In this day and age of artificial intelligence, chatbots and robot banking it seems we’re all about technology, technology, technology. While not tied to the banking industry directly, self-driving cars are quite the rage as well, with Wired Magazine recently saying “Maybe It’s Time To Cede US Freeways To Driverless Cars.”
But let’s be clear: when it comes to your credit union or bank, your brand is not a self-driving car. Consider the following:
Branding takes action—Unlike a self-driving car, when it comes to your brand you can’t just sit back, take it easy and enjoy the ride. You have to do the work. In many cases, that work is daily work. At the end of each day, your managers should ask every employee, “What did you do today to live our brand?” Executives must invest in your brand in the form of analyzing brand gaps, conducting brand training and maybe even completing a rebrand.
Branding takes leadership—Unlike a self-driving car, when it comes to your brand someone IS in the drivers’ seat. And that “someone” are the leaders of your financial institution. While your employees should live your brand, it’s your board members, executives and managers who must lead your brand. From a day-to-day perspective your front-line managers (branch managers, teller supervisors, department heads, etc.) play a critical role in your brand’s success. They set the examples, reinforce the brand standards and coach the employees.
Branding takes awareness—Unlike a self-driving car, when it comes to your brand you are the one (not the car) that has to be aware of your surroundings. We often think of brand awareness as how much consumers know about our brand through our advertising. But awareness goes much deeper. You need to know your competitors, your positioning and your strategy. The best way to determine those issues is by conducting a marketing audit and completing a brand plan. In many cases, the biggest threats to your brand come from within.
Branding takes a map—Unlike a self-driving car, when it comes to your brand you need map that tells you where you’re gong. Or as we like to call it, a brand compass. This compass serves as guide: your true north direction. What is your credit union or bank passionate about? Why do you want to go in one direction instead of another? What do you want to strategically accomplish with your brand? Answering these questions gives your brand map that direction.
You may eventually let a self-driving car take you places. But when it comes to your credit union or bank’s brand, don’t ever let anyone else drive it.
In the past, consumer interaction as far as reviews for banks and credit unions was typically related to the wooden suggestion box in the lobby and, in the worst cases, complaints lodged with the Better Business Bureau.
How times have changed
Now bank and credit union consumers have a practically unlimited platform from which they can share reviews. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Yelp are just a few. Odds are, you’ve had a number of consumers already share their opinions, both good and bad, on your social media platforms.
The point becomes: how well are you leveraging the social media story consumers are already telling about your bank or credit union?
Actual consumer reviews are some of the most powerful content your bank or credit union can use to help tell its own story. Consumer reviews are a terrific way to reignite existing relationships with consumers who may have forgotten about their relationship with your bank or credit union. They also are a good way to track consumer traffic back from social media platforms (like the ones listed above) to your website via hyperlinks.
For example, share consumer reviews (the positive ones) on your Facebook feed and Twitter platform. You also approach your raving fans and ask them to film a brief video about their experience for your YouTube platform. You don’t need to hire a fancy camera crew (and spend all that money) to make this happen. With today’s technology, a good cell phone can take the video, edit it and post to your social media platform in a matter of minutes.
Harvest the stories consumers are telling about your bank or credit union on social media platforms and make them a part of your content marketing/engagement plans. Both existing and potential consumers for your bank or credit union are much more likely to react to the stories their peers are telling that any traditional marketing tool you can leverage. As great as this collateral marketing is, from a consumer perspective, it comes across as generic, old-school and, frankly, uncompelling.
Social media marketing is a terrific way to tell the authentic story of your bank or credit union. It lends a powerful voice to the story you wish to convey and is much more likely to attract consumer interest than traditional boring content.
I had the opportunity to visit with James Robert Lay recently. He is the CEO at Digital Growth Institute. Below is our Q&A. This is Part Two of a two-part story. Part One ran here Tuesday, October 3, 2017.
What are the top three things financial institutions should know when it comes to digital marketing?
Number one, the consumer has changed. We are now in a 30-60-90 day buying cycle.
Secondly, financial institutions must change. We recognize this can be scary. However, we have two choices as an industry: we can accept to change, or we can do nothing. If we do nothing then in 5-10 years we will be irrelevant.
