This week, Erik and Caleb discuss the 3 common mistakes they see banks making in their marketing… and what to do about it!


Intro: Helping community bankers grow their team and their profits. This is the community bank podcast.

Eric Bagwell: Welcome to the community bank podcast. I’m married Bagwell, Director of Sales and Marketing for the correspondent division at South state bank. And joining me on the podcast today is Caleb Stevens. Caleb produces our podcasts works as a business development officer as well in our division. Caleb, how are you?

Caleb Stevens: Doing great, it’s 85 degrees outside headed to a Braves game tonight after we’re done recording this. So, having a great day.

Eric Bagwell: It’s awesome. We are sitting right across the highway from the Braves stadium saw it built here in Atlanta. We’re on the top end of 75 and 285. For those of you all familiar, with Atlanta and the traffic patterns on the highway. So, Caleb, that will be fun tonight. Today, you’re listening to the two guests. It’s Caleb and me, we sat down and we’re like, man, we’ve got a story, I guess that we can talk about marketing, we have tried to revamp some marketing stuff that we have done. Over the last couple of years. I say over the last, I guess 10 years. Caleb joined us about a year and a half ago. And we didn’t mark it probably like we should have COVID changed a lot of that we’ve talked about that on the past podcast. But our marketing was just kind of people knocking on doors and handing out flyers. And Caleb introduces me…

Caleb Stevens: [Inaudible 1:25] put it, here’s your list. Here’s your car, go get them.

Eric Bagwell: Absolutely. That’s what it was. And so obviously COVID seems that trying to expand into new territories has changed that for us. But we’re trying to do some things differently. And we want to talk today about three big mistakes we were making. And you guys may be making those mistakes, maybe you’re not, you may have figured this out a few years back and change what you were doing. And but I’ll tell you this, we were doing some stuff wrong. And we just want to kind of show you guys, here’s what we were doing, it wasn’t the right thing to do. And we want you to do it differently.
And so, we’re going to talk a little bit about a guy named Donald Miller, Donald Miller is up in Nashville, Tennessee, he has a book called Building a Story Brand. And I recommend that book to anybody. Honestly, whatever you’re doing, I don’t care if you’re a college student, or if you’re a banker. It’s a great book, a lot of really neat stuff. And it just talks about how to be clear when it comes to marketing. And so that’s what we want to talk about today. Talk about the things we were doing wrong, and how we change that, and what you guys probably need to be looking at. We haven’t figured it out yet. We’re not saying we’re experts, but we think we’ve got some pretty good stuff to talk about. So, let’s start talking about this. Caleb and let’s jump right in.

Caleb Stevens: Yes, and I don’t have any data to back this up. So, don’t go saying it’s not true. Caleb, I’ve never done a survey. I’ve never done any research on this. But I just have a hunch from having grown up the son of a community banker, my father-in-law, being a banker, my uncle, being a banker, banking is all in my family. And I have this hunch that many bank leaders feel like marketing is a waste of time. And I think it’s because most banks when they do marketing, they make these three mistakes. And so that’s what we’re going to talk about. Right now, just for a few minutes is the three common mistakes that I think banks typically make. And it’s why a lot of bank leaders feel like this is a waste of time. How do I measure my ROI on this? Is this producing any kind of return for me? And Eric, you hit on the first mistake is your marketing is not clear. To go back to Donald Miller, he talks about how we all suffer from the curse of knowledge.
And the curse of knowledge is this, you know what you do, you know your product at a level 10. So, give an example. We do interest rate swaps, we do loan hedging for community banks, we understand that art program at a level 10. And when we go to sell it, oftentimes, we think we’re dumbing it down and making it simple for our prospect. But we’re dumbing it down to a five or a six, and they needed a one or a two. And so, in our minds, we’re bringing it down to a six, we’re keeping it simple. We’re giving you the basic version. And because we are so ingrained in our product, we don’t realize how you’re not dumbing it down at all. You’re not making it simple at all. And I think that’s something that, whether it’s your website, it’s your social media, it’s your salespeople, you’re suffering from the curse of knowledge.
And you’re explaining at a level six, and your prospect needs are at a level one or two. I was on a sales call about a year ago with a colleague, and we were talking to a bank and we stopped about halfway through the call, 20 minutes in we stopped for questions. And the banker said I am so confused. I don’t even know what to ask. And I remember you and I were talking the next day and we said we have got to simplify our message here. And we did we created a couple of little animated videos that were three minutes long that helped explain some of the products and what we do. But that’s the first mistake I think I see people making is their marketing isn’t clear. So, if I go to your website, and I can’t tell within 5 10 seconds, what problem you solve? It’s not clear enough. And the same goes for one-on-one sales calls as well.

