Six Ways to Win The War For New Checking Accounts

Every year, almost one in ten consumers moves their checking account. What triggers them to move? And how can you help ensure they have their sights set on your financial institution when the decision comes?

Certainly promotions and cash incentives can make a few consumers change primary banking providers, but in reality, it’s a relatively small number. The number one reason people switch banks is life circumstances. Whether it’s a divorce or a move, something in their life has caused a need for a new banking partner. So how can you ensure organization is properly poised to capture these prospects when the time comes?

Here’s some things you can do to help ensure consumers look your way… and not at that megabank across the street.

1. Have a distinctive brand.

If your brand is not memorable and compelling, you need to get to work on this before anything else. You will get more bang for the buck out of every single marketing effort if you first develop a distinctive brand.

Outside of a short-term promotion, are you offering anything your competitors don’t? Service? Environment? Speed? Or are you simply saying the same thing with a different font and a different tagline? If you take the time to create a brand that stands out and offers something relevant or appealing to consumers, your every marketing effort will be much more successful.

One good example of this is Umpqua Bank. One visit to their website, and it’s obvious you’re not in your father’s bank. You almost feel like you just walked into Starbucks – minus the great aroma.

Key Insight: Look at your brand vs. your competitors. Is it likeable? Memorable? Inviting? What makes you special, different or unique?

2. Make your branches stand out.

Most of your customers will still come from within a 3-mile radius of your branches… and they will most likely visit a branch to open their new account. How noticeable are your branches? Does your presence send the right message? Does signage command attention?

Look at ways to use your building, your front lawn and your signage to draw attention. Do you have branches in shopping centers? Consider designing attention-getting, multimedia window displays that broadcast your message both day and night.

Key Insight: Do your branches “sell” your brand?

3. Use geo-targeted media.

Maintain a presence around your branches. The options are endless. Obvious opportunities are cable and billboards for building awareness. But online, mobile and other digital advertising options now give you many great opportunities to target geographically, demographically and behaviorally.

Key Insight: Want to reach Millennials? They’re on their phones!

4. Go heavy in spring and summer.

Many families move over the summer when school is out. So look at having a heavier presence or solid checking promotion in late spring and early summer. And what about graduating high school students? They’re going to need a checking account when they head off to school. This provides more seasonal opportunities for a much sought after demographic.

Key Insight: The life changes that affect consumers’ switching behaviors are seasonally affected.

5. Make it easy.

Many banks spend money generating interest in their brands, and then don’t realize they’re losing the customer in the final steps of the process. Make sure the process for opening an account is as simple and painless as possible. If you don’t have a switch kit, create one. Check your online applications with regularity to make sure they’re working smoothly and seamlessly. And mystery shop your call centers to be sure prospective customers are getting through without any wait. Best yet – offer to transfer bill pay information over for new customers. It might take 15 minutes of a CSR’s time, but you could end up with a new customer for 10 years.

Key Insight: People think opening a new checking account is an arduous chore. Remove the friction and pain points from the process.

6. Once you’ve got ‘em, keep ‘em.

Once you have hooked into a new relationship, reel them in with online banking, mobile banking and bill pay as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid to start cross-selling these services right from the start. The deeper the relationship, the more revenue you generate. But at the same time, your customer becomes more tied to your financial institution, and less likely to go somewhere else.

In a study on new retail bank accounts in the U.S., 43% of respondents said they purchased an additional banking product from someone other than their primary bank. When it comes to products outside of checking accounts, people are much more likely to respond to promotions and cash offers, and location becomes less important. So be sure you’re taking advantage of low hanging fruit, and selling those additional banking products to your own customers!

Key Insight: You absolutely must have a strategic plan in place for onboarding and cross-selling new accountholders.

If you’ve been in financial marketing for any length of time, you know that consumers do not want to move their checking accounts. It’s considered a big hassle, without a big payoff. But circumstances will force a percentage of consumers to switch every year. So create a unique brand. Stand out among the rest. And make the switch easy. Do all this, and you will be leading those coveted checking account consumers right to your front door.


Written by Julie Burmeister of The Burmeister Group. The Burmeister Group is an Atlanta-based advertising agency that specializes in unique, successful campaigns for community banks and credit unions.

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