Aite Group senior analyst Ron Shevlin thinks there's more to customizing web ads than just targeting customers with offers for products they're already using. 

On his blog, Marketing Tea Party, he says it's not enough to know that a customer has auto insurance to pitch auto insurance to that client; among other things, banks and credit unions also need to know if the customer would be receptive to that pitch.

The trigger for the post was an American Banker article about banks that use personal financial PFM software to cross-sell products. The article quoted marketing executives at First Mariner Bank in Baltimore as saying the bank is planning to offer customers a PFM application from Geezeo that uses specific transaction details, like merchants' names, to present ads for specific banking products.

For example, the bank might use Geezeo's software to note customers' auto insurance payments, even those made to a rival insurance provider charged to another bank's credit card. The software could then present on the customer's online banking page an ad for First Mariner's own insurance — and possibly persuade a sticker-shocked motorist to dump his or her current insurance provider.

"That certainly is the promise of PFM," Shevlin said in his blog. But he said it's not enough to know whether a customer uses a particular product; the bank or credit union also needs to know if the customers is a good prospect. For an insurance product that means would the customer meet the bank or credit union's own underwriting criteria." 

Lenders also need to know whether or not they’ve made an offer for that product to that customer recently. "Good marketers establish rules for how many times an offer will be presented to a prospect/customer, and the frequency with which those offers are made," Shevlin wrote. "PFM presents a scenario to blow this out of the water."

He said lenders also need provide "some impetus for the customer to make a change. Conceivably, it could be as simple as 'We could save you 15% on that insurance payment.' Or — and I like this one even better — 'Our other PFM users’ car insurance payments are, on average, 15% less than yours. Click here for more info.'”

In other words, he sees PFM as a "platform for engagement" with customers.

Some comments on Shevlin's post were skeptical that banks can pull this off. 

"The key competency connecting the dots between a PFM platform and the customer is the ability to craft an appropriate offer. The organizational capability for synthesizing behavioural analytics through to offer management ... is absent from most banks," one reader wrote. "Until banks build something more than campaign marketing," capability, the power of PFM as a platform will elude them."