By Marilyn Kennedy Melia
Customers expect bank staffers to be experts on all sorts of money-related topics:
“Is interest still deductible on home equity lines?
“Why don’t I have a better credit score?”
“What’s the best way to save for a down payment?”
This presents a huge marketing opportunity. There’s not much that can polish a bank’s brand more than the reputation of being a reliable authority on all things financial. That’s why there’s been such an explosion of “value-added” content—that marketing elixir in which banks distribute articles, videos, podcasts and social posts providing actionable guidance on a myriad of money issues.
It may be, though, that distributing top-notch content to customers is the easy part. The tough part: making sure bank employees are prepared to keep up with it—and follow through on it.
That’s why some bank marketers are taking content marketing a step further.
Marketing content that targets the bank’s own employees.
“We feel it’s important for employees to always know what is going on and what we are marketing at the bank, to be able to respond to any customer questions and be better brand ambassadors,” said Laura Wiegert vice president of marketing at Investors Community Bank. To make that happen, marketing at ICB sends out a monthly internal e-newsletter that lists current and upcoming marketing activities—hyperlinked to digital files on the bank intranet—along with a calendar of events and photo gallery.
At Foothills Bank & Trust, banking officer Shay Trembley prepares a quarterly e-newsletter, The Foothills Teller, which is sent to customers, but also to all employees and board members. Trembley selects articles from the customizable releases offered to members by ABA, as well as from a service provider that sells articles related to online security. In particular, she looks for topics that relate to actual customer inquiries.
Earlier this year, for example, Foothills customers were reporting fraudulent calls related to an IRS scam. “Customers call us when they have any kind of [money-related] questions,” Trembley explained. “And they were calling us, saying they were getting phone calls that they owed money to the IRS. So we had an article on these scams.”
Although the newsletter is emailed to the entire staff and board, Ann Connatser, head teller and banking officer at Foothills, prints out copies to distribute to the frontline staff. “After they read it, they initial it, and then pass it on,” Connatser relates
“It’s a great way to make sure everyone reads it,” she explained. “If they just looked at the emailed copy, a customer might come up, and they’d drop it. But if it’s a paper copy right there, they can go back to it.”
Connatser added that staffers appreciate being able to refer a customer to a topic covered on the Foothills Bank site or newsletter. In particular, the bank handles numerous customer questions about security. “Just recently one was concerned about a lost debit card,” she said. Being able to look online for the bank’s official advice made it easy to provide a confident response.
Spurring staffers to read and remember.
At Glenview State Bank, David Kreiman, EVP and director of marketing, keeps a running list of issues, product enhancements, and important topics. “When it is time to write [the quarterly customer]newsletter, I have my list,” he said. “I also keep track of common questions that come in via many channels—email, social media, chat, mail, phone—and include when appropriate.”
Newsletter items are also posted on the bank’s website. To encourage employees to connect with them, Kreiman conducts a “website challenge” on an almost-weekly basis. He issues a challenge question to staffers, who then hunt for the answer the site.
“I use my inventory of customer giveaway items and give a gift to anyone who answers correctly—they can choose from an assortment,” Kreiman said. Later, a raffle using winners’ names gives them an opportunity to earn another gift or gift card.
Touching on sales and service.
Internal communications designed to help bank staffers intelligently respond to customers’ money questions often include general tips on providing good customer service.
At FirstCapital Bank of Texas, chief marketing officer Katie Boyd oversees the production of two weekly e-newsletters—one for personal bankers and branch managers, and the other directed to tellers and branch managers. Topics from customer-directed content are included in the e-newsletters, but also reminders of how to efficiently serve customers, whatever their banking needs may be. A teller newsletter might include tips on how to detect counterfeit currency, for instance. A newsletter directed at personal bankers might cover beneficial ownership and IRAs, Boyd explained.
At FirstCapital, the training department and the bank’s customer experience officer report through marketing. That facilitates Boyd’s ability to include pointers on service in the newsletter.
“The customer experience officer directly oversees the call center,” Boyd explained, because it is an excellent source of information on systemic issues going on with the customers. “We had a few customers call in regarding their ‘Instant Issue’ debit card not working, so training added a section in the e-newsletter reminding personal bankers the proper steps to ensure a customer leaves with a fully functional debit card.”
Just as with customer content, employee newsletters should be clear, concise and useful, added Drew Sandholm, vice president of marketing at Quontic Bank.
“Just like customers, employees will read content aimed at them if it’s value-added and not filled with non-pertinent information that seems like a waste of time,” he said.
Marilyn Kennedy Melia is a banking and personal finance writer based in Chicago. Email: [email protected].