4 Things Financial Marketers Say That Could Get Them Fired

Sometimes CMOs in the banking industry don't realize how they sound to others in the C-suite — particularly their CEO.

A bank CEO at an executive roundtable recently said, “I’m not sure what kind of marketing we need, but I’m pretty sure our current marketing director won’t be leading it.”

What are financial marketing executives saying that lead to statements like that?

From direct experience in senior leadership roles at banks and consulting for them, I can tell you there are at least ten things marketers frequently say that can roil their CEO… even get them fired (if not immediately, then eventually).

1. “Our marketing department is solid!”

Translation: “Rah-rah! Nothing wrong here, folks!”

First off, marketing executives are notorious for excessive cheerleading. They should cut back on the positive spin. Every team has strong and weak players, but marketers are typically among the last people to recognize, accept and act on difficult personnel situations. Ask CFO’s or CLO’s about their teams and you’ll usually get honest assessment up and down the line.

Admit it… CMO’s are more likely to sugar coat. But leading marketers embrace the brutal truth and make those tough calls.

Besides, the word “department” can feel divisive. In an environment where sales, service, and marketing is consolidating around delivery, the organization needs brought together, not divided. The Digital Age calls for a greater degree of organizational integration. Banks aren’t government agencies and marketing should be pervasive throughout the institution. Leading marketers crawl out of their silo and lead cross-functional teams that drive sales and service results across the organization. (We’ll explore the profiles for these types of leaders in depth more at The Financial Brand Forum.)

2. “Compliance would never let us do THAT.”

Translation: “OK, I give up… Why bother?”

Let’s face it, most compliance functions try to eliminate risk instead of managing it. If a bank or credit union is looking at a marketing strategy that several other competitors already undertake to win market share, marketers should connect with their peers and find out how they do it. They cannot take a compliance officer’s word for it because, compliance is never rewarded for saying “yes” and giving their blessing. Their job is to basically say “no” unless/until you can prove otherwise.

The best way to wage this war is to fight before the battle. Leading marketers are active in their institution’s strategic planning process, insisting that “risk appetite” and “brand” be aligned in the strategic development process. Leading marketers also step up to assess the risks their organization may be assuming when/if it chooses to adopt a certain approach to marketing. All executives in the banking industry (yes, even marketers) are risk managers. Healthy conflict is the hallmark of leadership. And (within reason), if there isn’t any friction between marketing and compliance on a regular basis, I’d bet marketing is probably surrendering too easily.

3. “We run a tight ship with marketing.”

Translation: “The marketing budget was cut again.”

The problem here is confusing “accountability” with “accounting.” Take a look around at the big behemoth banks’ increasingly aggressive and well-funded marketing. Check the numbers and you’ll see that the biggest banks are gaining market share. Then ask, if a bank or credit union has decreasing marketing resources right now, is that anything to be proud of? Is that leadership?

It may have something to do with other executives viewing marketing as a cost center and not revenue generator. In this competitive environment, a “tight ship” could be sinking the whole fleet.

Maybe the marketer is lucky and gets good growth with less resources. Most strong bank CEO’s are financial engineers that don’t give credit for good luck. They like fighters and numbers… not luck. Leading marketers see the competitive challenge, benchmark themselves to peers, and fight for new or redirected resources to drive profitable revenue and market share growth. And if the marketer isn’t lucky, it won’t matter because the bank may not be around much longer anyway.

4. “I.T. says we’ll get everything we need in the new system.”

Translation: “We’re praying for the best. (But we aren’t holding our breath.)”

With marketing increasingly driven by digital delivery and data analytics, it’s odd that some marketing executives defer outright to their CIO or IT area on matters such as data analysis and user experience. We’re not talking about core systems and data storage, mind you. But business analyses and functional requirements for things like targeting, onboarding, cross-selling, origination and response analysis should most certainly be within marketing’s sphere of influence.

If the user interface drives the brand experience, you can’t just hand all that over to the hardware-and-ops folks.

According to a Cornerstone Advisors’ research report, sales and marketing applications (like origination and CRM systems) are being added or replaced at twice the rate of traditional technologies like core systems. Leading marketers need to stay tech smart — either lead, or join the teams selecting key systems and own the process.

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