Eric Bagwell: Yes, one of the things we’ve done in the ways we’ve sold in the past is, and I’m sure if you’re a banker, and you’re listening, you’ve had a corresponding banker knock on your door, and the way we’ve done it, we have business development officers, those business development officers, they generally know a little bit about every product that we sell, they’re not experts, by any means. And the beauty of that, great personalities, they knock on doors, they’re fun to be around, they bring value, they can generally talk probably on a one or a two-level, to get that person interested and to bring in that expert that can talk at a nine or a 10. But you’re exactly right.
You sell it a one or two. And it’s just, it’s easy for us to assume well, and for us, well, they’re a banker, they understand what a swap is, well, honestly, if they’ve never done a swap before, for a customer, they probably don’t know how one works. And so, I think all of us need to understand, let’s don’t just assume that who our customers or potential customer prospects are, know what we’re talking about. Let’s talk in very general basic terms. I guess it’s why those books came out back in the day, whatever for dummies, there’s a million of them. And that’s probably the premise for him was, because most people have no idea. Let’s start from step one. And in the past, we’ve put a bond school on in Birmingham, Alabama, and it was bond basics, and the first couple hours, it was pretty basic, what is the bond. So, that’s a great point.

Caleb Stevens: [Cross-talking], you remember, when we were redesigning our website, I was writing the wireframe for the site. So, for folks that don’t know what that is, that’s a real basic template for what the website is going to look like. Whether it’s in black and white, and it’s just words, no design to it. And we were writing the page for the ark program, our loan hedging program. And literally, the first line on that wireframe said loan hedging was made simple, just kind of an oxymoron because it assumes people know what loan hedging is. And so, I remember we were talking and we were saying, you know what, it’s kind of funny because we’re saying loan hedging made simple, but you’re assuming people know what a loan what loan hedging is.
And so, we had to tweak it. And we had to change it for it to say, when more loans by offering long term fixed rates, that’s what we do, we help your bank win more loans, by offering long term fixed rates. And then we kind of go into why it’s so simple. But it’s so easy to get stuck in that curse of knowledge that you know what you do at a level 10 he explained that a five or six, but I needed a one or two. And I’ve seen this being fairly new to the banking industry. I feel like I’ve been more attuned to this because a lot of folks here have been working in banking for 20 30 years, you got me, the new kid on the block been in here for two years. And so, it’s been really interesting to see how that does play out.

Eric Bagwell: Yes. And I think back to even some, and I think we’re going to get to this in a minute. But even some presentations that, and you go to any good and not even a presentation trying to sell something, think about a conference you go to, and somebody’s got, and I’ve been there before 30 or 40 slides on a PowerPoint. And I can promise you by about slide 11, there’s a pretty good chance I’m checked out. And so, even in a website, that’s something I guess we’re going to talk about a minute, but our old website before we switched it, and we had everything on that website that you could probably know about us. And so, we thought we just let’s just make it less jumbled up. And let’s just be clearer and more concise about how we can help a customer talking about that song.

Caleb Stevens: Yes, so, that’s number one is your website or you’re marketing in general, your social media, your salespeople, you don’t clearly articulate what problem you solve and how you improve people’s lives or businesses. The second issue that I think we see a lot of banks making and businesses in the general making is it tries to accomplish too much it crams too many things in and again, this could go for a sales call this could go for your website, this could go for your email marketing for your social media. How many times have you been on a sales call? And the person that’s pitching you explains everything about the product within the first five minutes, 10 minutes? And you just need to start with the basics. How many times do you go to a website and that gives you everything you need to know when the person who created that website just trying to sell you a phone call. It’s just trying to take that next step but he’s trying to accomplish everything in one glance.

Eric Bagwell: Yes. And that’s something that we had to step back and say listen, and we were just talking about it. You go on a first date with somebody I doubt in the conversation, you’re talking about your parents, your grandparents’ names and where they grew up, you know, that’ll probably come later. But you certainly don’t do that on a first date. And as your advertising and your marketing, as Caleb said, you’re probably trying to sell phone calls what you’re trying to do. And so, what you’ve got to do, and Donald Miller talks a lot about this is, is just drive home the point, let me show you how I can help you. It’s not about everything I can do. It’s about what can I do for you. And so, when you start just throwing everything up there, honestly, you may confuse, it goes back to burning calories. It’s like, man, I just need this one thing done, but he showed me 50 things they can do, but show me that you can do the one thing that I need to be done.

Caleb Stevens: And there’s probably a little bit of fear in thereof, well, if I don’t explain everything, and I’m not going to show you how good this product is, if I don’t explain everything about our bank, then maybe you’re not going to want to do business with us. Or if I don’t, as a correspondent guide explained to you everything that we can do with this product or that product, then maybe they’re not going to get it or they’re not going to buy. And a lot of times it’s the reverse that starting with the basics and starting with the problem that you’re solving.

