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May 5

IBA Marketing Wrap-Up: It’s Time to Do More (Finally)

Posted by vgmforbin in Banking


Matt Cunard, Senior Digital Marketer


April was Community Bankers Month, during which my colleagues and I had a lot of different interactions with clients, prospects and fellow financial marketers. The same phrase kept popping up in conversations: “We know we need to do more.” We heard it on the phone with clients, in person at sales presentations and from numerous marketers at the Iowa Bankers Association Marketing Conference last week.


And not everyone’s “more” meant the same thing. For some, “more” meant engaging on social media or working on search engine optimization, while others wanted to expand their online presence or run targeted campaigns. But the key was that all of the “mores” we heard dealt with online marketing.



Apr 19

Does Your Marketing Measure Up?

Posted by vgmforbin in Banking


Matt Cunard, Sr. Digital Marketer, VGM Forbin


“How can we help our customers achieve a higher marketing ROI?” In our planning for the Iowa Bankers Association Marketing Conference next week, myself and other members of our team have asked this question many times. Even though we aren’t bankers, we know challenges exist for bank marketing teams in regard to ROI.


The Financial Brand’s 2016 Financial Marketing survey revealed telling statistics showing how both senior marketing and non-marketing officers in community banks and credit unions view the connection between marketing efforts and ROI:

  • Measuring Marketing ROI: 96 percent of marketing executives said it is at least a minor challenge (46 percent said major challenge, 50 percent said minor challenge); 90 percent of non-marketing execs stated it was at least a minor challenge (60 percent major challenge, 30 minor challenge).
  • Quantifying Marketing’s Impact: 47 percent of marketing executives said it was a struggle; 66 percent of non-marketing executives agreed.
  • Establishing Marketing ROI: 69 percent of marketing execs said their organization could do better, with 59 percent of non-marketing executives saying the same.


With that in mind, we came up with the four questions below to get the wheels turning on how to link marketing investments with strong results your C-suite executives will adore you for.



Apr 18

Better Results Exist Outside the Traditional Marketing Box

Posted by vgmforbin in Banking

digital marketing in banking

Matt Cunard, Senior Digital Marketer

How familiar does the following scenario sound?

Your bank just wrapped up its latest product or service campaign. You meet with executive staff to go over the results, but you’re having a bit of difficulty. You didn’t have the tools in place to measure your campaign, so there aren’t any definitive results to stand on. However, you did the best you could with the shoestring budget you were given.


The result is a meeting that is a little awkward and leaves your upper management’s confidence in you shaken and you feeling more than a little anxious.


If you’ve experienced this situation, you’re not alone. All across the country, community banks are having the same three issues when it comes to their marketing according to the Financial Brand’s 2016 Financial Marketing Trends Report:
1. Measuring performance and/or proving results (ROI)
2. Limited access to data analytics tools & reporting
3. Budget constraints


Knowing your marketing pain points is one thing; figuring out solutions is another. To find success, it is crucial for you to look outside the traditional marketing box, both strategically and tactically. Think outside newspaper ads, radio spots and billboards, and shift your gaze to a medium that can be specifically targeted, is highly measurable and cost-effective: online marketing.



Mar 22

Life Below the Fold

Posted by vgmforbin in Banking, Web Design

Today’s internet revolves around scrolling for more content, making “above the fold” design a development standard of the past.

Web Design

To say that website design has come a long way from the 1990s and early 2000s is an understatement.


The last 15 years have produced a cycle of new innovations and design trends, with most falling by the wayside. Today, “modern” design is clean, simple and minimal, with only the necessities available. However, this wasn’t always the case.


Working with as many financial institutions as we have in past five years, we’ve redesigned a lot of websites that were originally designed in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and they all have a few basic things in common.


First, they don’t use the whole width of modern screen sizes to their advantage. Second, and most importantly to the point of this blog post, most are designed using the outdated concept of “above the fold” design.


What is “above the fold” design?

This concept originated from newspaper layouts, with the most important stories placed on the top of the front page. When the newspaper is folded to be delivered, these stories show up above the fold. When this concept was translated to the web, it resulted in websites with narrow designs, a lot of links to content and little to no scrolling.


