Marketing Tips for Reaching Microfinance Clients

Mr. Mike Rios of Microfinance Opportunities livened up the audience at the 2010 RBAP-MABS National Roundtable Conference in Manila on June 3rd with an entertaining and informative presentation on marketing strategies.

Market like your customer, not like your ‘Mom’” was the first of his three rules of marketing new products. Too often, marketers focus on the benefits that are not tangible to the customer, pretty much like moms lecturing about the benefits of vitamins to their children. Imagining what it is like to be a customer should drive design, branding and marketing decisions. Think of how Flintstones vitamins changed the way vitamins were marketed to children.

Mr. Rios’ second rule is: “Make your product easy to try, buy, and know ‘what’s in it for me’.” A product can have great brand recognition, but if customers do not know what the product does or how it benefits them, then the product will not be successful. This seems like a great lesson as banks look at how to market mobile phone banking services – take the time to explain to your customers why it is safer and more convenient to use GCASH or Smart Money, and then show them how to use the technology.

The third rule is: “The experience you give is your best marketing.”  Mr. Rios shared an example of a small bank in Cambodia that has its employees go to people’s homes, sit on the floor, and explain to them how banking can change their lives. The friendly and sincere staff provides their clients with a memorable experience.

Mr. Rios continued with three marketing tips.  “Walk in your client’s shoes,” he advised.  Document what a client does when he or she first walks into your branch and take pictures of what the client observes.  Remember that an unfamiliar environment can be confusing to new clients.  Redesign the lobby or improve the signage to make your branch more welcoming and engaging.  Second, Mr. Rios recommended creating simple tools.  These tools can be stories that teach people how to save or testimonials from past and current clients that illustrate the benefits of the bank’s products.  It is not about “dumbing-down” concepts, but prioritizing what is important and making ideas easy to remember.  Finally, Mr. Rios concluded by urging rural banks to conduct lots of mini pilots: “Those who constantly improve their ideas will be the winners.

Jove Tapiador, MABS Regional Manager for Luzon, continued this compelling panel session by offering a consumer profile of the average Filipino, and providing guidance on how this changing profile affects microfinance marketing strategies.  The recent economic problems have pushed Filipinos to stay at home more, so offering house to house calls or promoting the ease and convenience of mobile phone transactions can provide clients a way to conduct banking without leaving their homes.  As Filipinos look for alternate sources of income, rural banks should emphasize microenterprise loan products and share their previous experience with successful microenterprise clients to build a trusting relationship and to promote the benefits of microfinance services.

Another trend in Filipino buying behavior is the value of performance over image and the shift from premium to less expensive brands.  This is a great opportunity for rural banks to communicate the advantages of their products over fancy commercial bank services. They can emphasize the convenience and excellent customer services offered by local rural banks.

Filipinos are now less inclined to make impulse purchases.  Rural banks can prepare effective marketing materials with better information about the bank, its products and its prices.  Given the tendency to be more cautious and put aside more money, rural banks can also now promote savings to help clients save for a rainy day.

What are some of the unique marketing strategies your bank has implemented?  How are you adapting to the changing needs of the microfinance customer?  Share your experiences and stories by replying to this post.

This is the final edition of the 2010 RBAP-MABS National Roundtable Conference session recaps.  We look forward to another informative and rewarding conference next year.

Until next time, Mabuhay ang Rural Banking at Mabuhay ang Microfinance!