The 3-Minute Rule for Financial Marketers

Asking two simple questions can help financial institutions add value to their user experience. Banks and credit unions that understand what a customer is doing three minutes before using a product or service and three minutes after gain a powerful advantage.

Back in 2008, the innovative minds at Thomson Reuters had a groundbreaking realization – if you want to truly understand your customers, ask them what they were doing in the three minutes before they used your product or service and in the three minutes after. They called this “The Three Minute Rule,” and it revealed what products and services were most relevant to their customers and what was most “connectable” with Thomson’s own products.

This approach helped Thomson transition from publishing (newspapers) to information services (digital media and B2B information platforms). I worked as a Director of Business Development for Thomson back then, so I got to see the Three Minute Rule in action, and I had a front row seat as the company thrived while other newspaper companies died out.

The Three-Minute Rule for Financial Institutions

The Three Minute Rule can be applied to banks and credit unions to help them add more value to their customer/member experience by integrating useful products and services into consumers’ daily routines. Doing this simple and revealing exercise will help you find those elusive touch-points where you can fill a void and have consumers think “Pow! This is exactly what I needed at this exact moment.”

When you talk to clients about your products or services, don’t just ask them for general feedback or their likes and dislikes. Dig deeper and try to put yourself in their shoes and really understand their experience. Use the following process:

1. First, identify the times when clients use financial products or services (but not necessarily yours). For example…

  • When do they use your credit card?
  • When do they use a different card or cash?
  • When do they use your debit card?
  • When do they apply for a line of credit (LOC)?
  • When do they draw on or pay down their LOC?
  • When do they use your mobile banking app?
  • When and where do they search for information about a loan (home, auto, refi, business, etc.)?
  • When do they visit a branch (and when do they opt to do online or mobile banking instead)?
  • When do they transfer money between accounts?
  • When do they look at their investment balances?

2. Then ask the consumer, “What were you doing in the three minutes before you did one of those tasks? And what were you doing in the three minutes after?”

3. Evaluate where your clients have success, and more importantly, where do they struggle? Where are there voids that need to be filled with information or products or services? (At this point, you should be feeling the warm tingle of epiphany from learning these new insights.) Your team can then determine how to make improvements, streamline your process, add to or adjust your offerings, and/or cross sell to help meet clients’ needs.

For example, banks and credit unions who ask the questions above may learn things like:

  • Clients used credit cards to donate to charities during the month of December. If their financial institution provided an efficient online tool to find and fund needy nonprofits in the community, clients would be more likely to donate to local causes and use their financial institution’s credit card to do so. Even better, you might find that if you “adopted” a local non-profit, your users would automatically donate, using your credit or debit cards, and they might even donate more because of your tacit endorsement.
  • Clients who opened their mobile banking app did so immediately after they purchased goods or services. It turns out they were looking for a way to digitally store and retrieve their receipts. Client satisfaction and retention would soar if their financial institution provided a feature in their mobile banking app that allowed them to image and store receipts.
  • Just before clients went shopping (online or in the real world), they looked for a coupon or discount (in fact, 86% of consumers look for a discount before shopping). If their bank or credit union offered clients exclusive discounts at local merchants if they paid with their financial institution’s credit/debit card, clients would say “hot dog!” and not only would they save money, but they’d also credit their bank or credit union with helping them shop local and save money.

These are just examples of course. Use the Three-Minute Rule to find out what your users are really experiencing so you can help them in ways that never would have occurred to you otherwise.

Andrew Bank is Co-Founder of Larky, a mobile loyalty platform that drives acquisition, retention, wallet share, and interchange revenue. To learn more about Larky, visit, or email us at [email protected].

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