Conversations Quarterly Registration Form


What's driving your organization? The gas pedal or the brake?


January 8, 2015 | by Jason Tonioli, Co-founder, Kadince and Elevation 43



Doing what's right for your customer will always be your most successful marketing and sales tool.



For many financial marketers and salespeople, the word "compliance" may cause feelings of anxiety and stress. I spent 12 years as a marketer at a growing community bank and fortunately, had a great relationship with my compliance department. For the past three years I've had the privilege of working with dozens of banks and credit unions around the country with the unique perspective of observing the processes and team dynamics between bank marketing and compliance departments.


From this experience, I've learned that there are a few common traits of truly great marketing and compliance teams.


What best describes your bank?


Imagine your bank as a car driving down the freeway, what type of driver would you be? Do you find yourself driving the same speed as everyone else? Are you in the fast lane hoping to not see flashing lights behind you? Or… would you be more like the grandma driving 40 mph in the slow lane?


If a bank were a car, the marketing team is the gas pedal.  The compliance officers and many senior management team members serve as the brakes on the car.


Bankers in general are not known for taking risks. Banks after all are risk managers. I remember sitting through a training on personality profiles at my own bank years ago and learned that out of the 80 people in the room, only five of us were naturally outgoing, party planners, and risk takers who were most well suited for business development, marketing and sales. More than 90 percent of the room was filled with people who by nature valued safety and were risk averse.


When the personality of an organization tends to be risk averse, it is no wonder that most banks tend to be thoughtful and in many cases, overly conservative regarding any decision that is made.


As a teenager, when you learned to drive a car, you were taught to start with your foot on the brake. You learned to slowly release the brake but eventually you had to allow the gas pedal to be pushed. Otherwise you'd never outpace a four year old child riding a bike with training wheels.


If you don't know how and when to use the brake pedal, the outcome will no doubt be painful and messy. But we also know that trying to drive a car by pushing both the brake and gas doesn't work. Only when the driver (or in this case your bank) is able to find the right balance between gas and brake will your car work well.


Compliance and marketing both need to recognize their role on the team. Best in class organizations have learned to communicate well together and have systems and processes in place to ensure their car is at very least keeping up with others on the road. Don't let your organization be the grandma driving on the freeway at 40 mph who is a hazard to others on the road... that isn't capable of making a decision that will benefit your customers or your employees.


Never forget the driver and helping them stay focused on the road.


Sometimes as marketers we think that we are the drivers of the bank's strategic plan. We might be the ones who push on the gas pedal, but we aren't driving the car. The sales team and those employees who interact with your clients are the ones driving the car. Organizations and marketing teams who ignore their salespeople, don't ask for feedback and provide little to no training are in many ways like a distracted driver trying to send text messages as they drive down the road.


I realized a great and important lesson years ago when I rolled out a marketing campaign with little buy-in from the front line or training for those who would be selling. We had fun, catchy headlines, great media placements and beautiful marketing pieces. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that if the sales team isn't on board with your marketing message, you can waive goodbye to a great ROI.


Your salespeople are not only the ones driving, but are your eyes on the road ahead. Great marketing organizations work incredibly well with their salespeople, seek feedback and input often and provide training and consistent coaching to build a repeatable customer experience.


Flat tires happen. When they do, find a way to fix it.


Having a flat tire makes driving nearly impossible and potentially dangerous. On a few occasions I have observed the attitude of a member of senior management completely deflate the excitement and energy from the team. If your bank is dealing with an ROJ (Retired on the Job) senior leader, or someone who looks for ways to say "no" more often than "yes", it can be like trying to drive with a flat tire. The driver in the car wants to drive, but until the tire is fixed, your car will have problems.


I've often heard people say, "When I'm in charge, I'll do things different." When I hear this, it's like watching someone sit in their car complaining about a flat tire, but not being willing to get out of the car and fix it.


In the book 360 Degree Leader, John C. Maxwell talks about the fact that the most important leadership roles in an organization are actually the mid-level employees. They have more power to make changes than the actual top leaders. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you feel like you are driving on a flat tire, do something about it. Find a way to fix the tire. I'm not suggesting that you stage a coup and complain to your board of directors, but do look for ways to patch the tire and get it functioning again so that you and others can be effective at their job.


When everyone recognizes their role in the organization you have the makings of a good team. The next step is finding a common vision. Whether you are a marketer, compliance officer, sales person or part of senior management, remember that you are all focused on a common goal.


The next time marketing wants to push on the gas with a new campaign, or suggests implementing a new or better way to manage a process, ask yourself this question: "Is this the right thing to do for our customers and/or our employees."


If the answer is yes, then it's probably worth learning more about, and more than likely worth doing. If your employees are happy, they'll take great care of your customers. If your customers are happy, they'll continue to give you more business. If you get more business, you'll in turn be more profitable and you'll continue to grow.


Doing what's right for your customers and your employees will always be your most successful marketing and sales tool.


It's a simple concept that Zappos, Amazon and others have mastered. This simple idea is highlighted in articles, written about in books and talked about at seminars every year. For some reason many organizations just can't seem to figure this out.


If you focus on doing what's right for your customer and employees and can find the proper balance between gas and brake, while helping your driver keep their eyes on the road, your organization will be "one of the greats" that people talk about and want to be like.



Jason Tonioli, Co-founder, Kadince and Elevation43

Jason Tonioli is a co-founders at Kadince, a software tool developed to give banks a better way to manage approvals and improve interaction between decision makers, and Elevation43, a marketing and CRM consulting firm. He can be reached at 801-430-9079 or at