Marketers do a ton of promotions. Whether it’s every month, every six weeks or every quarter, marketing is usually tasked with developing a “killer” promotion. One that is sure to succeed and never fail. That task is a little daunting. So here are 10 basic tips to improve your next promotion (whether it’s a loan or deposit focus).
(1) Always use a target.
The first step in any promotion is determining who you are trying to reach. You want to consider demographics, psychographics, lifestyle preferences, etc. Obviously, your creative will differ based on your audience. You want to avoid having a target audience of your entire membership (that is a shotgun approach, which is not very effective).
(2) Offer a real benefit.
It’s an adage but it’s true: features tell, benefits sell. And our job in marketing is to sell. Make sure your copy, headlines and visuals are focusing on the benefits the product brings (saves time, earns money, etc.) instead of the feature (low rate).
(3) Monitor results, staff comments and problems on a daily basis.
For most marketers, by the time your promotion is up and running you are actually in the middle of preparing your next campaign. We are forward thinkers; that’s what we do. However, don’t be so focused on your upcoming promotion that you fail to live in the moment. Be sure you are staying on top of staff feedback and comments.
(4) Use staff incentives judiciously.
Staff incentives (paying staff or doing giveaways) during a promotion can increase your bottom line results. However, don’t use incentives all the time or your staff will come to expect them. Using staff incentives every now and then can give an extra “bang” or “pop.”
(5) Use past results to gauge future success.
When you are starting a new promotion, review what worked well and what did not work well in prior promotions. This puts your post promotion evaluation (which you should do with each one) to work.
(6) Use as many appropriate components as possible.
Most promotions include things like direct mail pieces, lobby posters, statement inserts, e-mails, etc. While you want to use an many mediums as possible to reach your target audience you don’t necessarily have to use all of them. Why not? Because they all might not be appropriate for your target audience. Your target audience will dictate the components.
(7) Repetition is a key factor.
The number of exposures to an offer is important. You may even want to make your target audience smaller in order to do more pieces to them. For example, multiple mailings to a smaller group could be more effective than one item to a mass audience. Remember, drip, drip, drip.
(8) Have fun.
You want your staff to enjoy the promotions. Conducting fun activities like staff rallies or parties always pumps up the staff. While I was at Neighborhood Credit Union, I dressed up as everything from Bob the Builder to Mr. Rogers to Darth Vader. The more fun and excitement you bring, the more fun staff will have. And the more fun they have leads to better results.
(9) Get multiple bids (on all projects).
Reducing a promotion’s expense increases your return on investment (ROI). So you want to haggle, haggle, haggle with printers and designers. Just knowing you are shopping around may make your vendors a little more eager to please. Remember, all prices are negotiable.
(10) Use black and white occasionally.
Sometimes black and white (done really well) can stand out amidst the color. While studies show color increases effectiveness a black and white piece can be extremely effective. This also saves you money (and increase ROI). You don’t necessarily use black and white all the time, but a judicious use can be positive.
Those are just a few quick tips. What other ideas do you have?
In the past several years, more and more credit unions are racing to community charters. In the rush to the community charter alter several credit unions abandoned their select employee group (SEG) or business development efforts. In fact, one of the trends I identified in the white paper “Top 10 Marketing Trends Every Credit Union Should Know,” was “bye-bye business development, hello community marketing.”
Maybe it’s time to reverse that trend.
As Julie Ferguson, president of JF Consulting Services, said in a recent blog post, “For awhile business development was getting away from the face to face relationship building, but it appears to be moving back in that direction. More emphasis has been on creating buzz and getting existing members move involved with the growth of your organization. It’s a positive trend and is more encompassing.”
It’s a mistake for any credit union to write-off SEG relationships. Even credit unions with community charters should have a business development strategy that includes select employee groups. Here are three reasons why.
1. Personal Relationships
SEGs help you establish personal relationships in the community. By building partnerships with businesses in the communities you serve, your business development staff strengthens your credit union’s position in those communities.
2. Building Momentum
Personal relationships help build the momentum consumers need to switch financial institutions. When they are ready to make that move, they most likely will choose one recommended by family, friends or co-workers, or one affiliated with their employer. That word-of-mouth advertising is priceless.
