Several years ago when I was having a routine physical with my doctor we were visiting about what I did for a living. At the time I worked for Dallas Postal Credit Union (now Neighborhood Credit Union). His eyes lit up when I told him. “Your credit union has the friendliest service in Dallas,” he said. He proceeded to tell me that his dad was a letter carrier and his parents had their financial accounts with our credit union. When his father passed away, my doctor came to our credit union to handle his parents’ affairs. That’s when he received our credit union’s great member service.
But then I asked the telling question, “Did you keep the accounts and money with us?”
“Oh—no,” he said. “I took all the money to my bank.”
Ouch. We blew it. But we didn’t blow it when the doctor came in (note he had a wonderful experience). We blew it years earlier when we failed to establish a relationship with our member’s child (in this case, my doctor).
We often talk about the differences between the various generations (Matures, Boomers, Xers, Gen. Y) and that is all well and good. However, one thing credit unions should focus on is actually bridging the generations. This means linking the generations together.
Credit unions can do this through intergenerational opportunities. Some examples include the following:
- Design a loan referral program. For example, if a Mature member gives you three loan referrals (from their family members) then you increase the Mature members’ CD by 25 or 50 basis points.
- If you have kids club events encourage grandparents to bring their grandchildren to the event; include activities that encourage interaction and building memories with the families. For example, do some type of photo shoot where you take pictures of the grandparent with the grandchild.
- Develop a financial planning workshop specifically covering the transfer of wealth issue. Design the seminar so that it is created for how Mature members can best pass their assets down to the other generations. Make it an event for all generations (not just Matures).
- Offer a special Family CD product. With this type of deposit, encourage grandparents to open a CD in their grandchildren’s name at the credit union. Include special rates if the parents have a checking or loan product.
- Offer relationship pricing packages with the entire family. Most credit unions are doing some type of relationship pricing for the household (mom, dad and the kids). However, in this approach you give deals and discounts not just to the household but to all members of the family (grandma, grandpa, mom, dad, brother, sister, etc.) regardless of where they live.
Generational marketing is an extremely successful strategy. Looking for ways to bring the generations together at your credit union is one of the best methods to employ.
What ideas do you have for bridging the generations?
“It is the collective power of individuals in an organization that provides and sustains a competitive advantage,”
—Nicholas Ind, author of Living the Brand
A client recently shared that they were struggling with keeping their new brand fresh with their staff. The bottom line question they asked was, “How do we maintain brand momentum?”
This is a common problem many credit unions face. Let’s be honest: branding often fails at the staff level. The executive team and board draft a brand plan, identify key targets, develop a vision, mission and message, and train employees on the new brand. Then three months later it all dies when the staff doesn’t live the brand.
We must reinforce the brand with employees every day. But how do you do that? Here are five suggestions I gave that credit union CEO:
(1) Have every employee submit an example of how they are living the brand. You can even turn this into a contest, with the employee submitting the best idea winning a gift certificate to a local restaurant. The bottom line with this action step is that you need to get employees involved with their ideas (and not just yours). The more ideas they give to living the brand, the more likely it is the credit union will maintain brand momentum.
(2) Conduct a few random mystery shops with your current members to see if employees are greeting the member correctly, asking how they can help the member, offering a product/service, saying thank you and wowing the member. There are plenty of good mystery shop companies and programs. But you don’t even have to use a formal program if you don’t have the budget. You can simply ask some of your members to randomly spot check your employees with your brand standards.
(3) Have every employee hand write two to three personal notes to members every week. Make sure employees are using your brand language in their notes. Successful brands are ones that stand out from the crowd. Nothing can make you stand out more than hand writing a personal note thanking a member for their business (not a sales pitch—just a simple thank you). Very few financial institutions are doing this regularly.
(4) Send a monthly e-mail (from the CEO) to employees discussing the importance of your brand, what your brand really means and the important role the employee plays. What matters to the CEO tends to matter to the employees. If the CEO is just focused on saving money then that’s what staff will tend to focus on as well. The more often the CEO talks about or writes about the credit union’s brand, the more likely it is that employees will live it. When was the last time your CEO communicated in earnest what your credit union’s brand is?
