A message to our community bank clients from W. Craig Eversole, Chairman
There’s a common phrase used these days, that being “This isn’t my first rodeo”. And while the COVID-19 pandemic is a new and unique challenge to us corporately and as a nation, and the economic fallout will be significant, we have been through equally challenging times before. The economic downturn of a decade ago led to a wave of regulatory-led bank acquisitions, foreclosures and business failures.
There is another old saying of “Sales are down…fire the sales people”. During the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009, many of our clients reduced their marketing efforts in an effort to save somewhat nominal dollars. In the process, they lost opportunity to gain significant market share which would have resulted in significant profits and long-term relationships. Those of our clients who instead stepped up their marketing communications subsequently reported that they were able to cherry-pick new customers because their competitors went quiet. Where some saw a little cost savings, others saw great opportunity.
Those banks that stepped up enjoyed success. It was that simple.
Now, we find ourselves working from home or limiting exposure for our staffs. Banks are largely utilizing drive-thru facilities to conduct all banking transactions while others are opening their lobbies by appointment only…with some taking temperatures at the door. Certainly, these are difficult times but the greater the difficulty, the greater the opportunity to set your bank apart for the better times ahead.
So what might these opportunities include? First and foremost, marketing can help position your bank across your trade area as a financial leader and advisor. A recent USA Today article noted that Americans’ first priority is, of course, to protect themselves and their families from the coronavirus. And second, ahead of all else, was to protect their financial well-being. With the stock market in freefall, more and more individuals will be looking to their banks for guidance and conservative savings plans. Communicating the obvious will be of great importance in that process.
Aside from deposit account growth, loan opportunities may quickly explode. Today, there are very few people out shopping for cars and boats, moving forward with home improvement projects or planning vacations. Who wants to get on a cruise ship or airplane in the midst of COVID-19? When the stay-home requirement is lifted and the virus is well under control, things will return to a new normal. When that happens, people will be actively buying large-ticket items and requesting loans. Commercial businesses have been pursuing the Payroll Protection Program via the SBA and banks have been processing those documents in a timely fashion. Like consumers, business owners are and will be hungry for information, for guidance, for leadership and for solutions.
Keep your marketing function high on the bank’s operation list. Communication is the key to relationships and the bridge to a sense of normalcy. Never forget, if other banks are being quiet, people will listen to the only one talking.