How to Improve Your Front Porch: The “About Us” Page

How to Improve Your Front Porch: The “About Us” Page

Working on and improving your credit union or bank website is an in-depth and often arduous task. It is also an ongoing and repeated assignment (a lot like the crews responsible for painting the Golden Gate Bridge; once they finish the span with a fresh coat, it’s time to start all over again at the beginning). About us

However, don’t get too bogged down in the details about image placement, design elements and search engine optimization. Yes, these things matter, but perhaps not as much as what many first-time website visitors
consider the “front porch” of a site; the “About Us” page.

If ever there was a neglected website page, the hapless “About Us” fits the bill. Maybe we should rename it the “About Us When We First Created a Website and Had to Throw Something on Here” page.

Far to the contrary, your “About Us” page should be a dynamic, representative and frequently-updated part of your website.

When updating your “About Us” page, keep the following simple ideas is mind.

Yes, it says “About Us” but it’s really “About Them.”

“Them” being your members/customers. This page should explain in clear language the WIIFM (what’s in it for me”)
principle to a website visitor. In other words, why are they here and what can they gain from it? Think more about your member’s/customer’s thoughts and needs when writing this page. Tell them your value proposition. Remember, your value prop should resonate, differentiate, and substantiate. You should also give visitors quick and easy ways (hyperlinks, email addresses, telephone numbers) to find out more.

Drop the
“happy shiny people” stock photography.

Use real photos of real members/customers. You’ll find that many are more than happy to let you photograph and use their images and this is usually far cheaper than hiring professional models. Website viewers are a savvy bunch and they’ll quickly see through a cheesy veneer of grinning men and women with perfect teeth wearing country club apparel. You’re a real credit union or bank with real people. So use them!

Update, update, update.

Yes, it’s wonderful that your financial institution was founded in 1919 by the first three employees of the Acme Rubber Chicken Factory. Other than as an historical footnote or long-odds Trivial Pursuit answer, very few people care. Tell the history of your credit union or bank with pride, but don’t let it dominate your “About Us” page. That page is far more accurately filled with information about the great things your financial institution did last week, not last century. In some ways, your “About Us” page becomes an extension of the publicity/news releases page (and you have one of those, surely?).

There you have it; three quick and easy ideas to help you improve your “About Us” website page. With a little love and care, it can quickly catapult from front porch doormat to happy website greeter with a greater chance of grabbing consumers and potential consumers eyes and business. 

Are You Drowning Your Marketing & BD Staff?

Are You Drowning Your Marketing & BD Staff?

It happens gradually. Budgets are tighter. Employees are busier. Staff is downsized. Conferences are cut.Drowning

Yet at the same time marketing and business development professionals face these workplace challenges, something else happens. Demands are increased. Goals are raised. Expectations are enlarged. Workloads are multiplied.

So on the one hand we cut, cut, cut and on the other end we raise, we raise, we raise. What are the results and what happens in the end? Employees crying in their cars during lunch because they can’t take the stress.

As executives, what can we do to help our stressed employees? We can regroup and refresh. 

Regroup

One of the best discussions you can have with your sales, marketing and business development staff is one about their goals. Their goals must be realistic. You can’t expect Champaign results on a beer budget. But it’s not just the budget. Have we added several extra projects (think social media) to our marketing to do list yet not given them additional staffing resources?

It is easy for a disconnect between management and sales/marketing to occur. Rather than let your staff’s morale sink to new lows have an open and honest discussion. Explain why the goals are where they are. Maybe even allow them to push back. Ask how management can help support and reach the numbers.

However possible, regroup so everyone is on the same page with expectations.

Refresh

An open and honest dialogue is a great session to have. But nothing goes a long way as a bit of refreshment. Take your marketing and business development staff to a long lunch. Comp them for those weekend and night hours they are working. Give them a day off for no reason. Show them some love and appreciation.

The reality is we are burning out some of our credit unions and banks best folks. There is only so much time, energy and passion they can give before they simply collapse. If not physically, then certainly mentally. We want the best results, but are we giving our employees our best? Your employees will only serve your members/customers as well you serve your employees.

However possible, refresh your employees.

What if you are in sales, marketing or business development and your management won’t regroup and refresh? Here are same things you can do on your own:

  • Find a colleague at another place of business and vent/talk over lunch.
  • Form a mastermind group in your area. Meet regularly with colleagues to discuss strategies and tactics that are
    working.
  • Read a business book about renewing your passion.
  • Call or e-mail me and we can chat; I’d be glad to give you some encouragement.

Let’s be realistic: goals should be high. Management should expect sales, marketing and
business development to deliver solid results. Management should absolutely expect the best. But management should also give its best.

So let’s also make sure we don’t raise those expectations while taking away tools (budget, time, help, etc.) staff needs to meet those expectations.

Let’s renew and refresh.

Is Your Youth Account Totally Lame?

Is Your Youth Account Totally Lame?

I recently watched a hilarious short film featured on an episode of the 80s and 90s cult classic TV program Mystery Science Theater 3000. The 50s’s educational film, “Money Talks,” features a creepy silhouette version of Benjamin Franklin regaling an awkward teen about his poor spending and savings habits.Loser-hand-sign

Without the constant riffing from the MST3K crew, this short film would be practically unwatchable. I suspect that even by 1950s standards kids found it dull, boring and inapplicable to their lives.

This led me to think about the current state of credit unions and banks children’s accounts. There are both good and not-so-good out there. The key question is: “Are we engaging our young members in such a way as to establish a lifelong primary financial institution relationship?” Or, are we boring them to tears and virtually ensuring they’ll be out the door as soon as they control their own finances?

