Is the New Inbox the Old Mailbox?

Good news for some of us old-school marketers… direct mail is back!  Unless you’re a recent college grad, you probably grew up with direct mail, as did I.  I don’t know exactly why, but DM holds a special place in my heart; and not just from creating it in my agency days, but from receiving it, too. There’s something about finding “stuff” in my mailbox, even if and when it’s not a personal letter, but an oversized postcard good for 20% off at my favorite retailer.

I think, and I could be wrong I suppose, that most people feel the same way that I do when it comes to getting mail. You know why? It shows commitment. Whether, as I said, a personal letter, a postcard, flyer, or a FSI (Free Standing Insert), the message with mail is that someone (or in many cases, some company), took the time, made the effort, and spent the money to reach out.

So, is DM back? Well, the facts seem to say so. At least according to Vox, and the Small Business Administration it is. “Direct Mail is Hot Again,” tells us why and how. “Print magazines are fading, more and more bills are paid online, and many brands have scaled back on printed catalogs, preferring to funnel resources into website upkeep and social media instead. Yet over the last few years, brands — including hot, digitally savvy, direct-to-consumer ones like Casper, Harry’s, Wayfair, Rover, Quip, Away, Handy, and Modcloth — have taken to targeting customers in the mail.”

Why do these disruptive, online-first companies want to be our old school pen pals? The rise of young, digital brands spending money to mail us stuff speaks to the cyclical progress of shopping trends. A decade ago, companies looking to reach customers would often buy email addresses from third parties. They’d do giveaways and, if existing customers handed over their family and friends’ email addresses, they’d offer discounts too.

In “8 Reasons why Direct Mail is More Effective than Email, Xerox makes this case for direct mail: “The latest data makes a strong case for printed direct mail. Sure, social media and mobile marketing are on the rise. But that doesn’t mean that customers aren’t responding to direct mail or that this channel is losing its effectiveness.” Unlike email, direct mail doesn’t require an opt-in, which means you’re not hamstrung by a third-party email list, or the challenge or getting recipients to opt into your marketing messaging. Direct mail never goes to “spam.” Direct mail tends to stick around in places where it can be seen. Although you may think that people stand over the trash bin when going through their mail, that’s not the case in workplaces. Xerox says that a direct mail piece can hang around someone’s desk for weeks and, more often than not, is read more than once. Direct mail doesn’t need to compete with an inbox filled with hundreds of messages. Most importantly, direct mail appears to lend itself well to B2B messaging, such as financing. “Mailers," says Xerox, “can also include a wide variety of trust-building content not possible (or reasonable) to include in email. Plus, there are only so many things you can do to make email look more important; beyond writing a compelling subject line, for instance, there is not a whole lot. Direct mail offers options like kits, dimensional mail, and unique packaging options that, by their nature, get attention.”

Does DM work?  It certainly does, according to this success story recently recounted in an ABA Bank Marketing article on direct mail best practices. “Consider this example from Liberty Bank attracting new movers to open deposits. Prospects were located in neighborhood settings outside of Chicago, two miles from each branch. A big challenge was conveying to millennials that a smaller bank like theirs could do just as much (and more) as the larger, bigger name banks. On the back of the postcard are printed ATM locations close to the resident’s home. Within four months, Liberty established dozens of new accounts and within five years, revenue from the new mover campaign is estimated at $90,000.” 

Back to what I said earlier. It’s not just the information you convey. Recipients like me, whether conscious of it or not, appreciate the commitment that the sender made to put a DM package together. Give it a try. I bet that your recipients will feel the same way. 

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. In short, build your brand. To view our campaigns, both print and digital, visit BankMarketingCenter.com. Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.

 As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.





Help them learn now, so they don’t learn the hard way later.

April is Financial Literacy Month, a time when we recognize the importance of financial literacy. If you recall, we talked about this last year, and the disturbing fact that for too many Americans, a solid understanding of how to manage their money is simply beyond their grasp. Since then, even more economic pressures have been applied to American families as we move first from an economy devastated by a pandemic to an economy devastated not only by inflation, but by a war in Eastern Europe, as well. At no other time, in recent history at least, has a thorough understanding of money management been more essential. As you can imagine, there is no better time than the coming months, when the focus will be on financial literacy, to talk about the importance of sound money management. 

It starts with our children

According to the Council for Economic Education, fewer than a third of the high schools in the U.S. require high school students to take a personal finance class in order to graduate. And one in five 15-year-olds in the U.S. lacks basic financial literacy, according to the Program for International Student Assessment, as outlined in a US News and World Report article, “8 Scary Financial Statistics and How to Avoid Becoming One,” Concepts such as student loans, interest rates, qualifying for a mortgage, credit, and balancing a checkbook are proving to be foreign concepts to many Americans. Studies conducted by the FINRA Education Foundation have revealed disturbing facts such as this one:  “Americans demonstrate relatively low levels of financial literacy and have difficulty applying financial decision-making skills to real life situations. Study participants were asked five questions covering aspects of economics and finance encountered in everyday life. 66% of those surveyed are unable to answer more than three of the five questions correctly.”  To add to the bad news, another study by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) reveals that only two in five U.S. adults have a budget and follow it. 

