History Smiths and
Hurd Smith Communications
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Community Banks Support Local History, and Attract New Customers
Banks have been underwriting community events for years. Someone makes the case for support, the bank writes a check, its logo goes on the marketing materials, and they’re done.
But banks really could do more to cement the ties they have with existing customers and attract new ones. Historical community events, especially, provide a low cost opportunity — compared to other forms of marketing and advertising — to win over thousands of people. Lots of people LOVE their local history, and it’s been my experience in New England that businesses benefit when they support that history.
Last year, during 2009, I witnessed two local banks in the small community of Ipswich, Massachusetts, go the extra mile during the town’s 375th anniversary. As the event promoter, I was in a position to observe what they did up close and I paid attention — especially to how people responded to the banks’ efforts.
Remember that in 2009, everyone was livid about Wall Street, bank failures, obscene CEO pay, and bailouts. It was the perfect time for a locally owned bank, with board members and employees who lived in the community, to send very strong messages: “We are YOUR community bank. We can be trusted. You know us. Get away from those failing, impersonal, national banks that have destroyed our economy and put your money HERE where we will take of it and respect you.”
Ipswich’s banks were asked to support the town’s 375th anniversary celebration, and two agreed — but they both insisted on doing more than writing a check. They wanted their people to be involved.
The First National Bank of Ipswich
The First National Bank of Ipswich underwrote the kick-off event for the 375th Anniversary and established their high level of commitment to town history right from the beginning. At the event, their people managed the ticket sales, donations, and the auction, and generally made the evening a success for the Anniversary Committee and all who attended.
The bank also assigned its key community relations person to co-chair the 375th Anniversary Parade — which is a crushing amount of work if you’ve never done it. She persuaded all kinds of groups to participate — schools, town departments, civic clubs, the military, bands, reenactors — you name it. Right there, the bank had an opportunity/excuse to cold call all kinds of people who now know about The First National Bank of Ipswich through a personal, positive interaction and not the usual kind of cold call.
First National also exhibited collection items from the town’s Historical Society in the bank, and encouraged people to visit and support the Society. In fact, that’s something the bank does year-round. They also support the Historical Society’s monthly lecture series — and “everyone” knows it. They happen to own works of art by Ipswich’s most famous native son, the 19th-century artist Arthur Wesley Dow, which people are able to see at any time in the bank. Local history plays a huge role in their branding, marketing, and community outreach.
The Institution for Savings
The other bank that got involved with the 375th Anniversary, the Institution for Savings, underwrote a specific event during the yearlong celebration and formed a community/bank staff committee to plan, promote, and implement their event. It was the first-ever “International Ipswich Day,” allowing the town to celebrate its multi-ethnic history and present-day diverse population with food, music, dance, kids’ activities, and displays. Here again, bank staff had a perfect opportunity to cold call dozens of community groups to put this all together, AND to meet hundreds more people at the event itself.
On the day of the event, bank staff dressed in matching polo shirts to look like a team, and offered free popcorn. They gave out promotional items like reusable water bottles (with their logo), but one thing they did that was just brilliant was to distribute workbooks for kids — fun, colorfully designed books that taught young people why and how they should save money, how to open a bank account, and what banks were all about. The book provided step-by-step instructions and worksheets. What an effective way to attract new customers for, potentially, a lifetime (and their parents)!
The Institution for Savings also sponsored colorful lamppost banners throughout downtown Ipswich, making their support of town history highly visible. The banners were up for at least six months. That’s a whole lot of repeat advertising for very short money, not to mention “warm and fuzzy” feelings from grateful townspeople. Very smart!
For short money...
These are just two examples of local community banks that “get it” history-wise. For a comparatively small amount of marketing and advertising dollars, they received significant visibility throughout 2009 as proud supporters of Ipswich history. Their logos were everywhere. Their people were everywhere. 375th promotional materials were all over their lobbies and street front windows. Residents noticed, appreciated — and in case after case moved their money out of the big national banks.
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