Why was this a trend for web design?

In the late 90s and early 2000s, web browsers and monitors were smaller, so most websites were designed to 800 x 600 or 1024 x 768 pixel dimensions. And since most internet users weren’t savvy enough to know they could scroll down on a webpage, it was standard to put as much information as possible above the fold in order for it to be read.


For banking websites developed during this time, above the fold content included:

  • The main navigation
  • A small marketing message or main graphic
  • The online banking login
  • Weather and stock feeds
  • A side navigation
  • Mortgage rates
  • A “useful links” or “resource center” area
  • A couple of graphic callouts for products
  • Footer navigation with privacy policy, a link to Regulation “E” PDF and the FDIC and Equal Housing Lender logos


That’s a lot of stuff to fit in a small area. Where should users go? By prioritizing everything to go above the fold, this design style didn’t prioritize anything. The way today’s users interact with a webpage makes this design concept outdated. It is a standard of the past that shouldn’t be followed for modern banking sites.


Why “above the fold design” is outdated

There is no “fold” in today’s internet. Vastly different screen sizes and resolutions mean today’s websites must respond to the medium on which they are being viewed to offer the best user experience. The huge range of screen resolutions among devices also affects how websites display. While you may have only one website, the way it should display on a desktop versus a smartphone is vastly different.


Mobile use has been the biggest driver behind the abolishment of the fold. On mobile devices, scrolling is the norm, and a higher percentage of the United States population is using a smartphone or tablet to access the internet. According to Statista, 75.1 percent of mobile phone users accessed the internet from their mobile phone in 2015; this number is expected to grow to 85.6 percent by 2018.


Social media platforms are also influencing factors in the scrolling revolution. If you want to see more content on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest, what do you do? Scroll down. As user bases have grown for these social media platforms, scrolling has become more ingrained for the population, particularly the sought-after Millennial demographic.


To fit into the box the fold creates, you will have a website that looks crammed, your content won’t be thorough enough, or both. Looking beyond the fold and focusing on user experience is key to a website that not only looks and functions great on a desktop, but also on screens and devices of any size.


So when you begin the process of redesigning your financial institution’s website, don’t be afraid to open up the design and see what life is like outside of 800 x 600 pixels.


Mar 14

The Case for the Multi-Industry Agency

Posted by vgmforbin in Banking

multi-industry agency

Donny Wilson, Senior Sales Leader- Finance Division, VGM Forbin


“Tell us more about your company.”


As a traveling salesman, I am often asked this question. It all starts the same: I say that VGM Forbin is a web development company specializing in digital marketing that is a part of The VGM Group, Inc., an 800-plus employee company headquartered in Waterloo, IA.


I tell them that while we have a specific team dedicated to the financial industry, we got our start in serving home medical equipment providers, and serve clients in many industries across the country, including orthotics & prosthetics, physical therapy, manufacturing and so on.


At this point, one of two things happens:

  1. The person I’m getting to know says “That’s interesting” and is genuinely interested that we serve multiple industries, OR
  2. The person I’m getting to know says “That’s interesting” but is, in fact, not interested and a bit turned off to the possibility of partnering with a web development company that works with clients outside the financial industry


There seems to be a stigma that working with multiple industries takes attention away from providing the best service to financial customers. “How can you possibly serve us if you’re busy helping Mom and Pop sell wheelchairs and oxygen tanks?” seems to be the thought.


My answer is this: diversification is our competitive advantage.


There are certain web design, development and security standards that are true across any industry. Continually working outside the industry allows us to look in from the outside and not be restrained by the status quo. And we have the ability to stay nimble in the face of constant change and technological evolution.


Don’t get me wrong. There are financial-only web agencies out there that do great work. But focusing only on financial institutions does not automatically make them more qualified than a multi-industry agency. Allow me to make my case more extensively.


