Refocusing Your Banking Brand During the COVID-19 Crisis

'Sell' isn't a dirty word, but right now it's not the right mindset for financial marketers to have. As community-oriented institutions traditional banks and credit unions can play roles during the pandemic that no internet-only institution nor a fintech challenger can hope to. Play to your local strengths.

Chances are you’ve already sent your boilerplate “Our Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic” email weeks ago.

You’ve informed your customers about branch closures and how your great staff is still available for them digitally, at drive-throughs, or, in some places, by appointment.

You’ve reassured people that you’re sanitizing the branches where employees are still working, deep cleaning the drive-through areas, etc.

Now it’s time to think about what you need to say next. And I’ll give you a hint — it shouldn’t be more about your institution and the steps you’re taking to combat COVID-19!

Call me an optimist. I think that there’s an opportunity to learn with nearly everything that happens to us. Good. Bad. Otherwise.

Banks and credit unions are poised to learn a lot during this difficult time, if they’re listening carefully and are ready to act on what they are hearing.

Step Away from the Panic and Use Your Marketing Mind

We’re all feeling the weight of layers of obvious panic right now. After all, this is a serious situation. Sometimes being there for others is all we can do.

But what’s underneath that worry and fear concerning COVID-19 and the economic ripple effects? There’s a very real set of needs, basic human needs. Some are survival based. Others are preferential in nature.

“People are nervous. They’re checking their accounts often.”

For instance, you’re probably noticing a significant uptick in visits to your online banking. People are nervous. They’re checking their accounts often. Your site traffic has no doubt increased since the beginning of March.

There are needs to be recognized and lessons to take away from this behavior. Sit down with your marketing team. Talk about what you’ve come to realize about your community through this unusual experience. Find out what you still need to grasp and explore it. Your goal should be better understanding your target audience so you can deploy the right messages to help them in the coming months.

Plan for Everything, But Do Everything in Its Own Time

Timing is everything. Let’s be real — no one wants an email about your free checking account right now.

Their inboxes are already inundated with more COVID-19 response messages than they care to read. Not just from the key players in their lives, but from brands they haven’t heard from in months, even years. If you’re on a list, chances are you’ve heard from “Kevin” at some online company you bought something from two years ago about what they’re doing in response to this crisis.

To be clear, I do not begrudge anyone for reaching out to comfort their customers. We all know this time is difficult.

However, we have to remember that banks and credit unions are different. You’ve already released your responses. Now it is time to remember that your institutions are anchors in your community. You’re not here to add to the noise. You’re here to help people move forward, to reassure them that the possibility of a hopeful future still exists.

It’s time to check-in. Really check-in.

The Tools You Need to Use Are Right at Hand

Your website is a hub for your community — it’s time to deploy it as one.

Extend optimism. Offer advice and tips. Push creativity amidst all of this.

Many of the people you serve have suddenly become unemployed. Some are homeschooling their kids. Others are just hunkered down. They’re all a bit scared. They want to know their community will be there for them. Reassure them that acts of kindness, and other real things real people do for one another, prevail.

Consider your local market. How can you help people there? Say you’re a financial institution focused on serving educators, can you support them as they adjust to online schooling? Are they equipped to do what they do best? Or is something missing? How does what you do best help them do what they do best? How has that changed since March?

Also, remember that sometimes what you say doesn’t matter as much as how you say it. Going forward, we’re all going to be facing a long, hard road back to “normal.”

Financial institutions that take the time to make a serious, positive impact in the lives of their customers and in their communities, will be rewarded in the long run.

Keep up the good work.

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