Back in the old days, if someone wrote a book, they mailed it off in a big envelope to publishers. The author then waited for either a rejection letter or, if they were extraordinarily lucky, the book would be published and marketed through the distribution channels of the publisher. This process still exists but success in this manner is almost impossible for an unknown author.
There is an Amazon tool for publishing for independent writers called CreateSpace and one of our loyal BID readers used it to successfully publish a kid's book. The book is entitled "The Awesome Adventures of Pickle Boy" and it was recently at the top of both the Superhero and Science Fiction categories for Children's eBooks on Amazon. We did a quick check on Amazon and found 759 kids' eBooks on superheroes and 5,961 for science fiction. OK, we are impressed.
Curious about how to leverage this discussion for community bankers, we asked our friend how he distinguished his work from all the others. He indicated that once he had published his book, he networked with friends and developed social media contacts through Facebook. The real game changer, though, came when an article showed up in a news blog that had a following of consumers of books that are a good fit with this author's style and content. After the blog came a number of positive reviews, and from there, things really popped. So, can a community banker use this example to their advantage and become the focus of potential customers? We definitely think so.
First, consider that different books have different story lines and characters just like different banks do. At first glance, one could say that banking is much harder because most banking products are pretty indistinguishable; but that is too simple. Every bank has a story to tell because otherwise it wouldn't exist. Knowing what is most important about your bank's identity is important for success, but telling your story is crucial to your success. Does your bank specialize in the needs of certain business borrowers? Has your bank been in the community since 1910? Are the characters in your bank the most important point? Are your officers important in the community or do they have a special expertise? Do your marketing efforts tell your story and do they do so where your customers come to read about it?
It's important to tell your own story well, but it's even more effective to have your story reinforced by someone else. Look on any big bank web site and you are bound to find a reference to their exceptional service with the happy face of a customer saying so. Anyone can say they provide great service, but without the customer to reinforce it, readers often will not believe it is true. We all want to relate, so find a customer to help you communicate your message to gain more traction. Customer testimonials in advertisements can be very effective if your market is small enough for people to know one another, but even in bigger markets they help people relate. Also try professional references to highlight your bank's expertise, especially if your bank has a specific business niche.
Finally, don't forget to go see your good customers. Check in with them to ensure they are satisfied and find out what else your bank can be doing for them. When you do, don't forget to ask if they know someone else you could contact that might need similar services. These ideas are gentle reminders that you must continually position your bank to be relevant and present in the minds of potential customers (as well as your existing ones) to succeed. Telling your story and that of your happy customer's is a good way to build relationships that last as you distinguish your bank from the rest of the competition.