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Four Takeaways from the First Ever Financial Brand Forum

April 14, 2014

April 2nd marked the first ever conference from The Financial Brand. It was an intense and energy filled two days in Las Vegas, and I’m now able to decompress and process what I learned and the insights I will take forward.

1. One of the first things I did at Thursday morning’s opening event was engage in one of the many physical interactive posters that were placed throughout the vendor area. These posters asked questions of the attendees and asked them to write – not text or tweet – their answers on the poster. Who does Analog anymore? The Financial Brand does…and there in lay an interesting thought for me. In a conference that would be filled shortly by a kickass opening video from CU Grow, why ask participants to go old school analog?

That thought lead me to refrain from live tweeting any of the event or the nightly activities – I’m too old to engage in anything too incriminating – so this was indeed a conscious choice. What was the end result? I did feel as if my own internal processing of each event and the Forum as a whole went deeper. I wasn’t looking for tweets, I was looking for linking ideas to build a larger, more in-depth picture of the content. I believe I found some very new insights into some ideas that were challenging me and my clients so will mark this as a win!

Takeaway: Digital is the future but it’s meant to complement the best parts of old-school thought and engagement, not as a 100% replacement.

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2. My favorite session of the entire conference was from Lani Hayward of Umpqua Bank. Her presentation on “Building the Umpqua Brand Experience” provided a great glimpse inside how Umpqua has grown, differentiated itself, and become the gold standard for brand within our industry.

My biggest takeaway was their internal barometer when it comes to going the extra mile and piloting new ideas. Innovation has to be an inside out movement within an organization for it to really settle into the DNA of the organization and it’s true with Umpqua.

What is your bank doing to try new ideas? Are we too afraid of failure to be innovative at our banks and credit unions? I rarely see financial institutions green lighting things that are bold enough to make participants giddy and excited. What’s your threshold for moving forward? A ironclad ROI guarantee? If so, you’re not trying hard enough.

Takeaway: There’s a huge chasm between Umpqua and most FIs…what’s your first step to fill that void because you need to move now! Whenever I take on a large challenge, I just take it Bird by Bird!

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3. I heard at least one conference participant say that the ideas presented at the conference weren’t revolutionary. That’s true for most conferences. The success of each participant will always reside solely on their and their FIs ability to EXECUTE the ideas shared within the sessions!

Takeaway: I took away a lot of great ideas from the conference – some new iterations on things I’ve heard, and a few new ideas or at least new lens from which to look – but they are all fluff without execution. What can you do today to start executing? I’ve already moved to distillation and now implementation on at least one idea…are you ahead of or behind me?

4. Finally, what I noticed the most about the Forum was how palpable the energy was in the first night and full day. Jeffry Pilcher and the team at TheFinancialBrand.com have done an amazing job of building their brand over the last few years and for delivering fantastic content.

The Forum was the first time most readers were able to physically experience the brand and to meet Jeffry. I won’t say that the guy is a rock star but in watching people crowd around him at the first night’s reception, it was clear that this brand carried weight.

Takeaway: Do FIs ever do a good job of creating pent up demand and excitement for a product or service? I’ve only seen a very few examples from ING Canada or other countries where a campaign was deployed over time to build excitement. Are we just that boring as an industry or will be ever be able to create excitement around something? The first step will be creating something that has the potential to delight and excite our customers.

So those are my takeaways from the conference. If you have some to add, I’d love to hear about them!

Your Bank Hasn’t Earned the Right to be on LinkedIn

May 8, 2013

A few weeks back I decided it was time to write a blog post on “How Banks Can Best Use LinkedIn.” But then Jeffry Pilcher at TheFinancialBrand.com wrote this great post: 12 Steps Financial Marketers Can Take To Get The Most From Their LinkedIn Page.

Like most things at TheFinancialBrand.com, it was very comprehensive and informative. So there went my post. I guess I’ll just write about Grumpy Cat again.

But then I thought, do banks belong on LinkedIn? I don’t mean that from a simplistic point of view, I meant that from a philosophical stance. Have they earned the right to be involved in social selling? The answer is no…not yet.

