A few weeks ago, I escorted our senior staff writer, Colleen Cormier, to the Apple Store – also known as my happy place. Yes…I am married to Apple. Each member of my family owns some kind of MacBook. We also own iPhones, iPads and iPods. If there is a little “i” in front of a device, I probably own it. I also provide an Apple computer for each of my staff members. This was Colleen’s transition to the “other side.”
My experience there is always a positive one, but something one of the employees said took us both by surprise. He said “I don’t use a Mac.”
A similar scenario happened not too long ago during a marketing audit we were conducting for a client. One of the employees told us he didn’t use his credit union’s products and services – not one. Why would a customer or member use your products if your own employees don’t?
“Internal branding and vocal brand advocacy from employees will be minimally successful at best if your employees don’t actually use your brand,” writes Susan Gunelius, president and
CEO at KeySplash Creative, Inc., in a blog at corporateeye.com. “How can they truly talk about your brand, advocate your brand, develop appropriate new products, and sell your product if they’ve never or rarely used it?”
Here are three reasons why your employees should also be your costumers/members.
Best Brand Ambassadors
Your best customers are the ones who not only use your products and services, but also refer you to their family, friends, business associates, etc. They are your best brand ambassadors. Shouldn’t that describe your employees? Perhaps an even more important question to ask is which of your competitors your employees are promoting, if they are not promoting you. When customers or members find out your employees do not bank with you, they probably ask where your employees do their banking and why.
Outstanding Customer Service
Employees who use your products and services have a deep understanding of how they work. This makes them better sales people and better equipped to offer solutions when customers or members have questions. All of your employees should be able to answer basic questions about your products and services.
See our monthly e-newsletter for the third reason. You also find information to help you determine if your financial institution’s annual goals support your bottom, as well as information on marketing audits and financial institution name changes.
Consider the diversity of your financial institution membership. Now consider the diversity of the greater community you serve. More than likely, you are made up of, and can draw from, a vast pool of different people, including a spectrum of ages, nationalities and interests. To effectively reach these people, to stay top of mind in financial services for consumers, banks and credit unions must maintain a healthy mix of what some might call “old school vs. new school marketing.”
Often when a hot new way to advertise or reach people comes along, people are quick to dismiss established methods as ineffective. While it’s true that media and advertising must adapt and evolve to meet new times, most established methods still have a place in your marketing arsenal. It all comes down to the people you are trying to reach, your demographic niche. At the same time, however, bank and credit union marketers and leaders must refrain from immediately dismissing newer communication methods as valid ways of reaching consumers. It’s all about striking the right balance.
Old school marketing methods that can still pay dividends for your bank or credit union include:
- Direct mail
- Special events
These more established methods of marketing still generate results when done with the proper forethought and diligence. You must also keep in mind your specific market and the targets you wish to reach. For example, in an age where people’s email boxes are flooded with spam every day, receiving an actual direct mail piece might stand out in a consumer’s mind. If there is heavy traffic around an intersection near a new branch, a nearby billboard represents a chance to generate brand and location awareness. And special events are typically a good way to the build community awareness, goodwill and brand recall.
New school marketing that deserves similar thought includes:
- Social media
- Video (think Vine or YouTube)
- Data mining (consumer demographic segmentation)
The Digital Revolution represents perhaps the most powerful new method of communication since the invention of the printing press. Now more than ever, marketers have access to consumers through a vast array of online platforms. When combined with the advent of smart, portable devices (such as smart phones and tablets) these new school marketing methods constitute an exciting and powerful way to market to your bank or credit union consumers.
Blending of new school methods is as important as the combination of old school methods. For example, your bank or credit union might want to do a series of email communications to consumers about a terrific new auto loan promotion. At the same time you could use your blog platform as an educational stage to discuss the importance of good credit scores and how they can impact interest rates consumers receive all loans. Simultaneously, you could cull your internal consumer data, pulling the individuals most likely to be in the market for a new auto loan in the immediate future (e.g., those with existing auto loans paying off in the next few months).
Mixing old and new school marketing is important in today’s competitive financial marketplace. Your limited marketing dollars must stretch in an effort to reach and sway as many consumers as possible. It’s all about finding the right mix for the right audience. If you’re going for a younger crowd, direct mail and radio probably aren’t good ideas. Consider social media and email. On the other hand, if you’re looking to reach a more mature market, blogging and video might not work.