Eric Bagwell: Absolutely, that takes us to the third one, and Caleb kind of read down. But I’ll go ahead and say it, it’s marketing is all about you. And we see this a lot. And I kind of just hit on it, it’s shouldn’t be about you, it should be about what you can do for a potential customer. Because at the end of the day, it’s what you’re doing, you’re solving a problem. For a customer, I don’t care what you’re selling, at some point whether you sell a golf club, or you’re a bond salesman, and somebody buys bonds from you, you’re satisfying a need. And so, we see this many times and listen, hands up, we were guilty of this big time.
It was all about us. I think every marketing material, we had probably maybe a year and a half ago, we started looking at this was all about us, we told you how great we were and we had X number of customers and drive it home for you guys. We’re the largest bank in the county, we’re a five-star Bauer rated bank, that’s all great. But at the end of the day, a customer probably doesn’t care about that all they want to know is, what can you do for me? And as I said, we’ve been guilty of that. So, we tweaked our website, when we created the new one. We said, Look, let the website show how we can help customers and how we can help banks and how we can help them be the best bank that they can be. And so, we tweak that, and that’s probably some, it’s a great lesson for everybody. You’re going to say something, go ahead.

Caleb Stevens: I was just going to say, our friend, Jeff Henderson, who we had on the podcast here a few weeks ago, said, if businesses were people, most businesses would be seen as narcissists. If you looked at their website, you would say they are full of it. They’re all about themselves. And it’s funny, I went to a bank’s website, I don’t know a few months ago. And on the homepage, this is a true story, and huge bold letters were the word winner, exclamation point, literally huge, bold, big white letters, that said winner, and then you read the fine print. And it talked about how they have voted the best place to work in their state or something like that. And I remember thinking, that’s cool, that’s awesome and that’s something you should probably share on social media. And maybe you put that on your website somewhere. But if I’m a prospect, or a customer, for that matter, and I’m coming to your site to learn what you do, and you tell me that you’re the winner, and you’re the best place to work, I’m thinking great for you, buddy. But how are you going to make my life better? How are you going to solve my problem? And so my thought process is, that’s great if you’re a recruiter and you’re trying to find new talent, or you may be put that out on social media here and there. But I think for a lot of banks and businesses, that’s every post is we were voted this, we were voted that look how great we are. And I would say this a lot of times, it’s not even so much that they’re bragging. But you go on to their website, and it says something like, we were started in 1915 by a group of farmers.
And in fact, it was the CEOs, great grandfather, who started the company, and it’s been passed down from generation to generation and kind of go back to the first date example. Eric, tell me about you. Well, my grandfather, he fought in World War Two, and when he came back from the Philippines, and then he settled down and here in Atlanta, and then he had my dad, and then it’s like, tell me about you, so that’s not quite a perfect example, I don’t think but what it underscores is, is it about you or is it about the customer? And are you losing business because customers are going to your website and you’re not clear, you’re cramming too much in or you’re just saying, it’s all about me and look how great we are, but you’re not clearly articulating How you can help solve the customer’s problem?

Eric Bagwell: I think you’re right. I think No, no, the way to look at it is, think about somebody that you need their help from, and you go to them. And you all love golf, I’ll just use a golf example. And I hadn’t had a golf lesson in a while. But there’s a guy that I know there’s a golf teacher never even seen him give a lesson. I’ve gotten to know him. Every time you talk to this guy. It’s all about him. You can ask him; I’ve got a question about my grip. And he’ll tell you what his grip was back when he came in fourth in the north-south amateur in 1978. Well, at the end of the day, I don’t care about his grip, and I don’t care about anything that happened with him, for the most part. It’s about what can he do for me, and when he bragged, I don’t want to go take a golf lesson from this guy. Because I’m going to, he’s probably going to help me a little bit. But it also got to hear everything about him. And that’s not going to help me. I know, and so you got to keep that in mind.

Caleb Stevens: And you know, instead of talking about him, I almost wonder what if he talked about how, he helped these 10 other guys because I do think there’s value to showing people, I’m experienced, I know what I’m doing. This is not my first rodeo. We’ve done this before. So, I think that’s great when companies have, showcase their clients on their website. I think that’s also absolutely, but they’re making it about, we’ve done this for these folks, and we want to do it for you. So, it’s still customer-facing, but it does provide some social credibility.

