Our Guest: Corey Dall
Company: First Bank
Allan Greer: Martha, if you had the support and the funding, how would you improve or increase educational opportunities within your community?
Martha France: Well, Allan, as you know, I'm passionate about getting kids involved in robotics and STEM. I would focus my efforts there. Hey, do you have some extra funds? Or would you want to lend some support by volunteering?
Allan: Well, you know, I can do the robot dance if that would be supportive. In any case, our guest, Cory Dall, shared with us how First Bank is leveraging the power of storytelling for social good. Their initiative Project Launch may really inspire you.
Allan: Hello, and welcome to Bank Marketing Today by Vya. I am Allan Greer and together with Martha France, we are interviewing bank marketing leaders about current trends, new marketing technologies, branding and the overall state of the banking industry. We will be joined from time to time by additional co-hosts and experts.
Martha: In this episode, we spoke to Corey Dall, SVP, Director of Marketing at First Bank. We had wide ranging discussions on everything from storytelling, a unique approach to philanthropy, how to take the plunge and dive headfirst into data, and a whole lot more. So let's get to it. We hope this episode of Bank Marketing Today helps simplify your marketing tomorrow.
Martha: Hello, I am Martha France and I'm here today with my co host, Allan Greer. And we are so excited to be talking with Corey Dall, Senior Vice President, Director of Marketing at First Bank. Welcome to the Bank Marketing Today Podcast, Corey.
Corey Dall: Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.
Allan: You're welcome. Yeah, we're very excited. And hey, just to kind of kick things off I was just wondering if you can share with us how you got into banking, and then also what drew you to First Bank?
Corey: So, like most English majors, it was a bit of a circuitous route, right? Initially, I'd gone to grad school for English literature, thinking, I wanted to be a professor. That was not actually the case, once I got there. And from there, I went into journalism and publishing and did a lot of writing and storytelling through that and then I got the opportunity to work at Harvard University in their Division of Continuing Education. And that was really a wonderful opportunity for me, lots of great storytelling there. We started their content marketing, we started their social media, we revamped their website and really brought to life what it was to continue your education. And that was also the spot where I kind of solidified my desire to put any of my efforts professionally into my passion for social impact and doing social good there. I got a really wonderful opportunity to help teach some writing classes to adults. And it just was really a great experience. And then we got tired of the blizzards in Boston and decided to move south and ended up here living now, in Durham, North Carolina.
Allan: Yeah, you have a super interesting background, it brings a different perspective to bank marketing, and how maybe you bring those, you know, from an English background and connecting with people, from a teaching point of view, I think you bring a very interesting spin to what you bring to the marketing side for First Bank. Along with that, what do you think differentiates First Bank in the market overall?
Corey: First thing, I think it's in a really great spot right now. We've just crested the 10 billion asset mark. So there's been a lot of changes a lot of growth, there's no secret that we're in growth mode. And so there's a lot of opportunity for us to help even more businesses than we have before. I know a lot of banks say this, but we're kind of in that great spot where we can continue to treat you like an individual and a human being rather than an account number and a balance, but also offer the same products that the really mega banks do and help any size business really, whether it's with a very large and complex loan, or really any business solution that's out there, we've got it to the same great and or even better technologies, security, all that kind of good stuff. But we you know, give you our cell phone number so that you can reach us at all hours. And it's really a concierge service for any of our clients.
Allan: Great. Would you like to share that number with our audience? No, I'm kidding.
Martha: Cory, as you talk about First Bank and how important it is to truly relate to the communities and make that connection, as well as your drive to make a social impact, that all seems very related to Project Launch. I'm wondering if you could tell us a little bit more about that?
