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5 ways to focus your bank marketing budget.

C-level banking executives tend to be very focused on the idea of return on investment. This can complicate the lives of bank marketing executives, because a lot of what marketing does affects consumer behavior in an indirect, non-linear way, which makes it very hard to draw a one-to-one correlation between a marketing activity and a revenue-related outcome. Here are five considerations that might help you with your budgeting process-both in establishing an effective budget | plan, and in selling it up to the corner office.

1. Start with the bigger strategy.

You would be surprised (or maybe you wouldn't) how much of some bank marketing budgets are spent on things that have very little connection to the bank's strategic objectives. As you start to put your marketing objectives in place, look to the C-Level folks to glean what they are trying to accomplish at the organizational level.

What markets are they planning to focus on?

What are they expanding?

What products, services, and service lines do they see as loss leaders, or mature products ripe for profit milking?

A marketing budget | plan built on the things the CEO wants to do is much more likely to fly, and to be seen as successful.

2. How can we spend our budget on us?

A lot of a bank's success can come from understanding current customers and deepening relationships. Almost every bank talks about cross selling, but almost nobody does much to cross sell products and services in any systemic way.

An investment that improves the people, culture, systems, and use of information within the bank can pay off immediately-and continue to pay for years to come. Internal marketing-promoting the brand internally, educating the culture about strategies and objectives, motivating and rewarding desired activities-can be very effective in converting customers to clients and clients to raving fans.

This can include internal collateral materials, employee events and competitions, and educational programs. Making employees-particularly millennials-a part of the process can be a key to stimulating (and even retaining) them.

3. Tie community involvement to the brand.

Speaking of marketing to millennials, we're looking at a huge generation that values meaningful activity above just about everything else. They provide great inspiration for rethinking community involvement.

Historically, it's been a matter of allocating dollars to community organizations and causes on more-or-less a first-come-first-served basis. This approach can scatter strategic assets and lead to politics that can actually harm the brand.

A better approach is to see community involvement as community building. Select or invent a cause that correlates with bank branding. Own it, and use it to drive your differential advantage into the consumer mind via something better than repetition-activity! This approach allows people in your brand community to adopt your cause as part of their lives. And it turns your activist community into living, breathing brand assets.

4. Owned media-get your house in order.

When is a website not just a website?

The 21st Century, that's when.

Technology now offers huge opportunities for banks (even small banks) to take quantum leaps in positioning, capturing the right audiences, and driving tactical objectives (sales!). Investing in the cultivation and maintenance of a clean database can be a huge (and relatively inexpensive) leap in the area of digital media.

Unlike any other medium, direct marketing, either via new media or snail mail, allows you to personalize your selling message down to the individual or household.

Inbound marketing for banks, along with pay-per-click ads and re-targeting, lets you build a database of customers and prospects who self-identify, based on your positioning, product and service offering, and fee structure. You pick your customers by letting them pick you!

5. Outside last.

The best branding agencies

are moving the focus away from external marketing, because so much can be done with the cultivation of brand communities, owned media, event marketing, and internal strategies.

Still, it would be irresponsible to believe you could go to market without external communication. That's how you fill the top of the funnel.

Nevertheless, with a solid foundation of marketing strategies build on corporate objectives, best use of internal resources, community building activities, and digital media, external planning becomes much more clear.

Traditional advertising in this paradigm becomes a marketing role player, not a marketing budget eater.

Select media based on content that supports your position.

Build your outdoor plan based on geo-targeting, and make it correlate with geo-targeted digital media.

Finally, eliminate vanity and quid pro quo media buys (this will take some discipline and some guts).

Everyone has to do it.

Every marketing director has to work with a finite budget. And that budget is never large enough. A strong strategy, based on C-level objectives can go a long way toward getting you a good budget and the cooperation with senior management in implementing it.

A good friend once said that the most valuable part of a good strategy is that it helps you say "no." Throughout the year, people will come into your office with great marketing ideas. If you were to implement all of them, they would blow through your budget. A well-conceived plan, with endorsement at the corner-office level, allows you to say no, just by saying, "great idea, but it's not in this year's budget."

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