One marketing weapon that community banks often don't use enough is the bank director.
Directors are usually community leaders, and that can be truly valuable to a community bank. They can be the bank's eyes and ears. And they are in a position to recommend the bank's services and let the bank's officer know about business opportunities.
At each board meeting, a kind of "show and tell" would be beneficial. Directors would report on opportunities they have heard about, such as companies moving into town or developments affecting the businesses they deal with.
Some banks have contests for directors, such as weekend getaways for those who generate the most leads for new deposits or loans. Others, however, view lead generation as an integral part of a director's responsibilities and offer no additional incentive.
Either way, this marketing resource should be used.
Another area in which community bank directors can be a resource is in promoting the bank's shares.
If a director feels strongly about the bank, there is nothing unethical in his touting its stock to friends as a solid investment. Nor is there anything wrong in asking his stockbroker to make a market in the stock. Directors can also serve their banks in relations with nonprofit institutions. With few exceptions, museums, colleges, charitable funds, and other nonprofits have been badly hurt by bank consolidations.
When a bank sells to a larger institution, the acquirer generally reduces contributions of time and money to nonprofits the acquired bank had supported. And when there is no local CEO supporting the community's museum or college, employees are also less likely to lend a hand.
Board members can be mobilized to fill the void.
Because board members are usually movers and shakers in nonprofits and charities, they can be a top source of information on how the acquisition of other banks in the region has hurt the nonprofit groups they serve. The community bank can then make a concerted effort to help replace the talent and financial resources the nonprofit organizations have lost.
This does not necessarily involve heavy financial contributions. A community bank can do a great deal for a museum, hospital, or charity drive by promoting it in its publicity and encouraging employees to give of their time and talent.
Board members can also be encouraged to find out how changes in the structure of local banking have affected the services given to charities by local banks. There is often a window of opportunity for the community bank to win deposits or other business from the museum, hospital, or school.
Many banks have found that even without a merger or acquisition in the community a local bank can gain deposits from nonprofits by simply sitting down with their own board members, who also sit on the boards of these other organizations.
When directors are asked why they did not try to bring business from a church, museum, or hospital to a bank, they far too often say: "I never thought of it."
As we all know, it never hurts to ask. Mr. Nadler, an American Banker contributing editor, is professor of finance at Rutgers University Graduate School of Management.