Skip to content

Why Your Business Bankers Need to Optimize Their LinkedIn Profiles (how’s that for a sexy title?)

March 18, 2013

I’ve been active on LinkedIn since sometime in 2008. When I received my first invite for their platform, I thought it was related to the town I live in (Lincoln, NE). This was despite the fact that LinkedIn was founded in 2003. Yes, it’s been around for a decade!

Here are some slides I created for a presentation in 2012 for J.D. Power & Associates about the history of the Internet and Financial Institutions:

History of the Internets

History of the Internets 2

Since my 2008 introduction, I’ve become very, very involved with LinkedIn because I knew it would provide a great platform to build my visibility, brand, and, eventually, influence within the Financial Services industry.  1,000+ connections later, I’ve landed several speaking opportunities thanks to this channel and have used it to research prospects as well as close a new client.

But, despite these wins, I only recently optimized my LinkedIn profile for better search results. Why? Because I was getting what I thought were decent search and profile visits. Also, I hadn’t even run across an article that offered a step-by-step process for upping your results.

The lack of articles is because there isn’t an exact science behind it or at least there’s not much public about the science behind it. I researched and read a few articles and posted a question to LinkedIn’s now defunct Q&A board to learn more. I took several pieces of advice to optimize my profile to be better found for several key terms, which I will keep secret from my competitors. 🙂

What difference has it made for me? Here’s a look at my search results since I made the change in late December:

LinkedIn Search Results

The dip for the last week is because it’s a partial week of results. I expect this to climb back up to the new normal.

So what does this have to do with you and your business bankers and branch manager? Well, if someone is out in your market and searching for a new business banker, chances are good that they will use LinkedIn because of the higher penetration among professionals and small business owners. When they search LinkedIn, who will they find? Here’s a search for “business banking” in a local market:

I suppressed out 1st and 2nd connections as well as those in groups with me to show a more organic search result.

I suppressed out 1st and 2nd connections as well as those in groups with me to show a more organic search result.

Out of more than 1,000 people who would show up in a search for “Business Banking” in the Kansas City area, what value would you place on being in the top 10? How many potential new business bankers will a person consider when thinking of making a switch?

Your number of connections certainly plays a role in your search appearance s as you’ll note that the top five profiles above all have more than 500 connections, but the list at the seven and eight spots drops down to around 120 connections. There are things that you (I’m assuming you’re a bank/CU marketer, retail/sales head, or branch manager) and your sales staff can do to help improve your rankings.

I’ll write more about specifics down the road. You can also shoot me an email or use the contact page above if you’d like to know more now or have questions.

Until then…you can find me online!

Why Grumpy Cat Hates Your New Checking Account Line Up!

March 7, 2013 - in case you don’t know who/what Grumpy Cat is. If you don’t, I feel bad for you. – in case you don’t know who/what Grumpy Cat is. If you don’t, I feel bad for you.

Recently I participated in an excellent seminar by two serial entrepreneurs in Jonathan Fields and Charlie Gilkey. One of the exercises was designed to get into your customer’s head. “Everything starts from there when it comes to product creation,” they said. In their model (described below) you define your business/personal mission and then analyze your customer along five questions to create or validate your product offering.

Unfortunately, many tech companies get this wrong because they get excited about new technology without validating that this new tech/product satisfies a customer’s needs or pain points or, better yet, delights the customer. The same is true of many bankers.

The regulatory environment has many financial institutions reworking their checking account line ups in the hopes of recapturing lost revenue. Lost revenue is creating product changes, which is a lot like saying that our mission is to make lots of money so we’re going to revamp our products without regard to our customer’s needs. Actually, it’s just like saying that.

When we make product changes by only looking at lost revenue, we’re adding in obstacles that are designed solely to create fees. Or we interview vendors that are selling account packages that they say “consumers want and are willing to pay for.” Personally I’ve not seen these rewards accounts work long term, but do believe that they fall short of meeting a customer’s larger needs when your decision to employ them stems from your main desire to recoup lost revenue.

What does a customer first product revamp look like? Fields and Gilkey would argue it looks like this analysis process:

  1. What does your customer want?
  2. What are their felt needs? (what do they say they need)
  3. What are their actual needs? (what do they really need)
  4. What are their aspirations?
  5. What obstacles are in their way?

So what does Grumpy Cat have to do with this?

Think of your customers and prospects as Grumpy Cats. They know what they want. They know what they like. Grumpy Cat does not care about your lost revenue. Grumpy Cat cares about getting fed, having a warm bed, and a clean ass.

If you do not consider your end users needs, Grumpy Cat will not buy. More likely, you will also design a product that no customer wants.