3. Product Development
The economic recession has changed the partnership some credit unions have with their SEGs. Companies that signed up to offer credit union membership as an employee benefit are now asking credit unions to partner with them on programs that help their businesses succeed, like merchant indirect lending programs so their customers can afford the products they sell. These partnerships provide opportunities to develop new products that will attract new members.
Community charters provide opportunities for your credit union to grow, but they don’t create personal relationships. Your business development department does. A community charter should not be your excuse for abandoning SEG marketing. It should be the catalyst for expanding it.
The opening session for CUNA’s Marketing Management School featured musician Robin Creasman’s presentation “Market Like a Rock Star.” Creasman is a 25-year veteran of the music, television, and entertainment industry as a recording artist, record company executive, and an award winning television producer who has worked with a number of rock stars, celebrities, and entertainers including: Paul McCartney, Trisha Yearwood, Vince Gill, and REO Speedwagon's Kevin Cronin
Robin used a clever acronym (rock star) to make his points. Some of the information are good reminders while others offer unique approaches. If you are looking for a way to become a credit union marketing rock star, I encourage you to attend next year’s Marketing Management School (full disclosure: I’m the year two lead facilitator so I’m biased!).
In the meantime, here’s how you can market like a rock star (and I’m listening to The Beatles while writing this post):
(1) Reach Out
“To grow fans, you must put others first and make it all about them,” Creasman said. If we are thinking like rock stars, we will build a fan base. He mentioned Taylor Swift as an example. Her fans don’t just like her music—they love her. And she makes sure she strokes her fan base at every opportunity. What are you doing to turn your members into fans?
(2) Over deliver
The best rock stars wow their audiences. The same is true for credit unions. Wherever you can, go the extra miles for your members. Too many times in today’s culture, “mediocrity is the new excellence” Creasman noted. Doing the little things for members can make a big difference. He cited a Rolling Stones concert in Dallas as an example of a rock band that over delivered. After the first three or four songs of an outdoor Rolling Stones concert, a torrential rain downpour started. Most bands would have called it a night. But not the Stones—they went back on stage in the rain (“Are you ready to rock it out, Dallas,” Mick Jaeger asked). The Rolling Stones over delivered even though they had an excuse to stop. Does your front line staff over or under deliver?
(3) Communicate a positive message
It’s simple, but true: be likeable. The best way to be likeable is to listen and ask good questions. Creasman noted the time when he and his crew had the opportunity to meet Paul McCartney. Creasman was blown away that the great Beatle knew their names and used them repeatedly. Despite his legendary status, McCartney was sincere and connected with them individually. The more positive your marketing efforts are, the more effective they are.
(4) Know your audience
What is your credit union good at doing? Whatever they are, your credit union needs to play to its strengths. “You can’t get high ROI by trying to reach all,” Creasman said. He jokingly referenced Barry Manilow. While Manilow would never open for KISS, he does have a defined audience (in Manilow’s case, Creasman’s 74 year old mother) and he is a rock star. Some stars are pop, some are rock n’ roll, some are country, etc. Every rock star has a niche—and so should every credit union. What is your niche?
(5) Stand Out
Sure our marketing needs to stand out, but what does that mean? We need to stand out in our look, style, presence and performance. Creasman notes that Simon made American Idol because he told the truth: he stood out by not sugar coating anything. What would Simon say about your credit union? Do you stand out or are you singing karaoke?
It takes a band to rock the house. Behind any great rock star are tons of other people (handlers, publicists, band members, makeup artists, body guards, etc.). It’s no different at your credit union. Your marketing is not about you. The best marketing involves everyone at your credit union. In fact, whether they realize it or not everyone at your credit union is in marketing.
Your staff has the power to make a day or break a day. How do you react when things don't go your way? Creasman recounted the story of Kevin Cronin, lead vocalist for REO Speedwagon. When Cronin was trying to break into the music industry a famous producer rejected Cronin’s work (not liking it at all). Cronin’s response: “there must have been something wrong with his tape player.” Three of the five songs that were rejected went on to be number one singles. “Happy, mad, glad or sad—it’s your choice,” Creasman said.
(8) Rock your performance
You have an audience every day. Whether it’s your members or staff, do they want to see more or less of you? Creasman encourages marketers to, “be great and deliver an encore worthy show.” As an illustration, Creasman pointed to Van Halen. They don’t just sing “Jump.” They literally jump all over the stage. Van Halen delivers a show. Ultimately, your marketing should “serve the sizzle.”
