“So in the majority of other things, we address circumstances not in accordance with the right assumptions, but mostly by following wretched habit.”
– Musonius Rufus, Roman Philosopher
Habit. Routine. The way we do things. The way we’ve always done things. It’s all too easy to fall into what the author above referred to as wretched habit. Sometimes routine is a good thing. But when it comes to the brand at your bank or credit union, doing something habitually may come at a price, especially when you’re doing it “just because we’ve always done things that way.”
For example, if you’re running a used car loan promotion every April simply because you’ve always run a used car loan promotion every April, it might bear reconsideration. Similarly, if something as mundane as your dress code (let’s say coat and tie) no longer matches the look and attitude of your consumer base, you need to think about it.
Most powerfully, if you haven’t taken a good, hard look at your brand and the experience consumers go through when interacting with your bank or credit union in a while, it’s time. Getting into bad brand habits is detrimental to your financial institution. You may be interacting with consumers in a way that doesn’t help grow and maintain your brand.
Examples of bad brand habits that can harm your bank or credit union include:
Greeting inconsistently. What you say and how you say it matters, even to people that come into your branches on a daily basis. A standard greeting representative of your brand is important.
Living with stinky restrooms. In branding, everything matters — from the boardroom to the restroom. A malodorous restroom speaks poorly of your brand.
Trying to be all things to all people. To be successful, your brand must target carefully cultivated niches of consumers rather than trying to cast an impossibly wide net over everyone.
Failing to train staff to brand. Your staff can’t live his brand unless they are trained to it. Good brands are backed up by good training programs.
Using brochures as a crutch. Brochures, like most things, make good servants but terrible masters. If your staff must rely on reading verbatim from a brochure when discussing products and services with the consumer, you’ve got problems.
Breaking a bad habit isn’t always easy. Ask anybody who has tried to shrug things from cigarette smoking to nail-chewing. However, in the case of your bank or credit union brand, breaking out of a habitual rut is important to your overall success.
In banks and credit unions, we spend a lot of time talking about why it’s important for staff to discuss products and services more in terms of benefits than features.
Features are easy. Features are the bullet points inside brochures that describe the different elements of, say, a checking account. Features are readable. Features are also, frankly, boring. The vast majority of consumers simply don’t emotionally relate to features. Benefits, however are entirely different.
Stated simply: features tell while benefits sell.
A new commercial from Tile absolutely nails this concept.
To be upfront, I have purchased and used Tile products before. They’re helpful when trying to track down easily-lost things like keys and wallets. And you can load yourself up on the features of Tile. However, it’s the emotional impact of the benefits of using this particular product as illustrated by the commercial that really hits home. Nobody gives a rat’s read-end about things like search radius, Bluetooth connectability and battery life when their sweet baby girl has lost her precious stuffed panda. Good grief, check out some of the comments after the video. Hundreds of people openly admit to crying while watching the commercial.
As the video powerfully illustrates, the features matter little. The benefits are what stick it to the heart. This is brand gold.
So how does this Tile video apply to banks or credit unions? You must reprogram your staff to talk to consumers about your products and services more in terms of benefits and features. For example, your auto loans can be described with things like APR, prepayment penalties and term. For the most part, consumers could care less. They’re not there for the features. They are there for the benefit – getting behind the wheel of that new car. Shift your staff thinking to talking about all your products and services more in terms of how they benefit the member, his or her life, finances, dreams, etc. This could include broad statements like “using our app to deposit checks remotely can save you lots of time,” “refinancing at a lower rate will save money for your monthly family budget” and “starting a Christmas savings account early in the year can save you stress and headaches when it comes time for holiday shopping.”
And if you don’t believe this works, just check out the commercial again. I’ll wager good money you get at least a little choked up when that little girl found her panda.
Ahh, strategic planning. That fun time of year when every bank and credit union gathers its key leadership team and stakes-out a roadmap for the future. Goals are discussed, dreams are debated and (hopefully) most folks leave the table feeling heard and that at least a portion of their agenda was captured in the plan.
After facilitating hundreds of strategic planning sessions for banks and credit unions, a number of commonalities come to the surface. One of which is the following — growth is not a strategy.
Don’t get me wrong. Growth is important. Growth is largely why we have strategic planning sessions. But growth, in and of itself, is not a strategy. Neither is saying something like “our bank\credit union will reach $X in assets by year-end.” “We want to grow XYZ” as a bullet point in your strategic plan looks good but will likely achieve little when viewed in this skewed light.
