Marketing as we know it is changing. Duh. Yellow pages are dead and being replaced with search engine optimization (SEO) tools and social media efforts. But that’s just the tip of the marketing iceburg.
A new white paper (Online Marketing Tactics) published by the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council explains how the marketing tactics that worked for credit unions pre-technology may still work today, but they may not be nearly as effective in reaching consumers (note: I’m biased on this white paper because I wrote it).
“Start with what you know or can get a grasp of,” says Matt Hodson, marketing director for Health Care Credit Union ($65 million, Salt Lake City, UT) in the paper. “It can be as simple as starting a blog for SEO purposes or spending money on Google Adwords for your area. Always do something you are comfortable with to start and then build out from there. Look at online forums dedicated to certain aspects of online marketing. SEOMoz.org is a great source for SEO and SEM. They will even give you a free guide to beginning SEO.”
The white paper covers a multitude of online marketing tactics including:
- Getting started
- Website and SEO
- E-mail marketing
- Social media
- Mobile marketing
- Web video
- PPC and keyword advertising
- QR codes
Some of the key insights include:
- Technology has put consumers in control. They control when and how they want communication. They control where and how they receive information. It’s up to credit unions to adapt to those new rules by changing the way they market to members and non-members.
- Some credit unions continue relying on antiquated marketing techniques to reach consumers. What worked pre-technology may still work today, but it’s not nearly as effective in its reach to consumers or its impact on marketing budgets.
- We live in a highly technology-driven society where gadgets are king and access to information is immediate. That changes the way consumers expect their financial institutions to interact with them as well.
- Technology can be intimidating, but the basics of marketing have not changed. Credit unions still need to deliver the right message, to the right person at the right time. They just need to deliver it the way consumers expect to receive it—and wherever they want it. That will require some credit unions to make significant changes.
The paper also:
- Shares current technology trends
- Examines online marketing elements worth consideration
- Discusses the essentials of an online marketing strategy
- Provides tips on implementing online marketing tactics
So as you make your 2012 marketing plan, read the “Online Marketing Tactics” white paper and make sure your plans include of these tactics.
In a recent social media workshop I conducted for credit unions, I was amazed at how many of them were not allowed to access Twitter on their work computers. How can your credit union effectively engage in social media if your leaders are not using the tools? It reminded me of a post I wrote back in March, 2010 of “Twitter Makes You a Better Leader.”
So I decided to update that original post below. Every credit union executive and manager should be using Twitter every single day. In fact, I would also encourage board members to use and embrace Twitter as well.
Credit unions should absolutely allow their management access to Twitter and to deny that access is not forward thinking.
There are several people who just don’t get Twitter. I admit it—I was one of them once. However, now that I am fully immersed into Twitter I get it. One of the problems, now, however, is that many credit union executives not only don’t get Twitter, they are blocking their employees from using it while at work.
Credit union management and executives should use Twitter every day. Why? Because Twitter makes you a better leader.
Here are seven ways or reasons to overcome the anti-Twitter stance:
1) Keeps you up-to-date—If you want breaking news in the credit union industry, there is no better tool than Twitter. Some of the best information comes from the likes of @CUInsight, @CookeonCUs, @CreditUnionJrnl, @CUWaterCooler, @CUNAmbdcouncil, @CUNAverse and many others that I don’t have space to list. You absolutely should be following these folks and several others.
2) Argue strategically—Twitter improves your strategic thinking. And as a credit union executive, don’t you want to be the best strategic thinker possible? Twitter keeps you up-to-date and informed on the latest issues credit unions are facing. You can also follow key thought leaders like @GuyKawasaki, @CUWaterCooler, @CUWarrior, @morrischris, @MichaelHyatt, @FinancialBrand, @JRWLay, @yfptips, @rshevlin, etc. (and there are tons more I wanted to list but didn’t because of space).
3) Balance risk versus reward—Of course there are risks (for example viruses and malware) when employees use Twitter at work. However, there are other risks credit unions face every day as well. E-mail is a risk. Making a loan is a risk. Opening a second chance checking account is a risk. In fact, there are risks with any business venture. However, successful credit unions will balance the risk with the reward. The answer is not to deny access because of the risk involved, but rather to manage it.
4) Use a non-network computer—IT folks are charged with protecting the network; their job is to protect the credit union’s network. If that’s the reason why you can’t use Twitter at the office (to communicate with the outside world no less!) then have IT setup a separate computer for you that is not linked to the network. Obviously, that’s a pain for you and a less than ideal solution. However, at least with this option you can follow others and send tweets.
