June 10, 2021

Banking on a Co-Branded Solution

In recent years, a significant percentage of consumers—from 72-76%, based on various studies—would rather bank with a local institution than a megabank. So why don’t they? According to CMO Keith Brannan, it’s because local banks marketing budgets don’t stand a chance against the punching power of their larger counterparts.

That’s where Kasasa comes in, helping community banks and credit unions earn their rightful share of the market through a co-branded solution. Tune in to this fascinating episode to hear how the FinTech and marketing services brand makes buying easy for its resource-constrained customers, proof for why brands need to keep marketing in a downturn, how to use data to cross-sell and upsell a limited customer pool, and more.

What You’ll Learn in This Episode

  • How the Kasasa brand has evolved
  • How Kasasa makes buying easy for its customers
  • Why you need to keep marketing during a downturn

Renegade Thinkers Unite, Episode 244 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned

Time-Stamped Highlights

  • [0:28] How Kasasa Pivoted to a Co-Branded Marketing Model
  • [11:53] Delivering on Kasasa’s Value Proposition
  • [17:24] How Kasasa Makes B2B Buying Easy
  • [25:37] Scaling up Reassurance Messaging at Kasasa
  • [31:03] Why You Should Always Market in a Downturn
  • [39:18] On the Value of Understanding Human Behavior

Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with Keith Brannan

[0:28] How Kasasa Pivoted to a Co-Branded Marketing Model

“Myself and my team sit on one side of the table, and we have 700 other CMOs on the other side of the table with a very strong opinion about brand and how it feels.” —@kbseeker @Kasasa Share on X

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Thinkers! Every day at about 3:30 pm, my dog Louie comes barreling into my home office, puts his paws up on my chair, and gives me his “I need you now” look. If you happen to be on a Zoom call with me between 3 and 4 pm Eastern Time, you have no doubt met Louie because all of our clients have met him, and he shows up on CMO Huddles. It’s just what he does.

At that moment, he is a dog with a metaphorical bone. Says Louie, in quotes, “I’m not going to let you do anything but pay attention to me and in exchange, you’ll get my continued affection.” I would say that Louie is a masterful marketer. He is consistent, he is persistent, he is appealing, he delivers general genuine value in his messaging, and he is focused. Oh boy, is he focused. Nothing will deter him from his intended target audience.

Now, admittedly, that target is small and captive, but I can play hard to get. After all, these are office hours and I’ve got work to do like, say, recording a podcast. I share this story with you, not just because it’s likely that Louie will make an appearance today, but also because, as a marketer, focus is your best friend.

Without focus, it’s easy to lose your way. Without focus, it’s easy to be forgotten. On the other hand, with focus, you might find yourself outmaneuvering your competitors, as is the case for today’s guest, Keith Brannan the CMO of Kasasa. Keith, welcome to the show.

Keith Brannan: Thank you. I’ve got a couple of dogs. I don’t have a Louie, but I have an Archie and a Duke, and they resemble that comment about exchanging affection and attention for their dog with a bone moment.

Drew Neisser: There you are. Yes, great names. We had a basset named Archie and of course, I’m a Duke grad, so those are all good.

Importantly, I’d like to ground the listeners what in location so tell me, where are you right now?

Keith Brannan: Right now, I’m in Atlanta. I actually am a bi-city person, so I am back and forth about equally between Austin, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia. Both great towns. Love both of them. Fortunate to have them in my life, that’s for sure.

Drew Neisser: And they’re contrasting towns. I mean they’re both in the South and they both start with “A,” but at that point, they’re pretty different.

Keith Brannan: That is definitely true.

Drew Neisser: So, let’s go back to 2014 when you joined Kasasa. What was your original mandate, I mean, why did they bring you in?

Keith Brannan: Kasasa is actually constructed as a product brand. If you really think about what it is—our job—we work with community banks and credit unions. In helping them go to market, one of the original core tenants was, if you have a common name—think of your Tide, right? I’m gonna sell Tide as a consumer product through a grocery store. Kroger sells Tide, HEB sells Tide.

