Strategic Planning Lessons From the Oscars

“And the Oscar goes to……” Was it Moonlight or La La Land? For a few minutes, no one really knew. There was confusion and to some degree quite a bit of chaos. Hopefully those two words (confusion ad chaos) do not describe your strategic planning sessions!

All Jimmy Kimmell joking aside we can learn quite a bit about strategic planning from what happened (good and bad) during this year’s big Oscar show.

Here are four lessons along with practical applications (because learning without application is meaningless) credit unions and banks can learn:

  • Start with something funThe opening number from Justin Timberlake was high-energy. It also set the tone for the entire night. He did a fantastic job involving the audience: getting them on their feet, clapping and singing. Similarly, start your planning sessions with some type of ice breaker or game rather than a boring review of your financials. We often will use games with such as Toss Up or Jenga with our clients to not only have fun but also get people moving and then applying strategic lessons from those activities.
    • Application: Start your planning session with some type of activity that gets people out of their seats. There is magic in movement.
  • Involve the “every man”—About halfway through the festivities, host Jimmy Kimmell brought movie fans on a tour bus into the auditorium for a surprise visit. “Gary from Chicago” shared a magical moment with him, his fiancé and Denzel Washington. While you may not want to invite “ordinary” consumers into your strategic planning session, you certainly want to make their voice heard. One exercise we do with our strategic planning clients is the “Empty Chair” exercise. We place an empty chair near the front of the room and ask “If your customers or members were hear, what would they say they want from your financial institution?”
    • Application: Conduct member surveys and focus groups with your members prior to the session; also, ask for and receive feedback from all levels of the organization (not just executives).
  • Plan for contingencies—Of course, the most memorable event of the night was when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway read the wrong winner for “Best Movie” category. That is a moment that will down in Oscar history. Perhaps they could have prepared or maybe done a better job adlibbing. But nothing like that had ever happened before: and that’s just the point. There are going to be things that come up after your planning session that you didn’t think would ever happen. So be ready for them.
    • Application: No matter what goals you set during your planning session, spend time answering these question, “What can go wrong?” and “What type of contingency plans do we have?”

Don’t let your red carpet strategic planning event turn into chaos and confusion. If you want to make your strategic planning session extraordinary then start with something fun, reflect on the past, involve the “every man,” and plan for contingencies.

Your Bank or Credit Union and Brand Intimacy

Your Bank or Credit Union and Brand Intimacy

Increasingly, you hear people talk about getting consumers to like your brand. But liking a brand isn’t enough. For your bank or credit union brand to succeed, your consumers must love it. And for them to love it, they must feel some sort of intimate connection with it.

Yes, that’s right — intimacy.

While intimacy and a financial institution brand may not seem to go hand-in-hand, there is definitely a place for it at your bank or credit union. So, how can a bank or credit union establish an intimate bond with its consumers? According to a recent report, the top five brands with intimate connections to Millennials are Apple, Nintendo, Netflix, Amazon and Disney. There are lessons to learn here. And don’t shy away because of the Millennial reference. The examples below apply to any age demographic.

While the companies listed above may not have a lot in common on the surface, they all demonstrate ways in which brands can connect intimately with their consumers. Consider the following for your bank or credit union:

  • Emotion over logic. Generally, consumers don’t make purchase decisions based on logic. They are driven primarily by emotion. Companies like Disney do a terrific job of establishing that emotional connection. Are there cheaper places to take your family for vacation than Disney World? Absolutely. But consumers will pay that premium because of the emotional connection, memories and family fun. Your financial institution must also give consumers a reason to choose it when logic says otherwise. For example, while your competitors may have more branches or better rates, you must offer something (generally along the lines of superior experience) that provides an emotional connection and generates brand loyalty.
  • Content is king. Your bank or credit union must provide terrific consumer information in order to stand out from the competition. Simply going for “sell, sell, sell” all the time will only turn off consumers. Companies like Amazon do a great job providing content for consumers (an example of this are customer reviews on Amazon). Your financial institution must also be a leader in content if it wants to establish intimate links between its brand and consumers.
  • Actively listening to consumers. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates famously remarked “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” This definitely applies to banks and credit unions. While we all love the glowing reviews, don’t turn a blind eye towards upset consumers. Hear what your consumers are saying about their pain points in doing business with you and actively work towards remedying those. For example, if you’re getting a lot of complaints about your outdated website, take a serious look at a redesign.

In order for brand to work, your financial institution executive management team must lead it. Your staff must live it. Only then can your consumers love it. Love, in great measure in branding, is determined by intimacy with consumers. So — just how intimate is your bank or credit union brand?

Forget Share of Wallet; Go For Share of Heart

Forget Share of Wallet; Go For Share of Heart

Every credit union or bank wants to increase their share of wallet with consumers. They want more business with existing customers or members. If someone has a checking account with you but no loan, go for that auto loan. If they have a checking account with you but no credit card, go for the plastic. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that approach. In fact, gaining more wallet share is often a key strategy for most financial institutions and an easy way to increase profitability.

But what about gaining more share of heart?

When I mention “share of heart” I’m referring to how the consumer feels about your credit union or bank. Not whether or not they use your products or services but rather what images or thoughts come to mind when they think of you. The more positive feelings they have towards you then the more share of heart you have. And if they don’t feel anything about you (positive or negative) then you don’t have a large share of heart.

