Is Your Financial Institution Seen as a Commodity?

Feedback from our end of the year email suggested that many of you would like to know how your financial institution can remain relevant in your market – and be unique and differentiated from the rest. Is it possible to do so these days?

I think so. But it does involve a bit of strategic thinking, message development and possibly tweaking your customer experience. Here are some top line strategic questions for you to think through as you contemplate how to differentiate yourself:

  • How do you want your customers and staff to describe you? Do they use any words besides the commodity descriptors of “friendly” and “bank?” What words are you hoping to hear that will make you proud, and what might make you cringe?
  • Do you know what your competition does better than you and any other financial institution? Surprisingly, we’ve found that most financial institutions don’t know much about their competition nor do they ask their customer-facing staff to be knowledgeable about them either. How can you step out and be seen as different if you and your front line don’t know what your competition is up to?
  • What does your financial institution do really well? Do you do anything consistently better than your competition and if so, is this what your customers want from you?
  • When’s the last time you compared your products and services to the competition? You probably offer many of the same things – but have you thought about how to differentiate yourself in this arena? Or, if there’s something your customers want but you don’t currently offer, how are you going to address that?
  • How do you describe your best customers – and what makes them best? Is it only profitability to the financial institution or is your definition broader? Does your leadership know who they are and are they targeting prospects with the same characteristics?
  • Do you know what’s important to your best customers? When’s the last time you asked, and if you do ask, how are you going to use this information to improve?

Process this information to define your strategy – how are you different now and what makes you special in a way that’s relevant to your best customers and prospects. How would you like to be better than the rest?

After you’ve defined how you want to be special it’s time to define what words and phrases you want your customers and prospects to use when they describe you. Once you’ve figured this out, start using those words and phrases in every communication and opportunity – verbally and in writing.

Now look at the many points of contact your customers and prospects experience with you and evaluate whether or not you’re living up to the words you want to be known by. If not, change the process, people or communication so you live your message and reinforce the image you want to convey. It may take some time to align your expectations and delivery but it is worth it and it will pay off.

Now if you really want to know if you’ve got this down and are consistent in your approach, ask yourself if you treat your employees and vendors in the same manner as you treat your customers – because that’s the true test of brand consistency. Everyone you engage with should have the same feeling about their experience with you.

Sounds like a big project – sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. But do it – don’t you want to be relevant? Has your institution gone through this process? What have you defined that makes you unique and relevant?

As always, we can help you through this process, whether it’s to define what makes you special or if you already know, we can help you communicate that you are. Contact me at 303-795-3539 and let’s chat.

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