(5) Create brand cards for employees to have at their desk. These cards not only serve as a reminder for what your credit union is about, it connects the brand to employee behavior. For an example of what a brand card looks like, see this post on “Do You KNOW Your Members?”
These are just a few ideas. What other suggestions do you have for ways credit unions can maintain brand momentum with their employees?
(A Q&A with Sales Training Expert Tim Wackel)
Tim Wackel is a sales training guru. He has helped numerous companies all across the country improve their sales efforts. His clients include numerous Fortune 500 companies, such as Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems. I recently had the opportunity to visit with Tim about credit union sales cultures and practical ways we can increase sales at a credit unions. Below is that Q&A.
(1) You conducted a session at the Texas Credit Union League Marketing Conference titled “Tough Tactics for Tough Times.” What strategic things should credit unions focus on during these tough times?
That’s the million dollar question. I’m about ready to write a book about the lost art of “wow.” Companies don’t put a mindset into a wow factor from a strategy standpoint. There is no wow for the consumer anymore. If credit unions put strategic thought into wowing their members they will move their organizations forward.
(2) What three things should business development professionals do every week?
- Reach out to people that you ought to be doing business with. For example, spend some time with people who don’t know who you are.
- Reach out to people who are in your pipeline but they are not doing business with you.
- Reach out to people who know who you are but are not in the pipeline. For example, maybe send them an informational piece (not a sales pitch).
(3) You said “customer satisfaction is useless.” Why is that and can you explain?
Satisfaction is not a bad thing. However, loyalty is so much richer and deeper. Let’s use the restaurant analogy. If they seat you timely, the food/service is good and the prices are fair, then you are satisfied. But you are probably not beating a path to their door: those were just table stakes in the game.
However, if the owner comes to greet you and gives you a free little sample appetizer, then he is giving you a little bit more. That makes us feel good about ourselves. Be sure your credit union is making your members feel unique and different.
(4) Everyone seems to be competing on service now. Is that a dead model and if not how can you really make service memorable?
Service is not a dead model. Unless you have a picture of fruit in your logo, who has people getting up at 4:00 a.m. to buy their product? Apple is the model. They can thumb their nose at you and you still love them. My last service call with Apple lasted 94 minutes. Their call representative took his time with me and didn’t rush me off the phone. That was a wow experience.
How many examples of great service can you give that you’ve received in the last week? In most cases, nothing comes to mind. That shows that not everybody is really competing on service.
(5) How can sales people stand out and be different?
Quit trying to sell. The less you worry about the sell the more you’ll sell. Quit acting like a seller and act like a buyer—the world will pay more attention to you if you do. Don’t communicate “I’m here to sell you something.” Instead listen with them, dialogue with them and help them.
And remember, no one wants your brochure.
(6) What are some good questions to ask an existing member (in order to get more business)?
Stay away from talking about products and services.
Say something like, “We enjoy having your checking account, but no relationship is perfect. Can I get some open and honest feedback? On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate us and what would it take to get a 10?”
It’s more about how they feel than about product pushing.
(7) If you could boil the secret of sales success down to one thing, what is it?
Be curious. Salespeople have a tendency to assume too much. They talk prematurely.
The best sales people are genuinely curious. Engage the customer or potential customer at their level. Ask them to share and talk about themselves. Your prospects are going to enjoy that conversation (because it’s about them) and you will learn all you need to know.
There is no script and no sales process. Curiosity is the foundation.
(8) What business books should every credit union professional read?
The Accidental Sales Person, by Lytle and The Greatest Sales Training in the World, by Nelson.
(9) Are there any additional comments you would like to make with regards to helping credit union business development professionals with sales?
Nobody drifts into greatness: you need to have the following:
- Desire—if you don’t want to get better it doesn’t matter
- Design—make a plan to improve
- Discipline—it won’t happen overnight; it takes time
The most successful credit unions today do not just look at their strategic plan once a year. In fact, many do mid-year planning updates with the executive staff, board or both. These type sessions are not just updates on the plan’s status (that should be done during regular board meetings).
Instead, a one-day in-depth examination of your plan, your environment and your adjustments is warranted. Credit unions that are moving to this model are seeing improved strategic results. You don’t have to use a facilitator for a mid-year planning update. However, you can take the questions below and work through a mid-year strategic update. Below are ten key questions to ask.
