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Do Community Banks Really Need a 3-Minute Application?

I just recently read somewhere that if you’re a community bank and it takes a customer more than 3 minutes to open a retail deposit account or apply for a loan, then you’re losing that customer to challenger banks and money-center banks.

Of course, this way of thinking has been with us for years now. The “digital transformation” and how critical it is to the community bank’s survival is in the news daily, with bankers being constantly reminded that it they fail to offer a totally automated, lightning-fast online banking experience that they’ll surely find themselves on some substandard-digital-banking-experience scrap heap. Is this really where community banks should go? I mean, doesn’t this very notion of fully automated services, such as an under-three-minute account open or loan application process, fly in the very face of what community banking is all about?

Now, that’s not to say that community banks should ignore the data and rely totally on in-branch services. Of course, that doesn’t make any sense. But can a community bank remain a true community bank by encouraging people to rely more on automation and less on personal interaction?

American Banker’s February article, “5 trends sweeping digital banking now,’ provided us with some helpful charts and graphs so that we might better understand where banking is going in the digital age.

According to a Forrester report, adults surveyed said that they would much rather do their banking on their laptop or phone than visit with a person at a branch. Okay, I can accept that; we’ve been heading this way for a while.

Now, according to the above graph courtesy of Javelin, while adults would rather bank on their laptop or phone instead of in a branch, online banking is becoming a bit less popular — and mobile banking more popular — “as Gen Z consumers enter adulthood and reach for their smartphones for financial matters.” The American Banker article then goes onto say that while banking on phones is becoming more popular, the majority of people leave bank websites after looking at one page on their phone. “For bank customers, such a quick bounce would suggest a failed login, perhaps due to forgetting a password. To Mark Schwanhausser, Director of Digital Banking at Javelin, this data shows that banks need to put more effort into their mobile websites. Banks have done a good job making their websites and mobile apps useful for common banking chores, like monitoring balances and reviewing transactions. The next big challenge is to figure out how to make apps the go-to channel for financial matters that require more thought.”

Now, is that really a good idea for community banks? Don’t they already have a “go-to channel for financial matters that require more thought?” I believe it’s called a branch. Instead of trying to do a better job of distancing themselves from potential and existing customers by offering a “get-approved-in-less-than-3-minutes loan application, I think a better strategy might be to focus on the fact that they DON’T offer that kind of service. What happens to the community bank that does, in fact, leave those thoughtful banking decisions to a phone app? How does this make them more competitive with the challenger banks and money-center banks? Call me crazy, but to me, they’re losing a key differentiator. One, in fact, that defines who they are as a community bank. At that point, they’re not competing with the challenger banks… they’ve become one. Then good luck competing.

 About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that topical, compelling communication with customers; the messaging — developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the thinking behind effective marketing communication — that will help you build trust, relationships, and revenue. In short, build your brand.

To view our marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to in-branch brochures and signage, 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.

 



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BNPL? There are much better ways to borrow.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again:  I’m not an economist. While I certainly look to the experts for information, more often than not I base my opinions on my own “empirical” experiences, i.e., what I observe. For purposes of this article, what I’ve been reading about and experiencing for myself, is the trend in home improvement spending. Now, we all know that home improvement spending has hit record highs over the last eighteen months; up in 2021 by 28% from 2020. The question is, will the gains in household spending continue, especially given the inflationary rise in household furnishings prices we’ve seen lately.

According to CNBC in their February 10 article, Here is how Inflation is Hitting Everything You Buy for Your Home”:

  • Floor coverings: 0.8% month over month, 7.2% year over year
  • Window coverings: 1.8% month over month, 16.2% year over year
  • Furniture/bedding: 2.4% month over month, 17% year over year
  • Bedroom furniture: 1.8% month over month, 13.7% year over year
  • Clocks, lamps and decorator items: 2.7% month over month, 6.3% year over year
  • Living room/kitchen/dining room furniture: 2.2% month over month, 19.9% year over year
  • Appliances: 1.5% month over month, 8.5% year over year

Sure, prices on home furnishings have gone up. But does that mean that folks are done spending on their homes?  I don’t think so. The article goes onto say that “People tend to upgrade home furnishings after they remodel” and we’re just now on the tail end of the greatest home remodeling era in history. To me, and this is proven out I believe by the foot traffic in home furnishings stores, we are now in a “post remodeling” home furnishings boom.

