Community Bank Marketing – 2011 “BRANDING” (Featured article in Bankers Digest – 15/11/10)

 

 

 

 

 

As the marketplace continues to vacillate from an ever hopeful increase in growth to a sobering recession, and with so many definitions of the consumer and business mentality unfolding, it seems important to review some of the banking issues that are at work in the marketplace.

Some working for you

- Your bank continues to maintain a level of trust in your local community.

- A customer can talk with an actual bank employee regarding their financial dealings with the institution.

- You’re convenient.  Probably just around the corner from your customer base.

- There is less “shopping” to do since most banks offer similar services

- Many of your customers will still come to you first when looking for solutions to financial situations.

- You can still engage your customers, and remind them of your value to their financial well being.

Some working against you

- In general, because of recent events in the financial marketplace, bank customers have less respect for the industry. (₁)

- You don’t have the attributes of a big bank; lots of convenient offices, the latest technology, delivery of service outside your “community” area, the ability to react quickly to a financial  need or situation.

- Customers are considering more alternatives to traditional bank services.

- The internet provides information and locations for new and varied offerings.

- Many banks have been bought out, or have failed.  And the future portends that this trend will increase.

- It seems as though banks have always complicated customer service with a lot of requirements necessary for regulatory compliance.  The future indicates that this will intensify.

- Customers don’t always understand bank regulations and procedures that require extra time on their part.

- The ability to customize services and price them accordingly seems to be an attribute of big banks.  They seem to offer more, for less.

- Savings rates are almost non-existent.

- Mortgages requirements are more stringent and require more time and a lot of paper work.

- Only the big banks seem to utilize and extend technological services.

- People are busier.  There is less time to think through their decisions.  They deal with organizations that they are aware of.

- Brands have become more important in the decision as to where to do  business.

- Customers don’t have to come “into” the bank.  ATMs, Drive-ups, and the internet provide service needs.  There are fewer occasions to interact with customers, inform them, and hear of their needs.

- Customers  tend to have more than one primary bank.  They are more prone to look for better service, better prices, specific services, and less hassle.

(₁) J.D. Power and Associates 2010 U.S. Small Business Banking Satisfaction StudySM

Because traditional Marketing practices take time and planning (and time is of the essence), a new approach should be considered, where Market influences become more of a strategic partner in spelling out a business plan for the bank.  This is where “Branding” plays a new and exciting role.

Branding has become one of the leading disciplines in a growing number of businesses.  It has a rich history in the consumer market and is now playing an important role in the business-to-business world as well.  It is not your logo.  Or your latest tag line.  Essentially, “it defines who you are, what you do, and why that matters.  It’s not what you say it is.  It’s what they say it is.” (Marty Neumeier – The Brand Gap)   You must have a clearer understanding of how your organization differentiates itself from the competition, and make certain these factors become a part of the perception of the bank…its image.

One of the best techniques in determining this new direction is to perform an Image/ Brand Assessment.  It will tell you what attitudes you, your employees, your customers, and prospects have regarding your Brand.  Basically, these are research projects that help to identity attitudes.  These attitudes play an increasing role in providing customers the service they want.  The primary value that such Assessments bring to the business plan is a clearer understanding of how such information can be utilized in dealing with customers, and attracting new business.  There are many benefits, notably:  you will have a more focused definition of customer service;  training will be have a clearer and more measureable focus;  promotions will be more direct and specific in their results;  and Communications will be more defined and predictable.

In summary, building a better “Brand” will help you to build a better bank.

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