Fresh Ideas, Running and the Power of Your Brand to Build Loyalty
On a chilly Friday morning, we sat down with Washington Federal’s Deanna Franks to discuss branding, maximizing efficiencies and the allure of clever promotional items. As their marketing production manager, Deanna has changed the way the company operates when it comes to their marketing team and how they manage their resources. It’s been a creative journey and we get a chance to join her on that trail in our first-ever Q&A.
You’ve enjoyed a lot of success as a designer and project manager. What has been the game changer since you have been at Washington Federal?
DF: When I came onboard, there was not an in-house design option. So that was the first game changer; that we could source our own compliance approved flyers and content and push things out to the branches faster. The second was taking the time to work with SmithBates to build our marketing resource center. The way branches previously ordered materials was through several online portals. The challenge there was first, to know which portal inventoried the item needed, then to log in and out of several different locations to place multiple orders. The process was inefficient, confusing, and with turnover of employees, not easily transferred to new colleagues.
In contrast, the new resource center houses all of the marketing materials with one login. It also includes a way to source all of the items in one place like stationary and other office supply vendors. From a branch standpoint, they know where they can access everything they run out of. They don’t necessarily know which vendor inventories each piece, they know to log in to one portal, and place one order that will automatically come from multiple vendors. To be able to give directions online one time for an ever-changing workforce is a game changer for the bank.
I bet you can’t imagine going back to the way it used to be?
DF: You’re right! We’ve been doing this for so long, it’s the norm now. Since the resource center launched, we have 50 more branches, so its fortunate the way the timing worked out. We needed it at the time but even more so now.
So, for each branch, is there a designated person that interfaces with the portal? Is that how it works?
DF: That is the way it is intended to work. There are 238 branches and they aren’t all structured exactly the same. We communicate to the branches that they get their best efficiencies by getting the team together to determine what is needed and place one order. Related to this, we used to do a lot of full-branch distributions; meaning we would print something and ship it to every branch. We’ve shifted our distribution model to, instead, send out notifications that let branches know when new items are available in the resource center so they can order and combine with other needed materials, saving shipping costs.
Besides stationary and typical marketing materials what other items are offered on the site? I know you offer branded promotional items as well.
DF: Promo items are the fun. You need your brochures and your disclosures; those are the things-you-have-to-do part of banking. In the shifting culture of Washington Federal, we’re asking branch managers to be out of their office more for business development. That is one of the strengths of the brand; that the people who work for you are proud to work for you. So, they wear their branded jackets, speak at events on behalf of Washington Federal and provide something with our logo that is unique and relevant to their audience. We have created a reliance on promotional products that we need to keep feeding because its appreciated and our team members see the value in having branded items they can share.
Can you share any top-secret plans for the resource center?
DF: In thinking about the things that take a lot of time for us still, the focus is going to be to add more content. Some of that will be on the side we can manage for ourselves, but also create more that colleagues can print from the branch. We’re looking at automating our Business Development Request Forms; it’s a labor-intensive process. We plan to engage SmithBates to automate that process. The form is a way for branches to coordinate materials and needs for specific events. Currently it is a PDF scan that is manually parsed out, then monitored. Ideally, branches will be able to submit the request through the resource center then have the approvals and workflow track though the system. It will be our third game changer. It doesn’t sound very exciting, but automating our BDRs is going to be the next big time saver.
Inquiring minds want to know – What’s your favorite item of branded swag on the site?
DF: From looking around my office you would think it was Post-it notes but – actually this is kind of a sneak peek – I think it might be this new Walt bank.
Holy cow, that’s adorable!
DF: This is fun! Actually, he is WAFD Walt. He is the mascot for our Green Checking account and it was SUPER FUN to create these “piggy” banks. They’re injection molded, custom to WAFD and they are going to live at SmithBates. Nobody has seen it yet. There are only 5 prototypes but 59,995 of his buddies are on their way. The branches are going to be so excited, but yeah, you heard it here first. He’s my new favorite.
We’ll continue to add more trendy items. Kelsey helps to give us quick ideas about what things cost. For a lot of events, it is more about “trick or treating” than real, solid conversations, so we’ve got to balance the cost of those items. We like to keep it fresh. Our brand stands out when our promo items are a little different.
Are you finding that having these fun, branded pieces helps increase awareness and brand loyalty?
DF: I think loyalty is tricky. From a top-of-mind awareness, absolutely! Promo items will do that for you all day long. Especially when it is something non-typical.
Changing the subject – I understand you are an avid runner.
DF: Avid may be a bit of a stretch.
Do you get creative inspiration when you hit the pavement?
DF: I think the answer you want me to say is yes. But for me running does two things. It makes me be quiet. My day is very hectic. I am used to having lots of distractions … you’re probably the same. The second thing it does is force me to be present. Sometimes I listen to podcasts or I rock out to music I wouldn’t listen to at work. There’s probably been a run or two or ten where I’ve been stuck on something I haven’t had a good idea for, but I solve it there.
I’m still working on the running thing. I walk.
DF: This is more of a walk; it’s a jog.
Any last thoughts you would like to share? Any shameless plugs you’d like to make … (wink, wink)
DF: Aside from the resource center, which is huge for us … really, what I want people to know about SmithBates is that they do a good job. They care about what we are making as much as I do. You don’t find that with a lot of vendors, or just a lot of people in general. The team, the people who work there show up to do good work. And that’s the power behind what they do. Aside from that, it’s the timeliness. We push a lot of deadlines around here and Dan never says no. What probably one-ups that is Gene always seems to beat the deadline I give him by a day or more. It takes the whole team for them to be able to do that. It is the point of difference for SmithBates, that they really want to do a good job. I think that’s more important than the resource center. It’s a real partner relationship.