The headlines this past week were scary. Brands like Lehman Brothers crumbling, Merrill Lynch being helped up like an old lady, and 12 banks "failing" this year. Despite all of this, we all understand we are in a "cycle" and Western capitalist society is not being extinguished. (how deep the trough of the cycle is remains a concern)
Retail banks cannot stop trying to attract and keep customers. Investment houses will change up the paper yet offer investments nontheless. But some serious trust has been lost. Managing our own personal finance is one of those things that the average American feels less and less confident about. Most of us have no choice but to surrender our trust to financial experts and institutions.
The Next Marketing Wave for Banks
Recent headlines reveal that we shouldn't trust our financial insitutions. So, what is a bank to do to bounce back? The following are 5 steps that a retail bank (one serving regular consumers like you and me) should do to earn trust and loyalty:
1. Stop your traditional advertising with your old campaign now
Paul Farhi at the Washington Post has a great article today about the falsely confident advertising of major financial institutions. AIG's slogan is "The Strength to Be There." Very few banks are even sensitive to building a brand with deep roots in the organization through customer service, credo and employee behavior. Ray Davis at Umpqua Bank knows what he is doing in this regard. Most banks think brand development and advertising are the same thing. Right now and for the next few weeks if not longer we are in what we call "crisis mode." Everyone knows trhe banks are in trouble. They know their institutions are not as solid as the architecture is meant to make you feel. So, stop throwing good money after bad. Stop reinforcing the idea that bank leadership is out of touch with reality by delivering your same "plan for retirement" ads.
2. Make a commitment to educating your customers on personal finance
I need a course. I need a coach. I need someone who gives a #@%$ about whether I can hold my own financially over the long haul (therefore being a strong, fees-paying customer for years). All the research shows that customers feel inadequate when it comes to managing money. Banks should consider programs that help us get smart and make better decisions. It's kind of like consumer driven healthcare. I accept that no one but me will manage my health or finance. Help me get smart so I do a better job of it. A major bank should partner with a major online university to offer personal finance courses.
3. Whoever said corporate blogging is dead is an idiot - start a blog for godsakes
Or a Twitter account. Or a mobile update system. Or all of this. The platforms are not nearly as important as putting employees in the position of communicating out to customers. What are they seeing in the markets? What are bank employees working on? Give me ideas for getting smart about my money. I need to know that there is a human being in there - preferably one who cares about customers liek me. Who are the financial personalities that we get to know? The CEOs from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? Or the loudmouths in pundit media whose allegiance is somewhere other than to the well being of their audience. Time for authentic, regular joe relationships. I want to know the bank manager again. In terms of introducing personality through social media, just don't think this video from Bank of America qualifies as a good move. While the guy has a great voice, I feel like I am watching an epsiode of The Office.
other examples of banks & social media:
4. Listen and react to your customers publicly
The ideas.salesforce platform is a strong concept. And it's not just releavnt for Starbucks and Dell. What if a bank put that in place? Maybe my post would end up on ideas.suntrust.com instead of out here in the ether. Empower your customers to offer ideas to other customers.
5. Advertise all of the above and build a strong community around your bank built on trust
Stop advertising just rates or adirondack-chairs-on-porches-signifying-retirement. I mean, really, retirement is such a bogus idea. Most of us will work until we die and we know it. Seriously - use your advertising to raise awareness about your education programs, your unique employee and customer guides that will help us navigate through the complex world of personal finance. Your programs to help us manage finance wherever we are in the dreaded "cycle."
Banks and financial institutions need to walk a different walk. No more marketing as usual. The bank that embraces a smart use of social media and digital marketing will start to get trust because "they earn it" - for real.