As one of the largest banks in America, this financial institution has the confidence of millions of Americans and is considered to be one of the top ten banks in the United States by total assets.

“We knew there must be an easy way to create a space where businesses could share their personal journeys...and our solution was Vanilla Forums.”
Product Manager

The Challenges

The Banks’ millions of small business customers had so much collective knowledge, that if it were captured and made available to other customers, it could increase customer success.

The Launch

The Bank community launch was without issue, supported by the combined efforts of the Vanilla team and The Bank’s new community manager.

The Search

Vanilla was an easy choice for The Bank since it delivered all the features and customizability they were looking for, all the while being cost-effective.

The Results

The Bank saw immediate results as customers were not only using the community as intended, but found the networking an invaluable resource that left them beyond satisfied with the brand.

The ChallengesBeing More Than Just Another Bank

As with most banks, this bank offered an array of services for small business, and as one of the largest banks in America, they already had quite a large number of small business and entrepreneurial accounts. But as this bank was aware, small businesses face a unique set of challenges than the ones faced by organizations with corporate accounts and services. And as they looked to provide a better customer experience for their thousands of small business customers, they began to challenge themselves and ask some hard questions.

They wanted to know how they could further engage their customer base; to deliver better services on top of their existing small business portal. They wanted to show their customers (and potential customers) that when you sign with them, you’re not only getting access to their banking services, but you’re also getting to connect with thousands in similar situations. In essence, this bank wanted to do something different; they wanted to empower their small business customers in every way they could to ensure their success.

Leading the discussion process was the Product Manager, who asked her team, “is there a way to combine the collective knowledge of our millions of customers?” Then a thought occurred to her: could we facilitate this knowledge transfer to a community forum?

But as it turned out, what the Product Manager and her team initially thought were hard questions, in fact, had very simple answers.

The answers, of course, were yes and yes.

And so, the Product Manager made the decision to extend their small business portal to add a branded online community forum. In doing so, they would be able to successfully empower small business owners by creating a designated peer-to-peer space for sharing ideas, discussing challenges and exploring opportunities as their businesses grow.

In essence, the vision was to implement an online community forum, full of customer knowledge and advice, in which only the banks’ customers could access. This community would provide peer-to-peer networking that would increase the chances of business success.

Pain Points

No Customer Engagement

The bank had little to no customer engagement since it had no dedicated space for its small business customers that would keep them coming back. They needed a space for customers to share ideas, best practices, challenges, etc,.

No Place To Store Knowledge

The bank had a large customer base of small businesses that were brimming with knowledge. The bank wanted a place where customers could store this knowledge and use it to empower each other and drive success.

The Search Options + Cost-Effective = Sign Me Up!

The Product Manager began her quest to find the perfect fit for The Banks’ brand and for their small business customers. She and her team put together a list of possible vendors and began to assess each option based on the number of features and option it could deliver and how much it would cost.

The Product Manager was blown away, to say the least, when she discovered that everything on her list was available with Vanilla for a cost-effective, out-of-the box price. Ultimately, she didn’t have to compromise on features and was able to grab everything she wanted while staying on budget.

The Top Ten U.S Bank Checklist


“The price tag was one of the main factors that drew us towards Vanilla—we were pleasantly surprised to see that so many options could also be cost-effective.”


“We never had a community offering with this product line before, so we needed the freedom to easily customize things along the way.”

Plenty of Features

“We wanted a variety of different features that would enable our goal of peer-to-peer networking and idea sharing, and Vanilla offered it all.”

The LaunchEasy-Peezy

The Bank had never had community offering before, so the launch was a first for them. Though the Product Manager might have been a little nervous, she was also excited to get this initiative up and running since she knew how much value it would offer to customers. The Product Manager, and her team, however, had very little to worry about since the Vanilla team was there to guide them through every step.

Additionally, The Bank team hired a full time community manager to support their initiative, which statistically speaking, can help improve performance by up to 12%. Their new community manager was tasked with initiating conversations, engaging the members and supporting them by helping them make connections to others.

With the help of the Vanilla team, the new community manager and The Bank team, the launch was a success.

The ResultsBuilding The Foundation for Long-Term Success

What started as a community project aimed at getting member support to important questions such as, ‘how do I set up my business?’, ‘how do I design my first logo?’, ‘how do I purchase office supplies?’ and ‘what legal hurdles can I expect to go through?’ was now in full-force.

The Project Manager was very pleased to see that The Banks’ customers were not only using the community for its intended purpose, but were also really enjoying it. The community has become so popular that in a single day, dozens of connections are made and hundreds of ideas, advice, best practices and solutions are shared. The Project Manager made use of Vanilla’s features by creating categories such as “Ask an Expert,” which covers topics ranging from credit card processing to social media management.

“Our customers feel like they belong to a broader community that’s associated with our brand—and it’s a unique offering that they love!”

“There’s a lot to be gained from giving them support either on the financial or knowledge side,” explains the Product Manager. She continues, “it might not immediately translate to present value or ROIs in the short term, but in the long term we’re building a strong brand for our small business audience—that’s huge.”

Reflecting on The Bank's Journey

The Bank made a bold move; a move that will ultimately help secure the long term success of their small business customers and department. While the community still provides customer support to bank-related and financial issues, the vast majority of the knowledge within the community is related to all things small-business-related, and is aimed at helping the customer succeed through their peer-to-peer network. How could your organization empower your customers to succeed through a network community? If you don’t know, we do—let’s chat!

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