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Do you know why bank “switch kits” don’t work?

Because they are an empty promise.

Almost a bait and switch. Maybe a UDAAP violation.  OK, so that’s an overstatement.  But, switch kits are pretty awful.

If you look at them, you’ll see what I  mean.  Banks always say, “It’s easy.  Just download our quick-change form.”

Except, it’s not easy and it’s not quick.  It’s paper.  The customer has to round up all his information and fill-in a complex form.  And then, the customer has to send it in.  All very 1990′s.

So, what’s better?

An electronic switch kit.  It’s an internet form.  Customers fill in the data, online.  The bank loads it up to a secure, encrypted server.  The customer gets a acknowledgement and the form is delivered as data so the bank can process it and monitor the processing.  All very 21st century.

Ah, but this probably costs money and PDFs are free.  Well that’s true.  But, it’s also true you’re not getting any new business with your PDF. So, how cheap is that?

If you’re ready to talk about rolling out a switch kit that actually can work, call me, toll-free, 800-521-0236, Ext 17.  (Or email me with SWITCHKIT in the subject line.)  Remember, it never costs money to brainstorm ideas.

Senior Bankers: How long has it been since you ate in the employee break room?

150 feeet

It’s a sign that you have arrived.  I’m talking about when you become a senior manager.  You get an office removed from the rest.  You now get to use the executive break room and bathroom.  Yep, you’re special alright.  Now, for the bad news: you have also been isolated from the action and, more importantly, from the customer experience. In a year or less, you are likely to be a complete stranger to what’s really going on in your bank.

Maybe it’s not a good idea to become isolated from where the real work is done.

You may be interested to read this article about Google’s HQ in NYC. Their office is designed to deliberately mix up employees from different areas and with different responsibilities.  This mash-up of execs with the worker bees has a very desirable outcome: People with similar attitudes are more likely to get along; however, those with diverse backgrounds are more likely to generate novel ideas. 

The key point: none of those interactions exist without the primary ingredient of casual encounters and unexpected conversations.  Nothing like eating together and bumping into each other on the way to the john.

Here’s how to try out this concept: bring your lunch in a Spiderman lunch box.  That should be good for some conversation starters.  Get to the lunch room early and hang out until the 1pm lunch crowd shows up.  Go out of your way to say hello and “what’s up.”  Pay attention to what you’re told.  When you hear something you can act on, do it. (Nothing encourages the troops more than discovering that that the bigwigs will actually listen and do.)

Do this for two months.  I bet you get at least two really good, inexpensive to implement, ideas your bank can use.  If I’m wrong, I’ll  buy you lunch and meet  you in the break room.

Oh, and here’s some ideas for your new lunchbox



Why do bankers let non-bankers reinvent the business?

Non-banks are reinventing banking. Banks are letting them. How much sense does that make?

Markets don’t stand still. Customers move toward innovation. Nowhere is this more evident than in banking. Bankers who are complacent need to hope they’re close to retirement. If you’re in banking, go look at these guys. These companies are not legacy banks. They just don’t think the current banking model is satisfactory. They think consumers want more. So far, they appear to be right.

These guys have figured out how to make investments in brick and mortar, and flotillas of ATMs, unnecessary. They are going to walk away, unopposed, with one of the most profitable areas of banking and take the best customers with them.

Why is this happening? Maybe the people who run banks are in denial.  Maybe they are overcome with a sense of entitlement.  Maybe they are hiding behind so-called onerous regulation. Maybe they just can’t get past “can’t.”  All of this adds up to the conclusion that the trend for non-banks to out-bank the banks will accelerate.

It doesn’t  have to be this way. Banks can fight back and win. Banks own the customer base. And they still own customer trust. The important thing is not to take these advantages for granted. Do not fritter them away.

The time to reinvent your own bank has come.

Are We Losing the Small Bank?

The popular wisdom is that banks under $300 million are doomed.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

The business press (and maybe the banking lobby) are beating the drum these days.  “Smalls won’t survive.  Smalls can’t afford current compliance costs with new regulation.  Smalls can’t afford capital — even if they could get it.  Smalls can’t earn enough to survive.”  If you’re a banker, you know the story.

I suppose all of that may be true for some small bankers. But, I don’t think it has to be true for any small bank.

I think a banker who concentrates on his customer and who isn’t trying “to be a big bank” can pretty easily survive and thrive.  Here’s why I say that: (1) the current compliance climate is tough, but it’s not impossible; (2) bank technology is a complete mess that will take lots of money to fix, but there are alternatives out there; and (3) the number of customers it takes to make money is surprisingly small, so you don’t have to have a 50% market share to make money.

I’d recommend that small banks take a weekend retreat and follow two rules: (1) nobody can say “we can’t”, and (2) everybody has to figure out “how we can.”  With wit, intelligence, willingness to be creative and, most of all, bloody-minded persistence, small banks can do just fine.

