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Connecting locally with national campaigns

By Chris Lorence

Would you believe that hundreds of thousands of dollars for marketing materials, incentives and employee promotions are completely untapped by community banks each year?

Entire customizable marketing campaigns containing everything from statement stuffers to radio and TV ads to newspaper slicks are all ready to go with less than 10 percent of community banks downloading or engaging. Companies such as Visa and MasterCard spend millions to develop and deploy consumer-facing national advertising to highlight engagement programs, product promotions and even contests to specifically drive customers to your bank.

Why, you might ask, would any business, especially a community bank with limited marketing resources, leave money and free resources on the table?

The answers as you well know are often complicated but do cause one to scratch his or her head in wonder. “We don’t promote our credit-card program.” “Someone else in town is already doing that promotion so we won’t.” “We don’t really believe in marketing; everyone knows us already.” “We have a limited staff and really don’t have anyone responsible for marketing.” “Our customers don’t like national campaigns so we don’t participate.”

With community banks being pushed hard to compete with entities that are tax-advantaged or gigantic global conglomerates or nonbank lenders, maximizing all resources is critical.

With so many options available, where should you start? Although you may not want to promote particular products or obligate yourself to a full campaign, maybe you could consider something simple like celebrating Community Banking Month in April. This national awareness initiative has for many years captured the media’s attention, as its focus is given to community banks and their local contributions. This is the perfect opportunity to tell your community bank’s own story by celebrating during an entire month dedicated to you! Whether you celebrate for a day, a week or the whole month, it’s up to you how you participate.

Consider highlighting during April:

  • Your community bank team’s volunteer activities. Share photos on social media and in your branches of the various events and charities with which your staff engages.
  • Hold a “customer appreciation” event or celebration in honor of Community Banking Month. Never underestimate the impact of cookies and balloons in the lobby or a grill with hot dogs in the parking lot to draw a little attention.
  • Kick off a new volunteer initiative or project. Ask your customers to join in and make a bigger impact.
  • Work with the local media using the free resources available at www.icba.org/cbm to talk about community banking and the importance of a locally owned, locally operated financial partner.
  • Take the opportunity to highlight a few of your small-business customers by promoting them in your branches. Local restaurants, florists, coffee shops and even retail stores might even join you in celebrating by offering a special bank customer discount or incentive.

Like many of the promotions, incentives and campaigns offered every year by national providers, Community Banking Month participation usually requires a lot less of a lift and just a little bit of preparation and coordination. There is great value in marketing and far too many opportunities are left untapped or underused. Consider taking another look at your community bank’s marketing efforts, and ask yourself whether you using all the national resources available to you.


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

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