A lot of financial institutions miss the mark when it comes to growth because they think just broadcasting their services is enough. Read this eBook or download your own copy to find out how you're missing the mark and what to do to change NOW!
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Community financial institutions have a unique position in the banking industry, offering a more personal, customer-focused experience than other larger banking institutions. When it comes to marketing for these banks and credit unions, your brand should embrace this characteristic and reflect it throughout your marketing and sales tactics.
A lot of FIs miss the mark when it comes to growth because they think broadcasting their services is enough. Many try to compete on rates and promos alone, without clear and consistent emphasis on the real difference between large national and international banks and community-based financial institutions.
Your FIs are all about their community and their members, and everything you do should revolve around this messaging. Your mission revolves around service and that is what sets you apart from big banks, and this message, this differentiator is also the key to fostering consistent growth!
Keep reading as we review what we have learned are the 12 key steps to grow your financial institution for many years to come!
STEP 1: Allocate, Assign & Consolidate Staff Appropriately
Challenges with Organizational Structure Abound Within the Banking Industry
As community banks and credit unions grow, staffing tends to expand along with the assets, and this can sometimes lead to a counter-intuitive segregation of duties. We've seen CUs where digital responsibilities were grouped with mobile banking staff, outside of marketing or communication departments. We've also seen FIs with too many staff in the mix, leading to a lack of a clear chain-of-command and thus failing to adequately follow-up on what is or is NOT being accomplished.
Unfortunately, there's no template for how a community financial institution SHOULD be organized, but with greater number and specialization of staff comes the potential for inefficiency and decentralization of responsibilities. Both of these can lead to marketing and sales campaigns that are disjointed and lack clear implementation. And certainly this makes is hard to track deliverables and results.
Further, FIs often grow based on the skill sets of existing employees. They don't always hire from outside the institution unless someone leaves the organization. This can leave a community FI with a lack of technical expertise in areas of innovation or change.
It is essential that your institution periodically restructure staff based on skill sets, assessing areas of need, rather than just letting departments grow via attrition. You must use these times as opportunities to ensure that you have the right people, with the right skill sets, in the right seats or positions at your institution.
Remaining organized as you have always been for the sake of preserving the status quo is a dangerous habit, though one that is all too common.
Be wary… when evaluating FI organizational structure… the 'path of least resistance' may lead to inertia and stagnation.
KEY: We recommend that you keep all forms of member communications and marketing within ONE department's chain-of-command. However, it is also essential that marketing goals and objectives are tied and coordinated directly with sales and lending staff, so that leads from one department are then properly followed up on through the other. We've seen some organizational shifting to revenue or growth departments, where you connect all marketing and new sales efforts within the same groups, and build goals and objectives for these new department accordingly.
Some FIs group Marketing and Business Development staff into one department to better connect new business development leads with follow up efforts with contacts and conversions. This is potentially a very good practice, but depending on the size of the FI this may or may not be practical.
We also recommend a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool be in place and utilized by BOTH Marketing and Sales/Business Developments, so that relationships with new leads can be better nurtured over time.
STEP 2: Create SMART Growth Goals
One of the services we provide clients is to help their staff craft SMART goals to measure our marketing campaign efforts and the impact on overall revenue growth.
That is, goals that are:
Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
So let's break this down in a real world scenario… Say your FI is trying to grow total loan dollars. This is a pretty BROAD goal, not what we would consider Specific at all.
However, we know that sales qualified leads are truly what your loan sales staff needs to grow total loan dollars, so why not start there? Instead of a general loan growth number perhaps set a more specific goal of 25-30 new loan sales qualified leads during the quarter?
This kind of more Specific goal is a much better way to begin working toward the larger positive revenue impact. And it's also a lot more Measurable. At the end of the quarter if you don't hit your loan goals your CEO will invariably want to know why. And there might be a lot of possible reasons that you would need to investigate. But you will know that leads generated was one of the tactical steps necessary to grow loans, so if those numbers are lagging that will be a good indication of where you can improve your efforts going forward.
Attainable goals are a trickier characteristic. Often, we have to pull goals out of thin air (so to speak) with brand new clients, because many smaller FIs haven't been tracking any lead conversion progress prior to working with us.
