How to grow your bank with a CRM platform

iPad with charts illustration

Together, a CRM and marketing automation platform can bring new opportunities. Illustration by Yaroslav Danylchenko/Stocksy

CRM, or customer relationship management, and marketing automation platforms have grown more efficient and less cost-prohibitive in recent years. Bankers that have put them in place say they can bring together data to find high-value customers and, ultimately, drive growth.

By Mary Yerkes


Community banking is all about connections. Whether it’s maintaining and deepening relationships with current customers or finding new customers to grow your business, successful customer relationship management can make or break your business. That’s why more community banks are turning to customer relationship management, or CRM, platforms that use data analysis to identify high-value customers and drive sales growth. When used strategically and in conjunction with the right marketing automation software, platforms like these do more than drive growth; they reduce manual processes and help build a more cohesive team.

Vinton County National Bank in McArthur, Ohio, like many community banks, is new to CRM platforms. The $1 billion-asset community bank, realizing it needed a tool to track customer communications, pull reports and create efficiencies, partnered with 360 View, a technology platform in Nashville, Tenn., offering integrated CRM, marketing automation and analytics reporting.

Traditional CRM platforms typically focus on marketing needs, such as email communications or sales, which require tools for pipeline reporting. What’s often lacking is the integration and application of the data pulled, which helps drive high-performance campaigns and outcomes.

“Having this [CRM] platform has been very beneficial to us. We used to pass around a report, but now many of our manual processes are automated.”
—Eric Dennis, Vinton County National Bank

Vinton County National Bank is realizing the benefits of a platform that integrates multiple systems into its platform. “Having this platform has been very beneficial to us,” says Eric Dennis, the community bank’s business application manager. “We used to pass around a report, but now many of our manual processes are automated.”

According to Dennis, the platform’s implementation has torn down silos and brought staff together from different departments. Because each department in the bank has access to the software, there is maximum visibility across the organization.

The product dashboard is relatively self-explanatory and easy to use, Dennis says, but he credits 360 View for its support and training. One appealing feature is that it allows bank employees to log in and use a sandbox area to learn new features. The platform’s many new options can sometimes feel overwhelming, Dennis says, but he says 360 View offers advanced training that helps the bank maximize the platform’s potential.

Dennis says Vinton County National Bank uses the platform to personalize interactions with its customers. For example, when customers enter the bank within seven days of their birthday, an alert appears in the system, reminding staff to wish the customer a happy birthday. The system’s dashboard highlights other milestones, including customers’ one-year anniversary with the bank.

Newfound platform integration

One of the primary attractions of a platform that integrates multiple functions into its software is the versatility it provides. Until recently, systems like these were cost-prohibitive. But with the surge in innovation and strategic partnerships between community banks and fintech startups, access to integrated platforms is more affordable.

In Little Rock, Ark., $620 million-asset bank Encore Bank has adopted a platform that integrates customer data with sales and marketing automation and analytics. “We’re essentially a startup bank,” says Burt Hicks, senior executive vice president, chief operations officer and general counsel of Encore Bank, which opened in 1997 but was recapitalized in March 2019. “We wanted to grow deposits, reduce expenses and drive as much efficiency as we could.”

The community bank partnered with FI Works, a 2020 ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator finalist also based in Little Rock, to help it achieve these goals. FI Works’ platform has a three-fold focus: managing customer data; using predictive analytics; and driving high performance through targeted work queues, scorecards and dashboards, all of which are accessible to bank staff.

According to Hicks, Encore Bank relies heavily on the platform to initiate campaigns, generate business and drive sales. The software makes it easy to track and analyze campaign effectiveness, which helps the bank determine next steps. There are other pluses, too.

“One of the benefits we’ve received is not just a system that can do what most of these systems can do,” Hicks says. “We spend time with the CEO of the company, who helps us think through ways to reduce costs and capture new business. We get to pick his brain and ask what types of campaigns make sense in the market and what campaigns align with the bank’s strategy.”

FI Works CEO Keith Henkel says the company’s platform pulls data daily from the bank’s systems and applies machine learning analytics to predict what the community bank’s customers are likely to do next, with impressive results. For example, email marketing campaigns generated by the platform typically have a 20% to 40% response rate, whereas the typical rate is in the single digits, according to Henkel.

How does it work?

Tonya Gossage, president of Gossage Performance Consulting, LLC, in Little Rock, Ark., partners with Encore Bank in managing the system and training staff. She explains how it works.

FI Works loads the data it captures from the core system to its system daily. Every morning when bank employees log in, they see a dashboard that includes a scorecard of key performance indicators, or KPIs, built around goals set by the bank. The other side of the dashboard consists of an activity queue, which showcases new opportunities and tasks that have been assigned to them. Using artificial intelligence, or AI, the platform can run predictive analytics to determine which customers are most likely to respond positively to an offer. The system also includes specific talking points for bankers, who then reach out to current or potential customers during a campaign.

“In order to thrive, you have to think outside the box and be willing to use technology and other resources out there to make yourself more efficient and relevant to a new user.”
—Burt Hicks, Encore Bank

Encore Bank has run several campaigns around cross-selling, debit cards, credit cards, overdraft protection and others, all with positive results. Gossage, who has worked with this particular platform at Encore and other banks, says implementation is relatively simple and the costs are reasonable. But in today’s environment, partnering with a vendor to provide an integrated CRM and marketing platform is about much more than cost.

“Consumer and commercial preferences are changing,” Hicks says. “In order to thrive, you have to think outside the box and be willing to use technology and other resources out there to make yourself more efficient and relevant to a new user. Things are different today from a few years ago.”


How Encore Bank put marketing automation to work

Encore Bank exterior

Encore Bank in Little Rock, Ark.

Like many community banks today, Encore Bank in Little Rock, Ark., found itself trying to solve the data dilemma. The bank wanted to know how to consolidate information across system silos, cleanse customer data and integrate existing customer data with its prospect lists.

The community bank partnered with FI Works, an ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator finalist also based in Little Rock. The fintech offers a software solution that combines customer data with predictive analytics and sales and marketing automation.

FI Works spent eight weeks implementing the system at Encore Bank, and, in the process, identified its top growth opportunities. To accomplish that, FI Works loaded data from the bank’s core and then provided it with an integrated view of bank customers. Based on the predictive analytics obtained through the platform, the marketing team then determined what campaigns to run.

During that analysis, FI Works’ system identified shareholder opportunities for Encore Bank. The community bank went to work, contacting the 400-plus shareholders on the list. The bank also assigned every shareholder a banker dubbed a “concierge banker.” Encore Bank then asked its bankers to reach out to these shareholders, introduce themselves and talk with them about opening an account at the bank, which they did with impressive results.

The campaign resulted in an 89% acceptance rate, which, the community bank admits, is not typical. Encore Bank attributes the success rate to multiple factors, including the existing relationships it had with stakeholders. Other campaigns run by the community bank, including an electronic statement campaign that resulted in a 20% acceptance rate, score well above average and deliver consistent results. Outcomes like these are driving growth, helping Encore Bank exceed its strategic business goals.


Mary Yerkes is a writer in North Carolina.

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