In our scenario, it was community bankers and credit unions taking a product to market that was called Kasasa as checking account, rewards checking. Our job was to go and create a really good brand following with consumers so that when they searched for it, it really leveraged what a lot of smaller institutions are not great at, which is really having a presence so that if a consumer goes in and shops the way we shop today and Googles, then it shows up, they find good reviews about it.

Our job was going to create sort of a consumer-centric brand that would be searched for by consumers who were shopping for a better banking experience and a better product, really. That was the thesis of coming in. It’s not exactly where we ended up but that was the thesis going in.

Drew Neisser: That was the idea. And so, at that moment, it was sort of B2C2B or B2B2C, but you wanted to build the brand and create acceptance so that when this community bank presented Kasasa, the customer would say, “Yeah that makes sense.”

Keith Brannan: And even if they were shopping for it. It was a B2B2C model with one addition being we would have the ability to drive a lot of air cover, educate, and drive consumers to the right institutions even through our website almost is a listing type of service. Those elements working symbiotically together, yeah, that was the goal.

Drew Neisser: Fast forward a couple of years, how did this mandate evolve?

Keith Brannan: It wasn’t even a couple of years. I mean, literally within a quarter, like, I believe in May—beginning of May or end of April of that same year—I started January. End of April, beginning of May, we had to take all of the client names, the listing type of service, off of our website because of FDIC regulations.

We were not able to go out and drive consumers through it with our own advertising because of other regulations in this space that would drive them to a bank or credit union, because of a number of regulations that preclude that deposit being seen coming from somewhere else that maybe the institution didn’t control, which wasn’t the case, but it was a very old regulation. It’s been around for 30 years, and it just wasn’t one that was really in our favor, so we immediately within a quarter were leveraging a whole different set of my past skills for sure.

Drew Neisser: Wow, okay. Suddenly, you had this big plan and you can’t do it, so what were some of the steps that you needed to take in order to make this pivot?

Keith Brannan: The strategy before had been: “Hey, if we provide enough consumer visibility” and I use “air cover” very loosely but, “engagement and awareness so consumers know when they shop to look for this funny word.” That’s an important item. They’re looking for a funny word in 2014, Kasasa.

We kept playing with the word a lot when it was our own advertising. Ka-salsa, “I only like Kasasa and privacy of my own bedroom,” that kind of stuff. And so you could really play with a weird word, but when it became very clear that the institutions had to be super engaged in our marketing—meaning that it had to be co-branded from a regulatory standpoint—the shift became very much, it’s a co-branded marketing distribution, it has to always have the institution’s name in it with us, and they have to pay for it.

It almost became like a co-branded agency model. To use an advertiser’s term, that would be what it felt like. It’d be very much that type of a model, so that’s a huge shift from targeting demographics, awareness, engagement, tracking, and driving brand. It’s a very different animal. The result can be the same as we found out, but this is a different way to get there.

Drew Neisser: Right, so suddenly you are dependent on the bank. I mean you were always in some sense that they still had to offer it one way or another, but here you’re dependent on them to do the advertising and support it and therefore approve it.

I’m thinking that every single one of these banks has their own personality. How do you adapt and make your brand flexible enough to work with all these other brands?

Keith Brannan: Boy, you hit it on the head. I often relate when I’m talking to clients that my job’s not really to like the marketing, it’s to prove the marketing. If you really look at our shop, when we roll out campaigns, they are the same pretty much for everyone. We have lots of variety and lots of ways they can change their product set inside it, so it looks different.

We use a ton of tech—which I can go into in a minute—and that tech makes it very flexible for them and for us and allows us to scale, but at the end of the day, we’ve got 900 total clients, about 700ish or distributing under this brand name, and it basically means that myself and my team sit on one side of the table, and we have 700 other CMOs on the other side of the table with a very strong opinion about brand and how it feels. If you really think about it, from our standpoint, it kind of removed our ability to create the vibe that you might want for your brand that would attract a consumer, so we really dialed back our personality in some ways.

