Understanding Strategy Makes for Better Bank Marketing Execution and Sales Results

Posted by Rick Hall

Part one of a three part observation series

Over the past twenty years, it has continually amazed me just how vigorously discussed and overthought the sales process (including the marketing support function) has become in the banking industry. So many financial and human resource investments have been deployed to find the right structure that it really is one of the great industry head-scratchers to observe.

Maybe the reason behind it is due to the industry trying to hang onto the concept of differentiation based on service - flooding frontline staff members with concepts like balanced scorecards, product sales “cheat sheets”, competitive positioning tools, and sales training boot camps – and that we just can’t face reality. Service in the unspecified way that most banks use the term just doesn’t make you different. So what's left, price?

The focus of this series is fairly straightforward: while so many bank sales and marketing campaigns begin with the best of intentions, they often find themselves without any unique identity by the time it comes time to execute. There is a reason that the banking industry isn’t exactly known for sales and marketing innovation; witness how many institutions both large and small still struggle with - and burn budget dollars - focusing on this issue. Is it comforting or frustrating that this is case? We all know it really doesn’t have to remain that way - here lies the frustration.

Look for Better Tools to Build Your Programs

The topic of designing truly innovative sales and marketing programs does not appear to have a simple solution (or if it has one we just haven’t found it to date), so the pursuit continues - even for those institutions with the greatest of resources.

One of the key challenges seems to lie in the fact that many sales and marketing efforts do not use the most robust information available to build their programs, usually working with whatever they can get their hands on - and then they measure success using antiquated widget-based tracking models or most simply a proxy for the dollar value of the new business acquired (see the overused word ‘directional’ to manage success).

The fact is that too often bank strategy and sales and marketing execution are disconnected and this remains the prevailing banking standard. Every program at every institution requires a sales and marketing champion - not just a project manager - who can ensure alignment between strategy and execution, and tie results to strategy, to begin to change the course. This also facilitates accountability.

Support Your Programs by Reinforcing Your Core Strengths

Since as an industry we continue to march to the drumbeat of banking as a relationship business, let’s focus on the real purpose of successful banking sales and marketing: true return on investment from models (people, technology, infrastructure etc.) that deliver measurable and sustainable customer satisfaction and profitability. This isn’t a sales or a marketing responsibility alone, it requires institutional commitment.

As a start, it is important to be sure you have a well thought out and defensible position that underlies any externally focused programs. As a follower of the industry for a while now (some of us like the movie Groundhog Day), I often wonder just what the true objective is for sales and marketing campaigns founded on being the ‘best in class’ (measured by what?) or those that promote silo offers with a significantly better than market rate (but I thought our key messaging was service over price?). Each institution should determine whether the goal is to become a differentiated partner to your customers or to be a differentiated bank? These are definitely not the same thing.

Over the next few weeks we will explore a few core capabilities you should have locked in to demonstrate your institution is prepared to win the battle for sustainable differentiation for your sales and marketing programs – regardless of the specific initiative you may have planned. 

Stay tuned for my next post. Hint: Think data...what you have versus what you use.


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Topics: Bank Marketing