Every bank or credit union wants to grow their brand. In fact, brand growth is probably a major strategic initiative at almost every financial institution. But what is the best way to grow that brand? Is it a media awareness campaign, public relations efforts, or community events? No. The best way to add new consumers, increase checking accounts and grow loans and deposits is through word of mouth marketing.
While seasoned marketers know the importance of word of mouth marketing, how do you actually do it? One place to start is by reading Fizz, a new book by Ted Wright. The book’s subtitle summarizes the theme pretty well: “harness the power of word of mouth marketing to drive brand growth.” Wright has years of experience leading Fizz, a word of mouth marketing agency. So he shares tons of power-packed insights learned over many successes (and failures).
Below are some of the key points Wright emphasizes in Fizz, along with how banks and credit unions can apply them.
(1) Ask what matters
“Nobody cares about any of the following: your anniversary, the fact that your company is family owned….too many companies want to talk about stuff that matters greatly within their four walls but isn’t likely to inspire a single conversation outside of them,” Wright notes. In other words, just because it matters to you doesn’t mean it matters to them.
- Application: Wright encourages companies to ask what is something about your brand that inspires a conversation. So the next time you are talking about how to grow your bank or credit union’s brand ask “what do we do or offer that would compel people to talk about us?” Get serious. Do some soul searching. Remember, no one talks about a boring business.
(2) Use a talkable story
Once you determine what matters to your target consumers, you need to make sure your storing is compelling. Wright calls this a “talkable story.” He elaborates by saying, “For a story to be talkable, it has to be three things: relevant, interesting, and authentic. Fail on any one of these points, and your story probably won’t be shared.”
- Application: Make sure your bank or credit union’s products are relevant to consumers, that your employees are interesting and that your story is real. Stop pushing ad slogans and words that are cliché. Ask yourself, if you didn’t work at your financial institution, would you talk about it? If the answer is no, then change your story.
(3) Encourage face-to-face over social
While social media marketing is certainly a hot topic and buzzword today, Wright argues that face-to-face conversations trump the digital world. He notes that “only 7% of word of mouth is online.” He emphasizes that offline conversations tend to be more positive and memorable.
- Application: Don’t put all your eggs into the digital basket. I’ll be honest: this part of the book surprised and challenged me. My guess is James Robert Lay and CU Grow would argue you should leverage a digital strategy WITH word of mouth marketing and story telling. So when it comes to talking, just make sure you are talking directly with your target audiences. No talking means no word of mouth.
Those are a few of the key insights from the book. To learn the rest of Wright’s word of mouth principles, you’ll want to read Fizz, which I highly encourage you to do. The best aspect about the book is that it combines two key principles to grow your credit union or bank: word of mouth marketing and brand building.
If you want to get people talking about your credit union or bank’s brand, then read Fizz.
In life there are things we should do and things we shouldn’t do. We should DO chores to take care of our house, we should teach our kids right from wrong and we should exercise and eat healthy. We should also make sure we DON’T eat junk food at every meal, we don’t violate traffic laws and we don’t watch too much mindless TV.
It’s the same way with branding. There are several things you should DO and there are many things you should make sure you DON’T do.
So what are the seven Do’s and Don’ts of branding? Below are four Do’s and three Don’ts of branding.
Be sure you DO the following:
- Make a plan—While the saying “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” is a cliché, it certainly applies to your brand. The most successful financial institutions today have brand plans, a strategic document that details your brand vision/mission, your target audiences, your messages, your staff standards, etc. For more information about how a brand plan can help your credit union or bank grow, click here.
- Target an audience—The most successful brands today focus on a niche rather than trying to reach the masses. You cannot be all things to all people. So stop trying. In a recent strategic planning session with one of our clients I asked, “Who are you trying to reach?” They said, “Yes!” It turns out they were trying to be all things to all people in their state (a terrible strategy). We had to start their session with a serious discussion about targeting.
- Train your employees—While your executives lead the brand, it’s your employees who live the brand. No matter how solid your vision is or how tight your audiences are, if your employees don’t execute that brand on a daily basis in their day-to-day jobs none of it matters. For example, we were conducting a marketing audit for a client earlier this year. Their marketing materials were excellent and their external brand messaging was strong. But when we did the mystery shop portion of our audit, there was a significant brand gap with their staff. They were saying one thing with their brand and their staff was living something else. Needless to say, they are now spending time with their staff on brand training.
- Put brand & culture first—Financial institutions have tons of strategic priorities: grow loans, operate efficiently, serve the community, reduce expenses, etc. However, there is no strategic priority more than your brand or your culture. Some of the most successful companies today—organizations like Zappos, Apple and Starbucks—all put their brand and culture at the center of their strategy. So when you are making strategic decisions, ask “how does this affect our brand?”
