How Convenient Are Your “Convenience” Services?

How Convenient Are Your “Convenience” Services?

Convenience services – those services designed to make your life easier. In banking, that covers mobile apps, debit cards, payment systems, online banking, online chat (when available), and e-mail customer service, among others. To be honest, I expect e-mail customer service to be a mainstay in every industry, but my health insurance company proved to me recently that perhaps my expectations were too high.

I was having an issue with getting a prescription filled because the insurance company required a pre-authorization first. No problem. I respect that all companies have processes to follow, and I was willing to take the necessary steps to get this medication approved. I logged into my online account and sent an e-mail inquiring on what those steps might be.

Two days later, I received a voicemail message from my insurance company replying to my e-mail. What? I sent you an e-mail and you’re responding by phone? I didn’t have time to call them back and sit on hold forever. I didn’t even have time to e-mail them back immediately, so a few days later, I sent another e-mail with the same question. This time, I specifically requested a response by e-mail. A day later, I received another voicemail from my insurance company responding to my e-mail. This message said they were unable to reply to customers by e-mail but would be happy to help me by phone.

The whole point of e-mailing them in the first place was to save time and communicate back and forth with them when I had small windows of time in my day. Sometimes it is late at night before that happens. How much time am I saving if I spend the time to e-mail them, then have to spend more time listening to their voicemail messages and still end up having to call them on the phone? This is not convenience. It’s the opposite of convenience.

How do your financial institution’s convenience services compare? Do you respond to your customers or members the same way they contact you? Does your debit card cause problems for customers or members who make online purchases from merchants in other countries? Do your branches offer instant issue debit cards to customers or members who either lose their cards or have them stolen? Does your mobile app make it harder or easier for people to access their accounts? Can customers or members access their e-statements through your online banking platform or do they have to log into another site first? Do your so-called convenience services actually make life easier and more convenient for your customers or members?

These (and many others) are the questions all financial institutions should be asking. In a day and age when digital is taking convenience services to a whole new level, those not measuring up will be deal breakers for consumers. If you expect them to choose your financial institution instead of your competition, you absolutely must ensure that doing business with your financial institution is the easiest and most convenient option.

Doom Keys and the Importance of Proofreading Your Marketing Content

Doom Keys and the Importance of Proofreading Your Marketing Content

Note: This entry authored by Taylor W. Wells, Communications Director for On The Mark Strategies

Disclaimer: I’m an avid user of the Tile product and think it does a terrific job of what it claims to do. I’ve used it several times to locate lost items. The proofreading typo above, while unfortunate, isn’t really a rip on the product.

However, the problem with that is — the typo headline really is a rip on the product. Think about it. Consumers trust this gadget not only with their money but also with important devices like smart phones, wallets and even luggage. Would you feel comfortable entrusting the safety of items important to you to a company the couldn’t spell “dorm” correctly?

The photo above keenly emphasizes the importance of what most banking credit union marketing professionals consider a boring and menial task — proofreading. But it proves that, even in our high-speed age of social media, branding and reputation management, the devil is still the details.

As these examples prove, no entity, large or small, is safe from poor proofreading. Heck, Jay Leno made lousy proofreading (and writing) a mainstay of his tenure at The Tonight Show with the recurring “Headlines” routine. And I’ll never forget a newspaper ad from around twenty years ago from a local veterinarian office promising “free rabies with every pet spray or neuter” (forgetting the key word vaccine). Free rabies? Heck, yes!

The same thing applies to your bank or credit union. Typographical errors, whether in print or in digital format, can erode consumer trust in your brand.

Yes, proofreading is a real pain in the butt. The last thing you want to do after you spend hours creating content for a particular piece is to go back over and read it, line by line and word by word. But you simply must.

You should also allow an outside set of eyes to take a look at your content. A natural byproduct of producing content is allowing our eyes to glaze-over as we read and reread the same words. This outside set of eyes gives a fresh take on your content and is an invaluable source to help make sure the words you’re producing are the words you meant to say.

Proofreading is nobody’s favorite thing to do. But if you value your bank or credit union brand, you’ll take the extra time to ensure your content is accurate.

Is Your Bank or Credit Union the Local Cable Guy?

Is Your Bank or Credit Union the Local Cable Guy?

