The Myths Behind Strategic Plans that Fail

The Myths Behind Strategic Plans that Fail

Strategic-Planning Myth: most organizations are successful in their strategic planning

Truth: about 70% of strategic planning fails

With the amount of time and effort that goes into strategic planning, this statistic isn’t the truth most organizations want to hear. An even sadder reality is that many organizations never figure out why their strategic plans fail. They make the same mistake time and again, all the while expecting different results.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Strategic planning is one of the most important tools a business of any size uses for itself and its customers or members. A business without a strategic plan is like a builder without a blueprint. He may know what he wants to build or what he is supposed to build, but he doesn’t have the tools which show him how to build it. A strategic plan, when executed properly, provides direction on what goals the business plans to achieve and how it will achieve them.

Here are some common myths about strategic planning that may challenge your financial institution to create a well winning strategic plan.

Myth: strategic planning is all about the process

Truth: strategic planning is really about execution and results

Many organizations spend months in their planning phase, and they should. After all, your strategic plan is a working document that guides your financial institution through a defined time period (one year, three years, five years, etc.) The process, however, is only one piece of your strategic plan. Yes, it’s important, but it does not define your organization like the actual plan does.

Focus on the results you want and how your financial institution will achieve those results. Be diligent about execution and follow-through. Don’t just create a strategic document and leave the execution to chance. Define who, what, where, when and how your organization will execute it, and follow up periodically to ensure that your strategic plan is still a living, breathing piece of your organization.

Myth: one size (or approach) fits all

Truth: out-of-the-box planning processes can, do, and must exist

It is common for businesses to follow a cookie-cutter approach to strategic planning. That is not always bad, but it comes with its own risks. Some businesses confuse strategic planning with business planning. The result is more of an annual budget than a strategic direction – two very different animals.

Every business organization has distinctive and unique characteristics which warrant distinctive and unique strategic planning. That means removing some of the typically included elements of the planning process and replacing them with activities that better leverage the knowledge, skill and capacity of the financial institution.

Myth: The company’s leadership team creates the strategic plan

Truth: Successful strategic plans includes buy-in from employees and outside sources

Read more about all of these myths in the April issue of my monthly e-newsletter. We provide statistics, challenges and expert advice from professionals in the strategic planning field. You’ll also find a link to an important free annual planning primer that will help your organization improve strategic planning. 

Convergence Marketing Driving the Future

In the past, banking convenience was defined by where your branches were located. Have a branch near where I live? Then you are convenient.

In the future, banking convenience is defined electronically. The mobile channel, website and electronic services will play a key role in how consumers perceive your convenience.

While electronic channels are more important than ever, the branch is not dead. We are seeing a concept in the future called “convergence marketing,” where your marketing is converging around both the online and offline channels.

This video further explains the convergence marketing concept and its role in banking’s future. Click on the short video below from the presentation “Member of the Future.”


Twenty Quick Branding Tips

Twenty Quick Branding Tips

BrandThe title for this post is a little misleading. Branding is not easy. It’s hard work, takes time and requires significant resources. However, branding is also not overly complicated.                       

Rather than go into great detail about various aspects of branding, let’s examine quick and easy things you can do to improve your brand.

(This is similar to the recent post Twenty Quick Marketing Tips).

So here goes: 

1)      Communicate your brand to your staff. Every. Single. Day. 

2)      Ask your staff, “what is our vision or mission?” The answers might surprise you. 

3)      Don’t use the words “service” or “community” anywhere in your brand. They are overused and one of the keys to a successful brand is uniqueness. 

4)      Fire anyone who is not on board with your brand. Don’t even hesitate. 

5)      Measure your brand through the net promoter score. 

6)      Collect stories from consumers who love your brand. 

7)      Put your vision and mission statement through the B.S. Meter.                                     

8)      See if your brand is fun. If it isn’t, make it fun. 

9)      Conduct a yearly or quarterly brand rally or meeting with all employees. 

10)  Educate your staff on what branding really is. 

11)  Make sure your CEO is talking about your brand on a regular basis. 

12)  Conduct a brand audit

13)  Develop a graphics standard manual if you don’t already have one. 

14)  Shorten your brand message. Six words max. 

15)  Match your brand to your target audience. Your brand can’t be all things to all people. 

16)  Say “no” to certain events, promotions and activities. One of the worst things you can do is take your brand in the wrong direction. 

17)  Consider updating an old logo and website. It is 2014. 

18)  Devote adequate resources to branding. Stop giving it lip service and start giving it some money. 

19)  Partner with like-minded brands on a project. 

20)  Tell your brand story in a short video. 

So there you have it. Twenty easy branding tips you could start today. 

What other suggestions would you recommend?


