The beauty of a community bank…is that it is all about the community. Typically your board of directors and staff are all part of your banking communities. Together you have invested in your communities, built your careers in your communities and raised your families in your communities. So, it is only logical that your entire Bank collectively puts on your community bank marketing hat and helps grow your Bank.
Today, reaching out to your friends, family and business leaders (your centers of influence) to build and strengthen your relationships is a powerful dimension of marketing. In the past, you might try mass marketing with radio, TV and newspaper advertising, along with printing a lot of brochures, to bring in your customers. It’s always easier to advertise and hand out materials and hope someone will call you. But, times have changed drastically.
First, our industry is being challenged by our economic crisis. Initially, the big banks were getting the bad press. Today, it’s not unusual for the media to question the stability of community banks in Michigan and across the country. There has never been a better time to build confidence in community banking than now. Therefore, as Dave Firack, chairman of the MACB in 2008-09, commented at the MACB Convention this year — we need to proceed with caution, confidence and optimism.
Second, the competition is too fierce; you can never depend on your customers to just drop by because they saw an ad…unless you are advertising hot/CD money. There are too many hungry sales people from larger banks and credit unions pounding the pavement for good business and dumping the not-so-good business.
Third, your marketing budget is a precious resource. You don’t have the luxury of running mass marketing campaigns…again hoping the customers you want will come to you. In addition, many of your target markets have given up reading papers, watching television ads or even listening to radio ads.
Finally, and most importantly, you simply have to be smarter. You have to decide who you want as your customers and use your centers of influence and marketing strategies to reach out to them. Your marketing has to be thoughtful, targeted and personal.
Now is the time to plan for an exciting and successful 2010. And we can help.
- The State Public Health Department has determined that a Pandemic outbreak is imminent or has begun.
- The local board of health had directed the Bank to implement a response protocol.
- There is irrefutable evidence that an outbreak has occurred within our Bank and is not a generic seasonal flu outbreak.There is excessive employee absenteeism, whether pandemic-induced or not, that results in the Bank being in jeopardy of experiencing pandemic related business crises.
- There is confirmation of customer-related employee exposure to contagions.
- As many as 50 percent of the Bank’s [No.] employees could become ill at the pandemic’s peak; another 5 percent may refuse to report to work, either because they fear becoming ill or because they are caring for afflicted family members.
- The institution will not be able to perform all functions and provide all services at full capacity throughout the pandemic.
- Any of our offices may be closed.
- An indeterminate number of consumers will be unable to reach branches to conduct normal banking activities.
- Pandemic fears will lead to increased demand for cash in the early days of the crisis.
- Customer confusion and demand for information could overwhelm our existing communications systems.
- Some of our vendors will be unable to provide services or deliver supplies.
- Travel may be restricted for some periods of time within and outside our community.
- Pandemic-related financial stress, possibly civil unrest, and enhanced opportunities will increase the risk of bank robberies and other security threats.
- The pandemic may cause a serious economic downturn, the scope and duration of which are impossible to predict.
- Pandemic Response Team
- Your Bank Name Here Employees
- Vendors, Consultants, Industry Organizations
- State and Federal Regulators
- Media & General Public
- Insulate Your Bank Name Here from negative perceptions.
- Enhance Your Bank Name Here’s reputation and credibility.
- Demonstrate the competency of Your Bank Name Here’sleadership.
- What does the audience know now about the Pandemic crisis?
- What do they need to know about the Pandemic?
- What is the most appropriate manner to convey the information?
- How will the audience’s response be gauged or measured?
Industry insight: Karen Tyson, Senior Vice President for Communications of the Independent Community Bankers of America
As Senior Vice President for Communications of the Independent Community Bankers of America, Karen Tyson has been at the center of solving the greatest reputational challenges facing America’s more than 8,000 community banks since the first signs of financial crisis emerged. As a communications professional that has been on the front lines of one of the most intensely-scrutinized business issues of the day, she shared her insights on the community banking landscape with High Stakes™:
How have community banks gone about the task of regaining public trust in the wake of global financial crisis? In your estimation, have their efforts been successful? How must those efforts evolve in the coming months?
Karen Tyson: At the outset of the current financial crisis, one of the greatest concerns facing community banks was to avoid being painted with the same brush that tarred the bad actors. So, from day one, our job at ICBA has been to differentiate community banks from the institutions whose practices led most directly to the economic turmoil we’ve seen over the last 18 months.
In our public statements, we’ve highlighted community banks’ risk-averse nature, that they are strong, safe and stable, and the fact that they are committed to “common sense relationship lending.” Those messages have been echoed by many of our member institutions – and in some pretty creative ways, as evidenced by the community banks that have held town-hall meetings to assuage consumer anxiety within their communities and spread the message that community banks aren’t to blame for current economic conditions.
I don’t think there’s much doubt that those efforts have been successful — we’ve garnered significant positive media coverage for community banks. Now that significant progress has been made in articulating that community banks weren’t the problem, our focus is to ensure they continue to be well-regarded and have the ability to continue to serve a significant role in our nation’s economic recovery.
