Why Don’t Banks Talk to Their Customers About What’s Relevant?

Jim Dellavilla  |  Chief Client Officer

May 8, 2017

A 35-year-old single mom with two kids, a checking account and a mortgage walks into your branch asking for more information on savings plans for her children’s college educations. What do you do … talk to her about HELOCs and small business loans? Of course not. So why do banks continue to mass-market products to disengaged customers and expect to earn their business and their trust?

As a financial institution, you have a significant amount of customer data at your fingertips. There are simply zero excuses today for sending nonrelevant customer communications. The building blocks are pretty straightforward. Here’s how to get started:

1. Segment

Dedicate resources to analyzing your customer data, including behavioral, demographic and third-party. Then segment customers based on shared characteristics, interests and buying behavior: For example, “married males, 40-50 years old, without children, currently own a home, and invest in a brokerage account.”

2. Create personas

Personas bring your segments to life. Infuse them with personality. To create them, you need to understand your customers thoroughly, which is best accomplished by combining qualitative research and quantitative analysis. Talk to your customers. Find out what makes them tick, what their values are, what they think about your bank, how they prefer to invest their disposable income.

Name your personas. Humanize them. Use them to guide all your customer communications. There should be one for each audience that you market to. A brief example of a persona:

Max, the Investor

Age 47

High school biology teacher


Self-directed investor

Max loves working with kids, but he doesn’t want any of his own. He is proud of his home and enjoys puttering in the garden and swapping stories with the neighbors. He feels financially savvy but doesn’t want to spend a lot of time managing his investments. He has a 403(b) retirement account and a pension. His values are relatively traditional, but he’s open to new investing ideas.

3. Align products and services

The better you personify each buying segment, the easier it will be to determine which products and services are best suited to them. Max, for example, might benefit from a closer banking relationship that focuses on helping him grow his portfolio and save for retirement. Start by acknowledging his specific needs and market to him accordingly.

4. Customize content

Tailor inbound and outbound communications to each segment. For example, engage Max with educationally oriented content on innovative investment strategies. Build trust by educating, not selling. Create content that each segment will find valuable. Solve a problem for them. Get in front of customers and prospects before they need you, so that you’ll be top of mind when they do. Become the trusted expert and they’ll choose you over a competitor.

There are too many banks chasing too few customers today. To stand out from the other cows in the pasture, differentiate your bank by focusing on the customers’ needs first, not your products. Their needs should drive your targeted communications, not the other way around.

Jim Dellavilla |  Chief Client Officer
As CCO, Jim directs strategy for all of Catalyst’s accounts. This Siena College grad has spent time on both sides of the fence – on the client side at Chase Manhattan Bank and on the agency side as a manager/director of all client relationship teams at Sigma Marketing.

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