To amend an old saying, if you give a man a fish he will have food for a meal. If you teach a man to fish he will eat for a lifetime. However, if you convince the world that they need more Omega 3s in their diet, you and that man catching all the fish can be eating steak at Ruth Chris for the rest of your lives – this is the power of marketing.
Show us a bank that utilizes marketing effectively and most likely we can show you a good marketing plan behind the effort. While a bank marketing plan does not have to be extensive, it does have to be more than just a list of planned activities. Efficient marketing starts with a well-thought out plan that ties the bank’s vision and mission to the bank’s branding and selling objectives. Done properly, a marketing plan is a roadmap that brings all departments together and creates a level of discipline to make sure the proper goals are achieved.
For starters, a bank’s marketing plan should begin with the long-term vision, mission and strategy and then focus on those goals that need to be achieved in the coming year. This is critical; as this approach ties strategy to tactics and keeps everyone focused on what needs to be accomplished in the short-run within the context of the long-term vision. For example, no need to spend money on marketing retail deposit rates if the plan is to grow commercial loans and have a brand centered on high-touch service.
Below, we breakout the elements that are usually found in a successful bank marketing plan with a link to a sample schedule so your bank can plan each channel over a time period. In marketing planning, the goal isn’t to be exact - just directionally correct. If you don't plan, you're bank’s marketing ROI is likely doomed, and an inaccurate plan is far better than no plan at all since you might get to your destination without a plan, but if you do, it will be by luck. A plan tilts the odds of achieving your goals in your favor.
Here are the elements common to most successful bank marketing plans:
Executive Summary: This is the narrative that states the mission, vision, core values and purpose of the bank and then lays out an overview of the marketing effort that supports each element. The summary should give a highlight of the key positions involved in the plan, the time period covered, the various channels utilized and the budget of the plan.
The Theme: In this section the theme or themes for the year should be articulated. Maybe it is a “small business testimonial-based approach” or maybe it is “small successes in our community,” but the most effective marketing campaigns we have seen all have a clear theme involved.
Target Customers: While most banks can nail the summary, few banks take the time to define their customers and their personas. Understanding the demographics of the target customers, their psychographic profiles (e.g., their interest, concerns, goals, etc.) and their desires as they relate to the bank’s products and services will ensure your marketing dollars are put to good use. Banks are encouraged to layout identifiable segments so that marketing dollars can be more tightly focused.
Value Proposition: If there is one thing that makes this entire effort worth it is to make sure everyone understands and is reminded of the bank’s value proposition. A value proposition is what separates your bank from its competitors.
Pricing Strategy: High margin, low margin or in the middle – pick one and stick to it. Nothing hurts a bank brand more than misalignment in this area. In this section, banks need to detail where they want to be and how the brand should be perceived relative to pricing. In addition, this section should discuss how and who sets product and service prices and how you want to be positioned given a defined set of competitors.
Will you be bundling products (Some tips on pricing bundled products)? Selling products on a monthly or annual subscription or will everything be transactional? Defining your approach to key products help everyone better understand your pricing approach and business model.
Channel Delivery & Geography: Through what channels does your bank want to support and what is the rough breakdown of resource allocation across both channels and geography. If all channels and all geographies are equally weighted fine, but understand that thought should be given to what channels are most efficient for your bank and what geographies hold the most promise. Rarely, is a bank marketing plan optimized without both a channel and geographic focus based on expected return.
Marketing Tactics: This section describes a general resource allocation to types of marketing. How will advertising, thought leadership, education, trade shows, press, TV, radio, direct sales, events, mailings, social validation/proof, call centers, strategic partnerships and general corporate branding come into play. What portion of the marketing effort will be devoted to digital and what towards traditional marketing avenues?
In this section, banks often layout how offers like free trails, fee waiving, discounts and referrals will work. Further, this section should also discuss what marketing materials such as collateral, design, digital development and other assets need to be produced or refined.
A large part of this section should be devoted to specific online execution of the marketing plan. What keywords should your bank choose, how will digital assets be folded into search engine optimization, how will social media be utilized and what, if any, online advertising channels will be employed (retargeting, banners, paid content placement, etc.).
Joint Ventures & Partnerships: This is also an often overlooked section. Joint ventures and partnerships can help your bank reach new customers or better monetize existing customers. For example, if you are promoting EB-5 lending programs, then partnering with immigration attorneys has proven very effective for banks. There is no faster way to get a lift in marketing than harnesses the power of a partner’s network (More on networked banking).
Referral Strategy: While often an afterthought, successful banks usually are very effective at creating a strong customer referral program (some tips on setting up a referral program). Just think about if every customer referred one new customer! This is one of the most effective bank marketing effort and thus deserves thought about how your bank will ask, track and reward for referrals.
Retention Strategy: There are many banks that think about marketing only in terms of new customer acquisition, but retention of profitable customers is even more important. Having this section reminds everyone that loyalty programs, customer appreciation events, planning sessions, anniversary acknowledgements or other tactics are important to retaining your bank’s 20% best customers that drive 110% of the profit.
Finances: No marketing plan would be complete without a clear budget of each line item. This gives everyone a feel for the relative importance and priority of each effort, channel and tactic. While your financial projections will never be 100% accurate, use them to identify which promotional expenses and other strategies should give you the highest return on investment. Also, by completing your financial projections, you will set goals (e.g., your goals for your referral program) for which your bank should strive.
Admittedly, completing a marketing plan is a lot of work, but we believe it is one of the more productive efforts that a bank can invest in, as it builds both a culture and a brand that will be hard to duplicate. This can be your legacy and your bank’s competitive advantage. Having an effective marketing effort will ensure sales increase and profits soar. Hopefully, this template will save you time as you develop or refine your current plan.
Since bank marketing follows a certain cycle (Here is our data on the best times to market bank products),as an added benefit, you can link to our marketing schedule here and put this in the back of your plan as an appendix: Get Our Marketing Scheduling Template
Happy marketing and if we can help review any plans or answer questions, please feel free to contact us.
Submitted by Chris Nichols on February 12, 2014