By J.P. Bewley
In a time of increased customer choice, dwindling profit margins and increased compliancy concerns, financial service institutions are seeking better ways to connect with customers. Given the challenges within the marketplace, it is increasingly important that banks be knowledgeable about their target prospects and that they understand how to best communicate with them.
One of the best methods to building better customer relationships is to talk to them in their language about what concerns them. An ideal way to approach this is with the implementation of a customized online, on-demand communications platform.
Leveraging the Web is an efficient and cost-effective means of responding to market opportunities across the bank branch network. Not only does a customizable on-demand platform deliver a more targeted customer message and enhanced revenue and retention opportunities, it also empowers employees to be part of the sales process, while ensuring compliancy with enterprise, federal and state requirements.
A viable solution for ensuring timely customer communication is to put decision-making capabilities in the hands of your bank’s front line: the branch. Localizing materials allows any bank, regardless of branch size, to engage the customer in a meaningful way. Branch management sees on a daily basis what is happening in their market, what customers are responding to – and what they are not interested in.
The final reward is an engaged and loyal customer who is happy doing business with your bank.
For large organizations, localization of marketing activities raises some valid concerns. Since financial service companies must deal with strict compliance standards, communications need to be tightly controlled. Additionally, headquarters needs to ensure that brand identity and corporate messaging remain consistent at all levels.
Locally, branch offices are coping with restricted resources and fierce competition. Although the target market is smaller, the need to make every campaign effort and every dollar spent worthwhile is the key.
For institutions of all sizes, the idea of putting communications control in the hands of the branch can be daunting to the marketing professional responsible for making customized outreach a reality. Issues of consistency in messaging, brand and graphics presentation and quality control immediately surface. Costs need to be controlled, and promotional materials need to be factual, timely and compliant.
Financial service institutions face many obstacles that make marketing that much more challenging. One trend is the declining direct-marketing response rates, which appear to be strongly correlated to increasing mail volume. Financial institutions are increasing the funding on direct marketing campaigns; however, they are not realizing a comparable return on investment (ROI) for their efforts.
Regulatory compliance guidelines are often complex and are continually evolving. One item specific to the industry deals with fair housing and lending rules. According to the FDIC, illegal lending discrimination can be committed by simply failing to market enough in predominantly minority areas, or by using media channels which do not sufficiently reach minorities. Advertised rates must not be arbitrarily different from one area to another.
For larger organizations, the concern is with the difficulty in enforcing data security and integrity. While the sheer quantity of customer information can be an asset, it can also be a potentially massive liability. With so much data on hand, a financial services company is armed with a great deal of information to identify new leads. But with this data comes significant risk: in the event this information is used improperly or stolen, the damage to the customer, as well as the offending organization, can be devastating.
While these concerns should not prevent companies from taking full advantage of their customer information, any marketing activity involving customer data needs to be undertaken with caution.
With the creation of an online campaign on-demand marketing platform, banks are able to empower local managers and sales representatives to order marketing materials customized to their local marketplace, while ensuring appropriate branding and compliance controls are maintained across the enterprise.
By giving branches the ability to go online, select materials and insert messaging that can be customized (within certain guidelines), banks can get localized communications to the marketplace quickly and effectively. With the inclusion of features such as print on demand and online proofing capabilities, time-to-market for these materials can be impressive – anywhere from a couple of days to just a few hours.
Online on-demand marketing platforms can be integrated with existing systems such as customer relationship management and mainframe data to provide an automated 360 degree view of customers. This allows previous purchase behavior and customer lifetime value models to shape any messages that are customized at the branch level.
To further ensure regulatory compliance and accuracy, banks can also “right-size” employee access level. Consequently, each employee with system access will be shown only those materials appropriate for his or her level of authority.
An on-demand customizable campaign is advantageous to branch offices because it allows a considerable amount of flexibility for marketing activities in an easy-to-use platform. Additionally, local banks can segment their audience and tailor messaging to each respective group. At the corporate level, the organization is able to maintain control of brand integrity, budgetary levels and regulatory compliance.
Overall, the ROI can be considerable for the corporation. Substantial cost savings can be realized as a result of automated data processing and improved production efficiencies. Additionally, the locally generated marketing campaigns will be more effective to the targeted audience. Finally, the corporate office will be able to retain control over corporate branding and messaging, while ensuring that marketing standards meet regulatory and legal requirements.
The Road Map
To successfully implement an on-demand program, the following should be kept in mind:
- Consistent, comprehensive guidelines – The system will only be as good as its content. Ensure that branding, compliance and key company guidelines are incorporated;
- Workflow – Automation is the key to results. The system should be designed for easy flow through the entire process;
- Data – Database management is critical not only to successful materials, but meeting federal and regulatory requirements;
- Branch input – Get employees involved and solicit feedback on system performance and their needs to ensure best adoption results;
- Prioritize – Design the system around platforms, service areas or other criteria to ensure materials are smartly linked to service and revenue areas that will most impact program success;
- Simplify – Streamline the system by designating the user’s sign-on to determine which campaigns they can order. Once logged in, the ordering process should be straightforward, with appropriate confirmations and approvals built in; and
- Culture – To embrace an online campaign on-demand platform, an organization should plan on a multiphase 24-month to 36-month adoption roadmap.
J.P. Bewley is vice president of consulting services for San Ramon, Calif.-based Raine Media (www.rainemedia.com). His background includes experience in the development of customer data strategies and the implementation of closed-loop marketing platforms, new concept development, data analytics, project implementation and taking products to market.