Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Anne Rivers Tries the "High-Wire": The Banker, the Marketing Guru, and the 15% Profit Shot. (Risk Management)

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Anne Rivers Tries the "High-Wire": The Banker, the Marketing Guru, and the 15% Profit Shot. (Risk Management)

Article excerpt

Monday, 7:38 AM

Oh no, I thought. Not again.

I was in my boss' office. It was Monday morning, so early the coffee still smelled fresh.

"Something wrong, Pete?" I said, taking a seat.

"Actually, yes," he said. "You know that management conference I attend every year? Well, I was there last week, and it finally hit me, where we're missing the boat."

This was the point where I groaned to myself. Every time our CEO, Pete Crandall, went to this meeting, he came back thinking BIG THOUGHTS. And for some reason, his bright ideas always seemed to mean more work for me--the SVP for lending.

"Missing the boat?" I asked as innocently as I could muster.

"Yes. It's our marketing, Anne. It stinks. Our whole approach. We do marketing the same way we did 20 years ago."

"Well, I wouldn't say that..." I began. We'd stopped giving out toasters, after all.

"Close enough. Anyway, not like we should in the 21st century. Face it, Anne. A bank offers a commodity product." Here, I could almost picture the tanned management guru who had made this speech at the resort last week.

"Sure, we can differentiate ourselves with better service, better branch locations, some nice product features," Pete said as he ticked the points off on his big fingers. "But basically, we're selling the same stuff everyone else sells. Identical! So, how are we going to win?"

"By marketing better?" I ventured, seeing the train coming down the tunnel.

"Exactly! Exactly!" Pete enthused, the vein in his forehead twitching as it did whenever he grew angry or excited. "But, let's face it, we don't really have the right resources, the right talent for that, in house."

"Don't we?" I said. "I think April does a nice job."

"She does, she does, but her role is advertising, sales training, promotions--nuts and bolts. We need someone who can give us a strategic approach. Someone with vision. Someone who can think outside the box!"

Oh, gag, I groaned silently again, dread creeping into me.

Pete went on. "So," he said, "I've engaged a marketing consultant. She'll start with lending products--your area. And she'll be here tomorrow morning."

Tuesday, 9:15 AM

"Hmm." Sharon Olin frowned. She was flipping through our marketing brochures and ad copy, purple fingernails discarding each item faster than the last. A bit late for Halloween, I thought.

Obviously, she was not impressed. I wondered, given that she made her living as a professional savior, if she ever was.

"Hmm," I heard again as she pushed waves of black hair back from her face. Finally she looked up, picked an invisible speck of lint from the sleeve of her stylish black suit, plastered a transparently insincere smile on her face, and said, "So. Well. We have our work cut out, don't we?"

"Well, I'd love to sharpen up our graphics," I said, trying to sound cooperative. If we spent more money, we could make them a lot more... um... eye-catching."

The smile morphed from phony to condescending.

"Eye-catching is the least of our problems, believe me. You're right, of course, that these graphics are pathetic, but you need to understand that my firm is not an ad agency. We are Strategic Marketing Consultants. What we're going to do for you goes deep, deep, deep below the surface, right down into your products, your pricing, your whole approach to the customer. We're going to make you a lot more money.

More money is good, I thought. My lending groups were running behind plan for the year. In fact, it was making me nervous, because I had a vacation coming up--an anniversary trip to Paris. My husband had planned it, and I couldn't cancel it (if I wanted to stay married). But, I'd been losing sleep about my anemic numbers.

"Great," I said. "Tell me what you want me to do."

A month later, Wednesday, 7:38 AM

Famous last words. …

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