As marketers we write a lot. And a lot of crap. We use (or more like overuse) words such as community, service, people, great, rates, free, etc. As I mentioned in a previous post, we need to cut the copy.
But how do you know if the copy you actually write is spot on or just a bunch of vague words sure to make consumers feel you are blowing smoke? You can test your copy with the “BlaBla Meter.”
You simply copy your text into a box on the BlaBlaMeter.com website and check your writing style. It works with text up to 15,000 characters. The site recommends a minimum length of five sentences.
When writing your website copy, newsletter articles, direct mail pieces, long mission statements or any marketing piece you can just plug in your text and receive your rating. The site will actually give you a BS Index score (the higher the score, the more BS).
Just for grins, I went to a few financial institution websites, copied some of their text and pasted it into the BlaBlaMeter. Here are a few of the scores and the BlaBlaMeter’s comments:
A Nearby Community Credit Union’s Home Page (BS Index: 0.42)
“Something is getting a bit fishy. You probably want to sell something, or you’re trying to impress somebody. It still may be an acceptable result for a scientific text.”
Bank of America’s Mobile Deposit Check Deposit Page (BS Index: 0.37)
“Your text shows indications of ‘bs’-English. It’s still ok for PR or advertising purposes, but more critical audiences may be skeptical.”
Local Community Bank’s About Us Page (BS Index: 0.1)
“Your text shows a few indications of ‘bs’-English.”
The main critique I have about the site is that it requires a minimum of 20 words with at least three sentences. So you can’t put in a tagline or short vision/mission statement. But for all other copy it’s a nice tool to use (although it gives no indication on what criteria or algorithm it uses).
So the next time you craft your marketing words, run it through the BlaBlaMeter. The results might surprise you.
In a famous scene from City Slickers, Curly (Jack Palance) asks Mitch (Billy Crystal) “Do you know what the secret of life is?” When Mitch says no Curly raises his index finger and says, “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that, everything else don’t mean (fill in the expletive).” Mitch then says, “that’s great, but what is the one thing?” Curly’s response: “that’s what you have to figure out.”
So what is the one strategic thing credit unions or banks must do to grow? I asked that question to several financial services experts. Below are their answers.
Mike Bartoo, Regional Manager, Marquis
The one thing, strategically, that banks and credit unions must do to grow is define exactly who they want to be. Growth for the sake of growth is a losing battle, one that eventually leads to out-of-control expenses and insufficient income. Strategic growth involves everyone on your team understanding exactly who you want to target for relationships and why. The more clearly you can define this ‘profile,’ the easier it will be to explain and target. Productss/services/fees should all be aligned to best attract those relationships. Resources (time and money) should be focused on attracting those relationships.
Two additional thoughts on this. Number one, this doesn’t mean that you only have one ideal customer/member, you may have for or five that you’ve identified, but the concept still applies. You (meaning your entire team) need to understand each of them, why they are attractive to you, why you are attractive to them and focus resources upon attracting more of them.
Number two, it also doesn’t mean that you don’t continue to serve customers/members/businesses that don’t fit those attributes, it simply means that your products/services/pricing is not designed to attract those relationships and you do not focus resources upon attracting them.
Michael Hudson, PhD
Define a relevant value proposition that differentiates you in a recognizable way from the alternatives available to your members, then live that value proposition to the fullest extent possible–every employee at every touch point delivers that value to every person who touches the credit union every day. The key is deciding what you are not going to do and committing completely to doing what you say you are going to do.
Tim McAlpine, President and Creative Director, Currency Marketing
It may sound counterintuitive, but the scatter shot approach of trying to be all things to all people will not result in meaningful growth and success. In an industry with an abundance of alternatives, credit unions must focus and become the best in the world, or at least in their marketplace, at something. That could be the best at serving Moms. The best mobile experience. The best at serving their SEG. The best at serving a particular portion of their community. The best used car financing options. The best… whatever! You can only become the best at something if you are willing to say no to a lot of other things and not being the best for everybody. Focus is key.
Sean McDonald, President, YFPTips
The one thing that credit unions must do to grow is to get past the nonsense.
Here are 7 examples of nonsense:
1. Non-productive employees who are just collecting a paycheck…..they need to go.
2. Employees who are resistant to change and new ways of doing things…..they need to go.
3. Employees who "don't want to sell" or say "that's not my job"…..they need to go.
4. Vendors who can't keep up with what you are trying to do…..find new vendors that can.
5. Running your credit union like a mom & pop shop…..you're running a business so act like it.
6. Having trouble attracting younger members? If your credit union looks old, feels old, and has a Board that is not representative of the various demographics, ethnicities, and yes – age groups that you serve or hope to serve, you will continue to have a hard time. Start to diversify and do it now!
7. Holding the reigns too tight…..let go a little bit and see what your people can do. Take calculated risks, unleash and encourage creativity & innovation, and reward people for GREAT work!
