One of the most successful select employee group (SEG) programs in the country is Horizon Credit Union ($535 million; Idaho). They created a “Here2Help” concept that connected with both members and potential members. Below is part two of a Q&A with Josh Allison, CUDE, relationship development manager, for Horizon Credit Union.
(1) How can credit unions be perceived as partners and not vendors with their SEGs?
Instead of trying to gain access to employees to “sell” the credit unions’ products and services, we transitioned to that of a department focused on “sharing” how the credit union was there to help their employees. This allowed us to build employer advocates, who would then give us access to their employees “to help” via financial workshops, counseling and even branch manager referrals for budgeting and credit report reviews. In addition, because we infused a powerful story about WHY Horizon exists, it made the promotion of WHAT we offer that much easier. The value of the credit union, then, extends beyond the commoditized products and services we offer, and to that of a member and community advocate. Once the employers understood the credit union difference, and they were aware of the vast amount of predatory (or profit-driven) lenders who are being used by their employees, we became partners with them to help protect their employees from financial stress and other financial institutions who don’t have their employees best interest at heart.
(2) What is the difference between “selling” versus “sharing” when it comes to business development?
Selling often times focuses on product or service features. But sharing has a different connotation – it implies sharing a story. When you share your purpose first, your products can take on a different meaning and purpose in the eyes of members and consumers. Our approach has been to share (why) first, sell (what) second.
(3) What is THE most important thing credit unions should focus on when it comes to their business development efforts?
Credit unions should ask themselves: “How do we be relevant to our Community Business Partners?”not “How can we sell to them and their employees?” Focus first on building relevant relationships with Community Business Partnerships. Focus on being as relevant as possible by meeting unmet employee and employer needs. Financial stress is one of the top five work stressors, and few organizations are more equipped to educate and advocate on behalf of employers than credit unions. Once you build trust with employers, you can then transition to promoting the credit union’s products and services with their employees.
One of the most successful select employee group (SEG) programs in the country is Horizon Credit Union ($535 million; Idaho). They created a “Here2Help” concept that connected with both members and potential members. Below is part one of a Q&A with Josh Allison, CUDE, relationship development manager, for Horizon Credit Union.
(1) Can you please explain Horizon Credit Union’s “Here2Help” SEG program?
Horizon’s “Here2Help” program was designed in the fall of 2013 by the Relationship Management department – the department responsible for youth education and business development efforts for Horizon. For many years, our business development program was called Horizon’s “Preferred Employee Partner” program, and the focus was on product promotions with SEGs (now we call them our Community Business Partners [CBPs]). Over time, however, we realized that it was a very difficult task to engage and build relationships that were relevant to these businesses. The reason: What we were offering of “value” was actually free and commoditized. The free checking and bill pay we were offering their employees was also free at Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other local and regional banks. It became clear to us that if our goal was to actually partner with and be relevant to these CBPs. We had to shift from being a department that simply promoted financial products, to that of a department that also proclaimed the purpose behind them. In 2009 and 2010, we spent a great deal of time researching the correlations of workplace performance and financial stress. We realized that not only does financial education pair well with the philosophy and core values held by credit unions, but it also meets a huge employee and employer need: financial stress in the workplace that is literally costing U.S. employers billions of dollars in lost productivity via employee absenteeism, presenteism (being at work, but focused on personal financial matters), higher healthcare costs, poor savings choices and falling victim to predatory lenders.
Armed with this information and research, we then re-engaged Community Business Partners with a message significantly more relevant to them. Our conversation content became about employee financial stress, the cost to the bottom line of the business, and how the credit union was perfectly positioned to help. After all, we exist to serve our communities, and after all, we are “Here2Help.”
Instead of trying to gain access to employees to “sell” the credit unions’ products and services, we transitioned to that of a department focused on “sharing” how the credit union was here to help their employees, because of our purpose-driven business model and our vast amount of financial resources and expertise.
Our CBP engagement framework is as follows:
Target: we target the top 5-10 largest employers in a community, employers in close proximity to our local branches and other local “centers of influence” (valued nonprofits or community organizations, Chambers, or Economic Development groups)
Engage: using workplace productivity and financial stress correlation research, we positioned the credit union as an advocate for employee financial education. We would then promote the credit union’s products and services to our CBP employers, stating that “If your employees join us, you now know we will be an advocate for them.”
c. Maintain: To maintain and build long-term CBP relationships, we would send quarterly emails promoting our latest employee workshop offerings, a few relevant financial stress statistics, and then follow each quarterly email with a phone call and visit. We made these emails specific to each CBP contact (vs. mass emailing) and focused on education content and asking how we can help.
(2) Is Here2Help a sub brand of your credit union or is it all branded together? Why or why not?