We kept a ton of the quality in our personality and the quality delivery and those types of things and the science, but we did have to dial back the fun quotient just a little bit to meet the fact that most banks and credit unions are pretty conservative. They want to be seen as serious because they have your money.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, which is such a shame because there have been some really successful banks over the time that actually had a personality. And that’s hard because it does dilute your brand a little bit. I’m wondering, thinking about this, do you see yourself as an ingredient brand like an Intel? Is there the opportunity to do co-op where you’re paying for a certain amount, but if they pay for it, they have to do it a certain way?

Keith Brannan: Yeah. For sure. There’s a couple of benefits in that. We definitely see it as what we would call a product brand as opposed to an ingredient brand—when I think of an ingredient brand like Intel Inside, the primary value is still the computer; the Intel just makes it better.

In this case, since we sell checking accounts and loans, the primary product is a checking account. It’s not just the checkbook. It’s the actual account and the reward associated with it. Then reward processing is really what we do. We track the rewards for people, we’re a rewards company. For us, it is very much a product brand.

I think the thing that makes it super unique for the institutions is their core product and the thing that they would say makes them the happiest is when they get a primary relationship. That primary relationship means that I have a consumer checking account and they use it as their primary account.

I am their primary—if you ask someone, “Where do you bank?”, the bank that they rely on most or the credit union that they rely on most is at the top of the list. When they’re that, that’s what they’re looking for. I think that’s what makes our entry product of checking accounts so important to our clients because it gets core deposits and primary financial users for them.

[11:53] Delivering on Kasasa’s Value Proposition

“The value proposition for Kasasa across the board is reward products that are better for the consumer.” —@kbseeker @Kasasa Share on X

Drew Neisser: I think people may not realize that a lot of banks use software, somebody else’s software, to run a program like a checking account.

Keith Brannan: Almost all of them.

Drew Neisser: Right. And some of those competitors of yours are really large. I don’t know, like a Fiserv or some of these others. This is where we get back to this notion of niche. You have focused on—your product offering is the rewards checking. That’s part one. And two, this specific community bank type one that wants to have something that is different than the big banks, right?

Keith Brannan: That is correct. Absolutely, the value proposition for Kasasa across the board is reward products that are better for the consumer. That’s number one because that creates a draw for the consumer to want it. Number two, it’s only offered through community institutions and credit unions that are below $10 billion in assets, so we have a very defined market. We won’t do business with the larger institutions, and then we’re trying to create a more level playing field by having better products.

One of the ways we got to that, by the way, is the market opportunity is so large. We survey consumers a ton. That’s how my team and I can sit on one side of the table and 700 other CMOs on the other. We use data and testing.

And when you ask the consumers, they have historically always said—72 to 76 percent depending on year—that they would rather bank with someone locally, they’d rather bank with a local institution but by and large they don’t choose to open their next account there because they’re concerned that the products aren’t as good or the services aren’t as good. When I say “service,” I don’t mean “service.” Absolutely people say they’ll get better service face-to-face. When I say “service,” I mean things like online access, mobile banking, any of those types of things that go along with the full experience, and so they end up somewhere else.

Even in the little institutions, honestly Drew, the smaller institutions, when you go to market, it’s harder for them to outshout the billion-dollar ad budgets, even in their own market, and that’s part of what Kasasa was built for.

Candidly, the strategy that we have is super simple. If you take a circle like this [makes a circle with hands], right? And on that circle, let’s say there’s $300,000 being spent in a small town. Pick any big bank—Megabank 1—and in that market they’re talking about the checking product. Well in that same market, there are three smaller institutions and each one of them is talking about blue dog checking or ultimate free checking or something of that nature. There’s never going to be a big brand for it.

It kind of dilutes their own competitive message. They don’t have the punching power against $300,000 shouting the exact same message all the time. So, part of what Kasasa does is it allows that, we’ve called “co-opetition.” It allows them to have a unique product of their own—it’s not like the people down the street—they use the same wording, same consumer value proposition, banking going to a credit union locally, and all of those are now the same. Each one of them was spending $100 grand on their other checking product, now they’re all spending $300,000 saying, “Yeah, get Kasasa.”

