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Well-capitalized, community banks often grow new customer relationships by acquiring other banks. However, as their geographic footprints expand, many find it challenging to also grow new customer relationships organically.

As their DMAs widen, their marketing budgets are spread thinner and thinner. The idea of spending money on television, radio and outdoor grows more untenable, and digital becomes more important than ever.

digital marketing strategy for community banks

Image Credit: Flickr User upside of inertia, via CC

If this is where you find yourself, your digital marketing strategy should take the following realities into consideration.

Focus on Fundamentals

1. Relationships are everything. The lifetime value of a customer whose financial needs evolve through many stages of life is worth far more to your bank than the interest earned on a one-time transaction. It’s interesting when you ask people “Who is your bank?” Invariably, their bank is where they keep their checking and savings accounts. The same is true with business customers. This is where long-term banking relationships begin.

2. You sell more loans to existing customers than anybody else. This is because the first place people go shopping for a loan is at their bank. When they do shop elsewhere, they soon discover that the promotional rate they’re being offered requires that they open a checking account. People often walk away from these deals, because they want to keep their checking account at their bank.

3. People don’t change banks very easily or very readily. When they’re ready, you want to be on the top of their minds. This is why the smart money is spent on building your brand, not on pushing loans.

4. Community bank customers are banking there for a reason. Community banks are invested in Main Street lives, businesses, causes and institutions. They’re woven into the economic fabric of every locale they operate in. Don’t let your brand lose sight of this. It’s why your customers love you, and aren’t banking with a corporate goliath. Use this to your advantage.

Digital marketing is how you’ll level the playing field with your larger, well-heeled competitors. Here’s what you’ll need to accomplish.

Outwit Competitors

1. Win zip code by zip code. Branch by branch. Your strategy should aim to win new customer relationships in every single place you’re located.

2. Have Google point people your way. Look at every city and town where you have a branch. Every person there who Googles “Banks” should find you at the top of page 1. When people Google “Home Equity Loan” they should find you at the top of page 1. The same goes for every other product you offer too.

3. Target those who fit you best. Give a lot of thought to who your loyal, and best customers are in the places you have branches. Who are your tribes? These are the kind of people you should have more of, and these are the sort of people who should see your bank when they’re perusing Facebook and LinkedIn.

4. Make sure your website sends the right signals. When people visit, they should feel welcome and at ease. Everything should be right where they expect it. And most importantly, new people should be able to see themselves banking with you. This means saying goodbye to those folks from the stock photo library that every other bank uses.

5. Keep the door open. Once people leave your website, make sure they continue to see you online for a while.

Delivering on your digital opportunity requires integrating the diverse talents of marketing communications strategists, website developers, user experience designers, data scientists, search, social and content marketers, writers, designers and artists who are all focused on helping you achieve your goals.

This is the sort of challenge that the team at Elliance is built for, and we welcome talking to you about what the marketing challenges your community bank is facing in 2018. Please contact us here.

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