I like eStatements as much as I like the dog...which is not very much.

I like eStatements as much as I like the dog…which is not very much.

Am I saying that your bank needs to bow to the whims of a customer like a cat owner? No, this is just a fun metaphor. The cat owners out there will know that it’s impossible to please a cat, even a happy one.

But, if your product redesign stemmed from anything but a customer-first needs assessment, then yes, you should fall victim to the Internet’s greatest meme.

Grumpy Cat 3

Bankers Can’t Afford to Ignore LinkedIn

January 18, 2013

Almost every time I go to follow a new bank on LinkedIn, I’m disappointed at the lack of engagement and presence of their staff, especially their business development staff and investment folks.

It may be fun to believe that business still happens primarily on the golf course and at lunch but the numbers show that business is happening online…all the time…without you.  Here’s why a lack of involvement on LinkedIn should scare a banker:


LinkedIn is still growing strong!

About 20 months ago the total number of LinkedIn users was 100 Million with 44 Million in the U.S.  Now it’s up to 200 Million Users with 74 Million in the U.S.  Despite being the largest LinkedIn user base, the U.S.’ user base continues to expand rapidly.  


LinkedIn is populated with “professional” level users!

Bankers all over American are lamenting lost revenue due to regulations.  They are also determined to recruit a more affluent new customer base.  (side note: if everyone is trying to recruit this segment, you can’t all win!).

So banks are looking for this class of customer and yet not forcing – yes, it should come to forcing your staff onto LinkedIn in my opinion – their highest profiled and, most likely, highest pay staffers to use a tool that has the following demographics:

Income: LinkedIn users on average have an income of $109,000 compared to Facebook’s $25,000 according a study by Seeking Alpha in 2012.  The average income on Twitter also towers over Facebook with more than double at $52,000 per user.  Source.

Yes by all means let’s invest more money into tweeting trivia questions about U.S. currency instead of getting deeply involved in a proven tool that houses some of the area’s senior executives and highly paid business professionals.


Bankers are not a relevant source of funds for tomorrow’s entrepreneur!

Question: What do high growth entrepreneurs think of bankers?

Answer: They don’t.

I’ve had the chance to participate in several StartUp America and StartUp Weekend events in the last few months.  Several of these events featured free advice from area CPAs, lawyers, entrepreneurs, venture capital groups, angel investors, and 1 very sad and lonely banker.  I talked to this guy for awhile and he said, “No one wants to talk about traditional funding.”  I almost took out a small line of credit for my LLC just to cheer him up.

But he’s right!  When entrepreneurs think about funding and talk about startup challenges, they think of Lean Startup Methodologies, VCs, Angel Investors, and bootstrapping.  They don’t think of a bank.  Mainly because they don’t see bankers at most of these functions.  Nor do they don’t see them online.  They don’t see them as part of their world.  And your absence on tools they may be using – like LinkedIn – will continue to reinforce this.


Social Selling and thought leadership should be the goals of any effective business development person…in any industry.  What are your business development officers engaging in to stay relevant in the changing world of sales?  Country club memberships?



2012 ABA Bank Marketing Conference Twitter List

September 19, 2012

So the conference hashtag for the American Bankers Association Bank Marketing Conference is officially here: #ABAMKTG.  A quick Twitter search shows a good amount of activity already surfacing as well as this partial list of registered attendees with their corresponding handles.  Can’t wait to reconnect or meet with many of you!  Sincerely, @BankMarketing – aka Mark Zmarzly















































If I missed you, please add your handle into a comment and I’ll get you added.  Thanks!

Everyone Likes Over-the-Top Customer Service…and Soup!

August 15, 2012

In the last two days I’ve encountered two stories that couldn’t be more different.  The first was about the uncaring staffers at United Airlines who lost a 10-year-old unaccompanied minor.  The second was about a New Hampshire Panera Bread employee who went out of her way to make soup for a customer who was passing soon from cancer.

Over-the-top customer service stories aren’t told much in the banking industry and they certainly aren’t often told publicly.  Every week I hear conversations from bankers and bank marketers about social media strategies – or more accurately put “gimmicks” – for increasing engagement – or more accurately put “likes” – and I swear I can hear the Internet weep a bit.  Giving away $1 to a charity in exchange for a like isn’t exactly at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  And where does pushing this factoid out to your 233 fans fit into the grand scheme of things?


Whatever happened to engaging people in person with extreme service and kindness instead of with random questions or contests?

