Your Bank Marketing May Need to Start Shifting Right Now

By John Oxford

Over the past eight to 10 weeks, we’ve noticed a juxtaposing of consumer and business banking. Due to the byproduct of pandemic operational adjustments in the banking industry and the government’s safety net of the Paycheck Protection Program bankers have experienced an interesting service split: Consumer banking has thrust itself headlong into digital adoption, while business banking has seemingly turned back the clock and become all about relationships again.

Let’s examine each and how we marketers can take advantage of these shifts as well as support the needs of our clients and bankers.

First, double down on your digital. If your bank had been waiting to add mobile check deposit or a P2P Zelle-style payment application to your mobile banking offerings, well, the wait is over.

Nearly all bank marketing peers I’ve spoken with lately have reported experiencing high double-digit increases in most mobile and online activity since the COVID-19 crisis began. It’s as if someone found the fast forward button and moved online banking behavior ahead a few years. And adoption and usage rates should stay higher now that consumer banking actions have been adjusted. What does this mean for bank marketing?

It means your marketing may need to shift to more digital content and digital account opening applications. Not applications as in mobile download apps but as in the ones that open checking accounts or allow future clients to apply for loans. In these podcasts and columns, I like to offer advice in threes, so here are three thoughts for consumer bank marketing as our communities reopen:

1. Enhance your website, its design and its content

If you have ever thought about updating your website, now is the time. It is now more than ever your most important branch. In this same vein, it is now time to figure out your SEO strategy and your digital content branding strategy. And execute it!

2. Keep the pedal to the metal on teaching clients

A big rise in the adoption of digital banking behavior came from the senior demographic. They were originally either uncomfortable with moving their banking to digital or never took the time because it wasn’t broken just yet. But now these customers are our market segment most vulnerable to COVID, so digital banking has become not only just an efficient way to bank—it’s become the safest.

3. Adjust your ad spending to marketing that can be delivered over digital.

And if you haven’t, you’re already behind. Geo-fencing, email, web, social media, SEM and any way of reaching your client by digital means moves to the front of your marketing mix.

Turning from consumer banking to the commercial side, we’re finding that—thanks to PPP—being a relationship-driven business banker is currently somewhere next to sainthood. As business owners were worried about their ability to survive months of not being able to serve their clients and were also confused over various guidance from the SBA, lenders who could navigate the application process, advise their clients and provide clarity on how the whole thing worked became invaluable assets.

Even as banks, to varying levels of success, tried to automate the process for rapid funding and efficient processing, businesses didn’t want to just fill out an online app and cross their fingers. They wanted advice and someone to help them know where they were in the process. It was a rebirth of relationship business banking.

Here are our three suggestions on how marketers can capitalize on this shift.

Let your clients be your fans again. Client testimonial and referral ads are nothing new, but they also may be both your most cost-efficient and effective marketing right now. Let the businesses you helped bridge financially be your advocates as markets reopen. Help them tell their stories and promote how you played a part in keeping them alive.

Make your business bankers your rock stars. We’re not the biggest fan of the over-usage of deeming someone a “rock star,” but in the case of PPP, many of our bankers were just that. In the same thought of cost efficiency and effectiveness, offering personal branding opportunities for your bankers as well as helping them up their social media game and digital footprint to tell the stories of how they helped their clients may open even more doors for new business.

Don’t forget, a little of that human touch. Although we love technology and agree that AI, chatbots and automation efficiencies are where we are all going, don’t forgot about the human touch. As the Boss sang, “I just want someone to talk to”–a sentiment most of us have never felt more than in this age of anxiety. Take a lesson from the PPP process: There is still a place for human interaction and relationships in banking. As much as we advertise “on” digital as a marketing delivery apparatus, ensure that your messaging is not just all digital banking.

As you look for your next marketing move and where the “we’re all in this together” narrative is going, finding a balance in your brand messaging is still as important as ever.

Even as digital adoption is at an all-time high, relationship banking or business advising on the commercial side is more revered than ever. How your bank approaches the challenge of staying digital-forward and human-centric at the same time may determine the banking winners and losers in a post-COVID-19 economy.

To hear more of this discussion, listen to this week’s Marketing Money Podcast with Josh Mabus of the Mabus Agency and me.

John Oxford, director of marketing at Renasant Bank, and Josh Mabus, president of the Mabus Agency, are co-hosts of the Marketing Money Podcast.