Strategic Planning Lessons From Fantasy Football

Strategic Planning Lessons From Fantasy Football

I have several loves in my life: my wife, my daughters, my company. Following close behind those top three is my love for fantasy football. Of course my family would probably tell you it’s not that I love fantasy football: I’m addicted to it. The primary league I play in is celebrating its 27th year (you got that right: pretty much same dudes for over a quarter of a century).

There is no better season of the year than fantasy football season. Especially when it’s draft time (which is this time of year). While poring over endless cheat sheets, reviewing favorite websites (that would be, and loading fantasy football software on my computer (yes, there are such programs), I thought there were actually several strategic planning lessons we can learn from fantasy football.

As your credit union or bank prepares for an upcoming planning session, keep these thoughts from fantasy football in mind:

  • Do your research—I can’t tell you how much time I spend researching fantasy football (ask my wife and she’ll joke “too much!”). The people that typically make the playoffs or win their league are usually the ones that do a ton of homework. Show up with a month old magazine cheat sheet and you’re sure to lose. It’s the same way with strategic planning. The more time you put into your session BEFORE it starts, the better session you’ll have. For example, make sure you are reading CUNA’s E-Scan, reviewing blogs like The Financial Brand and answering pre-session questions. The more preparation you conduct for your session, the better outcomes you’ll have.
  • Make your plan flexible—When it comes to my fantasy football draft I always have a plan. Who I’m going to draft and in what round. And invariably, my arch-nemesis and co-commissioner (the Fighting Jewish) always picks the guy right before I do. As a result, I have to be a bit flexible with my plan. It’s no different with your strategic plan as well. You have to make it flexible. You can’t possibly foresee all the things that might develop in the course of your strategy: a key employee leaves, the local economy struggles, a marketing promotion bombs. Be ready for changes with contingencies. The more flexibility you put into your plan, the better results you’ll see.
  • Identify sleepers—If you want to win in fantasy football you have to pick players no one else thinks is going to do all that great. In fantasy football terms those are guys known as “sleepers.” If you want to win with your strategic plan you have to pick ideas and tactics that others in your market may not be doing. If your competition zigs, you zag. It’s the classic Blue Ocean Strategy For example, rather than doing sales and service training like every other financial institution, maybe you do engagement training. Or rather than doing the same loan and deposit campaigns you do every year you conduct a marketing audit to gain fresh ideas. The more unique you make your plan, the better growth you’ll have.

Another cool thing about fantasy football is how it builds community (something your credit union or bank should do internally and externally). Through the years our league has been there for marriages, divorces, births and more. One of our members passed away after a battle with cancer a few years ago. But through it all, we’ve had this love not just for football but for each other

And if you want to love your next planning session, then remember these lessons from fantasy football.

Advice Trumps Service

Advice Trumps Service

Service, service, service. Ask any credit union or community bank in the country what differentiates themselves in the market and typically that is what you’ll hear: service. But let’s get real. If everyone says they are competing on service, then in reality that doesn’t make you different.

When it comes to financial services, consumers typically move through the following cycle:

Transaction >>> Service >>> Advice

In other words, many people just come to your credit union or bank to do a transaction: cash the check, make a deposit or get some cash. (Of course, if it’s in my mom’s case she might come by just to get your free cup of coffee). Most people view “banking” as a chore. Something they have to do along the lines of picking up their dry cleaning. According to a recent study from Accenture, 80% of account holders say their banking relationship is transactional.

If your members or customers are coming to you simply for transactions, you lose.

Most financial institutions recognized that being order takes (just doing transactions) was not enough. So they embarked upon a service model. Or in some cases a sales and service model. We preached things like “go the extra mile,” “do what is in the consumers’ best interest,” “smile, greet, shake their hand,” and “build relationships.” But as noted in the first paragraph, that’s what every credit union and community bank is doing.

Service as a model is not necessarily dead. But it certainly isn’t different. Not only that, service is not enough anymore. More than likely, the service you are providing right now is just the basics that people expect.

The best way to increase products per household and improve your sales efforts is to move to an advice-based model. With this approach your staff becomes more proactive and your consumers come to you because they know you have the financial answers they are seeking.

As Rob Frankel says in The Revenge of Brand X, “branding is not about getting your targets to choose you over the competition. Branding is about getting your prospects to see you as the only solution to their problem.” In other words, when your members or customers have a financial problem, they should think of your financial institution as the place to come to solve it.

Having an advice-based model is much, much deeper.

So how do you move from being service-based to advice-focused? Here are a few tips:

  • Ensure your staff is trained on all your products
  • Invest in engagement training and not just service training
  • Use a content marketing strategy approach (educate consumers rather than pitching products)
  • Position yourselves as experts in financial services (people buy from experts)
  • Demonstrate how you are saving consumers money with your products

Having an advice-based approach doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. But investing in a strategy that positions your credit union or community bank as THE place to go for financial advice yields huge dividends for you and your consumers.

Three Reasons To Do A Marketing Audit By Year-End

Three Reasons To Do A Marketing Audit By Year-End

While it’s always a good time to have an unbiased third party review your marketing materials, there is one particular period when the analysis can yield the highest impact. That would be the third and fourth quarters.

As John Wanamaker once famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” If you want to know what part of your marketing is working and what part is not, then a marketing audit is the perfect way to find that knowledge.

