Competing with large financial institutions in nothing new to community banks. But as new specialized companies offer financial services to customers, smaller institutions like Renasant Bank find themselves trapped in the middle between incumbents and upstarts.
Renasant was founded in 1904 in the back of a Mississippi bakery, and now has over $8.3 billion dollars in assets, operating in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. Now fighting a battle for market share on two fronts, Renasant has needed to quickly evolve to keep pace with technology.
The bank has made technology-driven marketing strategies a key to growth.
“You need the digital space to reach the next level of customer,” said John S. Oxford, director of corporate communication & external affairs. “We’re moving from the branch model to a digital placement of media. The day of placing ads in the local newspaper or doing a radio ad and hoping people see or hear it and will come in is gone.”
Utilizing advertising technology to guide and create pin-point marketing campaigns is the competitive advantage smaller institutions need to compete. Tech driven marketing tools can also include targeting audiences through geo fencing or conquesting, which is buying ad space next to a competitor’s editorial content.
“By utilizing addressable advertising with channel-wide interactions across brands, we’re hitting customers with a mix of PR and traditional marketing across marketing platforms,” remarked Oxford.
Renasant has also worked on technology products to complement its new marketing strategies. It released a mobile app for payments, transfers, and deposits, as well as text message banking for account information.
Renasant’s marketing of its new student checking service is an example of the firm’s new approach. The campaign targeted local universities, using geomapping to find areas with large pockets of students in surrounding areas. The bank then marketed via in-app push advertising, presenting offers of affinity cards for local schools.
Community banks have another competitive advantage over large and small players — trust, something Oxford feels is currently undervalued in the market. Fintech companies have developed innovative apps, but may not be established enough to be trusted by users for large transactions. A user may be secure sending pizza money to a friend through Venmo, but not when transferring a down payment on a house. On the other side, the Wells Fargo fraud hasn’t helped consumers gain trust with larger institutions either.
Millennials also value trust, and are looking to see companies prioritize corporate responsibility. By involving themselves in the community, Renasant is hoping to create brand relationships with millennials that will help the bank.
“Community banks are more active in their communities. In rural America, customers don’t see the larger banks out there at the food pantries. We’re combining shoe leather and digital advertising to create successful marketing campaigns,” he concluded.