Case studies—aka client success stories—are an invaluable way for companies to market their solutions and position themselves with target segments. They provide a number of specific benefits:
- Helps make the intangible tangible. Clients may not fully comprehend the value of your solutions when they scan your website or read your collateral. This is particularly true for service companies whose solutions are by their nature intangible. Case studies help bring your solutions to life by showing how they have been successfully applied to address real-life challenges.
- Highlights your ability to solve challenges. The benefits and key applications of your solutions will resonate more with clients and prospects when the cases show how you were able to tackle—and solve—specific business challenges.
- Captures the voice of the customer. Case studies that discuss solutions based on real-life business challenges help reinforce your customer-centric positioning.
- Supports your targeting efforts. Because clients and prospects tend to connect best with stories about companies that share similar characteristics, case studies should reflect your key target segments (industry, geography, size of business, function within organization, etc.).
- Promotes the power of teamwork within your organization. Case studies that highlight the roles played by various departments in helping clients overcome business challenges can both boost employee morale and foster greater collaboration between groups within your organization.
Unfortunately, due to poor development and execution, many companies fail to leverage the power of case studies. The following are some key considerations for optimizing returns on your case study investment:
- Create a situation-approach-outcome structure. Start with a short summary of the client’s situation and relevant challenges. Then describe how your approach in partnership with the client addressed these challenges. Finally, document the results. And remember, outcomes can be quantitative (e.g., increased sales, reduced costs) or qualitative (e.g., client testimonials on the value provided by your company).
- Develop succinct messaging. Our media and information consumptions patterns have changed significantly over the past decade. Business executives simply do not have the time or inclination to wade through long descriptions. To be effective, individual sections (situation, approach, outcome) should be descriptive enough to enable the reader to retain the overall narrative, but be easily scanned.
- Design your case study to be more appealing to viewers. Mirroring the need to adapt messaging to changing information-consumption patterns, deploy a range of visual methods. Enhance the visual appeal of printable case studies: Incorporate headings, callouts, charts and images, different colors and font formats/sizes to better capture the reader’s attention and to promote important elements of the case study. In addition, many online case studies feature videos of clients discussing their successful projects.
- Weigh the pros and cons of featuring real-life clients in case studies. Many case studies feature videos of real-life clients who discuss their business challenges and their partnership with the company. These often resonate well with your other clients and prospects, and can enhance your credibility and illustrate your focus on customer needs. However, note that there can be some drawbacks. One is time (clients often have lengthy and restrictive approval processes). Another is that other viewers may perceive the featured client as having such a unique set of circumstances and challenges that they are not pertinent to their business. An alternative is to consider using “anonymous” case studies or developing narratives around a series of client personas that are representative of your typical client base.
- Market the case study through multiple media. Case studies work well across multiple marketing channels, including your website, social media platforms, podcasts, webinars and live events. In addition, incorporate case studies into new business presentations, RFPs and proposals to support your sales efforts.
Several factors are leading banks to increase their focus on enhancing the customer experience. Many have taken a more customer-centric approach to regain trust following the Financial Crisis. There has also been a shift away from an overarching focus on new customer acquisition and towards optimizing customer lifetime value. And banks are looking to counter the increasing competitive threat posed by FinTech firms that promise to manage all their clients’ financial needs through a single digital platform.
There are several ways banks can benefit by integrating an understanding of the customer experience in solutions development and delivery.
- Change customer perceptions. Build systems and strategies around the customer experience that retains your traditional strengths (trust, experience, product breadth and expertise) while tackling some of the more negative perceptions of the sector (slow moving, inwardly-focused).
- Differentiate yourself from other banks. To fully embrace the customer experience, you may need to make significant changes in many areas, including organizational structures, marketing, sales and service. And be sure to plan carefully. These types of changes often come with a number of barriers (including organizational inertia and lack of senior management buy-in) and, unfortunately, many banks fail to make the transition.
- Optimize customer lifetime value. By understanding customer needs and challenges at various stages of the customer life cycle, you can reduce customer churn, while improving cross-sell/upsell rates.
