“If you build it, they will come.” This line, made popular by the 1980s movie “Field of Dreams,” applies to many aspects of business. Blogging is not one of them. Just because a credit union builds a blog, doesn’t mean members will flock to it. If or when they do come, your blog needs to have something that keeps them there and more importantly, keeps them coming back. That something is content.
Of course, if you don’t know why you are blogging in the first place, content makes no difference. A blog is like any other social media or marketing forum. It requires a well defined plan. It is not something you do because everyone else is doing it. It is something you do to increase traffic to your website, generate exposure and increase your customer base. It is a way to engage a specific audience.
Compelling content starts with topics that appeal to your target demographic. What is interesting to them? If your audience is twenty somethings, blog posts about starting a career, raising a family or buying a first home will hold their attention. Just don’t write what everyone else is writing. Find ways to make old information fresh, perhaps by tying in a current news article, local event or national trend. Keep the wants of the readers in mind while remembering to stay loyal to your brand.
You also want to refrain from blatantly promoting your products and services. A blog is the beginning of a conversation with your members. It gives them information and invites them to continue the conversation by commenting on the blog post. You can mention your services, but do it subtly, and don’t do it with every blog post. Instead of a blog post about how great your mortgage loans are for first-time homebuyers, focus on the struggles, fears or even the excitement associated with buying a home. Use that as an opportunity to make a subtle mention of your program. Or, incorporate the term “first-time home buyer” into your blog and link that phrase to your first-time home buyer program. This approach allows your readers to choose whether or not they want to be sold to and gives them a resource to turn to if and when that time comes.
Whatever content you choose, and however you choose to fulfill the purpose of your blog, be authentic and consistent. If your blog targets women in their thirties, it should be written by women in their thirties. If it targets teenagers, a teen should be writing them. Just as if you were having a conversation with someone in person, it will be very obvious if your bloggers are writing to an audience to which they don’t belong. If you want your blog to build relationships and establish trust with your members, you need to be real with them.
Read a more in-depth article about writing a credit union blog in the April issue of my monthly e-zine.
Your credit union is either getting better or worse. It is not staying the same. You are either moving forward or backwards.
Please note I didn’t say your credit union is either getting bigger or smaller; or that your loans are growing or shrinking; or that your membership is going up or down. I said your credit union is either getting better or worse. Why word it that way? Because numbers can sometimes mislead. You can adopt multiple strategies to grow assets, loans and members but they may not bring you that organic growth that represents true forward movement.
There are several underlying issues you must examine to determine if your credit union is getting better or worse. Here are a few:
(1) Cultural issues—Whether you know it or not, your credit union has a culture. The question to examine is what type of culture does it have and is it the one you want. You must do some soul-searching and self examination. One credit union I know recently went through a values exercise where they did a deep dive on what they wanted their values to be. Similar to a Zappos approach they got employee, management and senior management input. They updated their vision statement and developed core values. Now they are getting better.
(2) Employee issues—Every credit union has employee issues. There are some employees you have carried longer than their mothers did while they were pregnant. It’s time to get rid of some of your employees. We must hold our staff accountable. If they aren’t performing, train and coach them. But if you’ve given them the resources to succeed and they simply can’t (or won’t) go in the direction you desire, then it’s time for them to go “bye-bye in a car-car.” I remember a time when one of my employees just wasn’t getting the job done. I coached them, I counseled them, I helped them and I yelled at them. The bottom line is they just weren’t performing. As hard as it was, we eventually terminated them. But after that, our department got better.
(3) Leadership issues—Your credit union will only go as far as your leaders take it. The more you invest in your leaders, the better your credit union will perform. Leadership does not always come naturally and it takes time to grow your skills in this critical area. One thing we did at Neighborhood Credit Union was spend an entire year conducting leadership training for our management and senior management. We held monthly training sessions with homework. We made a commitment of dollars and time. By making an investment in our leaders, our credit union got better.
(4) Membership issues—How your staff daily serves your members makes a difference in the direction you are headed. But don’t assume your members are always happy and in love with you. Make sure you talk to them on a regular basis and are getting feedback (both positive and negative). Also keep in mind that member satisfaction goes beyond just how they feel. It also means examining products. Do you have the products and services your members want? In working a with a recent client on their marketing audit, we helped them examine their checking account offerings. They needed to completely revise their checking line. By making those changes for their members, they are getting better.
So is your credit union getting better or worse? It’s one or the other. You never stay the same.
A recent study on website first impressions has strong implications for how credit unions design and revise their sites for member use.
You can toss all the old maxims (e.g., how many seconds you have to grab attention with postcards, radio ads, billboards) about advertising impression time out the window. According to the study, visitors to websites form their first impressions in a fraction of a second. The study goes on to say that a company’s (or credit union’s) logo is the primary identifying mark of the website and is also the part that draws the most visitor attention. Other website areas that drew considerable viewer attention include the main navigation bar, the search box and social networking links.
