Let your bank’s customers be your sales force


Customer reviews are an increasingly powerful tool in any company’s marketing plan. Here’s how your community bank can take advantage of this shift.

By Beth Mattson-Teig

These days, product reviews on sites such as Amazon and Yelp make or break buying decisions. Customer reviews are a great way for potential buyers to “test-drive” a product or service based on someone else’s experience. And while community banks don’t sell toasters or stereo speakers, testimonials can be a way to apply this strategy to promote financial products and attract new customers.

Studies consistently show that consumers are relying more and more on online reviews when they are shopping for products and services, selecting a restaurant or choosing who to do business with, whether it is an attorney, a window cleaner or a local bank.

In fact, 58 percent of consumers recently surveyed by the consulting group Podium said they look at online reviews at least weekly, and 93 percent said online reviews have an impact on their purchase decision.

“The most effective sales pitch is from someone other than yourself.”
—Sarah Bacehowski, Mills Marketing

To ride this wave, more community banks are putting testimonials front and center on their websites and social media, as well as using them in printed marketing materials, brochures and advertising. One of the big selling points of testimonials is that it establishes immediate credibility, notes Sarah Bacehowski, president of Mills Marketing in Des Moines, Iowa. “The most effective sales pitch is from someone other than yourself,” she says. “So, when you have a satisfied customer who will do it for you, it can be very impactful and relatable.”

Crockett National Bank, a $700 million-asset community bank in San Antonio, Texas, first started using testimonials about two years ago by displaying them prominently on its website homepage and Facebook. “I think it brings a real live, personal touch to advertising,” says CEO Todd Huckabee.

Telling a story

Customers of Crockett National Bank share their experiences of closing a loan, opening a deposit account or how the community bank helped them grow their business.

Quick stat


of respondents said online reviews affect their purchase decisions

Source: Podium

For example, one attorney wrote: “It is my goal to build a lifelong, multigenerational relationship with my clients and their families. I choose my business relationships on the same premise. That’s why I choose Crockett National Bank to be my bank.”

Crockett is relying more on testimonials to help tell its story as branch visits decline. “We don’t like brick-and-mortar. We think it’s way too costly,” says Huckabee.

The community bank serves customers in central Texas with its four branch locations, online banking and loan officers who are increasingly mobile.
Huckabee says, “We really try to get to know our customers, and the testimonials truly reflect our relationship style at the bank.”

8 tips for testimonial success

  1. Make it authentic. People are tired of marketing spin. They want original and believable stories from real people they can relate to.
  2. Include details. People want more than a generic statement that a bank is “great to work with” or “has friendly service.” The best testimonials reference a particular product, service or experience, and say why that experience was great.
  3. Give the testimonial a face to go with it. Testimonials tend to be more successful if they have a photo of the individual to go along with it. Carrollton Bank, a $1.6 billion-asset community bank in St. Louis, Mo., uses video testimonials on its website with short soundbites from its business and personal banking customers.
  4. Make it easy for customers. Be proactive in interviewing customers to draw out some comments for a testimonial, and send someone out to take a photo of the individual at their place of business.
  5. Keep it fresh. Especially when posting testimonials on social media, it is important to have a steady flow of new testimonials. Remind everyone in the bank to be on the lookout for potential testimonials to restock the pipeline.
  6. Choose customers wisely. Choose testimonials from customers who have a good reputation and will reflect well on the bank. Do include a diverse mix that represents your customer base.
  7. Leverage business partners. Testimonials don’t have to come only from satisfied customers. Look to other trusted partners who can recommend your services, such as Realtors who recommend your bank to their customers.
  8. Get final approval. Before posting or publishing a testimonial, make sure the source knows where, how and when that testimonial will be used, and has a chance to review and approve the statement, photo or video.

Beth Mattson-Teig is a writer in Minnesota.