Building a Stellar Reputation for Howard Marketing Services

CardsNowAsia Interviews CEO Steven Howard

In its Jan-Feb 2007 edition, leading cards payment industry publication CardsNowAsia published an interview with Howard Marketing Services CEO Steven Howard on how he built a strong reputation for delivering solid marketing results for clients. The interview is reprinted here in its entirety.

1. Every business entity seeks to be different and unique in the market. How does your company build such a reputation in the market to distinguish yourself from competitors in the cards industry?
Howard Marketing Services is a leading consultancy specialising in the integration of marketing, branding, and customer retention strategies in Asia and Australia. Our reputation for marketing excellence has been built through 15 years of facilitating solutions to marketing problems by helping our clients make smarter strategic marketing decisions that produce solid market results. This reputation has been further substantiated through the three marketing books I have written, along with the numerous keynote speeches I give at corporate conferences and regional events, our weekly Monday Morning Marketing Memo newsletter, and our content-rich web site at

In terms of distinguishing Howard Marketing Services from others in the market place, we are one of the few true marketing consultancies operating in both Asia and Australia. We are not a subsidiary of an advertising agency or a department of one of the large consulting firms. We are true marketers who focus strictly on delivering marketing solutions. Additionally, our focus on customer retention, what we call the art of keeping good customers™, gives us insights into the opportunities and hurdles facing our clients that no one else can see.

2. Alongside a remarkable reputation, further empowerment needs a successful line of products or services to complement it. What are the services that you offer to the cards industry that brings your company to where it stands today?
Howard Marketing Services is a multidisciplinary marketing consulting firm that specialises in marketing strategy, market and product development, customer retention programs, corporate image management, brand strategies, and customised training in Sales, Marketing, and Leadership. Our approach is based on my personal marketing philosophy:  if it touches the customer, it’s a marketing issue™. 

Our services focus on the integrated links between marketing, branding and customer retention strategies and how these directly impact the bottom line and the future of the business. We are also leaders in developing Internet marketing and viral marketing strategies.

3. With vast involvement in market trends and knowledge, are there any new market opportunities emerging? If so, what is surfacing in the cards industry?
There are two key trends impacting the future profitability of the cards industry. The first is the extraordinarily high attrition rate within card portfolios. One bank we worked with had a 16% annual attrition rate, which meant that effectively every six years the entire card customer based turned over. This is a huge drain on profitability and is one of the key areas banks and other card issuers need to focus on.

One of the biggest trends in marketing is understanding the power and impact of viral marketing and Internet marketing. Very few financial institutions understand how to effectively market their products and services through these two powerful tools. However, those that become the first to grasp and utilise these tools will be the ones who gain higher levels of cardholder loyalty, long-term card usage, reduced attrition, and higher referral business.

4. How involved is your company in the cards industry? What is the extent of your knowledge and expertise can be consulted in this area?
We are extremely involved in the cards industry through our deep relationship with MasterCard Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa. This has been a 14-year relationship and we work with numerous entities and departments within MasterCard on a wide range of strategic and tactical marketing projects.

We have also worked with issuing banks, merchants, and technology vendors on various projects covering new product launches, branding, loyalty programs, promotional usage programs, trade shows, and strategic marketing initiatives.

5. There are many card-related companies that are yet to engage with a consultancy firm. Give these companies 3 reasons as to why they should hire your services. How can these companies benefit from your consultation services?
Marketing is a bit like cooking…..everyone thinks it is easy to do and everyone thinks they are competent at it. However, a strategic marketer, one who understands the mentality of customers and why they do or do not buy specific products and services, is like a chef who can take any ingredients in a kitchen and whip up a fulfilling three-course meal. Our role is to become the Marketing Chefs for our clients.
Most marketing in Asia and Australia today is quite boring and the results are, at best, mediocre. We are never boring and we never settle for mediocre results. And we will not work for clients who will.  That’s the first reason a client benefits from engaging us.

The second benefit is that we fully understand customers and how to develop strategies and programs that appeal to specific customer segments. Everything we do is customer-centric and customer focused and we never let our clients lose this focus.

Thirdly, by helping a client reduce their customer attrition ratios, we can help them improve their bottom line profitability by 25% to 85%. That’s a greater return than almost any other investment they can make.