Of all the myriad audiences that community banks must address in the coming months, which are most vital to the industry’s reputational goals?
Karen Tyson: It’s consumers that drive this industry, so as always, they need to know that their community banks are there to meet their financial needs and goals – just like they’ve always been.
In the current environment, Congress and regulators remain an audience that is vital to the industry’s interests. While community banks have recently won some important legislative victories – and many policymakers sing community banks’ praises – there are still aspects of an impending regulatory overhaul that could place an undue and unnecessary additional compliance burden on community banks for a problem they didn’t cause. We must continue to stress the value of community banks to their communities’ recovery efforts and the continuing vitality of our national economy as a whole.
What’s next for community bankers? Are there issues emerging on the horizon that the industry needs to be aware of?
Karen Tyson: It’s hard to look too far ahead when you’re facing what could be historic change to an industry. Everyone is focused on the problems at hand – namely, ensuring that new regulations don’t adversely affect community banks and their customers.
I will say, that community banks are extremely optimistic about the future – and they have good reason to be. The general public is distrustful of the large players in the financial services marketplace. This already has and should continue to open up a great deal of opportunity for community banks who build their reputations on trust and strong personal relationships.
SA Peters will look at your bank from the inside out…
We explore your business plan. We study your market. We conduct brainstorming and discovery sessions with your staff. We can conduct focus groups with your customers and the public. We look at your products, your services and most importantly what might work better to arrive at your goals.
We believe any new product introduction or marketing campaign is only as good as the person behind the counter selling it. So we conduct employee training to complement everything we introduce in your bank.
We believe it is more important to look at your share of wallet in your current markets and your potential share of wallet in your new markets. With your current customers, we make sure you are maximizing your marketing efforts internally before we ever start looking for new business. In new markets, we work with your business development staff to document all your possible circles of influence to best define your target audiences…for your bank.
Too many times, organizations look at mass marketing to bring in new business. And if you are Coke, Ford or Chase…you might be able to afford the dollars you will need to effectively produce and air your commercials or print ads to become a household word. But, as a small community bank today, I believe there are better, more cost effective ways to grow your bank…and we do it from the inside out.
Many community banks are facing name identity crisis today! A lot of community banks were started within a small community or county. Hence they are named after the city or county. When these banks want to expand their footprint they often feel hindered by their names. We explore all avenues of branding and rebranding when a bank wants to change its name and image. Our main concern is that the bank doesn’t look as if it has been sold. We will not change a name or image just for the sake of changing. And we will not readily advise using initials. We will explore all possibilities of keeping the name, changing it slightly or refreshing it and transitioning into a name that protects the brand equity you all ready have, agrees with your current customers and complements your growth strategy.
When I consider social media networking today, I wear two hats. One hat is my “friendship interaction” hat. The other is my “marketing consultant” hat. I have my marketing consultant hat on for this blog. Let me know if you want to talk about the friendship part sometime…it is a lot of fun, too!
As a bank marketing consultant, I look at social media networks as a tremendous opportunity to create top-of-mind awareness for my business as well as that of my clients. The numbers of people using Facebook and Twitter alone, and jumping on board daily, is mind-boggling. These are the two most popular that I like for marketing.
According to istrategylabs, there are nearly 72 million Facebook users, an increase of 70.8 percent between January 4, 2009 and July 4, 2009. Users in the age category of 55+ increased 513.7 percent in the same time period. And this number keeps growing. People in some of our businesses and social circles might not have jumped onboard yet…but they are aware of it and talking about it daily.
In my mind, social networks in business are another form of advertising and promotion. They are not tools to build relationships…they are tools to begin relationships through top-of-mind awareness. As a marketer, I am always looking for economical ways to build and maintain top-of-mind awareness. I look at these social networks as tools to bring people to a community bank, just like a billboard or a post card. And of course as a marketer I am always looking at demographics as well. But, even if we are promoting the message of community banking we are creating a top-of-mind image campaign for our business.
There is some misconception about the use and the audience for social networks. Many businesses think that if they have a Facebook page or Twitter account or other social networks that their employees will be on them at work. Make no mistake; this is not about “personal” social accounts. What I advocate is having your marketing expert put up these pages and maintain them just as they would a direct mail campaign, radio commercial or billboard. We would never let our staff take the liberty to interact with our design or copy of a marketing campaign. (Sometimes they want to change our logo…but that is another story!) We would never allow them to make any changes to our social network contents. Nor does it ever give them permission to access their own personal networks at the bank! This is not about employee use.
Simply, social networks, in our business, are another opportunity to promote our business, community banking and all the wonderful things our community banks do for us as individuals, families and businesses. Again, we might not personally want to jump onboard, but the numbers are staggering when you look at the folks using these networks. So, even if we are not personally interested in using these mediums…there are millions of consumers who are.