Corey: We're really excited about Project Launch. It's started this year, it's a program where we're asking people, if you had the support and the funding, how would you improve or increase educational opportunities in your community? Mike Mayer, our CEO has committed a half million dollars in supporting education through this program. So you see it in are the rewards that we're giving to those who are selected as winners in our contest. And we're also working on some strategic partnerships really further those dollars and make a lasting impact on education. This was really born out of a campaign that we ran in 2017 and 18, that we called “Dream It Do It”, where at the time we were asking people, what are your dreams? What do you what do you want to do? And through that we gave away $140,000 to individuals and nonprofits, to really help them accomplish their dreams. Everything from helping a gentleman buy a piece of equipment so that he could start his own business to helping a family up fit their home for their daughter who was in a wheelchair and wanted her own space as she moved into teenager hood. It really brought our culture to life in a very tangible way that we wanted Project Launch to echo that success, but scale up and reflect the size of the of the bank that we are now and to do something even bigger and really help in an area where there's a lot of help needed, right, in the wake of COVID-19.
Martha: So how does, how does Project Launch work? How do people apply and then how in the world do you ever choose among all the need that's out there?
Corey: So we have a pretty simple form at localfirstbank.com/projectlaunch and we ask people just to share with us a little bit about their idea. They can upload about a business plan, if they have one, or a project plan, and then a group of employees, a diverse group of employees and community members take a look at the entries. And I can tell you it is not easy. It is not easy to narrow it down. But one of the good things about the contest is you only need to enter once, right? So your entry is valid through the life of the contest. So we started, I think, mid February, and it goes all the way through mid December of this year. So your entry will be valid at any and all time. So if it wasn't picked that one time, it will likely be considered again. So, we have a lot of chances to review. It's been a really fun and rewarding experience.
Martha: Are there any examples that you'd like to share?
Corey: There's a teacher down in Elgin, South Carolina, and she works with students who love biology. Right now she's got a kind of green room, quote, unquote, set up in a little closet in her classroom. And she's really passionate about it. She’s a really wonderful lady. With the funds that we're giving them, they're going to move their green room outside, and double and triple the size of it, they'll be able to grow food for their students who may need some extra assistance with food to really give the kids extra hands on learning in the garden, get their hands dirty. And she is just so excited. I was actually emailing with her the other day about it. And you can just feel the excitement coming through her emails. It's really fantastic.
Martha: That's what's so wonderful about investing in education. It's such a force multiplier. Like I think of all those kids that are going to have a great perspective on agriculture and the environment and you guys are supporting that. I think that's just amazing.
Corey: It's been really great. Other projects have included beefing up school libraries, not surprisingly. We're also funding a business accelerator down in Asheboro, North Carolina that we're really excited about and some of our First Bankers will be teaching some of the sessions in that. So we're touching education from any and all ages and any and all angles.
Martha: That's incredible. Yeah, I was I was right away thinking children, but I love that it's much broader than that. How have you been approaching marketing as far as Project Launch goes? And I know, early on, you said that you're really all about storytelling, I would imagine, and you just told us some wonderful stories. So can you tell us a little bit more about your marketing approach?
Corey: We really started internally first, because we wanted our employees to get as excited about Project Launch as they were about Dream It Do It. So you know, there's a lot of internal communications, we made sure some swag was available, some really soft vintagey looking T shirts, all of those things. We're gonna be doing a few other efforts for our employees, including photo booth in a box, which I'm really excited about. So we started with our employees first, and then, you know, turn to traditional marketing, spending some dollars on social media, we did print advertising, we did radio advertising. We even spent a little bit on TV and it kind of launched at the same time as we were finishing up an acquisition so there was a lot of opportunity for us to tell our story and talk about Project Launch, and why it's important to us in those new markets and to our new customers.
Allan: Yeah, I think I have a big question. It kind of two parts. First of all, I'm very interested on the photo booth in a box. What is that? And then secondly, can it make me look any better on my Zoom calls?
Corey: We can hook you up for that with a First Bank branded ring light, if that'll help.
Allan: That will probably help.
