One of the most shocking things that I have observed when attending various financial industry events is how often I run into my fellow bank marketing executives who cannot clearly articulate in one sentence the answer to “What are you an expert in?” or “What area of marketing does your institution excel at?”
That lack of clarity leads to some poor decisions, in terms not only of staff selection and development but also working with outsiders. For example, many of these same financial marketing leaders also ask: “How do I find a marketing agency that will help us differentiate from other banking institutions?” Whenever you create a line of questioning pointing outwards, you’ll typically end up working on a problem that isn’t the root cause of the issue. Beyond that, it’s not the marketing agency’s job to solve your business problems.
Yes, the agency can assist and provide feedback and enable you to do more with less. But you can’t offload the entire responsibility of business outcomes onto the agency. That’s your job.
Financial marketing leaders and departments must stop abdicating their responsibility and realize that you, your team and your brand, and not the agency, differentiate your institution. It’s critical to understand the types of skills that go into financial marketing today.
Financial Marketing Must Own the Challenges
Many smaller banks and credit unions are understaffed and have insufficient resources to own all marketing competencies fully. Nevertheless, this doesn’t change the fact that every financial marketing team needs to have a few key areas that make your institution’s brand uniquely yours. For this purpose, leaders must identify the bank or credit union’s core marketing capabilities and what they will outsource. You will need to understand what your core competencies are today and what they will need to be in the future.
What Makes You a Marketing Leader?:
As a financial marketing leader, what is in your wheelhouse? What one area of marketing are you exceptional at? You would be surprised how many marketing leaders can't answer these simple questions.
When you outsource all your marketing activities to a third-party agency, a small problem grows. Clayton Christensen, the distinguished Harvard Business professor and author of The Innovator’s Dilemma, discusses in his book that one of the most significant issues of outsourcing your core competencies is that it further removes you from your customers. The more you outsource, the more out of touch you become with the people whose problems your products and services are supposed to be solving. Marketing leaders in banking need to be judicious in deciding what activities they will outsource and what activities they will keep in-house.
Here’s why this matters: When banking institutions don’t have any competencies to distinguish themselves from their competition, they become a commodity where the only differentiation is pricing. This is the situation that many institutions have found themselves competing in today.
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Key Bank Marketing Archetypes to Build Core Competencies Around
There are numerous ways to differentiate a bank or credit union from a marketing perspective. There’s no one correct answer to which core competency is the best. Rather, it’s more a question of who you have on your team, discovering their strengths, and correlating those with the future needs of the institution.
There are five types of marketers in banking today. Here are their characteristics and a sense of how you can use their skills — or your skills, if one of these fits you. After reviewing these, we’ll consider why banks and credit unions often don’t fire on all of these cylinders.
Bank Marketing Type 1: The Builders
Builders are good at working in the weeds. They are highly proficient at the technical side of marketing. They create differentiation in their ability to outmaneuver the competition with their superior understanding of channel marketing and getting the right message in front of the right audience at the right time in the right way.
In my experience, this is a key area where agencies need help gaining the context I mentioned earlier. Even if you use an agency to do the fulfillment, having someone in-house who can get into the weeds with the campaigns and provide that context is paramount in this digital age. Agency staffers aren’t bankers or credit union executives.
• Builders’ Specialization: All things technical in marketing.
• Builder Job Titles/functions: Marketing operations, paid search, paid social ad buyer, email marketer, search engine optimization, account-based marketing, developers.
Bank Marketing Type 2: The Dreamers
Dreamers focus on branding and conveying the financial institution’s mission to the public. They are empathetic and authentic with the people served and understand how to deploy large-scale marketing strategies and awareness campaigns.
Dreamers concentrate on the big picture and understand how to imbue the financial institution’s mission into the everyday actions of its people and into its marketing.
• Dreamers’ Specialization: All things brand and communications.
• Dreamer Job Titles: Public relations, copywriting, communications, content marketing and brand marketing.
Read More: Why Bankers Need to Become PR Preppers
Bank Marketing Type 3: The Makers
Makers solve problems through creativity, imagination and consistently showing patience throughout creative development.
They connect the bank’s mission and message from the expanse of their imagination and distill it into amazing creatives and user flows relevant to customers and members.
• Makers’ Specialization: All things design and usability.
• Maker Job Titles: Graphic designer, user experience/user interface designer, videographer, photographer.
Bank Marketing Type 4: The Solvers
Solvers are inherently strong planners and organizers. They get projects shipped and communicate well with internal and external teams. They are people who make stuff happen.
However, there’s a caveat here: One area to watch for if you are building a team of solvers is that they tend to have excellent project management skills — but lack general marketing understanding.
• Solvers’ Specialization: Organization and workflow management.
• Solver Job Titles: Account executives, project managers, product marketing.
Bank Marketing Type 5: The Connectors
Connectors often possess energy, curiosity and an appetite for new things. So it’s no surprise they are the ones who like trying out new wrinkles in social media, for example.
Translating social influence into something tangible for the bank or credit union is tricky. But the best connectors can do this seamlessly.
• Connectors’ Specialization: All things social and partnership marketing.
• Connector Job Titles: Social media, affiliate and influencer marketing.
Too Many Financial Marketing Generalists Leads to Blah Performance
The greatest challenge that most banks and credit unions run into is that they are typically average at best within these archetypes — if they have any expertise in these specialties at all. Marketing leaders tend to hire “well-rounded” individuals when, in reality, they need to hire strong experts within the skillsets mentioned. This is how you differentiate as a marketing department.
To use a sports analogy, most football teams would love to have a world-class team in all three phases of the game (offense, defense and special teams). However, the reality is that constraints prevent them from excelling at all three phases. So they need to prioritize. Based on the talent that they currently have, as well as those that they will develop and recruit in the future, where do they want to specialize?
Nearly Good Enough … Isn't:
Being mediocre across all three phases of the game doesn't cut it in football. The same holds true for marketers in banking.
Ideally, financial institutions would excel at all of these archetypes, but most banks are constrained on resources. Managers need to prioritize which of these archetypes they want to build their marketing team around and find world-class talent. By focusing on developing in-house marketing expertise, banks and credit unions can start to differentiate themselves relative to their competition and outpunch their weight class.
Financial institution leaders and executives sometimes don’t understand this because most don’t come from a marketing background. However, marketing leaders need to own the responsibility for developing their own and their team’s expertise and push for it within the bank or credit union.
Take serious time to think about the question, “What are you an expert in?” and be ready to have an answer to that question. If you don’t have an answer, look at the five marketing archetypes above and figure out where you fit, where your people fit, and what expertise area needs to be nurtured.