Community banks are very active in their communities and small businesses in particular have come to rely on that activity to support their businesses. Community bankers commonly contribute to local causes and organizations, while executives also serve on local boards. These are all important and effective ways to stay connected to a community and build deeper ties.
When it comes to marketing, there is another way of engaging with a community that can provide significant benefits to a community bank's store of good will. Known as "experiential" marketing, it has become a significant tool for community banks. For those who may not be totally familiar with the term, it is also known as "event," "on-ground," "live, "participation," or "direct engagement" marketing. In short, no matter what you call it, this sort of marketing is designed to engage customers and get them to participate more directly in your bank and brand.
According to the Event Marketing Institute, 72% of consumers say they have a positive impression of brands that provide quality events and experiences. Also, 74% say that participating in branded events or experiences makes them more likely to do business with a company. Finally, almost every participant in a quality branded event will create social media content out of it and then share that content with others.
That kind of marketing success is rare through other methods, which is why a bank like Citi participates in about 11,000 events each year.
Another bank heavily involved in this sort of marketing is TD Bank. It has a multi-faceted experiential marketing effort that not only involves events, but also little perks for customers like free pizza. One of its largest most recent campaigns was offering to give 24 customers in 24 different cities $30,000 each to spend on community projects of their choice. The campaign was run through social media and brought in thousands of submissions. The winners used the money for things like installing handicap-accessible ramps and buying equipment for a local football team. The YouTube video of the campaign drew about 5mm viewers and 5,000 new Facebook likes.
For community banks trying to build stronger relationships and more engaged customers, experiential marketing represents a tool that can pay big dividends. The biggest banks commonly use it and might appear to have an advantage, but we beg to differ. Of course, a giant bank like Citi, for example, can partner with top-tier professional athletes in programs aimed at youth and get a lot of traction in an instant, but that does not mean community banks are left out in the cold here.
Certainly, community banks may not be able to duplicate the level of celebrity marketing available to banks in major metro areas. However, even community banks can play the game on a reduced scale by partnering with local minor league teams or colleges to produce similar experiential campaigns. There are plenty of opportunities to engage in small initiatives like giving away pizza or coffee that cost little but engage customers. When it rains, for instance, your bank might give away umbrellas that carry the bank logo. These are only a few easy but useful ways to interact on an even deeper basis with your community.
For community bankers struggling to connect with millennials, experiential marketing also provides an alternative to traditional advertising. After all, millennials tend to dislike and shun such marketing so an alternative is needed. Citi, for example, has noted that its experiential marketing has helped it connect with hard-to-impress millennials and community banks can too.
Through experiential marketing, community bankers can insert their businesses into the lives of their customers. Sometimes the experience can be of significant impact and sometimes it can be as simple as a providing a cup of coffee in the morning. No matter what you call it, this sort of marketing helps to create buzz and enhance the connection between your bank and its customers.