In the News
Oh, The Tangled Webs We Weave...
July, 1999- PA Banker Magazine
By Maria T. Brady
Shakespeare would be amazed how the
definition of "Web" has evolved. Millions
of surfers and businesses are astonished at the possibilities
of the World Wide Web. So how does one begin to build
an attention-keeping Web site? What are the pitfalls
to avoid? How can you entice visitors without getting
them tangled and frustrated at your site? This article
will present fundamental ideas to consider when initiating
development of your bank's Web site.
EXPONENTIAL BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY
It is estimated "that total electronic commerce
will account for as much as 6% of United States' Gross
Domestic Product by 2005." Over 70 million people
worldwide access the Internet. The potential for business
is exponential. However, prospects, also known as "Web
Surfers", have a very limited attention span. Moving
to another site is just "a mouse click away."
Presentation is key in maintaining your visitor's attention
and encouraging movement through your site.
How can a community or regional bank
capitalize on Internet opportunities? We know that someone
in Alaska or Asia isn't your target audience. Your bank
focuses on the local community or region. One idea is
to use the bank's site as a sales tool, building awareness
of products, services, rates or the bank's history and
community role. Other special interest sections could
be a community bulletin board with special events, small
business tips or other interesting information. Another
way to utilize your site is to target and attract younger
customers who may otherwise turn to alternative banking
The future of any business lies in the ability to adapt
and capitalize on changing environments. Believe it
or not, almost an entire generation has quickly learned
to maneuver on the Internet and have benefited from
the many conveniences it provides. Unlike the babyboomers
and retirees who relish in the personal touch, the "youngsters"
- age 2 1-30 are motivated by ease and convenience.
This generation can surf the Web for music, download
it and never have to leave their desks. Within the next
five years, online users between the ages of 2 and 18
will number 42 million. Through educational, yet entertaining
sites like Nick Jr., even toddlers can benefit from
Today's college graduates enter a
work environment demanding more than a 40-hour week
allotting little free time. Online banking is very attractive
to this group, allowing funds to be transferred at 10:00
p.m., bills to be paid at
11:00 p.m. and online trading to be done during lunch.
A teller knowing the Generation X person by name, may
be important, but not the deciding factor in selecting
a banking relationship. Irwin Bank and Trust Company
located in Irwin, Pennsylvania, a growing suburb of
Pittsburgh, recently went online with very positive
results. "Initially, our site was designed to provide
a comprehensive overview of our products and the benefits
of banking with us. Now, we are considering online banking,"
said Charles Urtin, President and CEO. Shortly, the
bank will conduct a survey online and through customer
statements about the appeal of telephone bill paying
and online account service. Participants will be automatically
entered into a prize drawing for a vacation. Currently,
Irwin Bank customers can access account activity and
transfer funds through "In-Touch Banking",
a telephone-based, automated system. "In-Touch
usage continues to rise indicating convenience is important
to our customers," added Mr Urtin.
FINDING YOUR BANK
The Web functions as a directory
tool allowing people to access a wealth of information,
such as interest rates, and to make an educated buying
decision. People find you on the Internet in two ways
- your specific bank name or by "key word"
searches. Your bank's name needs to be a registered
domain. Upon registering, no one else can use your name.
You can register online at Intemic.com. At this Internet
site, you can research name availability and register
your bank's name for a fee. In some cases, a bank may
already have your name in another part of the country.
You could, for example, simply add "PA" after
your name to help differentiate.
"Key words" are words entered
in the key entry box that triggers a search engine to
help find your site. Some large engines are Yahoo Excite,
Lycos and Infoseek. The more "key words" found
in your site, the better your chance of having your
site appear after the search is completed. It is a challenge
to rise to the top. However, a good Web designer knows
a few programming tricks to enhance your chances of
being seen. Instead of visitors using general words
in a search (like banking or loans), they may enter
specialty services like, home equity loans, small business
loans or special lending programs. These "key words"
should be found on your home page and throughout your
YOUR SITE SHOULD ACCOMPLISH
The site should be defined by the "user" not
the "creator". For what purpose will people
visit your site? How can the site help the visitor do
business with you? Design your site with multiple audiences
in mind - including existing customers who already contribute
to your bank's success. Treat each group "individually"
by offering specific information relevant to their needs
to ultimately generate business. Drive your visitors
to a desired action. Surfers tune into WIIFM - What's
In It For Me. Quickly and clearly communicate the benefits
of visiting your site. A site map or flowchart is an
excellent tool to quickly outline the functions of your
site. This navigational tool will allow your visitor
to find information faster and enhance movement throughout
your bank's site.