Want to talk about how you can structure a “re-invention weekend?”  Call me and let’s talk. 

Remember, there’s never a fee to brainstorm solutions.  I’ll pay for the call: 800-521-0236, Ext 17.  Or, email me and put SURVIVE in the subject line.


Take a closer look at your near misses

Smart companies keep a close eye on their exposure to risk. Banks are required to assess the risks associated with all functional areas of the company (credit, financial, product, compliance, IT, market, etc.). Not a bad idea for the rest of us…

It’s a big job, but a recent report suggests a very simple, yet effective process any company could adopt: review “near misses”.  An article from, citing a NASA finding, proposes that looking back at accidents or problems that occurred is not as effective in mitigating future problems as is the study of near misses. “A more effective way to curtail disasters [risk] is to get better at spotting the near miss.”

I like the concept. It’s simple, easy to adopt, and imposes a proactive environment.

Do you have a system of reporting near misses? It might just be the thing you need to mitigate business risk. Read the “Near Miss” article on here. Think about how your company might utilize the concept. My nose tells me you might get a better handle on the real risks associated with your business.

My take is that forewarned is forearmed! An employee report of how something very nearly went wrong would provide management with an awareness of what may be systemic or reputational risk.

Let me know what you think. Call or email me with your observation.

Maximize the Customer Experience: Online Banking and Mobile Banking

Community banks are at a big disadvantage when it comes to offering customers online banking and mobile banking.  Why?  Because they can’t afford customized apps.  So, they are forced to buy OLB and Mobile Banking from vendors who are providing “one size fits all” applications.  Usually, this has negative effects on the bank’s brand.  And, usually, it makes it next to impossible to create a program that enhances the customer experience.

However, there is a possible alternative: hire an outside web savvy consultant who knows how to set up web programming utilities that will make it possible to customize the way the OLB vendor provides the service.  For example, the OLB vendor provides an “i-frame” connection between the bank’s website and the actual OLB application.  This is not always the best solution for a bank who wishes to be attentive to its customer experience because it takes the bank out of control of their process. So, for example, if a bank wanted to include a customer notice in close proximity to the login box, the bank would have to pay the OLB vendor to make that change….and wait for the implementation.

The better way is for the bank to have the consultant work with the OLB vendor to provide the necessary program modifications that permit the bank to tailor the website interaction  between the customer and the vendor.

Want to talk this over?  Call me at 800-521-0236.  Or email me with “OLB” in the subject line.  Remember, there’s never a charge to talk things over with  us, exchanging ideas.

Looking for an Ad Agency? Check out our First-Time-Free program.

Money always matters.

Almost nobody has the luxury of leaving money out of a agency decision.  No matter how good a deal looks, no matter how good the fit between the parties, money can be a deal breaker.  Speaking for ourselves, we don’t want money to be the reason we miss a great opportunity with a prized client.

So, we have a way to make it not all about the money.

For clients that look promising to us, we’ll make them this offer: first project we do, we’ll do for free.  How does it work?  It’s simple.  The client has to talk to us, give us really usable information, including a clear sense of mission.  We’ll respond with prelim copy and art (including images).  We’ll do that as often as it takes to until the client is happy.  Then, we’ll finish project by providing final deliverable.  When that’s done we’ll send a bill that itemizes all the fees and charges with a bottom line that credits the full amount.

Are we crazy? 

Nope.  At least, not about this.  It seems fair to us.  The client has the greatest business risk.  And, there are lots of advertising people out there.  So, to add some clarity, we’ll take the money out of the equation.  We figure clients will like it and come back.

What happens if a client screws us, takes the idea and never comes back?  Well, that could happen.  That’s our risk.  But, if it does happen, we won’t die, or cry, we’ll just move on.  After all, there’s some good that comes from the exercise.

There’s got to be a catch.

Yeah, actually there are two – but they’re little stuff.  First, out-of-pocket costs, like media, production, photography and stuff like that are on the client.  Second, we aren’t going down this road if the client can’t reasonably commit to a future relationship, even a modest one.

We’ve never lost a client over money.

Not in our entire 40 year history.  So, we think we understand this money thing :)

So, this sound good to you?

 Well, great.  Let’s get started.  Drop us an email with “FIRST TIME” in the subject line.  We’ll get right back to you.


Seven reasons we’re much more than an ad agency.

Your people + our people = a great team

Our clients tell us our ability to manage projects and convert insiders into effective  team members is a rare skill.  After all, almost no banking project is a solo exercise.  There are overlapping departments, and often some complicated IT issues, in play.  Our business wisdom, market savvy and great people skills provide what’s needed to get complicated projects over the goal line – on time and under budget.  When you introduce us into the mix, you don’t get hot air and out-of-date solutions.  You get effective leadership and up-to-date subject currency.