What does this mean for your credit union? The first and most obvious link is the prominent placement of your logo, as this drives website branding and identity. There are, however, other website design hints and tips that credit union professionals should keep in mind to help grab members’ attention.
- Keep fonts simple. The general rule of thumb is a serif font for headlines (Times New Roman, for example) and a sans serif font for text (Arial, for example). Comic Sans may look cute on a child’s birthday party invitation, but doesn’t work well for business purposes.
- Keep text to a minimum and use appealing visuals. Say what you need to say with minimal text and use white space when possible. People don’t want to spend a lot of time reading text on your postcards and won’t on your website, either. As far as visuals, consider using lifestyle pictures of your actual members, as opposed to stock images.
- Make your navigation simple. The more clicks a website viewer has to make in order to find what he or she is looking for, the more likely they are to give up and move on to friendlier sites. Make sure that highly-used parts of your website (home banking, rates page, contact us) are easy to find.
- Browser compatibility is important. Make sure your credit union website looks good in various browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari. This also applies to the way your mobile website appears.
- Keep an eye out for broken links. Nothing looks as amateurish (and can be as frustrating to your members) as broken website links. Regularly audit your credit union website and ensure all links are active and correctly routed.
These are just a few of the basic elements to consider when designing and revising a credit union website that will appeal to members and potential members. Since credit union marketing and website design professionals have less than one second to make a good first impression, getting it right from the start is vital.
Generation Y is everywhere these days. They are in commercials, marketing strategies, technology, social media and many other spots. But is Generation Y in your credit union? Sure, they may be in some front line positions and they may be a key target market you are trying to reach. The better question to ask is, “Is Generation Y in the right places at your credit union?”
Here are three places Generation Y should be at your credit union:
(1) On your board of directors—Credit unions really serious about reaching Generation Y will have someone from that key group on their board. Of course, there are immediate pushbacks: having someone so young (and inexperienced) on the board, finding someone under 30 willing to give their time to a credit union and getting older board members to give up their seats. However, the reality is we need boards to “get” what Generation Y is all about. We need younger perspectives, especially at the board level. Even if having a Generation Y board member is unrealistic, your credit union could have a young person serve as an advisory board member or on a board committee. We need Generation Y on our boards.
(2) On your senior management team—Many credit unions have “getting younger members” on their strategic plan. That may be a hard task to accomplish if we only have Baby Boomers and Gen Xers on our executive teams. Obviously, you don’t have to be from a particular generation to know how to reach people from another generation. You also don’t have to arbitrarily put a young person in an executive position (but you do need to give them a chance). However it helps when you are in management team meetings to have a Generation Y perspective. Their observations are different. They will challenge the norm. They will ask hard questions. They will help you reach this key demographic. We need Generation Y on our senior management teams.
(3) At conferences you attend—It’s amazing when attending credit union conferences how few people from Generation Y I see. That’s a problem. While it may cost more money, take an extra person from the Dot Com group when you go to your next credit union meeting. It’s not a training expense—it’s an investment in your credit union’s future. And I’m not just talking about local chapter training. Take them to a state league or national event. If Generation Y is our future we need to make sure they are learning all they can about our industry (movement). There are tons of great learning opportunities for them: we just need to provide them. We need Generation Y at our conferences.
If Generation Y is indeed our future, credit unions need to get serious about putting them in key places. Those key spots include your board, your executive team and your conferences.
The April 2012 issue of National Geographic had a particularly striking image that relates to credit unions.
The issue featured a prominent article about the sinking of the RMS Titanic, whose centennial is April 15, 2012. While the bookshelves and movie theaters are replete with Titanic commemorations, it’s the seemingly little things that can more often catch the eye. In this case, it was a simple early 20th century gentleman’s pocket watch, the round style that men used to wear on a chain attached to their shirt or pants pockets. This watch was pulled from the ocean flood amidst Titanic wreckage. For something that sat in the mud at the bottom of the Atlantic, under two miles of ocean, for over a hundred years, it looks pretty good.
We tend to look at safe arrivals for credit unions as givens. We assume that just by serving members like we always have we will arrive safely at our desired growth destination, just like that Titanic traveler assumed he would arrive safely in New York. But that’s the problem: assuming a safe arrival can actually hinder growth. With a healthy respect for the future (and what could happen) we might actually serve our members better.
“Safe Arrival” ideas to ponder at your credit union can include:
- Do we have a suitable executive team succession plan in place?
- Are we grooming staff from day one to potentially climb the ladder?
- Do we actively foster mentor relationships with our staff?
- Does our board accurately reflect the current make-up and demographics of our membership?
- Do we always have an eye out for new developments in technology, legislation and member needs?
Even one hundred years later, Titanic still has stories and lessons to teach us. Thinking ahead about safe arrivals could serve us well in our credit unions.