Every bank and credit union communicates with customers/members around holidays, whether it’s because of holiday promotions, bank holiday hours, or just fun social posts tying into the spirit of the season. In this edition of Compound Interest, we will discuss strategies that financial institutions can implement to make the most of these communications.
Spring Into Promotional Season With St. Patrick’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day may not be the first holiday that comes to mind for most people, but for financial services marketers, it’s a symbolic date because of when it falls on the calendar. After the first two months of the year, March is when bank promotional windows seem to really kick into bloom. Several bank products, such as HELOCs and mortgages, tend to ramp up in spring, but outside of product seasonality, spring fever can help stimulate optimism, travel, and consumer activity, which can have a positive downstream effect for banks. St. Patrick’s Day is the first in line, but not too far after it is Memorial Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day, and before we know it, the year is half over.
Having a purposeful plan in place going into spring is helpful for picking your battles. Holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day aren’t going to be the right time to make a splash for every bank or credit union. You can be more efficient and effective by focusing your efforts on holidays or events that tie into your brand or that are especially important to your local community. One example for St. Patrick’s Day is Grow Financial Credit Union sponsoring the Mayor’s River O’ Green Fest in Tampa.
The city of Tampa dyes the Hillsborough River green every St. Patrick’s Day. Sponsoring this event makes sense for Grow Financial for several reasons. Typical of most credit unions, the local community is important to Grow Financial, and St. Patrick’s Day is important to Tampans as it ranks as one of the best cities in the U.S. to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. It also doesn’t hurt that Grow Financial’s primary brand color is green. Being able to dye an entire river that runs right through your market your brand color but do so as part of holiday festivities that your local community is passionate about is a win-win.
Being Selective About Which Holidays To Go Big On
Simply putting more emphasis on big holidays versus smaller ones can be a shortsighted approach. A lot of criteria can be in play when selecting which holidays to put more emphasis on. Below are a few of the most important considerations to plan for:
1. Holidays Can Be an Emotional Time – for larger holidays especially, emotions can run hot during these times of the year. CX is at the core of everything financial services providers do, so it’s key to factor behavioral psychology into our communications. The November/December timeframe is what first comes to mind for most of us when we think about the holidays, and while this can be a wonderful time of year, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s also an especially anxious time of year for many. While you can’t solve that problem for your customers, it doesn’t mean you can’t be purposeful about easing some of the causes of it. The financial stress that comes with preparing for the holidays can be immense. A cashback offer when customers or prospects are beginning their holiday shopping can be a great way to ease this burden a bit for customers while improving your market share just before a key time of year when consumer spending skyrockets. Here’s an example from one of our clients, Centra Credit Union, where they used the holidays as an opportunity to promote their Cashback Checking Account and offered a $50 deposit for new accounts.
Other times of the year also come with psychological levers that you should be thoughtful about. We already touched on Spring earlier, but this is frequently a time of optimism and is when homeowners are most likely to take on a new home project. The Fourth of July is a time when patriotism is at a high and is, of course, a prime travel time for families with children. A deep understanding of your customer base’s psychographic makeup can be a powerful tool in helping predict what your target’s emotional state might be during these key times of the year. This can not only help you in determining what types of promotions will be most fitting during these holidays, but it can also enable you to show empathy and understanding in your messaging, which can be such a powerful differentiator for small and regional financial institutions when going up against big national competitors for market share.
2. Tailor to Your Customer/Prospect Base – Another way to select holidays is by looking at your current customer base as well as your ideal new customer targeting profile. This can not only be a great way to be selective about promotions tied to holidays but can also serve as an opportunity to buck a stereotype in a way that aligns with your target audience. For instance, if you’re currently targeting females that are between the ages of 25 and 45 for checking growth but you also know that a high percentage of the mothers in your target geography are working moms, what better time to run a checking promo around Mother’s Day with messaging that doesn’t alienate any moms (after all, being a mother is the hardest job of them all), but is thoughtful about not inadvertently portraying any traditional mother stereotypes. The same logic can be applied to Father’s Day by running a promotion that allows the modern dad to win an experience they can enjoy with their kids rather than buying them the next round of beer and wings at the local sports bar.
3. Find Where You Can Offer Advice or Value – This ties back to thinking about where your target audience might be mentally during a certain time of year or holiday. Is it likely that they have something weighing on them at that time, like the annual family vacation, going back to school, applying to jobs after graduation, or paying taxes? If so, consider how you can help. Every time you offer value won’t simply be due to a promotion you’re running. Maybe you can offer timely seasonal advice instead. This is yet another way to determine which holidays are right for you to make a big splash for and which ones you may want to not sit out but have a lighter touch for.
Communicate Holiday Hours To Stay Top of Mind
While much of this article is tied to thoughts around promotions and attracting new customers, the holidays also offer a greater opportunity to stay in front of your existing customers. Being top of mind is essential to both growing and protecting share of wallet. It’s critical to communicate closures around federal holidays as well as adjusted hours around holidays or events that you’re not closed for. There are two key items to keep in mind when doing this:
1. The first is to be thoughtful about the mix of channels you’re using to communicate closures/hour modifications. Knowing your customers’ preferences and behaviors can help with this, but it’s a good general rule of thumb not to exclude any of your customers from knowing this information. It’s important to not only think about outbound channels but to also consider where customers or members might go to seek this information themselves. On top of your website, you can also set holiday hours or event hours in Google Business Profile. Doing this will help make sure that users who are checking from an online search or voice search will get the most up-to-date information.
2. Next is to consider when making these communications if any current promotions you have going on are applicable to existing customers. If they are, remembering to plug them when communicating about modified hours can give the promotion a nice boost without harassing customers about the promo. With it being a secondary message, it’s not an annoyance, but since it’s going out through multiple channels, it presents an opportunity to plug the promo and test which channels were most effective at driving promotional messaging to existing customers.
Have Some Fun With Holiday Messaging
Humor is a frequent and polarizing topic for bank marketers. While the industry is frequently cited for being too serious, there are some good reasons that not all financial institutions find that humor is the right path for them. One is the valid concern of it feeling unauthentic or forced due to not previously being part of their brand identity. Another concern is that it can set an expectation to continue with humor while requiring that messaging is refreshed frequently, so it doesn’t get old. That’s not a complete list of the concerns, but we mention those two because they’re ones that are alleviated during the holidays. Consumers expect companies to have some fun around the holidays, and that expectation makes it more likely for humorous messaging around the holidays to humanize the brand than to make it feel unauthentic. Consumers also know that it’s common for brands to step slightly out of character for special occasions, so there’s no real expectation for the brand to then continue to be humorous in subsequent marketing efforts.
Gear Up for the Holidays
Hopefully, this article inspired you to ramp up your holiday messaging and promotional planning. If you would like some help thinking through the right approach for your brand, give us a call at (502) 499-4209 or drop us a note here to have one of our experts reach out to you.