LOFTy Expectations

I’m a big fan of LOFT, the lower-cost little sister to the slightly more upscale Ann Taylor, but their most recent sale probably lost me as an online customer.

LOFT ran a big sale Sunday that offered a 70 percent discount off sale items. Who doesn’t love a good deal? The sale expired at midnight, so I started to browse late Sunday evening on my iPhone. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past browsing–the website constantly crashed. This isn’t the first time that LOFT’s website couldn’t handle extra traffic during a big sale.

LOFT Response LOFT’s response to my concerns voiced on social media Sunday night came on Monday morning–hours after the end of the sale–and instead of addressing the issue through that medium, they directed me to call an associate. Around the same time, I received a tone-deaf email advertising a 60% off flash sale email.

LOFT Flash Sale 07142014

I should note that the social media team at LOFT seems to be responsive to customers on its Facebook page. It’s true that I was disappointed that, instead of addressing the problem through social media, LOFT directed me to contact them by phone–an extra step that I didn’t want to take–but their team is just doing their job.

The real problem lies in the fact that marketing, product delivery and customer service aren’t strategically aligned.

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Wanna Reach the Unbanked?

Last week two very interesting items crossed my eye: this look at content marketing for financial services, and CNN Money’s map of the unbanked.

“Insights from the Content Marketing World”, from Financial Marketing News, suggests going beyond the standard newsletters and seminars (though still vital) to visual methods, like infographics and video.

A great example of video (featured here before) shows PanAmerican Bank’s outreach to the underbanked, including the next generation of bank customers.

Of course, being the social media fan that I am, I L-O-V-E this infographic from Capitec Bank of  South Africa.  They polled their customer base via social media to come up with this infographic:

Make Smart Credit Decisions | Capitec Bank

So how does this tie into that unbanked map? Gaining those customers that are underserved will come in two ways: offering the right product mix, and educating the public about those offerings. Infographics and video – along with more traditional content marketing methods, like newsletters and seminars – are a great way to educate your community, and gain some customers along the way.

More around the web:
A digital wallet for the unbanked
Fewer directors & officers are getting sued, and the pace of bank failures has slowed.
Social media lessons from banking insiders – from KPMG

Half-Baked Marketing = Missed Opportunities

Late last week I came across a contest run by a (not local to me) community bank. “What a fantastic marketing idea!” I thought. “What a way to go beyond free gas!” I thought.

“What a way to take an idea only halfway!” was the reality.

The bank had a great idea – a local photo contest (think cute baby) gets the community involved. The bank even set up a dedicated website to allow online voting and entry. The website was attractive, cleanly designed and appeared to be simple to use.

Here’s where they dropped the ball.

Curious, as I am, regarding how far they took the campaign, I search on Facebook. The bank attempted a Facebook page two years ago, but appeared to abandon it soon after. Twitter? Not there either.

Facebook could have tied in wonderfully with this campaign, and helped this contest go viral. I haven’t named the bank, and don’t know how successful the campaign was, but still: what a missed opportunity.

Marketing isn’t limited now to “just direct mail” and “just email” these days, and just a website alone isn’t going to cut it. Look at where your customers are, and where they want to interact with you. Build social media into your marketing mix. As this contest proves, your online presence doesn’t have to be “all about banking” – and promotional tools like photo contests are tailor-made for Facebook.

In other news:

Is Banking’s Future in the Cloud? My debut piece for Great insights from Tom Garcia, CEO of InfoSight, Anil Cheriyan, CIO of SunTrust, and Michael Bryan, CIO of Bank of North Carolina.

The FDIC is encouraging banks to reach the unbanked.

Glad to see my colleague, Al Dominick, back to blogging. Will community banks be for sale when M&A picks up?

Community Banking PR Can’t End with Free Gas

Made me grin last Friday: this article from Chattanooga, TN, detailing a popular “free gas” effort sponsored by local community banks.

Not local community bank. That would be banks. Plural. This was done across the U.S., in 20 cities, highlighting that community banks can be a vibrant part of their communities.

Banks have a public image problem that as an industry extends down to community banks. Credit unions gain, it’s thought, because the public believes that credit unions are member-driven, while banks, since they’re shareholder-owned,  don’t necessarily care about the customer. Of course, if any bank is worth it’s salt, it’s going to think of the customer first, but the fact remains – in the view of the public, if credit unions are Jimmy Stewart, then banks are seen as an industry of Potters.

It shouldn’t be this way. Sure, it’s easy to rag on the big banks, but many community banks are as invested in their communities as any credit union. Anyone that’s served on a local civic or non-profit board will likely attest to the vibrant role bankers often play in the communities in which they live.

This is an industry issue folks. And events like offering “Free Gas” – where community banks, despite being competitors, team up to educate the public that community banks can focus on the “COMMUNITY” – are a good way to boost public perception. But it cannot be a one-shot deal – the news in the papers on  the latest “big bank” scandals aren’t going to stop, and unfortunately, when the general public sees the latest bank fiasco in the news, they lump the industry together as a whole, big banks on down.

So get creative and think strategically. How can YOUR bank further reach out to the community (or team up with the competition to do so)? How about a financial education booth at the local career fair? Or turning your bank’s Facebook page into a community resource, like First Niagara Bank? Think about what will be right for your bank and your community, and commit to it. People want to trust their bankers – but bankers have to create that trust.

In the news:

Safest banks in the World? U.S. doesn’t even make the top 25.

Credit unions raising fees too.

BofA eliminating more branches to “streamline expenses and better serve customers’ changing banking habits”.

What’s Hot – and What’s Not – in financial marketing.

To Pin or Not To Pin?

I HEART Pinterest. In the few months since joining the site, I’ve amassed 753 pins on 22 boards – and still manage to somehow have a life around it.

The latest buzz amongst social media types involves how brands can take advantage of this new source. So should you hop on Pinterest? Before you come aboard, take a step back and make sure it works with your brand – and the audience you want to reach.

Are the ready to embrace the feminine?

I don’t like stereotypes, but I recently saw this quote: “Men are from Google+, Women are from Pinterest” – and that’s getting it pretty close. Econsultancy looked into the demographics of Pinterest to discover that Pinterest users are largely female and young (between 25-44). Would your brand benefit from reaching out to women?

Pinterest isn’t one for conversation.

If you’re expecting to make connections and engage in conversation – like on Twitter or LinkedIn – Pinterest is not going to meet expectations. Think of Pinterest as more of an ideas exchange – tutorials, recipes, etc…

It’s all about the visual.

Pinterest is a feast for the eyes. If you can’t find a way to make it visual, then it doesn’t make sense for your brand to be there.

So who can make it work on Pinterest?

Pinterest is better suited for consumer marketing than B2B, where relationships matter so much more. Martha Stewart has amassed almost 19,000 followers, with pins focusing on food, crafts and DIY projects. Boston jeweler Gemvara is a good fit for Pinterest – the company decided to join after noticing that their customers were already posting pictures of their products. Even the U.S. Army seems to have found a way to represent themselves on Pinterest, using both historical and current photos to show the Army “then and now” – with pins for patriotic recipes and crafts thrown in as well.

Is your company using Pinterest in an interesting way? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Are you a banker interested in social media? Read “Social Anxiety”  from last summer’s issue of  Bank Director.