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?
Note: The following is an excerpt from 30 Ideas to Build and Live Your Brand. For a free copy of the complete book, click here.
Brands are not just brochures and logos. They are feelings. They connect with consumers on an emotional level. Those emotions are very much tied to and often triggered by our senses – sight, smell, sound, taste and touch.
Think about one of your favorite memories. Is there a certain scent or sound you associate with it? Does that memory pop up when you taste a certain food or see something special like a painting? Those are the same kind of sensory experiences you want consumers to have when they experience your brand.
That’s not always easy in financial services, because we are not selling tangible goods. But there are other ways to tap into those senses. Umpqua Bank allows some of its business partners to display their goods in its branches. In San Francisco, one of its partners puts out chocolates. A credit union in the southern part of the country pays someone to spend 20 hours a week baking at one of its branches so consumers smell baked goods when they conduct their financial business.
Our sense of smell is actually the most sensitive of the five senses, which means scent can have a powerful effect on consumer behavior. The human nose can distinguish more than 10,000 different odors, and studies have shown that 75% of emotions are triggered by smell. Scent is such a big deal in business that companies pay a lot of money for scent marketing. They brand their own scent.
A few years ago when Sony wanted to make women feel more welcome in its stores, it infused a customized scent of vanilla, mandarin, bourbon and other secret ingredients into its stores. Hunkemöller, a Netherlands-based lingerie retailer, increased sales by 20% when it added a chocolate scent to its stores.
What about sound? A colleague has admitted to me that sometimes she finds herself shopping in a local grocery store much longer than she intended because she enjoys the music piped into the store. She doesn’t even realize it until she finds herself singing along and then looks at her watch. Does she spend more money than she intends to? I’m willing to bet she does.
Humans are multi-sensory beings. We need to make sure we are tapping into as many of the five senses as possible to connect with customers and members. You don’t have to invest in your own branded scent or even pay someone to bake cookies at your branch office. Something as simple as brewing coffee or popping popcorn in a central spot of your branch can arouse the senses. The look and feel of a new car in the branch can invoke the sense of touch. The music you pipe in and the volume at which you play it can impact your audience’s behavior.
Just remember to be consistent. You want members and customers to look for these same sensory experiences every time they arrive. That’s how you connect with them on a deeper level.
Note: This article originally ran on the On The Mark Strategies blog August 13, 2015.
I have the privilege of facilitating workshops for bank and credit union associations across the country. During a recent workshop I conducted on branding, participants took a valuable detour to discuss financial institution name changes.
I have worked in this industry a long time, and I’m still amazed at the stories my workshop participants tell me about how their financial institutions were renamed. Based on that recent workshop, I offer you four methods your financial institution should never use to change its name.
We like (fill in the blank)…let’s do that. Your name change efforts are doomed for failure if the name is selected based on the common interest of a few employees.
“We like butterflies, let’s name it after that.”
“Everybody likes patriotic themes. Let’s go in that direction.”
A name change requires research and strategy and should reflect your financial institution’s potential for growth. It’s not based on what random people like.
Let the CEO do it. Your CEO is taking a big gamble if he or she changes the name without anyone else knowing about it. This actually happened in at least one financial institution we know. The CEO didn’t just choose the name. He also worked with a vendor and had a logo created to match the new name. The result was not good. A name change using this method may work for a small business owned by one person, but your financial institution does not fit that description.
Choose it based on a cool logo. This makes about as much sense as choosing a house because the window treatments in the model home look good. You don’t choose a name based on a logo. In fact, you shouldn’t even have a logo until after your research and name change strategy are complete.
Do everything in-house. I may be biased on this, but trust me when I say the last thing your financial institution needs is a handful of executives and board members sitting around a table re-naming your financial institution. You need outside perspective and legal guidance, among other expertise.
Changing your financial institution’s name is a complex undertaking. It is a lengthy process that involves both internal and external perspective, incredible focus, proper guidance and an extremely open mind. If you expect your efforts to succeed, avoid the mistakes above, all of which are actual decisions made by financial institutions.
Words matter. They matter when you speak them, and they matter when you write them. That’s especially true when you write them down for consumers to read. As much as you would like to believe your customers or members are reading everything you write, they’re not. The truth is they may not be reading anything you write if you aren’t giving them anything relevant or meaningful. Here are some tips for writing copy consumers will actually read.
Get to the point
The phrase “less is more” is so true for marketing copy. Most consumers are browsing your website or skimming your brochures for a specific purpose. Give them the most important information first and continue on with the second most important thing, and so on. It’s called writing in pyramid style.
Have you ever looked for a recipe online and had to scroll past five pictures of the blogger preparing the recipe before you found what you needed? That’s how your customers or members feel when you bury the information they need. If you make them read or scroll too much before they find any information of value, you lose their attention.
Kiss (Keep It Short and Simple)
The most effective marketing pieces are the ones with just enough copy to tell consumers what they want to know. Most of the time, it doesn’t even require full paragraphs – just an introductory sentence or two followed by bullet points.
Years ago when digital marketing first became a thing, marketers took advantage of unlimited space, which allowed them to use as many words as possible to tout their products or services. At the time, consumers ate it up. Technology has evolved, however, and attention spans have become so short that people can’t even put down their phones long enough to drive. They don’t want paragraph upon paragraph of information and industry jargon. They want short and sweet in their own language.
Explain what’s in it for the reader
Marketing teams love their financial institutions, and they want to share everything they know about them with consumers. Is that what their customers and members want to hear, though? Your financial institution has made great strides since the day it opened in the closet of the local general store, but what does that have to do with consumers today? Is that story saving them time, earning them money or putting them in the car or house of their dreams? Consumers want to know what’s in it for them. If you don’t answer that, you’re wasting your marketing dollars on material they aren’t reading.
Focus on benefits over features
Financial institutions are notorious for marketing features over benefits – especially on loans. Terms as high as 60 months. 100% Financing. Quick approval. Those are all features. Turn those into benefits. For example, affordable monthly payments when you choose longer terms, pay no money out-of-pocket and apply, get approved and drive away on the same day. Your customers or members don’t want to pay more than they have to, and they want the process to go smoothly and quickly. That’s what you need to promote. If you have a really unique feature that nobody else has, definitely promote it, but also explain how it benefits the consumer.
When you give consumers relevant messages in the format they want to receive it, you increase your odds of getting a better return on your marketing collateral and marketing dollars.
Note: This article originally ran on Deluxe.