Budget Priorities for 2013

Budget Priorities for 2013

A colleague e-mailed me recently about a pricing quote for one of our company’s services. In the note she said,
“We are in budget season (don’t you miss that? (lol)?!”Budget

Ah yes, budget season. When marketers and H.R. professionals routinely do battle with CFOs and Finance VPs. No matter where you are in the organizational chart, however, there are a number of items your credit union or financial institution should consider as you carefully make your 2013 plans.

Here are a few:

(1)Your digital strategy—Mobile technology is tipping. But it is more than just mobile. A digital strategy includes mobile banking, tablet banking, an app and other tools. Don’t let 2013 pass you by without taking significant strides down the technology road.

(2)Your brand plan—When it comes to budget cuts, branding is often the first to go. If you reduced your branding efforts the past several years for budgetary reasons, then now is the time to make the investment by developing a brand strategy that determines your niches, your messages, your vision, etc. Don’t let 2013 pass you by without investing in your brand (remember, it’s the essence of who you are).

(3)Your employee training—As credit unions, we say we are all about people. Are we all about our employees (after all, they are people too)? Let’s be honest: your credit union will only grow if your employees are growing. And they won’t grow if you aren’t giving them training. Don’t let 2013 pass you by without giving your employees more training.

(4)Your member engagement—We must engage our members; that’s not just a buzzword, it’s an essential strategy. Ways to increase member engagement include teller pods, a more retail look, a member dividend, an interactive website (think live chat), wowing our members and getting them to refer new members to you. Don’t let 2013 pass you by without returning something to your members.

(5)Your marketing audit—We audit everything in the financial services industry. But one area that is sometimes skipped in auditing is marketing. A marketing audit will review all your pieces for consistency while also giving you strategic and tactical ideas. Don’t let 2013 pass you by without reviewing your marketing.

Your budget conveys your priorities. You will notice a theme for 2013: your priorities should include your technology, your brand, your employees, your members and your marketing. If you spend your dollars in those areas, you will reap the return.

Those are a few ideas and are certainly not an all-encompassing list (in fact, your budget priorities should match your strategic priorities). What else should credit unions or financial institutions budget for in 2013?

Leveraging Investment Services as A Strategic Tool

Leveraging Investment Services as A Strategic Tool

In conducting strategic planning sessions for multiple clients recently, one thing is apparent: credit unions are seeking additional ways generate non-interest income. One area they are pursuing is offering investment services to their members.Investment

But that’s easier said than done. One credit union that has successfully implemented investment services is Neighborhood Credit Union (full disclosure time: I use to work at  Neighborhood Credit Union). Neighborhood Credit Union brands its investment area Neighborhood Financial Services (NFS) and Matt Risenhoover serves as vice president of NFS. I recently had the opportunity to visit with Matt about credit unions implementing investment services. 


(1)Why should credit unions offer investment services for their members?

Offering investment services will deepen the financial relationship the member has with the credit union. Most members over the age of 35 have 401(k)s or some type of retirement asset. Most do not use conventional bank products (CDs) for those investment needs. Offering investment services and focusing on capturing retirement assets allows the institution to make a “stickier” member and allow for some secondary income to the credit union.

(2) What are some of the trends with credit unions and investment services?

Investment services as a whole continue to grow even in this recovering economy. Most people want advice on what they should do and the trend over the last several years has focused on offering services that will
cover that need. Even insurance companies who have recently started banks are now offering people financial advice. The business for a long time was product driven but one of the bigger changes is the move to more of a
consultant approach (fee for advise) as opposed to paying for a product. While both options are important, the advice is definitely picking up speed on the growth side.


(3)What success stories do you know of credit unions that have implemented investment services and how is it working?

With Neighborhood Credit Union we chose to view Financial Services/Wealth Management as a product itself—along the same vein as loans and checking. By integrating the product into the day to day vocabulary of the
staff it’s allowed the cross sale function of financial management to help find the needs of the clients/members and place them in the appropriate products on the credit union side while managing their wealth on the financial services side.

One great example of that is when a client lost their spouse and had no idea what to do, because the deceased spouse handled everything. We were able to hold their hand and walk them through the steps they needed to
take and made it as simple for them as we could. When everything was finished the member had less stress and the credit union captured several new loans and financial assets that would have gone elsewhere if they didn’t offer financial services.

Credit Unions Need to Think Huge

Credit Unions Need to Think Huge

Too many times in credit union land we are copycats. We see a good idea and we try to copy it. In the words of Earl Nightingale, “don’t’ copy, create.” But creating means coming up with bright, new concepts. Maybe something different. Perhaps an idea that your board may deem “crazy.”THINK_Prize_13_Logo

In other words, credit unions need to think huge. As the author of Think Huge: Elevating Your Life and Your Business I’m a bit partial to the think huge concept. But in the credit union movement, let’s stop doing
the same old tactics year-end and year out. Let’s think huge. 