(1) What unforeseen circumstance, issue or item occurred since we conducted our 2011 strategic plan? How are we dealing with or reacting to that problem? How could we have seen it coming?
(2) Of our top three or four strategic priorities, which ones are succeeding and which ones are struggling? Why?
(3) Should we eliminate a particular strategic objective? Did we put something in place that we just can’t accomplish? Were we being realistic with all of our goals and objectives (for fun, you can ask it this way: “What were we smoking then?”)?
(4) What have you done in the past six months to really “wow” your members? Are you wowing your members now? If not, why will they stay with you?
(5) What new product or service are we going to implement in the next six months? Are the deadlines realistic?
(6) What did we resolve to do that we didn’t? Are there areas (technology, marketing, etc.) that need more resources than we allocated to them? Is our budget really supporting our plan?
(7) How is employee morale? How do employees feel about the credit union? Are they truly living our brand or are they just going through the motions? Do our employees enjoy working here? What can we do in the next six months to energize and engage our employees?
(8) What unspoken issue do we need to address? Let’s be frank and honest with each other. Is there anything that is hindering us from being all we can be as an organization?
(9) What action items or objectives need adjusting in the next six months? Are there goals we should raise or lower? Do we have a strategic reasoning for doing so?
(10)What is the absolute, most important thing our credit union needs to do in the next six months?
Those are a few ideas to help you kick-start a mid-year strategic discussion. These questions are not all inclusive. What suggestions do you have?
Here’s a quick answer to that question: have your employees read and work through The Referral Engine, by John Jantsch. I recently read that book and there are tons of great insights credit unions can implement to help with their growth. In fact, the book’s subtitle is “Teaching your business to market itself.” Below are some of the key points Jantsch makes and how credit unions can apply them.
(1) No one talks about a boring business
Jantsch quotes Seth Godin when he says, “If the marketplace isn’t talking about you, there’s a reason. The reason is that you’re boring.” The Referral Engine elaborates on that point by emphasizing that building a business primarily on referrals means determining what makes your business remarkable. He later shows how you can determine your “core talkable difference.” He walks you through how to develop something that is original, real and compelling.
- Credit union application: Is your credit union boring? What are three things you can do to make your credit union something worth talking about? How is your credit union different (and can you clearly and quickly answer that question)?
(2) Your staff as a customer
“Your employees probably treat your customers about the same way you treat your employees,” Jantsch says. Ouch. He goes on to emphasize the importance of linking marketing with employees. “Consistently providing marketing training for the entire staff is one key to getting everyone involved in generating referrals.”
- Credit union application: Survey your employees about how you are treating them. Show and explain the marketing strategy and plan to every credit union employee. Ask marketing questions to all potential candidates. For example, “My personal motto is….”
(3) The new four Cs of marketing
The traditional 4Ps of marketing are product, price, place and promotion. Because we are in a new marketing era, Jantsch argues there are now 4Cs to marketing: content, context, connection and community. We need to make sure we are building connections with our target communities. And we do this by providing valuable content (not necessarily hard core sales pitches) where our targets are. He emphasizes that the most referred businesses are the ones that are converged: those that blend high tech with high touch.
- Credit union application: Develop a marketing strategy around content, context, connection and community. Answer the question, “what marketing steps can we take to combine high-tech with high-touch?”
(4) Referral brand elements
Branding is more than just your name. In fact, branding is everything. Don’t expect a ton of referrals if you don’t have a strong brand (in fact, don’t expect any). Jantsch touches on several brand elements: your name, your logo, your products, your package, your process and your people. Your referrals are directly linked to your brand and you must be intentional about your brand.
- Credit union application: Develop a formal brand plan (with the above elements). Is your brand driving referrals? Why or why not? Have honest conversations with your members. Ask them if they refer the credit union and why or why not.
Those are just four points Jantsch touches on that helps credit unions—there are TONS more in the book. He talks about visualizing your ideal customer, telling your story, content as a market driver and many more. One particular quote that stood out was, “Highly referred businesses are good enough to make people want to talk about them, but they amplify this natural desire by making word of mouth an essential element of the culture.”
The best marketing is often done by your own members. Taking the above steps (along with many others in the book) will help your credit union turn itself into a referral engine.