Why Bother with Mission and Vision Statements?

Why Bother with Mission and Vision Statements?

Let’s face it — in this day and age, many people are jaded to the notion of mission and vision statements. And not without reason. Companies large and small have developed ridiculous sounding mission and vision statements, from the verbose and pompous to the shallow and unrealistic.

Where the disconnect really occurs, however, is when a company (or a bank or credit union, for that matter) simply fails to live up to the promises made in its mission and vision statements. So, why should your bank or credit union even bother with a mission or vision statement?

To begin this process, give some thought to the mission and vision statements you already have (if you have them). Are they simply framed documents hanging on a meeting room wall, gathering dust? Can anybody at your bank or credit union recite them, or even parts of them? If this is the way you handle your vision and mission statements, you may as well pull them down off the wall and free up the space for something else.

Mission and vision statements are still important for a variety of reasons. However, for those reasons to hold water, employees must be held accountable for living the mission and vision statements. It’s simply not enough to see them hanging on the wall everyday (or even to be able to recite them). Your staff, from the president to the back office and front-line staff, must actually live out the promises you make to consumers in your vision and mission statements, every day. Without actually living up to its promise, any vision statement is hollow and falls flat.

What are some ways you can help your staff live up to the promises found in your vision and mission statements?

  • Use every opportunity to review the vision and mission statements. Every time you have a staff meeting, department meeting or other get together, make sure you go over the vision and mission statements. Ask employees who can recite them by heart, and reward that effort. Ensure that staff are exposed to the vision and mission statements, every day.
  • When you see a staff member living the vision and mission statements with a consumer, reward that effort. It could be something as simple as making eye contact and greeting them by their name with a smile. However the employee lives out the vision and mission statements, it is important that that person is recognized in front of his or her peers for having done an excellent job in furthering your bank or credit union brand.
  • Mystery shop yourself. Using an unknown outsider, review your branch facilities to see whether or not employees are actually living out the vision and mission statements beyond the walls of a meeting room. Hopefully, all your hard work in promoting your bank or credit union vision and mission statements is actually seeing the light of day in front of consumers. If your mystery shop reveals otherwise, at least you know and can begin the correction process right away.

Yes, many vision and mission statements have become fodder for late-night comedians. And honestly, too many banks and credit unions have done a poor job crafting and delivering on the promise of vision and mission statements. However, they are still an important part of your bank or credit union branding efforts and should be lived by your staff every day.


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The Most Important Medium for Marketers Is … Wait for it …

The Most Important Medium for Marketers Is … Wait for it …

Note: The following post is written by Stan Cowan.

Twenty years ago the marketing function wasn’t just getting off the ground for credit unions, but also for the financial services industry as a whole.  Working for a $1 Billion thrift back then, I was part of a three-person marketing department (two before they created my position).  Needless to say, their marketing department was only utilizing a few marketing mediums or channels – newspaper (for deposits) and billboards (for loans).  They didn’t even have a website back then, let alone online banking.

During the past 20 years, many (and I mean MANY) new marketing channels have been invented assisting marketers (those who chose to keep up their skills) to target different segments of current and potential customers.  But are the “old” channels still relevant today?  Are they even close to today’s, new digital marketing methods?  It depends…let’s look at a few of them.

Your current state of brand awareness is key to determining your marketing methods.  Is your company not yet established in your marketplace?  Or, are you smaller than your competition and/or new to the area?  If so, you should consider mediums that allow for an immediate, high-impact approach such as TV, billboards and radio (traditional channels).  The same could be said for those organizations that are going through a name change / re-branding.

So, does that mean traditional marketing methods shouldn’t be incorporated for well-established brands?  Well, do you still see/hear ads on TV/radio for McDonald’s, BestBuy and WalMart?  Would they still spend billions each year on traditional advertising if it didn’t work? 

With Digital Marketing, not only is a strong, public online presence required for potential customers, but a one-to-one digital strategy is important for current customers.  Key points to consider – How automated is your digital strategy?  How effective is each type of digital medium working for you?  One advantage of an electronic marketing strategy is its nimbleness, the ability to change it quickly to meet your needs.  It’s difficult to launch and change quickly with traditional mediums. 

The most important aspect of digital marketing is one that most don’t incorporate, however—testing.  Most marketers either think they don’t have the time to test their marketing content and targeting methods, or they are too scared of failing to do so.  But wouldn’t you rather fail on a smaller scale than completely because you didn’t do your research first?

So, we’ve put it off long enough.  Given budget and time constraints that we all have, what’s the most important marketing medium to incorporate?  Given my academic background and experience, my answer may surprise you.  Marketing channels are certainly important, but the most important source to tap into is simply – your existing customer base by using REFERRALS. 

Who better to market for you than your current customers?  With the right type of loyalty-based referral program, your best customers, with more credibility than advertising campaigns, can help you gain more customers who look like…them!  Of course, your referral program must 1) be easy to convey, 2) be easy for customers to use and 3) be easy to track. 

Will this require redirecting some of your existing marketing budget?  Yes.  But wait – how much?  That’s why we test it with a select group of customers first, starting by getting their feedback before launching.  Then, you’ll have a good idea of your potential success and how much to allocate.

