With each marketing initiative and strategy, it is critical to pause and consider from the start whether your plans are positioned to hit your corporate objectives. Answering key questions will set the foundation for your success and allow you to focus on what is important. 
 
Ultimately, meeting the goals set for your department and bank involves understanding, examination, and experimentation. If you truthfully answer these 19 questions, you can develop a marketing strategy that not only inspires engagement and growth, but offers profit and productivity gains. 
 
Take Risks – Even the best laid plans fail, but it might be worth the risk. Sometimes success makes you too comfortable and you stop testing new ideas. A failure is really only failure if you don't learn from it.
 
1. What if this project fails? What's really at stake? 
2. What is the cost of failure?
3. Does this benefit our bank? How?
4. How do we measure success?
5. What successful thing(s) are we doing today that may be blinding us to new growth opportunities? 
 
Challenge Convention – Getting stuck doing things one way because it's how you've always done it can obstruct growth. Challenge your team to find practices that are no longer relevant and break them.
 
6. Do we say "no" to customers because of an old, outdated policy? 
7. What should we stop doing?
 
Consider Customer Preferences – By understanding your customers' needs, interests, and preferences, you'll find ways to add value, reinforce loyalty, and support retention.
 
8. How does this add value to our customer? 
9. Do we know our target client well enough? 
10. Why do our customers recommend our bank? 
11. What one word do we want to own in our customers' minds?
12. When was the last time we asked our customer-facing employees for feedback? 
 
Dig Deeper – These questions can help you scrutinize your decisions, discover fresh ideas, and lock-in on the essentials of a successful initiative.
 
13. If we could go back in time five years, what decision would we make differently? 
14. What if we did nothing at all; what would happen?
15. What is the smallest change we can make that will provide the largest return? 
16. What do we stand for? Are we supporting the bank's mission? 
17. Is our strategy driving resource allocation? Or is the way we allocate resources driving our strategy?
18. What have we done to protect our bank from encroaching competition? 
19. Why?
 
At the end of the day, you must simply ask yourself: Why? This might be the most important question when developing your marketing strategy. By forcing yourself to clarify "why," you are including an item in your plan will help you determine the weight of its importance and the value it brings to the bank.
 
By truthfully answering these 19 key questions, you will have taken the extra initiative needed to produce a solid plan for achieving the goals of your bank and department.
 
Wilderman is vice president of marketing at North Shore Bank, Brookfield and a member of the 2017-2018 WBA Marketing Committee.