Make sure you DON’T do the following:
- Brand from a tower—In other words, don’t develop your brand from on high, come out from behind the curtain like the Wizard of Oz and issue your branding decrees. Involve everyone in the branding process, including your managers, your employees and your consumers. Branding is not about you: it’s about them.
- Use clichés—What makes your credit union or bank different? Service? People? Community? NOT! Stop using overused words in your branding. Have you ever driven down the highway and seen a billboard that says, “Come our bank—we hate people.” No. Everyone loves service, people and the community. Answer that question (what makes us different) without the words service, people and community.
- Ignore brand gaps—More than likely, there are brand gaps in your organization. The brand gap is the tension between the operational nature of banking and the creative/strategic skills of branding. There can be gaps between your brand and your people, between your brand and your strategy and between your brand and your operations. Examine every key area of your credit union or bank and look at it through the lens of your brand.
Branding serves as a compass for your credit union or bank. It guides you on the right path. Ensure your brand compass is working perfectly by following these do’s and don’ts.
In a post earlier this year, I talked about “The Three Fs of Strategic Planning.” In that piece, I offered three ideas you should keep an eye on when doing strategic planning.
It’s the same way with marketing. There are several things you should DO and there are many things you should make sure you DON’T do.
So what are some of the Do’s and Don’ts of marketing? Below are four Do’s and three Don’ts of marketing.
Be sure you DO the following:
- Cut the copy—It doesn’t matter what piece you are producing, just say it in fewer words. The attention spans of consumers today are less than goldfish. One trend identified recently is the concept of glanceable content. People are consumer more information than ever before, just in smaller bites. In other words, they are “glancing” at it. You can learn more about cutting the copy in this post. To increase your marketing’s effectiveness, reduce how much you are saying.
- Invest in video—Marketing is no longer about brochures, direct mail pieces and newsletters. It is now about tools such as Vine and YouTube. The number one search engine for people under the age of 30 is not Google: it’s YouTube. Make sure your website has short testimonial clips, educational videos and interactive features. People are not reading; they are watching. To increase your marketing’s effectiveness, use more video.
- Measure and report your results—“What’s the ROI of our marketing?” Do you ever get that question or something similar? If you do, you better be able to answer it. You should calculate the return every one of your promotions brings (even if it didn’t quite have the results you were seeking). When those budget battles erupt (and they do), the more data you can provide the better you’ll be. You can click here for a few free ROI worksheets to help get you started. To increase your marketing’s effectives, demonstrate how marketing is positively impacting the bottom line.
- Get an outsider’s view of marketing—We are often too close to our own marketing to see ways to improve it. Sometimes we even have a few blind spots about our campaigns or pieces. As Jay Curtis, CEO of Frist Credit Union said recently, “The marketing audit gave us great feedback on where we need to focus our energies to grow and better serve our members. Having a fresh set of eyes on all your materials is a great way to better your brand.” You can click here to learn more about how a marketing audit can improve your financial institution. To increase your marketing’s effectiveness, get a second set of eyes on it.
Make sure you DON’T do the following:
- Listen too much to non-marketers—While getting others involved is marketing is important, getting them OVER involved can lead to unnecessary headaches. Everyone thinks they are a marketer, but the reality is they are not the paid professionals. You are. Remember, your board is not your target audiences so if they are complaining they never see your ads, then that is probably a good thing. To increase your marketing’s effectiveness, use discretion when listening to others’ ideas.
- Cut the marketing budget—This should go without saying, right? I’m often asked “how much should we spend on marketing?” My answer is always three words: “More, much more!” All kidding aside, if you cut the marketing to save expenses in the short run, you are only reducing your long-term growth objectives. If you are not hitting income goals, NOT investing in marketing so consumers can learn about your products or services probably isn’t going to have the ultimate desired effect you want on your bottom line. To increase your marketing’s effectiveness, spend more (wisely—not just because some blogger said so).
- Promote the flavor of the month—The days of a traditional marketing calendar are long gone. Rather than pushing deposits in Q1, home improvement loans in Q2, auto loans in Q3 and holiday promotions in Q4 it’s much more effective to promote your brand 24/7. If your employees feel they are “pushing” products on consumers rather than matching needs your marketing is doomed. To increase your marketing’s effectiveness, it’s best to emphasize brand over product.
You won’t grow your credit union or bank without strong marketing. It can’t be done. Make sure you are on a growth path by following these do’s and don’ts.
Periscope. Snapchat. Instagram. Vine. These are all the latest tools in an ongoing marketing onslaught to reach consumers today. And while these new mediums (fads?) are important, financial marketers cannot forget one the most important avenues when reaching their target audiences: email.
While email has been around for decades, it has not yet gone the path of the dinosaur towards extinction. In fact, recent data suggests that email marketing is more important and effective than ever.
