5 Opportunities financial marketers miss during M+A
According to American Banker – the 2021 wave of financial mergers and acquisitions (“M+A”) led by regional banks has reached a record-breaking $48bn in estimated deals, surpassing 2018 and 2020*. With many of these deals slated to close in 2022, teams within these financial organizations are likely hyper-focused on building infrastructure and technology migration plans, combining capabilities, removing redundancies, and preparing customer-facing staff.
- Financial marketing and communication teams involved in M+A carry the burden of creating educational materials for customers, auditing facility signage that will need to be updated with new branding, and fielding questions from local, regional, and national media. It should come as no surprise that these burdens prevent many financial marketing teams from capitalizing on opportunity areas that could substantially influence customer retention and long-term growth:
Opportunity 1: Mining existing customer feedback across the web
Once your M+A deal has been publicly announced, marketers should partner with data and analytics teams to start mining, cleaning, and organizing available customer sentiment and feedback data – this data will come in the form of app store reviews, online business listing ratings, and comments on your company’s social media pages. The purpose of gathering this data is to help marketers build a better understanding customer values, behaviors, and pain points. Marketers can analyze mobile app store reviews for common frustrations between customers and their banking app and use that to develop key messaging that addresses how, through the acquisition, they’ll be getting an improved mobile banking experience. Alternatively, this information could be used by app development teams to proactively make improvements to the prevailing mobile app in advance of customer conversion.
- Data and analytic teams can provide additional support through sentiment analyses which identify key words, positive and negative, associated with the customers’ current bank. Do customers consistently refer to bank staff as family? Or do they comment most on quality of service? Whatever these themes are, they present an opportunity to be woven into future marketing messaging that acquired customers will better resonate with.
Opportunity 2: Investing in brand immersion during customer onboarding
Leading up to and after the closing of an M+A deal, marketing teams will be busy updating signage across newly acquired facilities, distributing educational materials, and integrating customers into broader product marketing campaigns. While this is critical work, these teams may miss low-hanging opportunities to deeply immerse acquired customers into a new financial brand. It is paramount that marketing teams ensure onboarding campaigns go beyond product education and encouraging debit card activation – instead, onboarding campaigns should be designed to build trust between your brand and these new audiences. Clearly communicate who you are, your institution’s values, and reiterate a firm commitment to taking care of customers and their communities. For non-traditional and challenger banks, consider dedicating customer service representatives (CSRs) that regularly reach out via digital channels (video chats, email, etc.) to acquired customers on a specific cadence to help build relationships when face-to-face meetings are impossible.
- Marketing teams can work cross-functionally to identify complementary services such as online appointment scheduling, cloud-based budgeting tools and financial education content that are unique to their organizations. Share and educate acquired customers on these value-add features within onboarding materials – as they begin to adopt these features, they’ll become even more attached to their banking experience with your institution.
Opportunity 3: Capturing voice of the customer
Transition during bank M+A can be a nightmare from an acquired customer’s perspective – this is a change outside of their control and can be the source of financial anxiety which leads to customer. Marketing teams can help build bridges with these customers by creating multiple touchpoints designed to solicit customer feedback. Partner with internal research teams or trusted vendors to strategize and develop surveys designed to uncover customer anxieties and concerns surrounding the acquisition. Trends that come out of this data can be used to enact real organizational change and improve overall messaging to these customers in the future.
Opportunity 4: Proactively hunt for customer testimonials
In the months following an acquisition there will be no shortage of moments where branch staff and CSRs go above and beyond to help newly acquired customers navigate new banking normals. These customer-facing departments should be encouraged to seek out and digitally document impactful stories as they happen (with customer permission of course) which will give marketing teams the opportunity to identify stories that can be explored further in other creative formats. Testimonials given by newly acquired customers can be incorporated into marketing messages displayed within the acquired bank’s footprint as well as repurposed for email, blog, and public relations content.
Opportunity 5: Get to know your new communities (and their differences)
Many mergers on the horizon involve regional banks and prudent financial marketing teams within these organizations should invest time prior acquisition closing to educate themselves on the nuances and histories of communities within the acquired bank’s footprint. With the help of frontline branch staff, spend time documenting charities, events and volunteer organizations that are important to these regional communities. If the acquired bank was known to specifically donate to local causes – ensure that these donations continue unless they are at odds with your bank’s core mission and values.
Marketers should take great care to never forget that branch staff, especially those within rural areas, are often cherished members of communities and local news outlets and commerce chambers will be listening closely for any proposed layoff announcements. Regardless of whether your organization chooses to keep staffing at current levels or reduce headcount due to redundancies, exercising a transparency-first mindset will show communities that you are willing to be honest with them, rather than trying to hide behind non-answers when confronted with hard questions.
If both organizations involved in the merger deployed any type of virtual AI assistant, compare the language used in successful customer conversations and asses if a regional segmentation filters should be applied to the prevailing chatbot’s language library. Intentionally acknowledging and creating regional differences in language used by virtual assistants may help with customer use and adoption.
While there is no way to guarantee zero customer attrition during an acquisition, investing in these opportunity areas can have a positive impact on customer retention and sustainable long-term growth. Working with a trusted, consultative partner can help your financial organization to discover even more untapped M+A marketing opportunities. If your financial institution is considering or going through M+A, click here to schedule an exploratory call with our experienced financial marketing consultants.
Rosi Statt is DS+CO’s managing director of strategy.