06 November 2008

Marketing for Retail Banking in CEE countries

Having been invited to present in front of about two dozen CRM & Marketing Managers of a leading CEE retail bank, this taught me valuable lessons from the trenches. As there are many CEE banks headquarterted in Austria, like Raiffeisen International, Bank Austria UniCredit, Erste Bank, Volksbank, Hypo Alpe Adria, there is a vibrant demand for our specialized knowledge in marketing strategy and implementation.

My presentation was specifically tailored to case studies in direct marketing in CEE (Central and Eastern European) countries. The group of managers - from 14 countries - was quite young, highly professional, and very much interested in the practical aspects of how to make such direct response marketing work in the field.

They had already covered different areas of their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) work: data quality & architecture, analytical CRM solutions, marketing communication, principles of direct marketing, campaign execution & measurement.

In our preparation, presentation and discussion of the direct marketing topic for CEE I emphasized and found some valuable aspects that turn out to be keys for success in retail banking marketing in CEE:

1. Disciplined campaign planning & preparation are even more important in order to get all the elements together (list, offer, creative/phone script, budget, provider), as timing is always critical

2. Different languages need not be a barrier to exchange and learning, however team leaders must make an effort to bring the teams together regularly (like my client did) and to have an ongoing tool for communication in between meetings

3. Database availability and quality (even internal data) vary widely across countries and require substantial effort to clean and to maintain, where modern tools help but still require "brain" and personal effort

4. Training and coaching of the local CRM and marketing professionals in learning and using modern direct marketing tools and technology are absolutely necessary; as a result the team has demonstrated, how these efforts deliver high impact for their motivation and ensure profitable campaign outcomes

5. Marketing campaign execution requires strong leadership in order to get all the local and central resources to align for higher results as so much can go wrong - and much will go wrong! All plans are in vain, if there is a lack of follow-up and detailed attention. This seems to be the most important success factor to me.

6. As direct marketing delivers measurable results in retail sales, i.e. number of new loans, number of credit cards, usage of credit cards, up-selling of insurances, cross-promotion of savings products, acquisition of high net-worth clients, etc., these campaigns do have a real impact on the earnings of the bank.

7. The team showed a high amount of creativity in designing and developing campaigns; this shows that motivation arises not only from the final outcome, but also from the thinking and testing of fun and interesting promotions that eventually deliver the intended results.

All together, I learned a lot about dealing with practical problems in the field, fighting with data, technology, processes, quota, and a lot more every day - and still delivering bottom-line results. With their drive and determination for success these up & coming marketers have impressed me very much. I am sure, we will hear from them again.

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