The ideal brand for any business is one so strong that both employees and customers shout it from the roof tops. Bossier Federal Credit Union ($110 million, Louisiana) did the next best thing. It created a brand manifesto.
All credit unions have great stories to tell. Bossier FCU’s branding example is one other credit unions can follow. It’s a story about proclaiming, living and promoting a brand. It’s a story about a credit union which demonstrates every day the idea that you don’t have to be a big financial institution to make big things happen. If they can do it, so can you.
The story really begins about two or three years ago when the credit union re-branded itself, creating the tagline “Beyond Banking…This is Personal.” It didn’t just slap its tagline on marketing pieces and call it quits, because that is not true branding. Branding about establishing a message consistent with how members perceive your organization. As a result of the re-branding, the credit union changed the way it hired people. It changed the way it treated people. It became a credit union that went beyond banking at every touch point. But what does that really mean?
That is what the brand manifesto would define. Much like a traditional manifesto, which is a public proclamation of values or principles, a brand manifesto proclaims the values or principles of a specific brand. For Bossier, this was the next step in the branding process. It was an opportunity for the credit union to really define and clarify its message to members. It was about creating something that would stand the test of time.
It started with focus groups. If you’ve ever been through a focus group process, you know how common it is for employee perceptions to be vastly different from member perceptions. The exact opposite happened with Bossier. PTP New Media conducted focus group with the executive team, members and the remaining employees, and everyone was on the same page. The consensus was that Bossier really does go beyond banking to make it personal for its members. PTP used actual words and quotes from the focus groups to develop the five points that define Bossier FCU’s manifesto:
- We wear our brand on our sleeve. We are real people.
- Loyalty and trust can never be bought. They’re only earned.
- We are a financial institution second and your personal concierge first.
- Progression is important and complacency is a four letter word.
- Going beyond is our status quo. You can hold us to that.
This post is only part of a bigger, better story. Read the rest of it in the June issue of my monthly e-zine. You do not want to miss this account about a small credit union that serves an example for an entire industry.
After four years of use, my Dell laptop finally met its end (okay, I actually dropped it at a Starbucks, cracking the shell and everything). Even before I dropped the thing, I knew it was replacement time. So I was already researching its replacement. The biggest decision: should I switch from the PC and go to a Mac?
I’ll give you a hint: I’m typing this post on my new MacBook Air. Yes, I did it: I switched to the Mac. The reasons why I made the switch also apply to credit unions as well. Is your credit union like a Mac or PC? Consider these observations and questions.
(1) Product—The main reason I bought the MacBook Air was because the product is simply better (in my opinion). After much online research, reviews, talking with other laptop users, etc. it became apparent that Apple just made a better product. Granted, you pay for it. But you also get what you pay for. As credit unions, we must honestly asses how unique our products are. Your checking accounts, loans, investment services and technology offerings should be superior to your competition. What makes your products better?
(2) Service—Every one of my previous computers (home, business, laptop, etc.) have been Dells. And their service stinks. I’ve had multiple problems with my main home/office computer (Dell). When I call Dell, I can barely understand what they are saying. But not Apple. If something is wrong, I’m talking with someone either in Cupertino, California or Austin, Texas. Plus, I can take the Apple to a nearby genius bar if necessary. So compare that to your credit union. The standard for exceptional service is extremely high. How trained are your employees at providing exceptional (not average) service?
(3) Branding—Apple’s branding is well documented. Few companies do it better. People who buy Apple computers tend to be on the “cool” side. Anyone who knows or sees me realizes that I’m anything but cool (I’m more of a nerd and geek). But I want to look and feel cool. Using a Mac makes me feel young, hip and cool. How does using your credit union make your members feel? Branding is not about slapping an ad somewhere (anywhere); it’s about who you are as an organization. Apple knows exactly what its brand is. How strong is your credit union’s brand?
(4) Design—Apple’s design is amazing. Their computers are sleek and nice, not old and clunky (think Dell). How do your marketing materials and credit union look? When conducting marketing audits for clients this past year, I’ve noticed a common theme: most credit union marketing is outdated and lacks creativity. And when it comes to branches, many of our credit unions can use a facelift. From a true outsider’s perspective, how does your credit union look?
Obviously, choosing a PC is different than choosing a financial institution. But when it does come to comparison, credit unions should look in the mirror and ask, “Are we more like a Mac or a PC?”
“The branch is dead.” “Everyone is going mobile.” “New technology will trump branches.” Have you heard these or similar phrases recently? While our society (and banking) is certainly going more mobile, don’t underestimate the power of the branch.
That’s according to Randy Schultz, vice president of marketing for The Weber Marketing Group. As part of CUNA’s Marketing Management School, I had the opportunity last month to hear Randy talk about retail branding.
“People have been saying for years that branches are dead,” Shultz commented. “People like going to stores, they don’t like going to a bank. We have to figure out how to be more like stores.”
How are branches still powerful? Schultz pointed to five reasons:
- Branches represent the “public face” of your credit union
- Member perceptions are shaped by branch experience
- Cross-selling is the most effective in-person
- Relationships, trust and a sense of family are built in the branch
- Members prefer the “personal touch” with certain transactions and issues
“There are different ways to do retail branding” Schultz said. He noted that recent research from JD Power showed that 31% of consumer PFI decision is driven by branch image.
