Power Up Your Advisory Board ROI

By Martha Bartlett Piland

Many bankers recruit a team of local business people and prominent citizens to serve on an advisory board. While an advisory board isn’t typically a policy-making body, like the bank’s board of directors, it does serve vital functions. Its members can help grow the institution through influence and advocacy and act as the bank’s eyes and ears in the community. And if the advisory board involves people of diverse backgrounds and experiences—including women, people of color and young professionals—it can help bankers see things they might not see on their own. At a minimum, board members and bankers view the opportunity as a win-win—a badge of honor on both sides. But it can be so much more.

If you’re simply paying a stipend, feeding them lunch and sending them out the door, you’re allowing some big opportunities to exit with them.

Help those advisers understand your business—and how their influence is essential to helping you grow your bank.

Here are five ways to better educate and engage them so your investment pays dividends.

  1. Create an orientation process.

Bankers are notorious for tossing bank speak around like circus acrobats. While you’re comfortable with insider language, your advisors likely are not. They may be hesitant to ask for fear of looking silly. Don’t assume anything.

  • Invite them to shadow your bankers in different functional areas of the institution so they see both sides of the customer/banker experience (yes, experience, not transaction).
  • Give them a one-sheet that explains your brand difference, purpose and mission.
  • Create a cheat-sheet with the commonly used terms and acronyms so they have easy reference.
  1. Educate them.

Explain the types of business you’re best suited for and want to attract. They may only know one aspect of your services. But they can be powerful advocates if they truly understand your goals and what kinds of business you want—and don’t want.

  • Give them information about your services and benefits in simple, sharable formats.
  • Invite them to participate in webinars or lunch-and-learns.
  • Loop them in on industry email bulletins so they have more familiarity with the industry, regulations, trends and challenges.

Consider taking board members to a banking conference each year. That gives advisors the opportunity to hear firsthand success stories from other banks and come away with new inspiration on how they can contribute to their bank’s growth.

  1. Ask for their opinions.

Some bankers have a tendency to take up the entire board meeting talking. They tell about their wins, new products they’re launching and what’s happening in the branches. A certain amount of that is necessary, but be sure you’re listening, too. A few things you should be asking your board:

  • What do they hear on the down low about new businesses opening?
  • What do they hear people saying out in the community about your institution?
  • Have they noticed anything happening with your competition?
  • Are there service issues that may not have surfaced to you?
  • Is there a gap in the marketplace that you can fill?

If you have locations in multiple markets, think about how you can connect the input from your advisors across your whole system. Consider conducting quarterly all-board meetings where advisors get to know their peers in other markets. This is an excellent opportunity to foster accelerated idea sharing and innovation for your bank.

  1. Ask for the business.

Tell them specifically how you want/need them to help. They can’t read your mind, so be sure to spell it out. Is it:

  • Opening doors for business development appointments?
  • Attending your news conference?
  • Chiming in on your social media?
  • Referring friends and colleagues?
  • Inviting you or your bankers to speak or attend special events?

Remember, if you don’t ask, they won’t give it to you.

  1. Treat it like any other important business relationship.

Since advisory board members don’t have policy-making authority, you may have the temptation to treat the relationship more causally than others. Don’t fall for it. Take it seriously and they will, too.

  • Make a big deal of the invitation to serve: invite them to coffee or lunch and make them feel courted (you have a lot of competition).
  • Provide a written description of their responsibilities.
  • Have them sign an NDA.
  • Expect them to bank with you.
  • Set term limits.
  • Define attendance requirements.
  • Pay them a stipend.
  • Give them business cards with their name and title, plus a name of one of your bankers they can refer to others.
  • Generate publicity about them joining your board and share it through your PR channels, website, social media, and customer communications. Also pass the news along to the board members’ alumni and professional publications.

Advisory boards can bring you great value. They will help you generate increased revenue and profit for your bank if you structure your program with excellence. Go get ‘em!

Martha Bartlett Piland is president and CEO of Banktastic, a firm that helps financial organizations build better ROI by aligning their internal and external brands. She’s a national speaker on branding, marketing, business development and advertising. She’s presented at more than 100 events and conferences and has served on three different bank advisory boards. She’s also an inventor, author and illustrator.

Her second book, Beyond Sticky, looks at advisory boards as part of the larger business of building a lasting bank brand, and is now available at all major booksellers.