Corey: Yeah, so photo booth in a box is kind of a new idea we've been playing with and we're building it out as we speak. What it looks like is some fun items, including, you know, a kind of Instagram frame that's branded Project Launch and First Bank. We've got little selfie sticks that we're going to design in different shapes, we're going to do some temp tattoos, we're going to do some stickers, we've got sunglasses. We’ve even got a featherless boa that we're going to be sending out to our employees. And what we want to do, and what we hope happens, is that they get excited about these items and they'll pose with each other and customers in their branches or out in the community and that will really start a conversation about what Project Launch is and why we're doing it. I'm really excited about this one.
Allan: Corey you mentioned in a previous conversation the once a month huddle. I was wondering if you can expound upon that a little bit? It's so often people put up signs in different branches and so forth and you know, don't really put the message out there full tilt, and then they kind of think they’re done with it. How do you incorporate that in an ongoing process?
Corey: Our culture here at First Bank is really, really important to us. It's important to Mike Mayer, it starts from the top down. It's reflected in every single conversation that he has, whether it's with employees or others outside of the bank, and as a result, it's important to all of us, right? We rally around what we call our promise to service excellence. And ultimately what it means is that we are dedicated to helping our customers achieve their dreams, whatever shape and form that looks like, you know, First Bank is all about it. And so to help kind of keep that message alive, to help keep our culture alive, to help keep cultivating it, we have once a month huddles. Where every branch, every department, every individual subsidiary of First Bank are participating in these huddles, usually around a topic. One of the ones we did was around Project Launch. A recent one was around communicating your appreciation for each other on help and projects and how a simple thank you can go a long way. So it's internal and external topics. But it's really important to us, and it's something we've been dedicated to now for years.
Allan: What's the marketing's role in all that? Do you team up with other departments like HR In the Service Excellence committee? Or how do you do that?
Corey: You know, marketing is there to support and of course, because we own our corporate social responsibility program, anything that we build about First Bank out in the community is really based on our promise, and based on our culture, and looking at how can we engage our employees and make them feel good about working for First Bank, and make the First Bank mission come alive. So, you know, it's really our job to kind of make that external facing as much as possible and make it make our brand message really resonate with what we're saying inside.
Martha: Corey, so building on that when you talk about marketing owning that corporate responsibility program, and I think this is true of so many marketing departments where there are demands outside of what we have traditionally thought of marketing, so kind of what's your marketing team like? How are you able to address all these new expectations along with what is traditionally expected of a marketing team?
Corey: Yeah, we are a lean mean marketing machine of five people. So you know, we've got wonderful folks heading up our public relations, social media, we have an in house graphic designer and a marketing assistant who keeps our train on the tracks. We try to do as much internally as possible. First Bank is very collaborative environment. So, you know, we're talking to line of business heads, we're talking to executive leadership all the time to make sure what we're executing on is in line with expectations and needs from around the bank. We also have a really great agency partner out in Chapel Hill, the Rivers Agency, that we've been working with for many, many years, and they help us with some of the larger design and also web development projects.
Martha: So with all of that, what do you see as your biggest marketing challenges and how are you addressing them?
Corey: There are a million banks out there right now with First in the name, right? I mean, in our own markets here in the Southeast, but really, across the US and even internationally. So we do have a struggle with differentiating our brand, even in markets where we have 13 or 16 branches, right? They're like, what First, are you? Oh, you're the ones with the red sign, right? And we like to joke that we're the best kept secret in the Carolinas and we don't want to be. We want everyone to know who First Bank is. Everything that marketing does and executes on is helping to build our brand message to differentiate us, but it is definitely an uphill climb. And our branches are carrying some of that burden as well as they go out and have conversations and their actions and their dedication really helped differentiate us to when they start showing up at all the community events.
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Allan: I’ll kind of change things up a little bit, and maybe this is kind of a big question, but you know the big buzz today is about data and analytics. I wonder how are you incorporating that there at First Bank?