Here are a few helpful hints to make your youth account a more interesting and relevant experience for kids and teens.

  • Make education the centerpiece of any youth account. Children desperately need sound financial advice before reaching adulthood. The savings and spending habits they develop in their younger years are most likely those they carry into adulthood. Help make them positive ones.
  • Involve parents. While it’s imperative to reach children, involving parents in their accounts bumps the entire process into a higher notch. Engaged parents can help lead to engaged kids. Encourage parents to discuss financial topics with their children and provide materials that help make this easier.
  • Be consistent. Some credit unions and banks launch youth accounts with great fanfare only to let the excitement fade with time. Work hard to keep the enthusiasm going. When kids are excited about the programs available, they are more likely to participate. 
  • Be where they are. The days of relying solely on a printed newsletter are long gone.Dedicate a part of your website to its youth accounts (and make it informative and interactive, not just an online brochure). Also have an active presence in social media, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Engage children where they are, which means increasingly online. As the old saying goes, “fish where the fish are.”
  • Start simple. Begin a child’s banking experience with a simple savings account. Then as they mature and learn, add progressively involved services, such as checking accounts, loans and credit cards. Here parental involvement and permission is particularly important, so keeping them in the loop is vital.

To reach and keep the attention of children,your youth account and program must be fun, exciting, consistent and
informative. Don’t be the lame educational film they all dread. Work hard to stay cool, authentic and reliable. 

Which Hat Are You Wearing?

Which Hat Are You Wearing?

As a Texan, I own many hats: a Cowboy hat, a baseball cap (Texas Rangers) and a Dallas Cowboys hat. I even own a special hat (that absorbs sweat) for when I run and a hat (old and beat up) for when I do yard work. It seems like there are hats for every occasion.Row-of-hats

So when it comes to managing your financial institution, what hat are you wearing? Too many times in credit
unions and banks we are wearing our executive hat. Maybe it’s time we put on our member or customer hat instead.

As author and Harvard professor Youngme Moon says, “I tell my students that marketing is the only function within the organization that is expressly designed to sit at the intersection where business meets people. Real
people. And the problem with real people is they don’t see the world the same way a businessperson does. They don’t speak the same language of bullet points; they don’t organize the world into flowcharts and frameworks. People, real people, view the world organically. They are idiosyncratic. They are
unpredictable.”

When wearing your executive hat, you ask the question, “how does this {insert project or product} help our
bottom line? When wearing your member/customer hat, you ask the question, “how does this {insert project or product} help the people we are serving? It is a completely different perspective.

While there is nothing wrong with having a business perspective when running your financial institution, if
you make all your decisions from that viewpoint you are short changing your institution. I’m not saying focusing on the bottom line is not important: if you don’t focus on the numbers you won’t be in business for long. However, if all you are concerned about is a net number, then you lose the human side of the business.

The next time you are in a management team meeting, ask the following questions:

 

(1)  People are struggling in today’s economy, how can we make their lives easier?

(2)  How can we give back in a tangible way to our community (other than just writing a check)?

(3)  How can we increase revenue without raising fees?

(4)  How can we tangibly give back to our members or customers?

(5)  Is this product or service really helping our members/customers or is just making us more money?

(6)  What do people really want from us?

(7)  Are we offering this product or service because it’s good for us or good for them?

Hats sometimes show our team affiliations. So the next time you are in a management team meeting, make sure you are affiliating yourself with your members and customers, and not just your organization.

The Hiring Debate: Personality vs. Skill

The Hiring Debate: Personality vs. Skill

The job market over the past three years has changed the way many businesses hire employees. Let’s face it. It’s a jungle out there. The unemployment rate has hovered just above eight percent for three years, and that has created a buyer’s market for any company fortunate enough to be hiring. Their choices range from college graduates fresh out of school to people with decades of work experience. All of them are competing for the same jobs whether or not their skills fit the job description or salary requirements. How does the hiring company make a decision
with such a large pool of candidates from which to choose?Hiring

There are two schools of thought. Some believe the most qualified candidates should always get the job. Others question the definition of qualified. Is it the person with the most skill and experience, or the person who best fits your corporate culture? It really depends on the industry. You wouldn’t want a plumber giving you back surgery any more than you’d want a lawyer piloting the airplane on which you are flying. You might, however, want the person with the biggest smile or the warmest welcome joining your customer service staff. That’s how Nordstrom does it, and when it comes to customer services, Nordstrom is one of the best.

Southwest Airlines is another customer service leader that hires for
personality over skill. Candidates lucky enough to even get an interview with the airline giant often are put through a rigorous interview process which includes answering questions about situations when humor helped them out of a jam, and reading their answers out loud in front of other job candidates. In some cases, job candidates are given a hypothetical situation and are told to work together to solve a problem while employees from Southwest’s people department observe them.

The point is you can’t teach someone to be nice. It has to be part of their personality. You can teach someone how to answer a phone, conduct a teller transaction and do any number of things required of a customer service staff member.  You can’t teach them passion, how to care about other people, how to go above and beyond just because they know it will make someone else happy. These are character traits, not skills they learn in a
training class. When you hire someone for customer service who does not possess the right character traits, you are setting them up and setting up your financial institution for failure.

There’s a reason why certain companies are considered the benchmark in customer service. How do you find the right person for the job? What traits should you be looking for? Find out by reading the September issue of my monthly e-zine.