3 Marketing Obstacles Thwarting Bank & Credit Union Growth

Financial institutions need to re-evaluate their marketing strategies to better position themselves for growth. In this highly fluid, ever-changing environment, marketers must constantly be considering new opportunities, strategies and technologies. To maintain brand awareness, increase acquisition efforts and improve retention, here are three key questions that financial institutions should be asking themselves.

1. Do You Know Your Customer?

Your clients are expecting, nay, requiring the ultimate customer experience. Because of this, your customers must be at the center of everything you do. This means investing in better technology, evaluating a better online experience, and creating better products that focus on the needs of your customers. You will need to provide adequate banking whenever and wherever a customer wants it by anticipating their needs. This can be started by revamping your CRM system and integrating social media feedback into your customer service strategy. Know why your customers use your products and when they need your services in order to better anticipate when and where they need assistance from you.

By understanding the triggers that assist customers in making purchase decisions, you can create targeted advertising based on those specific triggers. Smart marketing plans for 2015 include the development of custom audiences for target marketing programs that can be used for additional, incentive-based advertising. Start by creating custom retargeting lists from custom groups of people that have interacted with your website. These custom lists can be uploaded to ad platforms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter for highly-targeted, customizable ads for these specific groups of people who took certain actions on your bank’s website. This tailored content has proven to resonate significantly more than general content, and can be the foundation for an incentive-based marketing strategy.

Many financial institutions struggle with understanding customers in the virtual world because there are no branches for customers to walk into every day. There are no side conversations with the tellers about the weather or talks of upcoming holiday plans. We face a world where there are very few “getting to know you” moments between bank staff and their customers. In this essentially faceless world, your institution has to find ways to bring the bank or credit union’s brand to life and try extra hard to develop relationships with your customers.

Social media offers a great opportunity for developing relationships in online-only communities. Pay attention to the personality and messages in the social media content you deliver, and refresh your content strategy based on the types of posts that resonate with customers. Most banks struggle with what to post on social media, but don’t realize that their customers can dictate their desires based on their actions. All banks have to do is observe and track the interactions to deliver more relevant content.

2. When Was Your Website Updated Last?

Unless you are making real-time updates, every financial institution has something they need to change about their web presence, especially in a world where multiple devices are used to view your site. This is a constant struggle for institutions that are dependent on ever-changing desktops, tablets and mobile devices for communicating with customers in the digital space. Designing for a multi-screen world can create a moving target for designers that need to constantly anticipate updates from third party sources. It’s critical to always start a web strategy with the end users in mind and work backwards from there.

HarborOne Bank recently overhauled their website, noticing an ongoing need for a better customer experience. By analyzing the user flow on their previous website and noting the interests in and popularity of certain pages, they created a homepage that offers quick links to the most popular web pages. HarborOne Bank utilized their understanding of consumer behavior to create an enhanced customer experience with an easy-to-use top navigation.

While their new website is filled with factual information about the bank’s services and allows new customers to apply for products online, the overall look and feel of HarborOne Bank’s site is much more visually interesting than the average financial institution. And, unlike many other banks of their size, HarborOne Bank’s website uses responsive design, a best practice which optimizes site viewing across all devices and screen sizes. They even tout the following on their website: “Fresh new look. Simplified navigation. Better mobile viewing. HarborOne U now all under one roof. Plus, no changes to passwords or online banking functionality, so click back and enjoy.” This is the type of web experience your customers are looking for, and should always be included in strategies moving forward.

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3. Is Your Name Limiting Growth?

A financial institution’s name serves as a first impression and can affect a potential customer’s perception of the brand as a whole. The rise of banking in the virtual space allows banks to reach an audience that well exceeds the geographic communities they typically serve. This means that a financial institution could be marketed to many groups of people that have never heard of the institution, causing the name to make a critical first impression on the prospect. If a bank or credit union’s name does not speak to a broad audience, it could limit them to potential new customers.

For example, there are currently 1,019 banks in the United States listed with the FDIC and more than 175 credit unions that include the word “first” within their institution’s name. That’s more than those that have the word “savings” or “community” in their names combined. Historically, this naming convention gave those banks an upper hand in the marketplace because of their stance in offering unique financial services before all others or before anyone else in the area at that time. With more than 1,200 financial institutions with the word “first” in their name, can these banks differentiate themselves in today’s digital banking world, or is their name holding them back?

When you hear a bank’s name that includes the word “first” in it, you immediately assume that the bank’s definitive origin is within a certain town or affiliated with a particular industry or trade. The word “first” in a banking nomenclature typically implies that the bank was the first to serve in a particular community and acts as the cornerstone for financial services in the area.

Though many financial institutions have their roots grounded in servicing a specific geographic location, particular industry relationship or religious affiliation, the rise of virtual banking is leveling the playing field in terms of the customers a financial institution can serve.

Take Radius Bank, headquartered in Boston, for example. Radius Bank (formerly First Trade Union Bank) recently underwent a name change to signify the bank’s alignment with the evolution taking place within the financial services industry. They recognized that today’s consumers require banking that is accessible virtually everywhere and available at any time, so they updated their name to better speak to their commitment to serving this need.

Often confused for a credit union, First Trade Union Bank – now Radius Bank – was founded in 1987 and serves the banking needs of union organizations and members, consumers, small and middle market businesses, municipals and not-for-profit organizations. While Radius Bank is still committed to serving these clients, the bank sought a new name that would better tell their brand story. The bank knew that a complete name change was no small undertaking and worked aggressively and efficiently at making it happen. After only five short months from idea origination to completion, the bank changed its name on October 31, 2014, to Radius Bank to reflect its leading edge technology and high level of customer-centric service.

Think about your own financial institution’s name. In the rise of digital banking, is it possible that its name is limiting your bank in the virtual space? It cannot be fixed overnight, but if your financial institution’s name is holding you back from growth, consider getting the wheels in motion toward exploring a name change.

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