Developing “Best Practices” Technology

Every website, regardless of industry has the same basic needs:

  • It must be easily accessible by users of any age and across physical, visual, auditory or cognitive impairments.
  • It must be responsive to the device it is being used on, from desktops and laptops to tablets, smartphones and smart TVs.
  • The user experience must be the focus, helping users get to the information they need as quickly as possible.
  • Privacy and security are of the utmost importance, and compliance with industry regulatory standards is the only acceptable solution.


There are differences when you look at specific needs of each industry. A home health provider may need a way for patients to pay their bills online, while a bank would need the functionality for users to be able to apply for a loan on its website. However, regardless of needs, the same building blocks exist across companies’ websites and the industries they serve.


Getting “Out of the Box”

Think back to your college days for a moment. Did you ever find yourself so immersed in writing an essay or report only to realize you were in so far you couldn’t look at your topic from an objective point of view?


The point is, the more we work on the same thing or in the same industry, the more ingrained we get in there being only one way to do things. Serving multiple industries means our team is always looking outside the box for fresh ideas to inspire.

Having worked with community banks across the country, I can say with certainty that the financial industry is not always the most exciting or creative when it comes to marketing. With increased user expectations, especially in the sought after Millennial demographic, new, original and personalized ideas are gold.


Security is Everyone’s Concern

When you think about data breaches, what business names come to mind? Home Depot, Target, Sony and other large retailers have made the headlines in recent years. JP Morgan Chase, the United States’ largest bank, was hit hard back in 2014, but most banks have been immune to hackers…so far.


Small- and medium-size businesses, including community banks, are at risk as well. While they may not have the size of big-name retailers, they don’t have the same financial means to devote to security.


This has lead our team to develop in-depth security protocols across all of our industry offerings. All of our systems use proprietary code that is far more secure than open source systems like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. We partner with secure hosting providers and follow industry-standard security protocols. We’ve even developed our own website and security auditing product, VGuard™. The lessons we’ve learned from our beginnings in health care have allowed us to stay at the forefront of website security.


Staying Nimble in an Ever-Changing World

One of the biggest knocks on the financial industry is that change is embraced at the speed of molasses. In the Financial Brand’s 2016 Financial Marketing Trends Report, the community bankers surveyed identified this problem:

  • The 7th most difficult marketing challenge was “our IT infrastructure is inflexible and limiting”
  • The 8th most difficult marketing challenge was “we are risk-averse and/or slow to adopt new ideas”


It’s no wonder potential customers, particularly Millennials, are flocking toward more agile financial tech companies and apps. Too often, banks get caught shoegazing in their own world, clinging to legacy systems and tools that aren’t updated for the world we live in. How often have you shot down a great idea because “that’s not the way we’ve done things in the past?”


Keeping our eyes on a variety of industries allows us to stay on the leading edge of web development and design. From health care and banking to manufacturing, physical therapy and all other types of businesses with varying needs, we can’t afford to do things one way or get comfortable in what works today.


It is our team’s flexibility to work with any business in any industry that is our biggest differentiator and asset. Our process is time tested with fantastic results. In fact, I’d say that our work is a far better benchmark to judge us by than what industries we work with.


The breadth, consistency and quality of our work across industries is what we take the most pride in. Whether it’s a small, family-owned manufacturing company, a health equipment provider doing business across the country or a community bank just like yours, our process is focused on developing a solution that meets your unique needs every time.


And that, to me, is very interesting.

Mar 9

SEO; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Posted by vgmforbin in Home Medical Providers, Search Engine Optimization


By Steven Eilers, Forbin Web Marketing Specialist


“The trouble with most of us is that we’d rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” ― Norman Vincent Peale


If you are a home medical equipment business owner or manager, you have probably heard your share of criticism or bad reviews about yourself, your business, your products, or your employees. At times it may be warranted, but many more times its provided by someone who is just angry and wants to be heard and share their discontent online. Either way, using these online comments to your benefit can do good things for your company…if you deal with it in the right way. Reputation Management is a service that provides continuous monitoring and reporting for reviews and messages to ensure you can respond to customers quickly! A quick response, an apology and a solution to fix the problem can diffuse a situation quickly or at least keep it from getting worse. With up-to-date monitoring of your site and online presence, you can turn a negative review into positive outcome.