Here are three ways to increase the share of heart someone has with your financial institution:

  • Improve your brand—The best brands going today are the ones that engage consumers emotionally. Think Apple and Amazon. People love those brands. They don’t just have consumers’ wallet, they have consumers’ heart as well. Don’t think a financial institution can illicit positive feelings because banking is boring or a chore? Then think about USAA and how it consistently ranks number one in net promoter score. If you know someone who uses USAA chances are you know someone who loves USAA. Improving your share of wallet will mean improving your brand.
  • Update your marketing—The marketing at most financial institutions focus on particular products’ features. The rate, the term, the function, etc. However, to truly touch consumers’ hearts your marketing should emphasize your products’ benefits. As someone once said, “features tell, benefits sell.” When we conduct marketing audits for our clients it is amazing to see how much of their material is dry, boring and a feature dump. We encourage many clients to make sure their marketing is emotional. Gaining more love for your bank or credit union will mean updating your marketing.
  • Change your training—No matter what you say your brand is and no matter how cool your marketing messages look, it’s your people who have to deliver (or sell) to consumers. So when was the last time you really trained your staff to your brand or trained them on connecting with consumers? Too much training within the financial service industry is focused on basic service skills, product knowledge or operational issues. Rather than offering the usual training material, try doing generational training, brand training or engagement training. Connecting deeper with consumers’ hearts will mean changing your training.

So does all this love really impact the bottom line? Absolutely. While love may be a squishy subject it is also a realistic profit driver. As Ray Davis, former president of Umpqua Bank said in Leading for Growth, “If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know that your brand is just about the most valuable asset you’ve got.”

Four Marketing Myths

Four Marketing Myths

In recent posts I’ve talked about Four Branding Myths and Four Strategic Planning Myths. While we referenced Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster and Elvis, we also “myth busted” a few common assumptions when it comes to branding and strategic planning.

The same holds true for marketing. There are many myths, half-truths and false assumptions when it comes to the important role marketing plays in the growth of your financial institution. It’s critical that executives don’t fall for these marketing folk tales.

And just like the Myth Busters had to set us straight about if it’s possible to cook lasagna using a dishwasher as an oven, it’s time to bust a few myths when it comes to marketing.

Here are four marketing myths:

  • Marketing is advertising—When you say the word “marketing” most people immediately think of their favorite TV commercials, radio spots or billboards. The reality, however, is that those are just advertising mediums. Marketing is WAY more than just advertising. As Alex Goldfayn says in The Revenue Growth Habit, marketing is “systematically communicating your value to people who can buy from you.” The reality is marketing is goes beyond what you say in your ads.
  • Marketing is a department—Who is in marketing? The answer to that question should always be “everyone.” Every single person at your credit union or bank is in marketing. Yes, even your collectors and accounting personnel. In fact, your staff are not just employees; they are brand ambassadors. The reality is marketing touches everything.
  • Marketing is an expense—Ask any CFO what marketing is and the vast majority will say it’s an expense. As John Wanamaker once family said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Therefore, marketing should provide a return on investment for those marketing dollars. If you try and cut marketing to save your budget dollars this year, what are the long-term impacts of that down the road? The reality is marketing is an investment.
  • Marketing is just about creativity and having fun—In one of my favorite Dilbert cartoons, his boss family says “You will now be working in the marketing department until further notice.” Then on the next frame you see the doorway to marketing, which says “Marketing Department: Two Drink Minimum.” Unfortunately, that is the perception of most marketing departments: it is just about creating pretty pieces and having a good time. However, marketing is more and more about data and analytics. To succeed in reaching consumers today, you must mine all the data you have on them. The reality is marketing is just as much science as art.

Obviously, there are key aspects to marketing that involve advertising, marketing personnel, money and creativity. However, to believe those things are the keys to marketing is to believe in a marketing myth.

Having Fun and Putting Love In Your Brand

Having Fun and Putting Love In Your Brand

It’s February, which means Valentine’s Day is upon us and, for many, love is in the air. The deeper question however, is this – do consumers love your bank or credit union?

Notice I didn’t say the word like. It’s too easy for a consumer to like a particular product, service or retailer. Many people, for example, might say they like a particular motorcycle but typically only Harley-Davidson owners will jump up on a table, proudly show you their logo tattoo and proclaim undying love for their bike.

Similarly, lots of consumers may say they like a particular cell phone, but you don’t find many people camping out on sidewalks four hours (if not days) in advance of a new phone launch like you do Apple fans.

Obviously, love plays into the notion of particularly strong brands. And while potential institutions may not outwardly seem to have the same potential feel for consumers, with the right people and the right brand, they can achieve the status of a loved brand.

What are some ways that you can inject the idea of love into your bank or credit union brand? First, run your brand through the love – respect axis. This is a terrific book and website that explains the deeper idea of loving a brand and will give you great insight on how members/consumers feel about your financial institution. Second, develop a staff that openly loves your brand. If your staff doesn’t love the brand, they won’t live in front of consumers and those consumers will quickly pick up on the inauthenticity of your brand. Lastly, make your brand fun. Fun brands are easier to love. Harley-Davidson and Apple are good examples of this. Other popular brands (some of which, like financial institutions, may not seem overly open to the notion of love) that do the job include Charmin, Old Spice and Taco Bell. And check out their social media sites (particularly Twitter) to get a better feel for how they inject fun and love into brand.

If you don’t think a financial institution is a retailer for which consumers and feel love, think again. Many banks and credit unions, with a deep dive into branding, have developed cultures which consumers love. A great example of this is USAA.

No doubt about it, in our competitive modern financial services environment, it’s simply not good enough to be “liked” anymore. If your consumers don’t love you, they don’t have much a reason to stick with you. Therefore, it is critical banks and credit unions create brands that develop lovesick consumers, not those that are merely satisfied with their products and services.

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