Corey: Yeah, at First Bank, I think we are very data forward. Everything that I do is based on data. I like to say I can make pretty pictures all day long and tell a really good story, but if I'm not showing the data or the outcome of my actions or of the team's actions, then I'm not doing my job, right? So yeah, we tap into every stream of data we can and you know we have click trackers all over the website and all that kind of good stuff, just to make sure that we're really having the impact we intend to.
Allan: Yeah, it seems like such a such a big thing to get your arms around. I think a lot of people understand it's where they need to be and where they need to go but it just gets overwhelming. How do you address that? You know, with your team? You mentioned you have a team of five. Are you working with other departments or how you're getting your arms all around all of that?
Corey: It's a slow and steady job, right? So when I first got here, we had data all over the place, but no one central spot to kind of tap into it as a marketing team. So from there, we built kind of what we call our marketing database that looks at what's happening with our customers, it looks at online banking, looks at some of our other lines of businesses and pulls it all into one place in a SQL database. But we knew we needed to kind of continue to scale up, especially as we grow. So thankfully, the bank has recently hired Terrence Thomas as our new Chief Information Officer. He just started actually earlier this month, and I really cannot wait to geek out about data with him. I think we're going to have some really great conversations about where we are and where we're going to go.
Martha: That's so important to have those resources that you can really collaborate with. But then once you have all that data, and you can recognize the differences in the types of customers that you have, and certainly by serving the Carolinas, where you've got very rural areas and very urban areas, how do you ensure that your message is still staying true to that brand that you're that you're trying to build and really set apart while at the same time resonating with the different people that you have in the different communities?
Corey: Yeah, there's been a lot of talk in marketing generally about personalization. And we certainly are exploring that and what it means at First Bank, so we're trying to deliver the right messages at the right time to the right people, especially our customers. And then really again, it goes back to our culture, we're trying to help people achieve their dreams, we don't want to spam them with a bunch of stuff that they don't need to know. But at the same time, we also want to provide financial education and want to provide information about the range of products and services that they have available with us that they might not know about, right? So we do everything from your checking and savings accounts or loans to mortgages and not everybody knows all of those things. So there's certainly some education that happens there. But we want to deliver it in a timely and relevant manner.
Martha: I think related to that, I think so many banks are kind of in this position where they need to address the needs of their lines of business. But then sometimes that can go contrary to the customer, you talked about not spamming the customer. So you could have all these lines of business coming in at once. How are you balancing that approach?
Corey: As I mentioned, we're very collaborative, we really are trying to break down any silos that might happen. We just talk to one another right and share what our goals are. And we share the goals as a company, not just as a line of business. And so working together to achieve those goals again, staying true to our culture, we find the best path forward. I think when you when you get the right people at the table and hear all the diverse voices, I think good things happen. And we've certainly seen that here, which has been really wonderful to be a part of.
Allan: Corey, kind of again changing a little bit of direction here, but you know I'd love to hear from folks in your position, where do you think the industry is going? I mean, obviously, markets across the border are quickly evolving in lots of different areas. But, in regards to banking, where do you see the industry going?
Corey: That's a really great question and one I've been thinking about a lot lately. Obviously, technology is going to be a big part of that, whatever that looks like in the next five years, even with AI and data and all that kind of good stuff. But I think too, there's been a lot written, there's a think piece every year, right, about the death of the branch. Everybody's scaling back and closing branches. But I think our sweet spot is providing the technology that people need when they want to bank on their own but providing that open door and that consistent and knowledgeable experience when they need to talk somebody. You know, Millennials and Gen Z, they still like to come in and have an in person conversation. And maybe that in person conversation is over FaceTime, when it needs to be to keep everybody safe. But it's still that personal touch behind the tech that I think will still be resonant for folks, especially when it involves something as personal as their money.
Allan: You know, I have a personal banker, and I still love when I can just talk to them sometimes. You know, I love the technology and all that kind of stuff. I love my facial recognition, I can log into my account, I love that. But at the same time, it's just the fact that if I need a question answered, or if I just need some help, it's nice to have somebody I can reach out and talk with too. So what about you know, expanding your knowledge? Where do you go to learn and expand your marketing knowledge overall, not only with banking, but just in general?
