Commercial Bank Branding and Football Logos

Titans HelmetsHow is it football fans can cheer for teams even though they continue to disappoint fans season after season? Better yet, how can banks learn from this during a period of employee turnover?

Let’s use the Tennessee Titans as an example.  I’m a huge Titans fan and became a fan when Coach Jeff Fisher was the head coach, Eddie George was the starting running back and Steve McNair was leading the team as quarterback.  All three people are no longer with the Titans.

  • Jeff Fisher: Now coaching the St. Louis Rams.
  • Eddie George: Hosting a college pre-game show for Fox.
  • Steve McNair: Traded to the Baltimore Ravens in 2005, retired in 2008 and passed away in 2009.

This season, The Tennessee Titans have a record of 2-10, and consist of:

  • Coach Ken Whisenhunt: A head coach who runs a traditional offensive scheme that contradicts Coach Fisher’s “Run-n-Gun” approach during the McNair era.
  • Running Back Committee: Instead of a starting running back, the Titans use a three-man approach.
  • Quarterback Problems: The Titans have started three different quarterbacks this season.

So why…why do I stay a fan of the Tennessee Titans.

Steve McNair was traded to Baltimore, so why am I not a Ravens fan?

Coach Fisher is in St. Louis, so why am I not a Rams fan, instead of staying with the Titans? 

I originally became a Titans fan due to proximity.  I live in Tennessee, and the Titans are in Tennessee.  But it soon become an emotional connection as the Titans seem to be an underdog.  Shoot, even when Steve McNair was chosen as MVP in 2003, he had to share the title with Payton Manning.

What can Banks take away from this?

Recently I wrote a post that touched on hiring commercial lenders based on their loan portfolio.  The flip side of this is what happens when a bank loses a commercial lender that has a successful portfolio.

Loosing a Strong Loan Producer

It happens to just about any community bank.  The have a top producing commercial lender who gets an offer they can’t refuse from a competitor.  They leave and immediately the bank accepts the fact that they are going to lose current customers due to “their banker” leaving.  Many times, banks start building a reactive checklist, but what if they started a proactive campaign.

Reactive Approach

Making a ListAs the bank starts searching for a replacement, the bank will also review the leaving commercial banker’s portfolio so it can be divided up between their current commercial lenders.

A good bank will also look at the profitability of each customer in the portfolio to see who is unprofitable and see this as an opportunity to “lose” this customer.  Plus, they will make sure to focus their attention on profitable and potentially profitable customers on the list.

This is a good strategy that every community bank should follow, but consider adding a proactive strategy that may already tie into your marketing and sales efforts.

Proactive Approach

Instead of waiting for a commercial lender to leave, consider these tactics to entrench your customers into your bank’s brand.

  • Email Communication: Let’s assume your bank’s sales culture has a calling program in place where your commercial lenders are required to meet with their entire portfolio at least three times a year.  If that is the case, what other forms of communication does your bank use to communicate to these customers?  A bank can create an email program where the bank is sending meaningful information.  It can be about a new service, business advice or anything else that the customer would deem useful.  This approach not only keeps customers in the communication loop, but also ties them to your bank’s brand beyond the commercial lender.
  • Customer Recognition: Find ways that your bank can recognize this customer and their business.  For example, if the commercial customer has a retail business, highlight their business to your customer base, and make sure the customer knows about it.  You may even want to let a bank executive notify the customer.  That way the customer now has a connection another banker in your organization.
  • Connect on Social Media: If you have a company presence on social media, make sure you are connected to your customer base.  Better yet, if your CEO or other executives are on a social media platform (i.e. Twitter, LinkedIn or Pinterest), make sure they are connected with the customer and engaged with them.
  • Team Approach: Most likely a commercial lender works with a team of people when dealing with their customers.  It may be a loan processor, or maybe a cash management specialist.  Either way, it is important that your commercial customers know the entire team.  Make sure your commercial lender introduces the support staff to their customers, or at the very least, their top customers.  Also consider creating a mentoring program, where the commercial lender takes an up-and-comer out with them on customer calls.

