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Ditch the Promo Pricing

Why should strangers get something from you that your most loyal patrons can't? If you're serious about building stronger relationships with existing customers, it may be time to do away with promotional pricing for first-time customers.

Sure, new account openings will probably drop, but so will the likelihood of attracting an unfaithful customer who will quickly move on after the sweeteners run out.

"You're initiating the relationship in a very transactional way if you get things focused on price from the very beginning," says Chris Malone, managing partner of Fidelum Partners, a consulting and research firm in Newtown Square, Pa.

In "The Human Brand," Malone's book about the way people relate to products and companies, he and co-author Susan Fiske posit that our opinions about brands are shaped mainly by perceptions around warmth and competence. Discounts, they argue, do nothing to enhance either, and can even trigger negative perceptions. (Consider the case of a small cafe that tried out a Groupon and was overwhelmed by coupon holders who crowded out the regulars and drove the staff bananasówith no indication that these customers would ever return as full-price patrons.)

Malone says that banks, too, "would be much better off focusing on retaining and growing their relationships with existing customers" rather than jumping through hoops for noncustomers.

Columbus, Ohio-based Huntington Bank determined as much after employees in the field told corporate they were uncomfortable seeing the bank hawk rates that weren't available to longtime customers. Huntington hasn't advertised a promotional rate since August 2011.

With margin health under enough pressure now without the added impact of self-inflicted pain through promotional pricing, perhaps more banks will follow suit.




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