Do you remember when Generation X was the latest buzzword? It doesn’t seem that long ago when these people with body piercings, grunge clothing and an aversion to alternative rock were all the rave. They were changing our world as we knew it. This year, the oldest are turning 50. That will mean a shift in financial needs. Is your credit union prepared to continue serving them? The answer is not an automatic yes, just because you have served people of the same age from previous generations. Gen Xers are not Boomers, and their needs are not the same.
Strauss & Howe, the leading demographers in the country, define the Generation X population as anyone born between 1961 and 1981. Now squarely at middle age, this generation grew up with remote controls, pagers, microwaves, computers and cable television. Many were latchkey kids. They have always defined themselves by individuality and account for about 70 percent of business startups. They are somewhat skeptical, have a “believe it when I see it” mentality and are both independent and diverse. Gen Xers have families, careers, a lot of stuff and a lot of debt to go with it.
Reaching this generation may require you to subdivide them into two groups: 30s and 40s. All of them are in their prime borrowing years, but 45 percent of them have so much debt, they may never retire. If you can help them turn that around, you may have them for the rest of their lives – particularly those approaching 50. They want to retire some day, and those with kids need money to send them to college. Helping to make them more financially stable with considerably less debt will be important if they have any chance of making these dreams a reality. In essence, you will need to convince the older half of Generation X that it’s time to become a generation of savers, at least more so than they are today.
This should not be a difficult sell if you communicate with them in a very real and authentic way.
Gen Xers don’t want hype. They don’t want marketing slogans that promise one thing and deliver another. They want information, education, variety and options. They want real solutions to their financial obstacles, and they want realistic steps to help them achieve their financial dreams.
Provide the products and services that will help get them out of debt or help them turn around troubled finances. Give them free educational seminars, but not necessarily in person. Offer them in the form of webinars or web videos. Educate them about investments and help them recover some of the retirement savings they have lost in this unstable economy. Offer products and services that support their dreams of entrepreneurship.
The August issue of my e-zine includes a detailed article about Generation X and how credit unions can capture their business. In it, you’ll also find information about credit unions already offering some of the products and services referenced above.
When Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, decided to write a book about how he returned as CEO to revive the company, one word came to mind: Onward. This is the aptly titled book every credit union executive should read. Yes, EVERY credit union executive should read Onward. It is one of the best business books I’ve read, right up there with The Referral Engine and Crush It.
The subtitle says it all: “How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul.” In many ways credit unions today are fighting for their lives (increased regulations, negative economy, hyper competition, decreased margins, changing technologies, etc.) as well. As a movement we can’t lose our soul in the fight.
Here are some quotes from the book that have application for credit unions:
- “The damage was slow and quite, incremental, like a single loose thread that unravels a sweater inch by inch.” Negative change sometimes takes place subtly. One bad teller experience. A rushed member service call. Taking individually those interactions may seem small. But they add up quickly and before you know it your service brand may be much weaker than you want.
- “Starbucks has always been about so much more than coffee. But without great coffee, we have no reason to exist.” In the end, it’s about your products. Loans. Checking accounts. Savings. Investments. Are those products as strong as they can be? What can your credit union do to offer innovative products or improve the ones you have?
- “In the name of efficiency, our company had created some bad habits among our baristas.” In today’s environment, it’s all about cuts and efficiencies. While that’s a good thing, it’s also a trap. You can make your credit union so lean and efficient you sacrifice the member experience and your brand.
- “Starbucks was under attack; mostly from within….this is why, I think, so many companies fail. Not because of challenges in the marketplace, but because of challenges on the inside.” Your credit union’s staff will make or break your brand. So how is your staff living the brand? What internal struggles are you facing?
- “A well-built brand is the culmination of intangibles that do not flow directly to the revenue or profitability of a company, but contribute to its texture. Forsaking them can take a subtle, collective toll.” Some CEOs and CFOs decry branding as “touchy-feely” and whine about branding’s ROI. If you choose not to focus on your credit union’s strategic brand (targets, differentiation, staff training, etc.) you will save a few bucks in the short term. But long term, your profitability will suffer because you failed to build your strategy.