And doing the audit before next year starts is the perfect time for doing the analysis. Conducting a marketing audit by year-end will:

  • Prepare you for budget season—One step of a marketing audit is a complete review of your budget. Are you spending too much, too little or just right? A thorough audit answers that question. But not just the total dollar amount: how are you allowcating those resources? For example, maybe you should spend more on digital and less on traditional. Credit unions and banks are about to start budgeting for 2018. A marketing audit is a great tool to help you prepare that upcoming budget.
  • Give you fresh ideas for next year—Sometimes we can feel stagnant with our promotions. Like we are doing the same things each and every year. A complete marketing audit offers new perspectives. It brings in best practices for what growing and profitable financial institutiosn are doing with their marketing. As Lori Perkins, vice president of marketing for Rock Valley Credit Union said, “Business is way up since our marketing audit. We’ve had thirteen consecutive months of positive loan growth since the marketing audit. Our assets are up, new members are up and checking accounts are up.” A marketing audit is a great tool to use when you are stagnant or not experiencing desired growth.
  • Jump start your strategic plan—Just like it’s budget season, it’s also strategic planning season. And one of the best outcomes from a marketing audit is the strategic suggestions it gives for improving your financial instition. It serves as a roadmap for your upcoming strategy. As Jay Curtis, president of First Credit Union said, “We were extremely pleased with the marketing audit conducted. I consider the marketing audit process key to our future success.” A marketing audit is a great tool to prepare for next year.

Successful financial institutions have third parties audit their marketing. It just makes them better. And there’s no better time to do a marketing audit than before year-end. If you would like information on how a marketing audit can lead to growth and success, contact Mark at 214-538-4147.

Four Ways To Lead Your Brand

Four Ways To Lead Your Brand

Great brands are built by people. In working with our clients, we use a customized brand triangle approach which says “management leads the brand, employees live the brand and consumers love your brand.”

Barry Sliverstein, in his book Breakaway Brands, says “More and more, management plays a crucial role in the success of a brand that breaks away from the pack.”

But what specifically can an executive at a bank or credit union do to actually lead their brand? Here are four ways you can lead your financial institution’s brand.

  • Set the tone—It all starts at the top. As a leader in your organization, people are going to follow your example. If your brand is built on service, then how are you serving your employees? They will model what they see from you. For example, if your brand culture is fun then you should ensure the workplace is fun. If your brand culture is putting consumers first then you should put your employees first. You set the tone.
  • Identify the gaps—Every credit union and bank has brand gaps. There can be gaps between your brand and your strategy, gaps between your brand and your employees and gaps between your brand and your operations. As a leader you must know exactly where those gaps exists. If you are unsure where those gaps are a great step to take is a marketing audit. You acknowledge (and fix) the gaps.
  • Work the plan—Every financial institution should have a brand plan in place. This plan serves as a guide to determine your vision, your targets, your training and other key elements. But it’s not enough just to have a plan in place. You also must have follow-up. Examples of working the brand include training your employees on your brand, ensuring your messaging connects with your audiences and establishing a brand retail look. It’s not enough just to have a plan; as a leader you must work the plan.
  • Celebrate the results—One of the keys to a successful brand is maintaining brand momentum. Let’s be honest: from a day-to-day perspective, it’s not always easy for employees to focus on living the brand. One way to ensure they are living your brand culture is to celebrate when they successfully do so. Examples include having a brand day, sharing success stories and always spending some portion of any staff meeting discussing your brand. What isn’t talked about (or celebrated) is often forgotten. You must celebrate brand successes.

Building a great brand requires intentionality. It requires leadership. To lead your brand successfully make sure you are setting the tone, identifying gaps, working your plan and celebrating the results.

Strategic Adjustments for Year-End

Strategic Adjustments for Year-End

Year-end? It’s just August! But yes, you read that title correctly: this August post is talking about the year-end. More specifically, strategic adjustments you might need to make.

As we tell our planning clients all the time: strategic planning is a process not a date on a calendar. In essence, you should be doing strategic planning throughout the year.

As the dog days of August hit, here are some issues you should examine to ensure you are making the necessary adjustments for year-end:

  • Celebrate gains—It’s always a good time to reflect on your successes. Many executives and managers tend to focus on what is NOT being done or where we’ve missed the mark. Before doing that type of examination look at your accomplishments first. Did loans grow more than expected, did one branch perform exceptionally well, did you bring in a rock star new hire? Making adjustments starts with celebrating your successes.
  • Examine gaps—While success is wonderful, odds are your year has not been perfect. What gaps are you seeing with your strategy and goals? For example, maybe certain marketing promotions didn’t succeed, perhaps there is a significant brand gap or it’s possible your budget numbers are not looking they way your projected them. During this analysis, don’t just identify what the gaps are, but rather why they exist. Making adjustments means examining where you are falling short.
  • Study graphs—What are the trends with your credit union or bank? Are you opening more accounts than you are closing? Is loan growth up, down or flat? What about net income and branch performance? This is the perfect time of year to study the first two quarters. You have the data, so examine it. What story does the data tell? Making adjustments means analyzing all the information you have and pulling out nuggets of truth.
  • Set a guide—Where do you want to go next? Many financial institutions are going to spend a ton of time in Q3 and Q4 on their strategic plan for next year. This is an ideal time of season to put in place a direction for where you to want to go. This is your roadmap. Your compass. But don’t just think about next year. There are still many days, weeks and months to accomplish this year’s goals. Making adjustments means revising your map.

The year is more than halfway complete. What adjustments are you going to make ensure you end the year strong?