When I was growing up, I recall a series of commercials about the Peace Corps. And their tagline was,

“The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love.”

While I am in no way trying to draw a parallel between the Peace Corps and Community Bank Marketing, the reference to being a tough (yet extremely rewarding) job is valid. For those of you in the role of bank marketing at your local community bank, you know the daily grind is real. You know that you wear more hats than a hat rack, and you will change those hats multiple times throughout any given day.

Let’s face it, the game has changed and continues to change at an incredibly fast rate. Gone are the days of simply running a deposit product ad and offering a free toaster with each new account opened. Gone are the days of sitting in an office waiting for a young family to come in looking for a loan to purchase their first home. These days, your job description should include, “be as nimble as an American Ninja Warrior.”

Technology, delivery channels, and the understanding of the various segments of your customer base all factor in to your marketing mix. Beyond the advertising aspect of all of this, we also have to include Public Relations, Donations, and Community Outreach! How does a person keep it all together? I’m not here to tell you that I have the magic elixir, but I will try to outline what our institution is doing (or trying to get to) and hopefully that will spark some thoughts for you as you go forward in your marketing strategies.

Historically, the local community banks founded many, many years ago were (and still are) locally-owned or family-owned. Customers were loyal to an institution, or to the ownership. Customers stayed with a bank through generations of loyalty. I still hear a lot of customers at events tell me, “My grandfather banked with you in 1949, and my parents bank with you, and we have our relationship with you, too!”

Did you hear that?! In that simple conversation you could literally hear the way banking has changed through the generations.

It began as grandparents and parents “banking” with an institution, but it evolved to the next generation saying “our relationship.” That right there, to me, is where the answer lies in all that we as community bankers should strive to do in the coming years.

Treat account holders as relationships.

It’s easier said than done, really.

To the grandparents and parents that were referenced, ads in a newspaper or a friendly face at a teller line would suffice. Knowing the customer by name, and greeting them as such was sufficient. Today, community banks have to be able to correctly identify the segments of their customer base and target specifically based off of those analytics. Consumers today want to be informed, but they don’t want to be sold. They want content, but they don’t want to be pressured. They want to know that you share their passions and vision. But, the minute that they feel that you are pressuring them, they will hit the “unlike” button and tune you out.

My advice to you is this: define who YOUR institution is and stick with it.

If you tell your institution’s story with conviction and compassion, people will follow. If you try to hit a moving target all of the time, it will become increasingly difficult for the consumer to build an opinion of you. Or, if they do form an opinion, it will be that you simply cater to what’s cool at the moment without having a long-term vision. I’ve stated this before, and I will continue to state it: a marketing strategy should be like a Roman Candle, rather than a bottle rocket. We all want every idea to take off and make a huge bang, but once a bottle rocket explodes, it’s done. However, a Roman Candle gives off much more firepower and enjoyment for a longer amount of time. Be a Roman Candle in your strategies.

This is incredibly easy to type, but incredibly difficult to execute.

As a marketer, you want to be out on the tip of the spear engaging in the new social media flavor of the week, but what about all of those resources and time that you just spent building a presence, only to have that channel become obsolete in a month? You want to pound your chest about being the first in the market to do something, but what if it’s the wrong delivery channel and no one cared that you were there in the first place?

Our Director of Retail Services is a proponent of the mantra, “Is it a trend, or a fad?” A fad will come and go, but a trend has some statistical backing to prove that credence should be given to the topic. For example, does Periscope have a place in your bank’s marketing strategy? I would suggest that it doesn’t “right now.” But, it’s important to keep it simmering in the background and be prepared to utilize it as time bares out whether it is a fad or a trend. Does SnapChat have a place? It depends on your target group. I would suggest that it does, if your strategy is to reach younger consumers in the middle to high school ages.

We are all aware that millennials are the hot topic, and the focus of much (and well-deserved) attention. However, I am of the opinion that most of this group has a pretty good idea of their banking relationship, and the difficulty that comes with switching banks because of direct deposit, online banking, and other “convenience” services, it is difficult to flip someone to your institution on a consistent basis. For this reason, we have been shifting a healthy portion of our focus to the school-aged consumers. From the simplest “Teach Children to Save” seminars, to community events tailored to children, to developing a smartphone and tablet app which teaches financial literacy at age-appropriate levels with playable characters from our Children’s Savings Account, we feel that engaging this age group gives us a great head start on developing our next generation of loyal customers.

That is why we choose to engage the generation behind the millennials as a major point of emphasis. This age group is one that community bank marketers should be paying close attention to.

Early on, I would have told you that Pinterest would have no place in a bank marketing strategy. However, I have had to pin several boards on how to eat crow, because apparently Pinterest is here for the long haul. With some statistics illustrating that nearly 70% of financial decisions in a household are made by women, and research suggesting that 42% of online women are Pinterest users, it stands to reason that Pinterest is a key piece in your social media strategy. Create compelling boards that followers can enjoy, and sprinkle in your product messaging along the way.

This is all in addition to the usual players of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Speaking of YouTube, keep in mind that it is the number two search engine, trailing only Google. Here are some statistics to keep in mind about YouTube:

  • Over 1 billion users
  • 300 hours of video are uploaded every minute
  • The Top 100 Brands collectively publish a new video every 18.5 minutes, 10% of which were 10 minutes or longer
  • People watching trademarked content by these Top 100 Brands has almost doubled over last year, with subscriptions on brand channels rising by 47%

So, it stands to reason that YouTube is a great channel to deliver compelling messaging that helps build loyalty, trust, brand awareness and the overall relationship with the consumer.

Just when you think you have it figured out, then Facebook rolls out “suggested videos” within its Newsfeed to compete with YouTube! And I haven’t even touched the topics of billboards, newspaper and magazine ads, in-branch signage, on-hold messaging, email marketing, local high school yearbook ads, community event sponsorships, and civic club memberships (cue the American Ninja Warrior reference again.)

A community bank marketer is a special breed.

Your job is to do more with less, stretch your ad dollars, increase ROI, and never break stride when a project or event doesn’t turn out the way you had hoped…just keep pressing forward to the next project. As one myself, I salute each and every one of you.

This truly is the toughest job you’ll ever love.

What do you think? Be sure to weigh in your thoughts in the comments below!