We’ve only touched the surface here, so I’ll leave you with a related topic for next time:  What if 100% of the marketing budget was allocated to this type of loyalty, referral program where both existing and new customers are rewarded for sharing how they love your organization with others?  Hmmm….


About the author:  Stan Cowan is a seasoned, 20-year financial services marketing leader.  Check him out on LinkedIn.

Stop Straddling Your Strategy

Stop Straddling Your Strategy

Planning - 2There are multiple traps and minefields when it comes to strategic planning. Focusing too much on tactics and not enough on strategy. Rushing through the planning process. Rehashing old issues.

While those are common pitfalls, one of the major mistakes credit unions and banks make with strategic plans is waffling. In other words we sit on the fence and don’t make strong, bold decisions. In an effort to gain consensus we want everyone in the room (executives, board members, etc.) in agreement about the strategy.

While unity is indeed a key to success the result of making sure we hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” might be a straddling effect. In other words, because we want EVERYONE happy with the final product we include EVERYONE’s ideas in the plan. And then we end up just straddling the fence rather than making some necessary (and oftentimes difficult) decisions.

Here are a few examples where straddling causes problems:

  • We don’t have a consensus on target audiences so we end up trying to be all things to all people
  • We can’t decide what the top priorities should be so we end up with six or seven strategic initiatives rather than a focused three or four
  • We don’t want to offend anyone so we include everyone’s ideas, including the ones that are honestly lame and completely out of sync with the overall plan
  • We don’t want to rock the boat so we avoid making hard decisions

Let’s be honest: not everyone is going to agree 100% with every decision in every single planning decision. That’s just not possible. Disagreement and debate are actually healthy. But the solution to a consensus is not to straddle.

In one planning session I conducted a few years ago, the client once again brought up the issue of changing their name. For multiple years in numerous planning sessions they had debated whether or not they should change their name. And  they never made a decision. They just straddled. So in this particular session I said “you either need to _______ or get off the pot.” Okay, I said it a little nicer than that but you get the idea. Once they were challenged and pushed they realized they had to move forward rather than stay idle. So they voted during that session to change their name and are now seeing record growth. Why? Because they stopped straddling.

As David Maister says in Strategy and the Fat Smoker, “the best outcome from strategic planning isn’t necessarily greater analytic insight—it’s greater resolve.”

Rather than straddle your strategy, aim for boldness and resolve.

How Financial Institutions Can Build Brand Value

How Financial Institutions Can Build Brand Value

Building Brand Value - 1Anyone wanting to improve their organization’s brand knows you start with your value. What unique value proposition do you offer consumers? For banks and credit unions this can be extremely difficult. After all, banking is now a commodity and every financial institution says they are about service, community or people.

So how can financial institutions build brand value?

One way is to read Building Brand Value, by Bruce Turkel. I’ve longed followed Turkel’s blog (he offers great insights and his blog is a must-read). So I wanted to dive into his book, which is aptly subtitled Seven Simple Steps to Profitable Communications. For banks and credit unions to build better brands, they can follow many of the suggestions Turkel offers.

As Turkel notes, “Each of the points can be expressed in only three words….it’s all quite simple.”

Below are three of the seven principles from the book and how we can apply them in the financial services world. For the remaining four, be sure to pick up a copy of Building Brand Value (it’s a quick read full of solid suggestions).

(1) All About Them

Turkel has a unique take on ROI (return on investment). He says ROI is not near as important as a new acronymn MOI—the French word for me, as in “What’s in it for me.” He says MOI is the best way to predict success with your brand. Consumers pay far more attention to messages that promise them benefits.

  • Application: While the internal components of your brand are critical, always craft your brand message around your target audience. Too many banks and credit unions are still trying to be all things to all people. Stop that. Now. Pick a few core niches and brand to them with customized messages.


(2) Hearts Then Minds

Turkel notes that, “most people make decisions based on their feelings and then justify those decisions with the facts.” Think about Harley-Davidson. Harley does not sell motorcycles. They sell an experience. Scott Talgo, vice president of marketing for Harley, once said “advertising grabs their minds, branding their hearts.” Turkel obviously agrees.

  • Application: Stop promoting rates, financial product features and terms. People really don’t care about those boring banking details. What do they care about? Stories. Dreams. Financial freedom. When it comes to building your brand, make sure you are building emotional connections with consumers.


(3) Make It Quick

Some of the best advice Turkel offers is “reduce, reduce, reduce. Then reduce some more.” He jokingly notes that Thoreau wrote “simplify, simplify” but that if Thoreau thought that was the best strategy he would have just said, “simplify.” When it comes to branding, communicating your message quickly is paramount.

  • Application: Cut the copy in your branding. Cut, cut, cut. You say more with less. Conduct a marketing audit at your credit union or bank to test and see how effective your brand is in reaching consumers.


Those are just a few key points from only three of the major principles in Building Brand Value. The book offers many other tips to improve your branding and your marketing. While it won't take you long to read the book (his writing style is quick and easy) you’ll walk away with so many ideas your head will spin.

Creating a strong brand starts with creating a genuine brand value. If you want to know how to accomplish that for your bank or credit union then read Building Brand Value