What happens when young people do not achieve a good foundational understanding of money management?  They become the elderly Americans who are not prepared for retirement, of which there is an absolutely staggering number. According to a pre-COVID 19 survey done by the Federal Reserve Board, around 40% of U.S. adults do not have enough money in their savings account to cover a $400 emergency or household expense. That financial situation has, unfortunately, worsened for many Americans.

Given the uncertain economic times we now face, and we could face tough times for quite some time, it’s critical that young people know how to earn, save, invest, and spend their money.  And as a financial institution, the lessons you help their parents teach will benefit them (your customers), their children (your future customers) and, therefore, your bottom line. By providing your customers with just a few of the basic tools that they can use to educate their children in financial literacy, you can enhance your brand image while helping your future customers better understand, and value, the products and services you offer.

Since bankers are experts in the principles of money management, being involved in consumer education programs is a natural fit for them. Bankers are stepping up, and must continue to do so, in communities nationwide to participate with financial literacy programs that are directed towards younger children, high school students, adults, as well as senior citizens and those with limited access to financial services. This is especially critical in community bank areas where many individuals are either unbanked or under-banked.

One example of stepping up is the Oregon Bankers Association, or the OBA, is pleased to have provided a Financial Education Resource Guide for teachers, bankers, and the general public. Here they provide the tools for managing all aspects of financial life - from creating a budget to managing your credit and protecting your identity. By setting up a time to go into schools you can give students and faculty information about financial literacy. And, help promote your bank.

Want to Get Involved? Please do!

You don’t have to be a legislator, educator or finance guru to get involved in Financial Literacy Month. Any bank can help educate the public about financial literacy at any time. This movement can help bring awareness to the problem lacking financial literacy among our children and young adults.

About Bank Marketing Center

If you're looking for ways to promote financial literacy in your bank, please let us know; we have just what you need! Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. In short, build your brand. To view our campaigns, both print and digital, visit BankMarketingCenter.com. Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.


TikTok for Community Banks? @Whodathought?

It doesn't seem that long ago that we published a blog, "Time to get in the Social Game” and you know what?  We didn’t even mention TikTok. At the time of that writing, TikTok had somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 million US adult users. A fairly respectable neighborhood, and double from the same time the previous year, but it hardly compares to the neighborhood where FaceBook lives with its nearly 1.5 billion users. Since then, TikTok’s user numbers have continued to almost double on a yearly basis and today boasts around 50 million US adult users. While the largest demographic of TikTok users is teenagers and young adults, ages 16-24, it’s not just a fad for Gen Z. It’s one of the fastest-growing social media platforms in the world and, according to Forbes, “an advertising haven for businesses.” Of course, Forbes goes onto say, “not every business.”  But, why not for community banks? I ask myself.

If TikTok is not one of the platforms that’s part of your social media marketing strategy, perhaps it should be. Check out this January 2, 2022 success story, told on ICBA’s independentbanker.org site, “FNB Community Bank is conquering TikTok.” It chronicles the success that a Midwest, OK-based community bank has had with a platform that just a few years ago, wasn’t even on most marketer’s radars.

“These days,” the article says, “Julie (Julie Waddle, Assistant Vice President, Marketing Manager) creates videos about financial advice, the community bank’s high-quality customer service and even its ugly Christmas sweater contest.” Her recordings can sometimes receive up to several thousand views. “A few of FNB Community Bank’s videos, however,” the article goes on to say, “have garnered tens of thousands of views, reaching far beyond the community bank’s footprint.” In total, Julie’s TikTok posts have garnered over a half million views.

Says Waddle, “TikTok isn’t for everyone. But if a community bank offers products that are tailored to younger customers, such as student checking accounts or loans for up-and-coming entrepreneurs, TikTok and similar platforms can be useful. And, what community bank doesn't offer these products?"

Early in my career, as I’ve no doubt mentioned before, I did brand building work at ad agencies, working in their creative departments and helping to craft the messages that would ideally 1) launch and/or build a brand, and 2) generate enough revenue for the client so that they could at least pay the ad agency’s fees. One of those brands was a soft drink. The key to building a soft drink business, we learned, was to “hook” users early. The goal is to bring those young users over to your brand right when they’re transitioning from juice-based beverages to carbonated drinks… the pre-teen years. If we could capture that user at that age, we “had them for life” we were told. And that’s because the soft drink category consists of consumers that are highly brand loyal. It was true then and still is; once an individual chooses, say, Coke, it will take a small army and a great fortune to convince them to switch to Pepsi… and vice versa.

Anyway, just think of how fabulous it would be if you could use a channel like TikTok, bring young people to your brand at 18 or so years of age, just as they’re starting their financial lives — first checking account, first car loan, etc. — and keep them, for, say, forever?

