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How community banks can weather the climate change storm.

 

 

You know better than I do that there’s a lot of controversial “stuff” going on right now (and for quite some time, actually) that has (and will) have a profound impact on community banks. One thing, however, that I think we can all agree on is this: Bankers deserve a break.

Just a short time ago, we talked about this; the fact that protecting PII (Personally Identifiable Information) is becoming nearly impossible, that customers want more and more in terms of a digital experience, that competition for banks is coming from everywhere, that compliance is becoming increasingly challenging and costly, that it’s time for banks to replace their core systems… the list goes on and on.

The latest “warning” seems to be about climate regulation, although this really is nothing new. I believe that the notion that climate change could trigger a worldwide financial crisis has been circulating for nearly a decade.  [“Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of England, warned of financial risks from climate change as long ago as 2015”, according to a September 2021 article in The Economist: “Could climate change trigger a financial crisis?”]

Why, then, are some folks in the banking industry talking about this as if it were something new and, well, fearful, for community banks?  Granted, there’s quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding climate change. But, not so much about whether or not it exists — although there are still some out there that think it’s a figment of our collective imaginations — but the ramifications of it.  

The 2017 TCFD (Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure) Report says this: “One of the most significant, and perhaps most misunderstood, risks that organizations face today relates to climate change. While it is widely recognized that continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming of the planet and this warming could lead to damaging economic and social consequences, the exact timing and severity of physical effects are difficult to estimate.” Which, I believe, is why the financial services industry has been talking about this for years. And instead of making what seems to be concrete progress toward addressing the situation, simply fretting over the impact that the risk management framework may or may not have on a bank’s bottom line.

Sure, there will be costs associated with responding to the challenges that a changing climate poses to individuals, businesses, and markets. But sitting back and predicting doom and gloom doesn’t seem, to me anyway, particularly helpful.

I get the impression that some in the financial services industry see TCFD risk management framework compliance as a time-consuming, error-prone, heavily manual, and therefore extremely costly process. Given that view, I imagine that those individuals must be picturing that compliance as teams of expensive individuals doing massive amounts of research, filling out spreadsheets, and sharing them via the U.S. mail.

That is so 1980.

Here’s a thought. Technology. Let’s instead look to the future with optimism, instead of trepidation. Technology can do that for us. Using 21st Century tech such as AI, ML, AR/VR, banks can lead the way in ensuring that the concerns that were, frankly, raised nearly ten years ago, never become our reality.  Instead of assuming that the TCFD’s framework will be onerous, disruptive, and expensive, let’s continue to keep open minds and look to a future that, at the moment unfortunately, some seem unable to imagine; a future driven by the developments we’re seeing in technology.

The kind of efficiencies that these technologies bring to the gathering, analysis, and validation of data are at this very moment revolutionizing the way banks work. “Scenario analysis”?  With AI/ML, a piece of cake.

The tech that is out there right now can make it entirely possible (and let’s face it, this is going to happen whether banks want it or not) for banks to meet the TCFD compliance framework requirements quickly, easily, and cost effectively. And I don’t pretend to have a crystal ball with Fortune Teller powers to see the future. The Task Force said this nearly six years ago: “Improved practices and techniques, including data analytics, should further improve the quality of climate-related financial disclosures and, ultimately, support more appropriate pricing of risks and allocation of capital in the global economy.” And companies like UK-based Risilience are already making it happen.

Well, that’s my (and the Task Force’s) vision of the future. As always, I welcome your thoughts on the 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 marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to social media and in branch signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  You can also contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or via email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I welcome your thoughts on the subject.

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Want your content viewed?  Better pay attention to Google.

 

SEO, as you know, now plays a more critical role than ever in the marketing content that you create to engage your customer. And Google, as you also know, plays a critical role in determining how and when that customer engages with it. It’s important, then, to keep an eye on Google and keep abreast of the changes they may be making to how they rank content in user searches.

If you’re a content marketer — and you better be — those changes involve algorithms, which have a profound impact on the type of content you distribute and how it is viewed. Today, we’re going to talk briefly about the content trends driven by the late-last-year algorithm changes at Google; the “Helpful Content Update” and the “Spam Update.”

For years, and Google would be the first to admit it, their content ranking algorithm was less than perfect and, as a result, fairly forgiving.  As a result, when it came to optimizing content such as web sites and web-based articles, blogs, white papers, infographics, and ebooks, etcetera, marketing content developers could get away with things. They’ve been able, for instance, to get away with optimization tactics such as keyword stuffing and link farming (a set of web pages created with the sole aim of linking to a target page, in an attempt to improve that page's search engine ranking). In short, writing to the search engines instead of the human being. As of this year, however, the ability to get away with “faking” SEO is no longer an option. This is good news for bank marketers who adapt, bad news for those who don’t.