The consumer makes the decision. They search, they do what we all do, they find that word, and then they pick where they want to do business. We’re in the business of creating that, not picking where they do business. The consumer always gets to pick that.

Drew Neisser: Let me stop for a second. There are so many little things that I want to break down. One is just the point that research can be misleading and also the way consumers say they want and how they behave are often two different things.

Keith Brannan: Very different!

Drew Neisser: Right? I mean because you said 72 to 76 percent say, “I want a bank local.” That’s what they said. And then, only 24 percent actually do. You go, “Wait a second, you said you wanted to do it local!”

The great thing about having that research is that obviously it’s very helpful for you to get into the door and talk to the banks and say, “We’ve got to fix that. That means there’s this gap. There’s 50 percent of your market right here that isn’t using you because they don’t think you’re as good as the big banks.

Keith Brannan: There’s a demand that’s unfulfilled.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. And as a marketer to marketers, this is where B2B comes in—

Keith Brannan: That’s right.

Drew Neisser: How can you help your customers market to their customers, right? This is where you’re helpful.

Show Break

I’d like to do a little plug for CMO Huddles. CMO Huddles was launched in 2020. It’s an invitation-only subscription service that brings together an elite group of CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness.

One CMO described a huddle as a cross between an expert workshop and therapy session. I’ve got so many great descriptions of huddles, but the bottom line is, you get one great idea that you can then apply to your business, it can be transformative. If you’re a B2B CMO that can share and care with the best of them visit CMOHuddles.com or send me a text, and we’ll get you a guest pass so you can experience for yourself. Okay, let’s get back to the show.

[17:24] How Kasasa Makes B2B Buying Easy

“You don't want to try direct mail. It’s not going to work. What you want to do is run direct mail consistently to the same audience while also doing social, digital, and PPC.” —@kbseeker @Kasasa Share on X

Drew Neisser: We were talking about this notion of helping your customers. Because this is the thing—if they don’t believe that your service will help them in the battle against the big guys, then they’re not going to bother because it’s too much work. They have to believe that this is better and so it’s really interesting, your proposition, with the “Hey, if more banks, smaller banks, use Kasasa, then you guys can compete with the big guys.”

That was part one and a really interesting thing that’s different. Let’s talk about, from your standpoint, what do you see as your biggest marketing challenge? What gets you—by the way, right on schedule, did I tell you? It is 3:25 and Louie just came in. So just in case you think I was making this up, I was off by five minutes today and he’s going to sit here and annoy me until I either pick him up or make him leave the room.

Keith Brannan: That’s pretty funny.

Drew Neisser: Hilarious. So, he is focused, you’re focused, we’re all focused. We’ve got a target. What are the challenges right now for you?

Keith Brannan: I mean, I think that the challenge is—and these are the same challenges all the time. Like, we have pieces of our business where we have multiple different types of competitors, but most institutions or most competitors don’t provide the full suite of what we do. We do an awful lot of consulting, a lot of things that bankers and credit union leaders need in order to run their businesses.

The toughest part for us, for the last year, year and a half almost now, has definitely been attention. You have two basic things that kind of work against you normally. The first is that most banks and credit unions are super quantitative, so you have to have some numbers to talk to them about. Very few credit union and bank leaders grew up as marketers, so they don’t do the art and science—they only like the science. They grew up on the financial side and they really like the numbers. It takes a while to get that, so you have to have betas that run for a while to make sure it works.

The second thing, though, is even if you have that, it’s getting their attention, and that is the struggle. One of the things with smaller institutions is they are always resource-constrained. What we’ve tried to do for them is build so many support services even around marketing, like ongoing lifecycle marketing is automated. You don’t have to touch performance marketing, social, digital, programmatic, direct—we do all that stuff. They don’t have to have great designers, we have them.

So, all that’s kind of baked into what they’re buying. We just make it easy for them to buy because we found out early on [that] if you make them make a decision, you’re kind of in their cognitive lobe now. It just takes a while to get to the front of the cognitive problem when they’re running an institution, so our biggest thing is focus and getting them to prioritize sometimes making some of the decisions.

