In a previous BankThink post, I wrote about how understaffing poses one of the biggest obstacles for community banks’ marketing efforts. But institutions may have a ready solution via new technology.

To get more results with fewer employees, banks can set up marketing automation tools in which software, rather than a human, sends personalized messages to consumers. For example, a customer would receive automated marketing material, such as direct mail or an email, based on data that his or her balance is low or that he or she was reading about a credit card product online.

Financial institutions issue a whole array of communications to customers throughout the year. Much of this material is mundane: newsletters, new account welcome letters, service fee notices and product offers. An automated system, which merges your core processor with certain behavioral triggers, allows small-staff marketing teams to send these messages and more.

For example, you may want to send a thank you note to customers for opening a line of credit. Six weeks later, you might want to send a reminder to those customers who have not used their line, or advise borrowers of the amount remaining in a credit line. In an automated system, you would first craft communication templates and then populate them with customized data so the system knows when to send a message.

Competition from all sides — big banks, mutual funds, fintech companies — has put a premium on marketing but most community banks haven’t stepped up to meet the challenge. At least, that’s how it appears when we look at recent data on market department staffing. A typical community bank with assets of around $415 million has one full-time marketing employee, according to a 2015 Cornerstone Advisors study.

But now, labor-intensive cross-marketing programs, which were beyond the scope of small marketing departments such as these, are suddenly feasible thanks to technology. Once set up, the programs can run on cruise control. Marketing automation is ideal for routine systems such as onboarding — both for welcoming clients and cross-marketing products. Those opening children’s accounts could receive tips on savings for college, solicitations for student checking or college loan opportunities as they grow up. Age milestones would trigger the emails.

Marketers can also automatically tailor marketing messages to website visitors depending on which section of a site they visit. A site user who clicks on a link dealing with consumer loans or mortgages or checking accounts would receive corresponding messages.

Automated systems can also vary the types of messages customers receive based on their profile. Automated point-scoring software can identify the strongest candidates for product leads, who may be referred to a representative from the bank for follow-ups. Other potential candidates could be designated to receive marketing emails.

The marketing technology can also be used to reduce attrition. If you would like to intercept customers before they switch banks, consider integrating behavioral clues that demonstrate the potential of making such a move with automated communications. Hints that a customer is about to leave could be one closed account, a general drop in account balances or the transfer of funds to another financial institution. Collectively, these actions could trigger an email or a call from a personal banker.

If marketing departments continue to be understaffed, automated programs will become increasingly important to customer acquisition, engagement and sales. By setting up a few basic programs, the once-harried marketing director may actually have time to set sights on strategic planning.

Share →