By Walt Albro
Technology is changing the way marketers work. Community banks no longer need to outsource the design of multimedia ad campaigns; instead, they use online portals to create materials.
About two years ago, the marketing department at Anderson Brothers Bank (assets: $500 million), Mullins, S.C., faced a challenge.
The bank’s 20 branches operate semi-independently and regularly need to quickly design and produce one-off advertisements. Like many community banks, Anderson Brothers created simple ads in-house using Microsoft Publisher. But the bank’s two-person marketing department was having difficulty keeping up with the heavy volume.
“We were getting bogged down,” explains Susan Grant, deposit, marketing and compliance officer.
After searching for an alternative, Grant eventually signed up with a bank marketing service that provides online access to templates and stock photos for creating individual ads as well as whole campaigns. The type of ads that can be created includes print, direct mail, email campaigns, statement stuffers, brochures, poster, flyers, digital signs and more.
The ease-of-use, customization and quality of the materials enabled Anderson Brother to do a variety of marketing without the expense of outsourcing. “It not only saves money but also enables us to create brochures, statement stuffers and other marketing materials that in the past we never had the time to develop in-house,” notes Grant.
Widely separated locations
Founded in 1933, Anderson Brothers is a family-owned bank that serves five counties in the state’s coastal region. The branches are spaced between 10 and 20 miles apart, and each of the market regions is different. Some markets are rural, while others are metropolitan.
The bank uses a blend of personal service, community service and state-of-the-art technology (such as mobile banking) to differentiate itself. Each branch is heavily involved in sponsoring community activities and events, and, therefore, each branch has slightly varying advertising needs. A branch that sponsors a local baseball team, for example, might want to produce at least one ad promoting this unique community-related sponsorship.
Some branches emphasize the promotion of branding or community events, while others focus on promoting photos of the local bankers.
In addition to overseeing marketing, Grant also manages deposit compliance and oversees compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). She is away from the bank attending conferences at least one week per month. One of the reasons she opted for an online marketing service was the ability to expedite the ad approval process while she was on the road. Through the service, a proposed ad can be transmitted electronically for approval. If the ad needs to be changed, the alterations can be made quickly, and the results transmitted for a second review.
With the marketing service, each branch has the capability of creating its own community-specific ads. Grant trained one person in each branch to use the system and allows two people per location to access it. Marketing selects templates and messaging that has been approved and stores them on the platform. When branch personnel need to create a new ad quickly, they go to the approved file and build the ad by starting with one of the approved templates. They can customize it with photos and local messages.
Grant previews and approves all orders, thus allowing for both marketing and compliance review. The service streamlines the approval process, especially in situations when a last-minute ad is needed at a branch office. Grant says the approval process is faster and more efficient than it was before the service.
The bank now finds it easier to expand campaigns to offer different marketing options such as posters, post cards, flyers, statement stuffers and direct mail.
Anderson Brothers has had a good customer response form ads on the bank’s online banking product, NetTeller. The bank created an online e-statement ad that allowed customers to click on the ad and be taken directly to the paperless statement sign up. “We are using a lot more of the NetTeller ads, especially when rolling out our new products, because that goes right into the e-banking,” Grant says. The bank also uses the service to generate ads for digital lobby signs.
1,500 potential ad layouts
Bank staff can search the platform by type or size of ad and by type of bank product. Once an ad template is selected, the user can upload a new photograph or change the type font. “It’s very easy to use,” explains Grant. The service has more than 1,500 professionally written and designed layouts for print ads, campaigns, brochures and more.
The bank has saved money by allowing the branches to create their own community and sponsorship ads, holiday opening/closing signs and statement stuffers—which can also be used as teller-station marketing flyers.
By decentralizing the branch office marketing needs and using the depth of materials available through the service, the marketing department was able to free up time and use it to engage in other marketing activities, such as marketing products and services.
One large multimedia campaign alone paid back the cost of the service, Grant says.
Online Print Fulfillment: Once Introduced, There’s No Going Back
Marketers use a lot of printed materials: brochures, flyers, folders and kits plus letterhead, envelopes, etc. Because of this fact, the printing, storing and distribution of printed materials have always been time-consuming, especially at community banks.
But today, the situation is changing. New technologies such as print-on-demand and online print fulfillment are helping to ease the strain.
MountainOne Bank (assets: $820 million), Pittsfield, Mass., is an example of bank that has introduced both print-on-demand for in-house printing of flyers and online fulfillment for working with outside printing vendors.
“For our small department, it has made the marketing process easier and less time-demanding,” says Liz Bissell, director of marketing and public relations.