Brand Focus

You are connecting your customer to other people and outlets of your bank.  This will continue to establish the brand of your organization by reenforcing the strengths your bank has, and will make any customer think twice before they leave you to join their “former banker.”

Now if the Titans can just get their act together, I won’t be looking for another NFL franchise.


Finding Mr. Right

Having trouble selling a product or service that you think is perfect?

Inspector Jacques ClouseauCommunity banks are finding themselves in this situation.  More and more people are looking to outside competitors for banking assistance.

  • Credit unions are supplying people with low-interest rate car loans.
  • Reloadable pre-pay cards are offering an alternative to traditional checking accounts
  • Mobile apps are creating new ways to pay for bills and exchange money between people

These three options are great, but here’s the catch: community banks offer some (if not all) of these services. The problem is that people either do not want do business with a bank or they are unaware that banks offer these services.

How can community banks overcome this issue?

Image Crisis

Inspector and Chief InspectorIt is no surprise that banks have received bad publicity over the past 6 years.  Bank closures, bailouts and fraud have caused public opinion of banks to collapse.  Unfortunately for community banks, people tend to lump big banks and local community banks together in this mess.

To help overcome this, banks need to work on their public relations efforts by reaching out to potential customers and to the communities they serve.  The issue is that many community banks are stretched thin, so it is important that a consistent message is communicated so you can maximize your exposure.

Keep a consistent message

Call it a tagline, slogan or sayin’, but whatever you call it, make sure you keep it consistent.  By keeping a consistent message, people will start recognizing it.  But remember, even if you and your staff are getting tired of the message, keep it up.  The last thing you want to do is keep changing your message.  Constant change means you are hitting the restart button with your audience.

No Exposure

Inspector and WomanIs your bank advertising, communicating and marketing in the right places? For example, if you are wanting to grow your customer base among 20 -34 year olds, then advertising on an AM radio station between the hours of 10am – 1pm may not be the most effective place.

Make sure you are where your market is, and focus your attention to it.

  1. Research where your target market is.
  2. Craft a message that will get their attention and give a call to action.
  3. Follow through to see if your efforts are working or if it needs tweaking.

As previously mentioned, most community banks are stretched thin, so make sure your communication is done in a creative way that will get people’s attention.

Creative Communication

If a bank wants to increase the number of CDs it has, then running an average newspaper advertisement may do the job, but that doesn’t mean you can communicate the same way when trying to reach a digital based customer.

If you are trying to reach a young, digital audience, then find out where these customers are. Do you have a presence on Twitter or Instagram?  If not, think about how you can translate your message on these sites. Even if you do have a social presence, what are you doing locally to get their attention?  If you can effectively communicate on a digital and local level, you will amplify your message and yield stronger results.

Pay Attention

Inspector BombBefore jumping into new waters, be sure to research.  Make sure your perfect product/service is what your intended target market wants.  Once it is launched and you have communicated your message, listen to your audience.  If your audience likes it, use that as a stepping stone.  If your audience has issues with it, use that as a stepping stone too.

The last thing a community bank wants is their efforts to backfire and blow up like a bomb.




Branding Beyond Logo

National LogosEarlier this week, adweek released it’s list of Best-Perceived Brands of 2013.  According to the website, the list (which included national brands like Amazon, Ford and V8)  is created by asking people if they’ve heard anything negative or positive about the brand.

While looking at these logos, I noticed a few had a level a business model that included a level of customer service.  Two particular examples are Lowe’s and Walgreens.  Both companies are traditional brick and mortar businesses that sell products to people and hire a staff that must provide customer service.

This line of logic is a strong reminder that “Branding” goes beyond just a logo and successful branding is more than a pretty logo and eye catching commercials.

In order for a successful service-based brand to succeed, a business must focus on the staff it has.  A business can have a strong brand if it provides the team with product knowledge, customer service skills and company culture.

Product Knowledge

Homer dohEver walk into a store, ask a cashier about a certain product and get an answer similar to this:

I don’t know.  I just work here.

Drives you crazy, right?

Or have you ever been to a restaurant, asked the waiter about something on the menu and get the answer:

I don’t know.  I’ve never tried the salmon.

