This blog entry authored by Taylor W. Wells,
Communications Director for On The Mark Strategies
As a single dad, you learn to develop a thick skin. However, a couple of things have always and still do terrify me. And both have to do with little girls. One is hair. Beautiful braids, pigtails and other styles completely elude my pitiful fumble fingers. It’s ponytail or bust for me.
The other is clothing. If you ever want to know true fear, as a father, walk into a large big-box clothing store and try to find things that will fit your daughters. Boys sizes I kind of get. But little girls? It’s a mystery to me.
That’s one of the reasons I was glad to find the Justice brand. Billed as a one-stop-shop for trendy styles for tween and young teen girls, Justice is now my go-to place for young ladies clothing.
And why is that? With all the many choices out there?
It’s not price. While reasonable, Justice certainly isn’t the cheapest.
It’s not location. There’s only one store in my town and it is a twenty-minute drive.
It’s not digital access. While their website looks fine, I’ve never made a purchase on it.
For me, it all comes down to the brand experience. When I walked into Justice, the staff there knows me by name, knows my daughters and their respective sizes and knows roughly the budget I’m willing to spend. It is precisely that kind of consumer engagement and bewitching brand that keeps me (and my dollars) coming back.
For most people, the world of banking is equally puzzling and, sometimes, scary. When consumers don’t understand something, like money, they tend to shy away from it, sometimes making poor choices. Your bank or credit union has an awesome opportunity to fill this knowledge gap and provide consumers with a Justice-style brand experience within the walls of your financial institution.
This goes beyond just the “know your consumers by name” application. That’s pretty much brand engagement 101. You must go deeper than that. You have to care enough about your consumers to actually get to know them, what they need and actually anticipate what they might need before they themselves know it. That’s one of the reasons why the sales reps at Justice are so terrific at cross-selling me on things. You must also work to develop a culture of retention, in which stellar frontline staff are kept in their positions and amply rewarded for their production. Having a revolving door at the consumer relationship specialist position is a recipe for disaster. Consider that application for your bank or credit union front-line staff. If they knew their consumers, really knew them, how much deeper could your overall product penetration be?
Branding and employee retention work hand-in-hand. If you have a strong brand, word will get around in your workplace community and qualified candidates will want to work for you. And it is these qualified candidates who are more likely to stay onboard and become seasoned, long-term employees that can then, in turn, deliver consistent brand experiences to your consumers.
If the sales reps at Justice simply sat behind the counter, refusing to make eye contact or help in any way, I would have left quickly and searched out another store. But they didn’t and the rest is history. To realize similar consumer engagement and brand exposure success in your bank or credit union, fine-tune your skills at consumer engagement training and qualified employee retention.
In today’s challenging financial environment, credit unions and banks are squeezed more than ever when it comes to making money. Long gone are the days with a six-point spread between interest rate deposits and loans (does anyone other than a historian even remember 12% loans and 6% deposits?). Margins are shrinking almost daily. If it weren’t for non-interest income most financial institutions would be swimming in a sea of red.
More than ever, credit unions and banks need to grow revenue. But how? One way is to have all your employees read The Revenue Growth Habit by Alex Goldfayn. But not just read it: implement his suggestions and actions.
The subtitle says it all: the simple art of growing your business by 15% in 15 minutes a day. Sounds too good to be true? I don’t think so—because this is one of the best books I’ve read in the last five years. It is an absolute must-read. The book is full of awesome content, not the least of which are 22 growth techniques. This is not some book on theory: it is extremely practical.
Below are three principles from the book and how we can apply them in the financial services world. For the remaining dozen plus ideas, be sure to pick up a copy of The Rev it’s a wonderful read full of ideas).
(1) Demonstrate the value
What is marketing? Goldfayn defines it this way, “the proactive way of communicating your company’s value to people who can buy it.” In other words, you must demonstrate the value you bring. As much as possible, quantify that value (in terms of money saved, fees avoided, loans made, etc.). Sometimes we overly complicate marketing, when it fact marketing is just about showing value.
- Application: Show how your financial institution brings value to consumers. Stop talking about your product’s features. Start communicating what you do for consumers: save them time, make their financial dreams come true, etc. People do not want your products and services: they want value.