We’ve tried as hard as we can on the marketing side not just to make marketing easy, but our influence with the rest of the organization and product is to make products easy for them to consume, as easy as possible.

Drew Neisser: Right. We’ve had Brent Adamson on the show from Gartner who wrote Challenger Sale and Challenger Customer. If he had three words for you, or four, it would be “Make buying easy.”

Clearly, that is the biggest challenge in B2B marketing, and it got worse in the pandemic, which is why there are now more touchpoints required to close the sale and the longer sales cycle unless again you happen to be in this sort of essential moment.

One of the things I want to go back to that you said, and I think it’s worth breaking down—when we’re going to make it easier for our customers, sometimes we have to do a lot more for them. You talked about giving them not just the marketing tool kit to market this new product, but all sorts of other services around that.

Let’s talk a little bit more about this. We used to call this whole type of activity “marketing as service,” where the marketing is in fact a service to your customer. I mean, are they surprised? When you do get their attention and they go, “Wait, you give me this entire marketing kit and everything that I possibly need?”

Keith Brannan: For sure. You could say it’s something like lifecycle marketing. When we think of lifecycle marketing, it’s that transition from, you know, we might have been marketing to you as a prospect and now you’ve come to be a customer and, that night, you need to be spoken to differently.

You can’t imagine how big of a challenge that is for most institutions, that they move an audience to a different communication cycle. And that is a very difficult challenge when you have—literally a lot of them—one to one-and-a-half marketers in their whole company and those people are representing them locally. It’s just a different skill set. It requires data people. All of those things are sort of baked into our product.

That’s on the lifecycle side once you have them. Now, what you would consider more of an agency model as the co-branded side where it’s performance marketing and acquisition. That is much more like a, “Hey, here are the programs we run across all these channels.” And what we try to do is compress the cost of the decision making and bundle things so it’s more of a full marketing plan that they’re buying for us to execute rather than them having to figure out “Oh, I want to”—

The worst thing we can hear, by the way, Drew, is this—”I’d like to try direct mail.” You don’t want to try direct mail. It’s not going to work. What you want to do is run direct mail consistently to the same audience while also doing social, digital, and PPC, which is not the way they think, right?

We try and construct things that work that way for them. It’s easy for them to say yes because we can show them, “When you do this, here’s the result you’re going to get,” and then we continuously report on that result.

Drew Neisser: That’s so funny. You can’t try direct mail. You’ve got to be Louie. You’ve got to be persistent, you’ve got to be consistent, you’ve got to be focused, and you’ve got to be doing this maybe not every day, but with some serious frequency. And it really doesn’t matter the channel, but I also think what you’re doing is—it’s sort of funny—you’re removing the Cheesecake Factory menu. It’s like the tyranny of too many choices.

You just give them a what a gold, silver, bronze package and say, “Oh, you can do this. This is the amount you’re going to invest; this is what you expect.”

Keith Brannan: We’re even beyond on that. We actually say, “Here’s the thing we recommend everyone do. It is the bundled approach because it includes all of our science like segmentation science, who are going to be the target customers? We use data to find them. Then we market to them consistently. We use an exposure model and an attribution model. This is what you should be doing, and this is the result you will get.”

And if they say, “I don’t want to do that,” we just deconstruct it and say “Okay, you can buy the individual pieces if you want these channels, but we’re not going to be on the hook for the performance because we know by and large what works. We’ll get you media performance, but we won’t guarantee outcomes, account opening performance.”

We know what’s going to drive that and what’s not, and if they have a good marketing crew, which some of them do, they might say, “Well, I don’t need you to do this, only that.” And that’s fine. Everybody who outsources anything bumps into that.

[25:37] Scaling up Reassurance Messaging at Kasasa

“People don't shop for reassurance, they want reassurance before they buy.” —@kbseeker @Kasasa Share on X

Drew Neisser: I think you mentioned, you have 700 banks. There are probably not too many people out there marketing 700 different community banks. You ought to have a bank of knowledge on what works. Now I’m sure it varies by market and maybe… but there’s got to be real normative data that you have that’s really useful.

