Cultivate Enthusiastic Fans: Definition of 'Fans': Customers Who Embrace Your Business Model and Corporate Culture and Become Part of Your Bank Community-And, Incidentally, Introduce Their Friends, Relatives and Neighbors to Your Brand

By Hill, Vernon; Andelman, Bob | ABA Bank Marketing, March 2013 | Go to article overview

Cultivate Enthusiastic Fans: Definition of 'Fans': Customers Who Embrace Your Business Model and Corporate Culture and Become Part of Your Bank Community-And, Incidentally, Introduce Their Friends, Relatives and Neighbors to Your Brand


Hill, Vernon, Andelman, Bob, ABA Bank Marketing


Editor's Note: When Vernon Hill founded Commerce Bank in Marlton, N.J. in 1973, he set out to build a "power" company modeled on America's most successful retailers--rather than a typical bank.

From a modest beginning with a single location and nine employees, the company grew at a rate of about 25 percent a year; making it at the time the fastest-growing bank in the United States. When Hill sold the .company in 2007, it had 440 branches in six states,. and $50 billion in assets.

Commerce, whose motto was "America's most convenient bank," was famous for its extended hours--during evenings and weekends--and for its "Kill the Stupid Rule" program that strived to eliminate rules that were not customer-friendly. It was also well-known jbr having free coin-counting machines in its lobbies that were available for use by both customers and noncustomers.

Since leaving Commerce, Hill became co-founder in 2010 of Metro Bank UK in London. This bank employs many of the same retailing and customer service strategies that guided the success of Commerce Bank

Hill recently published a book outlining his retailing and bank marketing philosophy. The book is entitled, "Fans! Not Customers: How to Create Growth Companies in a No. Growth World." In the excerpt presented here, Hill explains that a bank should aspire to create highly motivated bank fans--and seek to go beyond having merely passive, uninvolved customers.

THERE ARE CUSTOMERS, AND THERE ARE FANS. Customers are those people who come in, who bank with us, and who are almost indifferent to us. It's that convenience model, it's proximity; we are either in their building or around the corner, and they come to us. They start out being absolutely indifferent, and they are customers. We are perfectly happy having customers. But our goal is to convert them to fans.

Fans are customers who embrace your model and culture, become part of your community, and convert their friends to new customers of your brand.

The dimension that fans add is that willingness, when somebody is whining about their bank or some banking tactic, to say, "Oh, go to Metro, that's my bank!" Or when they see one of us away from the bank wearing a red Metro "M" pin, they walk up and say, "You work for Metro Bank?" And they quickly add, "That's my bank. I love that bank."

Every day, people say to Metro Bank team members, "I love this bank; I just love this bank. Every day, you do something that I never expected you to do. When I go into your stores, employees say `Hello,"Thank you they call me by my name, they tell me to have a great day, 'Is there anything else I can do for you?' I don't feel like there are any gimmicks or games being played when I come in to do banking."

When people talk about a bank that way, it's because we have created fans as opposed to customers.

If you don't do business with Metro Bank, you'll probably read this and think, "Come on! It's a bank, for crying out loud." The objective part of you cries out, "Banking is a commodity. One is just like the next and the next." (And Apple is just a computer company!) But there are people who sing our praises in centers of influence, to their neighbors, to someone they don't know sitting on the bus or tube seat next to them--and therein lies the fan.

Fifty percent of a company's business comes from family and friends saying, "I love that company." And to us therein lies the difference between screaming, raving fans and mere customers. Customers are indifferent. They like us, but they might never give us a rousing endorsement in a public place. That's the difference. And the more fans you have, it's like dispatching evangelists or disciples to sell your product.

The result of building fans was the internal deposit growth at Commerce Bank of 25 percent a year, compounded over 30 years.

Every great business will build fans.

How do we create fans? …

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