Small financial institutions – banks and credit unions, alike – share at least one commonality. They have to be successful in branding, especially in building trust.

Like all sectors in the new economy, financial institutions have a tough marketplace. They have to find ways to dominate despite the clutter of competitors, and to economize and profit from the use of technology.

In essence, banks and credit unions must be defensive – like a championship football team protecting its goal line and mounting a strong offense – to score points with their customers and members, respectively.

All the while, it’s vital to build trust.

Why? Money is an emotional issue for consumers.

With consumers trying to cope with information overload in deciding on a financial institution – you will succeed with long-term customer loyalty – if you build trust by using best practices.

It may be an obvious approach, but it’s confirmed by a study that shows 84 percent of the respondents declared there must be reasons for them to trust a financial institution.

Hence, the need for cutting-edge branding in several ways:

1. Perform a brand assessment for consumer trust

You have to analyze every marketing aspect of your business. Review your branch appearance, customer service, employees, messaging, products and services.

And you must do it with empathy – understanding how the average consumer perceives you starting with first impressions. Start at the beginning. That ranges from your curb appeal and marketing messages to your dedication to being a safe and secure institution.

For example, have an outside participant – a mystery shopper, if you will – call your office and ask the employee to send information in the mail. Then, get feedback on the timing and effectiveness of the response as well as on the collateral itself.

Do the same with in-person visits.

If you’re unsure about your marketing approach, then test…test… and test it. Just remember to convey value.

Humor is good, but only if it works. In this economy, consumers are very serious about the care you take with their money.

2. Apply the basics of branding

Since the Great Recession, the majority of consumers have reverted to 1930’s behavior of being the best-possible stewards of their assets. They expect the same from you.

So be authentic and sincere. Instead of using adjectives, such as best or great, explain who and what you are. You must differentiate your institution from your competitors. Explain why you’re special.

Practice the art of consistency and stability for a stellar customer experience. You must consistently uphold the promises of your marketing.

Be disciplined in focusing on the details. Even minute details matter at all levels – from your favicon, logo, and slogan to customer service.

3. Align your strategies among management, employees and consumers

Your customers or members will love your brand if everyone in your organization is in synch – in lock step with one another – focusing on the needs of your target audience.

Management must lead with the right vision for growth. Every staff meeting should be focused on branding implementation.

Your employees must be inspired to live up to the standards promised in your marketing. They must be dedicated to providing the ultimate in customer experience – from greeting consumers – to thanking them for the opportunity to be of service.

Don’t allow them to be trite. The last thing a valued customer wants to hear is “Have a nice day.” The last impression is as important as the first.

4. Establish benchmarks for your entire team

Naturally, you want to be competitive with your product offerings. You want to deliver the best customer service.

But you must have an adequately trained staff. Ensure continuity and success with a written plan of action – a brand guide.

In it, explain how and why you have certain procedures. Employees must understand the principles behind your operating standards.

5. Ensure sustainability and long-term success

It’s one thing to implement the above four strategies, but it’s not a one-time effort. You must steadily perform assess your entire branding continuously.

The best way is to periodically monitor your organization with mystery shoppers – people posing as potential customers or members.

Your shoppers should be detail-minded to discover gaps in the implementation of your branding.

So embrace these strategies for a branding assessment. You’ll learn you have both negative and positive attributes.

Use the results for improvement and fine-tuning of your brand to build trust.

From the Coach’s Corner, to further explain the above strategies, here are relate articles:

Why Bank Woes Provide Lessons for All Companies Seeking Growth — Many banks have customer loyalty issues. In fact, banks need new approaches because they are only satisfying 21 percent of their medium-sized business customers, according to new marketing research by TNS. Actually, the challenges faced by banks in trying to grow include principles that are applicable to all business sectors that want opportunities for growth.

Banks Have Credibility Issue with Affluent Women, Study — More than half of wealthy women are frustrated with their banks, according to a study.

Marketing: Why One Bank Fails, Another Succeeds — One of the nation’s 2009 bank failures costing the FDIC $298 million was the result of economic conditions, to be sure. But Venture Bank’s collapse was exacerbated by poor management decisions typified by branding.

Is Your Company Underperforming in Marketing / Sales? Evaluate Your Culture — If you’re dissatisfied with your revenue, it’s time for an assessment of your culture’s operation. Why? Superior cultures drive business performance.

“If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.”

-Zig Ziglar


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.