Keith Brannan: A little bit. That is actually the reason for the common name. The big weakness that most institutions will have long term is they have less data. They just have less statistical data. If you only have 17 thousand records of consumers and you’re up against somebody that has 5 million, you simply can’t slice it thin enough to get accurate and also get a return on that investment.

We do that and that’s where our segmentation comes from, our testing. To your point, that level of knowledge results in some amazing things and I’ll give you one example if you want me to keep going on it.

Drew Neisser: Sure.

Keith Brannan: A traditional way that I’ve looked at messaging and marketing is just to, again, keep it simple. There’s an ante for every business sitting at the poker table. You have to say this to be credible. In our business, it’s, “I have FDIC insurance or I’m NCUA backed, and I have checking accounts.” Otherwise, they don’t think you’re a bank or a credit union.

Second thing is that you have a driver message, which is what are they shopping for. And the third is reassurance. Reassurance can be used in areas where it might be—it’s normally not used, Drew, in advertising. The reason it’s not is because people don’t shop for reassurance, they want reassurance before they buy.

Which means you can say on your website that it’s your 85th anniversary this year in your community, and people might like to know that you’re financially stable, but if that’s your advertising message, you are guaranteed to fail.

What we traditionally do, since we’re a product brand, we do a ton of product messaging and product marketing. We focus on the driver message and the value of the product. But because we could see what was happening in the pandemic across all of these communities nationally, we made a really fast shift and offered to all of our marketing clients that were active of the time: “You should not stop marketing. Instead, we need to put a reassurance message into the advertising. We normally don’t, but we need to mix 30 percent of your marketing with a message that says, ‘Hey, we’re still open. We’re here to help you. We’re still supporting the community.’ It doesn’t have to say anything other than that and the rest of your marketing can still the product.”

Those folks who did that at the time had more than doubled the performance using the exact same media as people that were just product-focused. We could see that when we ran it in one market. It was like, “Okay, we need to roll this out everywhere and roll it out immediately.” Everyone who picked up on that and did it with us had just a huge difference.

If you’re just in one small area or in one town as an institution, you don’t have that best practice knowledge of, “Oh, I need to shift and I need to do it now.” Those things are what we pride ourselves on helping our clients with.

Drew Neisser: Well, again, at the risk of being redundant, I’m going to be focused on focus. Whether you’re a consultant or a marketer in B2B, the power of—I’m thinking of David C. Baker and his book, The Power of Expertise. He talks about, as a single-person consultant, how you need to find your sweet spot on a basis of 10,000 people out there who might show up at the same conference and try to align both on a vertical and horizontal basis. And the reason that you do that is so that you can walk into any conversation with anybody in that target audience and probably tell them 10 to 20 things they may or may not know about their business, but they should.

Keith Brannan: Right. That’s right.

Drew Neisser: And what’s amazing here is, doing the marketing for 700 banks essentially, with a product that you’re selling that you actually are providing, this focus on community banks—I know you have another product as well—but it gives you tremendous insight that these little banks could never ever have on their own.

Keith Brannan: Right, yeah.

Drew Neisser: But that is applicable, and I think a lot of marketers face it because they say, “Oh, we’re focused on small business, but we want to move up to enterprise.” Well suddenly, you move up to enterprise, you have different user needs, you have different sales cycles, you have different market opportunities, and what you can’t do for them right away is help them grow their business.

Keith Brannan: Correct.

Drew Neisser: Whereas it’s so interesting to me that you guys could figure that out in the pandemic that, “Oh, right now, reassurance, we better scale that up a lot.” And you have the data which, again, with so many marketers, we talk about performance marketing, but do we have the data?

I imagine from an internal standpoint, I guess you’re pretty much dependent on your channels, right? I mean, in other words, if a bank doesn’t have you, can’t do marketing for them.

