History Smiths and
Hurd Smith Communications

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Why Large Banks Should "Get Local" with History and Preservation

I’ve written a lot about community banks, and how the economic climate today is ripe for them to appeal to customers who are sick to death of large bank failures and bailouts. So am I, in spades. But the fact is that not all large banks are evil, and not all of them were bailed out.

Even so, the local branches of larger banks still have a perception to overcome of the large impersonal bank that isn’t REALLY part of the community and, therefore, doesn’t care as much as those banks that are.

One way these larger banks could connect locally is by becoming involved in the historical community – and not just by writing a check to support a specific project, but by showing up and really getting in there.

Be a Hero
Preservation projects present a terrific opportunity for a bank to be a hero. You could not only provide funding in whatever way makes sense, but your bank could host a fundraising event, install a display about the project in your branch, offer incentives to your customers if they contribute, serve on the advisory committee to provide business advice, and publicize your involvement through your marketing materials as well as those of the nonprofit preservation organization.

Do you see how many customers you could potentially reach – and not in a “direct sales” way, but as people who care about preserving an important building in the community? This kind of personal involvement gives you genuine credibility and stature in a way that no standard marketing campaign can possibly do.

Make the Investment
Yes, this work requires an investment of staff time for the pay-off, but if your bank has already gone to the expense of establishing a branch in a community, doesn’t it only make sense to reach out and connect with your neighbors on a personal level?

I like to use the expression, “Get to people ‘where they live’ emotionally by supporting where they live physically. Home, family and community have never been more important to people than today, especially given the rate of home foreclosures, and an important part of any community -- particularly here in New England, where I am located -- is local history.

Get to Customers "Where they Live"
New Englanders are closely connected to their history. It’s part of our fiber. It’s who we are. Banks that support a preservation project in a hands-on way will win customer loyalty big-time. And “preservation” could apply to saving a building, preserving irreplaceable archival materials and funding a digital library project, developing a school curriculum to teach kids about local history and preservation, co-sponsoring a lecture series with your historical society, or staffing a historical community event.

But I don’t want to be New England-centric! I know this emotional connection to local history holds true elsewhere in the U.S. and far beyond.

Wherever your bank is located, after the last few years of bank bailouts, hidden fees, and unethical practices, banks need to be good citizens and they need to be perceived as good citizens.

Having local branches support local history is an effective way to reach customers “where they live.”

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2010 © Bonnie Hurd Smith

History Smiths works with service-oriented businesses to use history — their own and their community's — to achieve customer loyalty, referrals, and high status. Subscribe (above, right) to our free Ezine, Connections, where we share ideas and examples of businesses embracing history to achieve business goals.



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