Case StudyBBVA Compass Smart Pursuits

High-Value Prospect? Hard-to-Reach No More

The Challenge

In our experience, every bank has a list of high-value commercial prospects that the bank is ideally suited to serve. These are the kinds of prospects that, should they become clients, would greatly impact the bank’s bottom line. And yet, year after year, these prospects resist all sales efforts. It’s not an awareness problem. These are prospects the bank has been calling on, oftentimes for years.

For most businesses, changing commercial banks is a long, painful process. So painful, companies will endure an unhealthy relationship for years to avoid the pain of change.

The Challenge


Financial Services

Conversion Point

Contemplating to Preparation
Preparation to Action


Traditional Advertising Won’t Work

Awareness is not the problem, so the classic Stage 1 tools that most advertising agencies specialize in have little effect. Overcoming the real barrier with these prospects takes more than traditional agency thinking. The prospects on our list were closer to the third conversion point, knowing they needed to make a change, but were often stuck, unwilling or unable to make a decision.

For 13 years, we led BBVA Compass’ annual prospecting campaign for the commercial bank. We created and evolved a comprehensive approach that, with remarkable consistency, helped those high-value, hard-to-reach prospects reevaluate the bank; we better positioned the relationship managers to sell. And those meetings brought, literally, hundreds of millions of dollars in new-business relationships to the bank. As often happens, those initial engagements began with a test. Maybe the bank provided a new source of working capital or secured a loan for a capital project.

“Yes, the results were good. As usual, you did outstanding work for us.”

The first critical step

The bank’s prospects were busy in the extreme. They had systems (and people) in place to insulate them from salespeople. Compounding the problem, they thought they already knew everything they needed to know about BBVA Compass.

To counter these challenges, we used an integrated approach that began with a direct mail concept that was, physically, impossible to ignore. The main element in the concept was a high-value gift that contrasted so sharply with the daily mail that it invariably made it to the target’s desk.

The first critical step

A Simple Truth

The gift matters — but the idea behind the gift matters more
Sending a prospect a high-value gift definitely got attention and created, in a small way, a sense of obligation that compelled the prospect to at least speak to the Relationship Manager. But that’s not what drove results.

The campaigns worked because the gift, the messaging — the idea — directly tied into the core benefit the prospect could expect from a BBVA Compass relationship. The gift is useful, practical even. But mostly, it helped the prospect see the value in a potential relationship. They took the meeting because they believed the meeting was worth their time.

Another simple truth: The more personal the message, the greater the response. For example, we launched one campaign with a personal letter to each prospect from the City President of their area. That letter positioned the bank as a local resource with deep involvement in the local community, and yet, with the resources of an international bank. In another campaign, we sent a small video camera with a personal message from the Relationship Manager pre-recorded on it. Simple things, really. But it’s in the details that we create the greatest results.

A Simple Truth

Processes Used

Emotional Arousal
Rational Re-Evaluation

Getting the details right across multiple touches and multiple channels

Now that we’ve delivered several of these integrated, high-value, hard-to-reach campaigns, we have the process down to a science. After all, each campaign reveals new ways to optimize for the next time around. Some key lessons?

Coordination between sales and marketing is essential. Each campaign included a component directed at the bank’s Relationship Managers. It explained the concept, the message. It mapped out the schedule, including the weeks that the RM was expected to make contact. The bank relentlessly tracked RM performance to ensure compliance. (Though to be fair, the RMs saw such good results over the years, they were eager participants.)

Live events created more chances for engagement. These campaigns extended well beyond the mail. We added live events and webinars that were specifically designed to add real value to the prospect’s business, another key. Those events drove great engagement.

The message builds with each step in the prospect’s experience. Again, for this effort to succeed, it has to be about more than a premium gift. It has to be a series of well-timed, smartly executed, lead-nurturing activities that pave a clear path for the prospect to move from a qualified lead to a late-stage buyer. These campaigns persuade best when they teach.

Delivering value to our client

We began executing these prospecting campaigns when Compass Bank was a rapidly growing brand extending across the Sunbelt. We continued after BBVA bought Compass. We worked with multiple CMOs and continued after the bank changed leadership more than once. Other lines of business in the bank noticed. Eventually, we also executed similar campaigns for the Healthcare Group and Wealth Management.



Year after year, these Smart Pursuit campaigns produced extraordinary results, oftentimes bringing literally hundreds of millions in new relationships to the bank. The results of one campaign, specifically:

RM participation: 100%

Loans: $100 million

Deposits: $26 million

Treasury Management: $181,000

Insurance: $10,000

Mortgage: $18,000

Grand total, all relationships: approx

$127 million