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Avoiding your Kodak moment: despite eastman Kodak's historic dominance in all things photographic, it recently descended into chapter 11 reorganization. This sad chapter in the story of an epic American brand offers some useful lessons to those of us in long-established, highly regarded, but technologically changing industries.

It should be noted that this iconic company actually failed many years ago when it decided to cede the growing market for digital photography to Canon, Nikon and Sony--despite having invented this new technology. Unlike IBM which, in light of the emergence of PCs, courageously transformed its entire business model from an increasingly low-margin computer manufacturer to a high-margin technology-focused consulting company, Kodak clung to its dominance in film production. Kodak stuck its head in the sand and hoped this digital trend would go away.

Of course, it didn't go away. And now Kodak is left with little but a portfolio of patents it is trying lo sell. While this is a sad ending to a once sterling brand, it may offer some useful insights to bank marketers charged with plotting their company's way forward in an increasingly instantaneous digital world.

The emergence of digital information and its immediacy benefits are transforming the convenience-hungry expectations of our clients. At the same lime, however, retiring Baby Boomers and time-challenged small-business owners are ever-more in need of in-depth, highly customized and valued, one-to-one personal advisory services.

The key opportunity here lies in understanding the differences in satisfying these two customer expectations and building a plan to balance them. It might be helpful to sort them into two broad groups of initiatives: "Technology Dependent" and "People Dependent."

Technology Dependent initiatives help people with those routine, daily banking activities saving them time and making every day paying, saving and borrowing easier and more time comfortable. The digital revolution and ever-more convenient telecommunications advances makes routine banking easy, convenient and almost fun. It also enables the assembly of valuable information for useful harvesting in the course of helping clients build better lives. However, the infrastructure and ongoing adaptation required to deliver these benefits is costly and managerially quite nettlesome.

People Dependent initiatives, on the other hand, occur less frequently but are perceived as having great value since they generally help clients with difficult or complex, but very important personal issues. For example, helping clients understand future retirement finances; or helping a small business finance its growth or exploit a new technology; or unraveling a persistent and costly credit trap are just a few of these high-value situations. They don't occur daily, but when they do, customers attach great value and loyalty to the help they receive.

Since it is very difficult to master all aspects of both of these increasingly challenging spheres, a strategy-may be required. You might choose a Technology Focused Strategy where your lead with exciting, proprietary technology and support it with modestly trained, low-cost employees in a call center or local branch. Alternatively, you might choose a Banker Focused Strategy where you lead with talented but more costly branch-based or mobile professionals and support them with technology provided by a competent technology partner. Engineering the correct balance, of course, depends on your market, target customers, technology options and staffing variables.

What's clear, though, is that to avoid your own Kodak moment, you'll need a clearly focused and well balanced combination of both to satisfy customers in the years ahead.



L. BIFF MOTLEY, is president of Motley & Associates, New Orleans He can be reached at (504) 593-9677.
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Author:Motley, Biff L.
Publication:ABA Bank Marketing
Date:Mar 1, 2012
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