For the past couple of decades, if you wanted a go-to dump-on source when it came to talking about poor customer service, the cable television industry was your guy. Consumers routinely (and usually rightfully) griped about lousy service, bad attitudes and those infamous “installation windows” that usually meant you had to take a day off from work to be home at their convenience.

Recently, at least one cable provider has made an effort to improve its service and its reputation. Time Warner Cable, capitalizing on sour consumer sentiment, launched a series of commercials with a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor.

Banks and credit unions are certainly not immune from negative public sentiment. While we talk a lot about great service, a wide variety of products and easy accessibility, consumers may not see it that way. Just because we pat ourselves on the back about something in the boardroom does not necessarily mean it translates that way to Main Street.

To ensure your consumer service is authentically good and received well by the communities you serve — you might consider a marketing audit. As the creator of the bank and credit union marketing audit, On The Mark Strategies is expertly positioned to conduct a deep-dive into your marketing and brand strategies and tactics. A marketing audit also takes a close look at your competitors during mystery shops and, often with compelling results, also reveals quite candidly how your own staff reacts to a new potential consumer during high-stakes internal mystery shops.

A marketing audit will also give you suggestions for overall improvement, money-saving ideas and industry best practices all with the forward progression of your brand in mind.

David Estridge, EVP of Christian Community CU (Covina, CA, $624 million assets, 31,000 members) said after a marketing audit with On The Mark Strategies: “Everything matters. From the logo on the pen to how we answer the phone, how our lobby looks and the friendliness of our website. Every aspect of who we are and what we do or not do impacts our brand.”

To make sure your bank or credit union isn’t riffed by consumers like the cable guy, check out this short video on the power of a marketing audit and contact Mark at (214) 538-4147 or for more information.

Branding Lessons from Sharknado

Branding Lessons from Sharknado

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, here comes another Sharknado sequel. This time cleverly playing off the most recent Star Wars sequel, SyFy network marketing whizzes titled the installment Sharknado: The 4th Awakens. How does it apply to branding at banks and credit unions?

The original Sharknado, made on shoestring budget, was a viral sensation. For a variety of reasons, the film designed to be so awful that you couldn’t not watch it was a hit across multiple demographics and an advertising bonanza for its parent network. With an oddball cast, horrifically bad special effects and pop-culture references and cameos, there’s a little something to love for everyone.

Sharknado also offers a few lessons for bank and marketing brand professionals.

  • You must have something interesting to talk about. If your brand and/or marketing calendar is all about recycling the same old thing every year, consumers will rapidly lose interest. It is a hyper- competitive and tough financial services marketplace out there. For your brand to take a bite out of the competition, you must have something truly impressionable for consumers to chew.
  • You must make social media work. Network marketers leveraged social media to help launch the first Sharknado movie as well as its sequels. In fact, SyFy ran a contest on Twitter to help come up with a title for the second film. Fans jumped all over the opportunity to be a part of schlock movie history. Similarly, banks and credit unions must leverage the social media platforms popular with their members. The odds of the consumer picking up and reading a brochure? Slim. The odds of that same consumer reading a post or tweet? Much better.
  • Your brand must have a hero. In Sharknado, the hero is resurgent B-List celebrity Ian Ziering. Your bank or credit union, however, doesn’t need to hire an out of work 90s television star. You have your own built-in heroes in the form of your members and customers. Talk to them. Find out ways in which your financial institution has helped them reach their financial goals. Then leverage their images and stories in your brand playbook. Consumers relate to authentic people with whom they feel a genuine connection.

The newest Sharknado movie, while probably not a summer blockbuster, likely will make enough money to justify a fifth installment next year. As a lover of sharks and bad movies, I will definitely watch. Your bank or credit union can learn from the brand juggernaut that is Sharknado. And remember — if you can get David Hasselhoff in your advertising, always get David Hasselhoff in your advertising. Instant win.

Is Your Video Content Ready for the “Scrolling Economy?”

Is Your Video Content Ready for the “Scrolling Economy?”

A recent article in Adweek magazine helped accentuate the importance of video in this age of new media. Referring to video, and particularly social/mobile video as the “scrolling economy,” the article referenced several important factors that apply directly to banks and credit unions as they use video to reach consumers.

