Christmas for Financial Marketers

Here are some ideas to help banks and credit unions get in the spirit and plan their holiday season campaigns.

Product Promotions

Black Friday/Cyber Monday Deals. This institutionalized annual sales event was once reserved purely for traditional retailers. But more and more financial institutions are embracing Black Friday and Cyber Monday with special deals of their own. ING Direct (now Capital One 360 in the US and Tangerine in Canada) has created limited-time offers for many years now. For its holiday door-buster, Service Credit Union has promoted a 3-month CD with an 11% APY on balances between $100 and $1,000, with a $100 bonus for opening a checking account. Similarly, Valley National Bank has offered a $400 refund at closing to mortgage customers who apply between Black Friday and early December.

Skip a Payment. You can promote any loan product — auto, home, boat, RV or personal — with a skip-a-payment feature. You can either defer their first payment by 30-90 days, or promise borrowers “No Payments Until 2015,” which is a remarkably effective marketing tactic employed by traditional big box holiday retailers (particularly in the consumer electronics industry).

Holiday Loans. Many consumers have big dreams for the holidays, but not everyone can afford to them. You can offer consumers holiday loans ranging between $500 and $5,000 for that big-ticket family gift or a special Christmas vacation. The key to making money from holiday loans? Cross-selling.

Gift Cards. If your bank or credit union has the ability to issue cash gift cards, then you should consider marketing them to your customer base, and perhaps even more broadly to the general public.

Cash Incentives. During the holidays, consumers are much more likely to respond to cash incentives. People need money to pay for gifts, and you might be surprised what they are willing to do to get it. You can tie cash bonuses to just about any product you offer (credit cards, checking accounts, loans). Feel free to add a special condition or requirement whenever you offer consumers cash.

Shopping Spree Giveaways. Works in the same ways as cash giveaways, but this spin on promotional incentives affords some excellent PR opportunities. You can take photos and/or video capturing the winner(s) running around aisles cramming goodies into their carts.

Debit Card Activation. During the holidays, every Postal Credit Union member who uses their debit card for purchases is entered in a weekly $1,000 Cash Card Giveaway. Members can earn 100 bonus entries for making 25 or more purchases a week with their debit card. You can also put a “Win Your Gift” twist on this promotion, where winners chosen from a pool of debit card users get one of their holiday purchases refunded back to them. While this specific example is for debit cards, you can use a sweepstakes promotion to incentivize nearly any desired behavior or activity — bill pay, mobile logins, etc.

Getting in the Christmas Spirit

ATM Cash Bonuses. Swap out some $50s and $100s in your ATMs, then watch people flock to your locations. You don’t even have to promote the fact that you’re doing it — news will travel fast via word-of-mouth. However, you could certainly make marketing hay out of it if you wanted. For instance, you could announce which location(s) and time(s) you’ll be giving out ATM bonuses. To really leverage this opportunity, make sure you have the right signage, messaging and offers around/on your ATMs, because you will be exposing your institution to a lot of new potential customers who don’t currently bank with you.

Santa at the Branch. Imagine having a bunch of parents all lined up and milling around your branches while they wait their turn to get pictures of their kids with Santa Claus. But don’t do this without having a sales plan and strategy in place. If you just set up a photo booth, you aren’t doing it right. You need to think about traffic flows — where will people be lingering while they wait — then carefully orchestrate the environment with snacks, takehomes, staff and messaging.

Free Gift Wrapping. This angle provides the same advantages as photos with Santa. You can pair the two and offer folks Santa photo ops with free gift wrapping.

Free Hams & Turkeys. For over a decade, Greater Niles Community Federal Credit Union has given away turkeys to its members during the holidays. The nonprofit orders 2,000 turkeys and 400 hams to giveaway. Those left over are donated. You don’t need to give all of your customers/members free roasts; it can be limited to the first 50 or 500 or 5,000 (depending on your size). Bring your camera, and have your CEO or other senior leader hand the roasts out — it’s a great PR opportunity. Feel free to invite the local press as well.

12 Days of Giveaways. For 12 days in December, you hide a holiday icon somewhere on your website. Visitors who find the icon and click on it can enter their information for a chance to win that day’s gift. There are other ways to structure a nativity-style “12 Day” giveaway besides a scavenger hunt — don’t be afraid to get creative. You could also consider “12 Days of Deals,” with a different promotional offer every day.

Civic & Charitable Engagement

Random Acts of Kindness. The Financial Brand has written a number of times about the power and potential of “Pay it Forward” style promotions (here, here and here, for instance). Christmas is the perfect time for this type of guerilla campaign, and the press loves it — banks giving gifts and engaging in random acts of kindness is the kind of “man-bites-dog” story they are always looking to publish.

Charitable Donations. If you want to spike activity on your social media channels, consider offering $1 to a local charity for every ‘Like’ you get on Facebook, or every retweet on Twitter. You could also consider a hashtag based promotion on Twitter (e.g., “Send a tweet with the hashtag #xmasbank and we’ll donate $X to [Charity X].”)

Grant Christmas Wishes. You can invite people to submit their Christmas wishes via email, social media (e.g., Facebook posts), or even YouTube videos. You can then pick your winner(s) by committee or at random.

Adopt Underprivileged Families. During the 2013 holiday season, American 1 Credit Union adopted 15 families within the communities they serve. Each branch was given the task to find and adopt their own families. American 1 provided each branch with $270 to start, and tasked them to raise more money. Staff held bake sales, asked members to donate loose change, or contributed to the cause directly themselves. Among all 15 groups, a total of nearly $8,000 was raised.

Show a Christmas Classic. Bust out the eggnog, pop up some caramel corn and brew some savory hot cocoa for your free screening of classic Christmas movies. You can rent out a theater or convert one of your branches. Send kids home with a gift.

Sponsor Something Seasonal. Like a school Christmas pageant or play. If you are located in a northern climate, you could consider sponsoring an outdoor ice skating rink.

Toys for Tots Drive. Hundreds of banks and credit unions hold Toys for Tots drives every year. You can drive branch traffic while doing a good thing for underprivileged kids.

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