The credit unions that are enjoying the most robust growth usually have at least one thing in common: they don't spend time dealing with nonsense. They get past it and keep moving.
Jeffry Pilcher, Publisher, The Financial Brand
If growth is the objective, then credit unions need to make sales and marketing their #1 priority. That means allocating marketing budgets in excess of 0.1% of assets—probably double or even triple that. But investments in marketing need to be made strategically. Credit unions aren't going to generate growth by pumping out newsletters, farting around with social media, running video contests, dumping tens of thousands of dollars into their annual meeting, etc. If growth is the goal, then marketing needs to be allocated accordingly, and there are two ways to spend the budget:
1) On things that clearly and directly contribute to growth, and 2) On things that don't. Credit unions spend a lot of their budget on feel-good marketing programs that do little to grow business. If banks want to grow, then they need to do a better job—as individual entities and as an industry—policing themselves. They whine about excessive regulations brought on by the acts of a few. The media pumps out one bad story after another about greedy, law-breaking banks that are "too big to jail." It's time banks exert collective pressure on each other—but particularly on the top 100—to behave more ethically. In a nutshell, banks won't thrive unless/until they can quell the negative publicity that "banks are out to screw you."
Shawn Temple, COO, Bossier Federal Credit Union
Growth is a result of various factors, but if I had to pick just one strategic thing credit unions or banks must do to grow, I would say manage the consumer experience. This strategy could spin off different tactics. For example, one institution may createan experience in the same way Disney or the Ritz Carlton does, which ties people emotionally to them. But what I mean is to truly understand how the consumer experiences your brand, processes, practices, and policies. Sit on the other side of the table, the email, the online loan application, the mobile/tablet device, etc. Experience your creation as it currently is, and understand the pain points of those consumers using your products, services, and channels. Then change, manage, or strike entirely those experiences for the better. You know what you expect as a consumer in the marketplace. Why should the expectation of our members/customers be any less? At a minimum, deliver an experience they expect to receive. To grow, deliver one that delights…causing them to tell others about you. Continuously update your experience(s), others will talk, more will experience, and the perpetual cycle of growth is in motion.
As author Jim Jerving notes, “There has been a debate within the financial services industry about technology’s effect on branch development. Some analysts have forecasted the end of the branch as we know it; others have held that the branch will be with us, but will evolve into a service center for problem resolution and complex products—mortgages, student loans, and investments. Economics, technology and changing consumer behavior are changing the look, feel and function of the branch. Most functions completed at a branch can now be done remotely on the phone or web.”
The white paper examines the interplay of technology, economics, and consumer behavior in branch development. It examines research findings, innovative technologies, and contains interviews with practitioners and analysts.
Some of the sections covered in the white paper include:
Branch Function Evolves
Technology’s Effect on the Branch
Branch Staff Evolves
Branch of the Future
So what is the magic answer to the question about branches, economics and technology? The paper offers no definitive answers for the near or distant future, but many possibilities to consider. For those concerned about their branch strategy, operations and efficiencies, the white paper is a must read.
As you begin to make strategic plans—including those around branching—the white paper offers many compelling thoughts to consider.
As social media continues to evolve, more businesses are finding different ways to benefit from it. Listening, learning and engaging are still the three guiding principles to using social media for business. Now a fourth one seems to be emerging – research.
There are many benefits to using social media for research purposes. For one, it’s more timely. You can capture pertinent information by engaging in real-time dialogue with followers, fans, etc. on your various social media pages. When you have a conversation, you can ask follow-up questions for clarification and get more details from people. Most of the time, you have access to specific demographic information for those people, as well.
Compare that to the traditional research process. The logistics are more complicated, they take longer and the entire process can be costly. It’s also somewhat limited. If you conduct a focus group, only so many demographics can be represented at one time, and your conversation is limited to one visit or group. There is no follow-up discussion. It’s the same thing with a survey. Consumers have to choose from the multiple choice answers you provide them, and you don’t always get an explanation for the way they score you. Traditional research certainly has its place, and social media doesn’t necessarily replace it. It does, however, give your financial institution more options.
First Mariner Bank uses the information it obtains from social media to create relevant content and to determine where and how the bank should advertise. For example, if most of its social media audience tends to watch the same television show, the marketing department may choose to purchase air time during that show. If its social media audience frequents a certain venue, the bank may partner with that venue on a marketing promotion.
Capturing data in this way is very cost efficient and very timely. At the same time, financial institutions cannot rely solely on conversation for these kinds of details. Most social media platforms have free tools to help you analyze your social media effectiveness. Those tools should complement any type of engagement strategy. There are many tools you can use even if you don’t have a social media presence on a specific platform. Take advantage of anything that will make your marketing research more timely and accurate.
For specific information about these free tools and more details about engagement research, read the May issue of my monthly e-newsletter. You will find links to tools as well as tips for how to use them.