Drives you crazy, right?

It is impossible to train your staff to know every question that a customer can ask, but you can at least equip them with enough knowledge to know the basics.

  • Know What You Have: Educate your staff on your products and/or services.  If you’re a restaurant owner, make sure your staff tastes all your food.  If you own a pharmacy, make sure your staff knows the layout of the store and where products are located.
  • Create Study Notes: Be sure that your products and/or services are listed somewhere in writing so your staff can access it in case they need help.  For example, the bank I work at provides a list of services on our Internal website, our external website and printed brochures.

By providing the right training to your staff, you not only prepare them to answer customer questions, you are strengthening your brand and building a strong foundation for repeat business.

Customer Service Skills

jerry_brown_crossed-armsIn addition to product knowledge, your staff also needs to know how to communicate to people.  If you have a knowledgeable team member, but they are a complete jerk to people, odds are you will not have repeat customers and your brand will be tarnished.

  • Soft skills: The last thing you want is to make your customers think they are not welcomed at your place of business.  Make sure your staff understands the importance of making people feel welcomed.  Making eye contact with people and smiling are just two easy examples of soft skills.
  • Courtesy: Simple acts like saying, “Thank you” and “My pleasure” go a long way in service.  Think of the last time you had a positive interaction with a customer service rep, and I bet you the customer service rep used at least one of those two phrases.

These two steps may sound like common sense to you, but not all people are wired the same way and may need some guidance.  By making sure your team has a great set of customer service skills, it will add value to your brand, which will have a positive effect on your company’s success.

Know the Culture

toy robotBe sure your staff understands your company culture.  I’m not suggesting you create a group of robots who say and do everything the same way.  Instead think about a band; everyone is performing the same song, but they have individual parts that make the song complete.

  • Purpose: Be sure your staff knows the purpose of your company.  Some organizations call this their Mission Statement; while others may call is a Company Vision, but whatever you call it, make sure your team knows it and understands why it is important.
  • Goals: Set goals around the purpose of your company and make sure the goals will lead to your company’s success.  This will allow buy in from your staff and they will know they are part of the bigger picture.

Creating a strong culture that focuses on the success of it’s customers and staff will translate to strong profits for a company and lead to a strong brand.

All of these steps sound easy, but they are not.  If they were easy, there would be an infinite number of successful brands.

What brands do you like and why?  Have you ever had a bad experience with a company that has made you stop using a brand?

Running Scared

Killer-Bunny--monty-python-and-the-holy-grail-590929_1008_566Are you running off your customers?  You may not be doing it on purpose, but it’s happening in just about every industry.  The demand we put on customers to use new technology compounded by the lack of face-to-face/human-to-human service is causing people to look for other ways to conduct their business.

Unfortunately community banks are no different.  In addition to the two previously mentioned issues, banks are also trying to find ways to cover cost by reviewing fee structures.  But community banks should learn a lesson from the mistake Bank of America (BoA) made back in 2011.  BoA dropped the ball a couple of years ago when they tried to apply a debit card fee to customers.  By trying to quietly pass the fee through, it sparked a national outrage that caused BoA to stop the new fee.  To this day, people still remember that mistake and are quick to take any bank to task if they try to sneak in a new fee.

So how can a community bank keep the peace will trying to stay in business?  It boils down to adding value and communication.  Whether you are creating a new product or instituting a new fee structure, you need to make sure it adds value and that everyone is on the same page.

Adding Value

What do you and your team take into account when launching a new product or service?  Do you just look at how it will make your company profitable or do you go outside your company walls to see how it will benefit your customer?  Worse yet, you are giving the bank away by downplaying a product or service and giving it out for free?

Example: Remote Deposit Capture

A few years ago, I had the privilege of diving into the Cash Management side of banking and helped create a Remote Deposit Capture service for a bank.  We put a team together, researched pricing, interviewed vendors, created a marketing strategy and came up with a solid plan.  When the dust settled, I started selling the service to current customers alongside the bank’s commercial lenders.  The hardest people to sale the service to wasn’t the customers, it was a couple of lenders who believed we should give the service away for free.  They were shocked that the service started out at $50 a month and could reach $100 if the customer leased the scanner through the bank.  It wasn’t until the lenders saw how much value customers saw in the service (convenience, saving time, reduced spending), that they were finally comfortable with the pricing.


