7 Common Sense Ways to Increase Bank Cross-Selling

Every financial institution needs to generate a steady stream of new customers, yet one of the easiest and most steady sources of new business and related revenue is to reach out to current customers for additional business.

With the cost of acquiring new retail, small business or commercial customers being five to ten times the cost of retaining an existing one, and with the average spend of a repeat customer being 50% – 100% more than a new one, financial marketers need to remember that the most efficient investment of marketing funds is to market to customers that already bank with you. Here are seven relatively easy techniques to do just that.

1. Start With the Lowest Hanging Fruit

The Subscribe Todayeasiest sales that can be made to current customers are engagement services that help a customer use an account they already own. These ‘sticky services,’ that are also part of most financial institution onboarding programs, include a debit card, online banking, mobile banking, direct deposit, bill pay, automatic savings transfer, personal line of credit and security solutions such as privacy protection.

These services help to ensure the customer will use the products they own more frequently, will significantly improve retention, and will help to improve the overall customer experience. Without customer engagement on the most basic product level, a relationship will have a difficult time growing.

2. Stay Connected

A friend of mine once said, “I was very impressed with how much love my bank gave me when I opened some new accounts, but amazed that I never really heard from them again except to tell me about new fees.” While some banks have very successful onboarding programs to help stay connected with new customers, a surprising number of banks still rely on the customer to onboard themselves. And unless the customer expands their relationship, their bank may never include them in a model-driven cross-sell program.

To succeed in cross-selling services to customers, a bank or credit union needs to keep the conversation going. This should be through email, direct mail, statement messaging, SMS texts and as part of the online and mobile banking platforms. Remember, however, that these messages must be personalized and highly targeted.

3. Continually Evaluate Upsell Opportunities

Rather than using product-driven programs that are done seasonally, consider funding more customer-focused programs that evaluate each customer’s propensity to open one or more of the products and services you offer at the time they would like to buy. At many financial institutions, each customer’s transactional, product ownership and even behavioral characteristics are evaluated continuously. This is done to determine the most likely next purchase at any given time and whether the propensity to purchase is high enough to make an offer.

In some of most successful programs, this evaluation of opportunities is done monthly, with smaller mailing universes, but much higher response rates. Some organizations are also using advanced analytics to provide contextual messages in real time. Customers want to be provided suggestions of services that will help them with their finances. Having the timing right is part of a great customer experience.

4. Empower Your Customer-Facing Employees

For most customer contact employees, their primary responsibility revolves around efficient processing of transactions and/or customer service. To leverage the thousands of customer engagements these employees have each year, you need to provide easy ways for them to extend their conversations to include relationship expansion opportunities.

Many financial institutions provide prompts on their employee’s computer screen around recent sales communications received by the customer, most likely products that may interest the customer, and even special offers that can be made as part of their transaction or service conversation.

The best programs don’t stop there, but include tools for the customer to take advantage of the offer. This may be an immediately generated custom printed sales document, a follow-up email, SMS text or sales call or a referral form. Adding to the power of branch-based sales is the increasing use of tablet-assisted employees at the branch level who can have all of the tools at their fingertips.

5. Ask for Referrals

One of the easiest ways to generate new business and increase loyalty of current retail or business customers is to ask (and possibly incent) for referrals. If a customer is happy with the way they are treated at your organization, they usually want others to know.

This is especially true with satisfied small businesses, private banking customers and with retail customers that are part of a bank-at-work program. And it doesn’t hurt if you provide an incentive to your current customer in addition to the prospect.

At a time when new customer acquisition offers often exceed $100 and when the overall cost of acquisition is more than $250, offering a ‘bounty’ of $50 would be far less expensive and would most likely generate a more loyal customer. A referral program, supported throughout the organization is a great way to engage employees as well.

6. Leverage Offline and Online Channels

Never assume that customers understand all that your organization offers or absorb communication the same through all channels. Remind your customers continuously that you know who they are, understand their needs, are looking out for them and that you are willing to reward them for their loyalty.

Using as many direct channels as possible to reach out to your current customer base is part of a strong multichannel marketing plan.This includes direct mail, email, statement inserts, banner ads on your website, ATM messaging, outbound calling efforts, etc. And don’t forget the use of the powerful online and mobile banking sites of the customer.

7. Measure and Reward What You Want Done

By providing ongoing measurement of the cross-selling objectives you want to achieve and paying for this achievement of these objectives, you have a much better chance of reaching your goals. This continuous reinforcement of your cross-sell mission allows your team to be focused on what’s important.

You can also turbocharge your results by communicating how you are assisting in their efforts. Provide “opportunity reports” of the customers where they may have the greatest opportunity for success. As part of these reports, it is also helpful to provide background as to why the customer is being selected for a specific offer.

Finally, remember that current customers like to be rewarded for their loyalty. One of the best ways to do this is to remember to include an offer with any cross-sell or upsell message. Without an offer, you may be perceived as simply ‘pushing product’ without leveraging the relationship value already in place.

A strong offer will not only generate a better response to your communication, but also remind the customer of the value of doing business with your organization.

Jim MarousJim Marous is co-publisher of The Financial Brand and publisher of the Digital Banking Report, a subscription-based publication that provides deep insights into the digitization of banking, with over 150 reports in the digital archive available to subscribers. You can follow Jim on Twitter and LinkedIn, or visit his professional website.

This article was originally published on August 29, 2016. All content © 2018 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.


  1. Jim – great points and one other thought: this extends above the marketing leadership. C-level executives at banks and CUs need to ensure that they’re focusing efforts and measurements on organic growth and retention. Too many are still focused upon new customer/member acquisition – as they stress and measure it, marketers are compelled to focus upon it. These strategies need to be implemented and focused from the top down.

  2. Great comment and accurate assessment of the situation regarding acquisition and retention/growth. Both are important, but we need to get as much of the low hanging fruit as possible.

  3. I certainly agree that cross selling is the highest yield growth strategy – assuming the customer/member base is not at full wallet share, which it rarely is.

    In our experience, echoing Mike’s comment a critical success factor is measurement and reward, which many still struggle with. Knowing how much product substitution is generated by cross-selling and managing the margin substitution effectively is one key to profitable cross-selling strategy. Another is setting up verifiable metrics and rewards. Both require a special kind of metrics – account level flow of funds analysis of the whole portfolio.

  4. Glenn Grossman says:

    Effective cross selling in other sectors comes down to products customers want and often a price that meets their needs. So for existing products an effective pricing and product platform to deliver the right product at the right price is needed. Delivering new products is a challenge for established FIs, so partnerships with FinTech firms can lead to increased product adoption. Paired with optimal pricing many less agile banks could deliver relevant cross sell options to clients.

  5. Tips for effective Cross-selling and Up-selling
    1. Make sure your customers know what other products and services you provide.
    2. Suggest only relevant products or services
    3. Recommend the product at the right time.
    4. Up-sells and cross-sells should be recommendations only
    5. Make sure all employees know your range well

    Good Luck..!

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