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6 More Reasons Why The USPS Has No Business In Banking

This would be laughable if it weren’t so, well… pathetic. Here we are talking about the USPS getting into banking services (still!?) when they continue to struggle to do what they were created to do. If you recall, some months back we talked about the plan to test the USPS’s ability to offer a limited number of banking services. It was in our blog, “The USPS can barely deliver a check, let alone process one”

Well, sadly, nothing has changed since then. Just last week, in fact, I paid for priority delivery in order to get a small package delivered just a few states away. Has it shown up yet? Nope. Thank goodness I wasn’t shipping much-needed, life-saving medication! (Not that I would since, I believe, that’s pretty illegal, anyway). But, so much for two-day delivery. It’s no doubt sitting in some warehouse somewhere.

Speaking of delivery, how has the USPS done with this banking services program? Well, the USPS launched its limited “toe dip” into banking last September with a pilot program at four post offices. For a flat fee of $5.95, customers could purchase a single-use VISA® gift card of up to $500 using business or payroll checks as payment. USPS won’t accept checks larger than $500 and won’t disburse cash for any checks. The four post office locations that are currently participating in the pilot are in Washington; Baltimore; Falls Church, Virginia and the Bronx, New York.

Since the launch of the program, the USPS has provided financial services to… can you take a guess here?  5,000 individuals? 15,000? Try 6. That’s right. Not 600, or 6,000. Six. I had to laugh when I read on govexec.com that the result is “bringing into question whether one of the government’s largest agencies will expand the effort that many progressive lawmakers and advocates have pushed for years. The six sales using checks between September 13 and January 12 have brought in just $35.70 in fees for a total value of $548.46 in gift cards.” Why the laugh? “Bringing into question”?  What’s the question this result is bringing? Is it a success? Should we keep trying? To me, the only and most obvious question is: Why aren’t we putting a stop to this right now?? According to Government Executive, “postal management declined to say what its plans are with the pilot moving forward, explaining any decisions are pending further evaluation of the results of the initial program.” Call me crazy, but how much evaluation is needed to determine whether or not this is working? I think that $37.50 in fees over nearly six months pretty much speaks for itself. 

As always, there’s significant political controversy around this. The top Republicans on two key committees—Reps. James Comer, Ky., and Patrick McHenry, N.C., the ranking members of the Oversight and Reform and Financial Services committees, respectively—said in a recent letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy that the pilot program was hidden from them and rolled out “in secret.” They noted that they “strongly object to the concept of postal banking” and questioned whether DeJoy had the authority to launch the program unilaterally. The pilot's “quiet launch” they said, has now led the lawmakers to question whether the postmaster general worked with them in good faith.” 

Personally, I don’t think that Comer and McHenry have much to worry about. In fact, instead of getting angry with DeJoy — if they truly want the USPS to stay out of the banking services game — they should be thanking him! What better proof that this is a bad idea than less than $36 in sales over nearly six months. I did better than that with my lemonade stand as a kid!?

As always, I would love to hear 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; the messaging that — developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the thinking behind effective marketing communication — will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. And with them, your brand. To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to social media and in branch signage – 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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Top 10 Reasons to Start Your Blog Title with the Number 10.

Type the phrase “blog writing best practices” into your Google search field and what do you get? A whole host of sites that talk about why you should build a number into your blog title. Here are just a few examples:

Marketinginsidergroup.com: “9 SEO Best Practices for Blog Traffic and Engagement”

Socialmedia.com: “5 Reasons Readers like Numbers in a Headline” 

Venngage.com: “Why 10 is actually the best number to use in a blog title.”

The list, as you can imagine, is endless. As for the title of this blog, I followed the advice of the so-called experts and incorporated a number… and not just one number, but two! Hopefully, that will skyrocket this blog to the top of everyone’s organic search and garner twice the number of visits.

It is true, though. Blog titles with numbers are far more likely to get to the top of the SERPs (search engine ranking pages). I’ve also learned, as you can see from my title, that for some reason the number 10 is the best number to use, so that’s what I did.

I find this whole number thing fascinating… and not just a little puzzling. So, I thought I’d dive in and see what it was all about. I must admit that what I did learn was fairly interesting, and I’m happy to sum it up for you. After all, it’s the least I can do after luring you to my blog with a “10” in my blog title and the promise of a ten-point list of some kind. Accuse me of click-baiting if you must, but I just don’t have 10 reasons… I only have 3. Sorry.

