Using 'Social Prospecting' to Grow Customer Relationships: Bank Marketers Can Strengthen Customer Relationships and Expand Cross-Selling by Borrowing a Technique Widely Used by Financial Advisers: Sponsoring Customer Appreciation and Referral Events

By Cates, Bill | ABA Bank Marketing, March 2012 | Go to article overview

Using 'Social Prospecting' to Grow Customer Relationships: Bank Marketers Can Strengthen Customer Relationships and Expand Cross-Selling by Borrowing a Technique Widely Used by Financial Advisers: Sponsoring Customer Appreciation and Referral Events


Cates, Bill, ABA Bank Marketing


SOCIAL PROSPECTING, QUITE SIMPLY, IS THE USE OF SOCIAL ENVIRONMENTS TO IDE NTI FY, meet and grow relationships with qualified prospects. I The technique is widely used by financial advisers for harder-to-reach prospects--especially among the affluent and wealth. But social prospecting can also be used by bank marketers to solidify relationships with high-value customers and to identify prospects for cross-selling. Not only is this an effective marketing strategy, it's also a lot of fun!

Financial advisers find that while many of their new prospects are ready to discuss their financial situation and financial goals with the adviser on the very first appointment, many others are not. A number of solid prospects would prefer to meet the adviser in a more social setting first--to get a feel for the adviser. Do they like the adviser? Do they trust the adviser? And so forth. Bank marketers can use the same approach with their high-value customers. By using referral events and other social prospecting tactics, banks can reach many more high-level prospects--especially among the affluent and wealthy--than they may be reaching now.

Examples of social prospecting

Social prospecting encompasses a wide range of activities. Here are a few you might consider:

* Client or customer appreciation events.

* Referral events (event marketing).

* Community service activities.

* Charity events (philanthropic endeavors).

* Club memberships.

* Hobby or special interest groups.

In this article, I'll touch on two of these activities: client or customer appreciation events and referral events.

Client or customer appreciation events

I'd like to draw a distinction between what are called client or customer appreciation events and referral events. In a nutshell, a client or customer appreciation event is some sort of social gathering (fancy or informal) with the sole purpose of saying "thank you" to one or more clients or customers. The purpose of a referral event, while the activity can be the same, is for one or more clients or customers to bring one or more prospects to meet you or other bank personnel.

The trouble I often see with these events is that the hosts try to turn a client or customer appreciation event into a referral event. They try to do a "hybrid." While hybrids have their place, I believe you will see better results with most of your events if you limit them to one purpose--either appreciate the business (to build loyalty) or host an event where your clients or customers are expected to introduce you to one or more prospects.

Customer appreciation events allow you to take your customer relationships to new levels of business friendship that probably wouldn't be possible through the normal course of business activities. This dynamic not only enhances client or customer loyalty, it also makes you more referable. People give referrals to people they like and trust. Client or customer appreciation events contribute significantly to this dynamic.

Referral events

You host a referral event for the express purpose of your clients or customers introducing you to prospects in a social environment. Be very clear with your customers about the purpose of this event. You'll have much more success this way. As a rule, you want to keep your referral events much smaller than your client or customer appreciation events. Remember, the purpose of a referral event is to create a solid connection between you and your new prospects. If you have too many prospects to meet, you may not connect well with any of them.

Referral event case studies

I'll draw from my experience with financial advisers to give some examples of referral events that can be adapted and modified for use by bank marketers.

Theater excursion. Don Green is a financial adviser near Detroit. Every year Don arranges for a two-day theater trip via motor coach; alternating between Chicago and Toronto. …

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Using 'Social Prospecting' to Grow Customer Relationships: Bank Marketers Can Strengthen Customer Relationships and Expand Cross-Selling by Borrowing a Technique Widely Used by Financial Advisers: Sponsoring Customer Appreciation and Referral Events
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