Not surprisingly, Google continues to get smarter over time; artificial intelligence can do that.

It’s time for banks to become smarter about creating search engine optimized content that can truly leverage what Google is prioritizing when it comes to the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) and the recent algorithm updates.

Why bother with algorithm updates, you ask? Well, Google is a business, too, and the path to growing their business is to serve their users the best possible content as quickly as possible.  The Helpful Content Update (HCU) and the Spam Update will both enable Google to enhance the search engine’s ability to offer users the best content quickly and, in the end, increase their revenue.

Here is what Google’s HCU is intended to do; validate and rank content with a greater emphasis on author authority… and trust. And they’re doing this not only by validating the trustworthiness of sources/authors. So, moving forward as a content marketer developing content for the web, Google suggests that, in order for that content (site page, ebook, whatever) to be recognized as valued content, you should position your author as a subject matter expert, ideally linking the blog to their LinkedIn page where the reader can learn more about the author’s experience and industry credentials.

Google is also concerned about the growing popularity of  AI generated content, via providers such as Chat GPT and Longshot. Industry experts theorize that it won’t be long (potentially) before the internet is flooded with AI content, i.e., websites and blogs crafted by writing “bots.” Google’s updates are the company’s way of protecting what it views as legitimate content, making sure that the content it ranks high in SERPs is developed by individuals who are truly qualified to do so; subject matter experts in their field and not “AI writing assistants.”

This is where the Spam Update comes into play. The update is designed to determine whether the content was, in fact, created by a trusted, expert source.  If not, the algorithm will identify the content as spam. So, tempting as it may be to use an AI platform such as Chat GPT or Longshot to generate your blogs instead of a trained writer with industry expertise and credibility, you may want to resist that temptation… or, face the wrath of Google’s algorithm updates.

In addition to the steps that Google is taking to validate content, the company is also taking a less favorable view of “all text content.” In Google’s opinion, there’s much more to content than text… and it’s true. The manner in which people consume information has been changing for quite some time and Google has been watching very closely. Specifically, they’re watching YouTube Shorts, Instagram Reels, and TikTok. And, the fact that all-text content engagement is on the slide while short-format video engagement is on the rise; and the numbers prove it. Fun fact: There are roughly 250 million hours of video viewed on YouTube every day and last year, young people globally spent 56 minutes a day on YouTube. According to Forbes, “YouTube Shorts now claims 1.5 billion monthly viewers — more than TikTok has at 1 billion viewers a month — and gets 30 billion views a day.” Instagram Reels has proven to be a powerhouse player as well. “In an October earnings call, Meta reported that Reels gets 140 billion plays a day across Instagram and Facebook.As you look to create engaging content that Google will crawl and rank highly on its SERPs, consider short videos, either standalone or embedded in your text content.

So, as you move forward with content creation — keeping in mind that Search Engine Optimization plays a critical role in the effectiveness of that content — it will pay to also keep in mind that Google has an ever-watchful eye on the web.  Remember: How, when, and even IF your content will be viewed online is in Google’s hands, not yours. 

 

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 social media and in branch signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  You can also contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or via email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I welcome your thoughts on the subject.

 

1Forbes. “In the age of TikTok, YouTube Shorts is a Platform in Limbo. December 22, 2022. https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardnieva/2022/12/20/youtube-shorts-monetization-multiformat/?sh=6ffc04116f41

 

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Don’t let tech take your focus off what really matters.

If you’re anything like me and try to stay abreast of the latest bank marketing “happenings,” innovations, trends, etcetera, you’re probably just as tired as I am of reading about “digital transformation” and all that comes with it. You know, I get it.

I get that we in the banking community need to worry about cyberattacks; that the compliance landscape is changing every day; that we need to improve our “omnichannel customer experience;” that we’ll surely go out of business if we don’t figure of out how to compete with our digitally-savvy, loosely regulated nonbank competitors. And that is just the tip of the “innovate now or die” iceberg of threats that face financial institutions, especially smaller, local community banks.

Sure, tech innovations are hard. They’re also costly, time consuming, and disruptive. But, they’re also necessary. Finding the right tech partner and a solution that will solve at least some of the challenges banks now face is not easy. It’s certainly challenging to address a more demanding online customer, the growing threat of ransomware cyberattacks, costly data breaches, and building a “digital CX” that can compete with not just nonbanks and neobanks, but retailers, as well.  And how do you get everyone to agree on what your tech stack needs, especially when technologies, the marketplace, the regulatory requirements, and the threats to personal customer data are not only growing every day, but evolving, as well?

