Follow the Money: Selling to Banks and Financial Institutions
If you’re anything like us, you have amassed a large quantity of writing instruments bearing the name of your local bank or credit union. Chances are, you got these pens after signing paperwork, writing on deposit slips or maybe you’re just a serial pen thief. (Kidding!)
But places like banks and other financial institutions are excellent customers for promotional products sales. Just think about the amount of advertising they do: We already mentioned pens, but there’s also signage, awards for employee recognition, paper and printed products, stress relievers and more. The list is virtually endless.
So, with so many options and so many potential clients, how can you get your money’s worth when it comes to selling to financial clients? Promo Marketing spoke with Zac Fowler, president of INM Marketing Group, Addison, Texas, who’s been selling to clients in the financial sector for more than 10 years, about the best way for distributors to break into financial institutions. (That’s a metaphor. Please don’t break into any financial institutions, or any kind of institutions, for that matter.) Here’s what we learned.
Where To Start
It can be daunting to take on a new client base. If you’ve never worked with clients in finance, the biggest challenge can be that first step. But, noted Fowler, it’s not so much where you start but when you start that really matters in this industry.
“They say timing is everything,” he said. “We were working with a very small bank that happened to also be very successful. We were with them as they acquired other banks and then went public. That relationship still exists, and has allowed us to get a really strong insight into the world of banking specifically, and other financial institutions overall.”
By sometimes starting small, with something like a local credit union, you can set yourself up for not only repeat business in the future, but also bigger sales as their business grows as well.
Know Your Client
As distributors with insight into their clients’ needs and wants, you obviously know that not all clients and end-users are the same across different industries. You likely wouldn’t choose the same products for a school as you would a bank. One-size-fits-all promotions can feel impersonal, and might not fulfill exactly what your clients want. For finance, especially, Fowler said that it’s crucial to know exactly what your client is looking to achieve through a specific promotion, and how they want their end-users to react.
“We have to figure out how to provide value that goes beyond selling merch,” he said. “Generally, our value comes in the creative side of things, but banking is such a conservative industry, you need to be able to understand the mindset behind each client and each specific campaign or pain point. If you can do this adequately, then you’re better able to pick certain spots where you can push the boundaries a little.”
Once you have a solid understanding of these clients in a general sense, you can start paying attention the subtle nuances of each different client within the category itself. After all, no two clients are the same.
“Banks are more conservative than credit unions, so that’s something to keep in mind as you look to find clients that mesh well with your approach to business,” Fowler said. “I think you have to look beyond product. You need to know what their individual goals are—their customer or member base demo. Then it’s up to you, the distributor, to find something that stands out, fits their culture and achieves a purpose. Oh, yeah, and clicky pens.”
While clicky pens are, at least in Fowler’s mind, a surefire way to get business in the financial sector, there is still plenty of room for mistakes. Clicky pens can’t fix every problem, after all.
Fowler believes that distributors are too inclined to follow the leads of others around them. It’s certainly not a bad idea to pay attention to what makes others successful,
but building your own brand as a distributor is really what can set you aside from the
competition and earn you more business.
“Stop being a ‘me, too’ distributor,” he said. “This goes for any industry you’re targeting. Be yourself. If the client or prospect doesn’t fit, then don’t push it, and move on to the next one.”
Just like when you’re looking for a financial solution as a customer, you don’t want to compromise and just take the first offer. As Fowler said, if the customer’s ideas don’t fit in with what you feel you do best, move on to the next client. The beauty of the financial client base is that it’s pretty enormous, with customers ranging from giant institutions to small town credit unions.
And they all need clicky pens.