Think about the last time you had an extreme customer service experience in any environment?  I have worked in the hotel, restaurant, and retail industries and used to pride myself on delivering consistently good experience most of the time and in looking for an extreme way to deliver when I could.  From the other side of the counter, it’s not as easy as it seems but it can make an amazing difference to a customer.  And, as we’ve seen, it can give someone a reason to talk about you and your brand:


If you know of any publically discussed over-the-top banking service stories, please let me know.  If you don’t, think about what your retail and branch admin departments can do to assist in making moments like these – moments that people share publicly online and in person – an everyday occurrence!

It’s Time to Change Your Social Media Story (Part Two)

April 10, 2012

In my previous post, I made a brilliant argument for the end of the Internet.  Actually, I wrote about how Facebook’s timeline changes should give all financial institutions reason to reconsider their social media strategies, but I think you could read between the lines.  The time for reinvention is here, as is the road map below.

If you have the guts (and resources) to reinvent your narrative, here are the things to think about as you redesign and redefine your story:

  • You are not the main character in your story…your story (updates, cover photos, apps, etc) needs to reflect your customers, not your bank.  People identify with those like them (more accurately: with people slightly better than themselves), not with their bank.

Who are the main characters in the stories below?  Which story would you rather read?

  • Your voice needs to be authentic.  Every time I see a scripted wall post that’s repeated over and over “Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Please contact us at so we can look into your issue and work with you to resolve it.” I want to jump right into my laptop screen onto the Information Super Highway and drive down to a town I like to call Shoot Myself. Yes, discussions about personal account level data need to be taken offline but this voice is your narrator and he/she is inauthentic and not engaging.  Amber Farley from Financial Marketing Solutions adds, “Not only does the voice of the bank need to be authentic and relevant, but it needs to be reflective of the bank’s overall brand. Banks shouldn’t jump into social media pretending to be something they aren’t.”
  • Learn from the great writers around you…not just any random writer/reader out there.  It’s good to listen to what’s being said about your brand online, but it’s not good to let your story be controlled by others.  You control your brand; your story is a part of that journey.  Listening, engagement, and moment of relevance have all become buzz words for social media justification but they are not justification for the new story.  Reader interaction is good for a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure tale but only 12-year-old boys like those.  If you choose to accept my challenge, good fortune (and sales) will come to you.  If you choose not to accept the challenge, turn here.
  • Get out of your routine to discover new stories.  I was reminded of this just yesterday by Dave Martin’s new American Banker column: Get Out of the Branch, Go Visit Local Businesses.  Characters at rest tend to stay at rest.  Similarly, your stories don’t hatch in the conference room; you need to unearth them by getting into motion.
  • Practice different forms of writing: short story, long form, anything between.  I love Embassy Suites’ new 366 days of more campaign.  It has a great voice (copy, visuals, and actor in perfect synergy), a reinforcing story (more, more, more in the pitch and at their hotels, and has a story ending in mind (Feb 28, 2013).  Readers and authors don’t want to get trapped in long, winding stories…most don’t have patience to be on either end of that equation.

I don’t expect you to scrap you current social media offerings today, but do expect those of you out there who are in control of your Financial Institution’s story to view Facebook’s new changes for the game changers that they are: storytelling is the new black…or the new 30…or something like that.

All of the elements of a good story need to be incorporated into your social media efforts: good characters, authentic voice, visual elements, plot twists, and an ending or climax of events.  Conflict is also good, but I think I just provided that to most of you.

A timeline is a great record of where you have been but it doesn’t foretell your future.  Your story can go in any direction as of today.  Tell your story wisely.

Read more about the new Facebook changes here:

Facebook, “Tell Your Story with Timeline

Social Media Examiner, “Seven New Facebook Changes Impacting Businesses, “10 Things Financial Marketers Need to Know About Facebook’s New Timeline Features Right Now

It’s Time to Change Your Social Media Story (Part One)

April 6, 2012

Here’s something most of you don’t know about me: before I entered the financial services industry, I was an English teacher and fiction writer.  Why you don’t know this about me can be chalked up to one of these reasons:

  • We have a virtual relationship only. (“What are two good-looking Gravatars like us doing on this banking discussion board? Let’s take this party over to MySpace.”)
  • You rarely call anymore just to talk.
  • This background information isn’t relevant to what I do on a daily basis.

If it’s due to the first two items, I’ll forgive you – though it wouldn’t kill you to pick up the phone once in awhile or at least post on my Facebook wall.  If you didn’t know about my storytelling past, then that’s about to change.

It’s about to change because of a game-changing move that Facebook made over the weekend in what appears NOT to be an elaborate April Fool’s Day joke.  Of course I’m referring to its change to timeline. Or simply put, the new way to “tell your story.”

