A personal connection

by Natalie Bartholomew ([email protected]) 388 views 

If you were a marketer in March 2020, you likely took your marketing strategy for the year and threw it in the trash. And if you didn’t, you should have. This pandemic taught us how to adapt and how to adapt quickly.

Last year on the banking front, we were adapting daily. As a result, the way our customers engaged with us shifted dramatically. Suddenly, everyone was using digital services. Even those customers who usually would have been reluctant to choose online banking over brick-and-mortar were enrolling in digital services. As a result, our digital banking usage expanded exponentially.

As we vamped up our email marketing strategy and reevaluated our social media messaging, we had an important realization: in this time of physical separation, everyone still wanted and needed a personal connection — maybe even more so. So our digital presence had to maintain the personal touch. (And corporate-sounding, “bank-y” posts are not exactly the kind of content people love seeing in their social feeds.)

Enter the Grand Savings Bank Grand Ambassador Team, our grand spin on the idea of brand ambassadors. We recognize that people bank with people, not a brand. So putting familiar faces out in front of our brand — the faces that our communities know and trust  — gives our marketing authenticity and builds confidence with our consumers.

The Grand Ambassadors are a wide variety of bank employees representing all our markets and departments. They are our most loyal, socially engaged team members and the most well-known representatives of GSB in their respective communities. Their primary duty is to engage with our social media platforms to help broaden our reach, which all social media managers know helps with that pesky algorithm. They are provided social media and branding guideline training to ensure they align with the bank’s marketing initiatives. Additionally, they assist our marketing team by giving market-specific content and photos about community events that directly connect with our followers.

Natalie Bartholomew

Let me repeat it: No one wants to see banking products promoted on their social media feeds. It’s simply not the kind of content that begs for likes or engagement. Followers are way more likely to like, comment or share content that connects with them emotionally and relates to their lives. Facts are facts.

Consider the beauty industry as an example. Products go viral after receiving rave reviews from beauty bloggers on TikTok and Instagram. Not because of ads from the product’s brand, but because a trusted social media personality said it was worth buying. While banking isn’t as exciting as the next best mascara, we still learn from this marketing method. Trusted resources (like your local bankers) are more likely to influence your financial decisions than some bank ad on a billboard.

As a community bank, we’re more concerned with using these platforms (and all our customer touchpoints) to build community. Our goal isn’t just in the numbers — to increase follower counts or get as many likes as possible — but is instead to engage with our customers as people. The efforts of our Grand Ambassadors make this possible by giving our communications a human touch.

And while the ambassador team isn’t responsible for the day-to-day marketing efforts of GSB, their involvement with our initiatives have helped to grow our reach exponentially. A bonus includes a morale boost and buy-in from the creative outlet provided by their involvement as a Grand Ambassador.

So, where could your business utilize its most loyal, trusted resources to market your products? They might already be on your payroll.

Natalie Bartholomew is a 20-year banking veteran who serves as chief administrative officer at Grand Savings Bank in Bentonville. Additionally, she serves as an advocate for women in banking through her platform, the Girl Banker. She can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are those of the author.