Simplicity is king

The pundits say that numbers appeal to us, smaller numbers in particular. And, that makes sense to me… which is why I think that the folks who claim that 10 is better than 3 are wrong! Simplicity makes things easy because we know what to expect right out of the gate. With a blog that has a number in the title, we know exactly what we’re getting.

According to SocialMedia.com: “All else being equal, a headline with numbers in it will yield more traffic than a headline without. That’s been proven enough times that it should be indisputable by now. If you’re going to write a blog on how to be a better sous chef, you might as well headline it with “7 Ways to be a Better Sous Chef”; because you’ll get anywhere from 10-20% more traffic than using “How to be a Better Sous Chef”. So, I guess it’s important that the reader know that they’re not simply getting one or two tips, which might be too few. Or, 12 tips, which might be too many.  It’s important that they know that they’re getting 7… a perfect number of tips.  As Goldilocks once said, “this number of tips is just right…”

An authoritative source?

Blog titles with numbers convey authority, and people tend (not always) to turn to authoritative sources when seeking information. Numbers lend credibility. When we say, “sure, more people read blogs with numbers in the title,” that claim certainly doesn’t carry the same weight as saying, “studies have shown that blogs with numbers in the title generate anywhere from 10-20% more traffic.” As bettermarketing.pub points out: “The headline, The Key to Writing Good Headlines doesn’t compare to 7 Keys to Writing Good Headlines. It not only encourages readers to click, but sounds like it has genuine, reliable information.” Would 12 Keys to Writing Good Headlines be even more attention grabbing? Why not 15, then?  Just think of the possibilities!

Time is of the essence

SocialMedia.com says that “a headline with a small number conveys the message to the reader that it's a quick and easily read, while a large number indicates more of a reading investment. Either way, you are letting your reader know in advance what to expect.”  And that’s what people with a limited amount of time want to know; that they don’t need to spend a whole lot of time reading your blog.  Although why, then, if the supposition is that people are pressed for time, would the number 10 be more effective in a blog title than the number 3? Go figure. As it is, most people only read, according to salesforce.com, about 28% of the words in a blog post anyway. Which almost makes you wonder why bother at all?

Lastly, there’s more to writing a great blog than putting numbers in your blog title. Don’t forget to break up your text with short, bold subheads; ironically, like the ones I used here. Yet another consideration when writing a blog that you hope will score well with search engine algorithms? Length. How long should your blog post be? Ask Google with the search phrase “ideal blog length” and see what you get. Is it 300 words?  1,000? 40,000?  I think I will leave that topic to another, much lengthier blog… with, of course, the number 10 in the title!

As always, I would love to hear 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; the messaging that — developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the thinking behind effective marketing communication — will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. And with them, your brand. To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to social media and in branch signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  Or you can contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com



SEO. A Cure for the Invisible Website.


What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process of enhancing content so that it is “optimized” for both users and search engines. It is important because top search engines, like Google and Bing, “score” your content to determine your bank’s ranking in an organic search. Optimizing your content, by putting just a few simple SEO practices in place, will improve the performance and experience of your website, helping your bank gain better visibility in a consumer’s search for financial industry products and services. Done properly, SEO can bring you closer to the “top of the page”, generate more traffic to your website, convert your site visitors to customers, and then convert those customers into revenue for your bank.

Why is SEO important? 

When a user types a search phrase into their browser’s search field, search engines — using what are called “bots” or “spiders — use complex algorithms to identify and “score” the content they “crawl.” The crawled content can include web pages full of text, news articles, images, videos, linked websites, and business listings, to name a few. The search engine then places the resulting sites on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page), ranking them based on the score given by the algorithm.

Search engine optimization is critical because with it, you can ensure that your website delivers on what potential customers will find valuable and useful. Specifically, information that they find fresh and relevant to their search. After all, customers searching the web using certain search terms are looking for answers. The better you do at providing those answers, the better your site’s chances of getting placed higher in the SERP 

So now you know a little bit about how SEO can increase the number of visits to your website. And yes, while “quantity of visits” is certainly an objective — and an important one — you don’t want to focus solely on increasing your site visits. You want to make sure that those visits are quality visits; that the individuals coming to your site are coming there for the right reasons. It does your bank no good if your optimization efforts bring visitors to your site in search of furniture or computer equipment, right? High-quality traffic includes only visitors who are genuinely interested in the products, information, or other resources your site offers.

