Should Community Banks take the Planet Fitness Approach?

ID-100334953Recently, an acquaintance told me that he and his significant other had joined Planet Fitness.  There is a Planet Fitness near my home, and I had seen their television commercials, but had never visited their location.  Curiously, I asked him questions about it.  Here are a few highlights.

Judgement Free Zone ®

Planet Fitness claims it not a “gym” and their Judgement Free Zone ® tagline firmly stands behind it.  That means, no outside trainers and heavy lifting (i.e. deadlifts and cleans) is highly fround upon; in fact, “grunting” is prohibited.

The Daily Show had a hilarious report on this very subject a few years ago:

 

The concept of Planet Fitness it to create a welcoming environment to either:

  • People new to working out
  • People who just want a causal, laid back gym environment

In other works, gymrats and crossfitters aren’t the target market for Planet Fitness.

Laid Back. With my mind on my money and my money on my mind!

Planet Fitness is using a “laid back” approach that other businesses and non-profits have been applying for years. Take Non-denomiational Christian churches for example; there is one church in my city that separates itself by telling people to “Come as you are.”  In fact, they have even hosted nontraditional meetings in a bar and call it “Beer Church.”

How does this apply to banks?

There are two lessons banks can learn from this approach.  Intimidation and target marketing.

Intimidation

What’s more intimidating than going to a gym?  How about asking a complete stranger for money.  Isn’t that essentially what a loan is?  A person walks into a “Financial Institution” and literally pleads their case to borrow money.

What if a bank were to make banking, particularly lending, less intimidating?  There are several ways of doing this:

  • In Branch Financial Literacy Classes
  • Participating in Get Smart About Credit
  • CRA Initiatives

The list can go on and on; but first, there must be a mentality, a company culture that welcomes these approaches, otherwise it is just blowing smoke.

Target Marketing

A hot, dynamic term in marketing, especially with community banks.  But how targeted is the marketing approach? Let’s consider home equity lines of credit (HELOC).

  • Do you expect someone with a $150,000 home to be the same type of person who owes a $500,000?
  • Do you think a 50 year old married couple with three children in their late teens to mid 20s have the same needs/wants as a married couple in their early 30s?

If not, why do banks consistently market to those customers the same way?

Banks throw a huge advertising net that includes phrases like, “remodeling, vacation, tuition cost” and the list goes on and on.  Instead of trying to jam as much information out there, wouldn’t it be better served to create a message directly targeting a specific market?

Start with your current customer base and/or with the communities you serve.  Is there a specific demographic you are trying to reach?  Once you answer that question, find out what connects each person in that demographic.

Again, go back to HELOCs.  If you already have a customer base, then use a prospecting tool to gather information.  In this case, let’s say a prospecting tool is used to find out where this customer base lives in your area.  From there, use tools to communicate your message to this audience.

  • Direct Mail Postcards
  • Google Adwords targeted to the Zip Code and street address
  • Display Advertising that can be targeted via location AND by common interest

If you are interested in learning more about prospecting tools, then check out CRS Data’s Banker Suite program.  The Banker Suite contains a prospecting tool that allows banks to search for certain criteria within different counties.

So, take the Planet Fitness approach and pump up your marketing results and beat the flabby ads approach.

 

 

 

More Than Just an Email

email tabletRecently, I received a couple of unrelated emails that contained great content.  One email was from a promotions vendor and they were promoting a sell on a cool promotional item.  The other was an email for a local advertising agency that contained some excellent content.  When I read the emails, I immediately wanted to share the information on Twitter and Pinterest.  The problem was the emails didn’t have a “share” link and I couldn’t find a webpage or blog post dedicated to it.

Positive Take Aways

I know hindsight is 20/20, but here are some points that got me thinking after reading these two emails.

Measuring Success

Measuring TapeOdds are, these two companies are measuring success by open rate.  Though this is a good metric, it shouldn’t be the only one.  Others to consider are:

  • Sales Conversion
  • Building a Prospect List
  • Click-Through Rate

Of course the first metric, sales conversion, is the Holy Grail of measuring success, but the other two are just as important.  One way to help improve sales conversion in the long run is to track the other two metrics.

Building a prospect list allows you to eventually convert a lead into a sale.  The click-through rate shows how engaging your email message is.  Depending on your tactic and overall goal of your email strategy, this can be a source of information with regard to what gets your customers to act.

Most third party email marketing providers (i.e. Constant Contact and Emma) measures your click-through rate and gives advice as to how to effectively build a prospecting list.

Online Content

Have you ever considered blogging your email content?  For many businesses that consistently sendkk newsletters to an audience, this is an easy transition.  Even if your business doesn’t produce a newsletter, consider blogging what you currently send.  Depending on the size and consistency of your email content, this too can be an easy process.  But be careful, no one wants to keep reading about advertisements on a blog.

