For 2021, These Three Challenges Will Matter Most to Bank Marketers

By John Oxford

Bless you if you are taking the time to read this column today. Between massive protests in our nation’s capital to updates on the EIP stimulus checks delivery, on top of a raging pandemic, if you’ve taken your attention away from the world to check in on this bi-weekly bank marketing column and podcast, good for you. And thank you. Let’s try to discuss some things that are a little less heavy and a little more strategic

Looking back at 2020 and ahead into 2021, what are some trending topics bank marketers might want to be thinking about on a high level? Let’s discuss.

Digital first

The most Captain Obvious and often repeated item of bank marketing is: If you are not deep—like up to your neck deep—in digital services and products for your bank as well as making digital marketing content, you’re doing it wrong. Or you’re going to find yourself behind rather quickly.

From online account openings to card controls, mobile check deposit and person-to-person payments, these are now about like having checks and debit cards in the ‘90s. If your bank does not have these, place your energies and efforts here immediately. Now, assuming most banks have these digital table stakes, delivering a message through content to you clients to promote these services is the next move. But remember, as the old saying goes, “nothing kills a bad product—or in this case a bank brand—like good advertising.”

Moving on to good advertising: Once your digital products are in place—not only for the convenience and safety of your customers but for your own bank employees’ sanity in the reduction of teller lines and call center volume—in 2021, it’s time to make big bets on digital advertising. What big bets are you waging here?

Start with digital content. What are you creating and putting out to grab attention and separate your brand? Here are some ideas: How did your bank help clients during the pandemic? What products do you provide that are not at an acceptable adoption level which could really create major efficiencies within your banking operations? Mobile check deposit anyone?

What employee stories have been discovered during this unique time? Can you find comedy in the world to give your clients a moment of laughter? These are just a few examples but there are plenty out there and many that are much better. For some examples of what we do, visit

The value of automation

Another hot topic around digital is automation. Have you moved into setting up the overly discussed customer journey in a system that can recognize what products your customers have at a certain point in time and serve them email, digital and even social media ads that help increase wallet share? While at the same time provide value to their banking needs and experiences?

Automation is hard to get off the ground—like really hard. However, with the right CRM/MCIF, data knowledge and creative inputs, automation can turn your onboarding into a well-oiled digital machine that is a healthy supplement to the customer service reps at the platform level, as well as a side cart to adding more services with digital account openings.

The social media imperative

Finally, building your own social community for brand building should be a top priority in 2021. What do I mean by this? How many social followers does your brand have on the social channels in which you engage? If it’s not obvious why this is important, the ability to pretty much self-serve a message to your clients who are followers is way more cost efficient than just about any other means of public relations, and it gives you the ability to control the message and then engage with your own audience.

I’ve frankly been surprised that this has not been more of a marketing priority with marketing departments, as building your own community of likes and followers can be a very powerful communications and marketing tool.

To review: As we move forward into 2021, digital banking products and marketing will remain hotter than ever; the ability to execute automation will become one of the most sought-after marketing and sales skills; and building a strong social community will become an important branding and communications tool. To hear more about these thoughts and other marketing bloviating, check out 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.