My colleague relayed an experience she had with a pizza delivery driver who gave her dog a dog biscuit when her husband opened the door. Her family has had pizza delivered from the same place many times in the past and nobody has ever brought a treat for the dog. In fact, nobody delivering food from any restaurant has ever brought a treat for her dog. She was pleasantly surprised and called it a wow factor.
Based on previous history with that pizza place, this isn’t a company-wide branding idea. It’s one employee who chooses to live the brand in a simply, yet extraordinary way. It’s an example of how one employee can make your brand that much more powerful.
Now let’s look at the flip side – that one employee who refuses to live the brand. How much power do you think he or she has over the brand? Research from McClean & Company indicates an employee disengaged with your credit union’s brand, costs a minimum of $10,000 a year in lost customers/members, lack of productivity, extra training and other factors. That’s a lot of negative energy being pumped into your brand from only one person.
How can you ensure that every employee is igniting your brand in a positive way?
- Encourage them
Challenge each employee to develop his or her own way to live the brand (within your financial institution’s brand guidelines, of course). Different personalities have different ways of engaging customers or members. Encourage them to use their strengths or even outside interests to their advantage.
- Share ideas as a team
Sometimes people are fantastic executers but mediocre idea developers. Have your team regularly share the special ways they live the brand daily. Others may be able to do duplicate that effort, or they can use another person’s idea as the foundation for something that makes them more comfortable engaging consumers.
- Monitor employee performance
Some employees don’t do what’s expected unless it’s inspected. Your managers have to monitor their teams. If someone consistently resists living the brand, give them more training, put them in a different position more conducive to their strengths or terminate them. Nobody likes to talk about terminating employees, and hopefully you won’t have to. Just remember, you are in business for your customers or members. Your brand depends on employees who live it willingly.
On The Mark Strategies would love to hear about the unique ways your employees live your brand. Please share your stories by leaving a comment on this blog post.
By Colleen Cormier, Account Executive for On The Mark Strategies
My family recently took a road trip spanning several thousand miles. With spotty cell coverage for much of the drive, I had a lot of time to look at billboards – how they are used, what they promote and what goal they are trying to achieve. If you work for the many financial institutions that struggle with whether or not to spend money on billboards, or with what message to advertise, these observations may help you clarify your decision.
The majority of billboard advertising fell into one of three categories. They were either promoting brand awareness, promoting a restaurant/entertainment venue at a specific exit or displaying a public service message (i.e. save water, go to church, don’t start forest fires, etc.). These are the only three objectives financial institutions should consider when incorporating billboards into their marketing plan. I saw a lot of billboards across 2,000 miles, and I don’t recall seeing one billboard promoting a specific product or rate. What differentiates your brand from others? That’s what you want on your billboard. A good example is this image of a McDonald’s billboard differentiating itself from expensive coffee places.
Less is more
The most effective billboards had very little copy. Sometimes it was as simple as “food” or “clean bathrooms” with a logo and an exit number. You have about eight seconds to grab someone’s attention with a billboard. Keep the message brief. A good rule of thumb is to use a business card as your guide. If it doesn’t fit on a business card without you having to squint, your message may be too long for a billboard. Six to eight words is your maximum. If you can’t do this, billboards are not for you. See examples here.
This is where many businesses struggle – especially credit unions with field of membership boundaries. Billboard owners will give you statistics on who drives the roads where their billboards are located, but much of it is subjective. How many drive that route every day? What is their gender and how much money do they make? Sometimes billboard demographics are a gamble. You also have to consider the type of road it is. I was traveling on interstate highways where exits were often few and far between. The billboards were targeting long distance drivers. A local highway where people most likely travel the same route every day might be a better choice for your financial institution.
Billboard advertising can be pricey and often involves a long-term commitment. If you are trying to capture the attention of an entire community, sometimes sponsoring festivals or other community events where your employees can speak one-on-one with potential customers and members is a more effective use of your marketing dollars. It comes down to your anticipated ROI based on how much money you plan to spend during a specific time frame and how many people you expect to reach.
Every credit union or bank wants a strong brand. And branding is often an initiative on many strategic plans. However, wanting a strong band and actually having a strong brand are two completely different things.
So how do you know if you have a strong brand? You can give it a “Three E” test. On a scale of one (low) to five (high), grade your financial institution in the following areas:
- Emotion—According to a recent survey from Customer Thermometer, 64% of women and 68% of men have felt an emotional connection with a brand or business. The survey noted, “…it pays to develop an emotional bond.” So how do you do that with a checking account or a loan? You don’t. You need to make sure your brand is not about your products or services, but rather about how the consumer feels when doing business with you. The more emotion you inspire in consumers, the stronger brand you have.