- Integrate your sales and service channels. One of the key selling points of FinTech firms is their commitment to providing a seamless customer experience on their platforms. Though banks have traditionally struggled to integrate their digital and human channels, many surveys have shown that customers do use multiple bank channels. Banks that can provide a seamless customer experience across their various channels can both increase customer satisfaction and gain a competitive advantage over the FinTechs.
- Capture the voice of the customer. By developing opportunities for customer feedback at all sales and service touchpoints, you can gain real insights into customer needs, behaviors and preferences; identify gaps in these areas; and incorporate this intel into developing new products and enhancing existing solutions and service.
- Leverage internal stakeholder insights. To gain a strong understanding of how to improve the customer experience, gather detailed insights from front-line sales and service staff who can offer unique perspectives. Along with the voice of the customer, use these insights to develop more informed product development as well as marketing, sales and service initiatives.
- Optimize return on investment. Identify areas that have the greatest potential for enhancing the customer experience, and redirect investment to these areas.
- Create customer advocates. Engaged customers who have a consistently positive experience often turn into advocates (on social media, through word of mouth, etc.) and may even become referral sources.
In recent years, leading U.S. credit card issuers have changed their focus from simply acquiring new customers to optimizing relationships with existing cardholders. A key element to the overall success of this strategy is the ability to motivate newly-acquired cardholders to start—and continue—to use the card. According to The Nilson Report, the average credit card activation rate (active accounts as a percentage of total accounts) for the top 50 Visa and Mastercard issuers was 57% in 2017. However, there is significant variation among issuers. For example, Citibank had a credit card activation rate of 68%, while Fifth Third’s was just 49%. Low activation rates represent a lost opportunity in optimizing customer lifetime value, as well as a waste of marketing resources expended in cardholder acquisition.
Here are 10 key considerations for boosting credit card activation rates.
- Benchmark current credit card activation performance. The starting point involves gaining a strong understanding of your current activation rate, how this rate has changed over time, and how it compares to competitors’ rates. Also study previous and current activation rates to identify the primary factors contributing to the current rate.
- Conduct customer research. Analyze customer data to size and profile the inactive cardholder base. Conduct additional primary research to identify key card activation triggers and barriers.
- Develop a credit card activation plan. With input from all relevant stakeholders in the organization, develop an integrated credit card activation plan. Create a team dedicated to implementing the plan, and assign roles and responsibilities. Develop an integrated series of initiatives, and establish a timeline to roll out these initiatives and measure progress against plan objectives.
- Create bonus offers. Most credit card bonus offers are based on acquisition and activation, with the cardholder receiving the bonus (points, miles, cashback) if they meet a certain spending threshold within a period following acquisition (typically 60-90 days). Higher-end cards (many of which carry annual fees) have larger bonus offers. Chase recently launched the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Card, featuring 100,000 bonus points if the cardholder spends $5,000 within three months of account opening. A variation on the bonus offer is to have higher earn rates on specific spending categories for an initial period.
- Develop pricing to drive activation. Set pricing levels (interest rates and fees) to encourage the cardholders to start using the card. One common approach is to have 0% introductory rates on balances transfers for transfers made within an initial period. For example, the new BBVA Compass Rewards Card has a 0% introductory rate for 13 months for balance transfers made with 60 days of account opening.
- Focus on cardholder onboarding. Develop a communications plan to engage with new cardholders during the crucial initial 90-day period. These communications should welcome the cardholder, reinforce the card’s key strengths and differentiating features, highlight incentives, and encourage card usage.
- Adjust sales incentives. Consider tweaking incentive plans to reward front-line sales people for their customer activation efforts.
- Leverage cardholder usage of different service channels. Many cardholders use multiple channels (desktop, mobile, branch, call center, social media) to engage with their financial services provider. Develop messaging across these channels to promote card benefits and highlight the need for activation.
- Create financial education tools. Many financial firms are investing in financial education tools using multiple media to boost overall financial literacy and to enable consumers made smart decisions in using a variety of financial products and services, including credit cards. Developing and sharing content around managing a credit card effectively can both build affinity with your company and encourage the cardholder to use the card responsibly.
- Review performance. Following the launch of your credit card activation initiatives, identify and address any issues in implementation, track performance relative to objectives, and incorporate learnings into ongoing card activation efforts.