The "look and feel" of your
site should follow the site's function. Check out your
competitors' site or other companies who offer related
products. What do you like or dislike about their sites?
Take notes and share your thoughts with your Web designer.
Site definition is under consideration
at The Ray Hough Co., located in Muse, PA. This progressive
company offers money-saving financial
forms management solutions to institutions of various
President, Ray Hough stated, "After
surveying our customers
and some prospects, we realized that our site's focus
should be more than promoting our company. We have good
name recognition because our sales team makes regular
calls in our market areas, thus reducing the need for
all service capability information on our Web site."
Hough believes a site can provide value through online
requisitioning and order status. "Security is our
main issue and we will continue to pursue the opportunity
of online interaction." When asked how online automation
would affect customer support, he added, "Our customers
will have the option to continue interacting with our
support team, getting the right answer to their question
at any time."
HIRE A PROFESSIONAL
You may be fortunate enough to have a dedicated, professional
marketing department to help structure your site, manage
communications and promote your products. However, the
majority of banks do not have a Web designer on staff
because of salary and equipment expenses. Your Web designer
is the person who will "make or break" your
There's a new buzzword for a good
Web designer - "information architect." Your
information architect will construct a site that visually
attracts your visitor and stimulates interest with well-crafted
words. He or she will help define your information requirements
and develop a site concept. Information needs to be
effectively and logically presented to foster easy movement
throughout your site. Another important point, your
designer should completely understand the banking business.
Stray away' from using "techy" people who
can program with HTML (the language used to build Web
sites), but lack the communication and marketing skills
that make your site memorable and worthy of visiting.
Selecting the wrong designer will cost you a lot of
money and waste valuable time.
YOUR BANK'S STRATEGIC PLAN
The bank's marketing strategy needs to be reflected
in the Web site. If your bank's financial goal is to
grow DDA deposit volume by 5%, then promote DDA in your
site with banner messages and special offers like free
checks for site visitors. Continuity of message is key
in establishing credibility, rapport and relationships.
If your bank's corporate message or image is "The
Hometown Bank That Gives You More." then weave
that message throughout the text and visuals in your
ATTENTION-KEEPING HOME PAGE
This is the most important page on your Web site! Deliver
creative communication that will hold their interest.
For example, a typical bank category may be home equity
loans; a more creative approach may be "What's
Your Borrowing Power?" or "Affordable Payments
Are Here." Benefit-oriented composition will entice
your prospect to learn more and make them feel you understand
Design an attractive page with fast-loading
graphics. If your graphics take time to load, entertain
your surfer with text. Page loading time is a very important
element in site design. Depending upon your target audience,
pages of 40K or less will reduce loading time, minimizing
prospects leaving your site. Check with your designer
to make sure your Web site is compatible with the most
commonly-used Web browsers and for different screen
CREATIVELY, YET QUICKLY
Communicate directly, concisely and quickly. Incorporate
succinct, clear copy points that allow a quick read,
yet will give a solid overview of the bank. Remove flowery,
long-winded statements. Benefit- oriented statements
work best to convey a message. Remember, less is better.
Avoid "techno-clutter". Another buzzword which
means too much technology like animation, busy graphics
and extra sounds clutter the site and make it difficult
to focus or understand a clear message. Do not let "flash
and glitz" be the content of your site.
Do not use templates or mass-produced graphics. These
techniques make your site "look like all the rest".
A talented graphic designer can create a special look
for your bank without compromising your "corporate"
image. Consider visuals that make your bank unique or
those visuals characteristic to your region, like landmarks
or special events. People relate to familiarity. Select
fonts that are easily read and load quickly. Avoid multiple
fonts and background colors that don't compliment which
may make reading difficult.
Visitors should be able to contact you at anytime, anyplace
in your site. With one mouse click, they should be able
to reach e-mail. The bank's phone number should also
be listed on every page for quick reference. And, where
possible, a contact person should be named, specific
to that product or service. For example, contact Theresa
Jones, Vice President of Lending at 123-456-7890.
Test your site during all stages of development. Make
sure the correct pages are linked together. It's very
frustrating to become tangled in pages that are "dead
ends." For ongoing monitoring, select an ISP who
can provide information on number of hits, time of day
and length of visit. However, success measurements for
the bank's site should be based on meeting defined business
goals like an increase in DDA deposits, an increase
in loan volume or number of accounts opened.
