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What do doctor’s mistakes have to do with marketing?

I just ran across an article in the Wall Street Journal (see link below) about the biggest mistakes doctors make.  I was struck by the similarity to mistakes made by marketers.  True, marketing people aren’t in the life or death business — even if it seems that way sometimes.  However, recognizing pitfalls than can lead to bad outcomes should be a life-skill for marketers — as well as doctors.

The article cites 13 common mistakes.  Two of them are particularly useful reminders to marketers.  As you work to make good decisions, keep at least these two pitfalls in mind.


The article explains, “A tendency to act on incomplete information, institutions or hunches.  Too much faith is placed in opinion instead of carefully gathered evidence.”

So, who among us has not regretted an impulsive decision, one with reverberating effects?  For example, the marketer who authorized promoting the Nova compact sedan in Spain with great fanfare. Only to discover that “Nova” meant “No Go” in Spanish.  Oops.  Some carefully gathered evidence would have been a good thing.

I remember a bank client of mine once decided, without any advance notice to customers (this was before the TISA regulations), to convert all their free checking accounts to $4.99 per month.  This decision was made in reliance upon a profitability consultant with no consultation with anyone else — least of all the marketing department.  My client put the change into effect within 24 hours of the decision.  In the first 7 days, the bank lost 30% of those accounts, taking $7 million in deposits with them.  Did I tell you the bank was a $400 million bank?  Yes, a clear cut case of overconfidence bias.


This is defined as “The tendency for people on a medical team to believe and do certain things because many others are doing so.”

We’ve all seen this happen a bunch of times.  Most recently companies have launched major-big-time Facebook programs, mostly because one of their peers have done one.  So, off they go with not a scrap of strategy in sight.  Typically, the program bombs and all around the company you hear Facebook being roundly condemned.  (This is an example of the article’s “Fundamental Attrition Error.”  As in, the failure was Facebook, not us.)

What is needed is more careful, analytical thinking and less headlong decision making.  Before pulling the trigger, take a break and ask yourself, “Have I really thought through the implications of what I’m about to do?  Have I carefully considered all the outcomes?  Am I prepared to live with the consequences (loss of market share, wasted resources, etc.) that may ensue?

We have to make decisions every day.  Let’s take a moment and be sure we’re making a good one.

Want to talk over ways to make better marketing decisions?  Email me with MISTAKES in the subject line.  Remember, it never costs anything to share our experience.

SOURCE LINK: The Wall Street Journal (November 17, 2013).



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.

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.


A secure browser-based data distribution solution doesn’t have to be SharePoint.

SharePoint is a great program.  But, it is not for everybody.

Our beef with SharePoint, which we hear about from almost every SharePoint user we know, is that it is too damn complicated.  The best SP experience we’ve heard about has what amounts to a computer engineer attached.  (A high dollar SP consultant may also help.)

This high cost issue with SP has led us to build an affordable solution to securely share data among widely separated users.

For most clients, we prefer a WordPress solution.  Not SharePoint.

What has worked very well (including the all important support requirement post install) is a WP site built on top of a custom PHP program.  It runs a MYSQL database behind a firewall on a non-shared Virtual Server.  Users are required to perform a dual-access process: first, login to the VS and then login to the WP program,  utilizing existing ActiveX protocols or another, owner-determined access schema.  (Go here for a back of the napkin process diagram.)

We like this solution, first of all,  because it’s not SharePoint. We also like it because it’s (a) secure, (b) easy to admin and (c) easy to train and support.  Clients can be doing their own admin in just a few weeks.  Another thing we like: the app almost never breaks, so the support is minimized.

If you’d like to talk about this, or see a demo, call me .

You can reach me at 800-544-8269.  Or, email me with NOT SHAREPOINT in the subject line.  Remember, there’s never a fee to brainstorm, kicking around 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.)


Why we’re a great marketing resource.

We’re intensely focused on customer service.

If it’s important to you, it’s important to us.  We’re not happy until you’re happy.  And, by extension of that principle, we’re devoted to preserving, extending and amplifying your relationship with your customer.  We know you don’t take your customers for granted, and neither do we.

We’re market wise.

We know how to divine the mind of the market.  We understand the psychology and psychographics of banking customers and what it takes to move them.  We have a strong research orientation, so our heart doesn’t overrule our head.

We’re industry savvy. 

We been successfully marketing and advertising to consumers and businesses since 1972.  We live and work at the intersection of Marketing, Advertising, IT Support, Research and Compliance.  We can produce good stuff for clients after the first hour on the job because we’ve been there and “done that.”

We’re creative where it counts.

We think it’s important to have advertising that is read and produces sales, and we don’t necessarily believe in doing things the way they’ve always been done.  We’re also not afraid to tell a client if we think he’s setting himself up to fail.

We’re responsive.

We operate our business 24/7, and we’re wired to the world, to each other and to our clients.  We’ve repaired website problems on Friday nights. And we flew to Las Vegas on a Sunday to spend 45 minutes fixing a display panel that had been damaged in transit.  These are just two reasons our client retention averages 20 years.  We almost never lose a client unless the company is merged or acquired.

We’re passionate about the Brand.

We believe a business has to stand for something, something that’s important to the client’s customers.  If a client doesn’t know why the company is important to its stakeholders–and doesn’t think the brand is vital to survival–there’s no future in our relationship.

We’re affordable. 

Our average blended, or combined, hourly rate is about a third less than our larger competitors.  We get more done for less.  That’s probably among the reasons one of the world’s largest manufacturers has been our client for over a decade.

We have great people.

Our dozen creative, motivated associates cover all the bases: copywriting, art, design, photography (still and video), copy and video editing, print and video production, proofreading, PR, and account services.  Our team is stable, but it’s growing.  We also have some wonderful strategic partners, people we’ve worked with for more than 20 years.

We believe in ROI.

We know how to develop and live by a budget.  Because we buy for multiple clients, we can leverage purchases to our clients’ advantage. Dealing with printers, film houses, service bureaus, photographers, and other specialists can be demanding, and it requires technical knowledge. One way we earn our keep is by providing expert services like these.

We’re really into technology.

We know how to build black boxes that will gather and distribute data–in a secure fashion– to accomplish your business goals.  We’ve built electronic dashboards for senior executives to monitor key business metrics; we built one client unique “bounce-proof analysis software” that let them run their own overdraft protection program (and save huge third-party fees), and we’ve built a secure link for bank clients– deliverable now–to implement online account opening.

We’re responsible. 

We take full responsibility for delivering a commercially acceptable product to our clients.  If you don’t like our work, you don’t pay our fees.

We know the difference between sales and marketing.

Sales and marketing are separate processes. Sales benefit the company; marketing benefits the customer.  The ultimate purpose of marketing (and branding) is to make sales efforts unnecessary.

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.

Marketing with Social Media

The act of selling via the new or social media outlets is to market via these channels. That’s why it’s called Social Media Marketing.  Do not let the brand personality of social media keep you from perceiving the opportunity of the medium, which is to enhance and extend your company’s reach, and influence.   This is far easier to say than to successfully accomplish.

Here are some ideas that will help you to achieve your own social media marketing success. (more…)

Is your business relevant? Social Media can help you decide.

“Being relevant”  determines everything about a business — what it sells, how it sells, how it prices what it sells — but especially should it impose a discipline on customer-facing communication.  So, how are you doing with your customers?

Here’s how you find out if you’re relevant – or not.

Evaluate your company’s communication.  A majority of companies large and small fall into three categories listed below, each with an example from actual Twitter and Facebook posts: (more…)


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