  • Video today is consumed highly on mobile. This should come as no great surprise, especially if you notice that the majority of people in airports, shopping malls and just walking around in general typically have their necks bent, looking at some kind of device. More than 82% of online video views now happen on a mobile device. Therefore, banks and credit unions must ensure their video content is optimized to fit small screens.
  • Audio agnostic. Banks and credit unions must also produce video content that works with or without device sound. Ensure your video content has on-screen text and captions for dialogue, when appropriate. You also want to allow images and graphics to do just as much of the talking as voice talent.
  • Always actionable. Just like a call to action with the traditional marketing campaigns, video shared online must have some type of sharing end-game. Banks and credit unions should optimize video content for easy sharing across social media platforms and between peers. Your viewers must be easily able to click and share with their family and friends and to post it on their personal social media platforms.

The age of new media will no doubt continue to evolve and change. The rise of mobile video and peer-to-peer sharing via social media platforms have converged in such a way as to offer a powerful source of brand influence and advertising for banks and credit unions. The question becomes, is your bank or credit union video content optimized for this scrolling economy?


Why Your Financial Institution Needs Self-Lacing Shoes

Why Your Financial Institution Needs Self-Lacing Shoes

Remember the super-cool self-lacing shoes from Back to the Future Part II? For almost thirty years, a generation of kids has longed for shoes that tie themselves.

Fast forward to 2016. Nike, apparently, has found a way to make that happen. Meet the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0.

Done drooling yet?

Aside from just how cool self-lacing shoes (or, as Nike refers to them, “adaptive lacing”) are, there is a greater and deeper message for your bank or credit union.

That message is – you’d better stay on the cutting edge of things and reflect the dreams of your consumers or you risk going extinct.

This type of product exhibits the kind of forward-thinking critical for the long-term success of any retail outlet (and make no mistake about it, your bank or credit union is in the retail business).

Does your strategic plan include a focus on cutting-edge products and services for consumers in the next five to ten years? If not, why? If you aren’t thinking about the latest and greatest ways to serve your consumers now, your competition is happy to do so. According to CUNA’s 2016 E-Scan, more than 1,200 new start-ups entered the payments arena in the past two years alone. Are you ready to compete?

Think about it in context. Even as short as five years ago, no one really saw a world in which most consumers preferred to interact with their financial institution using a smart phone or tablet device. Wise credit unions and banks, however, those with the Nike mentality, thought ahead and began rolling out just such platforms for their consumers in advance of peak desire. I wince every time I see a bank or credit union talking about their great new app coming out like it’s really a big deal. Folks, if you are just now rolling out your first app, you are seriously behind the curve

I challenge you to, in turn, challenge your bank or credit union executive team and board to revisit their focus on the future. If they don’t believe in it, just drop in an eight-track player or VCR on the table and asked them how relevant it is to their lives today.

Financial products from banks and credit unions may never be as uber-cool as self-lacing shoes, but we definitely have our equivalents in financial access products and services. The task at hand is proving just how important it is to think ahead and be ready with those products and services by the time consumers reach peak demand.

Niche Marketing Lessons from the Olympics

Niche Marketing Lessons from the Olympics

Hundreds of millions of people will gather around their television sets to catch a glimpse of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And billions of dollars will be spent on television advertising to catch a few moments of these consumers’ time.

Leading advertising demand-side platform The Trade Desk offers the following insights into a few of these consumer camps. Fans of Olympic swimming, for example are also more likely to be parents of young children and drive SUVs. Fans of gymnastics, on the other hand, are typically entrepreneurs with a passion for classic cars. Volleyball aficionados, finally, are generally entertainment fans who work in finance.

If the people spending billions of dollars to market-segment Olympics viewers take heed of niche advertising, it makes sense for your bank or credit unions do the same. Long gone are the days of “shotgun marketing” in which a financial institution could just blast a message on mass media (television, radio, newspaper) and hope it reaches enough people to justify the expense. In today’s competitive advertising marketplace, knowledge is power and that knowledge comes from knowing your consumers and what makes them tick. For more information on emerging niche markets, check out this video.