Keeping your marketing options open is important to achieving success in campaigns and consumer communications. When planning a campaign, think about the people you’re trying to reach and then marry that with the best possible marketing methods, whether they’re old or new school.
Have you ever driven down the highway and seen a billboard that says, “Come to our Bank? Our service stinks?” Doubt it. Most financial institutions say they compete on service. When I ask credit unions and banks, “What makes you different?” invariably I hear the words, “Service, service service.”
It’s time we get over ourselves. While service isn’t dead, competing on it as a differentiator is. Why? Here are a couple of reasons.
First, your service probably is not as good as you think it is. As part of our marketing audit process, we conduct mystery shops of our clients and their top competitors. In almost every instance, the client does not finish first in the shoppers’ eyes. And in almost every case going in, the client felt their service was stellar or at least as good as their competitors.
It can be an eye opening experience that your employees are not all that engaged. While the mystery shops rarely reveal terrible service the point is that their service is not distinguishable from the competition. Most of your employees might be providing good—but not great—service. Can you really compete advantageously on just average service? You can’t.
A second reason service is not a competitive advantage is that EVERY other financial institution says they are all about service as well. How is that different? It’s not. One branding principle is differentiation. So if your branding messages are saying the same thing (service) as everyone else, how do you stand out in the crowded financial services field? You don’t.
So what is a credit union or bank to do? Here are a couple of solutions.
First, if you really believe you can distinguish yourself on service then peel that onion layer back. Stop using the generic phrase “service” in your marketing materials. What is it about your service? Dig deep and find details that make your service different. Is it fast service, exceeding your expectations service, or something else entirely?
Secondly, rather than competing on service look for other options. For example, your competitive advantage could be experience rather than service. What’s the difference? With experience, every aspect of the consumer is touched (taste, smell, sound, etc.) when they walk into the branch. Then that in-branch experience is coupled with an unparalleled digital experience online. So when a member is in the branch maybe they are greeted at the front door personally, offered a refreshment and their transaction handled immediately. And then when they visit your website they have mobile and online chat options. And 24 hours after phoning your call center they receive a follow-up message making sure their issue is resolved. In other words, you are giving consumers an experience and not just basic service.
Consumers today expect good service. In Vegas terms, service is just table stakes today. And you are going to need much more than service to compete and win.
In case you haven’t noticed (and who hasn’t with all those political ads) the presidential primary season is swinging into high gear. From debates to caucuses to early state primaries the presidential election seems to be the topic of conversation these days. And more often than not, those talks are dominated by what people think about two candidates in particular: Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
No matter where you are on the political spectrum (conservative, liberal, independent, libertarian, etc.) those two presidential aspirants are capturing most of the headlines. At the time of this writing, both are leading in the early voting state polls. And whether you like them or think they are totally nuts, there are actually several things marketers can learn from both candidates.
Here are four lessons from the Sanders and Trump campaigns marketers should implement:
- Communicate what is real and authentic—Most pundits speculate that the reason for Sanders’ and Trump’s popularity is they are themselves. They are who they are. They are also not traditional politicians. Each will say whatever is on their mind. While your marketing messages can’t just say anything, they should be genuine. People today crave authenticity—from their politicians and their brands. Are you delivering that authenticity with your brand?
- Tap into emotion—If you have ever watched a Sanders or Trump speech you know they get fired up and excited. Whether you love them or hate them, you must recognize their passion. Make your marketing emotional. Tell stories and show how your products and services benefit someone rather than just emphasize a boring feature. Are you delivering passion with your brand?
- Remember patience—When both Trump and Sanders entered the race for president, most political pundits scoffed and gave neither any chance. And for the first few months it took each candidate awhile to gain transaction. But they kept communicating their messages; they were patient. And now both are leading their respective party’s polls. It’s the same way with marketing: it takes steady patience and a long-view. Don’t give up after one failed promotion. Stay consistent with your marketing. Are you staying patient with your brand?
- Leverage your brand advocates—Both Trump and Sanders have legions of followers. They each draw crowds not by the hundreds but by the thousands. Then they turn those audiences into raving fans. Each campaign apparently has a strong “ground game” as political experts say. You must search for and then use people who love your products and services. Turn them into cheerleaders for you. It’s much better to have someone else talking about and promoting your organization. Are you using testimonials and advocates with your brand?
Of course, it’s entirely possible that neither Bernie Sanders nor Donald Trump becomes president. But no matter what the eventual outcome, marketers can learn and implement some valuable lessons from each.
