6 Common Advertising Mistakes Banks Make

Here are six reasons banking ads don't work, and how you can avoid them.

These days, we all wear a multitude of hats in our daily jobs. And with technology and the industry changing around us at record speed, it’s easy to overlook a thing or two. But at the end of the day, it’s results that count. So here are six common mistakes that can mean the difference between advertising that performs, and advertising that simply chews up your budget.

Mistake #1 – Assuming consumers will read your ad

You spent good money to create it and place it, so of course they’ll read it, right? Wrong. Remember that the average consumer sees thousands of ads in a day. They are not looking for yours. So if isn’t special, or relevant, or memorable, or well placed, it will easily be overlooked. And your dollars are down the drain.

So how can you be sure your ad is the shining star? Begin by viewing it from someone else’s perspective besides your own. Imagine your next-door neighbor — would he or she be diverted from the news by your print or banner ad? Does it stand out on the page? Does it offer something that’s relevant and meaningful to them? Does it offer a benefit they can’t easily get somewhere else? Or is it so creative that they are simply compelled to see what it’s about?

If you answered no to most of the questions, it’s time to take another look. If the ad is in the newspaper, the layout should help it stand out among the clutter. Many people make the mistake of filling up the space in a print ad — but lots of white space does a much better job in a crowded publication. Banner ads are trickier, because there is so little room. But bright colors and simplicity can also place a role here. And be sure the message of your ad is in the final frame of a web banner — once it stops playing and becomes static, you still want readers to see what you are selling.

If you or your ad agency has done a good job creatively, be sure the message of the ad offers something of benefit. You’ll simply turn consumers off with an ad draws them in with the creative, and ultimately lets them down in the payoff.

Mistake #2 – Not understanding your target audience

A good example here is Millennials. This is a highly sought after group by financial institutions, as well as a variety of other industries. Advertisers make the mistake of using the wrong media or messages to attract this elusive audience. For instance, we’ve all seen television campaigns for mobile banking directed at the group. But any research into Millennials will tell you that they watch little television. Rather, you should consider where you can find them, and make sure you are there, too. Consider things like fun, informative seminars about saving and car buying, and use social media to reach them. If you’re after a teen’s first checking account, think about targeting parents around high school graduation. And don’t forget to make the message relevant.

Sure, mobile banking is important to this group, but quite frankly, mobile banking isn’t enough to draw them in. They just simply won’t bank somewhere that doesn’t offer it. Messages about convenience, ease, freedom and saving money will be much more appealing.

Mistake #3 – Assuming your competitors know something you don’t

Be assured, they don’t. Advertisers often get caught up in what their competitors are doing. Just because the bank across the street is running ads on Facebook doesn’t mean that you should, too. In the vast amount of cases, your competitor is no more knowledgeable than you. They may simply have been the victim of a great salesperson, and may not be seeing the results they hoped. Even if they’re a friendly competitor you lunch with, don’t assume that they’re giving you all the facts. If your campaign were not generating results, would you be telling everyone? Of course not!

You will only muddy the waters of your own campaign by getting caught up in what others are doing. If you are sticking to the right steps – setting clear goals, understanding your target audience, creating compelling ads, and using the appropriate media, you won’t go wrong.

Mistake #4 – Using the wrong tools for the job

These days, it’s difficult and time-consuming to keep up with all the opportunities for connecting with consumers. Technology is changing rapidly, and every time you turn around, another new avenue exists.

Some advertisers get caught up wanting the shiny new toy. Others are too comfortable with what they’ve done in the past. Neither of these directions is going to help you achieve the best results. Rather, you need to look at each tool objectively against your goals and demographics, and determine whether it’s really a good fit.

As stated earlier, television is not the best choice for primary media against a younger target. But it’s an excellent choice for building broad awareness about how convenient you are, or how great your customer service is. If you only have a small number of branches, remember that the majority of your checking customers will come from a 3-mile radius. So look at media that can be geo-targeted to your branches. If you’re considering venturing into a new media, try testing it with a smaller budget first. And that leads us to the next common error.

Mistake #5 – Not tracking results

Of course, it’s difficult to track everything you do. But you should set some sort of basis for measurement, and keep up with it. Online advertising is easily trackable — as long as you take the time to track it. It’s not enough to look at CPC reports from Adwords or the web sites you’ve purchased. They only tell you how many people clicked on your ad. Do you know what happened to them after that? Did they become a new customer? Why or why not? These are things you should know.

What about traditional media? We all know it isn’t as easy to track. But there are certain things that will help. For instance, you can track specific promotions by giving a coupon code that must be presented at the branch or online.

Mistake #6 – Choosing an agency with the wrong skill set

The right agency relationship is critical to your success. There are all types of companies out there that provide advertising support, but they can be very different. The lines have become blurred even more with the explosion of digital and social media. There are digital agencies that will also do traditional advertising. There are PR firms that also claim to handle your advertising needs. But if 90% of your budget is devoted to advertising, and only 10% to PR, why would you hire a PR firm? The PR firm will likely outsource your entire advertising campaign, and you won’t receive the experience or consistency you deserve.

Take a look at what your specific media mix is, and find the agency most appropriate. Any reputable advertising agency these days is experienced in web site design, digital campaigns, and social media strategies, along with traditional media. Hire a digital agency for special needs your agency can’t handle, or if the majority of your budget is spent in digital (unlikely for most financial institutions.)

Just as important is to look for an advertising agency with experience in your industry. Ask to see sample work or case studies that are relevant to your situation. When you hire an agency that has been successful with other similar clients, you won’t be wasting time or money while an inexperienced team gets up to speed and learns the ropes. And you significantly increase your chances for your own success.

There’s nothing more rewarding than a job well done. On your next go -around, remember the basic steps. Define your goals. Know your target audience. And create compelling, relevant, well-targeted messages. Finally, avoid these common mistakes, and you’ll be well on your way to more efficient campaigns and outstanding results.

Julie Burmeister is the President and Creative Director of The Burmeister Group, an Atlanta advertising agency who specializes in creating successful, memorable brands for financial institutions.

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