More Than Just a Financial Product Provider

By John Oxford

According to statistics, on Black Friday and Cyber Monday Americans spent nearly $150 billion combined on stuff. In addition, with the holidays now upon us, even more will be spent with retailers to bring joy and show thanks to those we love and/or do business.

Even during a pandemic these numbers prove that Americans love to shop. As we in the banking industry do all we can to support both clients—the ones spending and the ones selling—there has been a big push to support local business, especially with the struggle many have faced due to various COVID-19 restrictions.

Many marketing campaigns asking consumers to “shop local” and support your community have been trotted out in hopes of helping local mom and pop shops survive the current impasse and steer consumers away from better resourced big box retailers and online ecommerce sites.

As bankers and bank marketers, we love all of our clients. Our job is to be a safe conduit for commerce, provide convenience and access to funds as well as banking products and services our clients need to live their lives and then, in my opinion, it is up to the marketplace to decide who wins.

However in that opinion, I love shopping local and think it builds up communities. The value that we as bankers and bank marketers can offer our community small businesses trying to survive may be a lifeline we didn’t know we had to offer. Here are some ideas.

First of all, nothing is more local than your front door step. Although the appeal to shopping local is often viewed around personal interaction and relationships—much like community banking—thanks for the aforementioned pandemic, in-person shopping may not even be possible depending on where you live.

Although there is a cost to providing delivery and convenience, much like community banks having to have mobile banking even when it’s not their strong point, small businesses must have a way to deliver their products. So as we market our banks to various small business clients, helping them think through how they can do that may be just as important as the financial advice and products your bank gives them.

Also just like banks in general, providing an easy-to-use digital experience is a must. While the investment in infrastructure for a mom and pop to deliver their goods and services online, as well as make the transaction can have a high cost, in many cases, if you cannot get your product to the front door or phone of your consumer, you are going to lose out.

Due to the pandemic, the rapid adoption of digital products and commerce is not specific to the banking world. Local retailers and restaurants must now have online ordering, payments and delivery to compete with the Amazons of the world. And, frankly, they are expected to have better service due to their nature of being a local business.

In addition, putting a serious effort into your social media can give you a leg up. Opening and closing times, contact and location data, and information about anything that has changed due to COVID restrictions can go a long way to saving time and effort for both clients and retailers. Social media, while not free or cheap to do it correctly, is still an efficient marketing channel and the hyper localness of it makes it super effective.

Banks can help both themselves and small business clients by being more than just a financial product provider and offering advice on marketing and delivery of services. Mom and pop shops are great for communities but they still have to be convenient to their consumers.

In a double dip on this advice, it is also good advice to banks. We must be able to deliver our products over digital channels, clearly communicate location and opening and closing times for those of us with branches open and be able to use social media as a tool to drive awareness, information and commerce for our own products.

To hear more about this, listen to this week’s continued discussion on the 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.