ABA Banking Journal - September 2009 - (Page 16)
Community Banking bank to step up non-real-estate smallbusiness lending. In series of moves starting last year, Robert Tabas, already chairman, became CEO as well, and COO James McSwiggan also became president. The bank hired a new chief credit officer, a new chief lending officer, and a new CFO, and also hired a banker to head up the new small-business operation, which includes a Small Business Administration loan function. While real estate lending will remain a significant part of Royal’s business, the intent is to push the commercial realestate lending ratios down. “We want to come out under the concentration limits,” says McSwiggan. Shifting to small-business lending “is the right product at the right time,” he adds. The bank has stepped up its marketing to make the case that while other institutions have pulled back from the small business market, it has funds to lend. Thus was the concept of a marketing campaign born, including a link with the bank’s past. Bank officials say the effort has produced $24.2 million in small business loans thus far. Royal Bank America’s Twitter outreach drives followers to its website, and sends its own messages. Marketing director Marc Sanders got started with social media running his blog, called “Burgatory.” Shifting the marketing image Royal Bank had become known as one of the go-to places for commercial real estate funds, and moving the market’s perception beyond that niche has taken a number of strategies. Royal was never a traditional bank promoter, according to Marc Sanders, director of marketing. Indeed, for years the bank was known for headgear not generally connected with Pennsylvania: a cowboy hat. The controlling family’s patriarch, and longtime chairman of the bank, Daniel Tabas, became so identified with the hat that the photo released along with his official obituary in 2003 showed him wearing one. To this day, Royal sometimes refers to lenders as “loan rangers.” The cowboy hats appeared in branches, and elsewhere. Notably, they were played up in the bank’s outdoor advertising. Sanders explains that the bulk of the bank’s advertising budget has long been 16 SEPTEMBER 2009/ABA BANKING JOURNAL spent on billboards, with comparatively little going into traditional media. This was an outgrowth of the family’s history in the hospitality business. Long ago, Sanders says, management realized it could never outspend big banks’ ad budgets, so it decided to spend what it had on “quirky” and unusual approaches that would be more memorable than traditional media. So the bank’s latest marketing effort has been built around a special website, www.spurtheeconomy.com. The spur in the name and the graphics used wherever it is referred to carry a double meaning. The first is the obvious one—to stimulate economic activity through lending by Royal. The other is the pickup on the cowboy motif, says Sanders, symbolized now by the western-style spur depicted, instead of the traditional cowboy hat. One early billboard blared, “HATS OFF! SPURS ON! Royal Bank America Has Millions To Lend To Small Businesses!” The familiar cowboy hat is off to the side, and Robert Tabas is pictured in a business suit with a classic pair of western spurs strapped to his heels. Robert Tabas’ picture and a welcome message from him open the site, which features links to four key products—business lines of credit, remote deposit capture, free business checking, and business credit cards—and quick links to lenders and branches plus an online loan application. The bank is promoting its ability to close loans right in its branches, and, besides lines of credit, has been promoting equipment leasing and corporate credit cards. The billboards and the special website are designed to speak directly to potential small business borrowers seeking working capital loans and other basic services. “This is geared to people who selfidentify themselves as growing small businesses,” says Sanders. The bank maintains eight billboards, currently, promoting the Spur program, most on major arteries of the Philadelphia metro area. The message, outdoor and online The Spur the Economy website opens with a shot of a billboard, and then the “camera” moves in for a close-up, which then morphs into the special Spur the Economy website. The Twitter factor Most of the billboards feature the bank’s Twitter address, www.twitter.com/Spur TheEconomy. Sanders added the Twitter element to the bank’s mix to improve online visibility. “I want to be where the conversations are,” explains Sanders. “We are open for business and we are one of the banks that are open for lending.” The first “tweet” was: “Dipping toe in water …seems ok.” The bank’s Twitter home page features Subscribe at www.ababj.com
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