I was conducting a program in Denver last week, and the concept of “thinking outside the box” came up.  It’s an overused phrase.  It is astounding how many people think they’re operating “outside the box” when, in fact, they are stuck in their prison of familiarity.  To give you an example of what I mean, let me ask you the same question I asked this audience:

“There are banks on just about every corner, but my parents were extremely dedicated to the bank they used for years while living in Florida.  With the millions of dollars that are tied up in all of these banks’ marketing campaigns, what do you think is the biggest reason they remained loyal to their bank?”

Here is a list of the four responses I heard:

  1. They know my name.
  2. Their location is convenient to my home.
  3. They have coffee and muffins in the lobby.
  4. They treat me as if I’m important to them.

Do any of those responses sound familiar or match yours?  I have worked with almost three-dozen banks in this country – including Bank of America, Wachovia, Citicorp, and SunTrust.  I’ve asked them the same question, and I received the same three or four responses.  I even tried to push them a bit almost heckling them with phrases like, “That’s really getting outside of the box for you?  Come on –think outside of the box!  Think creatively!”  Almost every time I still hear, “They know the customer’s name?!”

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s pretty important to know the customer’s name, I’m just wondering how many banks have a policy that states, “Don’t learn the customer’s name!”  It’s important; I just don’t think it’s an example of thinking outside of the box.  I also don’t believe for a second that this is going to seriously impact customer loyalty.

Perhaps we should pause a moment and define what thinking outside of the box is.  Wikipedia defines it this way: “… to think differently, unconventionally or from a new perspective.”  Do you still think learning a customer’s name is an example of thinking outside of the box?

A small bank in Florida doesn’t think so either.  When I asked my parents that same question regarding what they liked best about their bank, I was both stunned, and inspired, by their answer.  Their answer consisted of two words: “Dog biscuits.”

Dog biscuits?!  With all the money pumped into every bank’s marketing campaigns, brochures, lobby appearance, and training, the answer is dog biscuits?!  My parents went on to explain: “Yes, each time we come in or pull up at the drive-in window, they take our deposit slips, ask how our dogs Tyler and Sasha are, and give us dog biscuits.  We LOVE our bank and will NEVER leave them!”

What a perfect example of not just thinking outside of the box, but also targeting your client base.  I’m not sure when you last traveled to Florida, but I’d gracefully put forward the theory that the client base is a little older down there.  You could give out candy with those banking receipts, but that would only be appreciated once or twice a year when the grandkids are visiting.  Not only is that another example of not thinking outside the box, it’s another example of not knowing your client base.

Dogs with human names are the children of Florida, and targeting that client base with biscuits is brilliant, it’s a wonderful example of thinking outside the box.  With my small client sampling of Lee and Judy Jolles, it resulted in a banking relationship that lasted over a decade… including after they moved to two different locations and had to drive much further, and past many other banks to get to their “favorite bank.”

So, the next time someone asks you to think outside the box, think of these dog biscuits, and perhaps it will give you a push to go deeper with your thinking.


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