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Banking The Old Fashioned Way
An Outsourcing Nightmare
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December 2009
ADM logoYear-End Summary
There are several times during a twelve-month period when we pause to evaluate financial performance, personal goals, and/or organizational achievement. 
We may do this at the end of a fiscal year, an organizational "season," or the calendar year. Regardless, these pauses and evaluations are important, and not just for the metrics. They have more value when we evaluate and perhaps modify our goals and objectives. They are also important occasions to evaluate our priorities and to see whether our achievements were worth the effort.
I hope you enjoy this holiday season on every level, and that 2010 is satisfying--also on every level.
Banking The Old Fashioned Way
Go With Your Strength
Think: "It's A Wonderful Life." A neighborhood bank (I know, it was a Building & Loan Assn in the movie) where the employees knew you and (more to the point) cared about you. An institution that didn't operate on greed, but on sound financial principals and the realization that they were playing with other peoples' money.
Yes, Virginia, such institutions still exist, but we generally refer to them as "Community Banks;" companies that have several branches (not dozens or hundreds) in a well-defined area (perhaps 15 or 20 zip codes). These organizations have done reasonably well during this recession because they didn't make a lot of risky loans to people whose lives would be ruined when the real estate market went south. Nevertheless, they cannot rely on their histories (in some cases, more than 125 years in the community), nor on their good performances. They have to keep up with the times with regard to technology, products, communications, and branding. 
We worked with such a company in the fourth quarter, conducting a survey among community residents--customers and non-customers. The results described a competitive marketplace in which they have good--but not great--visability; in which they are known for reliability and neighborliness. Interestingly, their greatest competitor is not another bank--it is the Credit Union. Credit Unions (much like Bailey's in the aforementioned movie) provide many of the same products as banks do, but they operate under different laws, which allow them to offer highly competitive rates on accounts and loans. While some consumers are attracted by large banks with branches all over the Metro area, many of those who are likely targets for the Community Bank are being syphoned off by Credit Unions. Even the Bank's tag line is often attributed to Credit Unions.
However, not everyone is eligible to belong to a Credit Union, so the Community Bank has distinct communications and marketing opportunities. We conducted a quadrant analysis for the Bank, which compares the importance of various attributes to consumers with how they rate the Bank on those same attributes. The results revealed the areas which would resonate best with consumers because they are important and they think the Bank does them well. These insights are helpful input for the communications program being developed.
So watch out, Mr. Potter! The Community Bank is still with us, and is likely to be for a long time.
An Outsourcing Nightmare
When Your Deliverable Depends on A Product That Does Not Deliver 
You meet with a salesperson representing a business product or service. He or she is trained in describing the features and benefits of this great product. He or she is enthusiastic about it, believing it to be a great innovation in an industry that is continually upgrading with new technology. You like the product [and its price] and then use it sell your product/service to a new client. And then you actually use it.
It's pretty infuriating to discover that the people who are actually doing the work are terrible communicators, inflexible, technocrats, careless, and ultimately, defensive! It is also disconcerting to discover that the product does about three-quarters of the job you were expecting. I recently had such an experience with a [new and now, former] vendor to whom I had outsourced part of a project. An unsuccessful completion of this task would not only be embarassing to me, it could mean a serious loss of revenue (I'd have to return a sizeable chunk of money) and the loss of any future business from MY client. The resulting exasperation turned me into a screaming meemy--someone I HATE becoming. Luckily, it worked out reasonably well (after several struggles and lots of angst), though I had additional work on my end that shouldn't have been necessary.
This is what I expect from vendors, and what I aim for in dealing with clients.
  • Be very clear about what you will deliver. Of course, jargon and language disparities can make this all but impossible to achieve, but try.
  • Be very clear about prices and budgets--including options.
  • Alert the customer when there are difficulties or unforeseen glitches.
  • Don't just say, "There's a problem." Be prepared to offer suggestions or options for turning it around.
  • Never say, "We can't do this." Instead, tell the customer HOW it can be accomplished, giving him or her choices (and prices).
  • Don't even THINK about a "bait and switch" move. You may succeed, but I guarantee it will be a pyrrhic victory.

The bottom line is communications and respect. Communicate clearly, and make sure that the client understands what you've just said, avoiding jargon at all costs--especially jargon that is particular to your company. Respect the client's intelligence and the fact that, in many cases, YOUR CLIENT has a client to whom he or she must answer. Then you will not only maintain a good business relationship, but you may even get a referral out of it!

Upcoming Events
Typically, December is the month for holiday parties and get-togethers. Since this newsletter is being issued a little later than usual, I am late with the SMPS holiday party, which was a rousing success. Ditto a gathering of some Long Island members of Adrian's Network. Both organizations are great ways to meet business people on Long Island. The latter, however extends to other parts of the metro area, and who knows where else!  The former has chapters all over the country (and it's global, too, I believe).
December 9, 6:00pm-9:00pm
It is not too late to register for the International Association of Business Communicators holiday
party, to be held at The Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant in Melville. The featured entertainer is Raven The Roving Gypsy, who will give you some insights as to what your 2010 will be like! I can't wait!
Go to for more details and to register.  
The next program for this group will be January 13th, featuring Deborah Thomas, of Silly Monkey, who will lead an innovative program on "How to Improve Communication through Interactive Games." For more information, you can go to
December 14, 6:30pm-8:30pm   

Women In Communications, Inc., in conjunction with Women In Film and Television, is hosting a "Night Out" as part of an ongoing effort to encourage connections and community among members and communications professionals. It is being held at the Whaler Bar of the Jolly Hotel, 22 E. 38th St. (between Park and Madison) in New York. Sounds like fun!  
January 20, 8am-10am
SMPS-LI begins 2010 with a forecast of business opportunities for the architecture, engineering, and contracting industries. If you are in those businesses or wish to connect with them, this is the place to be! The meeting will be held at Milleridge Inn in Jericho. Go to for more information and to register.
This practice is dedicated to helping companies become knowledge-driven, rather than assumption driven about strategic and tactical decisions concerning lines of business, branding, communications, and various marketing activities. For more information about how we do this, case studies, frequently asked questions about marketing research, and testimonials, please visit our web site:

Ann Middleman