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There’s Nothing Wrong with “Dear Valued Customer!”

How do you react when a letter from your bank addresses you as “Dear Valued Customer?” Does it make you feel valued? Probably not! Still, we readily admit, there are many instances when a generic salutation may be the best way to go.

After more than 22 years of experience in developing bank communications and working closely with bank data files, MKP communications inc. has gained a unique perspective on the pros and cons of personalized vs. standardized salutations.

For many banks, the address block of a data file becomes a catch-all for additional information including legal designations like “custodian” or “incompetent” or “deceased.” We think “Dear Valued Customer” starts to sound pretty good when compared to “Dear James Smith Incompetent!”

Another possible pitfall relates to the quality or accuracy of the input. It’s not uncommon for customer information to be entered incorrectly when accounts are opened. Any errors might appear on the envelope (or through a window), but repeating those errors in a salutation just exacerbates the problem.

With business databases, we find that few banks are confident they can supply clean, updated contact names. Even Private Clients and Commercial Bank customers, who tend to receive highly personalized service from a Relationship Manager, can present a challenge because their address information is not systematically and centrally maintained.

One size doesn’t necessarily fit all when it comes to salutations. Some banks prefer to address their customers by name, despite the downside. At MKP, we know how to programmatically support this strategy, and we implement it on many of our communication assignments. However, we’ve learned that most customers are indifferent to the salutation on a bank communication. It’s the message that matters to customers, not how the message is addressed.

So remember, Dear Valued Reader: it’s ok to use a generic salutation for your mass customer communications!

MKP communications inc. is a New York City based communications company that delivers spot-on strategy, smart, fresh creative, combined with flawless execution, for financial services clients.

Ensuring That Your Brand Is Giving Its All!

At MKP, we believe that brands need to keep growing and adapting over time. After all, your brand supports your company’s performance by helping to retain existing customers and attract new customers for your products and services.

Keeping your brand fresh is especially important given the influx of new technologies, ever-shifting customer demographics and consumer desires. It’s when your brand stops evolving that the challenges begin!

If you suspect that your brand has become a little stale, here are a few suggestions to ensure that your brand continues to work harder than ever.

Take your brand out to lunch.

Find a convenient date on the schedule and gather the troops, including marketing, product and customer contact staff, for a brainstorming session about your brand and how it’s performing. An offsite location like a restaurant is ideal, because you’ll want people to be as relaxed and forthcoming as possible. Start kicking around questions like these:

  • What makes us different as a company?
  • How do our products and services play into that difference?
  • How do we want to define ourselves?
  • What is our corporate personality? Warm and fuzzy? Kooky and irreverent?
  • Are our personality and the way we define or think about ourselves aligned?
  • What do our loyal customers say about us?
  • Why did our former customers leave?
  • Are there any marketing campaigns or promotions that have worked well this year? And how about initiatives that haven’t worked well?

Your goal should be to come away with a clear idea of your company’s strengths from the customer perspective. The team should also be able to clearly articulate how you define yourself. In addition you need to make sure that your company’s personality and your  view of it, are aligned. You have to confidently say, “We’re the company that does X better than our competitors and this is why our customers choose us.” If your current brand doesn’t work to crystallize these sentiments, you need to refocus it.

Think of your brand constantly.

To many people, a brand is little more than a logo, tagline, color scheme and maybe a mission statement. It is so much more! In addition to the creative elements such as color palette, typography, usage of photography that support a brand, you should develop brand guidelines that include:

  • Brand promise – This is the contract you make with your customers. It’s a commitment to what your customers can expect, and what you hope to gain from them in return. And this promise is vitally important, because it helps to lay the groundwork for all of your customer interactions.
  • Brand voice – How do you talk about yourself both through words and imagery? Are you friendly and open, or formal and serious? This is influenced by your offering and your promise, and it has to be consistent.
  • Brand integration – Branding MUST extend to every aspect of your business, from how you answer the phones to how you phrase every customer communication, no matter the channel. Everything you communicate, all the way down to the style of your employee email signatures, should be infused with your brand.

Show your brand off.

Once you’ve defined your brand and extended it throughout your company, how do you get the word out? Following are a few simple tips:

  • Use your logo strategically and frequently; while ensuring that the placement reflects your personality and how you think about your brand.
  • Develop all written communications and visual imagery keeping your brand voice and promise in mind.
  • If you create a tagline, make sure it’s memorable and provides a meaningful and concise statement that reflects your brand promise.
  • Design templates and create standards for all marketing marketing materials that reflect your brand guidelines.
  • Be true to your brand. Customers won’t return to you, or refer you to others, if you don’t deliver on your brand promise.
  • Be authentic. Don’t use your tagline or mission statement as a crutch, so you’re repeating rote phrases to your customers. Keep looking for different statements and actions that express your brand promise in fresh and believable ways.