Craft a fun, engaging message that is heartfelt, personal, authentic, and emotional… like Julie’s ugly sweater “campaign,” and see what happens. The beauty of social, or at least one of them, is that you’re not committing to a lengthy schedule of print or broadcast advertising.  You’re not breaking the bank (pun intended) with huge production costs. And, if you give it a try and don’t feel it’s working, you stop. You’re not breaking any long-term contract, either.  Plus, unlike some of these other media, your campaigns are measurable, with metrics such as follower count, likes, comments, and shares. You don’t have to guess at whether or not it’s worth your time and energy or not.  You’ll know.

So, why not give it a try? After all, what have you got to lose? I hope this helps and, as always, I welcome your thoughts.

 About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. In short, build your brand. To view our campaigns, both print and digital, visit BankMarketingCenter.com. Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.

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Steering your Bank in the Right Direction?


I unearthed this photo just recently (yes, it’s yours truly!) and it got me thinking… about a time when we really did enjoy a sense of community and when a community bank was truly a community bank. Just for the heck of it,  I thought I’d do a bit of research. I went out on the web and did a bit of community bank website surfing.  Here are some examples of what I found:

"At (Bank name here), building relationships with customers is at the center of all we do.” 

“At (Bank name here), we only have two goals. To help you meet your financial goals and to be a valued member of the communities we serve.

“For over a century, (Bank name here)’s mission has not wavered…total commitment to our customers and our communities.”

“Community is our middle name.”

“What’s wrong with that?” you say. After all, they’re community banks, right? Well, yes and no.

Other than what seemed like a perfunctory tip of the hat to the idea of community, I could not find anything on their websites to support their claim of “being a valued member of the community,” or “striving to develop personal, hometown relationships.” What I did see was a lot of products, services, and claims about great service and great rates. Granted, I certainly didn’t view every community bank website on the world wide web, but of those that I did, they were all very similar in the way they presented themselves and their level of commitment to the community.  Now, that’s not to say that there’s not a single bank out there that’s living up to its promise of being a community bank.  I think Citizens Bank of Edmond is one of those that does a great job of it.

Now, I don’t pretend to have the answer. I wish I did. Greater banking industry minds than mine have been working on this for a long time. They’ve stepped up their efforts recently, of course, because of technologies (ie the “digital transformation''), the changes in the ways that people bank, and the expectations they now have of service providers. Whether you’re selling apparel, detergent, soft drinks, automobiles, or car loans, you’re in a tough spot; especially if you’re a brick and mortar business. And, yes, although we can thank COVID for hastening the transition, the consumer switch “from in line to online” has been in the making since the internet was invented. 

While I may not have a silver bullet when it comes to how brick-and-mortar community banks can thrive in a digital age, I do know this; simply saying something doesn’t make it so. I’ve learned this not only after many years in the branding business, but also after many years as a plain old consumer. It is one of the basic tenets of brand marketing. You’ve got to “walk the walk, talk the talk” as we say in the marketing world. Another age-old adage that applies?  “Always underpromise and overdeliver.” And I just don’t see community banks making that happen.

“So, what can they do, instead?” you’re probably asking. Again, I wish I had the answer. I do know that simply paying lip service to being a true community bank, isn’t it. 

Here’s a thought and you’re welcome to throw rocks at it: Make your website more than just a banking services brochure that slips in a mention or two of “community.” Make it a resource for the community that goes beyond what you do as a bank. Be more than a bank.

Remember those days when you could count on your local paper to report on the latest goings-on in your community?  You’d get the high school football game scores, the dates and locations of upcoming Rotary Club meetings, tips from local folks on cooking and gardening… maybe even an article about the recent 4H livestock show and how one of the local young men was lucky enough to take home some blue ribbons in the cattle showmanship competition. Perhaps the article might even include a photo of the boy showing off his ribbons and his award-winning, 1000-pound steer!

Okay, well, back to the present… The reality is that you can buy a CD or open a checking account at a lot of places. It’s relatively easy to get good financial advice, too. If I were a bank, there are a couple of things I might put on my site. First, I’d make a point of not just claiming to be involved in my community; I’d be involved. I’d sponsor charity events, support local causes, and do these in a big way. I’d make it a point to be as visible outside the branch as in. Maybe get with Junior Achievement and teach a money management course at the local elementary school.  

Then I’d be asking myself, “what goes on in this community that people are interested in?” I’d find out what those are and engage people with them. Is your branch by the ocean?  Incorporate weather and tide info. What’s biting, when, and where? Where can I get the best rigs? Then, somewhere on the site, I’d mention that I have financial service stuff that people might be interested in. Sound crazy? Maybe it is. But would trying something as crazy as this be better than watching your customers go elsewhere? I think so. 

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that vital, topical, and compelling communication with customers; messaging that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. In short, build your brand. To view our campaigns, both print and digital, visit BankMarketingCenter.com. Or, you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.