How Financial Marketers Can Be Better Heard

How Financial Marketers Can Be Better Heard

Branding is everywhere. From billboards on the highway to jumbotrons in sporting arenas, from park benches and public bathrooms and from clothing lines to tattoos, consumers are exposed to thousands of brands with thousands of marketing messages every day.

With all that marketing noise, is there really a way for individual brands to be heard? The answer is yes, but you have to push through the noise instead of adding to it. In other words, focus on telling your story to the right audience with the right message at the right time. Often that is easier said than done. Here are some tips for cutting through the noise.

Create strong content and make it brief

Content is still king when it comes to marketing.

In fact, it’s more important than ever as digital media becomes the go-to source for information and attention spans get shorter. Content must be relevant, interesting, valuable, and brief. Get to the point quickly! In a day and age when people can’t even put down their phones to drive, you have about eight seconds to grab someone’s attention before they move on to something else. Teach them important financial lessons like improving their credit scores, buying a home, saving for retirement, etc.

Consumers – especially Millennials – need an advocate to help them navigate what has become a complicated world of financial resources. Be their advocate by backing off on the marketing lingo and educating them with valuable content.

Target, target, target

As the marketing noise gets louder, targeted marketing becomes more important. Consumers are more likely to do business with someone they know and like. You have to connect with them on a personal level and get as personal as possible. Obviously, this is easier with existing customers or members. Instead of sending them mass e-mails, send targeted, personalized emails offering solutions or benefits they can use. If possible, market solutions to them inside your online banking platform. Send them personalized text messages. Send personalized mailings via snail mail and follow them up with phone calls.

Targeting potential customers or members is more challenging and often goes back to good, relevant content. When you create content your customers or members want to share, you build a base of followers. That takes time but is worth the effort. If your financial institution has a YouTube channel, a blog, an Instagram account, etc., encourage existing customers or members to share your content. Enable consumers to subscribe with an e-mail address or other information so you can capture that data and expand your target audience. If you have partnerships with businesses, be sure your agreement allows you to market to their employees or members by name and other demographic information.

Associate your branding with a cause

This is especially true of Millennials, but it works for older generations as well. People feel good when their purchases benefit someone or something they care about. Let’s say you run an auto loan promotion and promise to give a quarter percent of the final loan amount to an organization that benefits sick kids or disease research or even a local food pantry. That turns heads and gets attention. Even rate shoppers would have a hard time turning that down if the cause is near and dear to them. Get permission to use the charity’s logo on your marketing materials. Often, consumers will see that logo before they see yours.

Consumers are bombarded with marketing messages every day. Instead of adding to the noise, find ways to cut through it with messages that connect with them through personalization, relationships and emotions or values.

Note: This article originally ran on Deluxe.

Three Ideas to Improve Your Next Strategic Planning Session

Three Ideas to Improve Your Next Strategic Planning Session

Note: This article originally ran on CU Insight.

Traditionally, strategic planning sessions for credit unions occurs in the fall. However, after partnering with dozens of credit unions as a facilitator on strategic plans over the last few years, we can safely say that a growing number both plan and conduct their sessions at other times of the year.

We remind our clients regularly that strategic planning is a process, not a date on a calendar. Therefore, any time of the year is a good time to take a look at ways to improve your next strategic planning session.

Credit unions spend a great deal of time and energy making the commitment and investment in strategic planning. During those crucial days together, executive leadership teams and members of the Board of Directors contribute ideas and dialogue that will both guide and direct the credit union for years to come. Consider the following ideas to improve your next strategic planning session.

  • Invite a more job-diverse team. Typically, strategic planning sessions are attended by members of the executive leadership team and the Board of Directors. For your next strategic planning session, however, consider assembling a more job or role-diverse mix. Try to include younger employees (think Millennials) and those you have identified as your “star performers.” Not only will a more eclectic team contribute potentially game-changing ideas, you are also grooming them for future success by making them feel like an important part of the credit union.
  • Give your members a voice at the strategic planning table. Not necessarily in person – however, you can provide invaluable member feedback in the strategic planning process by conducting interviews and surveys beforehand. Quiz members about what’s important to them in a financial institution and what they expect. Present this information during the strategic planning session and, with actual member input, you’ll find yourself more likely to act upon ideas important to the membership and less flying blind. One exercise we do is “The Empty Chair Exercise.” Place an empty chair somewhere in the meeting room as a reminder that if a member were in that chair, what would they tell us?
  • Clarify the roles of strategic planning and tactical/budgeting. These are very different functions. Strategic planning takes a look at your credit union’s directives from a 30,000-foot level over the next several years. We call it strategic for a reason, rather than tactical. Tactical goes into the daily operations of the credit union. The same can be said for budgeting. If you aren’t careful, a strategic planning session can rapidly devolve into a tactical/budgeting snipe hunt. If everybody on your team focuses too much on numbers and tactics, you are likely to miss the forest for the trees and steer your strategic planning session straight into the confusing high grass of tactics and budget.

A strategic planning session is like a good map or GPS in that it provides reassuring guidance and direction for your credit union for years to come. By assembling a more role-diverse strategic planning team, giving members a voice at the table and clarifying the roles of strategic versus tactical/budgeting, you can help ensure your credit union’s next strategic planning session provides a terrific return on that investment.

Culture and Task: Both Required to Live Your Brand

Culture and Task: Both Required to Live Your Brand

When talking about branding, many financial institutions focus primarily on the cultural aspects of consumer interaction. For example, exactly what to communicate to consumers, when to communicate it and with which brand-centric nuance.