“Repetition makes reputation and reputation makes customers.” – Elizabeth Arden

Would you like a free billboard with global reach espousing just how wonderful your business and your products are? You can (metaphorically) have that with positive reviews posted to your website, Facebook, Yelp or other online source. Recent studies by Nielsen’s (the TV ranking people) showed that 70% of consumers trust online reviews from strangers. It turns out we trust people we’ve never met to help make up our minds on everything from pet foods to cars, who knew? We seek out assurances from everyday folks like ourselves that our choices of products and services are good. Celebrities may endorse products, but the honest opinion of “Mary from Albany” carries more actual weight. Did we mention these reviews are free?


“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford”

Reputation Management is more than monitoring a complaint box, it’s also a way to gain more online awareness of your business. More awareness leads to more customers and more business for you.  Reputation Management from VGM Forbin promotes your business’ location information on various online directories like Yelp, Google, Yellow Pages, Bing, Merchant Circle and many more. These services increase Search Engine rankings/SEO and increase search engine connections to your site. In simple terms; you show up more, with a higher search ranking ensuring your business has top-of-mind awareness with potential customers. If you got in the business to help people, let Forbin help you reach more with Reputation Management services. Contact Forbin today to learn more!



Mar 9

Are You Listening to Your Customers?

Posted by vgmforbin in Web Design, Web Development, Website Content

listening to customers website

By Steven Eilers, Forbin Web Marketing Specialist


What if you were going about your website all wrong? What if what YOU thought was important really wasn’t important to your customers?


It happens and we’ve all seen it: websites that are a shrine to themselves. Page after online page of information about themselves, where they started, the awards they’ve won, a picture of the owner’s kids or pets…. but what about the customer?


According to a HubSpot Blogs titled “What Do 76% of Consumers Want From Your Website?”, 76% of the customers want “the website that makes it easy for me to find what I want.”  Notice the part that says “easy for me to find what I want.” Notice the use of “me” and “I” in that short sentence. It doesn’t say “enough about me, let’s talk about you,” their focus is on themselves and their needs. They are the ones looking for help, answers, a service or product. They are the ones keeping you in business. Their needs have to come first, every time, always.


In 2015, searches on mobile digital media (Smartphones) overtook online searches on tradition desktop computers for the first time ever, and that trend will only get bigger.  But even with today’s bigger phone screens, your customers and potential customers are still viewing your business on a very small screen. They are viewing it as they talk to other people, make dinner, relax in the recliner, wait for the kids at practice, and yes, unfortunately at stop lights (which we strongly discourage). Are these people really going to take the time to read about you or are they going to want to get in, get out and get back to their busy lives?  76% percent (and probably more now) say the latter. Is your website giving them what they are looking for?


VGM Forbin has been creating websites and online marketing solutions for over 20 years.  As we create the websites, we watch trends, listen to what providers and consumers are saying, and incorporate the latest technology and online tools into the sites we create. Our goal is simple: create websites and online marketing that are not just pleasing to our customers, but to your customers; the 76%.


Contact Forbin today and let our Web Marketing experts help you create a website and online presence your customers will love and, more importantly, use.



Mar 4

What I learned at Medtrade 16; a Rookie’s First Time at the Big Show

Posted by vgmforbin in Industry Conferences

learned at medtrade

Medtrade Spring 2016 is over, my team from VGM and Forbin is back in Waterloo, Iowa. My mind is still racing with everything I learned and everyone I met. As the kids say, “good times.” Do the kids still say that?


Vegas is always fun and I assume (since this was my first) that Medtrade is always a great event. It was well organized, it had great speakers and it was full of people with the same mission; to bring the best HME services and products to the people that need them. How was your experience? What were your takeaways from Medtrade Spring 2016? Here are mine…


1. Sessions and speakers were great, but not well attended.

Is that new or is that usually how they are? As a speaker, I was able to sit in on many other sessions and was very impressed by the knowledge and passion these folks have for the HME industry. I expected to see better attendance in each of the sessions and wish that more people did take advantage of the tremendous speakers and education available. I’m interested to see what Fall Medtrade 16 has for speakers and attendees. Do yourselves a favor and go to these sessions!


