A Marketing Makeover: Finding New Promo Sales Opportunities in the Financial Market
Banks and credit unions are going through a transformation. When lobbies closed, consumers had to rely on digital banking or utilize drive-thru windows when they could. Marketing to consumers became questionable and difficult. How does one reassure and instill confidence in someone you were not able to sit across the desk from? How do you build relationships with someone you couldn’t shake hands with for the past year-and-a-half? Employees were shaken not knowing what their future would look like.
For a period, promo in the financial market was almost at a standstill, relatively speaking. But, fortunately, to the surprise of many in the financial industry, foot traffic in financial institutions has come roaring back. Many customers that switched to digital banking have begun returning to physical locations. This does seem to vary between larger metro financial institutions and more rural or community ones, but the return to relative normalcy is happening.
So, Where Are the Opportunities?
What does that mean for the marketing challenges the financial industry faced over the last 12-plus months? We can look at a few segments of a financial institution. You have a pretty good sense of marketing—if you oversaw marketing for a financial institution, what would you do?
• Employees. How have employees fared? Some worked on-site every day because they had critical functions. But with social distancing, having to engage in PPE and questions about virus transmission, they like many other occupations became a version of frontline workers, being exposed to the public and co-workers. Others were shuttered in their homes, maybe working, maybe laid off. Home stress, financial stress, social stresses—it seemed as if everyone was surrounded by stress.
Now is the time to show appreciation for those employees who weathered the storm. Giving employees an online experience with allocations to order trending promo items, apparel, gift cards, etc. will show how they are appreciated. Not to mention the ongoing value of a company store for work anniversaries, birthdays, significant achievements, etc. Additionally, gifts or apparel items for family members go a long way in establishing employee loyalty.
• Customers/Members. What was done to build or solidify these relationships? Interestingly, research has shown that 31% of consumers are unhappy with their current banking provider, while 15% say they will switch financial institutions. Why are they switching? Better benefits (rates, fees, rewards) or because they started a new chapter in life? Communication with clients in any organization was limited for over a year. Are “better benefits” as a reason for switching a perception or a reality? If there’s little communication between financial brands and customers, how does one really know?
Normally, there’s an evolution with marketing, but when COVID hit, it was like a door slamming shut with little to no warning. But, now that doors are beginning to open, how do we help the financial industry normalize and make marketing effective again? Unfortunately, promo as we know it has not made a full recovery in the financial industry. Yes, there are brand-identity products like pens, lollipops for kids and dog treats for the family pet handed out in drive ups, but what about promo products that support a marketing effort? How can promo assist?
One of the best approaches I have seen is what we call “lumpy mail”—typical direct mail with a dimension added to it. Direct mail marketing use increased in popularity during COVID; checking the mailbox was the highlight of people’s day. Open rates for lumpy mail (also called dimensional mail) are extremely high. Hardly anyone can resist the anticipation to open mail when they know there’s something besides paper inside.
It could be a pen, a jar opener, a coaster, a promo product for real estate to support a mortgage solicitation, a trinket related to autos to help support auto loan solicitations, etc. It might be a more premium selection such as a higher-end writing instrument, Yeti drinkware, wireless speakers, etc., selectively sent to wealth-management candidates. During the holiday season, many financial institutions selectively give customer appreciation gifts. Or they can just send lumpy mail with a promo item to customers/members to let them know their banker is thinking of them and how much they appreciate them. This is where distributors can help a financial institution reduce that 31% of unhappy clients.
Financial institutions have an advantage many commercial businesses don’t. With household adults working from home throughout the pandemic, these institutions knew exactly where their customers/members were and could reach out to them. Mailing addresses and email swere naturally part of their database. In many cases, they showed appreciation for their customers and members to let families know they care. Can they do better? Looking back, I’m sure most would agree they can, but the positive is that financial institutions have gained marketing knowledge from this experience. With this marketing experience comes a willing reception to new ideas—a perfect opportunity for the promo industry to assist.
• Strengthening Brand Identity. Have the strengths of financial institutions’ brands survived? How many of your financial clients have hard goods that are not branded? Do employees have branded corporate apparel that they wear every day? Or name badges and name plates that are branded? Pens are everywhere—are they generic retail pens? Is there signage present? These are all branding opportunities. What other opportunities are there to increase the brand presence in customer-facing environments? Now that lobbies are opening, events are getting on the calendar and schools likely will be back on-site in the fall, people will be back to public events with a vengeance after being shuttered or limited for so long. This presents a huge opportunity to reinforce brand in every customer-facing opportunity—from soft goods to hard goods, signage, etc.
These are only a few of the many opportunities in this market. Now is the time for the industry to bring promotional products back to the forefront of financial institution marketing. Printed and promotional products are a critical part of “new normal” marketing.
Stan Klarenbeek is director of vertical markets at American Solutions for Business. He provides support for ASB sales associates, including client and market research, marketing support, and education. He also aids in the process of sales discovery, strategy, and creating presentations and proposals. Stan has been with ASB since 2016 and has 40 years of experience in sales, sales management and marketing management.