Facebook’s change to timeline may seem like a simple process change at first glance.  You’re no longer allowed to decide where your new prospects will land (welcome page redirection is gone unless you use URL app redirects); you’re limited (or barred depending on how you follow the rules) in your calls to action; and you’re no longer going to have the same fan reach you used to enjoy (unless you pay for it).

I asked Ron Shevlin for his input on the changes: “The restrictions that Facebook is placing on brands — e.g., limits on apps and tabs, throttling, pinning and starring limitations — will only make it harder for brand pages to systematically support user goals for using social media. These goals include finding information about interests, interacting with groups that share my interests, and socializing with friends and family.”

He’s right, and that means this story seems to suck for financial institutions.  But, perhaps it’s an unexpected gift? I argue that these changes to Facebook have given you the perfect reason to examine (maybe for the first time), the story your Social Media efforts are telling about your bank.  Upon examination, most FIs would benefit from ditching their current social media efforts and starting a new story.

This is because most stories that are being told by financial institutions’ social media channels are boring and fail at engaging storytelling.  Facebook’s timeline change has given everyone the opportunity to start from zero.  I’d go so far as to advocate you spin your social media efforts off from normal marketing activity, give them their own P&L Statement, and 18 months to turn a significant profit.  But in this case I’ll meet you half way and say that you MUST take the following steps to evaluate how your old tactics (or brand and social media strategies if you have them clearly defined) fit into the new storytelling future.

Step 1: Examine your cast of characters.  Engaging characters are the heart of any good story.  You know who’s not a good character?  The Bank!  Other characters that may be better choices for the lead: anyone else.  Banks and bankers are not engaging characters, please realize that.  But, your customers, the stories they can tell when given the chance, when given (God forbid) a product or service you have that helps them craft their stories, can be engaging.  People want to engage with unique characters in the hopes that they will learn new things about themselves.  Ask what can your financial institution, its products, and/or its customers teach people about themselves, about savings money, about life?  Be bold with your questioning and subsequent character choices!  See a great example here (thanks for the reminder on this on Jeffry Pilcher!):

Video Note: Jeffry Pilcher, “this got them a lot of good, global exposure (e.g., name awareness). Hopefully ‘going viral’ was their goal.”

Step 2: Establish a unique voice.  If the updates on your Facebook page, blog, or Twitter stream could appear on any bank’s page, then your voice isn’t unique, engaging, or worth your effort.  People listen to stories told in voices that engage them on multiple levels. They want a guide that will pull them into a new world on an emotional level or, at a minimum, will tell them something that they’ve already seen except in a new voice, from a new point of view.  Third person omniscient is a bold choice in fiction…but can be wonderful, haunting, and will stay with you for years (The short story Merry-Go-Sorry by Cary Holladay has been with me since 2004).  Your choice of voice needs to be bold because not everyone is good at storytelling.

Step 3: Insure that your storytelling is visual.  Facebook’s new changes have given priority to visual elements over text.  Long gone are the days when “What’s everyone doing this weekend?” or another “Currency Related Trivia Tuesday Question!” will gain you much notice.  AND GOOD FOR FACEBOOK in that regard!  I follow about 100 FIs on Facebook and am tired of feeling bad about our industry…bad for the employees who are struggling to find trivia bits to toss out randomly every week to their hundreds of bored fans.

Step 4: You have to tell a crappy story sometimes…before you can get to where you need to go.  As a former participant in entry level fiction, I’ve written a story or two that ended in the tragic suicide of the main character.  This story ending is so overused by early fiction writers that many teachers now add, “Stories cannot end in a suicide” to the class syllabus.  But those stories – however tragic to read as the teacher – are necessary in your development as a writer.  You need to hit bottom, and kill someone, in order to learn.  Without naming Facebook page names here, I’ll say that the vast majority of community FIs in America have hit bottom.  The good thing is that there’s nowhere to go but up!

Step 5: Sometimes a crappy story is just a crappy story…and it needs to die.  Be prepared to kill your story.  As a writer, I’ve walked away from many a story.  Whether at page 1 or page 53, sometimes it’s best to just walk away from the entire story and let those characters live in suspended animation indefinitely.  Now, you most likely can’t walk entirely away from your current social media efforts, but you can re-invent them based on the new changing landscape.

Jeffry Pilcher of adds, “Most FIs have no clue what ‘their story’ is. And even if they thought they knew, it isn’t likely a story that is differentiated, engaging and/or credible.”

If you’re in that boat – which is admittedly a hard fact to face but would be just the revelation you need to evolve – then Facebook has given you a gift.  This gift is a revolutionary change in the main staple of social media marketing that justifies a deep reassessment of the bones of your story, its characters, and the voice of your tale.

Look for my follow up post about the process you need to go through to reinvent your story.

%d bloggers like this: