By Kate Young
It’s that time of year when planning is on everyone’s mind. Just days before we published Mark Gibson’s marketer’s guide to strategic planning, Take Your Seat at the Executive Table, we saw this mic-dropping admonition from Janelda Mitchell, SVP and CMO at United Bank & Capital Trust in Frankfort, Kentucky.
Marketing should be part…no let me rephrase that, MUST BE PART of the strategic process of planning the future for the bank, how the bank plans to grow, what the bank’s goals are. The coordinated efforts should start in strategic planning with a CEO or president who understands you can’t get your message out without marketing.
It’s good to know we’re all on the same page. And hopefully you’ll take Gibson’s advice on how to create a significant role for marketing in the strategic planning process.
In the meantime, what do you do about the messy realities of coordinating with other business units within your organization?
In a recent discussion on the ABA Bank Marketing Network, at least several marketers agreed that, while marketing should be part of the strategic planning process, their banks aren’t quite there yet. And negotiating with individual business units to plan marketing activities continues to be the modus operandi.
Sometimes the problem isn’t just that marketing isn’t “part of the conversation,” but that there is no conversation. At least, not a two-way dialogue. It’s not uncommon for marketers to be on their own, fielding ad hoc—and often vague—requests for promotions of various products, services, or activities.
“There is an expectation from the other departments that they do not have to play a part in the process,” explained one of the marketers. “The expectation is that the marketing will get it done without their input.”
A typical conversation might go like this:
Department head: We need to market mortgages.
Marketer: Absolutely! Do you have specific rate/product/message/goal in mind?
Department head: No, just send out some emails…and put out an ad…
It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: Don’t ever “just send out some emails” or “just put out an ad.”
First, identify what the business line really needs—and why.
Craig Rodenberger, marketing director at Ephrata National Bank in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, noted that it’s a red flag if a department head is hesitant to provide ideas, goals, and objectives. That type of situation may indicate a lack of leadership within the business unit. Particularly coming from an area charged with sales—like mortgage lending, for example—a request for advertising might be a sign that they’re ready to punt.
“In that scenario,” Rodenberger said, “it becomes easy to make marketing a scapegoat for their lack of performance.” He recommended that a marketer in that position learn more about how a given area develops leads and prospects. Then it becomes possible to identify ways to provide sales support and drive leads to the sales team. “Obviously, I’d also try to further attempt to draw out their goals and objectives, he said. “If they don’t provide them, and there is nothing referenced in your strategic plan, then I’d recommend some based on past performance.”
Mary Gordon, CFMP and marketing director at Merchants Bank in Winona, Minnesota, recommended using the business plan as a starting point for any conversation about marketing support. “Some things you just have to do because you’re a community bank,” she said. But she was quick to add that anything that doesn’t support an individual business plan or the bank’s long-range strategic plan is questionable.
So make sure all the players are clear on those pieces of the puzzle.
“You can’t fix a leadership problem in another line of business.”
That’s the bad news, as delivered by Hunter Young, division president at Mabus Agency. The good news is that Young recommended three different approaches for influencing your internal bank partners—and securing the information you need.
- Send an electronic survey with 3 simple questions.
The survey is easy, Young said, and will prompt constructive thought from the line of business. He added that you shouldn’t send it only to the line-of-business head, but also to “at least four or five people who work under that person in the respective area of the bank.” The questions are:
- What is your most important strategic goal in 2018?
- What is your biggest obstacle to obtaining new business today?
- How much money would you spend to acquire a new customer of your product/service?
“You can adjust for your internal sensitivities,” Young said, noting that you may also want to ask a few extra questions that are specific to the line of business. “Often times, that last question (essentially a cost per acquisition primer) starts some really interesting conversations and allows you as the marketer to quickly identify what is a reasonable/unreasonable channel for marketing and media spend.”
- Request three examples of competitor marketing/advertising they thought was done well.
“This can tell you a lot about their mindset and how it needs to shift,” Young advised. “Or at least where you can start the marketing conversation.”
- Go the internal education route.
“Sometimes if they just aren’t thinking clearly, a good first step is the development of a video, infographic, or content piece explaining the benefits of the product and the internal process to employees first,” Young said. “By starting with a training focus, you get buy-in while you are actually setting up your initial set of key messages for product marketing.”
A benefit to individual membership in the ABA Bank Marketing Network is the ability to converse through the ABA Bank Marketing Network Groupsite–a members-only discussion group. The thoughts expressed in this article reflect the collective wisdom of Groupsite responses to the question, “I’ve begun having conversations with our different departments regarding advertising. As many of you know, it’s a struggle to get coordinated efforts. Do any of you have any planning worksheets you share with your peers inside the bank to have them help you define a strategy for the year?” Join in the discussion today.