If you’re a country music fan, you might recall the 1995 Tim McGraw hit “I like It, I Love It.” The repeated refrain goes on to say “… but I like it, I love it, I want some more of it.” How does this apply to your brand? In many ways.
If your consumers like your brand, that’s a good thing. For a start. If consumers like your brand, there’s a pretty good chance they might come back again.
If your consumers love your brand, that’s even better. But you’re just getting the engine started. If consumers love your brand, there’s a pretty good chance they will not only come back to you again but also choose you over your many competitors.
If your consumers want some more of your brand, you’ve struck branding gold. If consumers want some more of your brand, they’re much more likely to be thoroughly dedicated to it, saturated with its messages and prone to spreading the good word about it to their friends and family. This is the pinnacle for which your brand should aspire.
And that’s really where you want your brand to be. Liking it is a good thing. But simply liking something is ephemeral, fleeting and shallow. Loving it is better but still not deep enough. To establish a firm brand hold on your consumers, you must devote the time, energy and resources to move the needle to “want some more of it.”
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.
The end-goal of a strategic planning process includes a set of clear objectives. It is these strategic initiatives that guide your bank or credit union moving into the next several years. However, poor objectives can just as easily kill a strategic plan and render your investment wasted.
What are poor objectives? What are the things your strategic planning team must avoid when it comes to objectives at its next session? Consider the following:
- Unclear objectives. You want up-front and easy-to-read language in your objectives. Now is not the time to wordsmith and impress everyone with your vocabulary. Your objective must be clear, driven by action verbs and book-ended by start and end dates.
- Un-led objectives. If a ship or plane start a journey without a seasoned captain, they are unlikely to make it very far. Your strategic planning objectives are the same. To succeed, they must have a leader. This could be a single leader or perhaps a small team of leaders, depending on the objective. Lack of leadership for your objective condemns it to failure before it can start. If no one leads it, no one is responsible for it and if no one is responsible for it no one will care.
- Un-reported objectives. Putting your objectives down on paper is just a start. Making sure they have a leader (or leaders) is a next step. In order to be truly successful, however, your strategic objectives must also include regular reporting. After the strategic planning session itself, ensure that leaders of specific objectives understand they are responsible for reporting back to the team on the status of their objectives. Failing to do this is like pushing a raft onto the rapids and putting your trust in the rocks and rushing water. The end result won’t be pretty.
Since well-defined objectives are the desired outcome of a strategic planning session, it makes sense to give them a terrific head-start on their journey towards completion. This includes making sure they are complemented by things like clarity, leadership and regular reporting.
There are plenty of good reasons to conduct a marketing audit (the On The Mark Strategies proprietary method by which your bank or credit union takes an intensive deep-dive look into its marketing strategies and tactics). However, there are also many good reasons not to conduct a marketing audit at your bank or credit union.
Here are three:
- Don’t conduct a marketing audit because you already know what your competition is doing. If you already know what the other banks, credit unions and non-traditional competitors in your area are doing when it comes to consumer engagement, branding, marketing and experiential design, you probably shouldn’t conduct a marketing audit.
- Don’t conduct a marketing audit because you are already happy with your marketing budget. If you already know how well your marketing budget addresses the rapidly-changing financial products and services marketplace and you are content with the amount of your marketing budget, you probably shouldn’t conduct a marketing audit.
- Don’t conduct a marketing audit because you’re not interested in industry best practice ideas. If you already have a firm grasp of every idea, new, old and unthought-of, you probably shouldn’t conduct a marketing audit.
- You’d like to have a better idea of what your competition is doing (as well as the current status of consumer service in your own branches);
- You want a better idea of how effective your marketing spend is and direction on how to maximize your marketing budget); and
- You are interested in picking up new industry best practice ideas from across the country, then …
… you might want to conduct a marketing audit.
Banks and credit unions that engage in strategic planning are committing time and valuable resources towards planning for the future. Your leadership team will likely spend hours at the table hammering out the details of your strategic plan for the next several years.
One of the most important ground rules about strategic planning (and a compelling reason to use an outside facilitator to help conduct the session) is keeping the discussion at a strategic rather than a tactical level. Your strategic planning session must be geared towards discussing, understanding and deciding on a course of action that concentrates on strategic initiatives — big-picture items.
It’s all too easy for a strategic planning discussion to jump the rails and plunge into the high weeds of tactical discussions. By tactical, we mean the daily tasks and jobs, the nuts and bolts of operations at your bank or credit union, that keep things moving. These are certainly important and, if not in place, can sabotage larger strategic initiatives. However, your time at the strategic planning table simply cannot be spent debating and discussing tactical issues.