Growth, while not a strategy, is a goal. Your bank or credit union can’t afford to confuse the two. Strategic planning sessions are designed to whittle the ideas down to a top handful to which everyone can agree. You can certainly assign a set amount (things such as loan volume, total number of members/customers, ROA, etc.) as a goal, but again, this is not a strategy. The strategy involves the steps your team must clearly define that help achieve the goal.
A goal, you see it the top of a ladder; strategy is represented by the individual steps. One is worthless without the other.
For example, if your bank or credit union assigns total loan volume to strategy status, you must subsequently delineate a clear and achievable set of actions you will take in order to achieve this goal. In this example, the loan volume (growth) is not a strategy but rather a goal/initiative. Simply slapping this down on paper and feeling good about it later will not help you achieve the goal. This is where your strategy comes into play. How will you achieve this loan volume? With what specific, measurable and achievable resources? Who or whom will drive this initiative? What is the budget you can allot towards this initiative? Do you have the operational capacity to achieve this initiative? Questions like these (and many others) define and drive strategy.
Using an experienced and results-oriented facilitator during your strategic planning session is a great way to help push your bank or credit union to new heights and ensure you’re not simply jotting down numbers and aimless goals in place of true strategy.
Every bank or credit union has its own unique way of handling internal communications. How well you communicate with staff has far-reaching implications, including your culture and brand. However, there are good ways to communicate and not-so-good ways to communicate.
With that in mind, there are a few horrific words and phrases you should absolutely avoid in your content marketing strategy. These clichéd, hackneyed and over-hyped roadkills of the communications world are definitely to be avoided. Please keep an attentive eye open for the following and delete from your vacabulary this year (and every year).
Synergy. Or synergize. Or synergistic. Or any other variation of this corporate bizspeak abomination.
Touch base. Just say “let’s visit” or “let’s meet.” Or even “can we set up a time to talk?” This isn’t second grade and we’re not playing tag with someone stuck being “it.”
Mission-critical. Unless you work at NASA, stop saying this. You’re not putting a man on the moon.
Core competency. Instead of this, human beings are more likely to say (and understand) “things which I do well.”
Strategic dynamism. When I tried to think of something clever to say after this one, my brain literally imploded (which reminds me, stop saying “literally” before everything unless it actually literally occurred).
The way in which you craft messaging, both internally among staff and externally for your consumers, matters. For the most part, real people prefer and understand real words and phrases. Avoid the lazy content atrocities above and go with authentic language that communicates your authentic message.
This post authored by Taylor W. Wells, Communications Director with On The Mark Strategies
A few days ago, I made an early morning trip to a local big-box athletic supply store in search of new walking shoes. I entered the store as one of the first customers of the day and right away could tell they hadn’t cleaned up from the day before. The floors were dirty, merchandise was scattered about and nothing looked clean.
When trying on something in the dressing room, it got even worse. Un-purchased clothes from the day before still hung on the racks and dust bunnies and someone’s used Band-Aid (yuck) were on the floor. It just wasn’t a pleasant experience.
How your bank or credit union facilities appear absolutely matters to your brand. You can have terrific consumer engagement from staff and all the right talking points in your brand mantra but it doesn’t really matter if consumers are distracted by an unkempt appearance.
As we conduct mystery shops as part of the On The Mark Strategies marketing audit process, a few examples of “dirty” bank and credit union brands include:
Dead houseplants and/or greenery. What does it show your consumers about how you will care for their accounts if you don’t care enough about your plants to water them once in a while? I’d rather look at cheesy plastic plants than wilted, dead real ones.
Filthy restrooms. If your bank or credit union restroom has all the ambience of a heavily-used truck stop restaurant, your brand is in trouble. In branding, everything matters — from the boardroom to the restroom.
Cluttered bulletin boards. Unfortunately, we see this all the time. If your bank or credit union allows a community bulletin board in the foyer or lobby area, keep it clean. Yellowed, tattered and torn yard sale advertisements from months ago don’t help your brand and send a signal that you just don’t care how things look.
Branding is everything — including the way your physical locations appear and smell. Going back to the example above, if your brand has a dirty-used Band-Aid on the floor of the lobby, you’ve got trouble. Few consumers will trust you with their money if you can’t keep the building around it clean and attractive.