Do a quick Google search for banks and credit unions in your hometown. Notice the signs for businesses as you drive to and from work that offer loans. Quickly you’ll notice that your financial institution is not the only choice for consumers in your marketplace.

Differentiation is key. Your bank or credit union must give consumers a reason to choose you over the competition. Otherwise, you risk slipping from a valued brand to just another commodity amongst a cacophony of other unremarkable choices.

When working with banks and credit unions on branding plans, one of the key questions we like to ask goes something like this: “What is the one thing that only your financial institution can provide to consumers?” This is also sometimes referred to as a value proposition.

When answered honestly, it’s is a difficult and soul-searching exercise. I say “honestly” because too many financial institution executives tend to default to the all-to-easy “it’s our people” or “it’s our service” answers. While you probably do have terrific employees and a great selection of services, guess what? Every other financial services provider in your marketplace is saying the same thing. Friendly employees and product/service selection are no longer valid marketplace differentiators. They cannot support a brand, let alone make it different/valuable enough for consumers to choose you.

Think about that for a moment. What is your bank’s or credit union’s “one thing?” What is the singular element that, due to your unique cultural/retail DNA, only you can provide consumers? And how much harder is it to answer once you take the fallback “people and service” option off the table?

If the answer doesn’t come to you immediately, your brand needs fine-tuning. If you, as a leader of your financial institution, can’t quickly describe the one thing you do best, how can you expect your employees to do the same in front of consumers? More importantly, how can you expect consumers to know and, in turn, come to you instead of one of your competitors?

What is your “one thing?” If you don’t know, it’s time to do some serious thinking.