As I have more and more conversations with bankers, investment peeps, realtors, and others in consultative sales, I’m convinced that bankers don’t understand the power of LinkedIn. I don’t believe they know what it means to have a holistic brand that is consistent online and offline and that is centered on delivering focused, relevant, buyer-centered content and assistance. That’s what social selling is about. That’s what LinkedIn is about!

Forgive me if my soapbox is too high, but I’ve been involved with the selling and marketing of banking products for eight years – holy crap? Is that right? I’m not that old!!!! – and it seems as if many, many, many bankers out there like to believe that the Internet was never invented. They seem to think of themselves as keepers and disseminators of information. And by this I mean they tell people about their products and hand out brochures.

They say they “get mobile” but most think of these channels as new methods to disseminate info, not as part of a revolutionary shift in the balance of sales power and processes.

If you want to better understand how much the sales process and environment has changed in the last decade, please read To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink. One of Pink’s main points is the value of content curation within the new sales environment.

Are you human? Then you need to read this.

If you don’t understand curation, you don’t know the true value of LinkedIn.  And if you don’t curate, you’re missing out on an unmet need in today’s financial customer. Quite frankly, most of you are missing this.

Your bank must embrace the role of curating financial information in the lives of its customers and prospects before you can fully realize the power of LinkedIn. Until then, you will only be able to establish a presence but never a meaningful impact.

I’ll talk more about this in a future post and upcoming webinar. If you have specific questions (or gripes) please connect with me before then.

Why Your Business Bankers Need to Optimize Their LinkedIn Profiles (how’s that for a sexy title?)

March 18, 2013

I’ve been active on LinkedIn since sometime in 2008. When I received my first invite for their platform, I thought it was related to the town I live in (Lincoln, NE). This was despite the fact that LinkedIn was founded in 2003. Yes, it’s been around for a decade!

Here are some slides I created for a presentation in 2012 for J.D. Power & Associates about the history of the Internet and Financial Institutions:

History of the Internets

History of the Internets 2

Since my 2008 introduction, I’ve become very, very involved with LinkedIn because I knew it would provide a great platform to build my visibility, brand, and, eventually, influence within the Financial Services industry.  1,000+ connections later, I’ve landed several speaking opportunities thanks to this channel and have used it to research prospects as well as close a new client.

But, despite these wins, I only recently optimized my LinkedIn profile for better search results. Why? Because I was getting what I thought were decent search and profile visits. Also, I hadn’t even run across an article that offered a step-by-step process for upping your results.

The lack of articles is because there isn’t an exact science behind it or at least there’s not much public about the science behind it. I researched and read a few articles and posted a question to LinkedIn’s now defunct Q&A board to learn more. I took several pieces of advice to optimize my profile to be better found for several key terms, which I will keep secret from my competitors. :)

What difference has it made for me? Here’s a look at my search results since I made the change in late December:

LinkedIn Search Results

The dip for the last week is because it’s a partial week of results. I expect this to climb back up to the new normal.

So what does this have to do with you and your business bankers and branch manager? Well, if someone is out in your market and searching for a new business banker, chances are good that they will use LinkedIn because of the higher penetration among professionals and small business owners. When they search LinkedIn, who will they find? Here’s a search for “business banking” in a local market:

I suppressed out 1st and 2nd connections as well as those in groups with me to show a more organic search result.

I suppressed out 1st and 2nd connections as well as those in groups with me to show a more organic search result.

Out of more than 1,000 people who would show up in a search for “Business Banking” in the Kansas City area, what value would you place on being in the top 10? How many potential new business bankers will a person consider when thinking of making a switch?

Your number of connections certainly plays a role in your search appearance s as you’ll note that the top five profiles above all have more than 500 connections, but the list at the seven and eight spots drops down to around 120 connections. There are things that you (I’m assuming you’re a bank/CU marketer, retail/sales head, or branch manager) and your sales staff can do to help improve your rankings.

I’ll write more about specifics down the road. You can also shoot me an email or use the contact page above if you’d like to know more now or have questions.

Until then…you can find me online!