Here are some of the practical suggestions Schultz makes to increase the your branch’s retail feel:
- Build a community room (do something different)
- Include marketing with the branch project from the beginning
- Use a “no tape rule” (only allow one tape dispenser per desk); watch for personal clutter
- Have branch guideline books
- Have a marketing ambassador (part of whose job is to be responsible for the marketing look) at every branch (this could easily be a teller)
- Use ipads in the branches
- Move to teller pods
“Members may not remember what you said or did, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel,” Schultz added. And one of the best places you can make them feel great is the branch.
A recent Mashable article (“Five Ways Digital Has Forced Agencies to Adapt”) highlights several areas in which the advent of digital media and digital lifestyles is forcing ad agencies to adapt and change their practices. While it is interesting to ponder how such changes can affect what many consider to be a fast-paced profession (advertising), we can apply many of the same questions the article poses to credit unions.
- Since many members are now far better-educated than in the past (or at least more tech-savvy), credit unions are compelled to up the ante amongst their own staffs. The last thing anybody wants is to be upstaged by the very people to which we are supposed to be supplying the latest
and greatest financial services data. Credit unions must increasingly work to ensure their internal team is well-versed in current trends and emerging technologies that could influence member needs and expectations.
- The last thing many boards and CEOs may think their credit union needs is a Research and Development (R&D) department. While a hardcore R&D division is probably not in the cards for most credit unions, internalizing some of those roles should be. Just as you have teams in place to handle lending, collections and accounting, your credit union should consider appointing an individual or small committee to investigate and report on fresh ideas in technology that could one day benefit members.
- The digital world requires speed, more speed and an extra helping of, you guessed it, speed. This is particularly true if your credit union takes advantage of social media channels as a way to reach current and potential members. The nature of digital media (and social media) lends people to expect rapid-fire answers to their questions and concerns. While being late returning emails and voicemails was bad in the previous world, in the digital world such tardiness can stain your credit union via unfavorable online reviews and comments.
- With its unrelenting speed and forward progress, the digital world can be overwhelming. Collaboration is the key to keeping up with the breakneck pace. Credit unions can benefit, whether in informal settings (for example, lunch meetings or joint planning retreats) or more formally (such as through their state credit union league), from the experiences and information of fellow industry professionals.
- If the digital world impacts any one part of credit unions most significantly, that might be in IT and operating systems. Constant updates and changes are vital if internal systems are to handle the
higher loads and demands placed upon them. New and improved digital tools can help your credit union run more smoothly and efficiently, but require considerable research and due diligence planning before implementation.
These are just a few of the many ways the digital world impacts our credit unions. What other ways have you observed or do you anticipate in the future at your credit union? Feel free to let us know in the comments section below.
Can your credit union grow a great deal by learning from a regional bank? Absolutely—especially if you read Leading for Growth by Ray Davis, president and CEO of Umpqua Bank (Oregon). In the opening paragraph, Davis sums it up this way, “Companies can never stay the same. Leading for growth is not optional.” I would add that reading Leading for Growth is not optional as well: it’s a must read.
Davis uses Umpqua as an example of how he grew their local bank at phenomenal rate. In 1994 Umpqua had $140 million in assets. Today they have over $7 billion. I think most credit union executives would take that growth rate. Granted, much of Umpqua’s growth is attributable to mergers and its ability to raise capital. However, there are numerous lessons credit unions absolutely apply to increase their own growth rate. Davis directly believes leadership in a number of areas are directly linked to growth. He divides his book into five key sections:
(1) Prerequisites for relentless growth
(2) Roles of a leader
(3) Master the basics
(4) Marketing, marketing, marketing
(5) Leading your culture
This short post can’t possibly cover all the great material in the book. However, below are some of the most important quotes from the book along with credit union application.
“I’ve read a number of books on leadership and none of them had much to say about marketing. I don’t think you can be very successful in leading your company on a path of growth if you don’t pay a lot of attention to the market you serve.”
- Credit union application: Marketing matters. You will not grow your credit union without making marketing a priority (this means in strategy, staff and resources). Where does marketing rank in your credit union? Is it a strategic player or just viewed as a line item expense?
“Why do we call our facilities stores rather than branches? Because we understand what business we are really in. We’re in the retail service business.”
- Credit union application: While this quote is taken from a section about the type of business you are in, it is interesting that Umpqua calls their branches stores and not branches. As credit unions, we must think like retailers (and not like bankers). Study Apple, Nike, Starbucks
and REI locations. Retail marketing—how your branches/stores look—makes a difference.
“You cannot grow your business if all you are doing is worrying about your numbers.”
- Credit union application: We tend to obsess about our numbers and ratios. Operating expense ratios. Capital level. Net income. Loan to share ratios. Those are all extremely important. But the bottom line is we need to be member driven and not number driven. If we focus on our
members, the numbers will come.
“If you don’t like change you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” (Note: that was a quote
Davis used from Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki)
- Credit union application: As younger generations become more dominant credit unions must avoid the risk of becoming irrelevant. We don’t want to be old school or have the perception that credit unions are for old people. We overcome irrelevancy with innovation. So what innovations
are you introducing in the next 12 months?
“Attention to detail isn’t just about customer service: it’s critical to your brand. Your brand
depends on everything you do, how you present yourself, how you treat people, how you stand behind your products and services. You can’t have a strong brand and be lax about the details.”
- Credit union application: Details make a difference. When was the last time you conducted a marketing audit? A marketing audit dives deeply into every aspect of your marketing: your materials, your branches, your competitors, your strategies, your tactics, your markets, etc. In other words, the details. Seeing those details with your brand often requires an outside perspective.
Those are a few of the major points and quotes Davis makes. I would recommend Leading for Growth to any credit union executive—it’s that good. There are so many ideas in this book that if you incorporate just a few of them you will change your credit union for the better.