2. The networking was awesome!

Medtrade is like going to your high school class reunion if all of the people who you went to school with were cool, had interesting things to talk about, and you were actually glad to see them. Medtrade is where you get to visit with favorite customers, make new friends, and talk to people who share your passion for the industry. It’s the place to share ideas and business cards in the HME industry.


3. The overall outlook about the industry was positive!

I may be new to the HME industry, but when you work at VGM, you learn about the HME industry quickly, and you learn it from people who know the industry like the back of their hand. I have read and heard all about the many challenges that the HME world faces from Competitive Bidding and low reimbursements to brutal audits…you name it! I guess I expected to hear more grumbling and doom-and-gloom from the other attendees who, after all, have a lot to lose. But that’s not what I heard. I was pleasantly surprised by the positive outlook and fighting spirit from the folks in the trenches. These men and women have been through it before, weathered the storms, adjusted their sails, and never lost sight of why they keep fighting; to help the people who need them the most. I couldn’t be more proud to be part of such a fantastic group.


I look forward to seeing you at Heartland or Medtrade Fall 2016, or whenever you come to visit!


Rob Duryea, President of VGM Forbin



Mar 2

Celebrating Our Success in Innovation

Posted by vgmforbin in Award Winning, Forbin Events, Forbin Team, Website Launches


Forbin Team Advertising Awards ADDYs

Forbin team members that attended the 2016 American Advertising Awards Ceremony – Peace, Love & Ads.

At VGM Forbin, we do what we do to help make your business better by providing you with solutions to improve your website’s performance to help you meet goals you’ve set for your business. We do this because we love serving our clients. But, like anyone, we appreciate when we receive recognition from industry peers. This recognition helps us improve our work, which allows us to offer you better solutions to improve your business online.

On February 26, Forbin took home six awards – four silvers, one gold and the coveted People’s Choice Award – during the Cedar Valley chapter of the American Advertising Federation’s American Advertising Awards. As a company, we were so proud to take home six “Addys,” but we’re more proud of the fact that this recognition validates the practices we’ve put to use at Forbin.

Silver Addy for Jameson’s Public House Website

Jamesons irish pub forbin addy

Located in downtown Waterloo, Iowa, the same community Forbin calls home, Jameson’s Public House serves as a restaurant and cultural experience for people looking for traditional Irish fare that is underserved in the Cedar Valley. Jameson’s already made great food, mixed good drinks and had fantastic service, but they needed a new website to showcase those assets and attract new customers to their restaurant. Our new site brought in vibrant colors, allowed the restaurant to easily showcase and manage their menu and specials and included bits of Gaelic language to help showcase the Irish heritage that Jameson’s embodies.

Silver Addy for Advanced O&P Solutions Website

AOP Solutions Forbin Addy

Advanced O&P Solutions provides much needed services for a population for patients who need custom fitting orthotics, prosthetics and pedorthotics for upper and lower extremities. When this business came to Forbin, they were looking to replace their outdated desktop site with a new, user-friendly website that would offer mobile solutions. We developed a much cleaner site that made it easier for users to find the information they were looking for with brighter colors, a streamlined navigation and by incorporating responsive design techniques that allowed users to view the site from any device.

Silver Addy for Millbrook Physical Therapy Website

millbrook physical therapy forbin addy

With a growing presence in New York, Millbrook Physical Therapy was looking for a new website to showcase their services while also offering usability for patients in their growing market. Our solution included rebranding Millbrook PT into MOST and provided a responsive-designed site, lead generation forms and new content to help them understand not only the physical therapy services, but what to expect when they came in for their therapy sessions.

Silver Addy Award for AHIA Live at Home Logo

live at home pro forbin addy

This project was part of a re-branding effort for AHIA (Accessible Home Improvement of America), a nationwide network of certified providers and contractors who offer home improvement modifications to help people live more safely as they age in their home. In connection with the launch of a new app that would allow contractors to do home assessments for clients, our new logo showed a home, check box and a contractor’s pencil simultaneously, all of which play a larger role in the functionality of the app.