[31:03] Why You Should Always Market in a Downturn

“We keep in front of them with good content—tell them what's going on in the industry, tell them how they compare themselves.” —@kbseeker @Kasasa Share on X

Drew Neisser: Let’s talk lastly though on just your acquisition strategy. That had to have been hard during the pandemic because banks are conservative, and they weren’t sure how business was going to do and people weren’t going into the bank. It must have been slow in that at least the first three months of the pandemic.

Keith Brannan: The funny thing is the slowness didn’t start really for us the first few months. We’ve actually been slower at the end of last year, beginning of this year than we were parts of last year. Part of the reason for that is just the way economics works for banks. When interest rates drop it takes them a while because that’s their revenue, right?

When those rates drop, it compresses their revenue margins, and it takes them a while for their expenses to really catch up. Right now, they’re just finishing that catch-up, but early last year it was us focused on helping them, honestly, whether it was keeping the word—because the last thing you want to be seen as in a historically difficult environment is the institution who wasn’t big enough to talk to their customers when the big institutions were. You will immediately lose, so it’s the wrong time to give up the microphone for sure.

That was actually pretty tough to convince them of because it’s all economics at a bank. That part and supporting them through some of those decisions was on the marketing side very difficult, but we make money when people open checking accounts, right? It was making sure that—how do we help them on a digital front?

We spun up two or three products, really, really quickly that you could put out and say, “Here’s a mobile account opening that a consumer could have, and then here’s a digital that you can have to make sure we’re promoting it on their website.” When they were driving people, it was just easier to open accounts than they might have had that process in the past.

For us, business didn’t take that big of a hit early because the bankers actually stayed open for a long time. They were all considered essential services so a lot of them did stay open and they were super busy with PPP and all the lending associated with that, so they felt very busy.

It slowed for us a little bit later, but you’re right, that’s what’s happened. Our acquisition strategy right now is just content-oriented. We keep on the content; we have a confined market and 4600 target clients. It won’t ever get any bigger than that, so we keep in front of them with good content—tell them what’s going on in the industry, tell them how they compare themselves.

Because we know that as this market’s thawing—and the market for us is thawing very rapidly right now—that having been with them for that period of time will be the folks that come back. We are definitely seeing that.

Drew Neisser: Okay, Louie, I know you’re focused. Just a couple of thoughts that occurred to me. One of the things is you probably could write just a brilliant article that answers once and for all why you should always continue marketing in a downturn.

Keith Brannan: I have that on lock.

Drew Neisser: Right, and you know, there were articles written in 2008 but nobody really—there are all these sorts of theoretical things, you might see some professor has done some study. But you don’t see that many actual meaningful data where you can show these 500 banks kept advertising, these 300 banks didn’t, and look at that, wow!

Now, this was a little bit different in that this wasn’t just an economic downturn, so therefore you also had to be sensitive to the environment that we were in but nonetheless, staying with it is important and what we do here is important.

You’ve got 4600 customers as a universe, which for the most part is a pretty small universe. You’ve got 700 of them, we’re going to get to 50 percent of them, and you probably aren’t going to get bored and 50 percent so, obviously, at that point, it becomes upsell and cross-sell.

Keith Brannan: Yeah. It’s a relationship business. We want to make sure that we have a relationship with them when they’re looking for the next new technology and our job is to be innovative with the new products we bring to market, help them to keep up to speed on the marketing that we do provide and make sure it’s performing. Those things are, for us, how we make sure we stay in front of them.

I would also say like, data is so key when you have a limited audience like we do. If you really think about what we’re doing, there’s no one in the industry we don’t know. If you think about B2B lead gen, I have them all in our CRM. I know who the five decision-makers are at almost every institution of the country. We call them all, we send them something every quarter to keep best practices, and free content and free research in front of them about what’s going on, and that helps them answer the phone when they’re looking for another product.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. Again, the power of focus is, if you know your audience and you know what they’re doing and you know what they like, you really ought to be able to, in some ways, be the Amazon of “Hey, Drew, I know you like this book. People who like this book also like this book.” And you, in theory, could know them so well, this audience and interesting other things to think about.

