Community Bank Growth Strategies

community bank growth strategies

We know community banks. To develop our community bank benchmarks, we survey nearly 3 million bank customers every six months to find out what community banks are doing well and where they’re faltering.

  • We know, for example, that it’s not enough to just be active in the community if you aren’t making sure consumers know what you’re doing to be active – through social media, in-bank marketing efforts, and local visibility.
  • We know that at any point in time, 50-70% of bank customers are ready to switch banks – and we know the top ways banks can keep their customers loyal.
  • And we know that for most community banks, it can be more lucrative to focus on attracting women as bank customers, who are more adept at using bank technology and have a greater lifetime value than their male counterparts.

Community Bank Opportunity

Whether you’re the community bank manager or marketing officer, one of the things you’re charged with is growth. We know that explosive growth is possible when there are more than 3 million bank customers are up for grab in the northeast. Whether actively looking or just waiting for the right offer to show up, millions of bank customers in the northeast are not loyal enough to the bank they’re with to prevent them from switching. The same is true for about a third of business customers.

How can you keep your existing customers loyal and attract new customers looking for something better?

While it varies from state to state and region to region, there are some key areas that we find can benefit every community bank when done well.

Show Up in Your Community

You can’t just sponsor the local baseball team and call it a day. To really show up in your community, you need to actually be a part of it. When you’re serving your neighbors and know them and what they need, you can do a better job of making them feel like you’re there for them. You need to demonstrate that showing up – through sharing posts on social media, through being present during community functions, and more.

Level the Technology Playing Field

Community banks have access to the same technology consumers want that big banks have. You can offer online banking and photo deposits and mobile banking. No customer even questions that capability. But you have to follow through and make sure every single employee knows how to use every single technology you offer. It’s as much about your own employee buy-in to the tech as it is about the tech itself.

Focus on the Experience

Bank customers can walk into any bank and get an unemotional, transactional experience. Set yourself apart. Make sure when they walk into your bank, they feel like they’re at home. Be a part of their community. Give them a reason to walk through the door (fresh popcorn, suckers for kids, welcoming smiles from the staff, community events hosted on site). When you give them a reason to feel good about being in your bank, you give them a reason to keep banking with you.

There Are a Million Ways to Grow Your Bank – But You Have to Know What Customers Want

Increasing your customer base, decreasing costs, improving loyalty, cross-selling and upselling products are all standard ways to grow your community bank. But knowing what really resonates with your customers and potential customers is essential for making sure you’re putting your efforts in the right place. Your customized banking benchmarks can provide all the insight you need to understand your bank and your competitors better so that you can adjust your efforts to be more effective. Contact us today for more information.

Customer Experience Solutions Benchmarks Highlighted in Banking Mid Atlantic

As the most recent banking benchmarks reflect, the most important differentiator community banks and credit unions have is their ability to deliver an excellent customer experience. When bank customers feel valued, listened to, and cared about at their bank, not even better rates can pull them away. Unfortunately, only a little more than one-third of the banking customers surveyed (over one million responses) are “highly loyal.”

This means two-thirds of banking customers throughout the northeast market are looking for a new bank. To make sure your customers aren’t the ones looking – and to attract the ones who are looking – you need to understand what your customers and prospects think of your bank.

New benchmarks are now available – request yours now.

Read the highlights about New Jersey’s and Pennsylvania’s banking benchmarks in the winter 2019 edition of Banking Mid Atlantic.

 

 

Consumers Are Looking for These 3 Digital Banking Services

Community banks have a lot of advantages over their larger counterparts, but that’s no reason to slack on technology. Regardless of the size of the bank, consumers expect certain digital banking services. Luckily for smaller banks and credit unions, the latest Benchmarks reveal that most households and businesses assume smaller institutions have about the same quality digital tools as the largest banks. Beyond delivering amazing customer service and employing strong community engagement practices, be sure these digital banking services are up to speed:

  1. Mobile Banking

A rapidly growing percent of consumers want everything accessible on a mobile device. The latest CES Banking Benchmarks reveal that 64% of consumers expect to increase their mobile and online banking in the next 12 months. Although you want your customers to feel comfortable coming into the branch, they shouldn’t have to come in for routine transactions if they don’t want to. Remote transfer, bill pay, and remote deposit have grown by up to 35% per year at some of the more proactive institutions. Person-to-person (P2P) payments are also more popular than ever, with friends using Venmo and PayPal to cover a shared cab rather than exchange cash. It’s essential that your mobile app can communicate with the preferred apps of your consumers, making every monetary transaction as easy as possible.