Eric Bagwell: I think you’re right. And there, there is a place for that. But when it’s front and center, because I think a customer is going to want to know, yes, these guys are legit. I think that you need to let them figure that out. Don’t you be the one to have to tell them because, at some point, you’re going, man, he’s trying to sell me on how great they are? Are they that great? Are they not that great, and they’re just, they’re just trying to make it sound like they are? So, that’s a great point. But Caleb, before we wrap this up, and we knew this was going to be a quick, quick podcast, but you’ve got a couple of thoughts that may be bankers need to be thinking about. With everything that we’ve talked about today.

Caleb Stevens: Sure, well, I mentioned at the beginning of the show, I think many bank executives believe marketing is a waste of money, or they don’t think they’re getting their money’s worth out of their marketing initiatives. And we kind of broke down three reasons why it’s not clear. It’s all about you cram too much in. And I think all those things are true. Here’s another piece of advice I’d like to close with that I think might be helpful. I had a marketing agency owner, tell me one time, Caleb, as you guys are thinking about marketing, in your correspondence division, you need to do this, you need to separate your branding budget, from your marketing budget. And here’s what I mean.
Your branding budget is things like sponsorships, billboards, this podcast, things that don’t directly tie to revenue. When we stand up a billboard, there’s no way of knowing whether or not that’s going to bring in business for us, or at least we don’t know how much when you sponsor the local parade in your hometown. For your bank, there’s not a way to tie. Okay, well, this sponsorship that we put up $5,000 for clearly brought in X amount of loans because if we spot so that’s branding, that’s just things that you say, we believe in these things. We think it’s important culturally, we want to do these things because it enhances our brand and enhances our image just part of our mission. But it’s not something you can scrutinize.
And I think we get frustrated because we scrutinize things that we cannot put a hard ROI on. So, going into your marketing budgets, separate your branding budget from it going into each year. So, then you can say, okay, here’s the money for the billboard for the sponsorships for the TV ad. But we’re not going to pull our hair out trying to figure out what’s our return. And I think that’s going to eliminate a lot of frustration and confusion for your bank leaders and your marketing team as well. But then for your marketing budget, that’s your social media ad, your direct mail, your email marketing, things that you can tie a heart ROI on.
Yes, go ahead and scrutinize it. Make sure you’re getting the return to have some metrics, you’re applying to it have some KPIs in that way. You clearly can know is this working? Is it driving new business, if it’s not great, now, you need to tweak something that needs to change your strategy? But don’t put that kind of pressure and scrutiny on your branding budget. And it sounds like it’s splitting hairs. But I think it’s important, have a branding budget and have a marketing budget.

Eric Bagwell: And that’s something that we’ve struggled with because and I think every bank probably struggles with that. There are things they will sponsor and we’re like, man, at the end of the day, you sit there and you go, is this worth what we’re doing? Well, there is value, putting our name out there so that people know yes, they’re there. They’re part of us and they’re there supporting what we’re at. But it’s hard to put a return on that.

Caleb Stevens: It’s like I know which half of my branding budget works. I just don’t know which half.

Eric Bagwell: Yes, and Caleb says something key there too is the things you can measure, make sure you’re testing it, we’re working on some new marketing stuff that we need to know if it’s working because the money, we’re spending for it. If it’s not, then we’re going to stop spending money on it. And the only way to know is to do it and test it.

Caleb Stevens:And that gets back to the concept coined by Jim Collins called Bullets Before Cannonball. So, for the stuff you are going to scrutinize before you get out $100,000 cannonball and fire it somewhere, fire some bullets, test something for 1000 bucks for 500 bucks and see if it’s hitting the target. And keep calibrating it till it’s hitting the target that you want it to hit. And then say, okay, we think this works. We’ve tested this enough that we’re seeing some results. Let’s get out $100,000 Cannonball or a $10,000 Cannonball or however much your marketing budget is and fired in that direction. But don’t do that before experimenting. But I think the key to experimenting is having a culture that encourages learning and encourages it encourages testing and experimenting and being willing to fail. But if you’re going to fail, fail small, and fail with these many tests before you get out, you know your huge bazooka and fire it.

Eric Bagwell: That’s a good golf analogy. If you’re going to fail, try to fail small don’t fail big. So, listen, guys, we appreciate you listen to this podcast we’re starting to get a lot of folks to reach out to us through, LinkedIn, we’ve had some emails, we appreciate you guys listening to us. Caleb and I were in the same boat when it comes to marketing. And we’re trying different things. We’re asking tough questions. Do we need to do this? Do we need to do that? We’re tweaking what we’re doing. We’re right there with you. And so, if we can be of any help, please reach out to us. And let us know we’re not experts. If you know something that we need to be doing, please call us to let us know what’s working for you. We would love to know that. But listen, thank you guys for listening to the podcast. And thanks for listening every week. We will talk to you again soon. Thanks.


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