My point is this: Given all of the hullabaloo about digital transformation and all of above, it’s easy to lose sight of what I think is the big picture. I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “you cannot see the forest for the trees.” It means that a person or organization cannot see the big picture because the focus is too much on the details. I’m starting to think that, perhaps, we’re losing sight of the forest because we’re too focused on the trees. What is “the forest” here? For community banks, it is their brand, their reputation, their USP (Unique Selling Proposition, in marketing terms). The “trees” are the tech-driven “enhancements” we are told banks need to invest in in order to survive. The result? Community banks are forgetting that, at the end of the day, they are about community.

When it comes to leveraging that USP, in my mind no bank does it better than Citizens Bank of Edmond. Is this surprising to many (or frankly, any) of you? Probably not. Citizens Bank of Edmond has been on stage for quite a while now, due in no small part, as you know, to the leadership of Jill Castilla. This from the bank’s website and it’s absolutely true: “Under Jill's leadership, the one-branch community bank in an Oklahoma City suburb became a major player on the national stage and now sits alongside banking industry heavyweights.”

Now, I have no intention of diving deeply into what makes Citizens the community bank to emulate. There are probably a number of reasons and I’m not going to go into them here. What I do want to focus on is the bank’s “community-ness.”  Go to their website (click here), but please come back after your visit!  What do you see, first thing?  “Citizens Bank of Edmond Celebrates 120 Years of Serving the Edmond Community.”  Scroll down the home page and you’ll learn about the events that the bank supports, the community organizations, as well as the local businesses it supports. Ironically, and quite sensibly in my opinion, you actually need to do a bit of surfing around to learn about their products and services.

Now, I’m not suggesting that banks ignore their need to “transform” digitally. It needs to happen. But, with tech decisions being hard to make, and often — subsequently — taking a fair amount of time, banks should not lose sight of the transformation (if needed) that they can make right now.  And that is to take full advantage of what makes them unique… and valuable; their community-ness. Of course, we’re always here to help, with campaigns like this one that will remind your customers, and potential customers, that banking locally is what it’s all about.

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 social media and in branch signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  You can also contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or via email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I welcome your thoughts on the subject.

 

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He opened your email. Now what?

You’re sending out emails.  But, are you really getting the response and the return that you want and deserve? Even if you’ve been in the bank marketing business for a relatively short time, you probably understand the power of marketing automation. And when it comes to automating marketing processes (for me, anyway), there’s nothing like using automation to supercharge your email marketing.

Are you still taking a manual, hands-on approach to your email marketing?  If so, it’s time to stop. With ongoing developments in AI (Artificial Intelligence), and ML (Machine-Learning), marketing automation has taken quantum leaps forward in its ability to dramatically enhance certain marketing processes; email marketing, in particular.

Today’s AI-powered emailing is far more effective and efficient than it was just a year or so ago! Automation has taken email from a cost-effective means of getting your message out there into a cost-effective means of carrying on a very personal, timely conversation with both customers and prospects alike.

Unfortunately, here's what many community banks are still doing… and need to stop doing.

  1. A staffer manually creates customer and potential customer records/lists from a variety of data sources, often in different formats
  2. Using an email program that enables the building and sending of emails, each email is created and manually sent
  3. KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) such as bounce and open rate are available, but no real, actionable insights. The assumption is that an “open” signals interest, so follow-up emails are then sent to those individuals. Again manually.
  4. The follow-up emails are not specific to the recipient’s wants or needs because that data is not available to the email program. In all likelihood, response is low as it isn’t possible to align an offer, product, or service to a recipient’s need

And here is a great example, courtesy of 360view.com, of the difference that automation can make to email marketing:

“Southside Bank in Tyler Texas remembers their days before marketing automation. Gone are the days where a marketing campaign looked like this: we decide to promote auto loans, we get a list of all our customers, we send them an email, we celebrate that we sent them an email, and that’s it. Now we strategically build each campaign specific to a customer group and track what happens after the campaign—night and day difference.”

When you add the power of the marketing automation tool to your email messaging, you now have the ability to talk to your recipients about products and services that matter to them most at a particular time in their “purchase path” or “customer journey.” AI-powered emailing solutions can tell you when it’s a customer’s anniversary, when they purchased their last vehicle or their current home, the credit cards they use and their payment history… and all of it stored where you can access it quickly and easily… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Just think about how much more personal, and effective, your conversations with customers can be, when you not only know their interests and behaviors, but you also having that information right at your fingertips… right in your email marketing service’s CRM (Customer Relationship Management) database.  Direct access to this kind of recipient data and preferences enables you to create a true “nurture” marketing campaign; one that truly nurtures your relationship by meeting your customer with the right message, in the right place, at the right time…. every time. How? With the help of “triggers.”