Corey: That's a great question. I look to all industries to learn, right? Maybe one company way outside of the financial industry is doing something really cool for their customers. And so I pay attention to that. I spend a lot of time on social, not surprisingly. I think most of us do. And then, you know, I try to get involved with our local Marketing Association. The triangle in particular has a pretty strong American Marketing Association group. They're getting involved in that and doing webinars. I spend a lot of time recently around CSR and what that looks like, and trust philanthropy and all that kind of good stuff is really been an area of passion of mine. So I've been leaning into that and then joining professional groups around that space as well.
Martha: What was that last one you just said Cory? I'm not sure if I'm familiar with that.
Corey: Yeah, it's an approach to philanthropy. It's called Trust Philanthropy, I might be misnaming it, but the idea is that instead of just writing a check to someone and letting it go, it's about really getting to know the nonprofit heads and getting to understand their needs, and working collaboratively on where a donation might go, or where they need the most support and making it more relationship based rather than transactional based. It's something really exciting and I think it’s something that we do naturally just because we're so community focused.
Martha: Very cool. Yeah, I wasn't familiar with that. I'll have to look into that some more. You know, one of the things that just occurred to me through our conversation, I think it's so interesting that you come from this English and literature background, but yet you seem very technology oriented, very data oriented, very analytic. And I'm sure that can surprise people sometimes. I'm kind of curious as to how you really were able to expound in two very different directions there.
Corey: It was not natural to me, I think, especially early in my career, you know, I could knock out a 400 word article, but if you asked me to look at the data on that it would take me a little bit. It's certainly something that I've learned over my career. I think it was born out of, you know, sometimes marketing can feel like you're screaming into the void, right? And you're like, nobody's hearing me, but I'm doing all this work and putting all this effort in, and then you want to know, like, okay, well, what does this result in? And that leads you down the data path, because that's the only place that you can find the actual answer over anecdotal answer. So, you know, I spent a lot of time on it, I got some extra training, did some professional development in it, just to really make sure that I was understanding data, understanding what we needed to track, again, leaning on what other companies are doing what other companies are talking about in terms of their data, and really got into it from there.
Martha: I really admire you for that because I do think sometimes we tend to put ourselves in a box, right? I'm this type of person and so I'm never going to be able to figure out this stuff over here. But it sounds like you really challenged yourself and achieved that. That’s really admirable.
Corey: Oh, thank you. Yeah, it turns out I really like data. I had no idea. But I really do like to get into the numbers and do some calculating and maybe that's the banker side of me coming over after all.
Allan: Well, like said before, I'm not sending you any emails without Martha proofreading it first.
Corey: Happy to help edit anything. Any time.
Allan: Yeah, you should not say that! That’s a huge job.
Martha: Well, Cory, thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us today. I know Allan and I both enjoyed the discussion and we wish you continued success at First Bank.
Corey: Thank you so much. It's really been fun.
Martha: You know, Allan, I was really impressed with Cory and with Project Launch. I also love the idea of the team huddle, where you can celebrate all the great things your teammates are doing every day all around you, but you know those things that often get overlooked?
Allan: You're right. I mean, it's so powerful when somebody simply just takes the time to acknowledge what someone around them is doing. Even if it's, you know, the small things it's so powerful. So going back to your passion for robotics, Martha, I've stretched and I'm ready to dance the robot.
Martha: Um, I'll let you know when the next meet is.
Allan: Thanks to our listeners for joining us. We'd like to invite you to connect with Martha France and myself, Allan Greer on LinkedIn. Be sure to subscribe and give us a review. We would love to hear from you. If you have any ideas for topics or questions you'd like us to cover in the future, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and again that’s marketing@vyasystems with an S .com. Thank you so much.
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