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Making a Name for Your Institution

Posted By Vincent Michael Valvo, CEO, Agility Resources Group, Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 20, 2013

10 Commandments of Event Marketing for Banks and Credit Unions

Just about every day, marketers at banks and credit unions get requests to sponsor something. Maybe it’s a breakfast for the local chamber of commerce. Maybe it’s a dinner in support of the local Boy Scout troop. It’s almost always something "worthy,” certainly something that speaks to the bank’s mission of being there for the community. And so, in dribs and drabs of $250 here, or $1,500 there, the marketers put their institution’s mark across the region.

But while such actions build good will and help support the bank’s base, the actual marketing payback is likely to be negligible. The bank doesn’t get enough bang for its buck, and even worse, such activities might even work against its best interests. Looking at small donations to a dozen or more organizations, bank marketers may come to the conclusion that they’re doing enough in the "event” space, when all they’re doing is avoiding the opportunity to truly position their bank’s brand.

Bank marketers spend a lot of time thinking about their institution’s brand: what it means, what is meant to communicate to the audience, etc. Meanwhile, being involved in events is a mighty tool for bankers: done right, it puts you face-to-face with your base of customers and prospects. It lets you have insightful conversations about why someone uses you – or doesn’t. It allows you to present your bank in the best possible light, and to talk directly to people who should be your best customers.

More importantly, it should propel your brand. And that’s where bank marketers often stop. They do everything up to, but not including, propelling the brand.

Sponsoring cocktails at a business meeting? Perhaps that’s fine for general goodwill, but it won’t likely do much for brand recognition. Quick: who sponsored the drinks at the last networking event you were at?

No, to successfully position your bank’s brand, and to best use events to your advantage, you need to follow these commandments:

Commandment 1: Thou Shalt Have Thy Name All Over The Event

Find events that match your goals (such as a wealth management seminar, or a commercial real estate outlook, or a business awards function). Then go for naming rights. It shouldn’t be "The Smallville Chamber of Commerce Business Outlook Conference, sponsored by First Community Bank.” It should be the "First Community Bank Business Outlook Conference, produced by the Smallville Chamber of Commerce.” You want your name at the top. And when anyone talks about the event, it will be "The First Community Bank event,” not the chamber event.

Commandment 2: Thou Shalt Have No Banks Before Me

If you’re going to put the bank’s money into sponsoring an event, you don’t want any branding confusion. Insist that there will be no other bank or credit union on the roster. Period. If the producers won’t agree, thank them for their time and go find something else to be involved in. Having more than one financial institution sponsoring an event will eviscerate any benefit you’re likely to get.

Commandment 3: Thou Shalt Use Thy Imagination

If you can’t find an event to pin your brand to, think one up. If you’re trying to reach small business customers, create a series of small-business how-to workshops. Or create a First Community Bank Small Business Awards breakfast. If you want to reach entrepreneurial women, create an event for them. It’s not hard to create a new event. In fact, it gives you the best chance to shape it fully in your image. And don’t be afraid to go down this route because of "limited resources” at the bank.

Commandment 4: Thou Shalt Honor Thy Ad Agency

If you’re dealing with an ad agency, ask them for their ideas on how to build something specific for you. If you don’t have an agency, sit down with your local chamber of commerce, and ask the same thing. Or perhaps there’s a local business roundtable. Or a marketing consultant you occasionally use. The idea is to enlist outside help. In any case, tell them you want them to be creative. You want them to suggest something extraordinary. You may be surprised by the energy that begins to flow as ideas are vetted.

Commandment 5: Thou Shalt Pick Thy Partners Judiciously

Look who else is sponsoring the event you’re part of. Are they customers or referral providers to the bank? Are they firms whose company you would keep? You will be viewed in part by the others who are involved with you. Does it make sense to be aligned with an auto parts store that’s also "stepping up” for the chamber? If you’re putting on your own event, you can choose your partners. Perhaps a local law firm or accounting firm (or both) who refer a lot of business to your bank would welcome the opportunity to be supporting sponsors of an event with you.

Commandment 6: Thou Shalt Talk. A Lot.

Whether putting your name on an established event, or building one of your own, your goal is exposure. You want to be in front of a specific audience. That means that representatives from your organization should be on stage, as presenters, as moderators, as guides. But they need to be seen as the driving force of the event – you know, the one that has your name up top. You don’t want someone to merely "recognize” you from the podium. You want your bank personnel up there at the podium, being seen and hammering home the point that this is your time in the spotlight.

Commandment 7: Thou Shalt Communicate With The Press

Event marketing is more than just putting on a good conference or show. It’s about leveraging every dollar for maximum exposure. That means lots of pre- and post-event publicity. Send out press releases that you’ve named a show. Send another that you’ve set a date. Send another that you’ve lined up speakers. And another reminder that the event is a week off. Invite the press to the event. Encourage photographers. Then send out post-show PR about what happened at the event. Post all of these to your bank’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages. And in every one of those releases, don’t forget that the name of the event has your name first.

Commandment 8: Thou Shalt Tell Thy Customers About The Event

Don’t forget to use statement stuffers and in-branch collateral material to promote the event – and to show off your involvement in it.

Commandment 9: Thou Shalt Not Miss Opportunities

If you’re putting on an event with speakers, have a lunch a week before in which you bring all the speakers together (with, of course, your bank representatives). If you’re giving awards, bring the award winners together (with, of course, your bank representatives) to take group photos – and photos of them with your bank representatives. At every event you’re part of, think about additional low- or no-cost opportunities to wring additional value. After all, the whole point of this is to put you in front of people who can, and should, be sending business your way.

Commandment 10: Thou Shalt Commit Thyself To Sustainability

Bank brands aren’t built on quick hits. Your goal is to create one or more events that showcases your bank and promotes its business interests. So think long-term. Is this "seminar” repeatable? If so, how often? Is this awards event something that can be brought back year after year? You want to create something that generates buzz not just on the day of the event, but before and after. That’s why you want to be part of something that can become a brand unto itself.

Regardless of the size of your financial institution, event marketing should be one of the biggest tools in your marketing toolbox. Don’t be afraid to wield it – there are people and organizations that can help you, if you need it. But when you do wield it, do it as a craftsman would. Built the right way, branded events will be a solid source of business for your bank.

Vincent Michael Valvo is CEO of Agility Resources Group, which works with banks and credit unions on creative marketing initiatives. He can be reached at

Tags:  community involvement  sponsorship 

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