In late November of last year, Furniture Today made this prediction in an article entitled Spruce-up Splurge: “A new coat of paint, the addition of a piece of accent furniture, some updated wall art — it all adds up to become part of a larger redecorating budget for consumers, many of whom plan to spend between $2,000 and $4,999 on their home décor in a year’s time. Our study found that 26% of all respondents — with little variation by age group — plan to spend that amount over a 12-month period beginning in mid-2021. Another nearly 40% expected to commit between $500 and $1,999, again, fairly evenly distributed by generation. Meanwhile, at 11%, Baby Boomers are the most likely to ante $10,000 or more when sprucing up their homes.”

Building material retailers, furniture and home décor retailers, security system dealers… there’s a tremendous amount of money changing hands here. And while the hands accepting the cash represent a wide variety of service and product providers, they all have one thing in common:  It's really not “cash” that’s exchanging hands here. It’s credit.

The home furnishings store aisles are crowded not just with shoppers, but messaging around buy now, pay later programs. Go into any home décor store and you’ll see signs down every aisle, encouraging shoppers to make a purchase now (regardless of whether they can truly afford to or not) and not worry about paying for it until later. The Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) industry is booming, having generated nearly $100 billion in 2020, and projected to reach $3.98 trillion by 2030.

What does this mean for community banks?  Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, we believe that this is an opportunity for banks to build their business by offering their customers alternative financing… financing that would, for instance, help improve their credit score. That’s because, unbeknownst to many BNPL borrowers, these point-of-sale loans do not routinely appear on most credit reports. That means a good payment record on your buy now, pay later account won't help you build credit. Another “favor” you’re doing your customers?  The Financial Brand points out that “16% of users admit to having had regrets over BNPL purchases. Among the reasons: the purchase was ultimately too expensive; late fees were high; easy credit led to buying something not needed; and finding that some lenders’ policy of not putting BNPL deals through credit bureaus meant the debt did not build credit.”

Why not take this opportunity to let your customers know that you offer the kind of financing that truly makes sense and meets their needs?  Personal loans, for instance or better still, a HELOC, where they only pay interest on what they actually spend? If you’re a community bank and this appeals to you, the good news is that we’ve already created the messaging! All you need to do is visit our site to learn how you can easily customize it with your brand colors and logo, change the copy if you wish, and choose from the thousands of fee-free images we offer. You can do all of the above without any special software of any design skill whatsoever. Our financial industry marketing professionals have already done all of the work for you!

 

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that topical, compelling communication with customers; the messaging — developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the thinking behind effective marketing communication — 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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Does Your Marketing Automation Tool Need an Education?

Let me take you back, briefly, to my early days in “the business,” that being the advertising/marketing industry. As I’m sure you know by now, I started my career as an art director at J. Walter Thompson in Chicago.  Not to date myself or anything, but “back then,” as it were, we didn’t use computers.  For some of you younger folk, this may conjure up images of me commuting to work on horseback, but it wasn’t quite that long ago. In fact, computers didn’t come onto the ad agency scene until sometime, if memory serves, in the mid 1990s. So, in actuality it wasn’t that long ago.

Before working on computers, we did everything by hand.  We would literally “cut” type and paste it onto what was called a “mechanical.” We resized images using a stat camera in a darkroom and when the mechanicals were completed, they were sent out to an engraver, who then photographed them and sent the film to the publication for printing.

