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How Much Do You Really Know About Your Customers?

Most bankers will tell you without hesitation that they understand their customers. After all, they talk to them every day, right? Unfortunately, that casual communication rarely leads to the kind of frank truthfulness that is critical to deep understanding. Nobody wants to tell their banker that they disagree with them, but without that candor, even the best branding and marketing efforts can go astray.

Here’s what I mean: My company worked with a mid-sized Minnesota bank to address a hip new competitor that had moved into their top market. They agreed to do some initial research, and it turned out to be a memorable experience. Once a series of phone surveys were completed, we shared the results with the institution’s leadership team, and even though they felt like they knew their customers, they agreed to keep an open mind.

After hearing about the demographic makeup of their clientele and a breakdown of the services that they valued most, we got to the section of results that revealed how respondents felt about the bank itself and its employees. The bankers were not ready for the results: customers and potential customers viewed them as old-fashioned, traditional and unapproachable, while they saw the edgy new competitor as young and friendly.

It was a moment of truth, and it drove home just how powerful that primary research can be for a bank. You could have heard a pin drop as the wheels turned in the minds of a group of very successful bankers. They could either reject the findings and carry on with business as usual, convinced that they knew better – or they could take a hard look at their own brand and do whatever it took to energize it.

They chose the latter. These were experienced bankers, but they knew better than to turn aside such compelling insight. Indeed, the elderly bank president himself was the first to say “we can’t let people think of us that way!” He knew the value of an opportunity when he saw it, and his team did, too. They had hired us to improve their business, and we had uncovered an obvious, measurable way to do it.

We developed a plan and rolled up our sleeves. In just a few months the bank had a new logo, a new slogan that crackled with positive energy (Where anything is possible!) and a new brand identity that told the world “come on in, we’d love to work with you.” Their image went from intimidating to inviting, and it all began with customer research.

Do you know your customers as well as you think you do? Will they tell you what is wrong or will they simply look for a new bank? Do you seek out honest feedback, and more importantly, do you use that feedback to make real improvements? Baseline research can seem like an extra cost at the beginning of a branding campaign, but in truth, it is a step that saves you money. Rather than committing your resources to efforts that address the wrong issues, your money is spent exactly where it does the most good! That’s efficiency, and it makes all of your communication more powerful.

When you decide it’s time to find out what your customers really think, contact a professional and get ready for the most effective marketing you’ve ever done.

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.