So if you want to market like a rock star, follow these eight principles and watch your audience (and credit union) grow.
Credit unions know they must get younger. Decreasing the average age of your membership is a strategic goal for many credit unions. There are several initiatives, such as Young and Free, that are having a great deal of success. The Filene Institute also has given many ideas for penetrating this key target market. You can also check out the post “How One Credit Union Keeps Membership Age Low.”
While directly marketing to Generation Y should be a major strategic initiative, one tactical approach credit unions can implement is to reach Generation Y through mom and dad. As a parent of two teenage daughters I can attest that many kids begin their “banking” experience with the First National Bank of Mom and Dad.
As Jeffery Arnet, a psychologist from the University of Maryland, says, “We are seeing a closer relationship between generations than we have seen since World War II. These young people genuinely like and respect their parents.”
According to research from CUNA, there are 19.1 million nonmembers under the age of 18 who live in a credit union member household. In other words there are over 19 million kids under the age of 18 whose parents are credit union members but the kids aren’t. Can you say opportunity?
Ways to reach Generation Y through mom and dad include:
- Offer relationship pricing by household and not individual (design the program around the entire family’s accounts).
- Offer loan discounts for the parents if they get an auto loan for the teenager at the credit union.
- Promote linking all the accounts together (where mom and dad can transfer funds from their account to the teens’ account—remember mom and dad are often human ATM machines).
- Provide educational materials on finances for parents to share with their kids; try and make as much of this online as possible.
- Develop a membership marketing program encouraging mom and dad to open a credit union account for their teenagers.
So when thinking generationally, credit unions can use Baby Boomer and Generation X parents to reach their Generation Y kids. The bottom line is don’t forget about mom and dad when reaching Generation Y.
Credit unions in a service and sales culture environment need ways to measure how their staff is doing. One common tool many credit unions employ is mystery shops (using your own members or a company to interact with employees and then provide a report about that experience).
“We want to measure how well our employees are executing the skills and behaviors in which they are trained, developed and coached” said Carolyn Jordan, senior vice president for Neighborhood Credit Union (Dallas, TX). “Mystery shops give us a very tangible way to measure and evaluate the member experience in our branches and call centers.”
Mystery shop questions should cover broad areas (not just employee interaction). For example, a shop can review your exterior facilities, ATM drive-up appeal, interior look, bathrooms, etc. From an employee standpoint, examining issues like reliability, responsiveness, empathy, closing, etc. are also important to cover.
Why are mystery shops important? Here’s what Jordan says: “The mystery shops are a coaching tool. We use them to recognize employees who are exhibiting excellent service and to coach them up to even higher levels of success. We also use them to redirect the employees who are below our service and sales benchmarks and get them on the right track.”
But let’s get even more specific. Here are some specific questions that you can include with your mystery shops:
(1) Is staff well groomed and appropriately dressed?
How employees dress communicates something about your brand. These first impressions will tell you a great deal about your employees.
(2) Were you greeted in a welcoming and upbeat manner?
Never underestimate the value of a smile and a good attitude. Employees always need to be “on.”
(3) Did the employee ask questions and listen to you to determine your needs?
Any good cross-sale opportunity starts with questions (not product pushing). Establishing rapport with your members is key to selling.
(4) Did the employee recommend other products, service, solution or special promotion?
This really gets to the heart of a sales culture environment. Employees may not have difficulty talking with members but are they going to that next level by offering (not product pushing) products to member?
(5) Would you refer a friend or family member to the credit union based on this experience?
This is one the most important questions to ask. Don’t underestimate the value of a referral.
Jordan tells the following story to illustrate how mystery shops helped one particular branch and employee:
“One of our employee’s hair stylist is a member and she recently came into her neighborhood branch. One of the employees had been coached on recommending additional products. When the member came in for a transaction, the employee attempted to execute what had been coached. However, because he wasn’t properly determining her needs and just throwing what seemed to be a good match, the member was turned off by the approach. She viewed it as product pushing. Having this feedback directly from the member shows the power of seeing our sales and service through the member’s eyes and allows the manager to see the results of coaching and how it can be refined to help the employee be more successful.”