What is Smarter Marketing?

Product-of-the-month marketing lacks relevance and often is out of alignment with the bank’s commitment to focused customer engagement.  There’s no intimacy, no personal touch, and it doesn’t inspire the feeling that “my bank knows me.”  We all have a tendency to revert back to product marketing, but the short and simple is – don’t do it. If you find it in your organization, stop it and encourage the team to continue to move to a smarter approach.

The Data Key

The key to defining a smarter marketing strategy is data. Banks already have a considerable amount of data on each of their customers. That information can be crucial in understanding customers, their needs, and what motivates them. Utilizing that data to drive a smarter approach to marketing is the key to helping your customers feel connected and engaged by building a personalized strategy that connects them with relevant products and solutions.

How to Use Data: 3 Primary Sources Explained

  1. Bank Data – the richest and often most overlooked source. Here are some examples:
    • Your CRM system holds on to great data. For example, it can answer questions like –When is the last time you talked to that customer? What was it about? How do they like to talk to you (email, phone, branch)? Connect as many data sources as you can in and out of your CRM platform.
    • Your phone and branch employees are also great sources. Their experience can shed light on what your customers are asking about, complaining about, and just generally what is at the top of mind.
    • Transaction history also provides a wealth of information. What are the last 10 purchases the customer made? By considering a general overview, you can understand what companies or categories are important to this person based on their spending.
  1. Third party data is more readily accessible than ever before and a tremendous source to augment and validate your own data. Many of you know these resources, but one to highlight are your third party product and service providers.  In working alongside your bank, they often capture and append data that you can ask for them to share back, and it will feed your CRM system as well as your marketing data sources.
  2. Public data sources or census data is rich for population trends and data by specific communities and markets. gov is the government’s site to provide back to the public the reams and reams of data that they have captured over time.  Another example is Google analytics, because it has rich data on how and when customers are searching you, which can then be paired alongside what other keywords and topics they are engaging.

Harnessing Data

Now you have all the data, it’s time to dig in.

Bring the multiple data sources together with a data warehouse or self-serve tools. If your bank has a data warehouse solution, excellent! Spend time with your data scientist team and look to the next steps. If you do not have one of those solutions, you have access to other resources as well. For example, Salesforce.com offers many self-serve tools at a relatively reasonable cost that allow you to bring together multiple sources from raw data.

Select two primary data categories and sort the data to this criteria. Start small and work your way in – select 2 primary data categories you want to bring together.  Start thinking about customers and behaviors instead of products.

Spend time with the data categories. This last point is one of the most important. It is about understanding and knowing who is the most valuable to your organization and who has the potential to be valuable.  Often the most “active” customers aren’t your most profitable, and it’s easy to get distracted in marketing by trying to serve your largest segments or most active customers.

Building a Blueprint for Smarter Marketing

If smarter marketing is built on data, then you have the advantage. So, it should be simple to put it all together in a blueprint and start getting your marketing yields quickly, right?  It is not always so easy. In fact, it can actually feel pretty daunting. First, because data is everywhere, it’s hard to organize and know what data matter.  Second, because technology changes by the time you buy it and install it. It’s also difficult to keep up.  And the most daunting part – when I have all of the parts, how do I put them together for the right message at the right time?

Build your blueprint. Let’s talk about that.

The Steps

  • Start with the foundational items, such as what are my bank’s mission and values and strategic goals? As with any good blueprint, you have to know the end vision to build the right plan.  In particular with mission and values – put a lot of thinking in to what promises you’ve made to your customers in terms of the data you’re collecting and how/when you will use that data.  Read your privacy policy, consult with legal and compliance, and ensure it still matches the goals of your organization.  Smarter marketing should always live within the foundation of the promises you’ve made to your customers and your organization.
  • Before you sketch your first line on the blueprint, immerse yourself in the data in your environment. Data drives decisions, not the other way around.  If you find yourself trying to start with your sketch of the blueprint but you haven’t reviewed the data, research, and talked to your customers – stop! The full context of data, research, and customer feedback is the foundation for driving a truly successful marketing strategy.
  • Customer needs and wants are important but they can often be the hardest to get to.
  • Messages and notes to your customers should always be personalized to them.  You have too much data available and trust built up not to do this.

Building Effective Customer Profiles

  • Take all your data and bring it to life with 2-3 customer profiles.
  • Customer profiles can be the foundation for marketing, servicing, and loyalty initiatives.
  • Make them fun and simple. The key here is that everyone in your bank should be able to quickly understand.
  • Permeate the profiles across your credit union.

Using Customer Profiles and Data

You have immersed yourself in the data and research (foundation), you know who’s going to inhabit the space and what they care about (customer profiles), now how do you actually sketch the blueprint?  Here are some key points to keep in mind.

  • Look at your top customers that drove your profile and your most profitable customers – what offers are they in need of? Rule of thumb: Your most engaged and profitable customers typically seek the highest level of customized marketing.
  • Digital marketing allows for data-driven marketing that is easily adaptable. It is the quickest way to scale your customized marketing and still capture and measure the right data you need.
  • Resist the temptation to conduct mass email campaigns. You can quickly saturate and frustrate your customer base with this approach, making your more targeted marketing events less effective.

Considering the Profile Example

Considering a customer profile in a smarter marketing strategy means that you are looking for what the customer needs or wants, not what you want to sell.

For example, “Allen” wants to learn more and do a better job of saving for his children’s college education.  He’d appreciate a targeted and customized plan of a 529 approach and different saving and investment options he may have.  He also is on the go and wants ease in his life. How can you improve his online banking and mobile app experience so he’ll visit you more frequently?  When he comes to the online site, what offers should you present him? Probably not a checking account. However, a marketing ad for your upcoming community or charity event could peak his interest.

Constructing Personalized Messaging

Customize your message to each customer with small data items:

  • Transactional patterns of your target customer segment
  • Interaction or engagement with your website/emails/branches
  • Servicing preferences given to you
  • Primary decision maker in the household
  • Other companies they do business with
  • How customers spend their rewards

The bar is high for customization, so start small and build your way out.  It’s ok if your first campaign is only to 5,000 customers or even 500 customers.  Testing and learning is the way to go.

In Conclusion

The smarter marketing journey can be a rewarding one, not only in driving ROI and marketing results, but in furthering the mission and vision of your bank by engaging and meeting the needs of your customers.


  • Immerse yourself in the data – big and small.
  • Build your base customer profiles and expand from there.
  • Lay out your blueprint.
  • Stay focused on your mission to build customized and data driven marketing campaigns.
  • Start small and build upon your successes.
  • Have fun with your team along the way!