During a virtual conference panel in which I participated with three other female bank marketing leaders, the discussion focused on key concepts of powerful brand creation such as building the right team, avoiding burnout during the early stages and instilling a collaborative culture and strong values.
Having worked at a community bank for more than two decades, I know community banking is a space full of innovation. But I also know that it often takes leaving the cocoon of a traditional institution to discover a bounty of new opportunities, which is what I have done. I am in the process of putting together a de novo digital-first bank with a co-founder.
Many modern communities are not necessarily confined to geographic terms, and the digital experience contributes to a broader definition. A 2020 study found that 48% of consumers were frustrated by their institution’s narrow offering of products and services, and 50% of consumers felt their financial institution did not provide a personalized experience.
Financial marketers have a responsibility to communicate and connect with consumers in novel ways while efficiently using data insights to create a personalized customer experience. My experience in moving to a banking startup may offer some insights that bankers can use within their organizations to strengthen their brand position.
Importance of Buy-In and Open Dialogue
In the early stages of being a founder, it is both highly important and challenging to gain support and buy-in from others. People enjoy the comfort of a calm financial situation and steady career, so joining a start-up journey is a monumental step that takes risk and faith. Founding a marketable brand trickles into other facets of your life beyond your own soul-searching. Building a strong team can take an extended period of time, and this can take quality time away from other people and passions that you value. This is why I emphasize how crucial it is to believe in yourself first before getting buy-in from anyone else.
My co-founder and I met while we worked in President and CEO positions at community banks in Illinois and Wisconsin. During the foundational phases of building our brand, we dialogued through asking questions, swapping notes and discussing how we thought community banking is evolving or remaining the same. We were able to learn a lot about each other, including how we both perceived digital technology and the future of community banking. Even though we had similar thoughts on the financial services industry, we looked at things differently; fortunately, our perceptions still complemented each other.
Establishing a Brand, Value and Culture
While building the rest of your team, your values need to be aligned. Finding the right support and talent can be a lengthy process, but that combination will allow for success in the financial marketing and branding space. Although each day is different and a learning experience in and of itself, you are responsible for making sure to keep the ball moving down the field.
In the initial stages of branding, you should stand firm on the basics. You should agree with your team on your name and values, but also understand that your own idea might not land on the page. With a forward-looking goal, each day is incrementally rewarding by what you accomplish.
The initial stages are a collaborative process that requires listening and flexibility, and we were fortunate to have help from the creative team at Nymbus Labs. We curated our message into one that is bold, impactful and relevant to our audience. By serving a community with specific needs, your customer-centric focus can become highly targeted and agile.
Consumers have higher expectations for their digital experience, and the use of data insights drives a more seamless, personalized user experience. It is important to protect the unique, brand-specific marketing and customer data you have since it is now easy for others to cut, copy and paste ideas in the marketplace.
Look Beyond Your Current Situation:
You don’t have to leave your institution to broaden your perspective. Diversify your view by consuming as much external content as you can.
To avoid burnout while keeping the buzz around your brand alive, you can’t expect to take a big bite and swallow everything at once. It is easy to unravel and go down rabbit holes when building something new from scratch, but utilizing your gut instinct as a guide will help keep you on track. Taking control over the creative process while remaining open-minded allows ideas to percolate toward a shared vision. Along the way, frequent team check-ins strengthen clarity and collaboration.
Today, there are endless opportunities for financial marketers. Now is a perfect time to pause and look outside the walls of your current marketing experience. In my opinion, it is beneficial to consume as much external content as you can, whether it be books, podcasts or conversations with trusted people outside of your institution. Diversifying your perspective helps you take any blinders off and develop a well-rounded breadth of knowledge.
Hearing what other marketing leaders think can help expand your thoughts on the evolution of digital banks, customer experience and how to provide a differentiated, product-focused offering to consumers. I encourage bank and credit union marketers to remember and continually test their value. From seeing where else you can contribute your own value, you can lean into the space you thought would be a risk and turn it into an opportunity.