These target markets, appropriately, should be a primary focus of your strategic plan. Would you get in a car with a destination in mind but no route? No. In order to reach the goal of your strategic plan, you have to know the way to get there. Market segmentation provides the GPS to make this happen.

For example, your bank or credit union might decide its best target markets are young females aged 24 – 36, college students and Hispanics. This is a broad-brush example. The specific marketing niches for your credit union or bank can only be exposed after strenuous study and debate, often all coming before the strategic planning session. You must answer questions like “What makes these target audiences tick? What are they like”? What do they need? How can we best serve their needs?

If you watch any of the Olympics this summer on television, check out the ads and see if they strike you in any way. Odds are, a room of advertising and brand professionals spent a great deal of time and money trying to figure out exactly who you are and what kind of ad would turn you on at what time. You should do the same thing for the consumers at your bank or credit union.

Epic Target Marketing Fail: Back to School, In June?

Epic Target Marketing Fail: Back to School, In June?

Taylor W. Wells, Communications Director with On The Mark Strategies, authored this post.

In late June, I was traveling in another state working on a marketing audit when I visited a local department store to stock up on a few necessities for the trip. I won’t tell you the name of the store, but the initials are Target.

Anyway, what stopped me in my tracks was the site of a few workers putting together a display area for the “back-to-school” section of the store.

Really? Back-to-school? In June? I mean, backpacks from the last day of school last year were still on the floor of my house at that time.

I know “back to school” is an annual ritual of anguish for children that dread the end of the beloved summer vacation. And honestly, I tend to dislike it as well. I know people are looking for clothes and supplies deals, but my thought was — “can’t we just let them enjoy summer vacation a few weeks before we cram back to school down the throats of kids and parents?”

Whatever the marketing research behind it, I think this is a good example of presenting the wrong product at the wrong time. Banks and credit unions are guilty of this on occasion as well. Especially at the macro level. By that, I mean the crucial point of consumer engagement in which your bank or credit union employee is learning more about unique financial needs of the consumer is attempting to pair that with a product or service solution.

All too often, bank and credit union employees attempt a “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to consumer engagement. Unfortunately, they are often driven to this approach by larger goals such as “you must sell at least five checking accounts a month” or “you must actively refer at least five used car refinance opportunities every quarter.” The old-school “flavor of the month” marketing calendar approach leaves a lot to be desired.

Guess what? Not everybody is in the market for checking account every day. Similarly, not everyone is in the market for a used car refinance opportunity every quarter.

This is a gap of presenting the wrong thing at the wrong time. And it is usually the result of a bank or credit union employee (often well-intended) working under the dictates of a cross-sell philosophy that just doesn’t work.

Rather than going “back-to-school” on your members and customers, your bank or credit union is much better served by diving deeper into a culture of consumer engagement. Consumer engagement allows your employees the latitude to get to know consumers on a personal level, uncovering their financial needs and desires and then matching those to a product or service your financial institution offers.

This often works a heck of a lot better than a constant “please buy everything we have all the time” approach and is more likely to endear consumers to your financial institution once they recognize you have actively listened to their concern and searched for a viable solution to address it.

Back to school — in June? I’m still shaking my head over that.

The Importance of Experiential Marketing

The Importance of Experiential Marketing

This entry authored by Taylor W. Wells, Communications Director with On The Mark Strategies.

A recent article about the San Francisco Giants and experiential marketing in Adweek magazine caught my eye (and even though I’m a lifetime Atlanta Braves fan, I’ll admit the same theory applies at any ballpark, bank or credit union.)

We have talked in the past about the importance of experiential marketing as it relates to financial institutions. In fact, we often advise bank and credit union partners during branding exercises they must learn to think like retailers and create memorable lifetime experiences for consumers in order to survive. The marketing machine behind the San Francisco Giants understands this.

The article states that “The success of a baseball team comes down to two things: selling tickets and selling sponsorships. The Giants are among the best of both of those because of the team and the experience they’ve created at the ballpark.”

Let’s face it — going to a major-league baseball game isn’t cheap. People aren’t going because it’s inexpensive. They’re going for the opportunity to create a memory for themselves and their family as well as following their favorite team. The same thing applies to a bank or credit union. Banks and credit unions, at least for consumers, are concerned. Nobody is going there because they are excited about it. They’re going because they pretty much have to to take care of financial business.

