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How community banks can establish authority and cultivate customer relationships

In the past five years, large banks have closed down branches faster than ever before, which has led to a rise in people looking to community banking institutions. Much of this trend has to do with changing consumer behavior and member demands. It’s hard to create meaningful relationships with bank members. We want things to be easy, we want to find an answer quickly to our financial questions on Google. We want to trust where we’re putting our money and feel like the institutions really understand us.

Big banks are struggling with consumer trust. This leaves community banks with a unique opportunity to swoop in and capture these customers by building strong relationships. By highlighting the ease-of-use and personal touch that a community bank offers, you can establish trust and expertise through the modern marketing strategies used by big banks, while creating tailored messaging for your local market.

In our experience working with community banks, we’ve observed a few key strategies to boost growth.

Invest in your digital experience

Digital marketing is invaluable to community banking as the financial industry continues to change. There’s an opportunity to stay true to your brand’s core mission and further build out your company story to give your customers the experience they’re looking for in a bank.

First, your website must be mobile-friendly. The shift toward self-service in online and mobile channels continues to progress as millennials access mobile nearly three times more than other generations. Having a clean and minimal design is best while creating clear and simple calls-to-action (CTAs) to guide your members where you want them to go.

Community banks can attract customers by offering them a number of digital pathways to interact with the brand. Creating a human connection in the tech age can be difficult, but with some personal creativity, digital channels such as email, paid search, and social media can be extremely influential in establishing trust with your current and future members.

Additionally, implementing marketing automation, such as personalized emails and texts, is a great way to grow customer engagement and brand advocacy. Yet, only 16% of community banks were using a formal customer experience program according to a study conducted by The Financial Brand. Using marketing automation is triggered by consumer engagement, ensuring your offers are more relevant, keeping your brand top of mind and trustworthy.

Create financial literacy content

Many customers believe they have high financial literacy, but studies have shown that nearly one third of young adults have poor financial understanding and lack money-management skills.

Investing in a strong financial literacy strategy is an easy marketing idea that allows you to reach almost any demographic. By informing your customers with valuable financial advice, you help shape the perception and authority your community bank holds even before they become members.

Content is the answer to providing your current and future members with the financial instructions they don’t even know they need yet. By supplying informative infographics, helpful articles, videos, and insights from your top advisors, you can establish a powerful level of trust and expertise in your community.

Some ideas of how to get your local community involved in learning:

  • Write a blog about financial well-being
  • Provide a free financial cost calculator on your website
  • Post a video about credit card tips for college students

Lean into your local community

Disruption in the financial industry leads to opportunities to stay fresh and relevant. Although the way banking is done might change, what the bank actually does will remain the same. Community banks have an advantage to the big financial institutions by positioning themselves as an independent and trustworthy member of the circle.

Local banks have the power to serve their community beyond their branch walls. Highlight the community aspect of each branch location by capturing authentic photography of your team members volunteering around the neighborhood. Optimize your local marketing searches by adding location tags to your photography, building trust and controlling your brand image along the way.

Finally, invest in local listings search optimizations for each branch location to better align creative marketing campaigns. By implementing a hyperlocal strategy, you will produce an immediate lift in branch visibility and drive more members toward each individual location of your bank.

The takeaway

There are numerous ways to get your marketing message out there, but it’s important to remember to stay true to your core and communicate all that your community bank brings to the table. Enlisting the help of marketing professionals to act as an extension of your team will leave you with more time and bandwidth to focus on specific initiative and goals for your company.

Below are the key takeaways to consider when investing in your marketing strategy:

  • Invest in your mobile experience.
  • Boost the visibility of your website to generate greater brand awareness.
  • Examine your website forms and conversion points to make the customer experience more streamlined.
  • Adopt marketing automation to ensure relevant offers.
  • Create a content strategy to increase member’s financial education and trust.
  • Add geotags and use geotechnology to target your local community.
Maggie Ryan
Maggie Ryan
Maggie is a Marketing + Sales Enablement Specialist for Belo + Company. Maggie has experience in various aspects of business, including starting her own company in Uganda, Africa while she was serving in the Peace Corps. When she is not creating at work, she enjoys spending time with her family and making jewelry in her spare time.