What Bankers Need to Know about Inbound Marketing

Bank Inbound Marketing

It comes as no surprise to the educated and insightful community banker that our customers do not care about our products and services.  Wait, read on and don’t pass judgment yet!  What we mean by that is that customers don’t care about the way we underwrite loans, our construction terms, our deposit rates or how we gather checks remotely.  None of that matters to customers.  Customers want their specific needs met effectively and completely – they are looking for solutions.  Those needs may require a quick decision on a loan, a well-priced construction facility, a flexible deposit account or the ability to send funds electronically rather than physically. 

When marketing our bank, we must focus the campaign on our customers’ needs and not on our products or services.  Explaining why our products and services are best of breed or better than our competition will get banks suboptimal results and below industry return on equity (ROE).  Instead, our marketing campaigns must focus on our customer’s pain or desires and how we can alleviate the pain or satisfy those desires.

What is Outbound Versus Inbound Marketing?

Outbound marketing is “Old World” and inefficient.  It focuses on our products and services instead of the customer’s needs. In outbound marketing, the message is one way (email, or voice mail), customers are sought out from the masses (TV or radio ads), the marketer does not know the customer and cannot add value, and the marketer cannot easily entertain or educate.  Outbound marketing is all about push selling.  Outbound marketing will never go away as it meets some very important needs for certain competitors (especially large companies with simple products that need awareness).  General Mills, Proctor & Gamble, Bank of America and Wells Fargo will never stop outbound marketing, as it is a vital part of their branding, image and advertising. Large companies that “make” the market, and are a large part of the market, must engage in outbound marketing.  However, for smaller competitors outbound marketing is not cost effective and yields a low ROI.   

Inbound marketing is not new, it has been around for thousands of years but has become much more powerful with the advent of the internet and some of the applications that ensued.  Inbound marketing focuses on the customer’s needs and relies on earning customers interest and loyalty instead of buying the business.  Communication is two-way and interactive.  This involves applications that provide feedback to the marketer.  Customers come seeking you out through search engines, referrals and social media.  Inbound marketers require that you provide value by sharing knowledge, current information or tools.  The marketer’s main aim is to educate or entertain, building a relationship, and sales will then follow when the timing is right for the prospect.  

How to Implement Inbound Marketing

There are four elements of a successful inbound marketing campaign.  First, the bank marketer must have relevant and proprietary content and knowledge.  The marketer must have access to information that customers need.  This can be in the form of white papers, tools (calculators, worksheets, policy papers), blogs, vlogs (videos), or informational updates (important regulatory, tax, economic or policy updates).

Second, the bank marketer needs a way to distribute this information (an interactive platform).  This can be done on the website, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, in-person or at events such as seminars and conventions. 

Third, the bank marketer must have access to a targeted market list.  We cannot send information to everyone and the more refined the database the more effective the campaign.  The targeting of the database can be done by geography (everyone within a distance of the bank’s footprint), by need (everyone that has a pain that the bank can alleviate or need that the bank can meet – this information is more difficult to acquire).  Or, the target list can be by association or affiliation (as an example, doctors, or contractors, or retirees). 

The fourth, and last element, of a successful inbound marketing campaign, is the intelligence tool or database analytics.  No human being can keep track of an inbound marketing campaign without the help of an application or software.  The data analytics must be able to build the campaign, respond to feedback, and track responses across different sales pipelines (no entity can sell a product effectively through strictly in-person visit, or strictly by email, or strictly through Twitter).  Being able to manage a successful marketing campaign requires sophisticated (but relatively cheap and easy to implement) software.


Inbound marketing is a fancy name for understanding and engaging the customer through multiple channels to better understand and address your customer’s needs.  Inbound marketing positions your bank as an industry expert.  Whether your expertise is in construction lending, private banking, or wealth management each bank must develop expert knowledge and then demonstrate that knowledge to the right prospects and customers to earn their business.  Software programs abound that will allow your bank to manage your inbound marketing campaign with timers, goals, landing pages, web forms and decision-trees.  The intent of inbound marketing is to complement your banks’ in-person calling efforts.  Most sales of highly tailored products, such as commercial loans, as an example, will be consummated through an in-person meeting.  But, a multi-channel inbound marketing campaign can add sales, improve efficiency and increase ROE.