While this angle is important, financial institutions must also ensure employees get tasks right. For example, your bank or credit union can have a terrific brand jam-packed with consumer interaction, open-ended questions and discovery probes but if the employee deposits the check to the wrong account, it’s all for nothing.

In other words, your brand requires both culture and task be executed well and consistently in order to thrive.

“While we certainly train our staff to work as brand ambassadors, at the end of the day, if tasks are done incorrectly, the brand suffers” shared Travis Flora, Culture and Values Officer with Commonwealth Credit Union (Frankfort, KY; $1.15 billion assets; 92,000 members). “Often, people think of culture as being separate from task. Culture is seen more as things like smiling, looking people in the eye, using their names, etc. Actually, culture includes tasks that go into providing an extraordinary experience. Our team members recognize the importance of excellence in member service when it comes to living the brand and correctly completing tasks. The two go hand-in-hand.”

I had a recent experience in a Chick-fil-A restaurant that illustrates this point. Chick-fil-A is well-known for their emphasis on customer service (and their famous “my pleasure” response to customer statements). On this particular visit, the young lady working the counter did a terrific job living the brand (warm greeting, friendly smile, using the “my pleasure” brand statement). However, when I got my order, there were several things wrong. My drink was incorrect and they didn’t include a particular dipping sauce I requested. She did a great job living the big-picture brand but struggled with the detail-specific task.

These were relatively minor inconveniences and corrected quickly by the same young lady. However, the example does speak to the greater point – for your financial institution’s brand to succeed, staff must recognize and train to the importance of succeeding living the brand and correctly completing the task to the best of their ability.

Is XBOX the Future of Digital Banking?

Is XBOX the Future of Digital Banking?

By Colleen Cormier, Account Executive for On The Mark Strategies

I was in the kitchen cooking dinner the other night when my son called out, “Hey mom. Don’t cook tonight. Let’s just order pizza. I can do it right here on my XBOX.” I thought to myself, “Seriously? How addicted are people to their video games that they can’t even stop to order dinner?” Then my mind went immediately to banking (It really did…consider it a job hazard).

If someone is willing to order pizza while playing video games, what’s to say they wouldn’t be willing to do their banking while playing a video game? I know from experience the XBOX Live platform is connected to a credit card so users can buy games and other downloadables with the click of their controller. What if the card doesn’t have enough credit left for what they want to purchase? They’ll either forgo the purchase altogether or load another card. Shouldn’t that card belong to your financial institution? What if users had the ability to apply for a credit line increase from their XBOX, or to transfer money so they could pay their bill and free up space to make that purchase?

Some of you may be reading this thinking it’s all a bit of stretch, and it might be. It also might not be. The point is not to start preparing your home banking platform to be accessible to XBOX gamers. The point is to be open to and ready for new possibilities in digital banking, which often changes faster than the weather.

Prior to 2010, mobile banking was pretty much text message banking. That was only seven years ago. By 2012, Mapa Research reported that over a third of banks had mobile device detection for consumers visiting their websites. That was only five years ago. Remote deposit capture started with USAA in 2009. According to a study by Celent, only 10 percent of financial institutions in America offered the service by 2013, but look at us today. Only four years later, and I’m willing to bet at least 90 percent of financial institutions offer it today. That transition from innovation to every-day occurrence happened in about six years.

The evolution of digital banking has been fast and furious, and its speed continues to increase. Is your financial institution poised for what is on the horizon, or are you still trying to catch up to everyone else? If you don’t have a digital strategy in place, or your digital strategy is outdated, your financial institution’s ability to keep up with mainstream America could be a deal breaker to consumers down the road.

Insanity in Strategic Planning

Insanity in Strategic Planning

You have no doubt heard the saying that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. Why is it, then, that so many financial institutions fall into this trap? To be fair, it isn’t just banks or credit unions. Many businesses fall into this trap. The longer you do that, the harder it is to dig yourself out.

The same can be said of strategic planning. How many times do you review the same data, come to the same conclusions and make the same goals that don’t get met? That’s insanity. It’s insane to spend all that time and effort to accomplish so little or even worse, move backward.

Strategic planning is meant to stretch your thinking. If done correctly, it is designed to make your leadership team think outside the box, dream big and push your financial institution to step outside its comfort zone. That doesn’t mean making decisions on a whim. You still have to be responsible stewards of your customers’ or members’ money. It means doing some things differently.

Stop doing what doesn’t’ work

You definitely have to review your financial institution’s performance from the previous year. What are you doing with that information once it is reviewed? You should be using that information to decide not only what you should continue doing but also what you should stop doing. If performance was poor, go back several years to see if that is a trend. If it’s costing your financial institution money and producing negative results, you either need to stop doing it or figure out how to do it better. Don’t keep doing it the same way. Remember, that’s insanity.

Use new research and/or tools

When we conduct planning sessions for clients, we incorporate research and tools not just from the financial institution we’re working with but outside sources, as well. Some of those tools include environmental scans, our own industry scan, SWOT and Five Star Credit Unions, among others. Research you might consider includes Net Promoter Score, member surveys, focus groups and any business data that can help you make responsible decisions on where to build branches, how to expand your field of membership or customer base and the like.

Dream big

This is an element missing from so many strategic planning sessions. If you never dream big…if you never envision the seemingly impossible, you may never get there. Earmark a small amount of time on your agenda and give everyone in the planning session an opportunity to answer the question, “If we could do anything we wanted to do as a financial institution, what would it be?” Sometimes a dream isn’t as far from reality as it appears once you start examining what needs to be done to get there.

Doing what you’ve always done is sure to get you the result you’ve always gotten. Do something different during your next strategic planning session. Use new tools. Look at research in new ways. Dream big. You might be surprised at how far that gets you.