Every bank or credit union thinks they know their competition: other financial institutions. When making a list of competitors, the usual suspects arise, such as large national banks, other local banks/credit unions and maybe a few Internet or non-traditional sources (like check cashing services). You know who they are: Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, Wal-Mart, Ace Cash Express, ING, and your local market options.
While those are indeed organizations you must battle, they are not your real competition.
Your real competition is yourself.
Your credit union or bank needs to focus on being the best it can be. Don’t try and be better than another financial institution. Be the best you. The better you are, the less competition you have.
Find a unique or lead product you can leverage. Make sure your staff is trained to the best of their ability. Improve your internal processes. Offer a product because consumers want it and not because your competitors are doing it. Develop a true value proposition that details why someone should use your institution.
Yes, you need to know your market competitors. But you need to know yourself even better. While you can’t change your competition, you can certainly change your organization.
The biggest threats to your brand are internal and not external.
As marketers we pride ourselves on how much we are doing. Ask any marketing executive, manager or coordinator how life is going and the invariable answer is, “Busy; there are so many projects we are doing.” Yes, most marketers are overachievers—and proud of it.
Any good marketer tends to be a multi-tasking expert. And while anyone working in the marketing field must juggle many balls at once, we must be careful not have too many balls in the air at the same time.
John Jantsch, author of The Commitment Engine, says, “The ability, some might say the attempt, to multitask is a curse of sorts. While working on ten things at once may seem efficient, each of those things gets roughly 10 percent of our greatness while we’re doing it.”
This rush to multi tasking is not just a personality or project management thing either. It also affects the way we market our financial institutions. If we’re not careful we can also fall into the trap of “multi-tasking marketing.”
Look at your 2013 marketing plan and calendar. How many promotions are on it? How many products are you pushing throughout the year? Do you rush from debt consolidation loans in January to tax refund deposits in March to home improvement loans in May to summer loan promotions in June to back to school loans in August to new auto loans in October to Christmas loans in November? And wait—what about checking accounts, CDs, mortgages, and youth accounts? We have to throw those in somewhere. You get the idea. If we’re not careful we just throw everything up in the air and hope we can juggle it all.
So how do we avoid multi-task marketing? Here are two tips:
(1) Move to brand-based marketing. As we noted in the white paper Transitioning to Brand-Based Marketing, “Consumers know Apple. Consumer know McDonald’s. Consumers know Ford Motor Company. But how many can recall specific promotions or commercials of any one of those? An integration of both short-term promotions and brand-based marketing efforts is the more holistic approach towards building long-term credit union brand awareness, member interactivity and success.”
(2) Prioritize and focus your marketing. When it comes to their plans, marketers tend to add, add, add. Maybe it’s time we cut, cut, cut. Rather than have a list of 6, 8 or even 10 goals for the year it’s best to focus on what is most important strategically for your financial institutions. In all honesty, three to four major goals is ideal (with three being optimal). This requires laser like focus. The more focused your efforts are, the more effective the results are. Focus on your most profitable products rather than all your products. Develop a lead product that differentiates yourself in the market.
Multi-tasking marketing is an easy trap to fall into, but one we should avoid if we want better results.
“No whammies, no whammies, no whammies,” was a popular refrain on an old game show (Press Your Luck, in case you were wondering). One credit union, however, is actually seeking ways to “wham” consumers in their market.
ELGA Credit Union (Flint, MI) ($310 million; 49,000 members) started a “wham” campaign in January. Through this effort, the credit union empowers its 148 employees to do random acts of kindness for people in the community.
“Our employees have said this is the best marketing campaign ELGA has ever done,” said Cheryl Sclater, ELGA Credit Union’s business and community development manager. “They are so into it.”
Here is how WHAM works:
The credit union gives each employee a few WHAM cards. The WHAM cards say “WHAM!!!! You have just been hit with a Random Act of Kindness. Make it a GREAT DAY!!!”
- The card has the credit union’s logo but nothing else (no website, phone number, Facebook request, etc.)
- Credit union employees are encouraged to look for ways to make someone’s day
- The credit union reimburses the employee after they do the random act of kindness (for example, paying for someone’s drink at Starbucks)
- Credit union employees give the “wham” card to the retail employee who lets the consumer know their purchase is paid for and here’s the wham card
- Employees are not given a set amount or guidelines on how to use the wham cards
- The simple instructions to credit union employees are “make someone’s day…. just don’t be ridiculous.”
Examples of “wham” acts have included:
- Paying for gas when someone’s card was denied at the pump
- Paying for dinner when someone is eating alone
- Paying for a McDonald’s or Starbucks purchase for the next person in the drive through lane
“The whole campaign has impacted so many people,” says Sclater. “From the employees, to the service people at various retailers and then to the people who are receiving the random acts of kindness.”
So what’s the return and ROI on a campaign like this? From a budget standpoint, Sclater allocated two cards per month per employee (or about $1,650 per month). The reality is that not every employee does two acts of kindness each month.
