Why CMOs in Banking Must Ditch Their Digital Laundry Lists Right Now

Bank and credit union marketing departments have become 'tactical implementers' for an ever-growing lineup of digital tasks, losing strategic clout. To reverse this trend, marketing leaders need to abandon traditional, cumbersome planning and become more like agile startups, focusing on three simple factors.

Financial marketers are in a bind. They are struggling with an ever-widening range of responsibilities within an ever-shrinking scope of influence. This dichotomy often puts marketing in the unenviable position of having to move the revenue needle while working with less resources, smaller budgets, and fewer internal capabilities.

Part of the reason for this situation is that in recent years marketing’s role has mostly become that of “tactical implementer”— designing and launching promotional campaigns, managing social media channels and digital content, public relations and brand management. In addition, marketers are frequently responsible for website upkeep, CRM maintenance, printed marketing materials, community engagement, shareholder reports and customer surveys, along with departmental budget management and planning. Quite the laundry list of responsibilities.

All these tasks water down marketing’s overall effectiveness and, more importantly, eliminate any emphasis or focus on strategy. Here’s an example:

A community bank or credit union’s executive team may agree on the need for having a social media presence. The marketing team then delivers and implements a tactical rollout plan, defining channels, engagement targets and posting quotas. The initiative becomes the component of an organizational strategic pillar, such as “increasing community awareness,” or “building brand identity.”

However, this approach leaves a lot on the table. How can marketing show this specific effort has made an impact? How can marketing effectively argue that more or less money and resources should be put towards the effort? Most importantly, what is the value for the customer?

This example is regrettably commonplace. Without simpler and more agile planning tools, marketers are left trying to stitch together an array of tactics across multiple product lines and hoping to get internal credit for their efforts. Instead, marketing needs to shrink the gap with a wholly new approach to strategy.

The Problem with Traditional Planning

Marketing’s focus has shifted over the years from its roots as a sales function to the emphasis on relationship and societal marketing, and, most recently, to the rise of digital marketing.

However, even though marketing processes and platforms have changed, the original methodologies developed decades ago have not. The concept of the customer journey was created in the 1990’s. The Ansoff Matrix was designed in 1957. Customer personas in 1980.

While these and other tools still have their place, the landscape has changed. Marketing, as an organizational function, used to have direct involvement in the “Marketing Mix,” commonly referred to as the 4 P’s — product, price, place and promotion. Today, many of these have been shifted to the purview of other departments, reducing marketing down to primarily a promotion operation. With the added explosion of digital technologies, marketing departments have been forced to hyper-focus on breadth of activity instead of depth — amplifying quantity over quality.

If marketing’s fundamental purpose is to help grow the organization, then it should be crystal clear how it accomplishes that. However, this is not simply about justifying costs, but shifting the approach from doing “stuff” to solving real business problems.

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Use a Matrix Instead of a Massive Plan

Traditional marketing planning tools are often too cumbersome and time-consuming to fully develop, and they provide no real-world, practical way to connect objectives to outcomes. Bank and credit union marketers need a more efficient and effective approach.

Like agile startups, where there’s little time, resources or money to craft a robust plan that will be obsolete in a matter of months, financial marketers should approach planning from the simplest and quickest impact perspective.

One way is to use what we call “The 3W Matrix”: 1.Why, 2. What 3. Wow

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The goal of this matrix approach is to build strategy from your customer’s perspective, establishing focus on their circumstances, while creating a strategic connection to your institution’s product-centered mindset.

Here’s how it could work using a mortgage loan example:

The Why. Instead of conducting deep-dive competitive assessments or creating generic, hypothetical customer personas, ask: “Why would someone want a mortgage?” The goal is to identify triggers — i.e. the consumer’s circumstances — which would cause them to have interest in your offering. This can range from, “had a baby” to “got a new job across town” or “want to get out of a bad rental unit.” Create a master brainstorm list of these triggers.

The What. When marketers think of ‘what’, it’s usually about such promotional tactics as email campaigns and billboards. Instead, think of the “what” in terms of customer needs and obstacles in context of their circumstances.

For example, needs may include “help with moving,” while obstacles may be “understanding the closing process.” The key here is not to limit ideas or observations to things only directly connected to your product or service. It’s also important to take into consideration emotional needs and obstacles, not just physical ones.

The Wow. Once your “why” and “what” lists are created, develop your “wow objective.” This encompasses addressing a selected mix of triggers, needs and obstacles that will generate the most unique and impactful value for the customer, generating a “wow!” from them. A wow objective for a mortgage product could look like this:

“New parents face a lot of life changes and one of those is getting into a home that’s right for their growing family (trigger/circumstances). Our wow objective is to provide a ‘concierge style’ offering focused on helping them overcome preparation challenges and quickly acquire critical needs for relocation (needs/obstacles context) to create a one-of-a-kind, seamless financial experience (impactful value).”

Don’t Forget Monetization

Even with a clear strategic direction in place, this doesn’t mean it will directly convert to growth. A marketing effort’s effectiveness is often the result of a series of coordinated tactics working in tandem. However, teams can get tied up in trying to justify ROI on individual activities, such as a direct mail campaign, instead of the entire strategy itself.

Establishing a Director of Monetization can help. Typically, this person is responsible for finding ways to get more money or other benefits out of something the institution already owns, whether it’s a piece of land, a brand or advertising space on a blog. For bank and credit union marketing teams, a Director of Monetization can figure out ways to make marketing investments and strategies generate the best monetary value possible, including direct and indirect returns.

In the above mortgage loan scenario, the value could range from direct loan generation, to revenue from a moving company partnership, to indirect growth through referrals.

While there’s value in marketing’s role in building brand equity, recognition and overall awareness, it’s essential to also support that value with direct, revenue-generating strategies instead of a solely piecemeal approach.

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