By Neal Reynolds
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog entitled, “Prevent bank branch closings with free WiFi” that received a huge response.
Then, just last week, the Wall Street Journal wrote an article “Bank To-Do List: Make a Deposit, Grab a Brew, Maybe Strike a Pose,” where they talked about the many ways banks are drawing potential customers into their branches.
Umpqua Bank in Portland, Oregon, threw an Oktoberfest-style celebration last fall with pretzels, beer and a strolling accordion player. A crowd of 150 people showed up! This is just one of many community events and programs this bank offers in their 200-plus branches.
Connex Credit Union in Connecticut hosts educational events for first-time homebuyers and for senior citizens trying to understand Medicare, while TD Bank offers free coin-counting machines.
The thinking is that the more reasons a bank can give customers and potential customers to come into one of their branches, the better chance they have of getting their business.
The concept seems to be spreading with more bank branches turning into community centers instead of just transactional hubs. Many banks have been calling themselves “community banks” for years, so now is a great time to truly become one.
The Wall Street Journal article mentions a study done by Financial Management Solutions, Inc., that found that monthly teller transactions at community banks and credit unions plummeted 40% from 1992 to 2012.
Obviously, many bankers welcome this trend because an online transaction is much more profitable than paying rent and salaries at all of their branches.
But closing branches isn’t cheap. In additional to sending a message to employees that you have to cut back, it also tells the community and your competitors that you can’t afford to keep investing in the community.
When a bank offers free WiFi, beer, pretzels, or any kind of seminar or event, they need to think of it as a marketing event. Someone needs to be in charge with the goal of developing as many leads as possible.
Rather than just offering an empty boardroom, someone needs to be there greeting and capturing names, addresses and phone numbers – just like at a trade show.
Those employees responsible for “working” the room or event should be trained on what the bank is trying to accomplish. Remember: The end result is obtaining new customers or cross-selling existing customers on another product. This requires knowing how to ask the right questions and being knowledgeable enough to recommend additional bank products to customers.
This is also a great way to research what potential customers are looking for in bank products and services.
I think banks will find it’s a lot easier to cross-sell other services in a branch location than it is online. The last thing I want when I’m checking my balances online is a banner or window that keeps popping up, trying to sell me something else.
But when I’m in a bank branch drinking free coffee or beer, I’m all ears!
Neal Reynolds has worked with hundreds of banks and credit unions around the country helping them to grow core deposits and market share without growing their marketing budgets. Contact him at email@example.com.