By Caitlin Tracy
Banking is a highly competitive industry, making it increasingly difficult for banks to find innovative ways to stand out and achieve long-term success. This problem is especially true for regional banks since they lack the resources and scale of their national and international counterparts. However, regional banks have a strong local authenticity, which can be a huge advantage if utilized correctly.
Below are several strategies regional banks should incorporate to capitalize on this opportunity.
Building Real Connections with Customers
For regional banks to connect with their community, there is a need to establish relationships and build a loyal customer base. Utilize your employees and customers to understand what is lacking in the area. Learning from those around you will teach you what the community needs, allowing your team to fill in those blanks. Every member of your organization is part of the surrounding neighborhoods. Ensure there is open communication company-wide to hear all the different stories from the CEO down to tellers and the customers they serve. The best way to achieve that local authenticity is through listening, learning, and making change where needed.
Your employees are your biggest assets. Not only are they often the forefront of the organization, but they are also directly part of your communities. Real people and stories are a huge resource to connect the organization to the public. At the same time, it provides a familiar face that draws the community to the bank. People love seeing highlight stories of someone they know or have a commonality with online. Therefore, showcasing your employees along with their interests and expertise through your social media platforms is a great way to connect with your local society. Your team should constantly be trying to research and present messaging that will impress and resonate with your clients.
Next, be clear in your offerings. A bank has a purpose, and your customers need to be able to work with your team easily. There are now a multitude of options and offerings with online and digital banking, and these services simplify so many portions of banking for consumers, which makes their lives much easier. If you have out-of-date online services, customers may be deterred. Poor offerings will lead to unsatisfied customers who move their business to competitors with better options. Remember, the customer relationship is the root of your business and the best connection to the community. Without them, your business would not exist.
With that in mind, always engage, strengthen, and update your retail locations. This is where the consumer meets your organization, creating the need for a well-executed “customer experience.” When heading into a branch location, customers are looking for a welcoming environment where they can get everything they need through a short and simple meeting. This only happens if your branch employees are motivated to connect with customers and provide great service, while also building relationships.
In order to build authentic and impactful connections with local communities, banks need to find their niche. Research local partnerships, communities, and objectives that align with your company’s mission and culture. Not only will this help build a better company culture internally, but externally you will have aligned partners and groups that assist in building your network across the local region.
As mentioned, partnerships are a great way to connect with other brands, retailers, and companies in the area. By aligning yourself with the appropriate companies, you will not only be exposed to additional collaboration opportunities, but also show your local involvement. This is another avenue of growth and trust-building with your customers and the local community.
When building partnerships, there is room to add perks and fun for current and prospective customers. Perks can include early-access, exclusive discounts, rewards, free swag, and other innovative benefits. Similarly, fun can be brought to many areas throughout the community and bank. Local partnerships and events can be exciting through the addition of a sponsored intermission trivia or T-shirt cannons at games, drink tents, and more. By offering these positive engagements to the community, you are creating a differentiated brand with a strong local footprint.
Every community is different, which means that a local bank has a unique opportunity to provide support in a specialized manner. This can be done through searching the community, finding a need that resonates with your own mission, and developing a plan to assist. There are a multitude of ways for a bank to partner and help local communities, ranging from volunteering, funding scholarships, creating loans or grants for small businesses, development, and eventual employment opportunities. There is also often a need for increased diversity and inclusion efforts through multicultural banking. This can be done through providing equitable options for different marginalized communities and groups. By building programs and connections with the local community that your team is passionate about, you will watch your efforts help the local region flourish. Stay connected and informed to continually watch your impact benefit those around you.
Use your customers and community; their stories are perfect highlights and testimonials for your organization. Taking the time to feature these people and their stories helps amplify important issues in the community, while also showing that your bank cares. This method will help the bank share important news and issues, ultimately making themselves community activists. Highlights can range from your employees volunteering, customers who have successfully utilized your services, and local community leaders who are aligned with your missions.
Overall, a bank is an organization people look to for security and trust. If you provide competitive offerings your everyday customers will be satisfied. However, if you want to make an impact in your local environment, you need to differentiate yourself through your mission and motive. Listen to your customers, community, and local employees to be the organization creating change in your region.