Hopefully, these are the opening shots aimed at the big mega-banks.
It appears that at least two credit unions have moved their big gun – free checking – to the front lines and have begun firing.
After its prolonged absence from my local newspaper, two local credit unions ran ads two Sundays in a row promoting free checking. And both ads appeared in the front section which is prime real estate in the newspaper.
Have you seen one of the new Pizza Hut commercials where real employees promote the products? Have you thought about using your own staff in your marketing campaigns?
The executives at Pizza Hut believe their restaurant employees will connect better with consumers than any celebrity spokesperson or professional actor. Other companies agree and use the employee spokesperson idea.
I see financial institution TV commercials and when they use actors to represent customers and office staff, it’s pretty obvious. I’m sure you can tell, as can other viewers.
“18-25 year olds are the fastest-growing age group for bankruptcies.”
That quote is credited to Louisiana State University and it’s the subhead in a print ad from the local Junior Achievement organization.
I don’t recall ever seeing an ad placed by Junior Achievement. Once I noticed the organization’s logo, I wondered why it was concerned with this issue. The ad copy tells me Junior Achievement is looking for partners — both for funds and volunteers — to help it educate area students through programs about money management and financial literacy, as well as its standard work-prep and entrepreneurship classes.
My daughter loves board games, so when she saw the new Monopoly Electronic Banking Edition, she had to have it. This new version has no cash, just debit cards with an electronic scanner/calculator that tracks all your money.
This puts a new twist on the classic game and gives you a reason, well, excuse, to try it again.
The first email arrived the next day and took me by surprise. The second one arrived yesterday and upped the ante.
Last Wednesday, I was online searching for information on pest control companies in the Sacramento area. After visiting a few vendor websites, I remembered Angie’s list and made a beeline to her website. I figured I could save a lot of research time by seeing which local pest control company gets the best feedback from satisfied customers.
I was on the site for about a minute when I discovered I’d have to become a member in order to access the information I was seeking. Not wanting to spend $4.95 a month for membership, I exited the site. After viewing a couple more pest control websites I gave up my search.
One mail package format that attracts prospects’ attention year after year is the invitation format. Even if the envelope gives a clue that the contents are a marketing promotion, consumers open the envelope because they’re curious and they don’t want to miss an invitation to something important or special.
Count me in. As I sorted the day’s mail on the walk from the mailbox, the odd envelope caught my eye. “Here’s an exclusive invitation for you,” it said in the teaser positioned on the lower right.
From a professional marketer’s viewpoint, did you watch how the candidates marketed themselves for the November elections? I’ll give you three categories found in the campaigns that you can apply to your own financial institution’s marketing programs.
Name Recognition — Many millions of the bucks spent by campaigners went for name recognition alone. Incumbents wanted to refresh their names with voters and challengers needed to put their names in front of voters because they’re likely unknown by most of the public.
Long-time direct mail experts tell us that if you want to know which direct mail offers and formats are working best, keep track of the direct mail you receive at home.
When you get the same, or similar, offer in the identical package format two or more times, it’s a good bet that this combination is performing well for the company mailing it.
In cases like this, the expert advice is to “steal smart.”
It might not be the type of marketing promotion your financial institution decides to use, but look at this example of what you can do with new technology and a hearty dash of personalization.
A local car dealership sent me an email promotion. During November, it said, I’m eligible for a $1,000 voucher toward a new vehicle purchase. That’s a fairly standard offer. The twist comes from the video link embedded in the email. Better yet, the video has multiple personalizations using my name.
A window of opportunity to gain new checking customers has been opened by the big banks.
Now is the time to act as a number of big mega-banks, like Bank of America and Chase, are busy repricing their checking accounts. They are adding and increasing minimum balance requirements and adding and increasing monthly service fees. Best of all for community banks and credit unions, the big guys are eliminating free checking.
As a result, a lot of checking accounts will be in play over the next few months.
October 2009, I wrote about a Santa Letter promotion run by a local credit union, Liberty First. A number of marketers contacted me and asked for more information.
Since we’re apparently in the holiday season (or retailers want us to think so), I peeked at the credit union’s website to see if the same promotion is running this year. It is.
The Santa Letter is offered by credit unions in association with the Children’s Miracle Network and proceeds from the order go to the charity.
You’re comfortable searching and surfing the Internet. That’s apparent because you come here to read this blog. But if you were asked to use the Internet to promote your financial institution (and that doesn’t include using your website), would you feel confident? Would you hope the idea simply went away?
Rethink your apprehension. Now you have help.
My chances of being right about the future of free checking have just improved.
If you’re a faithful reader of my ACTON Marketing blogs you might remember that for the past couple of years I’ve been ranting and raving from atop my soapbox that free checking isn’t going away anytime soon.
In fact, I believe the free checking account will be with us far into the future which is excellent news for millions of consumers in America…not to mention the banks and credit unions offering it.
Buzz marketing can be an effective way to promote your products and services. A financial institution’s Tell-A-Friend program is an example of good buzz marketing — people talking to people about your product.
Sometimes, unfortunately, marketers come up with buzz marketing ideas that blow up in their faces. You wonder how the people in charge ever approved the idea. Here’s an example from a major corporation that will have you shaking your head.
Hardly a day goes by that I don’t encounter another online or newspaper article about banks increasing their minimum balance requirements on checking accounts. It’s almost become a contest to see which bank can set the highest balance levels.
While reading these articles we learn that it’s usually one of the mega-banks behind this rush to increase minimum balance levels and add or increase the monthly checking account service fee for falling below the minimum.
There’s an attention-getting technique you can use — in the right circumstances — to increase the number of prospects who examine your marketing message.
To use a cliche, it’s all in the numbers.
I thought of this topic because of an oversize US Bank postcard I found in my mailbox. Promoting the bank’s checking accounts, a portion of the headline on the “picture” side of the postcard read, “…5 more reasons to switch your checking account…”
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When you stop and think about it, more positive changes have occurred in the consumer banking business in the last 20 years than occurred in the previous 100 years. With the exception of bank credit cards and the ATM, banking remained fairly static for the first nine decades of the twentieth century.
It took the Internet and its related technology to unleash an era of much needed innovation in the banking industry – an era when you can now do all your banking via the Internet. An era when you no longer need to enter a bank or credit union branch again.
A few days ago, I wrote about a small software company that decided to change the way it offers information to customers after results of a poll showed the users want a simple explanation of what the software does and how it works.
That sparked a memory of a blog post I wrote nearly a year ago. News articles declared Bank of America was changing its advertising and marketing materials to read in simple, clear language that people could easily understand.
If you promise customers and prospects great service, shouldn’t this apply no matter how or where you do your banking?
Apparently, providing great customer service online is tougher than doing it the old fashion way – the telephone call or in-branch visit. At least it is for some banks and credit unions.
“Better Banking. Proven Service.” is my local credit union’s tagline. Unfortunately, I haven’t received the “proven service” promised while trying to resolve a recent issue when attempting to log-on to check my balance and transfer funds.