HubSpot does a pretty good job of going into detail on trigger marketing here. The short of it is this: “Trigger marketing refers to the use of marketing automation software to perform a task as a result of an event, often an action taken by a prospect or customer. Couple multiple data points through analytics and it increases the precision of your campaign.” For example, lifecycle campaigns might include triggering a communication when a customer reaches a certain age, since different types of accounts are more beneficial at different ages. Couple the age profile with wealth and demographic data, and you can more successfully offer retirement planning or life insurance products. Another example is a balance trigger; it might involve a customer reaching an account balance over $100K, which could indicate that the customer might be interested in a different type of account, such as an investment product that they don’t currently participate in.

Email marketing automation allows you to automatically generate more leads, increase revenue, and retain customers without manually managing your email marketing program. Enhanced analytics will provide you with greater insights into your audience and their needs. Automated tasks will free up your marketing resources. You’ll now be reaching your customers, and potential customers with the right message in the right place at the right time, and more.  In short, you’ll finally be getting the response and the return from your email marketing that you want and deserve.

Lastly, when you’re ready to begin looking at what’s out there in terms of an email marketing tool, there are many, many to choose from — each offering a unique set of features and benefits — at a wide range of price points.  I found this to be a good place to start; ventureharbour.com. Happy hunting!

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 social media and in branch signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  You can also contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or via email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I welcome your thoughts on the subject.

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Your best defense against a cyberthreat? A vigilant employee.

We all know that every company in every industry faces the prospect of a cyberattack that poses a threat to their data security. And we all know that the likelihood of an attack — ever more sophisticated attacks, too — is growing every day. Banks, of course, are high value targets for cybercriminals; one, they gather and manage tremendous amounts of customer personal data and two, in the event of a ransomware attack, banks have the wherewithal to meet a cybercriminal’s ransom demands.

The epic problem that cybercrime poses to banks, and their customers, couldn’t have been made more clear than by an article I read (and you probably did, too) just a week or so ago in American Banker. The article reported on the 10 biggest financial data breaches of 2022. This year, apparently (and frighteningly) the number of consumer records leaked in breaches globally exceeded 254 million, 9.5 million of which were reported by U.S.-based financial institutions. Flagstar Bank is one institution that made the list and is now facing multiple class actions lawsuits as a result of more than 1.5 million customers’ names and social security numbers being exposed.

The bank is, in response, “offering complimentary credit monitoring services.” I remember receiving a similar offer when an institution with which I’d been doing business notified me that some of my PII (Personally Identifiable Information) had been exposed in a security breach. I can’t say I was very pleased when I was told that I now qualified for one year (imagine that, a whole year!) of free credit reporting so that, and I’m paraphrasing here, “I could check on my credit report regularly in order to spot any “irregularities.” Needless to say, I have bid a not-so-fond farewell to that provider, never to return again.

I know that protecting people’s personal information is hard. But, let’s face it, there are lots of steps that organizations that handle PII can do to make sure that it stays secure. Some are even fairly easy and inexpensive to take.

For one, be careful about email. Why? Because most banking data breaches can be attributed to an email or “social engineering” attack that involves ransomware or malware. In a social engineering attack, the hacker uses email to “phish” for information from employees by fooling them into providing proprietary information such as network login credentials. They do this by creating emails that look official, replicating the exact format of the emails that employees regularly send and receive. Often the email will come from (or seem to, anyway) an individual within the company with some authority, lending even more credibility to it.

There’s a reason why phishing and social engineering are as prevalent as they are — they work. Whether it is the use of stolen credentials, phishing, misuse, or simply an error, people continue to play a very large role in incidents and breaches alike. In fact, the World Economic Forum Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2022 points out that a staggering 95% of data breaches are due to human error. What can banks do — at least as a relatively easy step — that can prevent the kind of cyberattack that leads to significant penalties, customer loss, and brand damage?  For starters, educate your employees, create and maintain a culture built around security, and lastly, put into place the processes that can help eliminate the likelihood of human error.

Of course, external bad actors and human error aren’t the only factors that contribute to data security risks. The infrastructure of today’s bank hinges upon a hybrid workforce across various locations, as well as cloud solutions such as DropBox® and OneDrive™. These quick-and-easy-to-implement solutions were largely put into place during the pandemic and were intended to help a virtual workforce communicate, organize, and stay productive — which they did. The unintended consequence, however, is that these individual locations, devices, and applications have exposed the bank’s data to even greater security and compliance risks by creating a multitude of “endpoints.” Each virtual office location and user constitutes an endpoint, with each endpoint serving as a “doorway” through which employees access corporate data. Unfortunately, these endpoints also serve as doorways through which cybercriminals can enter the institution’s network and steal customer data. For this reason, employees must be judicious in their use of unsecured applications or personal devices that fall outside the purview of the organization’s IT department.