We’re a leader in inventing marketing niche technology.

We hear this a lot, “What’s a marketing firm doing creating program code to connect bank CIF with a web-delivered data request?”  Thing is, we’ve been creating technology solutions that accomplish marketing and compliance goals since 1980 when we jointly developed one of the first MCIF application in the US.  After that, we never looked back.  At least half-dozen times a year we fill a client need with a program interface to solve a thorny customer-facing problem.  In the past few years we have created: online Reg E Opt-In forms that were connected to the CIF, web-delivered Deposit Account Referral programs for customers to login and make account referrals 24/7, migrated paper-based membership data to an online, member-directed database – a neat little trick that saved our client $21K the first year and close to $50K in succeeding years.  What can our technology geeks do for you?  (If you’d like to see a a demo of our technology, please go drop us an email with TECHNOLOGY in the subject line.)

Concierge-level customer service.

We understand that a project has to be done when it’s supposed to be done.  Getting it done, on time and in budget is pretty much all there is to the issue.  We can pretty much take on and deliver solutions 365/24/7.  (There’s a story about a 10’ show booth that somehow went missing on the way to Las Vegas that we could tell you – there’s also a story about a website that was mugged on a Saturday night.)  If that means working on weekends or being in a client’s office on Saturday, well, that’s what we do.  From the beginning of the work scope we commit to a successful completion.  And we stick to the plan.  No matter what.

We don’t aspire to 100% billable hours.

Our client relationships are not all about money.  They are about earning respect and trust.  Sometimes we do ‘value-added’ projects at no charge (see a partial list here).  We like these opportunities to make human connection.  Besides, we always learn something valuable.  The most important result: our clients understand that we don’t look at them and see only dollar signs.

We’ve don’t charge for brainstorming.

We want to  be one of the first people you call when you want to do some spit-balling or brain storming.  So if you’re wrestling with how to get a project off and running — or trying to decide just exactly how to get your bank going in a good direction — call us.  There’s never any charge for you to call, text or email us and get the benefit of what we’ve learned since our inception in 1972.  If we have some research or history with your subject, we’ll provide it to you, no charge.  Next time you want to bounce something off us, give us a call, toll free, 800-521-0236.

We’re not hung up on our past success.

Our company has  been around since 1972.  We’ve seen a lot of things work; we’ve seen a lot of things fail.  In all that time, we’ve learned that the past counts for a little.  It’s what you’re going to be doing in the next five years that defines you.  We’re pretty good at knowing what’s coming and what it means for banks.  We figure we can give a community bank a minimum of two years head start on any given marketing, technological or compliance imperative.  That sound good to you?

We are obsessed with vertical integration.

We have a thriving business that runs along three tracks: marketing, compliance and technology.  We have learned how to weave those three business specialties into practical, affordable solutions for our clients.  We’ll provide some case histories that will give you insight into how our vertical integration makes our clients money — just send us an email with CASE HISTORY in the subject line.  We think a single knowledgeable source can save clients time, money and aggro.  (If you’d like to see a list of projects we’re working on now, please drop us an email with PROJECTS in the subject line.)


What is the best way to get your message to customers and potential customers? Electronic? Or, paper?

Everybody knows that electronic communication is faster, less expensive and reaches a greater number of people. So, of course, electronic communication is better than paper-based mail, right? Um, well, maybe not. graphic

Infographic source:
According to a study by branding agency Millward Brown paper communication may have some significant advantages. They used MRI brain scans to see how the brain processed paper-based ads vs. digital based ads. As it turned out, paper communication caused more emotional processing and left a deeper footprint in the brain. So using, for example, traditional direct mail can create a more “real” experience for the customer. Of course, paper ads do not have video, audio or interactivity, but then, those enhancements may not be necessary for every message.
There is also some the matter of how much email actually hits the Inbox and does it get read? Seems there are over 39.6 billion emails sent out per day in the United States alone. With the US Census showing a population of over 310 million, that is over 125 emails per person per day for every man, woman and child in the country. (Actually it seems like I get 18 million of those emails everyday.) With such staggering email volume, it’s hard to believe all email is getting read – and that’s what spam filters do anyway, right? Protect us from that incessant barrage of email. How many emails die a slow, agonizing (but thoroughly deserved) death in the collective Junk Mailboxes of the world?

So what is the best way to get your message out? Paper or electronic? There is no one “best” answer to this question. You should review your company, your message, your customers (and potential customers) and make the most balanced decision you can. For sure, there are no automatic answers.

Get After It

“If I’d have asked my customers what they wanted they’d have said a faster horse.” – Henry Ford

Just a thought inspired by Henry Ford, but maybe your customers don’t have a good a grasp on what they need as you do. So go after it, Hank.


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