5) Use your phone—Like point number four, this is another way to use Twitter that doesn’t involve accessing your network. The downside for most folks is it can be harder to keep up-to-date with Twitter on your phone than your PC.
6) Use Twitter Tools—While the IT department has blocked social sites like Twitter, they may not be blocking websites like HootSuite or TweetDeck (although that requires an application download) that can serve as Twitter tools without having to go directly to Twitter itself.
7) Ask nicely—The IT folks are our friends and play a critical role in the success of your credit union. So when all else fails, just ask them nicely if you can have access to Twitter (using points one and two above to rationalize your reasoning).
Not everyone (especially IT people) will agree with this post. However, Twitter is a powerful tool and will make your credit union executives better leaders.
“A ship in the harbor is safe…but that is not what ships are for.”
Credit unions are inherently conservative. That’s a good thing. Until it becomes a bad thing. Sometimes an overly conservative nature can lead to taking no risks at all. As John Maxwell wrote, “The moment you decide not to take a risk is when your competitors will pass you by.”
There are certain risks credit unions should take. While we often associate taking risks with our loan portfolios, there are other areas just as critical that need a risk assessment. Below are four areas credit unions should consider taking more risks:
(1) Take risks with unique groups
Every credit union wants the perfect member, the perfect community, or the perfect select employee group. Get over it—they don’t exist. However, there are many people, areas and companies with warts on them. Real people who need real financial help. Those are some of your best target audiences. Serving the underserved has risks. Serving Hispanics has risks. Serving the unbanked has risks. If you are looking for the ideal niche group then you may be looking for awhile. Instead, you might want to take risks with a unique group and serve them.
(2) Take risks with marketing
Is your marketing boring? Remember, no one talks about a boring company. Maybe your credit union should stop using traditional media (yellow page ads, newspapers, billboards, direct mail, etc.) and instead do more with emerging marketing technologies (video, QR codes, mobile marketing, search engine optimization, pay per click, social media, etc.). While there is “no school like the old school” a part of your marketing strategy this year should include a tactic you’ve never used at your credit union.
(3) Take risks with employees
One of your credit union’s greatest assets is its employees. Yet as Stephen Covey once said, “People are called an expense and things are called assets.” Never forget that your employees are your brand—they live it (or break it) every day. Focus on your employees’ potential, not their shortcomings. Maybe it’s time you give that “up and comer” the chance he or she deserves. Be sure you are empowering your employees to accomplish something great and try not to stifle their creativity.
(4) Take risks with young people
Generation Y is different and unique. They will not wait on a credit union that is moving at a snail’s pace. Sometimes credit union executives feel these youngsters must “earn their dues” and that they “want to change everything.” Just because a credit union employee is young doesn’t mean they don’t have tons of wonderful ideas to offer. Don’t rule them out because of their age—instead take a risk with them.
Will taking these risks lead to failure and mistakes? They could—but they could also lead to great success. And NOT taking these steps will lead to complacency and stagnation (an even worse result).
We often hear of successful credit union marketing and promotional campaigns. While these are important and laudable parts of any credit union strategic plan, it is important not to overlook the value and role of public relations.
At its core, any marketing and public relations campaign is all about one thing: communications. Human beings are innate storytellers and often most easily receive messages via stories or parables. Employing public relations and communications strategies as part of your credit union growth plan can help ensure its message teaches more potential listeners/readers in a deeper and more actionable way than relying on tried, true and often staid methods of marketing.
Every credit union interested in growth, regardless of asset size, should include public relations in its strategic plan. Here are five easy tips to help get yours started.
- Cultivate a newsworthy event and spread the word. Too often, public relations efforts are reactionary. Consider creative ways to generate positive buzz for your credit union, including the creation of notable events. Digital Federal Credit Union ($3.65 billion in assets) in Marlborough, MA accomplished this with a creative PR campaign to help members deal with rising gas prices. The credit union promoted a limited-time special gas price of $1.99 a gallon, paying the difference to the gas station and making a charitable donation per car taking advantage of the deal. Buzz built and hundreds of locals took advantage of the low price. The credit union generated incalculable positive community exposure and extensive coverage in local, state and regional media.
- Tie your credit union into an ongoing event or news story. The most obvious example of this is the recent rash of negative publicity surrounding several large banks’ decisions to add fees for debit card usage (as of this writing, several of these banks bowed to public pressure and dropped the proposed fee). Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union ($4.34 billion in assets) in Tampa, FL spread the word about its “Make the Switch” campaign and reported record numbers of new checking accounts opened. By linking your credit union in a positive way to an ongoing news story, you can leverage its momentum to gain media exposure and attention to your message.
