Time to Amp Up Your Branches!

By Laura DeLaCruz, Director of Project Management and Business Development

I began my financial career working in the local branches of a major Boston-based bank, and when I compare those times with the world of branch banking today, one thing becomes crystal-clear – things have changed, big time! Today’s consumers are able to handle more and more of their basic finances remotely, without regular branch visits. So branches have become far less transaction-oriented than they were in my day. And it’s impacting everything from staffing models to the layout of branch interiors and much more.

But one thing remains the same: local branches still provide a level of service that consumers simply cannot get through online banking or mobile apps. They allow you to engage customers directly, to build and cement  relationships. They’re your best chance to build loyalty by offering customers and prospects more than what they were expecting when they walk through your doors.

So isn’t it time your branches started doing something to make visits more interesting and memorable for your customers?  Isn’t it time to amp things up?

Start with unexpected in-branch creative

  • Shatter the perception that banking has to be stuffy or monotonous. Use bright colors, humor and bold images to capture people’s attention.
  • Ensure that your messaging has the same vitality, and infuse your words with the personality and humanity of your brand.
  • Encourage an emotional response from your target audience. After all, the people you are trying to reach are human beings, so make a connection by speaking to their interests, their needs and who they are as people.
  • Find ways to be intrusive (in a good way!) both inside and outside the branch. Create stand-up posters and other dimensional displays that demand attention, and then put them in spots where people can’t help but notice them.
  • Surprise them at the door or at the teller line with an unexpected gift.
  • Ask yourself this question: at dinner time, will your customers remember visiting your branch today? If not, it’s time to turn up that dial!

Involve the staff

Adding some pizzazz and excitement at the point of sale energizes not just visitors, but the branch team as well. As a former branch manager, I can tell you that my staff was always looking for opportunities to engage with customers in a way that didn’t feel like they were being too pushy or hard-sell. A great promotion that involves the employees is an easy, organic way to get the ball rolling.

  • Create badges or stickers with a few words that invite a conversation. Sometimes all you need is an ice-breaker to make people feel comfortable talking.
  • Use themed tie-ins to transform the branch into a fun environment: Depending on the creative approach, you can engage employees to:
    • wear team jerseys and baseball caps
    • wear aprons and chef hats to tie in with food theme
    • serve foods shown in campaign imagery
    • hand out “movie star” sunglasses, freshly popped popcorn and theater candy
  • Create sweepstakes and giveaways that place the focus on staff interaction to qualify – customers are entered automatically when they have a chat about mortgage financing, or retirement planning, or other major life goals. (Keep in mind that you need to provide a way for people to write-in to enter the drawing.)

Tie in the community

Adding some excitement to your branch can also serve to build your community roots and promote your brand. Have you got a girls' soccer league that’s raising money for a traveling team?  Support them at your local branch!  Or work with a local animal shelter to connect rescue dogs and cats with loving owners. Support the annual Girl Scout Cookie Drive.  The possibilities are endless!

You can also tie in the prizes of your giveaways with local establishments: a dinner for two at a beloved local restaurant or a gift certificate to a local store are prizes that not only entice entrants but help show your support of local merchants.

Remember, branches aren’t just for transactions anymore – and that’s a good thing! So find ways to give your visitors a fresh, memorable, exciting experience every time they enter. Make the branch a fun place to stop by, and you’ll be rewarded with more traffic, more sales, more staff involvement… and a more loyal customer base as well.

MKP communications inc. is a New York City-based communications company that delivers spot-on strategy, smart, fresh creative, and flawless execution, exclusively for financial services clients.