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Using the right products, the right technology at the right time to promote customer growth

This Q&A with Susan Bergen of Commerce Bank provides insights on how collaboration and understanding your customer is key to successful customer acquisition.

Sep 7, 2023 / Marketing & Sales

Commerce Bank is driving growth in 2023 by doing what it’s always done: helping customers navigate their complex financial challenges so they can enjoy life’s best moments, says Susan Bergen, executive vice president of corporate marketing. Bergen believes the nearly 160-year-old, $32-billion-asset regional bank headquartered in Kansas City and St. Louis has the products and technology to help its retail and business customers get through their toughest financial challenges.

Products driving Commerce’s customer acquisition and retention strategies this year include a new mobile app that allows customers to choose a banker and cash-flow management solutions to help them save time and money. The bank, she says, has invested in marketing systems that generate data insights. These insights help the bank better understand customers and ensure the right messages about relevant products and services are reaching them at the right time in the right channel. By collaborating with IT and data leaders, the bank can better anticipate what customers want in the years ahead. 

Where does customer acquisition fall in your current priorities? 

Growing our customer base is key to our future, so it is a high priority. We use customer acquisition strategies to create continuous opportunities to reinforce that Commerce Bank is here to take care of our customers and help them focus on what matters most—in both challenging and prosperous times. 

What are some of the key messages you’ve been focused on in your acquisition marketing efforts? 

Our acquisition marketing messages start with the customer’s financial needs. Those range from cash-flow management solutions that help them save money, save time and utilize their money conveniently and safely, to investment strategies that help preserve or grow their assets. They also include financial education and planning assistance to manage other financial needs. The key marketing messages we’ve focused on reinforce our commitment to providing sophisticated solutions, capabilities and advice with high-touch delivery in the context of deep relationships and excellent customer service. 

One example of this commitment is the Commerce Bank CONNECT® mobile app experience, where we deliver a high-touch customer experience from customers’ smartphones. The mobile app offers customers a “banker in their pocket”—not an automated bot, but a real, live person who can provide personalized advice. 

After downloading the app, customers can select a banker by specialty, location or whatever best fits their financial needs. They can message their banker anytime, anywhere to ask questions and get answers. The mobile app example and all our marketing messages reflect our brand tone aspirations: 

Simple—making things simple and more intuitive. Our nearly five-star rating in the mobile app store tells us we’re delivering well on this tone aspiration. 

Human—providing friendly, relatable and people-focused service, such as the Commerce Bank CONNECT app that puts a banker in customers’ pockets. 

Sincere—helping in ways that truly make a difference. For example, we’ve implemented a grace period to allow additional time to remedy overdrafts, and we’ve developed flexible payment options. 

Strategic—knowing our clients and what’s important to them so that we can personalize the solution. Empowering our team with an artificial intelligence–guided tool to better understand customer needs—both now and in the future—and pairing it with the right solutions allows us to deliver on this promise. 

How has brand marketing played a role in your strategy this year? 

This year more than ever, when the industry felt the ripple effect of bank closures, we leveraged Commerce Bank’s message of strength and stability. We have a consistent and authentic brand that reflects an engaged team and a best-in-class culture that we have shaped for nearly 160 years. We have been there for our customers to celebrate life’s beautiful milestones and are available when things get tough. Because we are in a relationship business, our team members are key to bringing our brand to life. We’re only at our best when our team members are at their best. We invest in a variety of programs and activities designed to enhance their professional development. 

How are you leveraging data and analytics to better target and reach key audiences? 

To better target and reach key audiences, you’ve got to be relevant. Being relevant requires using data insights to better understand customer needs, ensuring your message is reaching the customer when it matters to them. We continue to invest in marketing systems that help us collect, manage and act on customer data. When this is put into practice, you can personalize when, how and why the marketing message is being delivered to each customer and be truly relevant. 

With a greater reliance on data and technology, how have you grown your collaboration with IT and data leaders at your organization? 

Sharing a common purpose makes any relationship stronger and collaboration efforts more successful. We exist to help our customers focus on what matters most. Fundamental to taking care of our customers is our ability to have data that informs us on what they are thinking, doing and feeling. We have the technology to serve and communicate with them through their preferred channels. Collaboration with IT and data leaders allows us to respond to and anticipate changing customer preferences. 

As the need for technology resources has increased, so has the need to better communicate, collaborate and prioritize with our IT partners. Technology resources are limited, so we meet regularly to find better ways to work together to make ongoing investments in programs and products that serve our customers, strengthen our communities and support a healthy work environment for our team members. 

What customer-centric messages are you emphasizing? 

We’re emphasizing what the customer wants by leveraging first-party data to deliver the right messages, at the right time and through the right channel. Customers are telling us they want it all, and we’re up for that challenge. You can expect to see us emphasize messages that remind the customer how we help them achieve their financial goals because of our continued investments in our branches, customer care center, digital experiences and team. I’m proud to be part of a culture that rallies every area of the bank to discover new ways to unlock our full customer-focus potential and imagine new possibilities. There’s more to come. 

BAI recently spoke with several prominent individuals at Commerce Bank, Synovus, Regions Bank and Salesforce about how they are addressing today’s customer growth challenges and opportunities. Learn more in our BAI Special Report, “Driving Customer Growth in 2023.”  

Q&A conducted by the BAI Editorial Team.