- Create an online newsroom and resource center. The media and your members expect to find a wealth of information about your credit union on its website. Make their job easier by housing information relating to your public relations efforts on a single page. In addition to archived news releases, bring the page to life with links to your credit union social media platforms, photos, videos, media contact information and a press kit. Update the page often to keep it fresh and relevant. Examples include Orange County’s Credit Union, America First Credit Union and Clearview Federal Credit Union.
- Coordinate your PR efforts with social media. Many credit unions have at least a nominal social media platform presence, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. Generate even more lifecycle and exposure for your public relations efforts by tying news releases back to these platforms. Note that people can follow your credit union for news on its Facebook or Twitter page. Embed links to these platforms. Direct people to videos about your credit union on its YouTube channel. Gone are the days when PR practitioners can simply email a news release and hope for the best. The media and your members expect to be able to access credit union news in a variety of ways. Leaving social media out makes for a one-dimensional and bland experience.
- Get your credit union staff involved. As with marketing and promotional efforts, the buy-in and active participation of credit union front-line staff is critical to success. Much more so than PR and marketing specialists, front-line staff enjoy the most face-time with members. Make sure they are well-versed in what your credit union is promoting via public relations efforts. Give regular updates about public relations campaigns. Highlight successes by distributing copies of stories that ran in the print media and arrange “watch parties” when news about your credit union makes it on television. Foster and nurture a culture of celebration when it comes to your public relations efforts and ensure your staff knows its value and benefit.
Attracting new members and retaining current ones are critical elements of successful credit union strategic plans. By acting as storytellers of success, credit union public relations professionals provide a dynamic, interactive and relationship-building environment to aid growth. By following these simple steps, any credit union can quickly realize the benefits of positive and proactive public relations.
A major strategic initiative many credit unions are focusing on these days is business development: getting more select employee groups (SEGs) or more from their existing business partners. That is easy to say and often hard to do. In fact, credit unions won’t accomplish that goal without a strong business development and marketing staff. To increase SEG penetration, you will have to turn your business development and marketing folks into rainmakers—employees who are so good at sales they are making sales “rain” down on the credit union.
If you are interested in turning your BD people into rainmakers, then you need to read (and have your sales folks read) Rainmaking Conversations, by Mike Schultz and John Doerr. This is a must read for anyone in sales. It is not a typical sales and service book. Rather, Rainmaking Conversations gives advanced ideas for how to engage people and turn those engagements into natural sales opportunities (note: not in a pushy way at all; in fact Rainmaking Conversations abhors pushy salespeople). Below are a few of the book’s major points and how credit unions can apply them.
The authors use RAIN as a guide: R = Rapport; A = Aspirations and Afflictions; I = Impact; N = New Reality
- Credit union application: While Schultz and Doerr go into great detail on each of the above steps, one of the application points is to not make superficial connections, but rather genuine ones. Buyers buy from people they like. Think of your business development staff. How likeable are they? How genuine are they? Don’t use those chamber functions just to shake hands and pass out business cards. Instead build rapport, determine their business goals, show how you can make an impact and demonstrate what they get by partnering with your credit union.
“It’s about talking about their needs and positioning what you have to fulfill their needs.”
- Credit union application: Potential SEGs (or members) need to understand exactly what they get when they work with you. The salespeople who sell the most ask great questions. What type of questions are your BD folks asking? Do you have a potential differentiation script they can use?
“A value proposition is not a statement”
- Credit union application: Your business development staff must resonate with prospects (show why they should work with your credit union), differentiate with companies (why they should have their accounts with you and not another financial institution) and substantiate their promises (show why you are believable).
“Focus on impact, not mechanics, to break free of the commodity trap”
- Credit union application: How many times have you heard someone say, “We’re competing in a commodity business?” The authors suggest that the way to overcome the commodity hurdle is to demonstrate the impact you will have on them. For credit union business development people, that means showing your current and potential SEGs how your credit union helps their employees. Position yourself as a company partner and benefit (not as a vendor).
“The harder you push someone to accept your message, the more resistance you will meet to having it accepted.”
- Credit union application: Don’t push the sale. And don’t sign up a select employee group to just to sign up a group. It is better to have fewer SEGs that will work with you than several that don’t even return your phone calls.
Those are a few of the major points and quotes the authors make. When it comes to business development and sales, Rainmaking Conversations is a must read. It provides practical applications and helpful hints for ways to improve your one-on-one sales efforts.