My point is this: While computers made our jobs easier, and we could be five times more productive, they didn’t make us better art directors.  Computers couldn’t teach us color science, the proper use of fonts, the art of composition, and they certainly couldn’t teach us how to think conceptually when developing a campaign for a client. The computer was just another tool… not unlike the relationship between a painter and their brush.

Ok so much for the “brief” history. I mention this because I see new technologies and “tools” coming online every day. Marketing automation is the big deal now. The goal seems to be to do more with less by using AI and machine learning… in place of human beings.

There’s only one problem.  Software doesn’t think (although we seem to be getting closer and closer to this all the time.). I look out at the template-based design software out there and I think of my early days. A computer is nothing more than a tool. Software companies that are selling “marketing messaging made easy” through off-the-shelf templates are no different. Can a template-driven design program apply Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to a print ad or digital banner, resulting in a message that truly resonates with an audience?  Not that I know of; at least not yet anyway.

If you don’t recall our blog from around last November, when we talked about Maslow, we mentioned him because in order to create truly effective, compelling marketing messaging, one must think like a marketer.  And you can’t do that if you’re not totally in tune with Maslow’s thinking.

Again, I’ll be brief!? Maslow was a 20th Century psychologist who figured out that each person has five levels of needs. He called this his “hierarchy of needs.” To illustrate this, he built a triangle. At the bottom of the triangle was the need for basics such as food and clothing. In the middle were safety and friendship. At the top was self-actualization. Why is this important to marketers? When we are developing the marketing messaging around our products, we want to talk to that audience at the very highest level of the triangle, and that’s because the higher up you go in the triangle the more important, and emotional, that level of need becomes. Food and shelter needs, for instance, can be easily met while understanding who you are and why you're on this planet is not so easy.

Marketers use Maslow's triangle because it helps us keep in mind that when we're talking to our customers about products and services, such as IRAs, CDs, and various types of accounts, we can’t simply talk to them in terms of how these products meet a basic need. Instead, we need to put those products and services in the context of those much more compelling, “top of the triangle” needs such as peace of mind, security, an enhanced quality of life…. Establishing a Living Trust isn’t just a way to protect your money… It's a means to provide for loved ones.  A loan isn’t simply a means to make a purchase. It can mean freedom, comfort, enjoyment.  That’s what our marketing messaging must be designed to do.

Yes, a template-driven software application can make the creation of marketing products quick and easy. And they’re usually priced accordingly; fairly inexpensive. But, they have nothing to offer in terms of the marketing “thinking.” Which means that whatever money one might save by using them was not a savings at all but instead a waste.

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

About Bank Marketing Center

Here at BankMarketingCenter.com, our goal is to help you with that topical, compelling communication with customers; the messaging — developed by banking industry marketing professionals, well trained in the thinking behind effective marketing communication — 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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Bananas, Baking Soda, and Bank Marketing

What do bananas and baking soda have to do with bank marketing? I thought you would never ask. Let’s start with the bananas…

If I were to hold up a bunch of bananas and asked an audience what they were, most would probably agree they were bananas. But if I held up a green banana and asked the same audience how many would buy this particular banana, less than half would raise their hands. And if I held up a banana that had already turned dark, even fewer would probably want to buy this banana.

As you can see, we are not really selling bananas! We are selling banana skins. People buy bananas based on what the banana skin looks like. In light of this fact, a smart produce manager would market bananas in different ways, understanding that some people prefer ripe bananas, while others prefer green or darker bananas. Perhaps he could market the dark bananas alongside recipes for banana pudding and even place them next to the vanilla wafers. Maybe he could even add a headline like, “Ready for Grandma’s Banana Pudding?” He might market the green bananas to folks heading out on a vacation, with a headline like, “Traveling Bananas – they’ll be ripe when you get there!”

A good marketer can take a product that many people think of as one thing and sell it in different ways.

Now let’s talk about baking soda. This is a product that has been around for over a hundred years and there are thousands of ways to use it. A good marketer might list some of these many uses on the side of the package.

