By Elizabeth SpencerThese days, if your customers can’t find you on their smartphones, chances are they won’t find you at all. With studies showing that the customer journey often begins online with research—and a preference among savvy consumers for helpful content instead of advertising—the marketing stakes are higher than ever. Adding a blog to your bank’s website is a relatively easy and cost-effective way to up your content marketing game and generate more inbound leads to your website.
Does my bank’s website really need a blog?
Many bankers have reservations about adding a blog page to their website. Here’s a list of the common protests:
- It’s too expensive. You’ve already invested in building a digital branch—your bank’s website. The cost of adding a blog to your existing site is minimal, especially compared to the potential inbound marketing benefits.
- What about security? Keep in mind that the security of your hosting service offers the most protection for your website. Adding a blog to your existing site won’t make it more or less secure. In fact, you can build your blog as securely as the rest of your site. It can also be taken down and restored any time you want or need to do so. Also, you won’t be publishing sensitive information on your blog.
- What’s the big deal? You can find proof of blogging’s value in the fact that all the big players are doing it. From Bank of America’s “Better Money Habits” blog to “Financial Education” from Wells Fargo, forward-thinking financial institutions are approaching the business of educating customers as a core offering.
- Aren’t blogs for frivolous topics like fashion or music? If you have an aversion to the word “blog,” the solution is easy. Call it something else, like “news” or “resources.” There are plenty of ways to add gravitas to the page that hosts your collection of personal finance and business articles.
- I don’t have time. Last but not least, we come to the number one reason people everywhere give for not doing things they know are good for them. And if you are reading this as a marketing professional at a community bank, you’re not even lying when you say you’re too busy. Community bank marketers wear many hats. Plus, the prospect of writing a 1,000-word article may provoke unwelcome memories of that high school English teacher who left your essays streaked with red lines and critical comments. Luckily, you don’t have to manage the blog yourself (more on that later).
How blogging can help you achieve your marketing goals
Maintaining a blog should be part of your overall content marketing strategy—which simply means your bank’s creation and distribution of helpful and relevant content for your target audience. Here are the top benefits you can expect to receive from blogging:
- Your bank will appear on your customer’s journey through awareness, consideration and purchase. According to Google, the customer journey is no longer linear. In fact, much of it plays out in online searches. Combine that with the fact that consumers are drawn to brands they find relevant, helpful and personal. What does this all mean? When someone in your target market starts to research “best mortgage loans for first-time homebuyers,” for example, you want to appear on the first page of organic results with a helpful, localized guide to home buying.
- Your brand establishes itself as a valuable local resource. A community bank’s local expertise is often its most valuable selling point. Make sure the people in your target market, whether they are current customers or not, see you as a go-to resource for local content about home buying and mortgages, business loans and more. A regularly updated blog, along with active social media platforms, will help you get the word out.
- You accumulate a collection of evergreen content that will continue to work for you. Unlike advertising campaigns, you don’t have to pay anyone when you publish a blog post. There’s also no time limit. While some of your posts may be seasonal or timely, many of the financial topics people are interested in are evergreen—meaning they don’t go out of style or out of date. Interest rates may go up or down, but new home buyers will always need help understanding the difference between fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages. You may invest time or money in the creation of quality content, but once it’s out there people will continue to find it—and find your bank.
- Customer retention and lead generation will improve. Especially for smaller banks, holding on to the customers you already have is as important as converting new ones. Luckily, blogging can help you with both of these goals. Keep your current customers happy with helpful, relevant content that meets their need for information. Generate leads from new customers who find your content through a web search and follow the call-to-action at the end to contact you about an account or loan product.
Four easy steps for starting a blog on your bank’s website
You can get your own blog set up fairly quickly. Here’s how.
1. Decide on the location of your blog.
Some CMS platforms, such as WordPress, have built-in blog “modules.” In other cases, you may need to consult your web developer. However, the first step is deciding where to put your blog. It should always exist on the same domain, so don’t create a separate website. Ideally, your blog would exist as a folder (website.com/blog or website.com/aboutus/blog) but it could also be a subdomain (blog.website.com).
2. Give your blog a name.
As mentioned before, you don’t have to use the word blog at all. You could call it “news,” “events” or “resources.” Some banks use a tagline or concept in front of the word blog. For example: The Go Far Blog, Banker to Banker or Our Community. It’s also fine to just call your blog “Blog.” Overall, most of your readers will probably arrive by following a link from organic search results or social media. Thus, your blog’s title is less important than the quality of its content.
3. Create a content calendar.
As with any new habit, consistency trumps quantity. Publishing a new article just once a month is fine, as is updating your blog weekly. The important thing is to set a schedule you can stick with—whether that means a time commitment if you’re going to write the articles yourself, or a reasonable budget if you’re outsourcing the content creation. The next question is what to write about, so you may want to schedule topics a few months in advance as well. Your bank may have its own internal marketing calendar that you can use as a guide.
4. Create the first few articles.
Ideally, you want to launch your blog with a few articles already written. You’ll also need to design images for your posts. Put in this work first so you can launch with confidence.
In an increasingly competitive market, community banks need to stand out from national and digital competitors. Localized content can help you do just that, while also positioning your bank as a valuable resource in the customer journey. With the low cost of creating a blog, there’s no good reason not to add one to your bank’s website. If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can always outsource your blog management.
Elizabeth Spencer is a content specialist at BankBound Marketing, a results-driven agency that works exclusively with local banks.