Financial Marketing and Cross Selling Blog
When it comes to content marketing techniques, one of the golden rules is to provide content that isn’t always tied to one of your products and services. You have to know when providing content for the pure sense of being informational to the end user is the right thing to do. For example, many banks and credit unions don’t offer health insurane but it may not be a bad idea if you dedicated some space for content related to the recent changes in health care on your website or in your next newsletter. You may not win new business directly from this approach but you will build your brand as a resource and not just a place to conduct daily banking transactions.
An example of this was well executed this past Friday when Salal Credit Union in Seattle, Washington decided to take advantage of the national Bike to Work Day to connect with the local biking community. The credit union had three what they called “commute stations” setup at various points in their community. They handed out ”refueling snacks” and drinks. The best give away were free bike lights, an important saftey item for those biking home in the dark, especially in a busy city. A tag line they used in their blog post that I thought was creative said “we care for your physical AND your fiscal saftey!”.
While the credit union is by know means selling biking services to their members, they are developing new relationships with each biker, jogger, roller blader or walker that stopped by the stations this past Friday. And knowing that it would be a busy day for such active bikers, they made the smart decision in promoting this event.
The show Lost, which had its finale last night, provides us with some important lessons to be learned. Some scientific, some religious but for the purposes of this post, the lessons are about what NOT to do when approaching customer service at your bank or credit union.
There’s no denying that Lost was a successful show. With the first three seasons reaching an average of 15 million viewers per episode, countless number of fan base websites, forums and meet up groups, this show was a monster when it came to creating loyalty. But looking closer, you’ll realize how the producers went about creating this strong loyal following. In comparison between the producers strategy and the strategy of some of today’s banks, you can see some similarities. For example, they kept coming out with shiny new plot lines (products) for their loyal viewers (customers) to talk about, and just when a new plot line was getting old and losing its muster, the writers (product developers) would think of a new story to tell.
The problem with this model is that when the loyal customers come to you looking for solutions to issues they may have with past products or services the powers that be don’t even know the answer. They’re too busy working on the next new product instead of focusing on making changes to existing ones based on customer feedback.
The finale of Lost has been seen as a let down by its loyal fan base. With so many storylines in place, the end left us with one answer, the survivors of Oceanic 815 were all dead and they needed to find each other in the afterlife in order to continue moving on to ____ (heaven, hell, who knows). While the show was a great ride, ultimately, they left with too many unanswered questions. The producers walked away with both their wallets and egos inflated but left those who kept them going all these years in the dust. Sound familiar?
Plot lines in a story like Lost are by no means a perfect comparison for financial products and services. But with all the potential regulatory changes (most notably Reg E) coming out of Capitol Hill, many institutions I’ve talked to are already at the drawing board thinking up of new products to counteract the potential loss in revenue that this new regulation will most likely cause.
What they should be doing is listening to their customers. By doing so, they may realize that they don’t have to rethink the wheel on their core product set to be successful. By opening up their communications, making it easier to have dialogs with customers and being more transparent, they can avoid a similar backlash that the creators of Lost are experiencing today. This is a simplistic example of what I’m talking about, but in the Banksimple.net blog, there was a post titled “How do banks work?” In plain English, they described perfectly how banks go about making their money. This simple yet effective approach to transparancy goes a long way with your customers.
As for the producers of Lost, they’ll eventually be forced to come out with a movie to make up for their lack of transparency. They’ll be forced to tell us why they introduced a whole group of people that called themselves the Dharma Intiative, what was the purpose of the “Others” and why did they know how to speak Latin, and finally, tell us why the islands survival is so crucial to humanity.
John Jantsch is the perfect example of someone who practices what he preaches. About a month ago I stumbled upon an offer to receive a free copy of his new book, The Referral Engine, if I agreed to write a review at some point during the week of May 10th. I don’t remember the exact source – Twitter, Email, Blog, etc. – but this is just one of many referral techniques that he highlights in this book.
John is the founder of Duct Tape Marketing, a marketing consulting practice that has certified consultants throughout the country. You may even have a Duct Tape Marketer in your back yard. The concepts that John talks about both with his Duct Tape and author hat on are not mind blowing or revolutionary (that is, if you’re hip to the new rules of marketing and PR). By now I think we can all agree that the Internet, just like the TV, has changed the game of marketing for a long time to come. Instead of talking to our customers, we now have to listen and make them an integral part of how we craft our communications and even develop our products. John lays out in this book that the age of the 4 Ps – Product, Pricing, Place, and Promote – is no longer viable and has given way to the age of the customer. In this new age, we now have the 4 Cs – Content, Context, Connection and Community.
It’s been discussed time and time again – banks need more fee income to remain stable in this volatile market. For the past few years this type of revenue has been mainly based on fees from debit card use and overdraft protection. According to a recent Gonzobanker article, 80% of fee income comes from these two sources.
It’s no secret that these two sources are now in danger of falling off the cliff. In this same Gonzobanker article, they suggest taking an account analysis approach to retail customers, similar to how small business accounts are handled to determine if certain fees will occur or not based on the accounts activity every month. While I’m not against this approach, I feel strongly that growing out a relationship versus changing up the way a customers existing services are priced has greater potential for both the bank and the customer.
If you follow social media news then you’re most likely aware of Foursquare, the latest location-based service that rewards you for frequent visits to near by retail shops, restaurants, churches, night clubs and most recently, banks. Like Twitter, I was a little hesitant about Foursquare when I first started “checking-in”. I didn’t quite understand the badges or why I would want to take my phone out every time I was at a bar or restaurant to check in. Then my colleague shared an article from TechCrunch that discussed the way Foursquare is rewarding users directly through retailers that are on the site and I’ve been intrigued ever since.
