The annual ABA Bank Marketing Conference was held in New Orleans on Sept. 24–26 this year, and members of the Vertical IQ team were excited to attend. This event’s agenda is always packed with fantastic speakers, so we thought we’d share our notes on a few of our favorite sessions in case you were unable to attend.

Making Ideas Happen
Scott Belsky, co-founder of Behance, author of “Making Ideas Happen”

Scott described how creativity and ideas become realized. The formula? Organization and execution + communal forces + leadership capabilities.

In the marketing world, we have to overcome a reactionary workflow that results from an endless stream of email, social media, voicemail, etc. Disconnecting from such distractions can actually become a competitive advantage since creativity + organization = IMPACT. Scott’s advice on making the biggest impact with your bank’s marketing efforts:

  • Organize with a bias toward action.
  • Measure the value of a meeting in action steps. If you leave a meeting with nothing actionable, was it worth meeting?
  • Prioritize projects visually on an energy line: How much energy should you spend on a project?
  • Share ideas and seek competition – it pushes us to act.
  • Don’t be overburdened by consensus. If you are, there may be nothing remarkable left in an idea. But also, be willing to compromise on everything except the one or two things that you hold dearest.
  • You must “fight” your way to breakthroughs.
  • The tragedy of talent is this: If we don’t know what we’re looking at, we can’t appreciate it. You must know what your bank is great at.
  • Leaders should talk last. If the leader speaks first, it may silence the visionary, and others may not speak their minds.
  • Value the “immune system” of the team: the do-ers. The dreamers may have the ideas, but it’s the do-ers who get things done. Find and empower these “hotspot” do-ers.

Niche Marketing Approach & Case Study
Michelle Hastings Simon, SVP/chief marketing officer, Eastern Virginia Bankshares

Michelle discussed the importance of identifying a specific segment of the overall market in which to create appeal for community banking; she began to target women-owned businesses. Some of the results and benefits to these niche customers were:

  • They created a private Facebook page where the business owners can share ideas and do business with each other.
  • They have regular educational podcasts.
  • The have special events and “join ups” in coffee shops to network.
  • They created a directory for the business owners.

Michelle offered these tips for going after a market niche:

  • Think narrow and be specific.
  • Figure out what your bank does well.
  • Speak the same language as the niche.
  • Engage when and where your customers want.
  • Test your market.

Hack Your Customer’s Brain: How Social Brands are Evolving to Entertain, Obtain & Retain Customers
Brian Carter, bestselling author, CEO-strategy and content, The Brian Carter Group  

Brian is a big proponent of marketing via social media, and he said the best results come from the places people like the most (Facebook proves to be that place, in his experience). He offered the following tips for social media marketing:

  • Don’t be weirdly formal because we choose brands that we like. To do that, you must find – invent – and test.
  • On social media, if you don’t stand out, you don’t stand a chance.
  • Use Facebook to grow your email list.
  • On Facebook, if you put out a great advertisement, that ad will be 10x less expensive because Facebook will help promote it. Facebook rewards good ads.
  • If you are narcissistic on social media, your likeability will go down.
  • Embrace ubiquity – be everywhere. “If you don’t stand out, you won’t stand a chance.”
  • What’s big? Mobile (it exceeds desktop usage for social media) and quality content.
  • Faces make content likeable….as do animals.
  • Combine what people like (such as faces and animals) in creative ways.
  • Emotions have more pull than intellect. Your marketing should reflect that.

Leveraging Decision-Making Psychology for Revenue Engagement on Digital Channels
Wei Ke, Ph,D., Partner, Simon-Kucher & Partners

Banking is a highly emotional decision and can be difficult to sell due to being a commodity, notes Wei. Customers naturally gravitate towards the middle choice when comparing three like items of at different price points, so the structure of the offer impacts the price perspective.

Among the consumer behavioral biases Wei has observed in banking:

  • Customers have different sensitivity to mathematically equivalent price metrics (for example, up-front fees vs. lower interest rate).
  • Non-linear pricing influences utilization. For example, customers who pay a small fee to open a line of credit are more apt to use the line than those who do not pay a fee.
  • Reference price is not a constant and can be updated by “sustained price communication” (e.g., consumers will often wait until Black Friday to make a purchase because they expect prices to be lower during that time). So don’t become too predictable with pricing or customers may not make the purchase until they expect the rate will be lower.
  • Too many choices can become overwhelming and thus turn the customer away.
  • Most bankwide rewards programs do not align with the desired primary banking behaviors. To achieve the desired behaviors, clear goals must be set. For example, consider offering account levels with certain goal posts:
    • Silver=account opened
    • Gold=account opened and has monthly direct deposit
    • Platinum=account opened, direct deposit, and has a minimum of 15 transactions/month
  • Having the capability to leverage the customer on a digital level resulted in significant reduction in the number of single-product customers and increased customer engagement.

Branding: “Don’t Just Be Liked–Be more than LIKED, Be LOVED”

This session provided three key points to consider when it comes to branding for banks:

“If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete,” said CEO Jack Welch.

Giving your brand a human personality: This speaker used the example of the hit show Friends to describe the benefit of using personality stereotypes to emote brand. For example, Ross is the romantic, Chandler is the jester, and Monica is the caregiver—people easily identify with these roles. You might consider your bank brand having a similarly identifiable “personality.

Making sure the bank’s values align with customer values: It’s important to make sure your brand portrays values that align with your customers’ values. An example is an urban-area bank that tried to use a farmer/greenery/old-timey brand logo—it just didn’t work because it didn’t align with the fast-paced city-living audience.

Finding your “blue ocean”: A “red ocean” is a known space with many competitors. It’s crucial to find your bank’s “blue ocean” where demand is created and where you elevate above benefits to a unique customer experience.