A Three-Step Checkup

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Examine your marketing to make it more effective

By Chris Lorence

If you randomly asked the average person on the street what marketing is, you would no doubt get a variety of answers that would center around the creative—the catchy ads, amazing logos, funny tongue-and-cheek taglines or integrated images that speak volumes without saying a word. However, marketing is much more than the creative; it’s an art and a science that helps build relationships and revenue.

Community banks have successfully built their brands and images by developing high-quality personal relationships. Those relationships often result in referrals and word-of-mouth recommendations that bring new customers. Referrals, however, aren’t enough in today’s highly competitive environment. Integrity, authenticity, highly personalized service are sometimes not a match when a competitor deploys a marketing campaign that seems so laser-pointed at your best customers that you wonder if that rival has access to your customer database. What’s more shocking is watching your best customers consider leaving, or worse actually moving for a contrived better rate or some flashy technology.

Newspaper ads, roadside billboards, team and event sponsorships—you’ve plastered your community bank’s logo on all the things you can think of and it never seems to be enough. Is the only answer to increase the budget and do more? Well, yes, but there is more to it. Consider looking closer at what your bank is doing; then make what you’re doing more effective. Here’s a three-step checkup to do just that.

1. First, assess what your community bank’s marketing culture is.

  • Does the person or team of people responsible for marketing have the full support of your entire organization, especially the chief executive?
  • Is marketing included in other meetings within your bank? Marketing needs a seat at every table simply because what is discussed is often insight that matters.
  • Does marketing have sufficient budget to accomplish what needs to be done?

2. Second, does your community bank have a complete marketing plan?

  • A comprehensive marketing plan is the roadmap that connects all activities and campaigns into an integrated document that can be shared with many internal stakeholders.
  • When building your marketing plan, don’t forget to include all internal stakeholders in the process. The plan should be collaborative and include input from lending, the front line and the back office. When are things slow in lending? What questions do customers most frequently ask tellers? How are customers using the website and Internet banking and, more importantly, what are they not using? The more people who have input in building the marketing plan, the more people who can support its components.
  • Try not to complicate the plan. Start simply by adding details as they materialize. A well-built marketing plan can be used multiple years with adjustments based on results achieved.

3. Third, does your community bank’s approach to marketing align with its overall goals?

  • Many times perfectly good marketing campaigns or efforts are developed and deployed in response to something a competitor is doing. Instead, stay focused on your goals and objectives, and avoid being pulled into a spending war.
  • Build creatively but deliver strategically. Any business can buy a customer, but it’s delivering what the customer values that keeps him or her with your bank.
  • It takes money to make money, so don’t under budget and over expect.

Chris Lorence (chris.lorence@icba.org) is ICBA’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

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