Where bank marketing is falling short

Traditional institutions can no longer view themselves as an “essential service” and must instead honestly examine how to connect with customers.

The rise of digital banking and fintechs has lead American consumers to be less likely to maintain a relationship with a primary financial institution, while the pandemic has shifted customer desires away from standard criteria like price and quality.

As a result, banks and credit unions can no longer view themselves as an “essential service” and must instead challenge themselves to honestly examine how to connect with their customers.

While customer experience is a vital consideration in banking, it is no longer a determining factor in banking relationships. For too long, banks and credit unions have focused on their products and apps to the detriment of their brand experience.

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Financial institutions must take a hard look at every customer touchpoint – brand, advertising, onboarding, customer service, retention, and cross-selling. If nothing changes, consumers will increasingly treat financial institutions as a commodity. New strategies to embrace this fundamental change in consumer behavior are needed to inspire customer acquisition and strengthen retention efforts.

Embrace your consumers’ voice

As voice and “near me” searches have increased, so too has the importance of ranking in the top three Google local listings. The only ways to earn local rankings is to have an active Google My Business profile, strong customer ratings and a seamless website experience to answer the questions people ask.

Podium, one of the world’s leading text-to-review platforms, reports that TAB Bank saw an increase of $200 million in deposits due to their improved online reputation.

Recognize you are a direct-to-consumer brand

If you want to win in today’s shifting environment, you cannot view yourself as a financial service that people need. Prominent direct-to-consumer brands like Warby Parker and Casper understand that, before consumers need them, they need to understand the consumers.

Microsoft, with a wide array of products and services for every type of business and consumer, has an enormous challenge in telling their story. But they do it well through a mix of strategic content – blogs, videos, social posts and more – that ensures they can guide consumers to the desired answers.

Connect with your story

Sellers of products always believe their products are the best and can solve any consumer’s problems and, to transform this belief into sales, they humanize their brands.

Kara Yaquinta, digital growth strategist at Tropical Financial Credit Union, has been at the forefront of this effort in driving strategic communication messages to prospective members. “We live by ‘educate first, sell second.’ Nurturing members through the marketing funnel so that it feels natural and like they are a part of something, and not being product-pushy, has been the goal.”

A thriving direct-to-consumer brand distills their unique selling proposition down to a few salient words designed to develop deep connection and reiterate a specific shared value.

In the recent Life Reimagined report from Accenture, 44% of banking customers would switch to a financial institution that was taking visible action for a positive societal impact.

Understand your real impact: Asking who benefits from your products is not an existential question, but rather a wide-ranging question in developing your acquisition messaging, onboarding strategies, and ongoing engagement tactics. Those messages should not explain the nuts and bolts of products – rather, they should focus on the brand’s values and how they connect with consumers’ shared desires.

Eric Hepkins, chief executive officer of Cornerstone Community Federal Credit Union, says, “We don’t sell accounts; we sell trust.” In the world of banking, it is through trusted financial instruments designed to help people achieve their financial goals that drives positive customer experiences.

Consumers buy the story behind the product and what the product can do for their lives. Eric Fulwiler, the CEO of Rival, a marketing agency based in London that works with challenger organizations, says, “The best brands deliver marketing messages that are clear manifestations of the values and DNA of the businesses they represent.”

Financial institutions must refocus on why someone needs them – this includes their individual motivations and pain points. Once you solve this, you can begin to build long-term relationships and strengthen your institution’s brand.

Richard Dedor is marketing communications director at GreenState Credit Union.