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.

 

 

 

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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.

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.

 

 

 

Social Media vs Social Networking

LinkedIn on an IslandSince there is a LinkedIn icon on an island, I believe there needs to be a disclaimer about the following post:

This isn’t a “how to build your business on LinkedIn” post, nor is this a “10 tips to build your LinkedIn profile.”

You can find those types of posts anywhere.  This is more of a “what’s the value of using LinkedIn” post…especially if you are in business development.

On the surface, LinkedIn seems to have the most bipolar perception of all social media sites. Either people use it or they don’t.  But even beyond that, I have seen four types of users

  • The Resume Builder: Normally someone in the entry level side of their career.  This person goes on LinkedIn, builds their profile, adds their connections and then waits for a recruiter to contact them out of the blue.
  • The I was told to User: Should technically fall under the “don’t use” section, but these people use it because their supervisor or other senior company manager has asked them to use it.  This user is disengaged and rarely contributes to their LinkedIn page.
  • The Linked to other Social Sites Participant: The person who automatically has their LinkedIn account tied to another social site (i.e. Twitter).  This way when someone shares something on another site (i.e. Twitter) the message auto-populates onto LinkedIn.
  • The Power User: These are the cats who get it.  And by “get it” I don’t mean the people who find different groups to post a link to their blog.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that (I’m a recovering group blog poster).

I recently finished the American Bankers Association’s School of Marketing and Management (SBMM) and had the pleasure of learning from Jack Hubbard, Chairman and Chief Sales Officer of St. Meyer & Hubbard, Inc. One of the main points Mr. Hubbard pointed out about LinkedIn was this concept: Instead of looking at LinkedIn as a social media site, consider it more of a social networking tool.  Here are a few points that reinforce this concept.

Going Beyond a Resume

In addition to being a Marketing Director, I’m also the head of Human Resources.  Working in HR, people often state they only see LinkedIn as a resume tool; a way to get their name out there.  Though LinkedIn does fill that need for some people, it shouldn’t be seen as it’s only purpose.  In fact, if you’re in sales or any type of business development, LinkedIn has the potential to be a powerful tool.

LinkedIn UsageHere is an example of how people use LinkedIn in regard to the stage in their careers.  The blue represents time spent networking, and shows that every career stage spends a portion of their time networking, as well as reaching out to people on LinkdedIn.  With that in mind, take a look at your profile.  Instead of focusing on what you do, review your profile, and see if it shows what value you add to your customers and your target market.

Preparation

Before going on a sales call, how do you prepare?  Hopefully you research your customer, and their business; but have you ever considered performing a LinkedIn search?  You can view your customer, learn about their business, and see who else works at the organization.  You may even find that you have a connection to the business and the prospect that you were unaware of before your LinkedIn search.

Follow Up

After attending a networking function (i.e. an after hours Chamber of Commerce event) how do you follow up with those you met at the event?  How do you follow up with a prospect or customer after a sales call?  Finding people on LinkedIn and asking them to connect is a good way to follow up.  This can keep you in the loop with them (especially if they are an active LinkedIn user) and can provide you with insight to see what their needs are.

Final Point: Communication

The previous point suggest growing your LinkedIn network, but here are two pointers I have found beneficial:

Invitation: When you invite someone to connect on LinkedIn, there is an automated message LinkedIn uses:

I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

Instead of using this impersonal message, try customizing it base on the person you’re connecting with and why.

Thank You: When you connect with someone, either by your invitation or their invitation, be courteous and thank them for the connection.  It only takes a couple of minutes and can go a long way.

To learn more about LinkedIn, especially if you’re in the banking industry, check out this post from Jack Hubbard and Jason Tonioli: 5 LinkedIn Myths Bankers Need to Shake.

What steps do you take to get the most of our LinkedIn?

 

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.

Big Data vs. Your Data

shutterstock_1166971421BIG DATA is the latest buzz word circulating around marketing and banking professionals. People keep stating that BIG DATA is a “game changer” and that you must find an expert to help you translate that data into big profits for you business. For those who are in the financial industry, consider this; before you go deep-sea fishing in big data, consider your own little pond of data first.

Industries like community banks have a huge advantage. For example, when opening a checking account or closing a loan, banks are required to collect information from customers. Information like addresses and credit scores must be obtained by lay.  In addition to that, this information is stored all in one location. Think of all the opportunities when it comes to target marketing.

  1. Direct Marketing:  Not only do we have customer contact information, but we also know what services they already have.  These two pieces of information can lay the groundwork for a direct marketing campaign.  Businesses dish out money to gain home addresses, phone numbers and email addresses; and we already have this information on file.  Match a list of customers who are missing out on a great service and BOOM, you have started planning a direct marketing campaign.  Now you set a deadline, roll out a schedule, create collateral and perform training.  Easier said than done, but at least the first two steps, which are usually the hardest parts, are completed.
  2. Cross Selling:  If a customer is coming in to open one account, there are several opportunities to offer additional products and services that can help your customer.  For example, when a new customer closes a loan, there are several opportunities for cross selling.  You know if they can qualify for a credit card, you can help them open a checking account (with a debit card), assist them in starting a savings account…and on and on the list goes.

The great thing about using the data you already have is that you are working with people who already know your business.  There is no need to start from scratch, the customer has chosen to do business with you company.  Create a relationship and build on it!  The important thing to focus on is how can the new service benefit both the customer and the bank.  You don’t want to give out loans to people who you know cannot repay them.  You also don’t want to force a service on somebody that doesn’t really need or want it.  Find a situation where both your business and the customer walks away a winner.

By doing this, your company will do right by your customers and this in turn can create referral sources from customers via their friends, family and coworkers/staff.

It may not be BIG DATA, but this can lead to BIG PROFITS.

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