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7 Big Mistakes In Financial Marketing

It may be easier and more fun to launch new initiatives, but going back to critically assess and adjust existing programs can be more rewarding, cost effective and ultimately more profitable than rolling out new ones.

“You can’t make the same mistake twice. The second time you make it, it’s no longer a mistake. It’s a choice.”

Marketers are often quick to celebrate their successes — e.g., growth in new customers, or web traffic. But there’s a lot that could be gained by studying and sharing their failures as well.

Think about it. Thomas Edison tried 10,000 times before creating the light bulb. James Dyson made countless discoveries during his 5,100 attempts to perfect a bagless vacuum cleaner. 12 publishers rejected J.K. Rowling’s book about a boy wizard before a small London house picked up Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Every disappointment, mistake and failure brings with it rich opportunities to learn and grow. As businessman and philanthropist Bill Gates says, “Its fine to celebrate success, but it’s more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

With that in mind, here are seven of the most common mistakes bank and credit union marketing executives like to overlook. Many of these mistakes won’t surface unless you dig deep into the metrics, but they do take a toll. Each mistake cuts into the overall performance of the organization, which — over the long haul and aggregated together — can be significant.

1. Poor job cross-selling

More than a third of all products, on the average, are purchased from banks that are not the customer’s primary institution. 49% of bank customers say they have never received a courtesy call from their bank to see how they are doing. Winning new relationships provides a lifetime of opportunity to sell people more banking products, but financial institutions are failing to build effective cross-marketing programs that tap into the potential.

2. Lousy customer service

The primary driver of low satisfaction scores within retail banking is a lack of successful resolution to problems. A Gallup survey on retail banking shows that, on average, 15% of customers have experienced a problem with their bank in the past six months but only 24% are extremely satisfied with the problem resolution they received, while 27% are not at all satisfied. 42% of respondents to another survey said repeating their problem to multiple reps was the most frustrating aspect of dealing with customer service departments.

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3. Overestimating your customer experience

The banking industry is in denial. According to a study from IBM, 65% of retail banking executives think their organization delivers excellent customer experience. Only 35% of their customers agreed. Financial services executives often see themselves in a more rosy light than consumers. But this type of self-delusion doesn’t help anyone, particularly those in marketing. It’s hard to market a financial institution that won’t admit to its own warts.

4. Customer churn

Customer churn is hurting your bottomline profits. Annual acquisition rates for retail banking providers average around 13.5%, but customer loss is 12.5%. That’s net growth of only 1%. If you get a better handle on why customers leave and implement a program to retain them, reducing churn by just 5% could increase your profits by as much as 80%.

5. Messy, complex marketing messages

A research study published by Harvard Business Review applies to websites, digital channels, and brochures: keep things simple. The authors found that the best tool for measuring communication effectiveness is the “decision simplicity index.” This gauge measures how easy it is for consumers to gather and understand information, and ultimately make a purchase. The easier a brand makes the purchase-decision journey, the higher its decision-simplicity score. Brands scoring in the top quarter in simplicity were 86% more likely than those in the bottom quarter to be purchased by consumers.

6. No real digital marketing strategy

Some banks seem to adopt a helter-skelter strategy when it comes to digital marketing. Because it’s relatively easy to buy pay-per-click, search engine and display advertising, marketers frequently by-pass the critical step of analyzing the market and preparing an implementation plan. In many cases, they simply don’t even bother defining objectives. Many financial marketers fail to create product landing pages, monitor phone calls, test copy lines or set up systems that allow them to learn from the results. Poor planning and poor execution will lead to poor performance in digital channels.

7. Ignoring the brand

Financial institutions will invest in new technologies. They will pour their energy into compliance. They will train staff on policies, processes and procedures. And marketers will advertise rates, products and the latest mobile offerings. But what often gets lost along the way is the brand. What does the organization stand for? How are those messages being expressed? Financial marketers need to constantly remind themselves, “What should we be doing today to build our brand for tomorrow?” Don’t let short-term sales goals dominate your strategy and derail your long-term branding efforts.

Kevin TynanKevin Tynan is Senior Vice President for Marketing at Liberty Bank for Savings. You can connect with Kevin on Twitter, LinkedIn or send him and email.

All content © 2017 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.

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  1. Kevin,

    This is an outstanding post and spot on. I especially agree about your brand comments and employee engagement. Those will often make or break a financial institution. In addition to the seven big mistakes you identified I would add an eighth: not calculating return on investment (ROI). Many financial marketers fail to prove their worth by showing their results. And then they wonder why the C suite does not increase their budget or listen to their suggestions. One way to improve marketing is to demonstrate the positive results you are delivering.


  2. Greg Shaver says:


    Excellent stuff. I think you are absolutely dead on. For many of the smaller institutions I think not having a cohesive digital marketing strategy as well as no true, established brand creates problems throughout the marketing department. The customer churn is one of my favorites as well.

    Great article,


  3. Great post! That said, there could be something like “great good job cross-selling”:)))

    Huge Cross-Selling Scandal Sends Warning to Entire Banking Industry

    On another note, I keep seeing many people drunk on the Kool-Aid of celebrating failure. Your Bill Gates quote makes it very clear that you celebrate only success but need to heed failure.

  4. Great post, It’s easy to assume that most people will need your service or product. But rather than make assumptions, reach out to groups of potential customers to get a more realistic picture of your audience and narrow your marketing efforts.

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