“We knew it would come back to us,” Sclater says. “We feel our ROI is helping individual people. Now word is spreading and we are seeing an uptick in our Facebook likes and shares. People are also sharing their wham experiences on Facebook.”
ELGA Credit Union does not see the wham cards as a marketing tool. They wanted it to seem genuine and not gimmicky—thus no reference to the credit union’s website, Facebook page and no call to action. Just the credit union’s logo. ELGA Credit Union sees the wham cards more as a community outreach (although on a one-to-one basis) tool. ELGA Credit union already performs 2,835 man-hours per year at community events.
“We truly wanted to touch people and make a difference in their life,” Sclater adds. “If it touches somebody, that’s all that matters.”
There are lots of ways we look at our brands. We look at our brands in the mirror. We look at our brands from the outside. We look at our brands from the inside. But are we seeing our brand in the right way?
One of the best ways to see your brand is in 3D. While it doesn’t take the latest technology or goofy glasses, examining your brand in 3D yields positive results. It helps make sure your brand is headed in the right direction.
There is a 3D test you can take to make sure your credit union or bank’s brand is strong, growing and thriving. Here are the three “Ds”:
(1) Define (who to reach)
Who is your financial institution trying to reach? You cannot be all things to all people. As Seth Godin says, “The way you break through to the mainstream is target a niche instead of a huge market.” Refining your targets tightens your focus, which is a must for an effective brand. Whether it is minorities, the underserved, small businesses, small office/home office (SOHO), young adults, mompreneurs or another niche find your specialty and immerse yourself in those communities. Here’s a hint: don’t try to reach an entire community; rather focus on a key subset.
(2) Discuss (with your staff)
Your brand is only as strong as your staff. How can your staff “live the brand” if you are not actively discussing it with them? Does your staff know—truly know—what your financial institution is about? Subsequently, do they live it on a daily basis? Make sure you are routinely training your staff on what branding is and the key role they play. Here’s a hint: every time you have a staff or departmental meeting, spend some time talking about what your brand and give examples of employees who are actively living it.
(3) Detail (everything matters)
Dave Olsen, Starbucks chief coffee guru, once famously said, “everything matters.” That certainly applies to financial institution’s brands as well. Everything affects your brand: your logo, your branches, your tellers, your website, your CEO, your newsletter and your dress code. The best brands focus on the details and don’t let anything go unnoticed. Here’s a hint: give your brand a “bathroom smell check.” In other words, what are your bathrooms communicating about your brand (remember, everything matters).
Taking this simple 3D test will quickly gauge how your brand is doing: do you have a defined niche, are you discussing your brand regularly with your employees and are paying attention to the details? The more you look at your brand in 3D, the better you and consumers will see your brand.
I was in Walgreens about a month ago to purchase a sale item. Walgreens had just changed it sale policy, though, and required me to sign up for a reward card to take advantage of the sale price. I’m not a fan of forced card programs, but I agreed because I needed the sale price.
Walgreens did several things right. For starters, it took less than 30 seconds for the sales clerk to find my name in the system and register me for the program. They had my information from when I purchased a prescription probably 10 years ago. Second, Walgreens linked my reward card automatically to an online account I had forgotten about. Third, I got an e-mail about a week later letting me know that linking my online account to my reward card lets me take advantage of sale prices both online and in the store.
Considering how long it has been since I’ve done any substantial business with Walgreens, I was both surprised and impressed with this level of service after a visit to the store.
Tom Thumb (a grocery chain in the Dallas area) has a new program called Just for U, which is linked to its reward card. The program is optional, but those who enroll have the potential to save hundreds of dollars a month. Just for U keeps track of what each customer buys and sends them personalized offers weekly by e-mail. It even compares the personalized prices to Wal-mart’s prices for the same product to show how much money customers are saving.
Financial institutions stand to learn a great deal from these retailers. Imagine how much relationships with members and customers would improve if they received a personalized e-mail after coming into a branch to make a transaction or inquire about a product or service. The e-mail could thank them for coming in for whatever reason they came in and offer them a product or service, an introductory rate on a credit card or information related to whatever service they were inquiring about. Think about how many more loans you might capture if your online banking product could track which pages existing members or customers visit on your website after they finish their online banking transactions. You could send them e-mails or messages through online banking, offering them special rates on loans or just telling them what the current rates are. Members and customers looking at savings products could get a personalized e-mail about savings options or the benefits of saving money.
The technology is available to make this happen. Online retailers do it all the time, and now places like Walgreens and Tom Thumb are capitalizing on this opportunity to build a more loyal customer base. Have you ever visited an online retailer, then logged on to Facebook to find an ad from that retailer? What if your members or customers left your site, logged on the Facebook and saw your ad?
You are not credit union or a bank—you are a retailer. If you want to compete like a retailer, you have to act like one. Make the investment in technology that helps improve customer/member relationships.