You can brush your teeth with it, put it in cat litter to eliminate odors, clean pots and pans with it, eliminate odors in the refrigerator, use it as an antacid, polish silver with it, or even clean batteries. That’s how baking soda was marketed for years. Then, one day a very smart marketer decided that he would put this same baking soda in a box with “Fridge-N-Freezer” on the front alongside a tagline that read, “30 days of freshness in every box.” He also decided to charge $.10 more per box. And guess what? People started paying $.10 more per box just to have a picture of a refrigerator on the front of the packaging! 

Then this very smart marketer decided that if people would pay more to have a picture of a refrigerator on the front of the box, they might pay even more to have a picture of a cat on the front. After all, people spend millions of dollars each year on their pets. They put a picture of a cat on the front of the box advertising it as “Cat Litter Deodorizer” with “Activated Baking Soda” and starting charging over one dollar more per box! (I love the tagline “Activated Baking Soda.” I wonder who would buy non-activated baking soda? I guess people are willing to pay more for their baking soda to be activated!) This proved to be so successful that before you knew it, baking soda was in every aisle of the grocery store with many different product names and profit margins ten times that of the old-fashioned baking soda in the plain old box.

This brings us to banking. I’m sure you are wondering; what do green bananas and baking soda have to do with banking? Well, it has everything to do with banking! For hundreds of years, banks have marketed and advertised themselves as plain old generic banks. A few got creative and started calling themselves community banks.

Throughout history, we have given our kids piggy banks for them to put their money in and taught them how to take it out only in a real emergency (when it was time to buy some candy!) Most of us have grown up believing that you put your money in a bank and the bank keeps it for you until you need it. Historically, banks advertised CDs and money market accounts to get us to put the money in the bank, and promoted car loans, mortgages, and home equity loans to lend it out – all while making a small margin in the middle.

But the last few years have changed all of this. Now is the time for a really smart marketer to apply the “green banana” concept to the banking industry. We need to realize that every individual and business has different banking needs. For example, a large apartment community collects dozens of checks every day throughout the month. And each day, the apartment manager leaves at noon to take the checks to the bank and go to lunch. But before they go to the bank, they make copies of the checks and fax them back to headquarters to let them know which residents have paid their rent. Some apartment managers might decide to collect the checks and make a daily run to the bank. 

Both solutions are inefficient. A smart bank marketing manager would target those apartment communities with personalized and customized marketing materials that explain how their bank can eliminate the pain of copying checks, faxing checks, and going to the bank every day to deposit them. These marketing messages would talk about the many benefits of remote deposit capture, ACH, and Lock Box services, for example, and even include the apartment community’s name or logo. A smart marketer could even create an additional piece targeting the apartment community’s corporate headquarters, making them aware of the potential liabilities of having their managers driving around town with thousands of dollars at any given time. This marketing piece would also discuss the many benefits of remote deposit capture and how managers, if they utilized this service, they would be able to see images of the actual checks instead of faxed copies. And even more importantly, deposits could be made in minutes without requiring anyone to leave the property.

And, of course, customers utilizing remote deposit capture are a prime candidate for online bill pay and e-statements. In fact, that same smart marketer could develop an “Apartment Banking” product line that promotes all the bank’s services that an apartment community could use. They could even buy the web domain name ApartmentBanking.com for $9.99 to promote their apartment banking products. (This name is still available, but you’d better hurry!)

The bottom line is this: There is no reason you can’t have an Apartment Banking product – just like you can have “Cat Litter Baking Soda.” And this doesn’t just apply to apartment communities. You can target different industries with this same concept. Find out what each industry needs that is unique and position your products around them. Sure, your bank can work with any industry, but you’ll get more business – and possibly better margins – by positioning and marketing yourself in different “aisles.”

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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

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The Problem with Bank Brand Loyalty is Also the Solution.

Since the very beginning of community banking, these home-grown institutions have enjoyed a distinct advantage over a vast number of financial institutions. Historically, community bank customers have lived near their branch locations and felt a strong personal connection to the bank and its brand. Not anymore.