(2) Communicate testimonials systematically
One the fundamental principles Goldfayn preaches in The Revenue Growth Habit is gathering testimonials and case studies. But not just when you feel like it or when you have time. Make acquiring customer or member testimonials a part of your marketing system. He notes that, “in terms of revenue growth, there are few better investments of your time than….customer interviews.”
- Application: When are consumers the happiest with your financial institution? Probably when you just approved them for that loan or opened their new checking account. That is a perfect time to find out why they are doing business with you. The key with testimonial gathering is it must be a part of an overall process. Whether you put it as part of the front-line staff’s job process or the marketing department’s back office support function, make sure you “interview” your happy and satisfied consumers on a regular basis. In other words, make testimonial gathering a part of your follow-up procedures.
(3) Focus on quantity
With marketing, we want everything just right. Cross all our “T’s.” Dot all our “I’s.” Rather than pursue perfection, Goldfayn suggests repetition. “In revenue growth, ironically, quantity trumps quality,” he says. That doesn’t mean you send out crappy marketing material. However, it does mean that quick, systematic repetition is the key.
- Application: Stop doing “pot-shot” marketing, where you send one piece, don’t get the ROI you wanted and halt your marketing. Nike’s famous slogan is “Just Do It.” With marketing, that means “Just Market.” Consumers should hear from you on a regular basis: not just once a month in a newsletter. Marketing requires 24/7 attention.
Those are just a few key points from only three of the major principles in The Revenue Growth Habit. I’m not joking when I say that I underlined about half the book: it was that good. I am even reviewing my notes on a regular basis and requiring my team to read it. This book is honestly a game changer: not just because of its principles but because of it’s easy to implement practical suggestions.
If you want to grow your credit union or bank’s bottom line, then I highly suggest you read The Revenue Growth Habit.
By now you have probably heard about the many woes facing the Chipotle Mexican Grill brand. Beset by food safety concerns, the chain actually took the step of closing all its stores for four hours earlier this year to conduct a company-wide staff meeting about food safety. Whether or not this helps heal the crippled brand is debatable.
What Chipotle essentially did was order the “all stop” maneuver, better known in naval terminology. In an “all-stop” scenario, the captain orders the engine room to bring all engines to a condition in which they are no longer driving the ship.
While the Chipotle example is one of extremes, there is a lesson there for banks and credit unions. If your brand and consumer engagement is floundering to the point where you need to issue an “all-stop” order, what would you do?
Obviously, banks and credit unions don’t have the luxury of closing for four hours during a regular business day. However, you could certainly call an employee brand meeting on a Saturday or federal holiday (Columbus Day, for example). Sure, nobody’s going to be too excited about it, but if it involves the actual success or failure of your brand, it’s necessary.
What are some of the signs your bank or credit union might need a Chipotle “all stop” moment? See the following.
- Negative social media buzz. Keep an eye on what consumers are saying about you on review sites as well as your own social media platforms. Is it mostly positive, or are you being torn apart for poor service, pricing, etc.?
- Competitors gaining an edge. Is the bank or credit union down the street rolling out an exciting new product more often than you? Have they gained the technological advantage in digital products and services? Are you no longer at the forefront of the things your consumers need and want out of the financial institution?
- Decreased sales/wallet share. This is a fairly easy one to track. Are your sales down, year-over-year? What about your product penetration? If so, these are tell-tale signs that your brand is in trouble.
- Drop in brand/advertising awareness funds. Unfortunately, anytime there is a budget crunch, branding and marketing tends to take the first hit. Actually, the exact opposite should be true. Take a look at your branding budget. Has it gone down consistently, your after year? Or does your bank or credit union recognize the importance and value of branding will contribute to that line item accordingly?
- Lack of executive management team buy-in. Nothing will sink your brand quicker than a CEO (or other C-Suite executives) that just don’t care about it. It causes a poisonous trickle-down effect. When other employees see that the brand doesn’t matter to the people to whom they report, they have no real reason to adhere to it themselves. If your executive management doesn’t lead the brand, your staff can’t live it and your consumers will never love it.
If your bank or credit union faces one or more of the above examples, it may be time to call the “all-stop” and have a serious brand discussion with your entire staff. Hopefully, you recognize the signs early enough and quick action can make a difference. The captain of the Titanic called and “all-stop” after his vessel hit the iceberg. You know the rest of the story.
There’s just something about food on a stick that speaks to the culinary soul. Whether it’s turkey legs, popsicles, corndogs, shish kabobs or some of the more exotic offerings like donuts and fried butter on a stick, these foods just rock. Admit it: food tastes better on a stick.
