In banks and credit unions, we tend to spend a lot of time talking about what the brand says about us (our financial institution). This is certainly important as the brand must be an accurate reflection of your unique retail culture and environment.
However, a critically important element of the brand mix is sometimes overlooked. What exactly does your brand say about your consumers? What does your brand (in its entirety) say about the men and women who choose your bank or credit union as their financial institution? What does this say to them about themselves and, just as importantly, what does this say about them to their extended circle of friends, family and colleagues?
Consumers choose to do business with a particular brand for a reason. Sometimes it’s price (think Southwest Airlines). Sometimes it’s ease of access (think Amazon). Sometimes it’s experience (think Disney). Often, it is a combination of these (and other) elements. So when creating and living your financial institution’s brand, you must consider what that choice represents about your consumers. Are they choosing you because you have the fastest loan turnaround decision time in town? Because you offer the most branches and/or the best online access? Or do they prefer you over the competition because of the unique cultural environment offered by your brand?
For example, you can certainly buy a cheaper motorcycle than a Harley-Davidson. Yet millions of Harley fanatics wouldn’t ride anything else. They’re not buying a motorcycle nearly as much as they are buying a lifestyle. The same thing applies to retail shopping. You have your Walmart people and your Target people. Each choice says something about what is important to a particular consumer. The same principle applies to your consumers. Does your brand accurately reflect the reason they choose you over the competition? If not, you are in danger of drifting into brand disconnect waters, which represents serious trouble for your brand.
Successful brands are authentic. Successful brands represent something accurately. Successful brands also speak about the lifestyle preferences of those who choose them. What does your bank or credit union brand say about consumers that choose you?
Bank and credit union training programs tend to spend a lot of time talking about the introduction between a consumer and a staff member. This makes sense, as first impressions are vital. However, the way a staff member concludes the consumer interaction is just as important. After all, this is a critical marketing touch-point and potentially the last thing the consumer will hear from his or her financial institution.
One of the more famous retail closing statements comes from Chick-fil-A. As part of their branded experience, every employee is trained to use the phrase “my pleasure” whenever a customer says “thank you” or otherwise expresses a need or desire. This phrase has become such a ubiquitous part of the Chick-fil-A culture that some customers, so used to hearing “my pleasure,” will actually ask an employee “aren’t you supposed to say something now?” if that employee fails to follow the brand script.
Banks and credit unions should pay similar amounts of attention to the closing statements used by their staff when interacting with consumers. Financial institutions primed for success typically map out the consumer interaction process, complete with scripting to guide employees through both the verbal and nonverbal interaction that comes with every consumer encounter.
A terrific example of this comes from Heart of Louisiana Credit Union. At the end of every member interaction, in person, on the phone or via digital communication, every staff member says “thank you for being a part of the heart.” Similar to Chick-fil-A, this statement has become such an important part of the credit union’s brand culture that members now expect to hear it. This is branding gold.
Of course, as with the other elements of your consumer interaction experience, the closing statement must be authentic to who you are. In the case of Heart of Louisiana Credit Union, the statement goes extremely well with their branded culture (and name). By taking a brand-perspective look at your financial institution, as well as its consumers, you can also develop a closing statement that deepens the consumer relationship and increases brand awareness (which is really just a fancy way of saying enhancing consumer top of mind awareness about your bank or credit union).
Banks and credit unions tend to put a great deal of emphasis on the brick-and-mortar aspect of the retail experience. And that makes sense, as financial institutions are every bit as much of a retailer as the traditional big-box stores and malls are. However, the rapid rise of e-commerce means that an ever-increasing number of consumers will prefer to do business with you digitally or, at the very least, will check out your website presence before setting foot in a physical location.
Understanding that, there are a number of litmus tests which you can apply to your bank or credit union website. Following are just a few of those.
Give consumers a reason to visit your website. It may sound arbitrary, but it’s anything but. Simply slapping a digitized version of your brochure line on the website and expecting consumers to click happily to you isn’t going to happen. Your digital retail experience must offer a compelling reason for consumers to drop by. Are you offering high-value consumer information? Online-only specials? Regardless of the reason why, the very fact that your website offers a reason to check it out as opposed to a physical location is important.
Don’t just push information. Ensure your bank or credit union website also elicits feedback from consumers. You can accomplish this with online surveys, easy access to email feedback and prominent links to your social media platforms. Consumers will quickly tire of a massive “data dump.” By asking for their feedback and participation, you deepen the consumer relationship and heighten their exposure to your brand.
Keep text and navigation as simple as possible. Your bank or credit union website is not the place to impress people with vocabulary (or certainly financial institution jargon). Keep your text short and sweet. Similarly, nobody wants to hunt for information several pages (or clicks) deep. In fact, for every click someone must execute in order to find information, they are increasingly less likely to pursue that information. Keep your navigation simple and shallow.
If the porch of a home is its street-facing showpiece, your bank or credit union digital retail experience (most prominently expressed by the website) serves the same purpose. Ensure that your website puts the best possible foot forward for your financial institution.
Language and words matter. Especially when you are undertaking a branding or marketing project.
Too many times when doing branding efforts and marketing campaigns the term “target” or “target audience” is used. But the word target implies you are shooting at something or someone. And no one wants to get shot.
What do consumers really want from you? They want to be your partners. They want you to help them. They want to know you have their back.
Yes, target marketing matters. You certainly can’t be all things to all people and you must allocate your marketing dollars wisely by choosing certain segments with the right messages.
However, in our effort to focus we sometimes lose sight that people are people.
Think in terms of what type of people you help the most. Who benefits the most from your products or services? Whose unique needs are you best at meeting? That mindset changes the focus from a target to a person.
What words can you use besides “target?” As mentioned above, try partner (and if you are a credit union stop using the term select employee group: no one knows what that means). You can also try “ideal member or customer.” Perhaps “key group” is an option.
Any of the words above work. They imply your focus is on the consumer and not just what they can do for you. Branding and marketing is not about you—it’s about them. And the “them” don’t want to be your target.
Think about yourself. Would you rather be someone’s target or someone’s partner?
Marketers are word people. We like words. After all, that’s why we’re in marketing. But are consumers reading your words? In all honesty, probably not. Why? One reason is because we are writing too much.
It’s time we cut the copy.
People are consuming their information in small bites. The reality is they don’t have the time or the interest to read everything you are writing.
As marketing guru Seth Godin says, “Say what you need to say, then leave. Less is actually more.”
Where possible, use bullets, lists, subheads and short paragraphs. If necessary, break a long item into multiple pieces. The key is to make your copy “scannable.” Time how long it takes to read the article, brochure, postcard, web page, etc. If it’s more than 90 seconds, odds are they will go to something else.
How people consume your information is changing. They are far more likely to be reading your e-mail on their phone. And in a phone format, that means you need to use less text.
Where possible, use video rather than text. People are viewing far more than they are reading today.
Completing a marketing audit will help examine your materials for length and effectiveness.
In visiting with a client recently we were talking about her newsletter. When I noted the amount of copy in her piece she confessed, “If I received our newsletter in the mail, I wouldn’t read it.”
So for this post, I’m going to practice what I preached.
Cut the copy.