Effective communication must be done both internally to staff and externally to customers.

Keep your staff up to date

Before launching a new service or restructuring any process that will affect your customers, start communicating with your staff.  After all, your staff will be the ones who receive the most feedback from your customers, and you want to make sure they are well educated to handle any incoming questions or complaints.

  1. Communicate early: Let your staff know what changes are coming in enough time so they will be prepared.  This also allows for time to make sure your systems are ready for any change and that the change is compliant.
  2. Explain why changes are being made: If you do not tell your staff why changes are being made, then you are leaving it up to them to find out why.  This will result in everyone having a different answer, which leads to confusion and unnecessary stress to both staff and customers.
  3. Distribute tools to help communicate to customers: Provide a list of talking points or provide a list of possible Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) along with a list of answers.

Three simple steps, that when executed efficiently, pay off in dividends.

Keep customers in the communication loop

Sounds easy, right?  Sadly not all banks think about updating communication outlets, nor do they proactively communicate and listen.

  1. Update your website: How often do you update your site?  At the very least, update it whenever a new service has been launched.
  2. Communicate in different ways: Direct mail, email, statements, traditional advertising and online outlets are just options out there to use.
  3. Keep listening: When customers come in to talk about changes, be sure you and your team listens.  You may not like everything you hear, but you will learn ore about your customers and how the changes impacted their experience with your bank.

Change isn’t easy, but it’s needed for survival.  For a business to survive, you need to change without scaring your customers so bad they leave you and run right to your competitor.  In other words don’t let your customers feel like this…

Creating Fans

Ali BabaWhat makes a business build a strong following?  Here’s one great example

If you live in Knoxville, by now you have heard about Ali Baba’s Time Out Deli and hopefully you were able to experience it before the owners decided to close the deli.  Every visit was an experience and no two visits were alike.  The two men who ran the establishment had a passion for what they did.  They loved talking to people, took pride in their work; and it created a strong fan base.  Here are three basic rules the owners of Ali Baba’s stood by:

Create a Great Product

Sounds simple, but many businesses fail because their product is too bland.  In the case of Ali Baba’s, they decided to have a menu that offered different items.

  • Traditional Deli Sandwiches: Pastrami sandwiches, roast beef and many more deli sliced awesome sandwiches.
  • Burgers and Such:  The Vol Burger, hot dogs and chicken sandwiches.
  • Middle Eastern Dishes: Falafel options, hummus and the infamous King Solomon Chicken plate.

By no means did I try everything on the menu, but the items I did eat, I loved.  They made the best pastrami sandwich in town and the King Solomon Chicken was a great dinner any day of the week.

Provide Excellent Service

A company can have the offer the best product every made, but without focusing on service, it is destined for failure.  The two men who worked at Ali Baba’s were always happy to see customers and went out of their way to show their appreciation.  They never made their customers feel like an inconvenience and were always willing to share suggestions to customers when customers were debating what they wanted to eat.

While waiting for the meals to be prepared, the guys would either be going on with some kind of banter, make you laugh at a quick joke or would have a conversation about what was on their television. There were a few winter nights I would walk in there tired and cold, but because of their warm personalities, I always walked out happy and feeling good.

Be Different

Ali Baba’s wasn’t for everybody.  It was a vibe that was all its own.  They didn’t try to be all things to all people.  It was a deli in East Tennessee with a Middle Eastern twist.  You couldn’t order a beer with you Vol Burger; though you could purchase a hookah.  They didn’t have fountain drinks with unlimited refills, but you could purchase exotic canned sodas.  People chose to eat at Ali Baba’s because they knew it was something they couldn’t get anywhere else in town.

These three basic principles helped sustain Ali Baba’s Time Out Deli for 40 years. It created a loyal fan base of people who flocked there on a regular basis.  For those loyal individuals who lived outside of Knoxville, they would always make sure to stop by when passing through town.  It was a deli, but more importantly it was an experience.