And why do these delicious foods on a stick rock? For a lot of different reasons – the biggest being ease and convenience. What’s better than walking around the midway at your local county fair, chowing down like a caveman on a juicy turkey leg? Or running through the sprinkler on a hot summer day as a child wagging a dripping cherry popsicle? It’s fun. It’s easy. You don’t have to worry about all the other typical accoutrements of eating like utensils, napkins and, heck, even a place to sit down. It’s just convenient.
Does your bank or credit union offer this “food on a stick” type of convenience for its consumers? If not, you should. There is an ongoing Simplification Revolution in banking that shows no signs of slowing down. If you want to acquire and keep consumers happy, you need to make things as simple as possible.
How to accomplish this? The biggest is digital. Fewer and fewer consumers (with a few exceptions) want to actually come inside and visit your brick-and-mortar locations. They want the ease and time-saver of doing it from their tablet or phone. This means you need to position virtually all of your products and services on some type of digital platform in such a way that members can quickly and easily interact with them.
Take a look at your product offerings. When you set up those twelve different checking accounts a decade ago, it probably looked like a pretty good idea. Now, consumers are so stressed for time that the chore of reviewing your dozen options is simply overwhelming. People want short, sweet and concise. You may want to consider actually downsizing your products and services, even (gasp!) eliminating some consumers are simply no longer using. This is one of the most difficult things for a lot of banks and credit unions to do — eliminating products and services. But to be “food on a stick” for your consumers, you may have to cut things.
Another great way to find that unique “food on a stick” ease for your consumers is to actually ask them what they want and need. All too often, bank and credit union executive teams and marketers assume they know what consumers want when in reality, they are far off-track. When you’re trying to sell a product or service to someone, it makes sense to ask them if it meets their needs. If not, realign your offering in such a way that makes sense to the consumer.
While your financial institution may never attain the absolute ubersexiness of deep-fried alligator bites on a stick, you can go for that same feeling by offering your consumers ease and convenience in your product and service offerings.
Lately it seems like Hollywood and television have run out of good, new ideas for entertainment. Many movies and programs coming out are sequels, reboots and “reimaginings” (whatever that is). For a recent example, look no further than the re-whatever of The X-Files on Fox.
Admittedly, some of these sequels and reboots are a lot of fun. For example, I think some of the updated Star Trek franchise films are at least as good, if not better, than the originals. On the flipside, for every good sequel or remake you get, there’s always going to be a Jaws: The Revenge or Godzilla (1998).
I receive a number of credit union newsletters and can say with certainty that too many of them have the same information (i.e.: the same promotion every spring, the same information listed every fall). Is your bank or credit union out of good ideas? This applies to a number of areas, including consumer service, marketing, the brand and operations. If your financial institution finds itself in an idea rut, consider the following kickstarters to find new inspiration.
- Break out of the financial institution silo. We are all guilty of focusing solely on the task at hand, daily operations, etc. Over time, this limits our vision and blunts focus. Look outside the world of banks and credit unions. Scan blogs, financial news websites and periodicals. Banks and credit unions must learn to think of themselves as retailers, so it makes sense that we look to the retail world for inspiration and new blood.
- Jot down every idea that comes to you. Oddly enough, some of my better ideas pop into my head during my morning run. For you, it might be during the shower, prayer, meditation or even when you’re focusing on absolutely nothing. The point is, capture those ideas to see if they may work later. If you pause and say “oh, I’ll write it down later,” guess what? You won’t. And the idea is likely lost forever. I use a tool like Evernote to capture random ideas and thoughts,
- Try to notice how others tackle business. For example grocery stores are masters of the “impulse buy” by placing all those tempting candy bars and periodicals right next to the checkout line. Amazon.com does a terrific job suggesting other things you might want to buy based on past purchases. Point being – you don’t necessarily have to reinvent the wheel every day. You can just take a look at how others have reshaped that wheel and find a way to make it work for your bank or credit union.
Rocky V should never have happened. Nobody was waiting for somebody to do better than Alfred Hitchcock with Psycho and Clash of the Titans was terrific as an original. Is your bank or credit union simply slapping a new name and color scheme on old ideas and hoping consumers buy it? If so, it’s time to consider looking for a more original and innovative approach.