To assist in response tracking, encourage
your new accounts staff to simply ask how the customer
heard about your bank. Gather the responses and place
them in a spreadsheet. This is an effective exercise
to evaluate all marketing initiatives, not just your
YOUR BANK WITH A FAST E-MAIL RESPONSE
How do you keep in touch with your visitors or customers?
E-mail is the simple answer. But just how easy is it
to manage? Jupiter Communications found that more than
40% of 125 major commercial sites offered either no
timely response to e-mail from customers or visitors
or no response at all. E-mail distribution needs to
have its own communications flow. Entrust a dedicated
employee to respond to e-mail or distribute the e-mails
to specific individuals or departments. Security is
an issue so your mail keeper must hold information in
confidence. Managing e-mail creates a new wave of culture
change. However, a diligent response is one of the best
ways to differentiate yourself in a competitive banking
arena. Commit resources and promise a response time
of the next business day.
ABOUT YOUR VISITORS
Create a sales opportunity for your bank. Ask your visitors
to tell you a little more about themselves for prospecting
opportunities. For example, simple demographic information,
upcoming purchases, special events, etc. Motivate them
to offer their e-mail address, name and address. A prize
registration or coupon for a special offer/gift usually
works. Once they have registered, keep in touch with
reminders, an e mail newsletter or personalized greetings
like an electronic birthday card!
SITE FRESH AND ATTRACTIVE
What will attract visitors? The answer lies in your
target market. Special economic reports, small business
tips, children's activities or an electronic newsletter
are some ideas for extra attractions. If the bank wants
to attract home equity loans, consider a marketing effort
targeting children. Why? Because families with young
children are good prospects for a home equity product.
For example, create a Small Saver's Club benefiting
children. Support the savings campaign with Internet
games, craft activity ideas, kid's jokes and safety
tips that will be enjoyed by the kids. Then, a message
promoting home equity loans could appear to build awareness
of the bank's products. Promote the site at local schools
and external print ads. With a Kid's Page, the bank
acquires a supportive role with children's needs, plus
the opportunity for product promotion.
MARKET THE BANK'S SITE
For your bank's site to generate business, it must be
promoted. When your site is completely finished and
"debugged", promote the address in all external
advertising including print, radio and TV ads. Also,
promote the site in customer communications like statement
stuffers, receipt messages, stationery and on newly-printed
brochures. Experiment with grass roots marketing of
your site at chamber functions, tradeshows and other
people- oriented events. Consider an inexpensive, colorful
magnet or other "give-a-way" to distribute
at shows. For example, if you're hosting a booth at
a mortgage tradeshow, promote your site for payment
calculations. Design the site so visitors have to look
at your rates before using the bank's calculator. A
few promotional dollars can go along way for earning
a mortgage customer.
Another promotional idea-team up with
local special event coordinators. If your town hosts
an arts festival or community days, participate in co-op
advertising. Take advantage of sponsorship opportunities,
inviting event times and other special event contact
information to be posted on your Web site. Promote the
event and your site in various event advertising mediums.
For example, "Visit the XYZ Bank's Web site for
details on artists and exhibit times." A great
public relations tactic that reduces advertising expenses
and increases site exposure.
- My Website Is Free Advertising
- All We Need Is A Home Page
- Lots Of Graphics Will Grab Their
- The Longer Someone Visits My Site
The More Successful It Is
- My Son's Friend Can
- "Program" Our Site
- We Can't Track Site Hits Or Business
Gained By- Our Site
Keeping in mind these fundamentals of Web design will
help contribute to a solid foundation for your Website
development. Weave a Web that's easy to surf and you're
sure to catch a lot of prey.
Maria T. Brady is owner of Marakae
Marketing, Inc., based in North Huntingdon, PA. Ms.
Brady specializes in financial institution marketing,
offering strategic planning, communication programs
and Web design. She can be reached at 724-863-3105.
"Consumer Internet tactics won't work for
b to b," Hank Barnes, Ecommerce, February 1, 1999
"Overhaul Your Website,"
Bruce Lawrence, Internet Day, March 11, 1999
"Go For The Gold With The Gold!"
Jonathan Cousar, Internet Day, February 24, 1999
CNN Headline News Brief, May 31, 1999
Chuck Urtin, President IBT
Jill George, Marketing, The Dime Bank
Ray Hough, The Ray Hough Co - Financial Forms for Financial