid ‘Me Too’ Marketing

By Tom Hershberger

If you believe marketing is more than advertising, read on.

It won’t be long now. We are already beginning across the country to see the return of special pricing and offers for deposit products. As loan demand improves and banks focus on balancing their funding sources, the importance of customer deposits will return as a marketing priority.

The question is: Will you be a “me too” marketer, or will your organization stay the course established by your strategic and marketing plans?

If we allow marketing to become just advertising, then responding to what is hot in the market seems like a fairly effective way to maintain your market position.

It’s not.

Affirming your brand and producing intentional growth in specific areas of your organization requires a comprehensive approach to marketing. Advertising alone is not enough.

Effective planning is the beginning of that marketing process. It is influenced by many internal and external sources. However, if the only source of your marketing activities is to follow what a local market competitor is doing, your “me too” marketing efforts are probably not supporting the outcomes established in your marketing plan.

It’s time to stop and revisit the validity of your planning process and marketing strategies.

Bank marketing professionals must take an active role in generating successful programs that support brand development, sales performance and customer relationship growth. This includes a number of moving parts that can easily be sidetracked by one senior manager’s agenda to address a competitor’s offer. When it happens, it will feel like you have two choices. The first is to simply embrace the request and create marketing and advertising materials to counter the offer with your organization’s best deal. The second choice is a little more complicated. You reject the manager’s request, running the risk of alienating the senior manager and, in the process, erode your credibility with the leadership team.

There is a third option.

Evaluate your opportunities within the context of your approved plan, and make modifications if they contribute favorably to achievement of your marketing goals. If not, engage your organization’s leadership team in an open discussion of the desired outcomes and the planned activities to achieve those results.

All of these options assume that you have a marketing plan in place, approved and supported by your management team. In the absence of a plan, every good idea will seem like a reasonable solution.

Start with a plan

To avoid “me too” marketing, start with a plan. A marketing plan that examines your opportunities and outlines the necessary activities to achieve desired results across all product lines and delivery channels. Make sure your plan tells a compelling story inclusive of market conditions, the competitive landscape, prior company performance and goals tied to company priorities.

Provide an easy-to-follow structure

Create a marketing plan structure that functions as an extension of the organization’s strategic plan. Develop a structure that can be repeated annually. This supports management discussions for your year-over-year marketing strategies. It also provides management with a consistent approach to making decisions related to marketing activities.

  • Situation analysis: Summarize your current market conditions, competitive forces, customer relationship composition, company performance trends and prior plan performance.
  • Market and product focus: Identify your geographic trade area, market segment priorities and services targeted for growth.
  • Objectives and goals: Document the marketing priorities and planned performance.
  • Marketing strategies and action plans: Outline the significant projects, promotions and activities necessary to achieve the marketing plan goals.
  • Financial resources and budget: Summarize the financial resources required to complete all marketing plan activities.

Involve senior managers

The aspirations of your organization should be reflected in the content of your marketing plan. Managers throughout the organization need assistance to achieve their goals. Include them in your planning discussions and marketing updates. You will need their support during plan implementation, and they need your support to ensure success.

Include accountabilities

One criticism of many marketing plans is the absence of accountabilities. Don’t forget to include details of what will be done during the year, who will be doing it and when it will get done. Set a clear example for effective planning by emphasizing accountability in your plan.

Revisit results and focus

So what about that competitor’s special product offer? Matching or improving on the competitor’s offer might be the best solution, if it helps achieve your marketing and company goals. If not, retaining your focus and momentum with existing strategies is the better choice.

With either solution, remaining flexible and open to changes in market conditions is an important step in effective marketing management. Revisit your plan throughout the year. Evaluate your progress and identify where resources have been highly effective and where they should be redeployed to address new opportunities.

Keep your plan and make your success stories visible to senior management. Help them understand the valuable contribution marketing makes in achieving company goals.

Tom Hershberger is president and CEO of Cross Financial Group, a consulting firm, based in Lincoln, Neb., that specializes in sales and marketing support services for community banks. Tom is a faculty member at the ABA Bank Marketing School. Telephone: (402) 441-3131; Email: [email protected].