My biggest takeaway from reading Onward is that if Starbucks—one of the best brands going today—had to take a hard look at itself and reinvent its brand, then credit unions should do the same. Don’t assume everything with your brand is okay.
I’ll be honest: I underlined about half the book (yes, it’s that good). So there are many other takeaways than the ones above.
Credit unions must actively move forward into today’s highly competitive marketplace. One way to learn new ideas is to read Onward.
Below are excerpts from a recent interview I did with Sean McDonald about marketing trends and the next 12 months for credit unions. McDonald, a well-known marketing executive, is speaking at the Texas Credit Union League’s Marketing Conference next month. Sean (@YFPTips) is a frequent national speaker and the author of “Stop Growing! Lessons on Growing Your Business and Career.” One of his sessions is “CU Marketing 101 and 102, 103, 104…Dynamic Trends, Do’s and Don’ts, Challenges and Opportunities.”
(1) What are the top marketing trends you currently see on the horizon for credit unions?
E-marketing, mobile marketing and social media marketing are the big three trends. The challenge I see is that credit unions will need to keep up with technology and platforms that change almost hourly. What worked yesterday will not necessarily be effective tomorrow. It’s changing that fast!
(2) What are three things credit unions must do in the next 12 months to succeed?
- I think it’s time that we get serious about a large-scale awareness campaign. There are still too many people who don’t know what credit unions are. That’s sad. An old rule of sales success is to find a need and fill it. Consumers have a great need right now for trusted financial partners. Credit unions need to fill that need.
- Credit unions need to get outside of their comfort zones when it comes to marketing and business development. Think outside the box – I know it sounds cliché but it works, trust me. Be bold but be smart about it.
- Hire people who are looking for CAREERS rather than jobs. Credit unions need to hire for leadership and attitude. Look at the big picture. Don’t get caught up in the semantics. If someone takes 50 minutes instead of 45 for their lunch – as long as they’re exceeding expectations and doing the right things – cut them some slack. Leaders shouldn’t be managed by a clock. The best leaders will get offended by it.
(3) Conversely, what are three things credit unions should NOT do in the next 12 months?
- Do NOT cut your marketing budget. How can you expect your credit union to grow if you’re not marketing your services?
- Do NOT cut your training budget. An organization grows only as much as its people are allowed to grow. Training needs to continue. That doesn’t mean you have to send your employees to out of state conferences. If that’s not in your budget, fine. But hire a trainer to come to you! We’re willing to travel. (Shameless plug, I know.)
- Do NOT underestimate the power, importance, and influence of technology – your website needs to be top-notch and highly functional, you need to engage Gen Y (and Gen X for that matter) where they are which means social media. Stop using so much paper and get educated about e-marketing, QR codes, and mobile banking. Put simply – if your credit union looks OLD and does OLD things, you’re done growing.
(4) So many credit unions are trying to get younger. How can credit unions effectively accomplish that marketing strategy?
Go where the younger potential members are. Speak their language. Gather a group of current Gen Y members that are already part of your credit union family and ask them questions. Take their suggestions. Implement what makes sense and what is appropriate. Get creative with marketing and branding. But remember that in the end, you’re running and representing a financial services business. Don’t be too cavalier. It’s people’s money you’re dealing with.
(5) If you could boil credit union marketing success down to one thing, what would it be?
Remember that there is a time for research and deliberation. But don’t forget to MAKE DECISIONS. Too many opportunities are lost because folks are afraid to make a decision. To quote Yoda, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
(6) You are the chair for CUNA’s Marketing and Business Development Council. What are some professional development tips you would give credit union people to grow in their career?
Never stop learning, take smart risks, and be decisive. Those are the three things that have worked best for me.
(7) What business books should every credit union professional read?
There are WAY too many to try and list here but one that pops right to mind is “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. Also, “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin” should be required reading for everyone on the planet.
Oh and another one you might want to take a look at is my book – “Stop Complaining! Start Growing! Lessons on Growing Your Business and Career.” It’s available on Amazon. (Another shameless plug, I know.)
(8) Are there any additional comments you would like to make with regards to helping credit union business development or marketing?
Look at the big picture for your credit union marketing and business development efforts. Don’t get caught up in details that don’t matter all that much. Measure results, keep what works and get rid of what doesn’t. And make sure that your Executive Management team recognizes how important marketing and business development are to the success of the organization.