Why Grumpy Cat Hates Your New Checking Account Line Up!

March 7, 2013
http://www.grumpycats.com/ - in case you don’t know who/what Grumpy Cat is. If you don’t, I feel bad for you.

http://www.grumpycats.com/ – in case you don’t know who/what Grumpy Cat is. If you don’t, I feel bad for you.

Recently I participated in an excellent seminar by two serial entrepreneurs in Jonathan Fields and Charlie Gilkey. One of the exercises was designed to get into your customer’s head. “Everything starts from there when it comes to product creation,” they said. In their model (described below) you define your business/personal mission and then analyze your customer along five questions to create or validate your product offering.

Unfortunately, many tech companies get this wrong because they get excited about new technology without validating that this new tech/product satisfies a customer’s needs or pain points or, better yet, delights the customer. The same is true of many bankers.

The regulatory environment has many financial institutions reworking their checking account line ups in the hopes of recapturing lost revenue. Lost revenue is creating product changes, which is a lot like saying that our mission is to make lots of money so we’re going to revamp our products without regard to our customer’s needs. Actually, it’s just like saying that.

When we make product changes by only looking at lost revenue, we’re adding in obstacles that are designed solely to create fees. Or we interview vendors that are selling account packages that they say “consumers want and are willing to pay for.” Personally I’ve not seen these rewards accounts work long term, but do believe that they fall short of meeting a customer’s larger needs when your decision to employ them stems from your main desire to recoup lost revenue.

What does a customer first product revamp look like? Fields and Gilkey would argue it looks like this analysis process:

  1. What does your customer want?
  2. What are their felt needs? (what do they say they need)
  3. What are their actual needs? (what do they really need)
  4. What are their aspirations?
  5. What obstacles are in their way?

So what does Grumpy Cat have to do with this?

Think of your customers and prospects as Grumpy Cats. They know what they want. They know what they like. Grumpy Cat does not care about your lost revenue. Grumpy Cat cares about getting fed, having a warm bed, and a clean ass.

If you do not consider your end users needs, Grumpy Cat will not buy. More likely, you will also design a product that no customer wants.

I like eStatements as much as I like the dog...which is not very much.

I like eStatements as much as I like the dog…which is not very much.

Am I saying that your bank needs to bow to the whims of a customer like a cat owner? No, this is just a fun metaphor. The cat owners out there will know that it’s impossible to please a cat, even a happy one.

But, if your product redesign stemmed from anything but a customer-first needs assessment, then yes, you should fall victim to the Internet’s greatest meme.

Grumpy Cat 3

Bankers Can’t Afford to Ignore LinkedIn

January 18, 2013

Almost every time I go to follow a new bank on LinkedIn, I’m disappointed at the lack of engagement and presence of their staff, especially their business development staff and investment folks.

It may be fun to believe that business still happens primarily on the golf course and at lunch but the numbers show that business is happening online…all the time…without you.  Here’s why a lack of involvement on LinkedIn should scare a banker:

 

LinkedIn is still growing strong!

About 20 months ago the total number of LinkedIn users was 100 Million with 44 Million in the U.S.  Now it’s up to 200 Million Users with 74 Million in the U.S.  Despite being the largest LinkedIn user base, the U.S.’ user base continues to expand rapidly.  

 

LinkedIn is populated with “professional” level users!

Bankers all over American are lamenting lost revenue due to regulations.  They are also determined to recruit a more affluent new customer base.  (side note: if everyone is trying to recruit this segment, you can’t all win!).

So banks are looking for this class of customer and yet not forcing – yes, it should come to forcing your staff onto LinkedIn in my opinion – their highest profiled and, most likely, highest pay staffers to use a tool that has the following demographics:

Income: LinkedIn users on average have an income of $109,000 compared to Facebook’s $25,000 according a study by Seeking Alpha in 2012.  The average income on Twitter also towers over Facebook with more than double at $52,000 per user.  Source.

Yes by all means let’s invest more money into tweeting trivia questions about U.S. currency instead of getting deeply involved in a proven tool that houses some of the area’s senior executives and highly paid business professionals.

