• Mike Hoffey

Who Is Our Customer?

Data saves the day when leadership and marketing are at odds over over the ideal customer really is.

The Project

I led a ground up website build for a local mid-tier bank. The project had amazing possibilities as the existing online presence of the bank was plain, complicated, and antiquated. The presence, or lack of a brand presence, was noticeable. The bank was competing in a shark-infested red ocean, and had not taken advantage of the opportunity to move to the un-chartered waters of the Blue Ocean (a great book by the way). So, here we go!

The Process

The agency of record has spent an exhaustive amount of time with internal stakeholder discovery sessions, stakeholders with minimal customer interaction. I heard what I expected. We can't compete against the big guys. Our website is clunky. The brand doesn't have energy. We need to make more money. And by the way, the website sucks, just in case you didn't hear that before. They were right. Straight out of the 80's.


We want to be seen by the public as a high net-worth bank. We want the largest percentage of our client base to have those characteristics.

The anecdotal insights helped to paint a picture. I needed more direction. Time to visit with the people who sign the paychecks, are were funding this $1,000,000 project. Hello, C-suite team.


Who We Want To Be

The leadership team was helpful. They knew the brand had gone stale and their website lacked innovation, simplicity, and intuitiveness. All fixable items. I took them through a persona and journey mapping exercise. We didn't get too far when one member said "we have discussed our brand strategy. We are a high net-worth bank. Attractive to people with a lot of money. We need to increase profit margins further. Those are our customers."


One Is The Loneliest Number

With a stable of branches in California, that made sense. They wanted to represent those attributes in the design. The research had shown these customer characteristics. What research? Turns out there was no research. This was a vision, an aspiration and the flames were being stoked daily by anecdotal feelings and push back from the field. I'm only a "yes" man when the research shows it. So I began to vet out if this single-minded thinking had value and was sustainable for a complete refresh of the bank's brand representation. Enter Nielsen.


The Audience

When I ran 250,000 customer profiles, at the household level, through a data mining exercise, I was excited and nervous. Would the results surprise me? Would I be looking for Rodeo Drive and multi-million dollar mansion images versus the rural farm fields of the Plains.


The results revealed that the audience was comprised of EVERY Claritas Prism segmentation cohorts. All 62 of them. There was customers in the millionaires club. But there were more customers in the "Shotguns and Pickups" and "Mines and Mills" categories - the lower end of the economic scale. More customers fell in to the cohort segments who are least likely to buy more products and services and have a higher probability of defection to the competition.


The Strategy

When the data was presented to the leadership team, they were frustrated. They began to play the blame game on one another. It was clear this audience was not standing in lobbies watching customers walk in. So I did. I visited 1/4 of all of the bank branches. Watched tellers in action. Looked at the type of cars customers drove and what they wore. Say customers leave for a $1 increase for a box of checks. Easily discerned that many people didn't have a wealth management advisor, because they didn't have extra wealth requiring investment and advice. Simple folk living paycheck to paycheck. I had my strategy.


* User personas showcasing a widest cross section of people

* Iconography that represented both the Heartland and the beach

* Simple content, like how to open a savings account or how to use remote deposit

* Educational videos establishing the values of the bank

* Blogs to educate and not oversell

* Opt in surveys


Launch Day

The party was more of a celebration that we learned more about our customers than we thought. That whiteboards with ideas only carry weight if it is reflective of who you are building for. That pretty colors and sand serif fonts are important, but not as important as research blazing the trail to build something that embodies and emulates our audience.