This is OK. We recommend starting at a manageable place and then working up from there. Walk before you run.
Relevant goals are a bit easier to identify, but again these will often shift over time depending on past successes or failures. For example, if you miss a goal due to the time frame being a bit tight for converting new leads, you might consider goals that allow for a longer time period for future follow ups. So, if you send 30 sales qualified leads to the lending staff, then you could track their follow ups and give a conversion percentage over time, perhaps targeting 25% over a 6-8 week timeframe.
Timely (also referred to as Time Bound) just means that having goals that stretch out for periods of time that are too long often makes them either not really specific enough, or perhaps not likely to be successful.
KEY: Quarterly goals should be measured in smaller increments of time for progress toward the larger annual revenue goals.
STEP 3: Stick to Your Larger Strategy
To make the most of your marketing dollars, begin with a strategic plan that helps you achieve the business goals you have identified above. As you brainstorm and execute your marketing and sales tactics and strategy, avoid making choices based principally on personal preference or what's always been done in the past. Instead, craft an approach that is frequent, consistent and drives your point home to customers or potential new customers.
Related: Remaining Relevant with the Changing Digital Banking Consumer
For example, if one of your chief revenue goals is to grow core deposits within your existing field of membership, then you might create a marketing campaign around cross-selling to that audience, rather than focusing on reaching brand new audiences, who are not already familiar with your brand and mission.
Perhaps a relationship account that rewards members with better rates if they have more primary financial services could be an option? A cash back incentive for keeping larger amounts in an account, or using a debit card a certain number of times each month are also good options.
Conversely, if you are looking to grow total membership, perhaps consider a referral program to encourage existing members to share their experiences at your FI with friends and family. You might even share real customer or staff testimonials online and via email, and then push these content pieces out to new target audiences, in an effort to humanize your brand and leverage word of mouth for this purpose.
KEY: What you can't do is veer off in a random direction, say business checking promotions, if these are not tied to your larger quarterly and annual goals and objectives. Revisiting and documenting goals and strategies each quarter is essential to staying on track.
STEP 4: Keep Your Brand Consistent
Defining your brand is a key component to marketing and sales in any industry. Can every single staff member of your financial institution answer all of the following questions?:
What sets your FI apart?
How do you interact with your customers?
How do you interact with the public?
What is the ideal customer experience?
Staff members should embody your brand in everything they do, or least all customer-facing activities and messages.
Let your brand shine through in all of your marketing efforts and communications, and endeavor to authentically differentiate yourself, and show potential new customers what they can expect from your FI.
For example, we create custom quote images for our company and then brand them with our logo. We make sure that the messaging is fun or inspirational. These are popular pieces of content on digital channels and evoke an emotional response (be it laughter or other positive sentiment), and that's what makes users share them again and again.
Sharing, liking and commenting perpetuates the interactive and positive brand associated with our agency, even if people aren't consciously aware of it. Our logo stays top of mind in times of inspiration, and that is good for building our brand.
KEY: It's important for your institution to consider the original mission and population your FI was created to serve, and then build a brand around celebrating that history. Keep your sense of humor and cultivate a culture around the office that puts a smile on employee faces; this will translate to happy customer faces as well!
STEP 5: Hire a Marketing Professional to Help with Ad Support
You could ask just about anyone to write an email campaign, or draft a postcard or flier. You could also have multiple people managing your social media accounts in their free time, or adding web content as they see fit. But if you want to be strategic and effective in your efforts, it pays to hire a marketing professional who understands what truly successful digital marketing is and what it isn't.
The team at a full-service digital marketing agency can pave the way from strategy to implementation, staff training to revenue goal achievement. It is important to have all marketing efforts filter back to one person to ensure consistency in brand and message, which will help you achieve your business goals.
Financial institutions hire professionals to help with MANY specific areas of business functions, from card processing to branch planning. Bringing in highly trained marketing and sales assistance is no different. Even if you get temporary help to bring staff up to speed on new best practices, or perhaps have someone come in annually to review your efforts, a fresh set of eyes can make all the difference!
