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The Banking Marketing Conflict: Personalization vs. the Quarterly Lifecycle

By Tyson Nargassans

Historically, financial institutions built marketing plans and initiatives with a quarterly mindset — an approach that only delivers relevant content for customers if their need happens to line up with the marketing priorities that quarter. But with the amount of customer data now at their fingertips, bank marketers need to ask themselves: Do I want to service my customers’ unique needs or am I married to my quarterly plan? If my customer needs a loan but I’m pushing deposit products, what wins? What will deliver a better experience for my customer – and more success for my bank?

The answer seems obvious, but for most financial institutions their quarterly plan still wins out. They are stuck in The Quarterly Lifecycle and are paying the price for it.

Personalizing on Customers’ Terms

Consumers have more power than ever — in part because they have more choices than ever. Nimble competitors are fighting for their attention while chipping away at banks’ services, so customers don’t have to settle for a less relevant experience. Personalization is no longer an option, it’s a survival strategy.

Only a plan built on actionable customer data can empower banks to make the leap from the Quarterly Lifecycle to Personalization. By considering each customer’s perspective as a crucial part of data analysis, bank marketers can then act on those insights.  Sounds simple. It’s not. But it’s far from impossible.

Financial institutions need to interpret data with enough foresight to become relevant in the window of customer need — and banking opportunity. If they can intentionally address that need at the right time, then they’ve accomplished some basic level of personalization. Right now, unlike such players as Amazon, FIs are missing many of those engagement opportunities.

At the most basic level, they need to split their new customer acquisition marketing efforts from existing customer engagement initiatives. Personalization is when you line up what you deliver with customer needs, not the opposite.

Banking at the Speed of Life

Even if they recognize the need to step out of The Quarterly Lifecycle, how are banks going to pull this off? First, they need technology solutions where they can read the data at the speed of life — according to customers’ needs, not the speed or timing of their marketing campaigns — and be able to act on it.

Meanwhile, the institution needs to create a process to support a customer-first mindset — that its job is to provide customers with solutions at the time that they need them and not be held back by old-school, static marketing mindsets. The days are past for “if we build it, they will come.”

What they too often fail to acknowledge — at their peril — is the pressing need to recognize every individual’s need to have their own campaign in their own lifecycle, their own continuing programs — ongoing efforts that should never stop. FIs should always be promoting loans to people who need loans at the time that they need them — not when it is convenient or planned for that quarter.

Instead of sticking with rigid campaigns, banks need to get relevant: if a customer is out looking for a loan, the bank should be present in that discussion. Some people will put money in a CD because they are saving for something two years out; their needs must be addressed, and solutions communicated within their cycle, not the bank’s. Their messages need to travel at the customer’s speed of life.

The Customer Lifecycle

In the midst of firing away with customer acquisition campaigns, banks are overlooking their current customers who are also banking with five other institutions. How do they accelerate their share of that pie? How do they focus on those customers’ needs as they evolve? 

Those existing — and increasingly fragile — customer relationships represent a higher-ROI, data-driven opportunity to tap into the customer lifecycle on their terms that really matter now. Acting on data to achieve true relevance in people’s lives every day is the antithesis of toiling away in the Quarterly Lifecycle.

The more banks connect with customers and target them relevantly, the more that customer feels recognized and appreciated. It’s a cumulative effect in which banks can earn customer trust as opposed to customers having to re-educate the bank time and time again on their needs.  Think about Amazon: they continually earn relevancy in peoples’ lives, gaining trust as a brand and a partner.

Now think about Amazon again: Amazon Bank is real and although their plan doesn’t seem to include competing head-on with traditional banks, the online gargantuan has been steadily accumulating financial services “synergistic” with their platform. Not only do they see a lucrative opportunity in banking, they see an industry riddled with inefficiencies and a glaring lack of customer-centricity.

It can’t be a matter of lip-service any more — FIs need to line up how to deliver their services according to customers’ needs, not the other way around. Smart banks see as many needs as they do people; acting on that view means breaking from the Quarterly Lifecycle and using data to recognize and respond to the personal needs of your customers every day.

Tyson Nargassans is CEO and founder of Saylent, providing financial institutions with data analytics software and services that improve profitability and product innovation by delivering smarter, deeper, actionable insights on the financial behaviors of consumers and businesses.

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