It’s a common belief that banks should implement social media with the sole purpose of making a sale online. But think again: Pushing goods and service messages without context replicates the archaic process of cold calling, just through a different medium. So, trying to sell products and services directly via social media channels may accomplish nothing more than annoying your customer.
More precisely, using a social media presence solely to sell mortgages or deposit accounts is destined to fail for three reasons. First, regulations and various compliance issues make it very difficult and costly to market banking goods and services online. Second, people frequent social media sites to interact with friends, family, and colleagues – not to be sold something. Posting advertisements without context will cost money and yield minimal results. And finally, getting exposure strictly through paid online advertisements is very expensive, time consuming and tedious, requiring resources that go far beyond what small banks at least have available.
Having said that, I do believe social media can have a positive effect on a bank’s sale cycle if done correctly. I suggest using social media to enhance the in-person sales experience. Don’t use it to completely erase the person-to-person transaction, but rather to increase leads and open up opportunities to make a sale. Here are some specific suggestions along those lines:
Stop trying to calculate every dollar that will be received from every post created. You’ll put yourself in a sales mentality rather than a relationship-building mentality. Social media should be used to build an initial relationship that can then be turned into a sale.
In order to start building such relationships online a bank needs to focus on the content provided. This content shouldn’t be created to compete with other bank’s goods and services, but rather with other content. Therefore, it needs to be engaging, entertaining, and valuable. Content will be the deciding factor between success and failure, and should be the main focus of your strategy. Social media simply provides the avenues in which content is distributed and should not itself be the focus of your strategy.
Use social interactions to bring potential clients through your doors. For years, banks have been trying to figure out what role the branch should play in today’s digitized world. Social media facilitates branch growth by reaching online customers and bringing them in-house to where a sale is more comfortable and attainable.
One way to do this is to use the content you created to capture email addresses. If your content is perceived as valuable, people will want to subscribe and receive emails from you. This creates a way for you to reach your audience without relying on any outside source. Consider, for example, that Facebook’s organic reach is dropping. Currently, just 6% of your Facebook fans will see your posts. However, when you send out an email to your subscribers, you reach 100%. Once you have engaged customers, they’ll be more inclined to participate in bank events where representatives can then continue to foster relationships and bring people further down the sales funnel.
Figure out what you want to say. There’s a major problem with the type of content that banks create and the type of content consumers interact with. According to Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group, “87% of consumers find bank content annoying, boring, or unhelpful.” My company conducted a study of New Jersey community banks and their consumers and found a similar mismatch between bank content and customer interests.
Look at it this way: In traditional marketing, brands are competing with other product and service messages; in the online marketing setting, you are competing with friends, family and cat videos. Will people really want to read about your branch grand opening when they could be watching a YouTube video of a monkey petting puppies?
Quit thinking you can win the SEO game. BankRate.com, Quicken Loans and other large institutions have bigger budgets and will annihilate any competitors. Banks with less than $10 billion in assets simply don’t have enough of a marketing budget to bid successfully on keywords to rank in search results.
Banks do have a powerful opportunity to stand out on social media. But this opportunity might slip through their fingers if they can’t figure out their niche. The challenge is to develop content that will attract people to your events and clear the way for sales conversations to happen organically. The successful banks will be the ones that understand content marketing and how to create demand for their brand through social media channels. Consider the following tale of two banks:
Bank Number One has no social media or online content, but provides a basic website. It has an aging population of customers. To attract more customers, they put ads in newspapers and on billboards and hope people will drive past their locations. Bank Number Two has developed a niche and created a blog that customers love. They have thousands of subscribers and Twitter Followers and a Facebook page that has so much social media activity that they can dedicate one person to moderate it.
Both banks decide to host a branch event and need to draw awareness to it. Which bank do you think would be able to drive attendance? And which one do you think will sell more products in person? Which one has the best chance of making a sale?
Mr. Siracusa is the president and CEO of Fort Lee, N.J.-based mOSa Marketing. He can be reached at [email protected].