In some ways, marketing can seem a little similar to how teams get picked in gym class. Some kids on the sidelines scream “Pick me! Pick me!” as loud as they can, while others are more subtle and modest. Despite the various approach each kid takes, everyone shares one common desire: No one wants to be picked last.
In the banking industry, we spend vast amounts of money — not to mention time and internal resources — on marketing. “Choose us! Choose us!” We brand. We advertise. We craft creative campaigns and blanket media channels with marketing messages. We create television and radio spots. We orchestrate social media initiatives. “Pick me! Pick me!”
But What Happens When You Get Picked?
Perhaps you’ve had this experience: you walk into the restaurant and take a quick glance at the specials board while waiting to be seated. Later, when your server approaches the table, you ask him or her about the daily specials. “I just got here,” they respond, “Let me check.” The specials board (aka marketing) did its job. It got you to ask questions and initiate a conversation, but the server didn’t have answers. This is a major fail.
It’s no different when it comes to financial marketing. Experience teaches us that targeted, narrowly-cast marketing gets people in the doors. But your team must be equipped to respond appropriately. Far too often, frontline employees are the last to know about marketing initiatives, and are frequently ill-equipped to respond effectively when asked about products and services.
Just because you got picked, doesn’t mean you’ll make the cut. It takes an organization-wide effort that capitalizes on every opportunity. Marketing’s job is to create those opportunities, while the job of frontline employee’s is to capture the sale. If there isn’t alignment and synergy here, your efforts don’t just fall short, they can actually cause lasting damage. With consumers exercising more control over your brand image as they post, tweet, rate and review, the customer experience becomes paramount. Simply put, unless there is alignment between marketing and sales execution, the effort is largely in vain.
For marketing initiatives to truly succeed, financial institutions must commit to ongoing education. Every employee must be prepared to capitalize on opportunities. In any situation, employees must either have knowledge regarding the specific product or service being discussed, or (at the very least) the knowledge and skill to make a referral to the appropriate expert.
Building this level of true alignment between marketing and execution depends on three factors: product knowledge, customer service and accountability.
1. Product Knowledge
With any marketing initiative, your employees must understand *both* the marketing offer *and* the fulfillment process. This goes beyond just shoveling a marketing piece in someone’s hands, or sending them to a web page. It needs to involve real, meaningfuly product training:
- What is the product?
- How does it work?
- Who is the target audience?
- Why would a customer want this product, or specifically, how does it make the customer’s life better?
- How do we clearly ask for the sale?
Without adequate product knowledge, employees will miss buying clues… or even ignore them, not wanting to look uninformed.
It is important to understand that product knowledge training is not a “one-and-done” event. If your organization doesn’t have an ongoing training plan, your team members will quickly fall behind and lack knowledge essential to sales execution.
2. Customer Service Training
Ask executives in the banking industry why consumers should pick their institution and the response is always something along these lines: “Our service is extraordinary!”
Reality check: it’s not.
In the banking industry, we tend to put the mundane ordinary on a pedestal, and try and convince ourselves and consumers that it’s actually something exceptional.
At most banks and credit unions, customer service standards are unclear. Nevertheless, most organizations do very little to craft their customer experience. There’s nothing deliberate or strategic. Employees are simply told, “Provide great customer service.” But, they are never shown what is actually expected of them beyond a few basic behaviors.
To deliver customer service excellence, every employee should ask themselves, “What can I do so that when this person leaves, they feel truly special?” This extra effort is what takes service beyond simply going through the motions and creating a truly extraordinary customer experience — the kind they’ll want to tell others about.
Unless you have clear service expectations that are regularly trained, coached and modeled, it is unlikely your team is consistently providing the level of service necessary to complement your bank’s marketing efforts. But even when you do have clear service expectations, how do you really know that they are being executed reliably? That leads to the next point.
Accountability is really about measuring and reporting. The most successful organizations establish clear service standards, and give them real teeth by defining specific acquisition goals.
Simple implementing retraining or mystery shopping yields a 9% lift in performance, while financial institutions that implement both mystery shops and retrain employees experience a 19% boost in account openings vs. those who do neither.
When employees know you are measuring something, they will work to achieve it. And when employees are properly equipped, know what they need to achieve, and are accountable, results will follow.
Sean C. Payant, Ph.D., is Chief Consulting Officer at Haberfeld Holdings, a data-driven consulting firm specializing in core relationships, customer, and profitability growth for community-based financial institutions. You can call Sean at 402.323-3614 or send him an email.