Now, for the short course in SEO.

Your time is valuable. Therefore, this isn’t intended to be a comprehensive course on SEO. Instead, this overview is designed to, hopefully, inspire you to investigate the possibilities of SEO further and use it to grow your customer base. To that end, we’ll briefly discuss the basics of SEO best practices. 

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing elements on a website page in order to improve search engine ranking and visibility. While there are several, common on-page SEO practices, including optimizing title tags, content, internal links, and URLs, for purposes of this blog, let’s talk about content and the use of keywords as this is a fairly simple, straightforward practice that can be implemented quickly and easily.

Keywords are key

What are keywords? These are the high-volume, high-competition search terms for which you want to rank at the top of the SERPs. Here's a good way to easily figure out what your site's primary keywords are. Start by writing down the words that you think a customer might enter into a search in order to find your bank. The word “loans” for instance is a good start but you can’t stop there. Keywords can also be “phrases” or what’s called “long tail keywords.” If your bank is in Harrisburg, PA, for instance, and you offer more than one type of loan, you should consider long-tail keywords such as “auto loans Harrisburg.” If you can be even more specific with phrases such as “pre-approved auto loans Harrisburg,” that’s even better. Then, build these phrases into your site’s content.  Don’t “keyword stuff,” i.e., fill the page with keywords, as search engine algorithms will detect this and will lower your score as a result.

Link Building

Another central pillar of SEO is building your industry “authority, which is accomplished through what are called “backlinks.” What are they? A backlink is created when another website puts a link on their site that “backlinks” to yours.  Search engines like Google and Bing view this as a “vote of confidence,” if you will, in the content of your site. As long as the site linking back to yours is a good, trusted authority, your site could earn traffic and gain trust. The more backlinks on your site pages, the higher your site can rank on SERPs.

According to Backlink.com, “backlinks are one of the most important components of SEO because earning authoritative backlinks is one of the most critical factors considered by search engine algorithms,” which determine page rankings. What makes a high-quality backlink? Trust is a huge factor. If a quality website with an excellent reputation links to your site, that's an important vote of confidence. Conversely, if you only have sites that Google considers of low quality and “spammy,” a backlink to your bank’s site is not likely to do you much good. Another search engine algorithm consideration is popularity. Because Google views external links as “endorsements” of a site’s content, there is a strong correlation between sites with lots of quality backlinks and higher SERP rankings. Think of it this way. Who would you rather trust with a recommendation?  Someone you know and trust, or someone you don’t know at all? Search engines view links the same way. A few examples of good backlinks for a financial services site may include but are not limited to association memberships, local business groups, regulatory agencies, and major news sources; all which could further boost your site's reputation, so to speak, within search engines.

Like I said, there’s a lot to SEO, much more than we can cover here in a single blog. As a community bank, you need every tactic available to you to compete more effectively in the digital space.  And SEO is certainly one of them.

As always, I would love to hear 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; the messaging that — developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the thinking behind effective marketing communication — will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. And with them, your brand. To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to social media and in branch signage – 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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Q&A with Neal Reynolds, founder and president of BankMarketingCenter.com

Just recently, I was fortunate enough to speak with one of the 22 state bankers associations with whom we partner as an endorsed vendor.

In case you’re not familiar with the endorsed vendor selection process, a vendor doesn’t simply enjoy permanent endorsed vendor status once selected. As new suppliers and technologies appear, the associations continually review their vendors to ensure that they are, in fact, the best organizations in their field.

As one of the state bankers associations we work with was conducting their vendor review, we talked a bit about what’s available to community banks in the field of marketing.

Interviewer: Neal, we’ve looked at the providers in your space and learned quite a bit.  We’d really love to share that learning with our members. Can we talk?

Reynolds: Absolutely and thanks for giving me the opportunity to address your members. We are committed to bringing community banks the best in marketing messaging, which is so critical, especially in the face of so many challenges. The competition for customers has become incredibly tough and we all recognize the important role that strategic, compelling, and relevant marketing messaging can play in the fight for market share.