Seven Massachusetts’ locations
MountainOne, which has been in existence since 1848, has seven locations: three in Western Massachusetts and four in the greater Boston area. In addition to retail and commercial banking services, MountainOne divisions also offer insurance and investments.
In the past, MountainOne operated similarly to many other community banks with respect to processing print orders. If marketing created a new brochure, it would order it to be printed in bulk by an outside vendor. Marketing would distribute these brochures to the branches and store the remainder. When a branch ran low on a particular brochure, the branch would contact marketing, and marketing would search the inventory and send needed copies to the branch. If brochure content changed, marketing would locate the outdated brochures and destroy them, and then order reprints. Reprints would be distributed to all branches, with backup copies placed in storage.
Simply finding storage for all the necessary printed material proved to be a challenge. At its headquarters office, MountainOne had a large storage facility filled with shelves containing boxes of printed material. Each separate branch and division had its own storage area. The storage presented a variety of problems:
First, it was easy to lose track of where something was stored, unless the person responsible was very good at inventory control. In some cases, items were reprinted unnecessarily because the already-printed material couldn’t immediately be located.
Second, if the bank had to change something (due to regulatory change, name change, logo change, address change and so forth), the bank had to locate and discard all of the outdated items and replace them—including the many versions often stored in individual desks and offices.
Third, the bank found that the storage area would accumulate boxes of multiple versions of the same material when an outdated version had not been properly discarded. It took additional time to determine which version was the correct, updated item.
Fourth, when a branch needed supplies refilled, the branch had to fill out a request form, and someone from marketing or operations had to find the items needed and figure out how to get them delivered, either by mail or courier.
Fifth, if the bank printed too many items (because of the lower per-item cost for bulk printing), the excess materials would sometimes yellow as a result of age, and items in open boxes would get dusty or dirty.
Started with print-on-demand
Handling brochures was so time-consuming and awkward that a few years ago, MountainOne converted to a print-on-demand system for brochures. Brochures were converted to flyers and, when needed, electronic files would be used on an in-house color printer to create paper copies for the branches.
The conversion saved both time and money. “It became expensive to order new brochures from a printing company every time a logo was changed or a product modified,” says Bissell. It was sometimes difficult to locate and destroy all the outdated copies. “Invariably, when there was an audit, someone would go to their desk drawer and pull out one of the outdated—and incorrect—brochures.”
However, the system for printing all other materials, including letterhead, envelopes, note cards, teller transaction slips—such as those for deposit, withdrawal, loan payment, notice of hold—remained unchanged.
During a merger and name change in 2014, MountainOne needed to reprint and distribute many items for branch use. Simultaneously, the bank’s largest printer announced that it was starting to offer an online fulfillment system and could assist with all printed materials plus management of the bank’s premium-items inventory. The printer said that it would also assist with controlled inventory, such as rewards cards and other valuable items, as well as help with any special drawings or giveaways.
“We decided that this new process would make sense because we were seeing the waste of throwing out so many boxes of printed material whenever something changed,” says Bissell. “The ability to check inventory and order online made the decision even easier.”
Converting to online print fulfillment
To prepare for the new system, marketing had to compile a list of all items that were regularly ordered by departments and branches. It also had to come up with a number for how many of each item would be needed over a several-month period—so that a minimum amount would always be on hand. Marketing established a “low-inventory level.” Once the inventory drops to that level, the printer automatically reprinted a pre-determined number of replacement copies. Each department and branch designated an individual to have ordering authority. Each designated person can view only the items pertinent to his or her department or branch. Each person also has a limit on the volume of items that can be ordered. (“We want to avoid hoarding large quantities of items at branches,” Bissell explains.)
Marketing trained each designated employee concerning use of the system.
Other necessary steps: The printer met with marketing to create the bank’s branded portal. Marketing was designated as the system administrator, with the ability to add or subtract users from the portal, reset passwords and so forth. Each printed item in the bank’s inventory was assigned an item number and a PDF image of the item was placed on the portal.
It took about two months for the bank to complete the conversion. Today, very few things are printed the old-fashioned way, Bissell says. “This way just makes so much more sense and simplifies the process.”
The advantages for marketing is that the system saves time, reduces waste and gives branches and departments greater control over their own inventory needs. Are there any disadvantages? There are still storage, shipping and processing costs. These costs are really not that high, Bissell says. “But definitely something to add into the budget for planning purposes.”
And you only have to set up the system once. After that, it more or less runs itself. Bissell says she would never want to return to the old way. “This is so much more efficient, convenient and productive.”
Walt Albro is the editor of ABABank Marketing and Sales magazine, Washington, D.C. Email: [email protected].