Start the New Year by Reinventing Your Financial Institution

Start the New Year by Reinventing Your Financial Institution

Goals - 1The 2014 goals for your financial institution are probably already set. Hopefully, many of those goals involve changing your bank or credit union. Because if you are not changing, you are not growing. But your goals maybe should go beyond just changing your financial institution. Maybe you should just reinvent it.

If you want to not just change but reinvent your bank or credit union, then one book you want to read this month is The Reinventors by Jason Jennings. The subtitle says it all: How Extraordinary Companies Pursue Radical Continuous Change. Let’s be honest: there is A LOT about credit unions and community banks that must change (in order for them to survive). Reading The Reinventors will give you many ideas on how to positively implement those necessary changes.

Below are some quotes from the book and how we can apply them.

(1) “Your job as you know it and your business as it is currently run will eventually change.”

Jennings makes a compelling comparison of the top 25 companies in the Fortune 500. He notes that between the years 2000 and 2010 almost two-thirds of those top 25 companies fell off the top 25 list. In only 10 years. In other words, even the largest and most successful companies have a hard time sustaining growth.

  • Application: If you don’t change the way your bank or credit union is doing business, your institution will become irrelevant. Determine two things you WILL change this year. Dive deeply into how you can change your marketing, your procedures, your brand, your processes and your products.


(2) “Companies committed to growth make staying ahead of their customers’ wants and needs a hallmark of their culture and accomplish that goal through constant radical change”

You can no longer take baby steps to change. True growth is only accomplished with radical change. You have to know what the consumer of the future wants. Stop thinking about today and focus on tomorrow. But make sure that focus includes an eye on the consumer (and not just your institution).

  • Application: Talk to your customers and members on a regular basis. Make sure you are conducting surveys and focus groups. But beyond that, every now and then just sit down and talk with some consumers about banking. Ask them what they want. Make sure you are also doing your own research on banking trends (reading Brett King, Ron Shevlin and The Financial Brand are great places to start).


(3) “Don’t allow skunking—the spraying of negativity.”

When you start trying to change your financial institution, prepare for the onslaught of negativity. Jennings calls this “skunking.” He defines skunking as “spraying negativity on the creative spark in a coworker or subordinate. It can be an impatient look that says, ‘That’s a dumb question,’ or a conversation killing shot like ‘We tried that and it didn’t work.’”

  • Application: Fire the negative people and naysayers. Okay, that may be a little harsh but you get the idea. You know you have to change things at your bank or credit union. If others complain, spread gossip, or roll their eyes then take care of those issues immediately. In other words, change the people or change people.


(4) “People aren’t your most important resource—the right people are your only resource.”

This is actually a quote from Jennings’ interview with Dan DiMicco, CEO of Nucor Corporation. It’s not about having bodies in positions; it’s about having the right bodies in the right position. When it comes to the right people, Jennings also emphasized the importance of hiring lifelong learners.

  • Application: Review your organization chart. Do you have the right people in the right places. Sometimes we’re too nice or too afraid to pull the trigger when it comes to H.R. type issues. More than likely, you know if someone is not a good fit for your financial institution. If that is the case, stop holding on to them.

Those are a few of the key quotes from The Reinventors. But there are plenty others. The bottom line is your bank or credit union will change in the coming years. Will you drive that change or will that change be forced upon you?

One of the best ways to make sure you stay relevant as a financial institution is to embrace change through reinvention. By reading The Reinventors you will ensure you are leading your bank or credit union in that right direction.

Is Your Brand Dying By A Thousand Cuts?

Is Your Brand Dying By A Thousand Cuts?

Brands are living, breathing entities. At lest good ones are. But just as brands can live, they can also die.Paper Cut - 1

While brands can die quickly, more likely it is a slow erosion that takes place. In other words, your brand can die a death by a thousand cuts. For example, think Circuit City, Borders and American Idol (okay, American Idol isn’t dead yet, but it is well on it’s way). There wasn’t any one earthquake-like event that ended those brands. The reality is they failed with a series of missteps.

It is the same way with financial institutions’ brand. More than likely not any one cataclysmic event (even the crashing of the stock market, the loss of a large commercial loan or the closing of an underperforming branch) will doom your community bank or credit union’s brand value or vision.

However it’s the cumulative effect of poor attention to detail that will cause your brand to die. For example, these actions add up:

  • You tolerate underperforming employees (hoping they’ll just get better)
  • You stop holding people accountable
  • You don’t remodel an older and out of date branch
  • You don’t invest in educating your employees about your brand
  • You stop taking risks
  • You don’t invest in new products or services
  • You keep the same board in place for 20 years
  • You do the same promotions and marketing year after year after year
  • You don’t invest in new technologies

Individually, the above items may not cause your brand’s death. However, you can experience something we call the “accumulation affect.” The accumulation of your individual brand or strategic decisions can lead to a slow, sliding death.