Interviewer:  Neal, you mentioned that an organization – Canva – has found its way into some community banks and that this web-based template-building platform is being looked at as a low-cost alternative to BankMarketingCenter.com.

Reynolds: Yes, that’s true. But the real truth is that our services are very different. For starters, yes, a template-driven software application can make the creation of marketing products quick and easy. But as in everything in life, you get what you pay for, right? Can a template-driven design program like Canva apply the highly sophisticated principles of marketing that today’s marcomm messaging demands? Absolutely not. Sure, anyone can create a print ad or digital banner using a pre-built template, but what does Canva actually bring to the table? In the end, it is simply a tool, and as such, is only as effective as the marketing person whose hands it is in.

Interviewer:  So how is what you offer different? Aren’t the ads on your portal templates, too?

Reynolds:  No, they’re much more than that, and, in fact, this is the critical difference between what we offer and Canva templates. The difference, in a word, is thinking. We have a team of financial industry marketing professionals, with collective experience of about 6 decades, who are constantly researching financial industry trends, products, and services. Then, using their experience in the financial services space — community banking, in particular — they develop and add new, customizable creative to our library of content almost every day. And our layouts cover the full range of marketing materials, including direct mail, social media messaging, radio and print advertising, in-branch signage, statement stuffers, flyers, posters, and more. As far as our web-based platform is concerned, it doesn’t simply offer pretty templates for design. We put our clients in complete control of their marketing message development process, from concept to production via an easy-to-use interface. After a user logs into the BankMarketingCenter.com website, they can select an ad that most closely meets their needs and then customize it with their desired images, brand colors, logo, and copy. Like Canva, no design software or experience is needed; it’s a simple drag-and-drop process. But that is where the similarity ends. 

Interviewer:  How so?

Reynolds: Our portal can automatically insert their institution’s logo, address, and phone numbers in their ad, including the compliant logos for FDIC and Equal Housing. The portal then facilitates proofing of the ad, automatically routing it along a pre-determined compliance approval path. Another critical advantage of our portal over template apps is that each user has easy access to their order history, enabling them to track all the marketing materials that are produced. This is a huge benefit to financial institutions if and when, in a compliance review, they’re asked by regulators for access to their marketing materials.

Interviewer:  You also mentioned images and usage. 

Reynolds: Yes, that’s an important one and something else that your banks should know about. Here’s an example of what I’ve actually been seeing: banks are promoting their mobile banking with an image of an iPhone. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, does it? Well, Apple doesn’t see it that way. Apple states this pretty clearly in their Trademark Guidelines: “Only Apple and its authorized resellers and licensees may use the Apple Logo in advertising, promotional, and sales materials.” The problem is, service providers like Canva don’t protect you from this sort of thing and that’s because Canva doesn’t provide its own images. They utilize a third-party image resource. Here’s what that company’s website says about image usage. “While we have made reasonable efforts to correctly categorize, keyword, caption, and title the Stock Media, Canva does not warrant the accuracy of such information and Canva also does not warrant the accuracy of any metadata that may be provided with the Stock Media.” Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, does it?  BankMarketingCenter.com, on the other hand, offers millions of Getty Images and videos and we guarantee their use.  The last thing any bank needs is to find themselves in hot water over the illegal use of an image.

Interviewer:  Thanks very much for your time, Neal. We appreciate it. 

Reynolds:  Thank you for giving me the opportunity. I hope this helps your banks better understand what we can do for them.

About BankMarketingCenter.com

BankMarketingCenter.com is the leading provider of marketing materials to over 300 financial institutions and has received the endorsement of 22 state bankers associations. While the portal provides partner banks with professionally designed and written materials and offers the ease of a platform such as Canva, the company’s content is developed by experts with years of experience in both marketing and the financial industry.

The team at BankMarketingCenter.com is led by founder, Neal Reynolds, whose career began as an art director at world-renowned advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson in Chicago. After working on the advertising for world-class brands such as Oscar Mayer, Kraft and Ford, Neal opened the doors to his own shop in 1982 and 15 years ago, began developing the web-based marketing portal we now know as BankMarketingCenter.com.