An introduction to Foursquare
To have your business show up within Foursquare, users can enter your location in manually if it’s not already listed (take a minute to enter your location). There is no charge for having your business on the site. To “check-in” at your location, users simply open the application through their smart phone and all locations within a certain radius pop up. When you check in you can add personal messages such as “hanging with friends and having cocktails on this beautiful spring day”. Most users connect their activity to their Twitter and Facebook accounts. You can also add tips to the location you’re at so that other users can see your advice when they check in at the location – “Try the house martini with blue cheese stuffed olives. It’s to die for”.
The NFCC has announced that April is Financial Literacy month. They’re pulling out all the stops by making trips to Capital Hill and launching two new websites, one in Spanish – www.termineconsudeuda.org – the other a blog providing debt advice – www.debtadvice.org. Many banks and credit unions should join in with NFCC in supporting this cause.
I’ve had many people ask me, “Luke, you guys talk alot about using education as part of your marketing initatives. How is that any different then the financial literacy campaigns that banks and credit unions conduct throughout the year?” For starters, one of the main reasons we stopped using the term “education-based marketing” was because of this close relation in semantics to financial literacy. As you may know from reading our company blog, we’ve been using the term Content Marketing to better explain how the process works.
I was reminded of the LiveSolid.com website during a recent conversations with Jeff Pilcher of The Financial Brand. The site was built by SunTrust Bank in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s a big blue site that unless you look carefully you’d never know it was created by SunTrust. Why a bank wouldn’t want to make it clear that they were associated with such helpful content is beyond me.
But then I took a further look at their own website at www.suntrust.com. As I dug into the retirement section I stumbled upon their retirement microsite. This site is very well put together and is a great lesson in how to create compelling online content that pulls your audience in and eventually can lead them to wanting to meet with one of your professionals.
Lets take a look at what happens when we first enter the site. At first we are met with four personas:
Imagine you went to your doctor one day and he/she diagnosed you with a minor sickness but one that required a set of treatments to help cure. Instead of your primary doctor detailing the steps you should take a new person walks into the office and begins to tell you what you should be doing. Now, how would that make you feel about your primary doctor?
Change up this story and instead replace “doctor” with your primary “bank”. With social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook gaining popularity among bank marketers, those in charge have been forced to come up with creative ways to find content that will keep their audiences entertained. And often times this means looking outside the institution to build up a healthy library of content. Now, think back to our doctor story at the beginning and you’ll start to understand where I’m going with this post.
Does this mean that you should never refer people to someone elses site? Of course not. In fact, this helps to show that you don’t just think about “YOU” all the time. A key factor in winning more business from clients. But the more I monitor bank and credit union messages through these social media tools, the more I realize that they almost never link to their own site unless it’s to a micro-site that was setup for a specific campaign. Or they may steer you to branch location pages, contact pages or other service related pages.
If you had any doubts about the average American consumer knowing what direction they should take after retirement, two recent surveys conducted by Putnam and Prudential should help shed some light.
In the Putnam survey they found that 52% of respondents were in need of a better understanding of how much income they would need to maintain their lifestyle in retirement. As for the Prudential survey, one figure showed that 47% of those enrolled in 401k plans said they were unsure as to what types of investments are best to generate income in retirement.
This reinforces the opportunity that banks and credit unions have to help their customer base become more knowledgeable on financial topics. They should be making this type of information easy and readily accessible at all of their touch points – website, branches, email, mail. Those who are their first to help these individuals understand their options without putting product first will be the one who wins over their relationship.
Trader Joe’s has come up with a new lager they call Simpler Times. While it may not be at the top of the drinking list for beer aficionados, the name itself is ingenious. People today are in desperate need of a time when life was easier to understand. Today’s complexities have clouded many of our own judgments and one area where people have clearly been out of touch is their own personal finance.
This is why you’re seeing all this talk about Personal Financial Management tools and people like Aaron Patzer, new CEO of Quicken and founder of mint.com, talking about the simplicity these tools bring to ones financial life.
Tomorrow’s State of the Union will surely gain the attention of not only average citizens but also those tied to financial reform. They’ll be looking out for things like “consumer protection agency” and “too big to fail”. There’s also been talk from the Obama crowd forcing banks to offer what they call “plain vanilla” mortgages (Read more about this in the New York Times). No matter what happens, I think that we can all agree on one thing – the simpler the better.
This is not just to please the bounty hunters in Washington but it’s also to please the customer. People want simple, easy to understand answers to questions they have about their financial needs. The more complex a product the more likely they are to second-guess their decisions. And the last thing you want on your hands is a hesitant client. A decision made in the presence of uncertainty leads later on to finger pointing when times are bad. Just ask your investment advisor how many calls he or she received after the market tumbled in late 2008 asking what they did wrong.
This approach of simplification stems from the product itself to the content that helps educate the client on what it can do for them. One of the biggest challenges when writing financial content is how and when to leave the banker jargon behind. There are some terms you can’t leave out but when necessary, make sure to provide a brief definition or have an easy way for the client to see a glossary of terms.
Whether the client is online or in the branch, put this easy to read and understand educational content front and center. Most people have become numb to things like product brochures – unless, of course, it’s a product they know they need and want. But most people are unsure of what products they need. All they know is they want to make sure their families are protected, their kids get a good education and to retire with peace of mind and perhaps an ice cold Simpler Times to enjoy those relaxing years.
(Image credit: @joefoodie)
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