And above all, remember this: your brand needs to continuously evolve to reflect your company and the benefits of your product or service relative to an ever-changing market. A  successful brand takes constant nurturing. But we promise, if you make the ongoing effort, the rewards will make it all worthwhile!

MKP communications inc. is a New York City based communications company that delivers spot-on strategy, smart, fresh creative, combined with flawless execution, for financial services clients.

Data Security – The Secret To A Good Nights Sleep.

“U.S employee data breach tied to Chinese intelligence” & “I.R.S. Data Breach May Be Sign of More Personalized Schemes.” These headlines could make you believe that someone stealing your clients’ data is inevitable. The scary thing is, it’s not the hackers that are the largest source of data breaches. The 2015 Cost of Data Breach Study by the Ponemon Institute, a data-protection think tank, indicates that two-thirds of all global data breaches stemmed from human error and internal system problems. That’s a statistic that will certainly cause anyone responsible for the integrity of client data to lose sleep.

“The bottom line is that it isn’t just an IT problem” says Hillary Kelbick, President of MKP communications inc., “it’s every team member’s concern, regardless of whether you are a small marketing firm with 15 employees like MKP, or a multinational corporation with thousands of employees.”

Kelbick goes on to say “companies have to approach the challenge from two directions; implement the best technology they can afford to safeguard client data, and ensure their employees understand their responsibility to keep all clients’ data safe and act to minimize risk. ”

Businesses need to develop and implement policies and procedures that reduce the possibility that human error will cause Non-Public Information (NPI) to fall into the wrong hands. The fact that employees are constantly on the go and need to remain plugged in increases the risks of NPI being compromised and the corresponding importance of having policies and procedures in place to mitigate the risk.

As an example, MKP has implemented a robust Information Security Policy that is reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that it incorporates the latest security standards. The policy:

  • Defines the roles and responsibilities of all team members,
  • Outlines operational workflows for receiving customer data via a secure SFTP site,
  • Provides a comprehensive overview office’s physical security,
  • Articulates data asset classification and corresponding procedures for storage and maintaining data security.

“Because we work primarily with financial institutions that are regulated by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, we base our privacy &security policies on the “Financial Institutions and Customer Information: Complying with the Safeguards Rule” as outlined in the GLB Act” says David Gaull, Director of Operations. For companies that are regulated by the GLBA, noncompliance could result in:

  • Civil monetary fines of varying amounts up to $1 million or more,
  • Prison sentences of up to five years,
  • Lower examination ratings and increased reporting requirements, and
  • Enforcement actions, which can include board resolutions, memorandums of understanding, written agreements, and cease and desist orders.

Every member of the MKP team understands that client data is sacred and works to safeguard it. NPI is only accessed via secure servers and is never accessed from a mobile device. If there is a need to download NPI onto an employee’s computer, it is digitally shredded using US DOD compliant 7-way random write procedure, when no longer needed. “Keeping client’s data secure is of the utmost importance for all team members. We want to sleep soundly at night and that is only possible knowing that we have done our best to ensure the security of our client’s data.” says Gaull.

MKP communications inc. is a New York City based communications company that delivers spot-on strategy, smart, fresh creative, combined with flawless execution, for financial services clients.

Embracing Multi-channel Marketing

Let’s face it, as marketers we face a big challenge these days getting our message across to our target audiences. In the Mad Men era, all we had to worry about was print, radio and a dozen TV channels. But today, consumers are researching and making purchase decisions across many, many different platforms/channels including:

  • Retail stores
  • Paid and organic search
  • Websites
  • Direct mail
  • Email
  • Catalogs
  • Mobile and more

These days, potential customers can be anywhere. So the savvy marketer develops multi-channel marketing strategies to find them, persuade them, and help them make a purchase when, where, and how they want.

What does this get you?

  • Improved brand exposure: By developing multiple avenues for conveying your message, you’ll improve overall brand recognition and your ability to attract new customers.
  • More point-of-sale options: The more channels you can provide, the greater your chances of completing the sale.
  • Better data: Having more touch points in your marketing funnel allows you to collect more customer data, which will help you understand how well your promotions are working and where they work best.
  • A stronger brand: as you adapt your brand to work in multiple channels, you get to hone your message and find new ways to deliver clear, compelling customer benefits that work best in the channels in which they live.