Finally, this stuff takes time. Digital marketing is not a campaign, and it’s not a project. It’s a cultural shift in how you think. You have to execute and optimize. The thought process is to take marketing from being a cost center to a profit center. We have to hold marketing to a higher level. We have to give marketers time to think and not run from campaign to campaign.
How is digital marketing like a system?
Digital marketing is a system. It is a system of continuous optimization. We have to look at evergreen pieces that are focused on lead generation.
How do you turn your website from being a brochure to being a sales tool?
As I mentioned above, digital marketing is a system. It’s not about a website anymore—it’s about a digital growth engine. This includes digital advertising, a website that sells (lead generation), marketing automation and a sales enabler (moving to purchase and conversation).
Content is the fuel of this system. You have to assess your content. You can’t just copy and paste content from one to another. Too much of bank and credit union content is too feature focused and bullet-ridden. You must build a website on content.
In the ideal situation, the content is planned first, then the user experience then design. And your content should be focused on helping first, selling second.
What are two strategic steps every credit union or bank should take in the next 12-18 months?
Number one, do an assessment. We have a free tool on our website to help you do just that. Gain an understanding of where you are. Sometimes it comes down to awareness: we don’t know what we don’t know. A part of your assessment should include opening some accounts with some of your competitors (digitally) and see how that makes you feel. Once you’ve done your assessment, follow that up with action plans.
The second strategic step credit unions and banks should take is to shorten their vision. Only look at what we’re going to do in the next 12-18 months. Eighteen months is now the sweet spot. Six months is too short for planning for 36 months is too long.
What are two tactical steps every credit union or bank should employ in the next 12-18 months?
First, develop a consumer persona. Gain an understanding of where you’re going to gain growth. You can’t be all things to all people. And remember that 35% of your marketing budget should go towards digital.
Second, create a consumer journey map. You are the guide. Create a journey with workflows and landing pages. When it comes to digital, you have to close the gap and get a much better understanding of what is moving the needle. Quantify your data.
Learn more about Digital Growth Institute’s approach to bank and credit union digital marketing or call them at 415-579-3002.
I had the opportunity to visit with James Robert Lay recently. He is the CEO at Digital Growth Institute. Below is our Q&A. Check out Part Two of the story here Thursday, October 5, 2017.
What is the Digital Growth Institute?
We are on a mission to simplify digital marketing for banks and credit unions. We want to help financial institutions grow their digital presence from good to great. In the last 15 years, we’ve worked with over 450 financial institutions to do just that.
How would you summarize the state of digital marketing as it relates to financial institutions?
It could be a lot better. We’ve been tracking that very issue through our digital growth score. Unfortunately, financial institutions digital growth score has only increased about one percent each year. Today, the average score is 27% across the industry. We are seeing slow and incremental changes.
What is interesting is there is no correlation between an institution’s score and its asset size. In some cases, the larger ones actually slow things down. Those institutions between $200 million and $1 billion in asset size are in a great position to grow their digital marketing.
What are some new and innovative ways credit unions and banks are using digital to grow?
It all boils down to one thing: online or digital lead generation. You need to capture names, acquire e-mail addresses and nurture those prospects over time. This is why marketing and sales need to work together. Marketing is positioning and generating leads; then sales is closing that lead. The focus in digital marketing needs to be on lead generation.
Why is storytelling such an important part of digital marketing?
Storytelling, or what we call StorySelling, is a foundational element of success of digital marketing. Google has commoditized financial services. While rates are important, education is just as important. This is where storytelling comes into play. When it’s all a commodity, there is no differentiation. You need to guide consumers towards their hopes and dreams. Storytelling is the differentiating factor in the digital channel.
How can the Digital Growth Institute help credit unions and banks?
We can help them become aware of what growth opportunities there are through digital. Digital marketing can be overwhelming. There are three main steps the Digital Growth Institute can help banks and credit unions take: education, planning, and implementation.
Once a bank or credit unions have a documented Digital Growth Blueprint, they can confidently commit to transform their marketing. This often begins with building a website that sells. We help financial institutions must break free from their website just being an online brochure.