As cyberattacks grow in volume and complexity, banks must give serious consideration to the new breed of cybersecurity technologies available to them, such as those powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). AI and ML are now, for many institutions, playing an increasingly critical role in securing data by facilitating the detection, protection, and response time to a cyberthreat. The reason is simple: AI technologies can either augment or supplant the “human touch” that can often be the cause of a data breach. For example, say your entire team is logging into the network for some type of online event or session. Sessions like these can be “hijacked” by a cybercriminal using stolen credentials. Not with AI, however. By supplementing the human verification process with AI-powered behavioral biometrics, each network user’s level of risk can be more accurately, and efficiently, assessed, and if needed, additional verification steps can be taken to secure the session. AI is beneficial in other ways as well. In the event of a successful attack, for instance, AI-powered solutions can significantly reduce identification and containment times, both of which cause costly downtime.

There is no doubt that cybercrime is with us for the long term, (which is why we’ve created a campaign focused on the upcoming Data Privacy Day on January 28). Securing data must be a priority for banks, and it can start very simply… with culture and training. Since the vast majority of data breaches can be attributed to human error, keeping your employees vigilant could save you from high-ticket fines, lost customers, and irreparable damage to your reputation.

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 social media and in branch signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  You can also contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or via email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.  As always, I welcome your thought on the subject.

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Small business is big business. Are you forgetting?

For years, community banks were well-positioned to offer commercial account holders both community and convenience. (And, as a result, they were also, perhaps, just a bit too comfortable). Small-business owners could bank at a community bank just as easily and efficiently as they could at a national bank. And, up until recently, community banks weren’t competing with disruptors who offered SMBs slick digital services such as two-minute online loan applications.  Well, needless to say, community banks are now living in a much different world; one where their commercial accounts are under constant threat from a host of competitors.

Today, the battle for these accounts grows more intense every day as competitors pursue SMBs with innovative, agile solutions in the areas of payments, lending, financial management, and more. Big tech disruptors like Square Banking, QuickBooks Cash, and Shopify Balance, as well as fintech innovators such as Kabbage, BlueVine, and Brex are wreaking havoc in the community banking landscape, working overtime to create a wedge between small businesses and their community banks.

Let’s face it, running a small business is challenging and the temptation to try new ways of doing things is, well, almost unavoidable. It doesn’t help community banks that there’s an explosive number of financial apps out there that are capturing the attention of small business owners… innovative (dare I say fun?) digital platforms that facilitate critical SMB processes, from making financial decisions and sending payments, to managing receivables and getting quicker access to cash. Sure, that personal relationship you have with your small business owners is worth something, but it’s not everything. 

Cash [flow] is king.

The main reason businesses fail is not because of poor products or bad service, but because of cash flow issues. And while working with a local community bank is almost always the preference of the SMB, like I said, a personal relationship is something but not everything. At the end of the workday, business owners want — and desperately need — a banking partner who can deliver the products and services they need to keep the wheels turning and the lights on. Whether it’s accelerated payments, increased working capital, or better financial management, you need to offer your small business customers the tools that enable a healthy, consistent flow of cash.

SMBs don’t work without working capital.

While we’re on the subject of cash flow, yes, cash may be king, but credit is certainly second in the line of succession. An important fact: It’s almost always the product that starts a new relationship between a bank and a small business. But that relationship can hit an insurmountable obstacle in just minutes. Studies reveal that today’s consumer has no patience whatsoever when applying for a loan and that includes small business owners.  According to meridianlink, a whopping 68% of consumers will never finish an online application for financial services. If a loan app takes more than just a few minutes to complete, applicants give up. This can be especially frustrating when it comes to SMBs and their funding needs as they often need capital not today, not tomorrow, but yesterday.  Community banks must balance fast financing with personal service or off that business owner goes to Lending Tree where, according to their Google ad, they can “get their small business funded fast,” with “$10K -$1M, next day funded!” 

According to the US Chamber of Commerce, 99% of all businesses in the U.S. – about 37 million – are SMBs.  And, according to meridianlink, 39% of those small businesses say community banks don’t understand them. What’s a community bank to do?  Make sure that your small business owners understand that you understand them!

As I mentioned earlier, a loan is almost always the product that starts (and can also go a long way in maintaining) a small business relationship.  It makes sense then, does it not, to get the message out there (and keep it out there) that when a small business needs financing that they should come to you for it, not a big national, Lending Tree, or Kabbage.  How do you do that?  With campaigns like these, that reinforce the fact that there’s more to running a successful small business than applying for financing online in less than 30 seconds. Campaigns that reinforce the fact that relationships matter, especially during tough times; of which, for SMBs, there are many. As always, I welcome your thoughts on the 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 marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to social media and in branch signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  You can also contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or via email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.