One way credit unions can “think huge” is to enter the THINK
Prize contest
, presented by the CO-OP Financial Services and sponsored by Filene Research Institute and
MasterCard Worldwide. 

What I like about the whole THINK Prize concept is that CO-OP is looking for fresh, bold ideas that will propel the credit union movement forward. That is indeed what
“thinking huge” is all about. 

Here are the contest details:

  • The grand prizewinner will receive $10,000 in seed money.
  • Entries must be received by September 28th.
  • Entries are judged on impact, creativity and shareablity.
  • Top 25 will advance to Round Two where they will be asked to develop a business plan. From those 25 business plans, the top three will advance.
  • The top three finalists will work with a video production team (provided by CO-OP) to showcase their business plan on video.
  • The finalist will also travel to the THINK 13 Conference in Chicago to present their entry. 
  • Voting will take place online at www.co-opthink.org pre-conference and also onsite at the Conference via the THINK 13 smartphone app. 
  • The finalist who receives the most votes will be deemed the winner. 

You have it in you: the creative idea that can change your credit union and our industry. You just need to think huge. You need to enter the THINK Prize contest.

Cut The Copy

Cut The Copy

Marketers are word people. We like words. After all, that’s why we’re in marketing. But are consumers reading your words? In all honesty, probably not. Why? One reason is because we are writing too much.Copy writing

It’s time we cut the copy.

People are consuming their information in small bites. The reality is they don’t have the time or the interest to read everything you are writing.

As Seth Godin said in a recent post, “Say what you need to say, then leave. Less is actually more.”

Where possible, use bullets, lists, subheads and short paragraphs. If necessary, break a long item into multiple pieces. The key is to make your copy “scannable.” Time how long it takes to read the article, brochure, postcard, web page, etc. If it’s more than 90 seconds, odds are they will go to something else. 

Completing a marketing audit will help examine your materials for length and effectiveness. 

In visiting with a client recently we were talking about her newsletter. When I noted the amount of copy in her piece she confessed, “If I received our newsletter in the mail, I wouldn’t read it. 

So for this post, I’m going to practice what I preached.

Cut the copy.

Authenticity: Marketing’s Important Ingredient

Authenticity: Marketing’s Important Ingredient

Think back on several of your credit union’s last marketing campaigns. Odds are a great amount of time and effort went into their planning,execution and review. You probably invested lots of time and money in an effort to reach members and improve some area of your credit union’s bottom line (e.g., used car loans, credit cards, deposits, etc.).Be-authentic

In all that planning and development, how much thought did you give to the most important part of the campaign? Not the media buy, not the roll-out, not even the buy-in of your executive team, but the authenticity of
it all?

Authenticity is the single-most important part of any marketing or communications plan. Today’s savvy consumer can quickly cut through the barrage of marketing messages lobbed their way and root out those that resonate authenticity while brushing aside those that don’t.

Why is authenticity so important?

Consider the following quote from Fast Company. “In an increasingly shiny, fabricated world of spun messages and concocted experiences—where nearly everything we encounter is created for consumption—elevating a brand above the fray requires an uncommon mix of creativity and discipline.”

To be authentic in today’s hyper-saturated marketing mix, your credit union needs awareness of several key things. These include:

  • Knowing who you are. What is your credit union’s history? Where did it come from? How has it changed and adapted over the years? You can only clear a path to the future if you know about your past.
  • Knowing who you serve. Who are your members? Are you a single-sponsor credit union, or are you equipped with a broad-based community charter? Are they mostly older, mostly younger, or somewhere in-between? What is their economic status?
  • Knowing what they want. Once you have a better grasp of who they are, you can better focus on how to serve your members’ needs. Younger members are more likely to need loans and checking accounts, while older members may look more at investment, retirement and savings options. Do you need to do more online and in social media to reach your members? Do you pay attention to what they say, whether through surveys, focus groups or conversations in the lobby?
  • Knowing your brand. This also means living your brand and keeping its promise. Most importantly, you must protect your brand. Your credit union’s brand is its name, its word, its handshake in the community. Losing this is a terrible blow to your credit union’s overall public perception and trust. If you have built and promised a culture of fast service, live up to it. If your promise is to be an active member of the communities you serve, make sure you do that. Maintaining your integrity is critical.

Your members and potential members are better than ever at sniffing the authentic from the fake. Credit unions must pay close attention to authenticity in their marketing messages, corporate culture and greater public image. Being true to who you are can make a big difference between successfully developing long-lasting member relationships and losing market share to your competition.