We've yet to meet a marketing department that fully understands and can leverage the power of digital ad support.
KEY: There's just too much to keep up with in the marketplace to not bring in assistance, and with internal staff being tasked with so many areas of responsibility, outside help is essential to see results with Facebook, Instagram or Twitter ads or to implement a successful Google AdWords campaign.
STEP 6: Engage, and Don't Just Talk... Remember to LISTEN!
If your marketing strategy consists of speaking without listening, you will lose out on the very customers you are trying to connect with. People looking for a community bank or credit union want a personal touch. They want to be understood and appreciated. If that didn't matter they'd have left for a larger institution long ago.
Rather than simply delivering a product or service broadcast message, engage your members and potential new members in conversations to learn about their needs and exceed their expectations.
KEY: We have a 100% response rate policy for all of our social media clients, and this will never change. Talking WITH fans and followers rather than just TO them is a huge differentiator with a smaller community-based financial institution.
When creating content for your customers, think about what they will find useful, rather than just looking for promotional content. If you're constantly trying to sell your audience something, eventually they will stop listening.
It is important to show fans and followers information that interests them. This makes people feel like you know who they are and are interested in their hopes and fears, wants and needs. And you won't fully understand these preferences without listening first, before you begin a new campaign or content marketing approach.
When you respond to comments on social media, make it personal. Refer to users by name and do not say the same thing to every single reply. People will notice this and feel like a robot is responding to them.
It is also important to have fun when responding to comments. If someone says something silly, put in a little extra effort and speak their language. It is even more important to respond to negative comments on social media. By responding and not deleting the conversation you show your members you take their feedback and concerns seriously.
STEP 7: Focus on Yourself, Not on Your Competitors!
When your marketing strategy focuses on what others are doing, the message about what you do best can often fall through the cracks. Other banks may be able to match your rates or replicate your services, so rather than selling the comparison, simply highlight your strengths and unique qualities.
Our philosophy is that big national banks and online FinTech solutions are your principal competitors, not other community financial institutions. These locally focused institutions have similar customer service priorities, and most will bend over backwards to help their community in any way they can. When you try to focus on your competitor's rates you can lose this customer-centric mission that sets you apart. And people will start to notice if you're not being genuine and authentic.
KEY: We recommend to our clients that they use customer testimonials and staff profiles to continually humanize their brand and level of service. You will RARELY see such personal stories coming from big banks.
STEP 8: Continually Optimize Your Website & Other Digital Assets
Although your website and social media are not your sole marketing vehicles, they may be your most visible. Anyone who searches for information about your company online or reads one of your fliers, postcards or other collateral is likely to visit at least one of your online assets. For this reason there's no excuses left… you absolutely MUST optimize your website and social media. Further, you will also want your online content to reflect your current marketing strategy, so regular updates are essential to keep messaging consistent.
KEY: If it has been more than 2-3 years since your website had a major update, this should be your first priority. Branch traffic has been declining and mobile traffic is on the rise, so banks and credit unions should stop looking at their website as an expense and start treating it as an asset. It's the branch that never closes and the sales person that never goes home or on vacation!
It is also very important that your website is mobile friendly, so it will provide a seamless experience for any user, regardless of device. We even suggest a mobile first approach is often appropriate, where you design your site for mobile and then make it function in a similar fashion on desktop. After all, a typical website has over 60% of its traffic coming from a mobile device!
You should also improve your website's SEO (Search Engine Optimization). SEO is the process of boosting the visibility of your website in a search engine results, and the result is increased organic (unpaid) page views for your institution's website. Who wouldn't want that?
When creating a page or blog start with a keyword. The keyword should be in the URL, meta-description, title and used several times naturally throughout the page. Keywords should be natural search language your target audience would be using in a Google search.
For example, don't use a key word like "car loan" that's WAY too broad. Instead maybe use a long tail search term like "best car loan rates" as your key word. Then create several pieces of content around this keyword and link these to a pillar page of content that includes all the important information about this valuable topic. Showing off the thought leadership your FI has on the subject. This strategy will drive much more traffic and get better results with digital marketing for your financial institution.
STEP 9: Invest in Mobile, NOW!