When creating an email message that will translate to a blog post, keep these three points in mind:

  1. Tell a story, but cut the fluff
  2. If the message is too long in an email, add a “read more…” link
  3. Make sure you focus on your audience and not your ego

Getting a wider reach

A big positive about converting your email content into blog content is the opportunity of gaining a new audience.

Real Life Example: Live on Location

wbir4During the fall of 2014, my company, a local community bank, hosted a fundraiser tied to a high school football game.  The high school football game is played every year and each high school participates in a food drive for a local food bank, the Good Samaritan Center of Loudon County.  To help support the fundraiser, we hosted a tailgate themed event at our bank office.  We emailed our customers to let them know about the event and sent a press release out to local media.  Since written content had already been created, I was able to take the press release/email and convert the text into a blog post.  Once the blog post was created, a few tweets were sent out on twitter about our fundraising event.  Our local NBC affiliate, WBIR, was actually going to broadcast the football game and one of their news anchors, retweeted the message.  Word spread and WBIR broadcasted live on location during their Live at Five at Four program. The event raised roughly the equivalent to 3,760 pounds of food for the Good Samaritan Center of Loudon County.

Share it

So if you have news you are communicating to your current customers, and think others will benefit from it, then share it.  That benefit can open the door to opportunities that were not possible before you started sharing.

Marketing Recipe

chili ingredientsFor the past few months, I have been soaking up different types of chili.

It started on Sunday November 3rd, when my son Max and I attended our first chili cook off together to help support Second Harvest Food Bank.  The fun continued in December when my wife Jennifer and I all attended a chili cook off in Lenoir City.  During New Year’s Eve, my friend Joel (a.k.a. Home Cookin’ Hunter) served up some venison chili cheese dip.  And with the cold weather we have been experiencing, I’ve been cooking some of my own chili.

All this chili got me thinking how marketing and chili are very similar.

An effective marketing strategy is not a one shot deal; rather an effective marketing strategy is the efforts of several actions focused on one goal.  Just like a good chili isn’t just one ingredient, but several ingredients.

Know who you’re cooking for (Target Audience)

Fire ChiliI have a friend that always makes really spicy chili; no matter what.  It’s so hot I worry when he has children that their taste buds will be scorched beyond repair.

In marketing, it’s no different.  If you want to attract a certain audience, be sure to sale to that certain audience.

The Office Manager Incident

In 2007, the bank I worked for launched a new Remote Deposit Capture (RDC) service.  This service allows business to deposit checks at work by using a scanner.  After doing our research we created a target market based on different local business owners in a variety of industries.  To market and sell the service, I would conduct a joint call with the bank’s commercial lenders and, before the call, would confirm with the commercial lender that we would be speaking with the business owner.  Since the business owner was THE decision maker, it only made sense to meet with them and discuss the benefits of the service.

One afternoon, I went on a sales call with a commercial lender who waited until we reached our destination to inform me that the office manager, not the business owner, would be meeting with us.  The commercial lender pointed out it was too late to reschedule and that it, “didn’t make that much of a difference.”

After presenting the service to the office manager, she said she would not recommend this to the business owner because it would reduce the time she would be out of the office.  In other words, it wouldn’t justify her two and a half hour paid lunch.

So know who you’re cooking for, or you both may end up getting scorched.

Know Your Ingredients (Marketing Channels)

spicy pepperBefore adding too much spice to a chili, be sure to know the effect it will have.  Some peppers have spice that will hit you up front, while other peppers have a back end heat.  I learned this the hard way with my very first batch of chili.

When marketing to your customers, make sure you use the right tools to reach them.

The Health Savings Account Issue

In 2005, the bank I worked for put together a team to create a Health Savings Account (H.S.A.) product.  It made since because the bank also had an insurance agency and we could create a referral system between the bank and the insurance agency.  While putting together our advertising campaign, a Senior VP and our ad agency decided it would be “fun” to create promotional buttons that our tellers would wear that said, “Ask me about H.S.A.”  When I questioned them about it, I was out voted and told not to worry because it would bring in a lot of referrals.

Did it bring in a lot of referrals?  No.

Why?  Because an H.S.A. is a specialized product that can only be used if you have a High Deductible Healthcare Plan (HDHP).  During that time, the majority of people did not have an HDHP Insurance plan.  The bank wasted money we could have used somewhere else.

So know what ingredients you use, or you may end up getting scorched.

Have you created a great chili or marketing campaign you’re willing to share?

On a side note, check out the Home Cookin’ Hunter on facebook.

New Customers vs Top Customers

While walking into the gym the other day, I noticed a new advertisement:

Join Us New CustomerGyms are notorious for offering crazy discounts for new customers, especially during January.  Truth is, they are not the only industry guilty of this.  Shoot, I’m in banking, which is also an industry known for giving things away to new customers.  When I first started in banking, people kept asking me when we will be giving away free toasters.

