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When is a community bank an expert?

Community bank branding is about personalities and relationships. If you look into your own history-what has made you successful over the years-you'll probably be able to identify relationships among certain individuals within your bank culture, and between members of your team and best-case prospects and customers. More than other types of brands, community institutions are built on connections-very much like friendships and families. For you, bank marketing is a lot more than advertising, signage, collateral, and promotions. These are elements that support the brand. They are not the brand.

One way you can fill your pipeline with prospects who stand to become cornerstone customers is to be seen as a expert in areas those individuals care about. Of course, this is dependent on identifying your own brand personality and ideal customer persona. Once you've done this, you'll begin to see what matters to current best customers. And this will help you identify and pursue other, similar customers.

For most community bankers, your customers and prospects are attracted to you because of things you know (many of which you may take for granted). For example, many bankers understand how rates are set, the relationship between inflation and interest rates, how much to keep in a DDA, how to use a line of credit, the benefits of paying off a mortgage fast versus keeping a cash balance, what to consider when shopping for a mortgage (rate, terms, points, etc), and about a thousand other things.

Back in the 1970s, a direct marketing genius named Lester Wunderman (actually, he's the guy who invented the term "direct marketing") developed a methodology called curriculum marketing. The big idea was to cultivate a relationship with key prospects via a two-way conversation, in which the brand communicates knowledge through a curriculum. Wunderman used direct mail and dimensional direct to achieve this. The result was credibility, trust, and a bond between seller and buyer. When the purchase decisions came around, closing the deal was like water flowing down hill.

Today, we have a much more efficient and less expensive approach to this same strategy-inbound marketing. It uses digital automation to automate a process, whereby qualified prospects who find you via search engines, website queries, email campaigns, online banner ads, and other means can self select, by clicking a button on your site, asking for certain information (on which you are an expert). They trade you contact information for your white paper on a topic of specific interest. And this begins a conversation that ends with your asking for their business and their saying, "where do I sign?"

The key is knowing who you are (as an institution and as an individual), who your best future customers are (hint: they resemble your best current customers), and what information you know about, that they would consider expertise. After that, it's just a matter of packaging the content (that's why it's sometimes called content marketing) to communicate your brand and appeal to your specific customer.

If we may go a little meta-this blog post is actually part of an inbound program Gibbons | Peck developed to make friends with the community of marketing executives at community financial institutions. If you're viewing this on the Gibbons | Peck website, you'll notice a button at the bottom of the post. If you want to see a sample of how inbound marketing works, click the button, complete the form, download the white paper, and watch your email box. While you're on the landing page, we'd love it if you would hit the social media share buttons! 

Love to hear your feedback.

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