How financial institutions rely on brand value

Like any product or service category, bank brands rely on brand loyalty; now more than ever. Today, choosing a bank seems hardly different from walking down a supermarket aisle and choosing a cereal, toothpaste, or detergent. As far as banks go, there’s little to no difference between the products nor the ingredients that go into them. The one viable difference between them though, is feeling. This feeling is what drives brand loyalty, and it’s all made made possible by branding. 

Why branding is particularly challenging in 2022

For starters, technology has all but eliminated the word “community” from “community bank.” Cultivating an attractive brand experience was easy back in the days when that brand experience was almost exclusively in-branch. Those days are gone, but thanks to technology, banking customers not only enjoy a greater number of choices, but the expectations now rest on the banks for a better and more personalized customer experience. 

More Choices

More choices, of course, are the result of increased mobility and online banking, where the customer is no longer limited to the institutions nearest them. Mobile apps for financial products and services are going live almost weekly and are extremely attractive to time-pressed customers who can research options with little to no effort. Everything they need is readily available and it’s easier than ever to select a bank without ever stepping into a branch. 

Greater Expectations

With this increased mobility thanks to online banking, brand loyalty has taken on a greater importance, as well as a greater challenge, for many community banks; a challenge that was intensified by the 2020 pandemic and persists today. Due to the drastic improvement and application of technological features and functionality, driven by machine learning and AI and apparent in other sectors such as healthcare (i.e. telemedicine and online appointment scheduling), customers now have heightened expectations when it comes to personalized service. 

Address them both with a more personalized experience

Jill Castilla, CEO of Citizens Bank of Edmond, OK, had this to say last July in How Community Banks Can Stay Relevant in the Face of a Digital Assault. Consumer banks must “strive to maintain a personal touch with those they serve,” she said. “As a community bank, we know our customers and make ourselves available when they need us,” she says. “One of our values at Citizens is to be authentic and accessible.”  During the pandemic, she recalls the community suffering. “We could truly empathize with our neighbors and respond quickly to assist them in challenging times. This kind of response just doesn’t happen at the larger banks. Our customers trust us to have their best interest in mind.”

That “best interest” is the feeling we talked about earlier, the one you might get from an otherwise just-like-every-other product in the detergent aisle. Some call it a brand pillar, which we can perhaps talk about in a later blog. For now, suffice to say that it’s one of the aspects of your brand that, potentially, sets you apart from that sea of competitors. And it’s much more than just a personalized digital banking experience. It’s a personalized experience across every channel.

“Don’t change that channel!”  Well, perhaps you should.

First came multichannel marketing, then, omnichannel. What’s the difference? The multichannel approach focused on sharing a brand's message with customers across multiple channels, or media, with the goal of a customer call-to-action. An omnichannel approach had a slightly different goal, one to create a more personalized message by using data to better understand the consumer and integrating all of the channels to communicate the message. Now, there’s microchannel.

The microchannel approach to building a brand takes omnichannel a step further by slicing consumer touch points into smaller pieces... micro pieces. In the ever-evolving digital world, in order to truly communicate your brand effectively demands a focus on creating an experience “fabric”, one that enables you to meet the consumer wherever they are. With this fabric, you can create a cohesive experience across all of your brand touch points; from community events and traditional media such as print and broadcast to web presence and social media. Using data and analytics, you can make this fabric seamless, so that the consumer moves through the journey without interruption; there’s no “starting over.” Think of microchannel marketing as the digital doors through which the consumer can enter and experience your brand.

If you’re thinking of branding and a personalized banking experience only in terms of online services and mobile apps, you’re missing the bigger picture. Today’s technology can, yes, create a feeling of alienation. But, utilized properly, it can also build connections and relationships. That’s what community banks must continue to do, especially when they can no longer rely on building those relationships in traditional ways.

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.

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The Ducks are There. Take the Shot.

