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More advertising is not the answer.

"Only 26 percent of the average bank's customers expressed any interest in considering that banker their next financial purchase."

"In the post two years overall loyalty to brands (has) declined by 11 percent."

"Last year ad spending at large banks increased 10.8 percent"

--American Banker, August 18 and 22, 2003, citing Forrester Research and Goldman Sachs

Sometimes, lightning strikes twice. We found ourselves at one of the large discount electronic retailers--the same place we bought our last television--in need of a new one. "Shopping for a television?" we heard. It was our neighbors Bill and Sally. "Yes," I answered. "That lightning last week knocked out the television in our bedroom."

"Just one?" Bill asked. All four of their televisions had been knocked out; it was the second time for them to be struck in 10 years. Bill, a lawyer always ready to ply his negotiation skills, suggested we pool our needs and see if together we could get a "five-set discount."

The store had rows of televisions. We had already navigated through flat screen, high definition, custom, SONY, Samsung and a plethora of sizes. We had finally narrowed down our choices, and so had Bill and Sally. Bill approached the nearest salesperson and asked, "If we buy five TV sets, what kind of discount can you come up with?"

Obviously underempowered, the salesperson was caught off guard. "Well ... maybe ... sometimes they do that ... I'll have to ask my manager," he offered as he edged away.

I saw him talking to a guy about two rows away--the same one I had chatted with a couple of minutes earlier. I remembered his name tag said "store manager." The salesperson returned after a few moments.

"No, we can't do anything."

That's all. No, "I'm sorry we can't budge on the price, but on delivery and installation I can give you a good deal." Just one delivery stop for five sets should have been worth something. No manager coming over to say, "I would like to find a way to do business with you."

What happened to the buying experience?

Apparently the manager was willing to avoid us and our business in order to bypass a "conversation" about price. Yet, he was this close to selling five TVs. We were predisposed to buy--just a little encouragement probably would have done the deal. We had offered what seemed like an opportunity for both sides and had been rebuffed. We all left without buying anything.

That company spends millions on advertising and branding to get people like us in its stores. The company has held down costs like a bad cowlick so they can price their goods competitively. So why did the sales manager and salesperson avoid a discussion, a handshake, some sort of nod to close the deal?

All the focus on price and the ease of comparison pricing on the Internet seems to have convinced managers and salespeople that price is all that matters, even though research and experience say price is most often a disqualifier. Where we buy is often tied to how we feel about the buying experience. Has the buying experience ever been worse?

Live the brand

It's a vicious circle. Receiving nominal relationship value in the buying experience, the customer focuses on price. The salespeople perceive price to be most important, so they forego basic attempts at relationship ("We can't do anything.") Which turns up the pressure on pricing, which....

What are the odds of a company hilling aggressive revenue growth targets when only 26 percent of its current clients are even interested in considering it for their next purchase? Right up there with getting snuck by lightning twice. Wonder what it would take to get marketing and sales to lock arms and live the brand?

Robert Hall is group executive for EnAct, a business of the Carrketer Corp., which is based in Dallas, with offices in Atlanta, London, Sydney and Toronto. Telephone: (972) 851-1174; e-mail:
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Title Annotation:Marketing Solutions
Author:Hall, Robert
Publication:ABA Bank Marketing
Date:Nov 1, 2003
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