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Aim For Awareness

It takes a lot for a customer to change banks: a new job, a move to a new city, or a significant customer service meltdown. Instead of exhausting your marketing resources, work on achieving top of mind awareness with potential customers so when something does happen (perhaps their old bank is acquired, for example), you are the first place they consider moving to.

Most humans naturally resist change, and right or wrong, they view a bank transition as a hassle. You can entice them with a great rate, but mostly that just gets you rate shoppers, who rarely stick around anyway. This makes it very challenging to alter an attractive bank customer’s current routine unless something does it for you. Instead of exhausting your marketing resources trying to do the impossible, it makes considerably more sense to get people ready for the unpredictable.

This is a subtle but important shift in strategy for most bank marketers. It can be easy to get caught up in lobby events (Free cookies!), promotions for commoditized deposit accounts (Check out our free checking!) or even technology features that competitors share (Pay bills from the comfort of home!). Facing the reality that few, if any, desirable customers change banks as a result of these messages can be tough. It means you need to re-think your approach toward branding.

The first step is to adjust your expectations. When is the last time you had a prospect come into the bank and tell you “I just saw your advertisement, and I wanted to give you a try”? No TV commercial, no website, no social media platform on earth can do that on a regular basis. It’s better to do some primary research and quantify your bank’s top of mind awareness (asking people what bank they think of first) and share of voice (ranking the banks in your market by media presence). Then use those two metrics as measurements of your progress instead of simply tallying accounts, loans or assets (numbers that are impacted by dozens of forces outside of marketing’s control).

When your message is memorable and your branding is efficient, people are more likely to complete this statement with your institution’s name: “I am so unhappy with my bank. I should give ______ a try.” You don’t need to be the first bank that everyone thinks of, you just need to be the bank that everyone thinks of after they think of their own. That’s a very achievable goal, and it can set you up for steady growth in the long term.

Make a strong, consistent brand statement in everything you do, from your marketing materials to your customer service. Stop chasing rate hoppers. Build your marketing on awareness, and you will be ready when the time is right for customers to make a change.

Greg “Hal” Halliday is the president of Anchor Marketing, a branding and new media agency that specializes in successful differentiation and positioning. Anchor Marketing has spent nearly 20 years branding and marketing independent banks in Minnesota and North Dakota. Halliday is recognized as a Certified Financial Marketing Professional by the American Bankers Association. You can contact him via phone at 701-787-8230 or by email at halh@anchorwebsite.com.