- Engagement—The financial services industry is a relationship-based business. As a recent CU Times article noted, “Is your staff developing personal relationships with members? Do your members know you care?” Your employees need to stop selling and start connecting. If they engage with consumers, the sales will come (in fact, we have found that engagement training is much more effective than traditional sales and service training for our clients). The more you engage with consumers, the stronger brand you have.
- Experience—A great article from The Financial Brand recently spotlighted Solarity Credit Union and how they are competing primarily on experience. The credit union wanted to be the number one experience provider in financial services nationwide and were recently recognized as just that. The credit union developed an entire CX strategy, changed their hiring & training practices, used experience as their guiding strategic principle and created feedback loops among other proactive steps. They just didn’t talk about experience, they created and delivered it. The more you give consumers a differentiated experience, the stronger brand you have.
Giving your credit union or bank the “Three E” test is the easy part. The challenging part is taking the steps necessary to build a successful brand around emotion, engagement and experience.
Lafayette Schools Credit Union is a financial institution with big priorities. The credit union has experienced the value of training its employees, and it continues to invest significantly in growing its employees into leaders.
“I think about the mid managers who report directly to me, and I see growth” said Connie Roy, CEO of Lafayette Schools Credit Union. “They seem encouraged, and they’re learning to lean on other leaders in the credit union who have similar issues.”
That wasn’t always the culture at LSCU. Like most financial institutions, LSCU hired more people as the credit union grew. However, as the number of employees increased, the level of cohesiveness across the organization declined. So did the level of service.
No financial institution can afford to deliver unsatisfactory service – especially one heavily impacted by the bust of the oil and gas industry not that long ago. On The Mark Strategies helped LSCU management craft a customized member engagement program which defines specific service standards and staff expectations.
“We hire young people all the time and they don’t know what good service looks like,” said Roy. “With Mark’s help, we’ve come together as an organization and the expectations are crystal clear. This is who we are. This is who we serve. We broke it down, and they are getting it. They are really, getting it.”
That was the beginning of an entirely new way of doing business. LSCU learned to invest more in employee development, including regular leadership training.
“We’ve decided that we’re done with hiring,” said Roy. “It just wasn’t working. We’re 55 employees now. We have determined that we want to grow our own leaders. Leadership all trickles down and it’s working. Leadership skills have been enhanced and they’ve been made top of mind.”
The credit union chose a customized leadership training approach through On the Mark Strategies.
“I love the way we can customize our training,” said Roy. “It centers around our needs. It’s not just a cookie-cutter PowerPoint presentation. Bringing these mid managers together has been really beneficial. The way Mark presents it, they get it, and for him to bring it in house for us is a huge cost savings. I’m not having to send six or eight people out of town at a time.”
Roy is very pleased with the results of their investment. Managers are engaged with their staff, and they exemplify the behavior they expect of their employees. Member engagement is now a way of life at LSCU, and the credit union has the cohesiveness it was lacking.
“Our member engagement program has brought consistency at all locations which is what our goal has been all along,” said Roy.
When you launch a new brand at your bank or credit union, all the glitz and glamour of the kickoff party and initial training feels pretty good (especially if you’re a former marketer like me). I remember the feeling well.
I also well remember that the “new car smell” of the brand didn’t last for long. That’s not to say your brand still isn’t cool, vital and relevant after roll-out. Far from it. However, the real work in branding comes not so much before or during the launch but after the launch.
It’s in the days, weeks, months and years after the launch of a new brand that the real labor comes into play. As a brand leader at your bank or credit union, it is your responsibility to reinforce (and sometimes enforce) brand standards. This means you won’t always be the most popular person at your financial institution. During spot-checks for brand adherence at branches, I was regularly referred to as not-so-nice names by staff. I had to grow a thick skin and so will you.
Working as the brand enforcer, you’ll have to take a stand when it comes to sticking to what the brand represents. If you let little things (homemade marketing collateral, dress code violations, deviations from the consumer engagement plan, etc.) happen, your brand will slowly erode. It’s kind of like the loose string on a sweater we’ve all had. If you don’t snip that string and mend the ravel quickly, it can fall apart. The same principle applies to your brand.
Yes, you’re going to have to correct dress code no-no’s to the brand. Yes, you’re going to have to monitor that homemade brand collateral we all love/loathe so much. Yes, you’re going to have to listen to how your staff interacts with each other and your consumers in order to ensure brand standards are upheld.
Again, this won’t always make you the most popular person in your financial institution neighborhood. And that’s okay. Much like being a mom or dad, the goal of a brand enforcer is really not so much being a friend as it is being a parent/caregiver. And if you care about the brand your bank or credit union has labored to create and launch, you’ll do the right thing by it which sometimes means making unpopular but important decisions to protect it.