I had the opportunity earlier this month to speak with the “Crashers” at the Louisiana Credit Union League annual meeting. According to their website, the crashers are “a group of young credit union professionals catalyzing the movement through meetups, development project, online collaboration and mentorships.” Most of the crashers are under 30 and working in a credit union.
I didn’t do a formal speech with notes, PowerPoint presentation and handouts. That is boring—and the Crashers don’t do boring. Instead we just chatted for about 30 or 45 minutes. I could choose the topic so I wanted to talk about their career development and generational issues.
It took all of about five minutes to realize that while many of those young people are extremely enthusiastic about the credit union movement they are at times equally frustrated with walls they hit at the credit union. Many felt their ideas hit deaf ears. Some struggled with supervising older co-workers. And all wanted to develop their careers more.
There is a definite generational gap in the credit union workplace. As credit union leaders, we need these young people. We need the crashers. They can improve (“crash”) our credit unions—but not on their own.
Here are ways you can help young workers “crash” your credit union:
- Listen—to their ideas. And don’t just give lip service. When possible, implement their suggestions. And be sure to give them credit for their ideas. Don’t be quick to say “no way.”
- Include—someone under 30 in your strategic planning session. More than likely, one of your strategic initiatives at your credit union is to get young. Your best source for this target market are those that are actually in the target market.
- Mentor—your brightest young stars. I wouldn’t recommend a “formal” mentorship program, however, take time to meet informally with younger co-workers. Pour your life into theirs.
- Train—conduct generational training. Three generations (Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y) are all colliding together in the workplace. The better we understand each other the better we will work together.
- Feedback—Give feedback on a regular basis. The number one thing young people need at the office is feedback. And I’m not talking about yearly performance review. Have weekly and project by project comments on how they are doing.
- Challenge—Give them a project that is too big for them or a goal you don’t think they can reach. Let them prove you wrong.
Baby Boomers and Generation X sometimes see these young 20-somethings as annoying and self-entitled. While Gen Yers are certainly not without their faults, they do bring a great deal of energy and enthusiasm to your credit union. Let’s use their skill set to “crash” our credit unions.
In today’s lending environment, credit unions will do whatever it takes to grow loans. Even conduct a zombie invasion.
PTP New Media has designed an incredibly creative campaign to help credit unions increase their auto loans and credit card portfolios. Entitled “Zombie Invasion,” this highly creative campaign will use a shared costs philosophy to deliver an over the top marketing promotion for willing credit unions in October.
“It’s hard to strike out as different and stand out,” says James Robert Lay, Grower of Relationships at PTP New Media. “So we have made it easy for credit unions to get noticed.”
The campaign’s theme is about helping your members “survive” a Zombie invasion with your credit union’s auto loans or credit cards. PTP New Media will provide all of the collateral (online and offline), campaign strategy and internal promotion ideas. All at a price most any credit union can afford.
“By combining an exciting, visually appealing campaign with a focus on auto loans or credit cards, your credit union can cut through the clutter plus get other people talking about your brand because the campaign is fun, different and creates buzz in your community,” Lay adds.
One of the campaign’s strengths is its multi-generational appeal. Zombies are hugely popular with today’s Generation Y (think Walking Dead series and the dozens of Zombie movies). Yet Zombies also appeal to the Baby Boomers with their 1950s retro-science fiction feel.
The campaign comes with print material (flyers, inserts, direct mail, posters, etc.). But perhaps the Zombie Invasion stands out the most with its online creative material, which includes an interactive microsite, web videos, web banner ads, e-mail marketing, and social media tactics.
“PTP believes that credit unions are a perfect match for this campaign as a way to help engage your members in a fun, different and exciting way,” notes Lays.
Let’s be honest: most credit unions do some type of Fall auto loan promotion—and they’re boring. Typically, the visuals are of fast cars or falling leaves. The “Zombie Invasion” certainly offers a different spin on a traditional campaign. And remember, no one talks about a boring business.
The “Zombie Invasion” is a unique opportunity for your credit union to increase your auto loan and credit card portfolios this October. With its low cost, the campaign ROI is sure to generate a positive return.