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Matt Cunard, Sr. Digital Marketer  

April was Community Bankers Month, during which my colleagues and I had a lot of different interactions with clients, prospects and fellow financial marketers. The same phrase kept popping up in conversations: “We know we need to do more.” We heard it on the phone with clients, in person at sales presentations and from numerous marketers at the Iowa Bankers Association Marketing Conference last week.  

And not everyone’s “more” meant the same thing. For some, “more” meant engaging on social media or working on search engine optimization, while others wanted to expand their online presence or run targeted campaigns. But the key was that all of the “mores” we heard dealt with online marketing.    

I couldn’t believe it. We’ve been waiting for this day to come, the day for bank marketers to believe the same thing we’ve been preaching for over five years in the banking industry that having a website isn’t enough. To hear it so pervasively and in so many forms from marketers across the state of Iowa and in areas across the Midwest was a dream come true.  

Lately, we’ve been focusing on asking probing questions about bank departments’ marketing efforts. For the aforementioned IBA Marketing Conference, we asked the following crucial questions of attendees:

  • Are your marketing efforts cutting edge or only cutting into your budget?
  • Are your marketing campaigns specifically targeted or targeted to everyone (a.k.a. no one)?
  • Are your marketing campaigns measurable or failing to measure up?
  • Are you engaging with your customers and prospects or waiting for them to engage with you?

These questions were already being asked on a national scale. The Financial Brand’s 2016 Financial Marketing survey revealed telling statistics regarding how senior marketing and non-marketing officers in community banks and credit unions view the connection between marketing efforts and ROI.

  • Measuring Marketing ROI: 96 percent of marketing executives said it is at least a minor challenge (46 percent said major challenge, 50 percent said minor challenge); 90 percent of non-marketing execs stated it was at least a minor challenge (60 percent major challenge, 30 minor challenge).
  • Quantifying Marketing’s Impact: 47 percent of marketing executives said it was a struggle; 66 percent of non-marketing executives agreed.
  • Establishing Marketing ROI: 69 percent of marketing execs said their organization could do better, with 59 percent of non-marketing executives saying the same.

From what we heard during April the “do more” movement is all about using the right measurement tools to establish concrete numbers to prove ROI and show C-level executives the benefit of the marketing department.   Community banks have a number of things going for them that increase my optimism that 2016 is a year of change and improvement for marketing in community banks:

  1. Community banks are already trusted more than larger banks and have a relationship built up through their bread and butter of great customer service.
  2. They have mountains of customer data (age, gender, marriage status, income, and other demographics) from core providers at their disposal.
  3. Rates for loans are still low (for the moment), making now the time to capitalize on new business.
  4. There are a plethora of free and low-cost tools to integrate all parts of your marketing, from content creation and social media to analytics and measurement tools.
  5. Community banks act in the best interest of those they serve; in today’s financial marketplace, goodwill is a valued commodity.

So, what makes online marketing the best channel to take advantage of all these wonderful things?  

I could tell you that online marketing campaigns are more measurable, targetable and are more efficient in terms of ROI than offline campaigns. But I’m biased. What I will say is that online is where the action is.  

From the awesome folks over at the Pew Research Center, 84 percent of all U.S. adults use the internet. When broken down by age, it looks like this:

  • Age 18-29 (the coveted Millennials): 96 percent
  • Age 30-49 (those with disposable income): 93 percent
  • Age 50-64 (those making plans for or entering retirement): 81 percent
  • Age 65 or older (those looking for convenience throughout retirement): 58 percent

Additionally, social media usage has also consistently grown across age groups and across community types from 2005 to 2015:

  • Age 18-29: 2005- 12%; 2015- 90%
  • Age 30-49: 2005- 8%; 2015- 77%
  • Age 50-64: 2005- 5%; 2015- 51%
  • Age 65 and older: 2005- 2%; 2015- 35%
  • Suburban: 2005- 7 percent; 2015- 68 percent
  • Urban: 2005- 9 percent; 2015- 64 percent
  • Rural: 2005- 5 percent; 2015- 58 percent

And then there is the question of mobile. It’s no longer just for the young kids. Smartphone and tablet ownership percentages from Pew demonstrate that mobile is a huge point of access to the internet for U.S. adults across all sorts of demographic groupings.

PI_2015-10-29_device-ownership_1-02PI_2015-10-29_device-ownership_1-04  

To frame the argument: community banks have customer trust and data for leverage, tools aren’t exclusively for those with large budgets, and more adults across demographic groups are using social media, mobile devices and the internet than ever before.  

The stars have aligned.  

All that remains is the courage to act. Doing so and grasping the idea of doing more will allow your institution to better serve your customers, and you to achieve the almighty ROI your executives will adore you for.

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