What was your experience at Ali Baba’s Time Out Deli?

Never been, then what experience have you had with a business that left you wanting more?

Customer Service vs. Customer Respect

Rodney Dangerfields Board GameWhen it comes to serving your customer, do you give them respect?

In sales, the most important aspect is getting the sale, but what happens afterwords is just as important.  Making sure your customer is treated well after the sale can lead to additional sales from the customer and create a strong referral source.

So, what do you do after the sale is done?  Most will answer with,

Give great customer service.

But what is great customer service?  A great answer will, at least, include the following these three items.

  • Customer Acknowledgement
  • Customer Resolution
  • Customer Appreciation

Each item is just as important as the other and together proves to your customer that you respect them.

Customer Acknowledgement

Do you call your customer by name?  Do you know what your customer does for a living?  Customer acknowledgement starts with knowing your customer’s name but goes way beyond that.  In banking, we use the term know your customer.  This means exactly what it says and, when done correctly, has a positive impact on customer service.

  • Compliance: When you know your customer you have done your due diligence by finding out important information.
  • Marketing: When you know your customer you can create target marketing and cross selling opportunities that have a higher Return on Investment value.
  • Service: When you know your customer you can provide extra services like Cash Management, Remote Deposit Capture and Mobile Deposit.  These services have a higher risk than standard bank services, but when you know your customer you can limit the risk factor while providing exceptional customer service.

Even though these examples come from the banking industry, it doesn’t mean they are exclusive to banking.

Customer Resolution

Regardless if you are selling a product or a service, a customer is going to run into an issue or problem.  What you do at that moment can have a lasting impact on future sales and successful referrals.

  • Speed: How quickly do you resolve the issue?  Quickly resolving the issue goes a long way for a customer, but “quickly” can mean different things.  Be sure to define what “quickly” is for your customer and get to it.
  • Accuracy: Does it take only one time to resolve the issue?  Issues that are often repeated can cause a headache for a customer.  Do your best to solve the whole problem the first time, so there won’t be a next time.
  • Empathy: How do you empathize with your customer?  Showing empathy is just as important as speed and accuracy.  Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and understand why the problem is such a pain.

These three examples in customer resolution ultimately boil down to communication.

Customer Appreciation

Everyone loves being appreciated.  Here are just a few examples of small tokens of appreciation.

  • Cards: It only takes a few minutes to mail a thank you card, a birthday card, or an anniversary card.
  • Meals: Taking a customer to lunch, hosting a lunch and learn or host a cookout at your office.
  • Gifts: A gift during a special occasion or holiday.

Of course there are other ways to show appreciation.  Just remember to keep your customer in mind by doing something they would see as appreciation.

So, do you give your customers respect, or do you leave them feeling like Rodney Dangerfield?

Convenience: Old Verses New

When I first became a community banker, people would ask how many locations the bank had in town. When I told people over twenty locations, with five in Chattanooga, they would say something like this:

Only five? That’s not convenient. Amsouth has about twenty locations around Chattanooga, and they are convenient.

True, Amsouth did have more locations, but let’s fast forward to the present: people ask different questions to quantify convenience and Amsouth ain’t around anymore.

Now, I work for a community bank in Knoxville that has a total of four locations, but that doesn’t seem to bother most people. Especially when they hear:

  • Free Worldwide ATM Access
  • Free Online Bill Pay
  • Mobile Banking
  • Mobile Check Deposits

Most people understand the first three examples, but a few have not hear of Mobile Check Deposits. This mobile app allows people to deposit checks into their bank account by simply taking a photo of the check. Talk about convenience!

This new mobile app (only available at four different banks in Knoxville), is a global trend that is defining the new convenience of banking. This new convenience is due mainly to the increase of mobile technology, and even companies outside of the traditional banking structure are benefiting. Paypal, Google and Apple all have virtual wallets that are slowly starting to break down the old convenient view of banking…to the point of replacing the need for a bank all together; unless there is a need for a loan.

Who knows, if Paypal merges with a lending company like Quicken Loans or Discover, then there could be an updated version of the new convenience.

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