 

Bankers are not a relevant source of funds for tomorrow’s entrepreneur!

Question: What do high growth entrepreneurs think of bankers?

Answer: They don’t.

I’ve had the chance to participate in several StartUp America and StartUp Weekend events in the last few months.  Several of these events featured free advice from area CPAs, lawyers, entrepreneurs, venture capital groups, angel investors, and 1 very sad and lonely banker.  I talked to this guy for awhile and he said, “No one wants to talk about traditional funding.”  I almost took out a small line of credit for my LLC just to cheer him up.

But he’s right!  When entrepreneurs think about funding and talk about startup challenges, they think of Lean Startup Methodologies, VCs, Angel Investors, and bootstrapping.  They don’t think of a bank.  Mainly because they don’t see bankers at most of these functions.  Nor do they don’t see them online.  They don’t see them as part of their world.  And your absence on tools they may be using – like LinkedIn – will continue to reinforce this.

 

Social Selling and thought leadership should be the goals of any effective business development person…in any industry.  What are your business development officers engaging in to stay relevant in the changing world of sales?  Country club memberships?

Capture

 

2012 ABA Bank Marketing Conference Twitter List

September 19, 2012

So the conference hashtag for the American Bankers Association Bank Marketing Conference is officially here: #ABAMKTG.  A quick Twitter search shows a good amount of activity already surfacing as well as this partial list of registered attendees with their corresponding handles.  Can’t wait to reconnect or meet with many of you!  Sincerely, @BankMarketing – aka Mark Zmarzly

@ABAMarketing

@kristinsb

@jkincy

@mattwilcoxpro

@extracobanks

@firstniagara

@fms4banks

@AmberFarley

@ucbankmn

@SandraWaldon

@MountainOneFP

@ForchtBank

@EddieWoodruff

@WestEndBank

@SusanKHaskett

@BitStatement

@loyaltydriver

@NewGround

@sjvandenheuvel

@BelmontBank

@hawaiinational

@SunnyDaysHawaii

@gbltd

@WellsFargo

@ExperianMkt

@blondboarder32

@BotW_Careers

@twendhausen

@davidkreiman

@GonzoBanker

@MeridianBankAZ

@beccboot

@MY100BANK

@ArvestBank

@cbsbank

@northrimbank

@BlytheCampbell

@BridgewaterBank

@GinaRossiONFC

@MattAndresen

@SciencePlusSoul

@brynabutler

@GateCityBank

@JanessRS

@johnheeden

@CarolJanssen

If I missed you, please add your handle into a comment and I’ll get you added.  Thanks!

Everyone Likes Over-the-Top Customer Service…and Soup!

August 15, 2012

In the last two days I’ve encountered two stories that couldn’t be more different.  The first was about the uncaring staffers at United Airlines who lost a 10-year-old unaccompanied minor.  The second was about a New Hampshire Panera Bread employee who went out of her way to make soup for a customer who was passing soon from cancer.

Over-the-top customer service stories aren’t told much in the banking industry and they certainly aren’t often told publicly.  Every week I hear conversations from bankers and bank marketers about social media strategies – or more accurately put “gimmicks” – for increasing engagement – or more accurately put “likes” – and I swear I can hear the Internet weep a bit.  Giving away $1 to a charity in exchange for a like isn’t exactly at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  And where does pushing this factoid out to your 233 fans fit into the grand scheme of things?

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Whatever happened to engaging people in person with extreme service and kindness instead of with random questions or contests?

Think about the last time you had an extreme customer service experience in any environment?  I have worked in the hotel, restaurant, and retail industries and used to pride myself on delivering consistently good experience most of the time and in looking for an extreme way to deliver when I could.  From the other side of the counter, it’s not as easy as it seems but it can make an amazing difference to a customer.  And, as we’ve seen, it can give someone a reason to talk about you and your brand:

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If you know of any publically discussed over-the-top banking service stories, please let me know.  If you don’t, think about what your retail and branch admin departments can do to assist in making moments like these – moments that people share publicly online and in person – an everyday occurrence!

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