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Be sure to keep the trademark up.

 

 

The trademark on your bat, that is. What are we talking about?  Be patient, I’m getting to it!

Last week, we talked about the challenges that bankers seem to face on a continual basis. No matter what bankers do, it appears, it’s never enough. Then I thought, well, there are two ways we can feel about these continuous challenges; we can either let them defeat us or we can learn from them and achieve great things.

What makes the difference between the two? I think it depends on how you see the world. My theory is that we’re all better off when we have faith… and share faith. Every day, I encounter people who think that faith is just something we use to get to heaven. For some reason we forget that we should have faith in everything that we do. And, that we should also put our faith in others. By that, I mean that we should transfer the faith we have to those who are struggling to find their own.

Just look at what’s going on right now. Many people, many of them your customers, are going through tough times. The economy is struggling and so are they. And, as we all know too well, the holiday season can make this even tougher.

Yes, these are hard times for many and, sadly, the “experts” (so-called) are predicting that things will only get worse before getting better. This is where faith comes in; faith that no matter what the future holds that we’ll face it with optimism… making our best effort to, looking forward instead of back, turn those challenges into opportunities.  And in all of our encounters, personal and professional, to transfer our faith to others. Community bankers are in a unique position to do this, having personal relationships with individuals that are built on an aspect of their lives that can truly define the way they look at life: Their financial well-being.

Next time you’re meeting with a customer who’s struggling financially, think of Hank Aaron.

It was, I think, the 1958 World Series between the Yankees and the Braves, and Aaron was at the plate to bat. One of the game’s most iconic players, Yogi Berra, was behind the plate. As a catcher, Berra was well-known for doing his best to taunt and distract opposing team batters. The story is told that when Aaron took a practice swing, Berra told him that he was holding the bat the wrong way, that when held properly the logo should face skyward. This is, of course, something that anyone who has ever played Little League knows. When the first pitch came, Aaron connected solidly with the ball and rocketed it over the left field fence. He rounded the bases for a home run and as he crossed home plate, he paused to tell Berra, "I came here to play baseball. I didn't come here to read!” Much later, in an interview, Aaron said, "I always enjoyed coming to bat when Yogi was catching. He helped me relax, and I hit better. I had no problem talking to him. I just wasn't very interested in talking about the label on my bat. I just wished he had talked to me about movies, or fishing, or something else."

Sure, life requires hard work. In the case of baseball, it’s practice. But it’s also faith. Faith that we’ve put in the hard work and for that reason, we’re prepared.  We have what it takes to succeed, no matter the odds. So, next time you meet with a customer who is facing adversity and batting with the label down, encourage them to give the bat a spin and have a little faith. Who knows? With your help, they may just knock it out of the park.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts.

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 social media and in branch signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  You can also contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or via email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com.

 

 

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Will bankers ever catch a break?

Is it just me or does it seem like bankers can never get a break?

I mean, we just survived — more or less — a global pandemic.  We managed to get through the “innovate now or die” age of the must-have “digital transformation” … some more thoroughly, gracefully, and painlessly than others, but we got through it nonetheless. We’ve survived the IRS, the USPS, and the U.S. Congress (in this instance for actions they’ve both taken and not taken). New regulations, real and proposed — all of which involve placing additional burdens on bank resources, both human and financial — seem to be around every corner. Did I leave anything out? Probably. It’s impossible to keep track. 

In short, ever feel like you’re being constantly harassed?  If you do, I certainly understand. That’s because it seems to me that whatever banks do simply isn’t enough.

I got a bit fired up on the subject when I came across Forrester’s 2023 predictions for retail banking. Here’s just one cheery tidbit from the November 2022 report:

“After an already turbulent year, banks are bracing for tougher economic conditions and a possible global recession in 2023. Inflation has hit 40-year highs, interest rates are rising, yield curves are inverting, and the war in Ukraine continues.”1

If that doesn’t warm your heart, there’s more… much more. How about Forrester’s prediction that Apple will “win deposits by capitalizing on the declining trust in banks”? Using their partnership with Goldman, you can (according to Forrester, anyway) look forward to Apple wresting the high-yield savings account business away from banks because, well, to put it bluntly, folks trust Apple and they don’t trust banks.

What else? Oh, a shortage of IT professionals. So, be prepared. Perhaps you might consider having some of your marketing professionals take a Google code writing course. Sorry, it’s really not funny, is it? Forrester says that “before the war in Ukraine, over 70% of business and technology banking professionals reported their organization would maintain or increase investment in banking, lending, and digital engagement platforms. But these plans are being derailed again; cost-cutting has become a priority for 73% of financial services firms. In 2023, the dire economic situation will force many banks to further reduce the IT spend allocated to transforming their applications and infrastructure.” At the same time, says Forrester, “banks will need modern cores that provide information in real time and allow them to configure products and services flexibly or rapidly — or lose out to more agile competitors.” I’m not an IT guy, but how do you do both? I.e., reduce your tech spend and modernize your core?