For example, let’s say your bank or credit union decides an important strategic initiative for the next several years involves branding. Branding is a huge concept that touches every single element of your financial institution. The visual appearance of your brand is certainly a part of this. If you’re not careful, your leadership team could fly off the rails and start a discussion of dress code and how a revised dress code could fit the new brand.
Dress code is important. Dress code matters. Dress code impacts the brand. But, friends, dress code is absolutely the last thing you want to talk about during a strategic planning session. It’s an agonizing, tactical-specific discussion that almost always degenerates to a microscopic level of analysis that it makes a thesis dissertation look simple in comparison. This type of discussion does not empower your strategic planning session. Quite the opposite — it can cripple it.
Dress code is just one example of the dangers of your strategic planning session sinking into the murky waters of tactical items. There are many, many others. The important takeaway here is that in order for your bank or credit union strategic plan to be successful, it must keep its focus on the strategic rather than the tactical.
Let’s face it — most consumers think going to the bank or credit union real pain in the you-know-where. Although financial products and services are important to consumers and definitely have emotional impact, they are not typically seen as “sexy” items which people wish to purchase.
Your bank or credit union should take an honest look at the way in which consumers perceive it and answer the question, honestly – “is visiting us a pain?” If consumers, already halfway dreading going to the bank or credit union actually do have a negative experience there, it’s bad for your brand and your bottom line.
Examine the consumer visit from their point of view. Start with the basics. Is your facility easy to see from the road? Is it attractive (for example, landscaping, paint, etc.)? Once inside, how quickly are your consumers greeted? Do you have a queue system and, if so, does it ask consumers to take it upon themselves to sign in or does your staff take the initiative and handle that for them?
Digging deeper, you should next examine subsequent steps in a typical consumer interaction. How long is the average wait time? Do you provide some type of beverage (water, coffee, etc.)? Once a consumer is seated with a representative, is that person skilled and trained to ask questions or are they simply an order-taker with no real drive?
After examining some of these basics (and the above examples are just a few of the many things you should examine), apply the question again — “is visiting us a pain?” If some of the answers to the questions above included responses like “our landscaping is dead,” “the average wait time is 30 minutes,” and “our staff are poorly trained in asking questions,” it’s likely visiting you is a pain for consumers. Now it’s up to you to fix that.
Ways to address this challenge include taking a look at your brand, training, employee culture and accessible member data. It is critical that your bank or credit union examine the consumer interaction experience from the consumer perspective to ensure visiting you isn’t a pain. Because if it is, consumers are more than happy to take their business someplace more pleasant.
A deep-dive marketing audit is also a terrific way to ascertain how easy it is to do business with your financial institution. For more information on marketing audits, please follow this link.
If banks and credit unions are speaking honestly and openly, they’d admit their image for the past say, 100 years, is not necessarily a terribly human one. I mean, the most instantly recognizable bankers in pop culture today are probably the Monopoly guy and Mr. Drysdale from the 1960s sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies. Neither of these icons evoke a lot of warm, fuzzy feelings from consumers.
Financial institutions have made great strides in the last quarter-century towards better humanizing their brands. But much work remains to be done. Take a look at your own bank or credit union and ask the same question — “is our brand human?”
Here’s a brief litmus test through which you can run your brand to help answer the question:
- Do we look like the people we serve? In other words, are you still sporting the traditional suit and tie look? Are your branches still anchored with traditional mainstays like behemoth teller counters, mahogany desks and rope lines? Now, if these elements match your target audiences, terrific. You might not need to change anything. However, if your physical appearance, both in terms of attire and design, do not match the people you want to serve, your brand probably needs humanizing.
- Do we try to talk to our consumers where they are? If the limit of your communications is still a revolving wire rack brochure stand, your brand is almost certainly in need of humanizing. You must take your brand message and story to consumers where they are. Where they are increasingly is online. How well are you telling your story on social media platforms, via a vibrant two-way website and valuable consumer education related content on your blog? If your answer to these questions is some form of “uhhhhh …,” your brand probably needs humanizing.
- Do we listen more than we talk? Old-school bank and credit union brands rarely did a good job of engaging with consumers. Moving beyond mere order-taker status, financial institutions with humanized brands now invest in solid engagement training. This entails a lot of work, including training staff towards the importance of active listening, aligning consumer needs with select products and services and speaking more about product benefits than features. All this requires us to listen more than we talk. If your mouth is running more than your ears are listening, your brand probably needs humanizing.
The formal, robotic and generally boring brands of bank and credit union past will struggle to maintain relevancy in today’s consumer-driven society. If your brand needs humanizing, acting now can help establish your bank or credit union as an important part of your consumers’ lives.