It is a fact that marketers are vital contributors to the overall operational ecosystem within their financial institution (FI). I can speak from experience that the frequent perception of us as tireless producers gathering to create fanfare or deliver old-school creative briefs with colored pencils is far from reality. Serving customers, making strategic business decisions, managing budgets, fulfilling advertising requests, writing content, posting to social media, executing events, evaluating return-on-investment, protecting the brand, responding to industry trends, pivoting in a new digital environment – and don’t forget being creative – is all on an endless list of tasks. The incessant work of a bank marketer requires wearing many hats, being thrown from all directions, both internally and externally with no time to take a breath and prioritize the tasks that will make the most impact.
Then a pandemic hits. Hey you marketers…take a breath.
The late co-founder of Apple Steve Jobs is attributed with saying, “Focus does not mean saying yes, it means saying no.”1 Being able to say no to certain projects or ideas coincides with being confident in knowing your mission or vision. Jobs understood the why in which his company existed.2 This ultimately drives the result you are aiming to accomplish. Whether you are a one-man-show marketer, or part of a department that maintains a multi-level responsibilities list, when one more project or task gets thrown on an already-full plate, utilize the following tips to stay focused and efficient.
1. Don’t lose sight of your FI’s strategic goals.
Getting bombarded with multiple simultaneous requests can be overwhelming. Additionally, the shift to digital adoption, the changing competitive landscape, and the status of the economy have made reaching consumers with the right message at the right time an ongoing challenge. As marketers navigate through day-to-day operations, they can’t lose sight of their institution’s strategic goals and marketing plan. When trying to prioritize tasks when chaos strikes, ask yourself, “Does this task hit the MARK?”
Market & Customer Acceptance. Is the product or service your institution is trying to sell what your customers are asking for? Messaging should be personalized and meaningful based on their behavior and needs.
Align with the Company’s Strategic Goals. Be sure the project or task you are dedicating hours to is actually in alignment with what your organization has designated as its strategic goals. Often times, people have their own agenda. But it’s the role of a marketer to pull in the reigns, protect the brand, and execute the right messaging at the right time.
Return. Does the project or campaign show a return and is it measurable? If not, consider putting it on the back burner.
Keys to Execution. What resources are needed? Is there budget dollars allocated? Does it require other staff members to assist? Fully understand the keys to execution before committing to a project that can be a time-suck. Often times, the opportunity cost and expense outweigh the return.
2. Use the 80/20 rule
A principle of the 80-20 rule is to identify an entity’s best assets and use them efficiently to create maximum value.3 Is it known which products and services in your institution are the most profitable? Remember the goal is to stay focused. Determine which products and services, aligned with the company objectives, warrant time and effort. Concentrate on the 20% of factors that will produce 80% of the sales wanted by the institution.
3. Prioritize your Projects – Nope, Not Today.
It is widely known that when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. Marketers, while pulled in many directions mainly because of their expected high productivity, have to be disciplined to manage their tasks. It’s inevitable that a marketer gets handed an inconsequential project that is demanded that same day. Acting on these types of requests can undoubtedly turn one’s workload into chaos and lead to low productivity. The answer isn’t no forever, it just may not be today if it doesn’t support the objectives.
4. Revisit your Marketing Plan Quarterly & Re-evaluate
The best FI marketers are strategic and relevant in their executable work. Yet what makes a financial institution’s marketing stand out is when it’s fluid. In a time when the industry does a shift, competition gets tight, or consumers are pivoting in their behavior, revisit your marketing plan to re-gain direction. This will provide a refresh and the ammunition to re-evaluate where an organization may need to modify tactics to re-engage its customers.
5. Utilize Technology & Data (know your customers)
Utilizing technology and automation will often create efficiencies, both with budgets and with limited internal resources that come with small departments. A recent article by the Co-Publisher of the Financial Brand, Jim Marous, points out that “research has found that brands that have adopted artificial intelligence (AI) for marketing strategy have seen a 37% reduction in costs along with a 39% increase in revenue. This is because correct targeting creates less waste.”4 Many studies suggest that companies that maintain or increase their marketing activities during challenging periods tend to grow faster – not only during the downturn, but beyond it – while organizations that reduce their marketing efforts tend to see revenue declines both during the crisis itself and for years thereafter.5
Financial institutions need to know their customers, what their needs are, and where they are transacting, so they can effectively model their behavior and manage attrition. In this heightened environment of digital competition and meaningful personalized messaging by the big brands, financial institutions need to take a critical look at how they are using customer data, if at all, and commit to a reallocation of budget dollars to technology and analytics to remain relevant.
Marketers…while the word focus is broad-spectrum, simplify it through execution of strategic priorities, embrace that saying no can equal success, and don’t be afraid to pivot your marketing plans when internal or external factors dictate. Let it be known that technology paralleled with customer behavior data is not a “maybe later” – it’s a now.