But, wait! There is a glimmer of hope for banks in the coming year. Green loans. Or is it really?  “Green loans will double from 2021 to reach $270 billion, supported by governments’ provision of low-cost financing for green technology and emission reduction projects such as the Inflation Reduction Act in the US. We will also see at least 100 banks globally launch carbon trackers, offering customers insights into their transaction-linked CO2 footprint. Banks should avoid these, as they will be a wasted effort; trackers will fail to make a material contribution to financial services firms’ climate-related goals.” Well, I guess this is good news… but only if you’re not one of the 100 banks that will, apparently, be wasting their effort.

Sad to say, it seems like bankers must resign themselves to a lifetime of bad news. Like the old McDonald’s tagline says, “you deserve a break today.” You do. So, hang in there. I truly believe that what awaits us around the corner is what we believe awaits us, so let's look forward to better times and be thankful for, and proud of, what we've accomplished thus far. Granted, Bankmarketingcenter.com can’t help you with transforming your core or convincing the administration that sharing your customer information with the IRS is a bad idea, but we can help you with building your brand, your consumer trust, and your bottom line. Hopefully, that’s a bit of much-needed good news at a time when, unfortunately, good news for bankers seems to be in woefully short supply.  As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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 social media and in branch signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  You can also contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or via email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com

1Forrester. November 31, 2022. “Predictions 2023: Banking”

Your customers have something to say. Are you listening?

 

By now, you’ve probably heard quite a bit about social listening and its importance. You’ve probably heard, too, that social listening and social monitoring are — despite the fact that they sound like they’re very much the same thing — are actually very different. If you’ve missed the discussions about the difference between the two, here it is in a nutshell: Social monitoring is about the “what”, and social listening is about the “why.” 

What does this mean? Social media monitoring is all about collecting data and monitoring metrics such as brand mentions, hashtags that are industry relevant, competitor mentions, and industry trends. Social listening builds on this data.  After all, what use is good data if you don’t put it to good use? That “good use” can take a number of forms… from an action as simple as posting a response to a customer complaint to taking a stand on an important issue, such as the 2018 announcement made by Dick’s Sporting Goods that the company would no longer sell assault-style weapons.

Not to make this more complicated than it needs to be, there’s yet another facet to social monitoring and listening; it’s called social media sentiment. According to HubSpot, “social media sentiment analysis is a key part of social media listening because it helps you understand how people feel about you and your competitors. Instead of just counting the number of times your brand gets mentioned, you look at what you can learn from social conversations to drive real business results. Being aware of shifts in social sentiment also allows you to respond right away to unexpected changes.”

My apologies.  My intent was to simplify things, but I’m afraid I’m not doing very well. My point is that the thinking behind social monitoring, listening, and sentiment monitoring is a very simple one… a basic tenet of solid marketing. The principle that all good marketing is a conversation.

Like any thoughtful marketing tactic, your social media marketing must be more than content output. The beauty of social media marketing — one of them, anyway — is that it is more effective than just about any tactic in providing an environment for that conversation. And a conversation is what consumers are looking for in social media.

Now, wait a minute, you might be saying… isn’t conversational marketing really about live chat tools, like chatbots and messenger apps like WhatsApp? The answer is yes.  And, no.  

Yes, consumers are certainly warming to AI-driven customer service in the form of chats. In fact, I think I read just recently that somewhere around 80% of consumers would rather interact with a chatbot than a human being.  (Which I personally find a big unnerving). This doesn’t mean that your social media marketing can’t be conversational marketing, especially given the social listening tools that are out there today.  With the proper tools, your social can be conversational, and that’s exactly what you need if you’re going to build and maintain relationships with your brand.

In addition to its beauty in providing a forum for conversation, your social media can do a whole lot more through listening.  You can listen, for instance, to what your competitors are doing.  Are they offering new products or services?  Are they discounting?  Keeping an eye on them obviously provides you with the opportunity to respond directly… and quickly.  Another benefit is the ability to watch how consumers respond to competitor messaging. Perhaps they’re looking unfavorably on a new product that a competitor is offering.  You’ll know not to make the same mistake.  By measuring engagement with your post, you can more accurately gauge what type of content your audience is interested in.  Posts around products, for instance, may not glean much engagement while posts around your participation in charitable community events do. There’s no better way to keep a conversation going than to interact with members of your audience by discussing topics that interest them.

