Your Data Is Talking. Do You Hear It?

By Rob Heiser

When I was young, my dad would take me on errands with him, and my favorite stop was always the bank. We were welcomed with a big hello, and they would ask how our family was doing. Best of all, I got a lollipop.

As I got older, my visits were few and far between, but the bank employees always remembered to ask about me—how was soccer going, and did I like high school? With each visit, they were listening and learning more and more about our family. So it was natural when they suggested that my dad open a savings account for me when they knew I had started a summer job and was applying to colleges.

Many banks used to operate like this—every marketing interaction had a personal touch. Bank employees could pick up on signs that a major life event was about to happen, and they knew what product or offering to suggest. This was authentic and built on a personal relationship.

Technology has brought us many new conveniences, but the lack of face-to-face interaction can often make the business-to-consumer relationship feel distant and detached, forcing bankers to adapt to these changes.

Today’s banks are facing a unique challenge. Their customers increasingly want to eliminate face-to-face interactions, but they still expect help from their bank. It’s a classic Catch-22.

Your customers are expecting more.

According to the 2017 Segmint Consumer Bank Marketing Report, 64% of bank customers would rather take care of their banking needs online or through a mobile app than visit their bank’s physical branch/office. The percentage is much greater in millennials, where 80% prefer the online or mobile experience.

To no surprise, an overwhelming majority (80%) still expect their bank to provide them with information to help them make better financial decisions. However, only 28% feel their bank provides them with information that helps them reach their personal financial goals and life events.

Success will come to the banks that find a way to transition from that in-person marketing moment that worked for so many years in the past. The good news is, new technology is empowering bank marketers to listen to and communicate with customers but in new innovative ways.

Listening through data is the solution.         

It’s no secret that listening has been the driving force of marketing for years. But in today’s digital world, marketers—and especially bank marketers—have to listen to what their customers are doing. And better yet, how and where those customers are spending their money.

Our local banker’s casual conversations with my dad about my college application process came with a personal touch that is simply not scalable today. It would also require customers to do something they don’t want to do—step into a physical branch and have a conversation.

Even without that conversation, my bank should be able to understand when I have a life event approaching by listening and understanding to my data. Whereas my dad’s banker had to remember to ask about me each time my dad was in the branch, my bank should know when my kids are getting ready for college when they see a transaction with an SAT prep company, or a college application fee from a nearby university.

We’ve seen many industries move away from interruption marketing—the traditional model of companies strategically interrupting potential customers to catch their attention.

Direct mail retail circulars clogging up your mailbox have been replaced by banner ads and reminders of stagnant virtual shopping carts. Prime-time commercials have turned into Netflix recommendations as we have moved to permission-based marketing, where the consumer shares information and expects a recommendation in turn. Society has evolved to self-service, and customers expect businesses to increase the accuracy of their advertisements with strategic recommendations.

Banks are unique in that they have the highest responsibility to advise—going beyond a standard vendor-to-consumer relationship. For the partnership to be successful and profitable, this requires careful listening to the electronic footprints that customers leave behind.

Your customers are talking to you every day.

And they have a lot to say. They are telling you about their life every time they make a purchase or pay a bill. They are dropping bread crumbs of information about the products they want and need every time they interact with your website. Banks have all of the data required to provide meaningful counsel, but not enough banks are listening to what their customers are telling them. Too often, the bank is just a place for a customer to deposit and withdraw their money—instead of becoming a valuable financial partner that can help their customers meet their financial goals.

Banks can adapt to changes in the marketing landscape by getting in front of customer requests and proactively offering advice with the data they already have. While the bank no longer has the advantage of building a relationship from in-person conversation with the expecting couple coming into the branch, they may see that the same couple visited the bank’s website to check out their mortgage products and that they have a large deposit balance, indicating that they may be buying a home soon. This is the time for banks to proactively help the couple make the best financial decision for this major life event, rather than waiting for the customer to contact them with the ask.

Banks will continue to become better listeners by refining their marketing plan to include technology that makes marketing personal, proactive, and profitable. When marketers hear a recommendation to use data software, they may pass it to IT and data specialists. But with Gartner predicting that CMOs will spend more on technology than CIOs this year, that can no longer be the case.

The technology available today is designed to make data actionable for marketers and business heads, not just IT professionals.

When banks use this information to understand and listen to the customer, they can prove themselves as the valuable and strategic partners their customers expect them to be. And a well-developed digital relationship can certainly last a lot longer than a jar full of lollipops.

Rob Heiser is CEO and co-founder of Segmint, Inc., a provider of data-driven marketing technology that securely activates enterprise data to intelligently deliver personalized engagements measured across all channels.