According to a recent study from BlueHornet, almost three-quarters of respondents did not have a separate e-mail address for marketing and advertising e-mails. In other words, those email addresses they are giving you actually work as a communication device.
Consider these other findings:
- Nearly 98% of respondents were influenced by a marketing email to make a purchase
- Consumers now expect marketing emails to be personalized on past purchases (75%) and interests (71%)
- 34% continuously monitor their email account during the day
“We found that consumers are very digitally connected, checking their emails throughout the day and across devices,” said Mike Biwer, vice president and general manager for BlueHornet. “The vast majority expect marketers to know and understand them, and personalize messages accordingly. And they fully acknowledge the strong influence that email marketing has on their purchasing decisions.”
From a practical standpoint, what does this mean for banks and credit unions? Here are some key applications:
- Make email marketing a central component to your marketing strategy (not an afterthought)
- Make your emails mobile friendly (most people today are reading emails on tablets and phones)
- Make your headline compelling (how many times do you hit “delete” just based on the email message header?)
- Personalize those email messages (use their name, customize your offerings, avoid sending everyone the same message, etc.)
- Cut the copy (shorten those messages as much as possible; get to the point!)
- Avoid too many fancy graphics (visual images are important but if they are large they take too long to load)
Experts have been predicting for years now that branches are dead, yet there are still plenty of brick and mortar around. Just like branches aren’t dead (they are changing), email marketing is far from dead. Is email marketing changing? Absolutely. And adhering to those six tips above will improve your digital email efforts.
Everyone likes new bright and shiny toys (as in Periscope, Snapchat, Instagram and Vine). But when it comes to effectively marketing your messages, don’t forget the power of a trusty old tool: email.
When conducting your strategic planning session, you spend time examining trends. What are big picture issues that are going to affect financial institutions in the coming years? What new patterns are emerging with consumers? Tools used for understanding these trends include CUNA’s Environmental Scan, Forrester Research reports, and reams of articles from The Financial Brand. We even provide our planning clients with an “M-Scan” report that provides details about what growing credit unions and banks are doing to succeed.
But rather than just the studying the obvious movements in our industry (mobile banking, the digital revolution, etc.) what if you looked for non-obvious trends?
That is exactly what Rohit Bhargava does with his latest book, Non-Obvious. The subtitle—How To Think Different, Curate Ideas and Predict the Future—summarizes what he tries to accomplish in a thought provoking read. The book is divided into three parts: how to curate trends, 15 non-obvious trends he currently analyzes, and how to turn trends into actions. He defines a non-obvious trend as “an idea that describes the accelerating present in a new, unique way.”
Below are a few on the non-obvious trends Bhargava identified and how banks and credit unions can apply them.
(1) Glanceable Content
“Our shrinking attention spans and the explosion of all forms of content online lead curators to optimize content for rapid consumption,” is how Bhargava describes this trend. He notes that our attention spans are down to 8 seconds, which is less than a goldfish. You have to capture consumers’ attention in a fleeting moment.
- Application: Cut the copy. It’s that simple. Stop trying to over communicate multiple messages in a single piece. You must make your newsletter articles, e-mail messages, billboards, websites, etc. brief. Many successful financial institutions are conducting marketing audits to get an outside opinion on how they can improve their marketing with shorter pieces.
(2) Reverse Retail
Bhargava says reverse retail is “brands increasingly invest in high-touch in-store experiences as a way to build brand affinity and educate customers, while seamlessly integrating with online channels to complete actual purchases and fulfill orders.” He noted how consumers are now “showrooming,” where they will visit a physical location to check out a product and then actually purchase that product online.
- Application: Branches are not dead. They are changing. Multiple surveys from various sources indicate that between 60-80% of new banking relationships are established through the branch network. Of course, once those relationships are made, then consumers are migrating to a variety of banking delivery channels. You must consider not your branching strategy, but rather your omni-channel network: combining the physical, automated and virtual channels into one experience.
(3) Small Data
Bhargava challenges the concept of “big data” by saying “as consumers increasingly collect their own data from online activities and the Internet of Things, brand-owned big data becomes less valuable than immediately actionable small data collected and owned by consumers themselves.” He notes that brands must create value and link big data with small data.
- Application: Use the data you have to personalize messages and offerings. Stop sending mass communication in the form of “e-mail” and send what Seth Godin calls “me-mail.” You know tons about your customers/members: their credit score, how much money they make, where they shop, etc. That’s valuable data retailers would kill to have. But it’s useless data if you don’t mine it to help consumers make their financial lives better.
Those are a few of the trends from the book. To learn the rest of Bhargava’s 15 non-obvious trends you’ll want to read Non-Obvious, which I highly encourage you to do. I found the non-obvious trends section most helpful. His insights were spot-on and will certainly help you think more strategically.
If you want to improve your insight for your next strategic planning session, then read Non-Obvious.