Five Steps to Jump Start Your Bank Marketing Data Strategy

Posted by Rick Hall

Understanding Strategy Makes for Better Marketing Execution and Sales Results, Part Two

Part two of a three part observation series

In my first post I started the discussion around the need for better alignment between bank strategy and sales and marketing initiatives.   For years, many bank growth initiatives have suffered either from cases of data overload, often referred to as the kitchen sink strategy (leading to inconclusive results) or data access paralysis resulting from legacy infrastructure (which provides little, if any insights into why programs succeed or fail). These challenges are real and our daily experiences lead us to a frustrating conclusion: many bank marketers underestimate the importance of good data in building any worthwhile campaign.

A quick word about data

The rapid increase in the amount of customer information available to bankers today is staggering, not to mention the mind blowing amount of R&D spent by technology providers on Big Data initiatives - particularly when you realize how little of the output is actually being utilized. While the banking industry is continuing to progress, we propose five steps that can jump start your institution’s work with data in developing and managing sales and marketing campaigns.


1. Appoint a ‘data guru’

While this may seem like an extreme step for many institutions (since most large institutions already have some form of this role) it is critical for every bank to have someone in the bank that understands data. The role may not be funded out of marketing, but someone in every bank should be the expert on data sources, structures and data flows. Keep in mind that legacy systems have remained and we don’t see any signs of ‘rip and replace’ coming down the road any time soon – despite the decades-long call for one. Because of this fact, it is even more important that every bank have a ‘guru’ who can help navigate backend systems, business intelligence platforms, CRM’s or whatever flavor of architecture you have - and ensure every element mapped into an initiative plan is understood and incorporated before you pull the trigger.

2. Treat list development as strategic not tactical

Despite the lip-service given to this topic, there is empirical data that supports the benefit of spending the necessary time and effort to develop a robust and targeted strategy. The facts have shown for years that bank marketers must begin to focus more on aligning growth strategy and campaign design based on list creation. This isn’t just for outbound campaigns like direct mail but should also be routinely used to arm your sales and relationship teams with relevant knowledge to identify new opportunities. Not all prospects or customers present the same opportunities - bank marketers and their sales channels need to align and focus on what will move the needle for any given initiative.  

3. Develop a results hypothesis from your list

All too often, when we ask the question ‘how will we define success?’ the initial blank stare response is followed by an answer like ‘we want to see lift over the last campaign’ or ‘we want to see greater cross-channel activities’. These are not poor answers – they are actually fine – but they are just not specific enough. Exactly what amount of lift or greater activity are you seeking? This isn’t an exercise for the sake of scheduling another meeting, it demonstrates strategic purpose and thought. Repeating an initiative because it seemed to work the first time may have sufficed in the past, but often these programs have hidden lessons that will never be uncovered unless you enter with a clear hypothesis for success.

4. Incorporate historic trends in your analysis

A former colleague used to begin his presentations to banking leaders with the same slide: “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” I am sure most of us have heard something similar at conferences or the like, but it you take a minute to think about it, it is all too true. I suggest we think about this as we build campaigns and use insights and information to construct them. Sure, many sales and marketing activities are fairly straightforward and quick to analyze, do we really know where we are going with them? I have argued in the past that campaign measurement is good but how do we assess the relative impact of our initiative if we don’t know what normal business activity looks like? Business leaders need sales and marketing partners that take the time to know their numbers inside and out. It is a powerful sales and marketing practice to do a look-back analysis for the businesses you support - it will pay dividends going forward.

5. Challenge your data vendors and list sources

Finally, make a point of challenging your data providers to be your partner. After all, you are their customer and it is your data. The fact that many vendors are managed either through the IT area - or if you are sizable enough, a dedicated vendor management group - doesn’t mean that sales and marketing leaders can’t engage their vendors. I would never expect my IT partner to know why I need a particular set of data any more than I would expect that they would seek my insight into reasonable service levels for a vendor contract. However, the best scenarios I have observed in institutions is a matrixed team of business leaders that develop common goals and understanding of what each needs from the other to drive success. If data is the key to building sales and marketing success and demonstrating results, why would anyone just accept a list baseline determined by someone without investment in the program's success?

We’ve given you a few focus areas for your data initiatives to think about. Hopefully none of this is new – but experience tells me that just because you have thought about it, doesn’t mean you have done anything about it.

So what’s next? We’ll look at some ways to better align to your sales programs for a true multi-channel initiative.

Learn more about BKM's Financial Services practice

Topics: Bank Marketing, Direct Marketing