  1. Financial Planning

Consumers want more from their bank than the exchange of money. Financial planning is high on the list of what community banks should be offering, and this shouldn’t be limited to an in-person visit with a representative. Give your consumers the freedom to use files stored on their personal devices to make comparisons with your website or app. Budgeting, loan calculators, and tax preparation are only a few financial planning tools that are valuable to your customers. And once they start using these tools with your bank, they are far more likely to use your value-added services in the future.

  1. Online Account Management

Community banks can’t afford to forget about basic account management services. There’s nothing more annoying than having to fill out paperwork for something like a change of mailing address when it should be something the customer can do online. Allow your consumers the flexibility to make changes to their account digitally, without the hassle of paperwork or a trip to your branch. It should be easy to change contact information, switch mailing addresses, and check balances of different accounts. It may seem like common sense, especially since convenience is valuable to your consumer base, but these basic functions are often overlooked or not properly developed.

Bank technology is easily available, and it doesn’t take much to implement tools that make a difference to your customers.  An oft-forgotten aspect of employing banking technology is how important it is to educate your own employees on how to use them.  If your employees do not know how to use the technology you offer your customers, you can be assured that your customers question how good your bank really is if the employees don’t know how to bank there. During the interviews CES conducts for the Benchmarks, we see thousands of comments from customers who question the quality of their bank when they believe the bank’s staff themselves are not expert users of the banks’ technology.

An investment in digital banking services is no longer an option if your community bank wants to remain competitive. Community banks should always leverage their unique position as a member of the local community, but they must also deliver the level of functionality consumers expect from every bank large or small.

There is enormous opportunity for you to grow your community bank or credit union, but it starts with knowing what existing customers and prospects think of you compared to your competitors. Take action now and request our benchmark study for your region.

Finding Success as a Community Bank, Part 2: Marketing

Last month, we discussed the challenges that community banks and credit unions face – and even some of the opportunities they have – when competing against megabanks. One way to level the playing field is through marketing efforts. Community banks and credit unions can build a successful marketing strategy by understanding who to attract, how to reach them, and when to communicate.

Target Your Market

Understand and be able to articulate what you have to offer, then identify the types of people who are most likely to benefit from your customized programs. Market almost exclusively to your target demographic and advertise your specializations, while still recognizing that you will receive inquiries from people outside of this spectrum. Simply put, focus your marketing on the types of people who are most likely to bank with you.  In New York State, for instance, 46% of customers would prefer to bank with a “smaller bank or credit union.” (35% have no preference and only 19% actually prefer a bigger bank).

Craft Compelling Messages

As a community bank or credit union, your business revolves around more than direct deposits. Identify your selling points beyond the traditional banking needs, and advertise the larger financial picture. Create multiple messages focused exclusively on the unique elements you offer, and direct them to people who fit the profile of your most interested consumers.  According to the results of the Q2 2017 Bank Benchmarks across the tristate area, the #1 product currently being sought by commercial customers (small business, middle market, and large corporate) are retirement accounts (followed by insurance), and the #1 product for consumers are brokerage accounts (followed by checking accounts).  A message crafted around those specific needs will be much more salient to prospects than a general branding approach.

Communicate Regularly and Effectively

Establish an expectation of positive communication between your representatives and customers. Ask your customers which communication method is most preferable, then communicate via that medium. Have a purpose for each communication, but be willing to respond to whatever comes up in the discussion. Identify legitimate reasons for your managers and officers to communicate directly with your key customers. Consider using chat options for those who can’t visit a physical location.

Understanding your market is essential to a successful business strategy. You may not have the brand recognition of a larger bank, but there are services and products that can be offered that are unique to your business and location. With a focus on those you can serve best, you can attract a multitude of different customers.