Now, we talked a bit earlier about tools. Last but not least, when it comes to the beauties of social listening, there are a host of options out there that can make it easy for the very lean-staffed bank marketing department. I found this HubSpot blog on the subject extremely useful. Of course, each option comes with its own unique set of benefits… from simply providing you with the ability to schedule posts across all of your social media platforms with basic analytics to “managing your entire social strategy from a single dashboard.”  Of course, as always, you get what you pay for as the saying goes, and these tools are no exception; pricing ranges from absolutely free to nearly $900/month.  The good news for community banks, I think, is that there are solid options here, enabling you to put a listening strategy in place “without breaking the bank,” as it were!

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the 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 marketing creative, both print and digital – ranging from product and brand ads to social media and in branch signage – visit bankmarketingcenter.com.  You can also contact me directly by phone at 678-528-6688 or via email at nreynolds@bankmarketingcenter.com

 

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Video banking was hot for a while. What happened?

Say you’re not feeling terribly well and think you need a doctor’s visit. What do you do? It used to be that you got on the phone and called your healthcare provider, made an appointment, and sometime later, showed up at the provider’s office. Now what do you do?  You get on your phone or home computer/laptop and onto your healthcare provider’s website, make an appointment, and sometime later, your provider “pings” you and you visit with him or her while sitting on your living room couch.

I’m wondering… if I can visit with my doctor via video, why can’t I visit with my financial advisor or loan officer in the same way?  While it seemed to be a hot topic just a few years back, there seems to be surprisingly little discussion of video banking these days. The “digital transformation,” and how critical it is to the community bank’s survival, is still in the news daily, with bankers being warned on a regular basis by tech providers that if 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. And, out of a job. So, why so little interest in taking your digital transformation a step further with video banking? Especially when, 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?

Given the digital transformation, and the need that customers have for real, face-to-face guidance when it comes to financial products, why aren’t more community banks offering video banking? Wouldn’t it be great if customers could have a video call with a bank staff member, using their desktop, tablet, or smartphone and get advice from a financial advisor while at home, at the office, or on the go? According to Deloitte, three quarters of U.S. retail bank consumers want their banks to provide financial advice or guidance, and sixty percent of consumers told Deloitte they want that guidance delivered digitally.1

Just recently, a Windstream Enterprise survey reported that 72 percent of C-suite executives indicated that video banking is a critical area for their business and that attracting/retaining digital customers is also a top priority. Imagine a highly valued customer has a quick question for her favorite banker. In the modern era, this customer would rather meet face-to-face but doesn’t want to worry about the health risks or travel time of visiting the branch. Rather than pick up the phone and call, this customer prefers to discuss their account question over a video call.2

So, why isn’t video banking more prevalent, when nearly 75 percent of C-suite executives see it as important? I’m not quite sure. What are the downsides? A few years back, that obstacle seemed to be technology, but the technology is certainly here now. Is it security and compliance? Could be, given the myriad number of regulations that banks face when implementing technology of any kind. As usual, the restrictions and constraints put on this type of technology have evolved as fast as the technology itself. Here are just a few that apply to the use of video banking.

  • Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act: This law requires financial companies to share information-sharing practices with customers and safeguard sensitive customer data.
  • Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA): This act’s non-discrimination requirements apply to interactions by video, as well as those in person.  Bank Secrecy Act: Large and suspicious transactions don’t have to occur in-branch to fall under this law’s reach. Many records around certain transactions must be maintained for up to five years regardless of how the transactions are made.
  • Interagency Guidelines Establishing Standards for Safety and Soundness: This regulation includes several components requiring strict operational and managerial standards for internal controls and information systems and follows safeguards to protect the security, confidentiality, and integrity of customer information.

Back in 2018, Businesswire reported on just how much consumers love video banking. “In addition, those organizations that have a fully deployed video banking service cite positive customer/member experiences and improved perception as the main benefits of the initiative. Survey findings highlight that:

  • 65 percent report an increased perception among members that their organization is an innovator.
  • 56 percent report increased customer/member satisfaction.
  • 56 percent report faster customer/member service.
  • 42 percent report better customer/member intimacy.
  • 25 percent report increased customer/member loyalty.
  • 21 percent report that video banking is a driver in recruiting new customers/members3

So, what happened? Is the seeming lack of interest due to cost, the challenges of implementing a new technology, the fear of a compliance misstep? I don’t know. But I do know that video banking can bring customers, and community banks, the best of both worlds: the convenience of a digital experience and the personal connection that only community banks can offer. 

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 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.  

 

1Deloitte. “A Vision for the Future of Retail Banking” 2022.

2Windstream Enterprise. “Is your financial institution compliant when using video chat?” June 28, 2022. 

3Businesswire. 2018. “Global Survey: Online and In-Branch Video Banking Experiences Yield High Consumer Satisfaction.