Challenges

While there’s a tremendous advantage to providing customers with multiple channels to interact with your business, there are some drawbacks:

  • Your business might align with a single channel: Multi-channel marketing is easier for some companies than others. For example, if your product is complex, it may be better suited to in-person meetings or over-the-phone conversations to close the sale. However, you can still use multiple channels to generate leads, convey information and increase overall brand awareness.
  • Your marketing mix can become harder to manage: Successful multi-channel marketing requires a broader skill set, which can be overwhelming because businesses are always in the learning mode. In addition, the offers and corresponding consumer experience all need to align, which is not an easy task.
  • It can be more expensive: Multi-channel marketing takes more resources, in terms of time and budget.  But the upside potential will make the added effort and expense worth it.

Tips for succeeding

  • Avoid silos: Make sure your customers and prospects have the best possible experience regardless of channel. Responsiveness and ease of ordering need to be carefully monitored, whether in-store, online, mobile, or over the phone. Never forget, people who have had a negative experience are happy to share it with others!
  •  Test, test and test again: Don’t be afraid to test different offers across channels and make sure you understand and optimize based on the results.
  •  Talk to customers in their preferred channel:  some people prefer the phone, some email, and others want person-to-person interaction. Develop a customer database that includes preferred channels, and you’ll increase your overall response.
  • Listen to your audience: Start with the platforms \ channels that make sense for your business. But if something is not working after a reasonable test period, move on. In today’s multi-channel world, there are always more options to consider!

MKP communications inc. is a New York City based communications company that delivers spot-on strategy, smart, fresh creative, combined with flawless execution, for financial services clients.

Yes, it’s a digital world, but guess what? DM is becoming the hot new choice.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, the death of direct mail (DM) has been greatly exaggerated. After years of dire predictions that DM will wither in our electronic age, response rates are growing and new DM technologies are making the mailbox the new place to be. Here are a few reasons why you should be adding new, cutting-edge DM to your marketing plans:

  1. It’s more targetable – technology is changing the landscape of direct mail. Over the years, marketers have collected vast amounts of data on consumers and the ability to deliver targeted messages via direct mail has improved significantly. This means that marketers no longer have to cast a wide net with a single offer. They now have the ability to send personalized offers that resonate with the consumer, improving the likelihood of response.
  2. It’s more cost effective –Improvements in printing techniques, such as 4-color digital, allow marketers to more cost effectively print short runs for smaller, targeted campaigns. In addition, pre-sort services, commingling opportunities and the ability to drive mail deep into the mail system all save time and reduce postage costs.
  3. It’s more personal – according to the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA’s) first attitudinal print tracking report, 74% of surveyed consumers reported that personalization in DM is important to them. These same consumers feel that direct mail affords more security and privacy than digital communications. And it’s no wonder – just look at the recent spate of security breaches and phishing scams that make consumers more leery of opening unsolicited emails. David Gaull, Director of Operations for MKP communications inc. says that “direct mail has another advantage over email, and that is the ability to make it stand out in a consumer’s mail box. Marketers can create direct mail that is intriguing and makes recipients want to open. In addition, mail can work in conjunction with digital initiatives, either pre- or post delivery, driving a consumer to a website for more information and for fulfillment.”
  4. It’s immediate – according to the DMA’s 2014 statistical fact book, 70% to 80% of consumers polled say they open most of their mail, including solicitations. The USPS reports that 38.4% to 62.8% of household heads—a median of 45.4%—report “immediately” reading direct mail. Compare that to the emails languishing in your spam filter. Looked at them lately?
  5. It meets legal mandates – While there has been progress in allowing alternate electronic delivery of legally mandated communications, customers must opt-in to receive notices electronically. The challenge of managing multiple delivery options means that financial service providers quite often default to direct mail to ensure they are in compliance with the myriad regulatory mandates.
  6. It works – The DMA recently reported that the average response rates for direct mail have climbed to 4.4% for both B2B and B2C mailings—considerably higher than industry expectations, and surging past electronic mail’s miserly response rate of just 0.12%. In addition, the report indicates that that the cost per lead of direct mail is in-line with print and pay-per-click, and significantly less than telemarketing.

There is a very healthy place for DM in the marketing mix. The savvy marketer develops marketing programs that reach customers and prospects where they are, and offers multiple options for responding.

MKP communications inc. is a New York City based communications company that delivers spot-on strategy, smart, fresh creative, combined with flawless execution, for financial services clients.

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