We originally cobranded Horizon with the Here2Help brand. We are reevaluating this, and will look to eliminate the Here2Help logo, but will keep the program name and content under the Horizon brand. This is to better align our efforts and draw awareness back to Horizon’s brand.
(3) What are the four values of Here2Help and how do you communicate those to your SEG partners?
The four values explain why we really are there to help our Community Business Partners, as opposed to our for-profit competition who engage in business development for a much different reason. Yes, we (FI industry) all offer checking accounts, bill pay and loans. But when a CBP refers an employee to Horizon they now know it’s what’s behind the commoditized product that is meaningful and beneficial to their employee. We would explain that we are local, not for profit, member-centered and nearby.
Local – local faces in local places
Not-profit – we put people above profit
Member-centered – we make decisions in the best interest of our member-owners, not at their expense
Nearby – we would include a business card with a local branch manager and branch address on it on all Here2Help marketing collateral (furthering awareness for local branch managers and where they were located)
Sharing our values allowed us to build trust by alleviating the concerns from employers that are concerned that “you’re just there to solicit and sell the credit union.” With the vendor stigma attached to so many B2B and B2C business development efforts, sharing our values and aligning them with a large employee need (financial stress), allowed us to differentiate through our community conversations.
Do you think you know what branding is? While only you can answer for you, there are certainly a lot of voices out there (both expert and not so expert) that would like to help form your opinion. Odds are, if you are a bank or credit union professional with a few years’ experience under your belt, you’ve heard of branding and have at least a casual working knowledge of what it is and what it means to the future of your institution.
So while the jury is still out on exactly what branding is, it’s safe to say very little attention is paid to what branding isn’t. Bank and credit union professionals can learn a great deal about the true nature of branding by spending a little time learning what branding is not.
In that spirit, please read on for a few quick and dirty ideas about what a brand isn’t.
A brand is not a name.
A brand is not a website.
A brand is not a logo.
A brand is not a campaign or promotion.
A brand is not supplemental marketing materials (brochures, signs, banners, etc.).
Time and again, well-meaning banks and credit unions jump into big projects like a new name, logo or website thinking this will change their brand. Nothing could be further from the truth. While all these ancillary components are part of the brand, they certainly do not embody it.
Think of brand in terms of a bicycle wheel. On a typical wheel, many spokes lead towards the hub. In our example, the spokes are the name, logo, supplemental marketing materials and the website. There are also numerous other components, such as staff training, culture and dedication. All the spokes lead to the hub, which is your brand.
A wheel with broken spokes eventually falters. If all the components that make up your brand are not strong and straight, the branding hub that is the center of your wheel will collapse.
Branding is a lot of things. Branding also is not a lot of things. Bank and credit union professionals can learn much studying what a brand isn’t as compared to what it is.
We all have them: To Do lists. If you’re as anal as I am, you may even have multiple To Do lists. It’s not enough that I have a list of things to do at work, I also keep one for home, for weekends and for the kids.
And marketers are just as bad. We have lists for everything in marketing. We have yearly, quarterly, monthly and daily lists. We have short term lists and we have long-term lists. We things to do with marketing and we have the things to with branding. Yes, it can get ridiculous: marketing has too many To Do lists.
One list we might want to start keeping is a marketing NOT to do list. There are lots of things in marketing we shouldn’t be doing. Here are a few items you should NOT be doing in marketing:
Meeting all the darn time—If you are in marketing, you are in meetings. Don’t fall into the trap of letting meetings run your day and your schedule. Some meetings are important but most are not. Keep this simple truth in mind: when you are in a meeting you are not producing. And marketing is about producing results.
Spending too much your time in your office—Marketing is not a back-office position. You should get out of your office and visit with employees on the front line AND with consumers. Nothing gives you the feel of what is really important to people than talking with them. And marketing is about connecting with people.
Focusing all your efforts on electronic marketing—Social media, websites and mobile is where many marketers are spending their efforts these days. There is nothing wrong with those tools and efforts. But we can’t lose sight of the basics. Phone calls, hand-written notes, business development activities and community events still have value. And marketing is about getting the best value for your investment.
Falling in love with the latest marketing fads—Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat and Vine are all the rage now. Remember when Facebook was the hot new thing? More than likely, some new social media, technology tool or “cool” app will come along this year. While it’s important to stay on top of marketing trends, you must have discernment. And marketing is about knowing the difference between a trend and a fad.
Pleasing everyone—You can’t be all things to all people. So stop trying. If your CEO, CFO or board member doesn’t like some of your creative ideas that is probably a good thing. You can’t be conservative in marketing and be successful. And marketing is about taking risks.
Those are few ideas regarding what marketers should stop doing. What about you?
What would you add to the marketer’s Not To Do List?