But instead of wasting time, money and other resources on non-customers, why not focus on your customers? If something is in it for your current customer, then they will do most of the marketing for you.  For example, if my gym offered a rewards or referral campaign, then I would most likely refer people.  Why?  Because at that point, there is something in it for me.  That may sound selfish, but it’s human nature.

When you build a campaign around your current customers, it can also benefit your business. How?  Think about the tools you use for marketing.

  • Direct Mail: Believe it or not, direct mail is still out there.  Think of the list time you purchased a mailing list.  If you already have a customer data base, that’s money you are already saving.
  • Email Marketing: Creating an opt-in marketing list is a great way to make sure you stay in contact with your customers.  The best part is, you can get the email at the beginning of the relationship when you are collecting the rest of the customer’s information.
  • Branding: Not necessary a physical tool, but it takes time to build a brand.  Your current customers have already established a connection to your brand, so you can cut back on the “Honeymoon” phase (along with the Honeymoon cost).

So when creating a campaign start by focusing on your customers.  Here is a quick way to remember to keep your customers in focus.  It’s easy as A-B-C and 1-2-3.

abcLearn your ABCs

Segment your customers into three groups: A, B, and C

  • A Customers: These are your top customers.  They’re your most profitable customers, they bring you all their business and refer their friends.
  • B Customers: A list that consist of customers who are just barely outside the “A” bubble.  They may refer you customers, but you may not have all their business.
  • C Customers: People who take up all your time, complainers who cost your company money, etc.  You know who I’m talking about…

123Create your 123s

Create a three point plan for each group, or at the very least, for your A Customers. Here’s a quick 123 example using the A Customer list.

  1. Find out what your A customers think about you and promote it throughout your company.
  2. Get the A customers to recommend you.
  3. Reward your A customers.

From there, you build action plans and marketing campaigns based on each number.

So when creating a campaign, ask yourself: What’s in it for your current customer?  If you have a clear answer, then you are going in the right direction.  If your answer is lacking clarity, then you may want to go back to your A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s.

By the way don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset with my gym as a customer; I’m upset with them as a marketer 🙂

What experience have you had with businesses who offer special incentives for new customers?  If you are the new customer, do you stay around after the special incentive ends or do you switch companies?

What if you are already an established customer with a business and you see they are advertising a special for new customers; does it bother you?  Do you stay with the company or do you take your business elsewhere?

TV Ad Rules Broken

When I first started in bank marketing there were several “rules” banks followed.  One rule was that banks would end all advertising in the fourth quarter of the year.  From October thru December 31st, banks would lay low, and go dark.

As one bank marketer explained it years ago:

There’s too much junk on T.V. to get our message out.

Though that was only a few years ago, I’ve noticed this “rule” was not applied this year.  Community Banks, Regional Powerhouses, Mega Banks and Credit Unions are all still going strong with advertising, especially on television.

Why is that?  What is different this year from others?

  • Presidential Election: Though this was a heated Presidential election, Tennessee was slated to go to Gov. Romney.  In fact, there was little to no television advertising after the Republican primary, even in smaller state/local races.
  • Home Loans: Home loan rates are at an all time low.  People have the opportunity to refinance and save money by reducing their interest rate.  Banks, along with Credit Unions, realize this and are finding ways to let the public know, while obtaining new customers.
  • Branding: This applies more to Credit Unions.  Credit Unions are still riding high on being a local company and “not a bank.”  On a national level, more and more Community Banks are starting to learn from this and are applying the local company concept to their brand.  In Knoxville, a couple of area banks have started using the approach, by highlighting their local decision making process.

Other than banking, it appears the fast food industry is also coming on strong with television advertising.  Two good examples are Domino’s and Arby’s.

Both companies are not focusing on fast delivery of their food, but rather emphasizing their commitment to food quality while attacking their competitors.  The first part is not new.  Several fast food companies are focusing on quality, and Dominoes has spent years on branding their company as an organization dedicated to producing a quality driven product.  It’s the second part that is making these two companies stand out from the pack.

Deep Dish Pizza

Domino’s has came out with a new deep dish pizza and has been promoting it with television adverting spots.  Domino’s starts the commercial by calling out competitors who use frozen crust to make their deep dish pizzas, then the commercial shows how Domino’s makes their fresh deep dish pizzas.  The commercial doesn’t come right out and say who the frozen deep dish restaurant but this is a different approach than previous Domino’s commercials.  In fact, their last product push focused on their cheesy bread, where they point out how bad their cheesy bread was before they enhanced it.

Sliced Fresh

Arby’s has pulled out the big guns with this one.  Arby’s isn’t just attacking their competition, but they call them out one public offender and doing it with some flair.  Arby’s is using former NYPD Bo Dietl as a spokesperson to uncover the truth about Subway Restaurants and the way they slice their meat.  Here is just one of the current commercials running nationally.

I’m certain that there are other industries besides banking and fast food restaurants that are going strong in the fourth quarter.  What companies do you know of that are changing their television advertising strategy?

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