Kevin Tynan and Joshua Carter

Many bankers, however, chase new accounts like amateurs tackle fishing. Too often bankers assume an ad or a mail solicitation inspires someone to apply for a bank product. But in a digital era, there are many other ways a potential customer interacts with the bank that can influence whether or not he or she becomes a customer.

Prospects may be interacting with the bank in numerous ways ? including in person, on the phone and online ? before filling out online applications. Bank marketers are not always fully aware of what online message or interaction with bank personnel made an impression on a prospect. Every point of contact ? from rate advisory emails to credit improvement tip articles ? influences whether someone will become a customer or not.

Sometimes something as indirect and impersonal as general content on the bank’s website can make the difference.

Yet, these interactions are largely unknown and untracked by marketing personnel. Too often, banks rely on customer surveys to determine how the institution got the person’s attention. But surveys are an old-school technique that will fail to deliver this degree of intelligence. Human nature, after all, throws a big wrench into the effectiveness of surveys. People responding to them may forget which interaction initially drew them to the bank and they frequently select the incorrect channel. At our community bank, survey respondents regularly credit television spots or billboards with prompting an action even though we rarely advertise on billboards or on TV. Complicating matters more is how surveys usually demand that customers only pick one channel.

In order to fill in the dots, banks must use data analytical tools. It’s important to know what the customer did before applying for a product because understanding those steps help banks address the needs of prospects and the effects of marketing, and ultimately increase the number of people applying for a product.

During a one-month period in 2015, our community bank used analytics tools from Google to examine 108 mortgage applicants submitted through the bank’s website, for instance. What we discovered surprised us: Each applicant interacted with the bank an average of nine times prior to formally submitting an application and each prospect’s journey was unique.

In some cases, the process started with a telephone call, followed by a meeting with a branch manager and the registering of an emailed rate, before ending with an application three months later. Other applicants checked rates, visited the mortgage page on our website and made a pre-mortgage application. Still others saw external TV screens and plugged the bank name into a search engine. Virtually no two applicants followed the same route to applying for a product. Some made less than nine interactions, others made more.

By tracking these insights, we gleaned areas of our website we needed to improve. Subsequently, we modified website structure, increased calls to action and clarified confusing directions.

But we might not have known what to tweak if we had only used surveys.

Sure, we learn from surveys which media are mentioned as being most responsible for attracting customers. But we learn very little else. Customer surveys can’t pinpoint inefficiencies in the application process, which is why banks should use digital analysis to track an applicant’s path through the system.

That will get you ready to cast your lure.

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