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What should go into a strategic plan?

If you look at the commonly held definition of a strategic plan you would say it sets priorities, focuses energy and resources, gives your institution direction, ensures everyone is on the same page and that all stakeholder issues are accounted for. Your strategic plan probably includes the tactics and personnel needed to meet your goals, as well as protocols for measuring and assessing your progress.

However, a vital element that may be forgotten is your online presence. This includes your website, social media channels, online banking and mobile banking products and other online technology or marketing channels you use.

Why is your online presence so vital? The native nature of using the internet, plus massive increases in mobile and social media use can’t be understated. Additionally, people are looking for online tools that make their lives easier, which can also increase business for your bank. Let’s look at five reasons you shouldn’t leave your online presence out of your strategic plan.

1. Online is where people are at.

Eighty-six percent of the U.S. population uses the internet according to the Pew Research Center.A 2016 comScore report shows mobile dominating the share of time spent using digital devices at 65 percent, with nearly half of that time spent on apps. In the social media realm, 76 percent of online adults use Facebook daily, with 51 percent using Instagram and 42 percent using Twitter daily.

2. It drives brand awareness and strengthens your customer relationships.

Social media channels can be used to increase loyalty, build a great relationship and further the sense that your institution is looking out for your customers. The right mix of educational, local and product-based content on social channels focused on your customers’ needs can also build up loyalty to your brand.

3. A helpful online presence is what people want!

Accenture’s “2016 North America Consumer Digital Banking Survey” sheds light on what today’s consumers want from their financial institution. In terms of what services would increase their loyalty to their bank, the top answers included:

  • Helping in the car buying process (43 percent of respondents)
  • Simplifying the home buying process (41 percent)
  • Providing more personalized service (40 percent)
  • Helping to proactively pay and manage bills (39 percent)
  • Providing actionable financial advice on a proactive, real-time basis (39 percent)

All of the above items can be achieved with the help of online technology and tools. Online tools like loan application forms, online account opening and a fully digital switch kit can drive business because they are quick and allow people to complete normally time-intensive tasks much faster and easier.

Consumers want these tools! In a 2016 Fiserv report, 46 percent of the 3,000 respondents “want tools that are easier to use”, 39 percent “want tools that deliver faster results” and 37 percent “want tools designed for my busy life.”

4. Online is where people want these tools.

A great place for those tools is your website or mobile app. In the same Fiserv report, consumers accessed their institutions’ websites and mobile sites nearly twice as much as their bank’s ATMs, branches and by phone. This means opportunities abound in the digital space!

Using digital marketing and advertising can drive the most qualified traffic to these tools to boost your conversions. These are the people actively searching out the services you provide and looking to take action. If you can target them using specific data behavioral metrics, not just demographics, you’re one step closer to a sale.

5. Mobile is still a largely untapped resource.

There also needs to be a more creative approach to mobile applications and tools. Most of today’s mobile banking apps are lacking when it comes to the quick, fast and easy tools consumers need. Yes, you can check balances, set up alerts and transfer funds in most mobile apps. But if you can move money with a few taps, why shouldn’t you be able to open and fund an account, upload secure documents and sign papers with an electronic signature?

A growth mindset is required.

These types of technologies are available for community financial institutions, as there are numerous companies who do great work in digital marketing, online tools and mobile technology. But the question is: do you have the courage to step outside of doing things the way they have always been done?

Great strategic planning requires self-analysis, specifics as to what goals you want to reach, as well as guidelines for accountability and analysis. This is no different when it comes to online marketing and technology. Once you know where you are and where you want to be, you can develop the necessary steps to get there and the measuring stick by which you judge your progress.

Achieving the growth goals your institution sets is dependent on many factors, and the strength and pervasiveness of your online presence can affect many of them. A bold, dynamic and forward-thinking online strategy can make things easier for both external stakeholders (your customers and prospective customers) as well as internal stakeholders (your staff, executive team and board of directors).

The institutions that understand the powers of digital marketing, social media, online tools and useful mobile experiences and act to harness them are the institutions that will continue to grow and flourish in the coming year.

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