In other words, the accumulation causes death by a thousand cuts.

How can you avoid this type of a death? Take a step back and look at your credit union or bank. Look at the whole rather than the part. Add up all the individual decisions you are making that effect your brand and see what the results are.

Busting the Marketing Budget

Busting the Marketing Budget

Ah, the joy of marketing budgets. If you’re like many bank and credit union marketers, you spend a lot of time working with and within budgets. We agonize over making every marketing dollar stretch as far as possible as we simultaneously face the daunting task of doing more, with less, every year.

Let’s pretend, for a fun few moments, that marketing budgets don’t exist. Or, more precisely, that you have an unlimited marketing budget at your bank or credit union. What would you do? Note: voting yourself a much-deserved raise isn’t allowed!Balloon Burst - 1

What does your dream marketing budget allow you to do? Blow up the website? Re-do all your printed materials? Launch a new bank or credit union name project? A complete overhaul of all branding efforts? A serious look at authentic strategic planning?

While thinking about an unlimited budget is fun, it’s not entirely practical. Please note that I said entirely practical. There’s definitely value in this exercise. It’s true that you obviously cannot do everything you want with a mythical unlimited budget. What you can do, however, is use your fantasy list to focus your marketing efforts.

While your marketing coffer is definitely finite, now that you know what you really want to do, focus your efforts there. Prioritize, meet with your staff and management team and decide what should come first. Maybe you’ll tackle the new name next year and the website overhaul the year after that. Maybe you can start initial planning on that branding reboot. Whatever the case, start scratching out the makings of a plan and stick to it.

Daydreaming about money is fun. I’ve drifted off into the “what if we won the lottery?” mythos a few times (trouble with that one is – you have to play to win and I don’t play the lottery). When applying this exercise to our bank and credit union marketing budgets, a little bit of fantastical thinking helps reveal the true deficits of overall marketing efforts and things we can do to address them now and in the future.

Selling the C Suite on Branding

How do you sell the CEO, CFO or board of directors that your credit union or bank needs a new brand? In all honesty, if you have to ask that question there is already a problem at your financial institution. Great CEOs know the power of a successful brand. Think Steve Jobs, Jeff Beezos and Phil Knight.

As Fred Smith, CEO of Federal Express once said, “Of all the assets on our balance sheet, the most important is the brand, even though it isn’t capitalized at all.”

While having a CEO or board that “gets” branding is a plus, oftentimes someone in marketing has to sell the higher-ups on a branding project (and by branding “project” I’m talking about the brand strategy—vision, targets, messages, employee training, etc. and not the visual look). So how do you effectively pitch branding or rebranding?

Here are some ideas and talking points to use:

  • Demonstrate branding’s ROI—Marketers think in color while executives in the “C” suite and board think in black and white. As in return on investment. A good brand plan will yield positive growth numbers (but you have to prove it). While branding ROI is tricky to demonstrate, this article (The Power of Brand Management) from The Financial Brand and these quotes from five brand experts are a great place to start a conversation with your CEO.
  • Audit your employees—Ultimately, it is your employees who have to live the brand every day. So how are they doing? Can they honestly answer the questions “what is your credit union about?” and “what makes your credit union different?” without using cliché words? Does everyone in your credit union or bank know your value proposition? The only way to determine your employees’ brand engagement is by conducting mystery shops or marketing audits.
  • Play the legacy card—This is especially important with your board of directors. They want to leave a legacy of a great financial institution, not one that eventually got merged into another. The only way the accomplish that goal is build a lasting brand. Talk to them about what they want people to say about their bank or credit union 10, 15 and even 20 years from now. A strong brand leads to a strong legacy.
  • Show examples—There are many success stories with branding. Talk to your colleagues who have done a great job with their financial institution’s brand. Check out these case studies from some of our clients. Use those marketing network skills at your disposal to collect a three or four solid examples you can show your CEO and board.

Branding takes work. And sometimes that work starts before the branding project itself—by selling the C suite on branding.


Looking for a Marketing Makeover?

Looking for a Marketing Makeover?

Fans of the hit television program Extreme Home Makeover will be keen to jump all over a new contest unique to the financial institution market. The folks at The Financial Brand are coordinating a free marketing makeover to one deserving bank or credit union.Marketing Makeover - 1

Details of the contest are located here. There are three steps to enter the contest – project submission and selection, project launch and discovery phase and development phase. Deadline for entry is December 31, 2013 and the marketing makeover will be revealed at the Financial Brand Forum in Las Vegas in April 2014.

With competition for consumer business at all-time highs, financial institution marketers must lead with ingenuity, innovation and expertise. For one lucky winner, this can become a quick reality thanks to the folks at The Financial Brand.