IStock_000051435828_LargeAs you scan your 2015 marketing calendar, it is probably already full with a complete list of tasks to accomplish this year. But are they the right tasks? Each January I offer suggestions regarding what financial marketing executives should focus on in the coming year. While many of the past posts have focused on strategic issues, this year I’m offering a few professional development ideas as well.

Because of the length, I’m breaking this into two parts (one through seven a few days ago now and eight through 15 now).

Please feel free to also contribute your own ideas!

(8)   Take the CEO and CFO to lunch every quarter

Your CEO and/or CFO can be your greatest advocate or your greatest pain. Most CEOs and CFOs are obsessed with the bottom line and numbers, something marketers don’t tend to highlight. Rather than having an adversarial relationship with these key figures, build a bridge to them. Get them out of the office in an informal setting. But don’t just talk to them about marketing—listen to what they have to say. Hopefully along the way you can engage and educate them more about branding and marketing. If you want to know more about what CEOs want from marketing, then read this post.

(9)   Conduct a digital channel assessment

As mentioned above, digital marketing is not just the future; it’s the present. However, knowing where to start is a daunting task. As CU Grow notes, “digital channel assessments are for financial institutions seeking recommendations to improve key digital marketing channels to generate leads, increase conversations and grow share of wallet.” For the modest investment involved, your credit union or bank will reap a huge return, including recommendations and practical implementation steps.

(10)Read trade publications daily

If you want to earn more in your professional life, then you need to read more. According to Success Magazine, among wealthy people, 88% read 30 minutes or more daily and 79% read professionally related material. Make sure you carve out time every day to read. Some professional publications worth checking out include CU Insight and CB Insight, The Financial Brand, American Banker, Bank Innovation, CUNA’s Credit Union Magazine and CUES Skybox.

(11)Customize your training efforts to your brand

Too many customer and member service training programs in banks and credit unions are lame. They are all just the same generic stuff: call the consumer by their name, smile, say hello and offer a product they don't have. Duh. Rather than use a generic program, customize your sales and service efforts to your own financial institution. Tie it to your brand. Make your training yours and not some canned program.

(12)Read a branding book

As mentioned with task number 10, you need to read more. The more you learn (through reading), the more you will earn. Recent books I read on branding include What Great Brands Do and Difference. Some other classics that touch on branding and other subjects include Onward and Leading for Growth. You won’t go wrong investing your time by reading one (or all) of these.

(13)Have coffee with a customer or member

One of the best things you can do as a marketer is to listen. While we invest a great deal in market research through surveys, focus groups and mystery shops one of the best ways learn about your consumers is simply to listen. On a regular basis, take one of your customers or members to coffee and talk to them about financial service matters. Learn what’s important to them when it comes to money and spending habits. They will offer you priceless insights.

(14)Work on the line or in the call center two days a year

The more we move up in the organization, the more removed from consumers we become. And that’s a problem. One of the best ways to stay directly in touch with your customers or members is to work a day or two as a call center representative, teller or other front-line position. You will not only learn more about your consumers, you’ll also gain insights about your staff and what it’s like to actually do their jobs while implementing your marketing or branding efforts.

(15)Brand to your staff

Speaking of staff, it’s critical your staff buy into your brand. If they don’t live your brand, your target consumers will never love your brand. Any external branding effort needs to involve an internal component as well. Make sure at every staff gathering someone is talking about your financial institution’s brand and the role staff plays in it. But it’s more than just talking about the brand. Recognize and reward those employees who best exemplify what your brand is all about.

 2015 is going to be a great year for credit unions and banks, especially if their marketers complete the above tasks. But those are just a few suggestions. What other tasks do you think financial institution executives should add to 2015?