Situation: Synchrony partners with businesses to offer a wide range of specialized consumer financing programs and innovative consumer banking products across key industries including digital, retail, home, auto, travel health, and pet. If you have a store credit card in your purse or wallet, there’s a good chance that it is issued by Synchrony Bank.
As one of the dominant players in their industry, Synchrony’s success has been driven by an intense focus on meeting the needs of their partners specific to their customer’s shopping and buying journey. With the changing retail landscape, Synchrony wanted to equip their marketing team with new skills to help them stay ahead.
Synchrony engaged Impact to facilitate a strategic marketing training program. As part of their continuous learning culture, they wanted to bring more discipline to the way their marketers strategize to create unique and profitable payment technologies and solutions for people and businesses. Synchrony also wanted to develop a standardized framework for marketers to use when problem-solving for their partners that could be customized and repeated across the business.
Over the course of two years, 150 Synchrony marketers went through Impact’s Strategic Marketing program. Leveraging a very bold methodology centered around an “outside in” approach, the Synchrony training sessions have become laboratories where marketers are generating innovative ideas to deepen retailer relationships and generate business growth.
Approach: In designing the program with Synchrony Learning & Development leaders Scott Kagan and Josh Crafford, Impact recommended that participants work to solve real Synchrony business problems while they learned new strategic marketing skills. Synchrony leaders volunteer to serve as sponsors, submitting a challenge they’d like attendees to solve. Typically, 3-4 different client challenges are tackled during each workshop.
“Right away, we were excited about having participants work on real client challenges,” said Scott. “Many training programs use fictitious case studies for participants to leverage and apply their learnings. When marketers try to translate their new skills to their day-to-day responsibilities, they often find it difficult and tend to fall back into old habits.
“This course requires the participants to apply what they learn immediately. Through multiple iterations, the course has truly evolved; participants aren’t ‘stepping away from their jobs for training’ but are instead continuing to work on real projects to make a meaningful (and immediate) impact for Synchrony.”
Short plenary sessions focus on outlining an individual tool in Impact’s strategic marketing toolkit. Teams of 4-5 participants then go into breakout sessions where they immediately apply what they learned to their assigned business challenge. By the end of the session, each team has developed a strong strategic plan hypothesis for their challenge, which they present back to the sponsor.
“I don’t believe the sponsors for our first session expected the level of results they received around actionable strategies,” said Josh Crafford. “Word started getting around about how powerful the course was and we had several sponsors lined up after that!”
Results: Impact’s outside-in methodology led the teams to think not just about Synchrony’s opportunity to solve a partner need –but also about the needs of the end customer, the shopper. This helps Synchrony design better credit offers, payment strategies, and communications. But the discipline led to even broader insights. The biggest wins turned out to be uncovering strategies that the retailers could employ to capture more of their shopper’s business! For example:
- One team came up with a needs-based segmentation strategy for a retailer’s customers. The retailer was able to utilize the approach to better target offers, merchandise, and messages.
- Another group developed several strategies to engage difficult-to-reach customers of a major brand. The sponsor’s team had previously considered these strategies themselves and appreciated the resulting validation from the training group who leveraged Impact’s strategic methodology.
- Another team came up with several extremely powerful strategies for how their “brick and mortar” retail clients could begin to compete with online-only competitors.
Scott Kagan summed it up best. “By working on real business challenges, our marketing teams are thinking more broadly than ever. This is a huge competitive advantage for Synchrony. For our marketers, it is imperative that we understand our partners’ business inside and out. This program is helping us become a better partner to our retail clients by enabling us to solve real, complex problems using a proven framework of customer needs-centric marketing.