Written by Karen Eber Hoffmann
BAnks has always aimed to reach outside of themselves to engage potential clients. With the advent of online and mobile banking, banks large and small are increasingly relying on consulting and marketing firms to support their efforts.
Two years ago, Cynthia Ramsay, Brand Manager for Progressive Ozark Bank, was tasked with finding an agency that could support the bank’s ideas about digital advertising.
“We are a small bank in a very rural market,” says Ramsay, whose bank is based in Houston, Missouri. “We were trying at best to find information on agencies in any capacity, but finding agencies that had experience working with community banks and accessing rural markets was a particular challenge.”
After interviewing three agencies in the St. Louis area, Ramsay and her team settled on a “small boutique type business.” Although, during the audit, her bank encountered one marketing agency that “refused to give us rates when they learned how small we were…and one [that]It was priced way off budget, and we wouldn’t go any further.”
Progressive Ozark Bank’s chosen marketing firm has previously worked with at least two community banks to bring back the brands. “It was a ‘toe in the water’ kind of approach, but they were diligent in understanding our market and targeting our demographics and goals,” Ramsay says. “They went the extra mile to provide us with content that exemplifies and speaks to our market and really puts us on a fast track.”
Similarly, Cathy Blanchart, vice president and director of product and segment marketing at Bar Harbor Bank and Trust, Ellsworth, Maine, says her bank was not using a marketing agency when she joined the bank in 2007. But in 2012, it was $1.3 billion at the time. The Asset Bank is set on a growth path. “We needed to get into the world of social media,” Blanchart says. “Our goal in partnering with a marketing agency was to develop creative ideas and a comprehensive media plan faster than we can do ourselves.”
Andrea Bagiatis, senior vice president of retail banking at First Constitution Bank, Jamesburg, NJ, notes that her bank doesn’t even have its own marketing department. But in the wake of the COVID pandemic, with the increased use of the Internet by bank customers, social media, email communications and digital campaigns are becoming more and more important. “As a small community bank, the marketing money is just not there,” she says. “Therefore, I strongly believe it is important to choose an agency that knows the market we are in, knows banking and regulatory compliance and has a presence here.”
Choosing the right partner
As is often the case, many banks turn to a marketing partner to help them create a unified brand in the wake of a merger or acquisition. Such was the case with Availa Bank of Carroll, Iowa, when the $1.3 billion institution combined “six bank names” under one name in 2017. Says Lisa K. We were going to grow, we needed to pick one name.” Ultimately, Ehrbeck says the bank’s executive team settled on a marketing agency even though it was “out of the box…it was very artistic and out of the traditional look and feel of banking marketing…which helped us.” on excellence.”
John Hanley, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for the $4 billion Equity Bank in Wichita, Kansas, has been with an outside marketing agency for more than eight years. “A lot of experience is needed, so we can focus on everyday things,” he says. “Banks have taken some time to embrace this kind of digital connection.”
In the wake of the popularity of fintech, Verasoni Worldwide CEO Abby Caspo says Verasoni Worldwide has “shifted its business model to more advisory in order to better serve the banks we work with”.
“Banks need a perspective on marketing within the larger context of what is happening in the market that is directly related to their customers and business goals and not just a partner running the creative and advertising business,” Caspo says.
“In light of this, we have helped bring flexibility and an entrepreneurial approach to marketing to our clients as they face unprecedented challenges from fintech startups as well as giants like Amazon, Paypal, Square, Stripe, Qapital, Acorns and even Robinhood among others who are becoming important competitors to banks. “.
Experience gained from working with other banks
The $1.1 billion Union Bank of Morrisville, Vermont has worked with outside marketing agencies for at least eight years, notes Robert D. before moving to Union Bank. By working with an outside marketing agency, Union Bank has made greater use of video and graphics in marketing the bank, says Hoffman.
“While the bank was growing and thriving, we needed to intentionally grow our marketing efforts,” Hoffman says, adding that outside agencies are able to bring in expertise, drawn from working with other banks.
Dennis Jada, Senior Vice President and Head of Financial Services for Infosys, notes that more and more banks are looking to outside help for their marketing support because they “are not ready to commit to a full team of staff for marketing and are thus benefiting from the expertise of outside agencies.”
Brian Riley, director of BankBound, a marketing agency based in Newtown, Pennsylvania, says it works with more than 40 banks with less than $5 billion in assets. The increasing complexity of the landscape on the digital front and the increase in marketability internally [has required banks]It brings in new talent,” says Riley. “It’s hard for a small bank to hire enough people…the scene is more competitive, with local banks having an advantage.”
Indeed, more than ever, banks are seeing the need to “leverage on the expertise of a marketing agency to help them stand out to new buyers,” says Lee Murray, owner of Bank Marketing Agency Signal in Orlando, Florida. “The experience and capacity of their internal team is usually limited and not used properly. With the help of an outside company, banks can find a clearer path for buyers and increase the effectiveness of their internal team.”
William E. Mills III, CEO of William Mills Agency, has been in the banking marketing and public relations business for nearly 40 years. The agency was founded by his parents in the late 1970s. Now, more than ever, “it is critical that you find a reliable outside advisor that is not dependent on your salary,” says Mills.
“It is much easier to work with someone who will tell you the truth, and that the emperor has no clothes, if necessary.” This is especially the case because “the competition is not only the bank or credit union on the road, but other financial institutions in other countries, non-banks and only online banks.”
Focus on digital and new generations
Ken Laroy, CEO of Climate First Bank, has hired an outside marketing agency in an effort to persuade the start-up bank to “connect to the digital space and millennials”.
“Most community banks don’t make enough use of outbound marketing,” says Laroy. “We want to be more in tune with what’s going on in the world… and to help tell our story.”
Stephen Curry, CEO at Endurance Advisory Partners, believes the technology has gone from “a back-end marketing enabler to a tool you can use to reach customers individually on their phones, tablets, computers, and even your old TV, through ads, text messages and email.” Marketing for a radical transformation.
“Banking has joined the ranks of eBay, Amazon, and Walmart in the competition for eyeballs and clicks, but our digital storefronts are instead passive billboards, slowly transitioning into the digital world,” Carey says. “This is a huge cultural change in the banking world, and crucial.”
Ben Burroughs, Principal and Head of Talent at Capco, says the marketing agency’s role “has changed in the past 10 to 15 years. Now, banks are focusing more on customer experience, with an emphasis on ‘digital first’ marketing.” It is the challenge of what they need and agencies that know their lanes best. Some know the best brands. Others focus on digital marketing.
“I’ve found it important when they’re focused,” Burroughs adds. “I think it’s really important, if they’re not in their footprint, they have the ability to know yours. While our industry is similar, there are some opportunities and issues that differ from country to country.”
Karen Hoffman is a frequent contributor to ABA Bank Marketing.