Ad agency folks are famous for their metaphors. When we came up with a campaign idea, for instance, and were curious to know whether it would pass muster or not, we’d say, “lets run it up the flagpole and see who salutes it,” or “we’ll put it out on the stoop and see if the cat licks it up.” When we were working on a campaign and felt that, from a strategic point of view, our messaging was not being directed to the appropriate target audience, we’d call that “shooting at ducks that aren’t really there.”

I just recently saw some statistics around financial industry marketing budgets. Now, I guess I’m reminiscing a bit because any mention of “budget” brings me back to those ad agency days, when your survival hinged on a client’s budget. Every one of us assigned to the account was either working or worrying; working to grow the brand or worrying that the client might find a reason to cut their budget. We never lost a client to another agency, but I remember the host of downturns that sent shockwaves through the agencies where I worked. As soon as the client got a whiff of an economic slowdown, the marketing budget was always the first to go and with it, the agency personnel who worked on that account. (Often, unfortunately, it included agency personnel who WEREN'T working on that account, which was even more frightening.) When the economy turned around, we were always the last to see the benefit of the rebound. I suppose it was because clients tended to feel a bit “once bitten twice shy”. They wanted to be certain, before recommitting to the agency and spending more money, that the recovery was real and long lasting.  We’re in one of those downturns right now, and we’re seeing the same response: Reduced spending on marketing.

The Gartner CMO Spend Survey 2021-2022 revealed that the cuts in the financial industry are pretty dramatic; “marketing budgets as a percent of overall company revenue dropped to their lowest levels in history — to 6% in 2021 from 11% in 2020. Despite facing in-year budget cuts in 2020 due to the pandemic,” says the survey, “most CMOs expected budgets to bounce back in 2021. This budgetary optimism was misplaced, as marketing budgets have fallen to their lowest level in the history of the survey.” Forbes says that “these findings reflect not only an ongoing downward pressure on marketing spend caused by the pandemic, but also a strategic shift in enterprise resource allocation decisions.” According to Gartner, the marketing budget dollars are shifting from marketing to martech solutions; that banks are redirecting the dollars they would ordinarily dedicate to building brand and promoting products/services toward their “digital transformation.” 

In response, those in charge of marketing (the CMO if your bank is large enough and fortunate enough to have one) “are reimagining the capabilities that can be supported by their internal teams.” In other words, bringing the work in house. Nearly 30% of the work previously done by outside agencies, in fact, has been moved to in-house resources in the last 12 months.

So, in summation, what we now have are smaller marketing budgets managed in house, and more often than not, by staff members who have suddenly found themselves with added responsibilities. In other words, a stretched staff, that frankly has neither the funding or the time, to continue to do what banks must do: Sell themselves. Not just “even” during tough times but “because” of tough times.

What I mean is this: The ducks are out there. Simply because banks are compelled to race to the best digital experience doesn’t mean that they can take a vacation from building their brand, differentiating themselves, building trust and relationships… 

ON24’s “2021 B2B Marketing Trends Report: How to Augment the Marketing Organization for a Digital-First Future” speaks to the damage that cuts in a marketing budget can do: “If companies stay flat, freeze, or dramatically reduce their spend in marketing and sales now, they are less likely to recover fast enough against their market competition when the time arises.”

Traditionally, brand awareness has been the ultimate goal of every marketing strategy. With digital transformation we’ve seen a massive shift toward performance marketing — metrics-driven, online marketing campaigns in search of clicks or conversions — and away from brand/relationship building.  There’s a clear danger in this. ON24 has this to say about it: “The truth is, performance marketing may create a jump in short term sales, but it won’t keep your customers coming back again and again. You can sustain performance only with a concurrent brand campaign.”

Are banks running that “concurrent brand campaign”? I can tell you this: The successful ones, the ones that will come out of this downturn stronger, are. There’s no better time for your marketing messaging to stand out in your crowd of competitors than those times when your competitors are silent.

Like I said, those ducks are out there. Take the shot. Especially now, when you can be the only one in the blind.

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.