Believe it or not, many people today use Twitter and Facebook as their daily news source. If you have a Twitter account you know the number of individuals and businesses in your community who are Twittering. In my community, I am connected to the local news stations, news makers, the movers and shakers or “sneezers” of the city and multiple businesses that will get to know me and perhaps promote my business. I have already met many wonderful business people at luncheons or social events – began to follow them on Facebook or Twitter – we are now friends and colleagues promoting each others’ businesses. Sure, there are other people from all over the world who might want to tweet with you, but you can limit them and just focus on the people in your community or industry.
As for costs, I never recommend spending a lot of time or money putting these networks together. You can check out my social networking pages on my Web site. There are many banks today that have spent a lot or a little. Have seen some success…or have not found that it has helped their business. I always believe in spending as little as possible but making things look as classy as possible. Social networking is a national trend…and here to stay for at least another 12 to 18 months…or until something more fun and fascinating comes along. The way I see it…if nothing else, we can use these networking tools to promote the wonderful things community bankers do for our communities.
Your community bank partner.
The beauty of a community bank…is that it is all about the community. Typically your board of directors and most of your shareholders are all part of the community. Together you have invested in the community, built your careers in the community and raised your families in the community. So, it is logical that all of you, as community businessmen and businesswomen, put on your community bank marketing hat and help grow your bank.
Today, reaching out to your friends, family and business leaders (your circles of influence) to build and strengthen your relationships is a powerful dimension of marketing. In the past, you might try mass marketing, along with printing a lot of brochures, to bring in your customers. It’s always easier to advertise and hand out materials and hope someone will call you. But, times have changed drastically.
First, the competition is too fierce; you can never depend on your customers just dropping by because they saw an ad…unless you are only talking hot/CD money. There are too many hungry sales people from larger banks and credit unions pounding the pavement for good business and dumping the not-so-good business. Second, your marketing budgets are considerably less today. You don’t have the luxury of running mass marketing campaigns…again hoping the customers you want will come to you. Finally, and most importantly, you simply have to be smarter.
You have to decide who you want as your customers and use your circles of influence to reach out to them. Your marketing has to be thoughtful, targeted and personal. Who better to wear the thoughtful, targeted and personal marketing hat than your board of directors and your shareholders?
If each one of your directors and shareholders felt responsible for marketing your bank to at least one of the business leaders within their circle of influence it will make a significant difference in how you market your bank going forward. What would a dozen new leads do for your bank? How about 24?
Are you willing to ask your board of directors and your shareholders to help you build relationships for your bank? Will you ask them to wear a marketing hat? Think of the possibilities…
For community banks to maintain and grow market share they must stand out as different from their competitors. One of the strongest ways community banks can outshine regional and national banks, as well as credit unions, is to Exceed Customer Expectations.
To offer outstanding service we must first get into our customers’ world and anticipate their needs. We can only get into someone’s world if they trust us. Trust comes with building quality relationships. Therefore, as community bankers, we must begin building quality relationships with all of our customers to anticipate and satisfy their financial needs, and thereby “exceed their expectations.”
Building quality relationships takes time. Therefore, from the moment a customer enters our Bank, we begin the process of getting to know them. Interestingly enough, customers appreciate the interaction we share with them. They like for us to get to know them better. They look forward to seeing us. We sometimes forget they truly want a relationship with their community bank.
The best way to begin getting to know a customer is when they open their first account with us. At that time, we collect as much information about the customer as they feel comfortable giving us. Then, each time the customer interacts with us at the bank, it is our responsibility to continue building the relationship and collecting more information about the customer – again, so we can anticipate and satisfy their financial needs, and thereby “exceed their expectations.”
Questions like, “How’s the new job going?” or “Are you ready for your son’s graduation?” are something a customer may not expect from a typical banker. But, community bankers care and questions like these show sincerity without being too intrusive. In fact, customers are impressed when their banker knows about or remembered their new job or upcoming graduation of their son. And what better way to exceed expectations than to let them know how important they are to you.
Because building relationships is a two-way process, our customers will want to know more about us, too — not just our Bank, but us as bankers. When we begin building a relationship with our customers – we want to make it conversational. We want to orient them to our Bank and build friendly relationships with individual staff members, so they can begin trusting us. We can begin explaining to our customer why our Bank is different – and why we are more responsive to their financial needs. We gradually seek their permission to ask them more questions and get a feeling of their level of comfort as we share stories of our family and interesting or funny things we have recently experienced. The more the customer feels the relationship is two-way, the more they will trust us and the relationship can grow even more.
As a result, our job is to collect information about our customers all the time. Perhaps the information we collect is new and in other instances, it is updated. It is always changing as peoples lifestyles are always changing. Making this information available to staff is just as important as collecting it. Using core systems to make customer notes about their life events and previous conversations will make it easier for the next staff member to continue that relationship without missing a beat. The practice of getting into our customers’ world allows us to understand where they are at a given time and help them with their financial needs and goals.
The key to building relationships and getting in someone else’s world – is it has to come from our hearts. We have to truly believe we are helping our customers. We have to believe that if we do not get into their worlds and help them with their financial needs we are under serving them. It’s still true…we have to exceed our customers’ expectations to make a difference in their world and ours as community bankers.