TCF Bank’s Low-Cost Retention Campaign Maxes Marketing ROI

Recognizing that product and service promotions tend to favor new customers, the regional institution came up with a way to reward existing customers and generate excitement with a modest marketing investment. It then repeated the promotion, switching to a movie theme and using location-mapping to better target in-branch events, and nearly doubled its success.

What’s better than acquiring a new customer? It sounds like a trick question, but the answer isn’t “acquiring two new customers” — it’s actually retaining an existing customer. While there’s a certain allure that comes with capturing new customers, keeping current customers coming back continually requires fewer marketing dollars and can result in a greater return on investment.

Minnesota-based TCF Bank saw the opportunity to increase brand sentiment across its eight-state market by growing customer engagement and using customer word-of-mouth to build a strong reputation in the communities it serves. Rather than focusing its marketing efforts on products and services — which often favor new customers over existing, loyal customers — TCF decided it needed to find a way to reward current customers and get them talking about why they loved their bank.

“The bank decided to devote a full-month campaign to customer appreciation — without asking for anything in return.”
— Echo Propp, TCF Bank

After some brainstorming, the regional bank decided to devote a full-month campaign to customer appreciation — hoping to build genuine brand loyalty, and without asking for anything in return.

TCF’s first customer-appreciation month sought to engage customers in all markets with summer-themed #ThankYouThursday events and special offers. These included a shredding event to help customers safeguard their personal information, in-branch giveaways for Major League Baseball tickets, and promotional offers for opening a savings account or refinancing their homes. After a strong response, TCF knew it wanted to bring the promotion back in 2019, building on the initial success.

Round 2: Simpler, But with a Wider Reach

One big takeaway from the first round was the need to simplify the overall experience to make it easier for customers to understand, and for the branches to execute. By condensing the campaign to focus on a single promotion, the bank’s marketers believed it could have a bigger impact and capture the attention of more customers.

The key was finding a theme and prizes that would speak to a wide range of people in diverse markets with unique wants and needs. TCF knew it wanted a prize that was big enough to be significant, but small enough that all customers would have the chance to participate. This led them to a movie-themed giveaway called, “Movie Madness.”

Like the previous promotion, Movie Madness would give TCF customers the chance to participate both in-branch and online. Rather than a big ticket grand prize like MLB tickets, TCF opted for free passes to private movie screenings of two popular 2019 releases — Toy Story 4 and Aladdin.

Key takeaway: By scaling down the grand prize, TCF was able to have more customers as big winners without expanding its budget.

For the giveaway to be successful, location mapping was extremely important. Each branch was mapped to theaters within 30 minutes to ensure customers could attend in their neighborhood. Customers who lived too far from a participating theater had the opportunity to win a gift card to a local theater to see a movie of their choice. TCF also tailored the number of prizes and movie tickets to in-branch traffic to maximize the potential for winners across all markets and zip codes.

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Movie-Themed Prizes Prove Popular

Prior to the launch of the campaign, there were extensive discussions between the marketing team and retail banking directors to get their buy-in and to ensure that branches had all the information that they needed to carry out the campaign. These conversations were vital to the success of the campaign, as staff engagement was an important part of the customer experience during in-branch events.

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To promote the campaign externally, TCF created fun and whimsical content that was distributed through branch merchandising, email, social media, website, and digital banking.

The 2019 customer appreciation month events were held on two days in June throughout the TCF footprint. At these events customers received a scratch-off card for a chance to win a free Redbox rental code, popcorn, candy, or four tickets to a private screening of Toy Story 4 or Aladdin. Branch staff received a lot of positive feedback from customers, who had fun with the scratch-offs and loved the movie-themed prizes.

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Movie showings for the private-screening winners were held the same month in 16 theaters spread across Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan. Most of the winners showed up, with attendance as high as 90% at some theaters. At the screenings, TCF rolled out the red carpet by providing attendees with free popcorn and a soda.

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Major Jump in Participation Numbers

In addition to the two successful events, TCF also saw a lot of engagement in the marketing campaigns and on its website. Traffic to the campaign landing page saw a 60% increase from the year before, and 84% more customers entered the contest using the form on the website.

The emails that went out to customers also saw big engagement numbers, beating TCF’s averages for open and click-through rates significantly. These numbers also carried through on social media, where customer appreciation content consistently beat key performance indicators for engagement and reach.

Customers weren’t the only ones who felt the love during customer-appreciation month. Branch employees truly enjoyed being able to simply give thanks to their customers without asking for something in return.

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