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Customer Persona Development Helps Focus Your Bank's Marketing Efforts

Customer Engagement

Customer Persona Development Helps Focus Your Bank's Marketing Efforts

Eric Cook by Eric Cook

Chief Digital Strategist

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Full biography

Eric considers himself a “recovering banker” of 15 years, who for the past eleven years has focused his efforts as a digital strategist, helping his clients (mostly community banks) better understand and leverage the power of the Internet as a strategic business tool. An award-winning web designer with WSI, the world’s largest digital agency network, Eric is a two-time contributing author to the best-selling book Digital Minds – 12 Things Every Business Needs to Know About Digital Marketing. Consistently rated in the top five digital marketing books on Amazon, the book is in its second edition and available in three languages.

A sought-after, nationally-recognized speaker in the financial services industry, Eric is a member of the National Speakers Association and loves sharing his knowledge to help educate and inspire others. He is the co-creator of a weekly webinar show called Free Webinar Wednesdays, founder of the Banker Education Series webinar series, and serves as a faculty member at several banking schools around the country where he teaches bankers about digital strategy, online marketing and social media. He is a WSI Certified LinkedIn Professional and holds undergraduate degrees in business administration and psychology. While working full-time as a community banker, Eric earned his MBA and completed the three-year Graduate School of Banking program in Madison, WI in 2003.

Professionally, Eric helps his clients in all areas of digital marketing, which includes mobile-responsive web development, search engine marketing and optimization, social media strategies, e-mail communication, and “big-picture” digital strategic planning. He’s the co-founder of, a service created to help businesses understand their risk when it comes to operating in today’s digital world. When he’s not helping his clients succeed online, he can typically be found on one of his many bicycles training for his next mountain bike/triathlon race or spending time with his wife and two (very spoiled) golden retrievers.



What does your ideal customer look like? If you're not certain, maybe it's time to build out an ideal customer persona.

It was another great day in Madison yesterday, this time with the Wisconsin Bankers Association at their School of Bank Management. We spent the entire day together (those poor bankers)! 🤣 

Seriously though. Despite the fact the bankers had to sit through eight hours of my jokes, stories, and occasional squirrel-chasing-tangents, I think we managed to keep it fun and interactive. 

My session covered the topics of #DigitalMarketing, #SocialMedia, #AI, and #DigitalBanking. Yeah, that's a lot and I used every minute that was allocated to class, ending right at 5 pm - on the dot! 

One of the exercises I thought I'd share a bit more about was when we took the opportunity to break the class into two groups and dive into a #CustomerPersona exercise. This gave the bankers an opportunity to really get to know who we want to serve best and attract to their banks.

Finally Building Their Dream Home

One group introduced us to Karen and Chad, two very busy doctors interested in obtaining a construction loan to build their dream home. With the kids gone away to college and income levels ramping up, it's time to think about that "forever home," and they need a bank that can make it happen and accommodate their hectic lifestyle.

Personas Team 1

Personas Board Team 1


The Budding Young Professional

The other group introduced us to Ineda Justment (creative, eh?), a 26-year-old newly graduated chiropractor interested in taking better control of her financial life and working toward buying the practice she's working in. She also has a lot of questions about what's involved with buying a home and planning for her future, as someday she wants to get married and start a family. 

Personas Team 2

Personas Board Team 2


Are You Building Personas?

So here's a question for you... Have you had conversations in your #bank about who your key customer segments are? Have you developed personas with clearly defined characteristics that everyone in your bank understands? If not, it may be great exercise - as only a handful of the bankers in class said they had done this previously. 

As part of the persona-building process, we defined these seven key areas to help us get a better understanding of what makes them "tick": 

  1. Who is s/he? Think about the demographics and psychographics of the person, income level, hobbies, education, age, what type of vehicle they drive, do they have pets, etc. 
  2. How does s/he find us? How do they discover your bank? Maybe it's via SEO, someone mentioned you on social media, they met one of your bankers at a Chamber mixer, or possibly a referral from a Realtor or their accountant.
  3. What are their pain points? What is keeping them up at night and causing them concerns - beyond just banking-related issues? For example, Karen and Chad are struggling with the responsibilities of taking care of their elderly parents, and part of their new home-building project will likely need to consider accommodations for taking care of them. Understanding these issues at a deeper level helps you connect emotionally to your customers and makes them feel like you "get them" and understand their situation. 
  4. What does s/he want to know? Think about their questions about your bank and the products and services they are considering, and then take steps to answer these proactively. They may not reach out to ask you directly, though, so weaving this information into your content strategy with articles, social media posts, and other ways helps to ensure they are getting the information they need to make an informed decision.
  5. What does s/he not want? Just as people want information, they also don't want certain things too. For example, Ineda is young and not very "financially savvy," so she does not want to be looked down upon or made to feel dumb if she asks what may be very basic and obvious questions. People don't want the runaround, excuses, hidden fees, or dealing with a lot of paperwork. Ensure you're clear on what you help your customers avoid as part of your message so they know these issues won't be present if they decide to bank with you. 
  6. Why does s/he buy from us? What are the ultimate reasons that someone picks your bank over the options (and there are a LOT of options these days)? While you may think you know why your customers ultimately pick you, don't be afraid to ask some of your newer additions to the bank. You may be surprised by what you learn. Sure, friendly service or a great rate help, but maybe it was because your banker called or emailed on a Sunday afternoon to answer a question. While to some, that type of responsiveness may be "just what they do," to a prospective customer, it could make a bit of an impact, setting the stage for how responsive the bank will be to their needs down the road. 
  7. What else can we do for them? And once they get their account or close on their new loan, the journey is not over. What else can your bank do to help the customer in their financial life? Additional guidance on the next stages in life (such as helping to save for a wedding or buying a home someday). There are a lot of other ways a bank can grow the relationship to build a long-lasting customer, so don't overlook this part of the process. 

While #CommunityBanks certainly excel at catering to diverse customer needs, developing customer personas can significantly enhance your marketing message, content strategy, and product offerings. It's a strategic tool that can help you better understand and serve your customers and it's one of the exercises I love doing for programs like this. 

When I start seeing the lightbulbs go off, ideas are shared between the bankers, and comments like "This was so helpful" or "I'm going to take this process back to my bank and develop our own personas," really make my day!

All the best to this year's WBA School of Bank Management bankers. Enjoy the rest of your week, and I hope you return to your banks energized with all that you've learned. Keep in touch with not just me but all your fellow banker classmates! 


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