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Leveraging local in your marketing efforts

In the past five years, our organization has invested in a variety of new marketing efforts after a more than 30-year hiatus. We went so long without marketing because it seemed unnecessary – word of mouth was working well. With the business trending to more national providers and the rise of digital marketing, it became clear that proactive marketing would play a critical part in establishing an even stronger brand presence.

Great Midwest Bank has been a part of the Milwaukee residential real estate landscape since 1935. Just like other long-time Milwaukeeans, we take great pride in being a local lender. We wanted to tell this story and show why it matters for Wisconsin borrowers. So the question became: how can we leverage our local expertise?

I’ve had the privilege of playing a central role in those efforts and would offer the following five lessons learned:

  1. Get the front line involved. From the start, our management team had me involved with planning the marketing effort.  Being a mortgage originator myself, I heard the voice of the customer – how other providers sometimes frustrated them and how our products and services stood out.  It offered me plenty of material to pass along in our messaging.  For our radio advertising, we decided that a professional voice just didn’t cut it.  Since I took on that role, I’ve been complimented often on the “believability” factor that goes along with our ads.
  1. Stand out from the crowd. We all know “local” sells.  With lots of businesses making this same claim, you’ll need to convey exactly how your business really makes a difference with its local connection.  Great Midwest Bank, for example, offers a Portfolio Mortgage product that requires us to truly understand not only our borrowers’ entire financial picture but also the property in question.  We’ll take the time to meet individually and study the home being purchased, refinanced or renovated – sometimes driving out to actually “kick the tires.”
  1. Testimonials work. Some of our best advertising has been straight from the mouths of our own customers.  Buying a home is an emotional process – and handing the keys to a new homeowner is a really rewarding experience.  When did you go out of your way to help someone?  The next time you get a big “Thank You!” tell your customer the best way they can reward you is to offer a testimonial.  Use it on your website and share it with prospective clients.
  1. Be prepared for the long haul. Though we were told that our new marketing campaign would take a while to sink in, we had some doubts early on.  To get your local branding to work, you need to stick with it.  Just yesterday, a friend told me he heard me on the radio.  It’s crazy to think I’ve been on the air for five years and he’s only just heard me for the first time.  Repetition is key, and I’d bet he’s heard it before.  Just took a while to sink in.
  1. Get some help. You’re busy, and you may not have a trained marketing specialist on staff. Network with other local businesses to figure out where you can find help to brainstorm campaigns, design and proactively manage a website, and simply coordinate your marketing to leave you time to sell your product or service and manage the rest of your business. We were fortunate enough to find a local branding firm to take our business to the next level – another reason why local is the way to go.

Read more here on how Great Midwest Bank celebrates local.

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Jon Reetz is a graduate of the UW-Madison Business School ('90) and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University ('98). His 25 years of banking experience include 12 in commercial lending and the past 13 with Great Midwest Bank in Brookfield, which specializes in both owner and non-owner occupied residential mortgages.

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