Don’t Get Left on the Sidelines: Aligning Marketing and Execution

By Sean C. Payant, Ph.D., Chief Consulting Officer, Haberfeld

The marketing process is a little like the dreaded team selection in gym class. Two captains are appointed and they take turns picking their team from the kids on the sideline. “Pick me! Pick me,” some plead; others stand quietly, just hoping to be noticed. No one wants to be picked last.

As an industry, we spend vast amounts of money, not to mention time and internal resources, for the purpose of marketing our banks—to get them to choose us. We brand. We market. We craft creative campaigns and blanket with direct advertising.  We create television and radio spots.  We orchestrate social media initiatives. The role of the marketing professional is to get consumers—the team captains—to pick our bank first.  We are the kids standing in line saying, “Pick me! Pick me!”

What Happens When You Get Picked?

Perhaps you’ve had this experience: you walk into the restaurant and read the specials board while you wait to be seated.  Later, when your server approaches the table, you ask him or her about the daily specials. Their response: “I just got here,” or, “Let me check.”  The specials board, aka marketing, did its job. It got you to ask questions and initiate a conversation, but the server didn’t have answers. This is a major fail.

Our banks are no different. Experience has taught us that targeted, narrowly cast marketing gets people in a bank’s doors. But, your team must be equipped to respond appropriately.  Far too often, frontline employees are the last to know about your marketing initiatives, let alone equipped to respond effectively when asked about our products and services.

When marketing gets you picked, it unfortunately doesn’t always mean you make the team. Making the team requires an organization-wide effort to capitalize on every opportunity. Marketing’s job is to create opportunities. The bank employee’s job is to capture the sale.  If these two purposes aren’t aligned, your efforts don’t just fall short, they can cause lasting damage. With consumers holding more and more control over your brand message as they post and tweet, the customer experience is paramount. Simply put, unless there is alignment between marketing and execution, much of the marketing department’s effort is in vain.

How Do We Build Alignment?

For marketing initiatives to truly succeed an organization must commit to ongoing education. Every employee must be prepared to respond appropriately to opportunities. In any situation, employees must have one of two types of expertise: (1) knowledge regarding the specific product or service being discussed, or (2) the knowledge and skill to make a professional referral to the expert. Building true alignment between marketing and execution depends on three factors: product knowledge, customer service and accountability.

Product Knowledge

With any marketing initiative, the bank’s employees must understand the offer and the fulfillment process. This goes beyond just providing a marketing piece or a digital file of a television or radio clip.  It should include product training:

  • What is the product?
  • How does it work?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • Why would a customer want this product, or specifically, how does it make the customer’s life better?
  • How do we clearly ask for the sale?

It is important to understand that product knowledge training is not a “one-and-done” event. If you don’t have an ongoing training plan, your team members will quickly lose essential knowledge. In fact, with inadequate product knowledge, employees will miss buying clues, or even ignore them, not wanting to look uninformed.

Customer Service

Ask bank executives why consumers should pick their bank and the response is always something like, “Our service is wonderful.”  In reality, it’s not.  As bankers, we put ordinary on a pedestal every day and try and convince ourselves and our customers that it’s actually extraordinary. For the most part, our customer service standards are unclear. It is crucial that consumers who pick your bank have an experience that complements your marketing efforts. Most organizations do very little to craft the customer experience. Employees are simply told, “Provide great customer service.”  But, they are never shown what is actually expected of them beyond a few basic behaviors.

Beyond basic behaviors, there is another level of customer service, “excellence.” Every employee should ask themselves, “What can I do so that, when this customer leaves, they feel special?” This extra effort is what takes service beyond simply going through the motions and creates a truly extraordinary customer experience—the kind they’ll want to tell others about.

Unless you have clear service expectations that are regularly trained, coached and modeled, it is unlikely your team is consistently providing the level of service necessary to complement your bank’s marketing efforts.  Then again, even if you do have clear service expectations, how do you really know that they are being reliably executed?  It starts with accountability.


Accountability is really about measuring and reporting.  The most successful organizations establish clear service standards and back them with specific customer acquisition goals. As the accompanying chart illustrates, training and mystery shopping can drive improvement to your marketing results. Client data shows financial institutions that mystery shop AND retrain employees at least annually experience a 19% lift in openings when compared to clients that neither shop nor train. When employees know we are measuring something, they will work to achieve it.  When employees are properly equipped, know what they need to achieve, and are accountable, results follow.

Where Do We Go From Here?

As captains pick their teams, we all want to be picked first. But regardless of the draft order, it is essential that your marketing AND execution are aligned so you always make the team.  Without a clear plan that includes product-knowledge training, customer service standards and training, and accountability, your organization may well be left on the sidelines.


Sean C. Payant, Ph.D., is Chief Consulting Officer at Haberfeld Holdings, a data-driven consulting firm specializing in core relationships, customer, and profitability growth for community-based financial institutions. Sean can be reached at 402.323-3614 or