Keeping Pace with Bank Marketing

By Karen Kroll

Need to know: Insights from two rising stars.

The growing prominence of social media, digital services, and globalization all are influencing financial services—and by extension, bank marketing. To gain insight on the ways banks can best respond to these shifts, we caught up with two up-and-coming bank marketers who serve on the advisory board of the ABA Bank Marketing School.

  • Jody Guetter, CFMP, is vice president and director of marketing and sales with Minnwest Bank, which has more than $1.6 billion in assets and twenty-five offices across Minnesota and South Dakota.

Here’s what they had to say.

Strategy is key.

Almeida and Guetter both noted that effective bank marketing in today’s environment requires a strategic approach that leverages customer and data information. “Data analytics is the differentiator going forward,” Almeida said. No longer can banks cast a wide net and wait to see the response. Success will require “truly knowing your customer base,” she added, and going beyond demographics to understand, for instance, how customers like to receive information and transact business.

Guetter noted that Minnwest’s marketing customer information files (MCIFs) contain a “holistic view” of its customers, including product penetration and transactional information, among other third-party data. “We leverage that data for research when conceptualizing campaigns, through analysis and reporting ROI,” she explained.

Understand how your customers want to engage.

Another significant shift is customers’ growing preference for digital interactions with their banks—in particular through mobile applications. Minnwest had a 50% increase in adoption of its mobile banking app in just the last year, Guetter told us. “The digital landscape is quickly changing how customers interact with the bank.”

“We need to find a way to make that (digital) experience just as if they were walking into the bank,” Almeida added. That means providing customers the products and services they need at the same moment they’re interacting with the bank. It also requires generating the type of messages that are relevant to all the ways customers access the bank—including mobile, online, and in person at the branches.

The increasing encroachment of social media into everyone’s daily lives also is changing bank marketing. Guetter doesn’t see social media as the “sole answer to driving revenue.” But she’s quick to add that as customers engage through social media platforms, banks need to build a strong digital presence to market to the customer on all aspects of the buying journey. She sees Facebook as a natural vehicle for disseminating information on financial literacy and community involvement, while LinkedIn’s strength likely will lie in growing commercial relationships through B-to-B marketing, networking, and prospecting.

The growing use of social media and digital banking services gives rise to another challenge to which bank marketers must respond: an increasingly competitive marketplace. “It’s not just about the bank down the street. We’re up against non-traditional banks, full-service online banks and less-regulated entities,” Guetter said. “There are a lot more options for the consumer out there.” Banks can’t assume that the market share they currently enjoy is theirs forever. “We need to be the forefront of their minds,” she added. That requires a robust marketing plan to reach and retain the bank’s target audiences.

Keeping up creates new challenges.

To be sure, changing the approach a bank uses to market itself can quickly run into challenges. A prominent one is the financial investment required to implement and market various digital services and technology. “It’s impossible for us to be the thought leader in everything,” Almeida said. Moreover, not all customers will want every new service. Effective marketing again comes back to really understanding and targeting your customers. “We need to pick and choose where to focus,” she said.

Another challenge faced by today’s marketers is effectively communicating to the C-suite that bank marketing now extends beyond traditional advertising, and includes extensive data analysis and strategic planning. “The marketing team needs to be well versed in all aspects of marketing, including data analysis, and digital and traditional mediums, Guetter said. “By leveraging the tools and data available—and by providing insight to management—marketers can more effectively reach and capture customers.

Gleaning lessons learned from other sectors.

Both Guetter and Almeida entered banking with backgrounds in retailing. While the two industries may not appear to have a great deal in common, the skills both women acquired in retail can translate to banking. For instance, in her previous positions, Guetter conducted competitive research and product-and-demand planning, among other responsibilities. She was able to bring fresh perspectives to her bank by what she calls “taking that marketing and analysis background, and applying it to a completely different industry.”

Almeida noted that one of her early banking employers sought employees with retailing experience, and then provided them an intensive four-week training program on banking. “You can teach banking,” she said, “but the sales and service piece is a lot harder.”

The more things change…

No matter how technology and trends change, some principles remain constant. Namely, bank marketers need to know their customers and anticipate and meet their ever-evolving needs. To that end, BayCoast Bank focuses on providing both financial and other solutions specific to the communities in which it operates. For example, the bank is helping to fund teacher professional development initiatives and has provided financial literacy software to local high schools, among other programs.

“The old standard of know your customer and know what their needs are,” Almeida said, “will forever remain true.”

Karen M. Kroll is a business and financial services writer and content marketer based in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Email: [email protected].