Gold Addy Award for Forbin’s Heartland 3D Glasses Campaign (and People’s Choice Award)

Forbin decoder self promotion addy

The Heartland Conference is the highlight of the year and the premier event for the VGM Group. As a division of VGM, Forbin employees make various contributions to the conference that brings in hundreds of business owners and their employees for a week-long education and trade show event held in Waterloo every summer. But, our favorite part of Heartland is being able to showcase our awesome workspace on tours throughout the week. Our 3D glasses campaign allowed our us to engage with potential customers by offering a touch of nostalgia. We handed out decoder glasses that helped visitors read coded posters around our office to showcase not only our creativity, but allow them to have an experience they could easily recall when they thought of our services.

People’s Choice Award for Forbin’s Heartland 3D Glasses Campaign

This one means a lot to us. At the end of the awards ceremony, those in attendance were asked to submit their vote for the people’s choice award for which project they felt embodied the most creativity for promotion and marketing. To take home the award and garner approval from our peers, all of whom produced outstanding pieces in their own right, is an honor we take very seriously.


Mar 2

Thumbs Up: Why Good (and Bad) Reviews are a Selling Tool

Posted by vgmforbin in Banking, Reputation Management

star trophy for reviews

When we were kids we were taught that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” While it’s agreat notion, we know that negative words have the ability to harm, particularly when aimed at a business.


This means it’s important to keep an eye on what is being said in online reviews. The solution: reputation management.


Managing your bank’s online reputation consists of monitoring and responding to online reviews, both positive and negative. Why? Because when it comes to what is being said about your bank online, you cannot afford to not be a part of the conversation. Money is a very personal thing, and if you appear untrustworthy, potential customers will take their deposits elsewhere.


Before we go any further, let’s look at the numbers. Online reviews have become a trusted resource for those going online to research products, services and businesses. Additionally, good reviews have the ability to influence behavior, according to 2015 polling from search marketing firm BrightLocal, which found:

  • 68 percent of U.S. internet users trust businesses more when they have positive reviews.
  • 80 percent of U.S. internet users who read a positive review of a company then act to get in touch with a company by visiting their website, visiting their business or calling them.

online review statistics


BrightLocal also did a Local Consumer Review Survey in 2014 that yielded results showing the importance of consumer reviews in rating businesses. According to the polling:

  • 85 percent of consumers say they read up to 10 reviews to determine if they can trust a business.
  • 88 percent of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
  • 88 percent of consumers have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business.

online customer reviews local business


These statistics indicate positive online reviews not only promote your bank’s credibility, but they can also drive consumers to act by getting in touch with you. Therefore, it is crucial to set up profiles on the most popular directories and maintain them.


However, online directories aren’t automatically yours. They must be claimed and maintained. Think about a search you’ve done on Google for a local business. You most likely got a map with a pin in it and contact information for that business. But this isn’t done automatically; the “build it and they will come” approach doesn’t work for online directories.


You must take the time to claim, optimize and verify accounts for Google My Business, YellowPages.com, Yelp and other top directories. Not only that, but devoting time for ongoing management of these accounts to respond to reviews is crucial. After all, how can you act if you don’t know what’s being said? It’s better to know than to be oblivious.


“But what if we get a negative review?” you may ask. Negative reviews allow you to showcase your commitment to great customer service. Every community bank hangs its hat on customer service, making negative reviews an opportunity to shine.


On the flip side of the coin, you can use positive reviews as a selling point. Consumers have more options than ever when it comes to a banking partner. There are community banks like yours, regional and national banks, online banks and credit unions all competing for market share. Wouldn’t it be nice to reply to “Why should I switch to your bank?” with “Great question! Here’s a long list of satisfied customers” instead of the usual “we have great service” routine?


Though vital, managing your online reputation is time consuming work and requires vigilance. However, when done well, both good and bad reviews can be used to demonstrate the quality of your bank and can be used as a selling point to persuade potential customers to switch to your bank.

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