But what if your bank or credit union was able to, through experiential marketing, create a memorable enough experience that makes interacting with you an enjoyable thing? It’s not impossible. Banking giant Wells Fargo exposes consumers to virtual reality entertainment at various venues across the country. Umpqua Bank hosts a traveling digital art show. TD Bank has made a splash by funding customer community service projects.

Right about now you’re probably thinking “Okay, great – but these are giant banks with huge budgets. What can my smaller bank or credit union accomplish?” A lot, actually.

You don’t necessarily have to break the bank in order to create memorable experiences for your consumers. Often, it’s the little touches that mean the most, like using their first names, providing lobby refreshments or even remembering to send a dog treat back through the drive-through tube when you notice someone has a canine companion in the car with them. It also comes in providing top-notch digital and mobile products and services offerings. And you can make a great impression by being an active participant and sponsor in targeted community events.

In the past, marketers were able to get by with occasional newspaper ads and television commercials. In the new experience economy, they don’t have that luxury. Increasingly, banking credit union brand professionals must find ways to create memorable experiences for their consumers in order to stand out in a very competitive environment.

Marketing to Millenials With Kids

Marketing to Millenials With Kids

“These kids today…….” Is a phrase often uttered when discussing marketing strategies for reaching the Millennial Generation. “These kids today require different approaches.” “We have to reach these kids today.” “These kids today are so different.” The problem with that phrase? These kids today are having kids.

That’s right: consumers from the Millennial Generation are becoming parents. And that is a game changer for marketers. So what can credit union and banking professionals do to reach this critical demographic? You can read Millenials with Kids by Jeff Fromm and Marissa Vidler. The subtitle notes that this group is extremely powerful and different. And their book offers extremely powerful and different marketing approaches.

The authors note, “Many Millennials are parents now. Millenials are growing up and with that come more responsibilities. Now one in four Millennials is already a parent and that number is growing every day. As parents, Millennials are not changing their lifestyles to fit parenthood but are instead changing parenthood to fit their lifestyle.”

Below are three principles from the book and how we can apply them in the financial services world. For the remaining suggestions (and there are plenty of them), be sure to pick up a copy of Millennials with Kids.

(1) Millennial parents are not a homogeneous cohort

“Success will come to those who recognize and embrace this generation’s heterogeneity,” the authors note. They go on to identify multiple sub-segments of the Millennial parents: Family First, Style and Substance, Under Stress, Image First and Against the Grain.

  • Application: When creating your brand plan and strategic plan, don’t have a target audience that says “Millennial Generation.” That is way too broad. Instead, dive deeper into the subsets that match best with your unique value proposition. Maybe it’s Millennial moms, DINKs (dual income, no kids) or one of the segments the authors identified above.

(2) Millennial parents are pragmatists

When it comes to their lifestyle and brands, the Millennial Generation is focused on practical application. They have lost faith in institutions (including financial institutions). Fromm and Vidler cite a survey that says only 10% of Millennials have a great deal of confidence in their bank. They go on to say, “If there is one overriding lesson….it’s that they are no longer as enigmatic as we once thought and there is a newfound pragmatism about them.”

  • Application: Communicate what is real and authentic about your credit union or bank. Yes, cut the B.S. Where possible, show what a solid community citizen you are. Don’t just say you make a difference in the community but demonstrate practical examples of how you are doing it.

(3) Millennial parents are focused on time

“The new currency is time,” the authors say. They note how we communicate our marketing messages is radically different than just a few years ago. From Twitter to YouTube to Instagram, it’s all about communicating in short and visual messages.

  • Application: Cut the copy. More than likely, you are writing and saying way too much about your financial institution in your marketing pieces. One of the best ways to avoid this trap is to conduct a marketing audit. This will help ensure your pieces are connecting with this critical younger market.

Those are just a few insights from the book on how to market to Millennials with kids. This generation has changed technology, entertainment and business. And now they are changing parenting. Which means you’ll have to change your marketing techniques as well.

You cannot market to the Millennial parent the same way you marketed to the Gen. X or Baby Boomer parent. If you want to learn what adjustments you should make to your marketing strategy with this unique group, then I highly suggest you read Millenials with Kids.