Watch Putting Tactics Above Strategies

Watch Putting Tactics Above Strategies

Strategic-PlanningTasks lists. To do items. Action steps. We all have them. When it comes to marketing at our financial institutions, our lists seem to grow and grow. Update the website. Create a loan promotion. Develop a new product. The action steps to fulfill strategic objectives are never ending.

With all those lists we can easily succumb to the activity trap. If we are going, going and going then we must be doing something correct. If we are updating our Facebook page and Twitter feeds then surely we are fulfilling our social media strategy. If we are putting up billboards and sending direct mail pieces then certainly we are completing our branding plan.

Not so fast.                                                                                                    

The reality is too many times we put tactics above strategies. After all, tactics are the things we do every day.  But if we are just managing our marketing to do list, then we rarely examine our marketing focus.

So how do you avoid putting tactics above strategies? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Ensure your strategic plan is really strategic—One of the problems in many credit unions and banks is that their strategic plans are really just a list of tactical items. If your strategic plan reads like a tactical playbook, revise it. Now. Focus on your vision, your values, your differentiators, your value proposition, your brand and the direction you want to take the organization rather than a massive list of action steps.
  • Review your marketing plan quarterly—Your marketing plan needs flexibility. Rather than complete a monthly marketing to do list, spend time each quarter thinking and analyzing. Stop. Slow down. Make sure you are not doing the same things over and over again. Try doing something new for a change.
  • Demonstrate that marketing is a strategic function—In some credit unions and banks, the marketing person is just the brochure or newsletter person. Strategic marketing needs a voice within the organization. Your marketing will always be tactical if no one looks at it strategically. Calculate ROI on your promotions. Create a strategic brand plan. Make sure marketing has a “seat at the table.”
  • Flow your marketing plan—When it comes to how marketing and strategy fit, consider this flow: vision, values & mission > strategic plan > brand plan > marketing plan > marketing tactics. With your credit union or bank, make sure things are “flowing” correctly. In other words, don’t put the brand plan above the strategic plan and don’t put the marketing tactics over the marketing plan.

Daily tactics are important. If you are not doing the day-to-day marketing functions, then you certainly won’t accomplish your overall strategic objectives. However, make sure you are not elevating those tactics above your top strategic initiatives.


Twenty Quick Marketing Tips

Twenty Quick Marketing Tips

Marketing - 1This is a down and dirty post. As financial marketers, we’re always looking for quick and easy ways to improve. This post is designed to provide quick suggestions on improving your marketing. Some of the tips are obvious, some are no-brainers, all are short and hopefully some are helpful.

So here goes.

(1)    Always use a target market. Always. And your target market is not “every customer or member.”

(2)    Calculate a return on investment (ROI). Don't have an ROI? Then don’t do the promotion. Here are some free worksheets to help you.

(3)    Use e-mail. Yes, mobile and social media are hot. But people still read and respond to e-mail offers.

(4)    Get staff buy in. If your staff hates the promotion, you are toast.

(5)    Tell a story. People love stories.

(6)    “Features tell, benefits sell” not only applies in front-line selling situations. It’s also a marketing principle. Are you listing product features or benefits?

(7)    Use video. The number one search engine for people under the age of 30 is YouTube. So use it.

(8)    Cut the copy. Stop writing so much. People aren’t reading as much as you are writing.

(9)    Conduct a marketing audit this year. Your marketing will improve greatly with a full review.

(10) Make the visual element the most prominent part of your promotion. See point number eight about copy.

(11) Take a risk. This is marketing for crying out loud. Don’t be so conservative. Don’t worry about offending your board of directors (see point number one and remember that your board is not your target audience).

(12) Use targeted messages inside your home banking, bill payment and mobile platforms.

(13) Capture testimonials. And use them. Make it a routine part of your marketing efforts.

(14) Ditch your brochures. No one reads them and your staff uses them as a crutch.

(15) Focus your social media efforts on two or three channels max. If your website has icons for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, etc. that is way too many.

(16)C lean the clutter on your website. Do you really need ALL that information? Make it clean and crisp.

(17) Only focus on one product or message per promotion. Stop lumping ancillary products (insurance, checking, etc.) when you are doing a loan promotion. Let your staff sell those instead.

(18) Reduce the length of your promotions. Two months? Too long. Try six weeks max.

(19) Personalize messages. Ditch anything that says, “Dear Valued Member/Customer.” If you don’t know or use their name, they must not be all that valuable.

(20) Remember the importance of frequency. It’s more important to hit a smaller audience multiple times than a larger audience only once.

So there you have it. Short, easy and simple marketing tips. You may know them all—but are you actually doing them? There is a difference between knowledge and implementation.

What other tactics and suggestions would you recommend?