Between smartphones and tablets, more and more consumers are accessing social media and searching the web via mobile devices. If your website is not mobile responsive you are WAY behind, and you are already missing out on valuable new business opportunities. Make your mobile site easy to navigate with clear calls-to-action so that users know exactly what you have to offer and what they should do next.
KEY: People are turning to their smart phones for anywhere, anytime access to the web. If your website is not mobile responsive it will overwhelm a mobile device and you could lose customers who expect an optimized and well-functioning mobile banking experience.
Your FI also needs a mobile banking app with all the basic functions, including credit and debit card integration and remote deposit capture. These are now just basic banking services at this point, and they MUST be a priority or millennials and the next generation of customers will pass you by.
Now most banks and credit unions offer an app for their mobile banking. The app allows members to transfer money, pay bills and even deposit checks from their phone. Being able to bank anywhere at any time is no longer considered a luxury in consumer minds. They expect to be in control of their money 24/7. Period.
STEP 10: Think of New Potential Customers as PEOPLE
Each of your target audiences should have a "Buyer Persona." This buyer persona should have a fictional name, picture and somewhat accurate demographic data. These buyer personas will help your marketing and sales staff understand their hopes, fears and challenges. This process will help you humanize your target audience and will result in more authentic content and messaging.
Creating a buyer persona takes time, but it will make the overall process of reaching out to potential new customers a whole lot easier. By segmenting your database in such a detailed way, it's much easier to create personalized content. And in the age of Amazon, personalization is key! You can structure you messaging so it will directly address a problem or need your persona is facing.
KEY: Persona's we regularly focus on for clients include Youth & Parents of Kids Ages 18-25, Small Business Owners, Young Families & Potential New Home Buyers.
STEP 11: Take Advantage of Video Marketing
Is your financial institution taking advantage of native video on Facebook? Native Facebook Videos are videos that are directly uploaded to Facebook rather than shared with a linking URL from another site like YouTube or Vimeo.
Native videos get much higher engagement than videos that are hosted elsewhere, and these videos get significantly higher engagement than pictures or other types of content. In fact, some experts estimate that by 2020 over 85% of total content consumed online will be video!
In the example below, we boosted this video for a week and spent just over $20 total, the results speak for themselves. We reached over 1700 people, and engaged with well over half of them, all at a cost of $.02 per engagement! Wouldn't you pay that for a positive customer touch point?
When using Facebook's video uploader, you can set custom starting thumbnails, include keywords and titles, and even narrow the audience for your videos. You can also use their tool to add sub-titles, which are very important as over 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound.
The videos MUST be licensed by your Credit Union in order to be uploaded to Facebook.
KEY: Since many community banks and credit unions are not typically involved in the video industry you will likely need to outsource this task. We use and highly recommend ClickVue to our clients. Subscriptions start as low as $150 a month and they can even customize the videos for an additional fee. Their content is high quality and regularly created.
We also help clients use these videos for blogs, landing pages and email campaigns. The options for re-purposing this type of content are numerous! Check out these examples below or contact us or ClickVue for more information!
STEP 12: Don't Be Afraid to Have a Sense of Humor
When people visit social media site or your blog, usually they don't want to see just finance & banking information. Don't get me wrong, you should have blogs about credit scores and applying for car loans, but mix in a little fun every once in a while. Consider writing a blog about the best places in your town/city for a first date, or how to land your dream job.
On social media your sense of humor and personality should come out even more. Post funny memes and inspirational quotes even if they are not financially related. Posts like these will get a lot of engagement and reach. This will help prime your audience for other content from you in the future, and some of that can be more related to your products and services.
KEY: By not always focusing on selling, customers will be able to see your personality. More than ever, consumers want to know who you are and if you're listening, they do not want to feel like every interaction with you is strictly business.
With a bit of brainstorming and planning, you can take your credit union marketing to the next level by focusing on strategy, brand and engagement.
Our agency is here to help! Consider reaching out today for more information on how our team of marketing and banking professionals can help grow your financial institution today!
Contact us via email or phone (203) 979-6224 for your free consultation or Facebook Page or Website Assessment!