And then, using that and being able to say, “We’re using this and by the way, you, bank, could probably use the same methodology for your customers because wouldn’t it be great if you knew your customers as well as we know you?”

Keith Brannan: We do have an advantage over a lot of other B2B marketers, I will say that for sure. One of those advantages is, as banking institutions, they’re regulatorily required to transparently publish their economics every quarter. So, when they have their call reports out, we try to be the first one to download all of it, publish new research and new findings so they can compare themselves to peers and other people that they can’t get through the FDIC or somewhere else.

That stuff is really important, and it helps us connect trends of people who are using our product versus not because you see more economics than you might see if you’re serving somebody who doesn’t have to publish that data.

Drew Neisser: So, should the listeners all be bullish on the next 6 to 12 months based on the data that you’re seeing?

Keith Brannan: Yeah, I mean, I would say they should that be—my opinion right now is that as the institutions open back up and consumers are coming back in—number one, the institutions have gotten better across the board and more efficient at handling how do I serve this consumer, so I think that the experiences will get better and better.

From a product standpoint, I mean, these institutions are all about making sure we’re putting great product right now in front of consumers, because it is a competitive business between megabanks, FinTechs, credit unions, local banks, it’s super competitive right now.

I think that we should all be bullish about it. They have a little bit of work to do to get the expenses in line—that’s big banks and little banks—but that’s happening pretty rapidly, and so I think that we’ll see very good things. And right now, most of them super aggressive, by the way, in lending, so if you’re a consumer borrower, man, now’s the time.

If you look at a balance sheet—it’s called a loan-to-deposit ratio in the banking business or loan-to-share on credit unions—and what that basically means is, I’ve got a lot of deposits and they’re all and out, that would be 100. Or the lower it is, the more deposits you have to land in. Right now, most of them have a ton of extra deposits, so they’re trying to win, man. Now’s the time.

Drew Neisser: There it is. Go out, get that money, and build your business.

[39:18] On the Value of Understanding Human Behavior

“The understanding of human behavior and applying it has never ever been more important than now.’ —@kbseeker @Kasasa Share on X

Drew Neisser: Keith, as you think about this and the last few years, what would you say is the biggest lesson learned?

Keith Brannan: Should I include the pandemic in that? Or just career-wise outside of the pandemic?

Drew Neisser: I think we could just talk about the pandemic and what lesson that taught you.

Keith Brannan: You know, I didn’t grow up wanting to be a marketer. I actually have a degree in psychology, so I never actually had a marketing class, even in college until—I was already Vice President of Marketing when I had a marketing class. I attribute that to the fact that it’s human behavior that’s the most important thing for marketers. We get so focused on programmatic and media and creative and all that kind of stuff.

At the very basis of it, you’re asking someone to behave a certain way and to respond to something. Your job as a marketer—it was easy to fall back into and very, very helpful during the pandemic—is to predict what the game theory of human behavior might be and how they’re going to respond to certain things when they have a moment of weakness or they feel confined at home, like what are they looking for in content.

Those types of things are really important, and so, for me, not just as a marketer—even though I didn’t start it this way, I consider myself very much a marketer—but I would say that the understanding of human behavior and applying it has never ever been more important than now.

Drew Neisser: That’s awesome. That’s great. That’s perfect. What a great place to wrap up the show. Thank you, Keith, for joining us today. I think it was a really interesting conversation. Really a pleasure.

Keith Brannan: Thank you.

Drew Neisser: And for all the listeners, if you enjoyed this episode, do me a favor go on iTunes or your favorite podcast channel and give us five stars, or even six if you can figure out how to do that.

Show Credits

Renegade Thinkers Unite is written and directed by Drew Neisser. Audio production is by Sam Beck. The show notes are written by Melissa Caffrey. The music is by the amazing Burns Twins and the intro voiceover is Linda Cornelius. To find the transcripts of all episodes, suggest future guests, or learn more about quite possibly the best B2B marketing agency in New York City, visit renegade.com. And until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.