This blog entry authored by Taylor W. Wells, Communications Director for On The Mark Strategies.

Banks and credit unions face stiff competition for consumers these days. There is a cacophony of voices out there, all vying for a few moments of attention from your members or customers.

And, with few exceptions, we offer pretty much the same products and services. The challenge, then, becomes one of memorability. In other words, how can banks and credit unions stand out in the minds of existing and potential consumers?

More and more, that comes back to brand. Financial institutions must develop, launch and nurture genuine and authentic brand personalities that match what they best do with the niche audiences they best serve. A common concern amongst banks and credit unions going through a re-branding process is one of cost. How can our financial institution, the question often goes, stand out amongst the crowd while working with a limited budget?

The good news: there are ways in which you can build a memorable brand with consumers that don’t have to break your marketing budget. Take, for instance, and experience I had with a well-known furniture store recently. I went to the store looking for a matching share for my already-existing dining room set. The young salesman was friendly, helpful and acted like my relatively small (potential) purchase was the most important thing on his plate that day.

I decided not to buy the chair that day. Imagine my surprise when, in the mail the very next day, there was a hand-written card from the young salesman, thanking me for coming in, specifically mentioning the model chair for which I was looking and inviting me to come back any time should I decide to purchase it.

The big-picture lesson here? Building brand fans is all about the small touches.

Keep in mind, I had made much larger purchases from the furniture store in the past and on that particular day wasn’t even looking for something terribly expensive. But, to the young salesman, it obviously mattered. And he extended his brand to me with superior service, friendliness and what I’m sure was a relatively inexpensive thank-you postcard. It’s also worth noting that, even when I was in the same store browsing for considerably larger purchases, I never received a thank you card from the salesperson at that time.

This experience stuck out with me strongly enough that I did, in fact, go back to the store to purchase the chair. It was an inexpensive and easy way for the furniture store to cultivate an existing customer into someone that made an additional purchase.

This translates well into the world of financial institutions. With your existing members and customers, it is the small brand touches that can make the biggest impressions. And again, they don’t have to cost a ton of money. Inexpensive postcards, telephone calls, emails and even interactions on social media are not expensive to accomplish. But, they can mean the world to a member or customer and can (as evidenced in my example) even result in deeper product penetration. What was a simple extra dining room chair in my case could translate into another loan, checking account or savings product for your bank or credit union.

Branding is a huge job but don’t let it scare you. There are plenty of things – especially little things – you can do to help build a memorable brand in your consumers’ minds. Other than an inexpensive postcard, what ideas do you have to help build your brand that won’t simultaneously break your budget?