What truly makes a bank a community bank? Is it because it’s in a small town or community? Is it because the money comes from and stays in the community?
If that’s the case, why isn’t the local grocery store called a community grocery store? Or the local Community banks pharmacy called a community pharmacy? Is your favorite restaurant referred to as a community restaurant?
I think most bankers in “community banks” want you to believe they are there just to serve you and the other people in that community. They want to give the impression that they know your name and your kids’ names, your birthday and anniversary – especially since you go to the same church and sing in the same choir. Their kids play with your kids and they eat in the same restaurants as you. They know what kind of house you live in, what kind of car you drive, and therefore, they know what kind of financial help you need – right?
The problem is that when you walk into most community banks today, they don’t look any different than the large national or regional banks.
They’ve still got the same old rack that has been sitting there for years with the same old generic brochures imprinted with the bank’s name on the back with a rubber stamp. In the middle of the lobby is an old marble table with an ink pen chained to it. Some banks even have a candy dish with candy leftover from the “community Halloween party.”
On the wall is a large screen TV with either CNN or Fox News playing. (It’s as if a team of very good TV salesmen traveled the country a few years ago, convincing bankers that their customers want to watch TV while they stand in line waiting to make a deposit. In reality, banks are now paying $80 a month for cable to irritate 50% of their customers at any given time by playing political commentary from the wrong side of the aisle.)
Over the last couple of years, many successful community bankers have begun using technology to start putting community back into their community banks.
One of the greatest things about technology is that it levels the playing field for many industries. Small businesses can now compete with large businesses, and community banks can now compete with large banks.
These successful banks are turning their TV’s into “community event calendars” by putting a small computer – a little bigger than the size of your hand – on the backs of their TV’s. This enables them to communicate with their customers in a more meaningful way. Banks can now instantly congratulate the local football team on a big victory or show graduating seniors from the local high school instead of paying $80 a month to show footage from the war in Afghanistan.
They can promote the community dance recital or concert, introduce a new employee, or talk about the bank’s new products and services.
For roughly half of what most banks are paying for cable, they can now subscribe to a digital sign solution that enables them to login to a web-based marketing portal and simply customize and personalize an ad. Once created, that ad can be running on their TV’s – in front of their customers – in seconds.
Banks can even select the date and time they want these messages to appear. For instance, they can promote remote deposit capture during lunch hour, when most of their business customers are lining up to make a deposit.
With this technology, community banks are able to put “community” into their communication pieces as well. For example, when a loan officer is calling on a customer, she can instantly put in the customer’s name, logo and picture. And all of the bank’s football program ads can now include real pictures of the football team!
By putting a little technology into these community banks, they are now able to put more “community” into their business.