“When I hear about a company moving backwards, I get excited.”
—Joey Reiman, CEO of BrightHouse, in the book Grow, by Jim Stengel
Every bank or credit union wants to grow. Grow loans. Grow deposits. Grow checking accounts. That growth focus often means focusing on the future. What strategies and tactics are going to work in the coming months, quarters and years? In fact, future forward momentum is so important, financial institutions even carve out time in their busy calendar to conduct strategic planning sessions on a regular basis. Why? To focus on the future.
But what if one of the best ways to move forward was to look backwards?
The reality is we can learn a great deal about the future by studying the past. In fact, if you want your marketing, branding and strategic planning to improve, then take a look back. Here are four ways to look backwards:
- Study your legacy—This is absolutely critical when building your brand (or when you are rebranding your financial institution). Who founded your credit union or bank and why did they start it? Examining your roots is critical for growth. For example, when we do name changes for our clients we also do a deep dive into their history. You never ditch your legacy, you build on it.
- Study your successes—This is paramount when you want to improve your marketing. “What was the best marketing campaign you ever did?” is a great question to ask. However, a deeper analysis will examine what aspects (terms, creative, message, etc.) of the campaign made it successful. Success is actually a trap because it can lead to complacency. You never over celebrate your successes, you built on them.
- Study your defeats—When playing baseball as a kid there were times when I would muff a pitch and I would want a “do-over.” Do you ever want a “do-over” in your marketing campaigns? In all honesty, I learned more from my mistakes as a marketer than from my successes. For example, I famously made all the tellers wear hardhats during a particular campaign because the hard hats went with the construction theme campaign. After several dirty looks and a botched promotion I learned the valuable lesson of gaining staff buy-in to wacky ideas. You never wallow in defeat, you learn from it.
- Study past companies—This type of analysis (reviewing other organizations) should play a critical role in your strategic planning process. For example, during your next planning session pick out one or two companies that have had monumental strategic failures (Blockbuster) or success (Apple) and ask, “what can we learn from these case studies?” As philosopher George Santayana once famously said, “Those that cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” You never avoid studying others, you analyze them.
Focusing on the future requires discipline. Just make sure that when you are looking into the future you don’t forget to take a look back.
ROI. Return on investment. It’s a term that makes some marketers cringe. However, to effectively gauge whether your marketing budget is delivering the results executive management needs you must calculate the income you are generating less the expenses your are occurring.
There are multiple ways to calculate ROI. You can use a simple formula, such as net income generated divided by marketing acquisition cost times 100. You can use a sophisticated tool such as Jeanne Murphy’s Profit Maker+Plus. At our website, we even have a few free spreadsheets you can download to help you calculate your promotion’s ROI.
However, analyzing your marketing campaign is more than just plugging numbers into a spreadsheet (although that is important). One effective method to use is the “Plus Delta” approach. It is actually a methodology often used in academic and education circles. It is also used frequently with the Lean Six Sigma business tool.
The “Plus” refers to what went well, while the “Delta” identifies what you would change (the “Delta” is triangle (∆). With “Plus Delta” you remove the evaluation concept away from what we did right and what we did wrong to more of a positive approach focused on what you would change moving forward. It does you no good to make a list of things that went bad in a marketing campaign. Simply doing that can make you feel like a failure. Rather by using the “delta” column you immediately focus on ways to improve.
Here is how the “Plus Delta” tool would work after a marketing campaign or promotion. You simply draw two columns on a single page. At the top of one column write the word “Plus.” At the top of the second column write the word “Delta.” Then brainstorm (ideally with others from your organization) what worked well during the campaign and what you would do next time to improve.
If you want to take “Plus Delta” to the next level (and I recommend you do), then you can use a technique developed by GoLeanSixSigma called the Plus Delta plus Who/What/When. With this method, you take the Deltas (what you would improve) and assign a person responsible (who) for getting that delta completed, an action step (what) for what will be completed and a timeline (when) for the deltas deadline. Adding this next layer to the Plus Delta takes the analysis beyond an academic exercise: it forces you to improve your marketing.
When it comes to analyzing your marketing campaigns you have tons of data at your disposal. However, too much data can result in analysis by paralysis. If you want to complete more than a simple number crunching analysis—if you want to take action to learn and grow from your analysis—then use the Plus Delta plus Who/What/When approach.
I love the movies. Action adventure. Drama. Science Fiction. Living in a house of girls I also see my fair share of romantic comedies and chick flicks. I get to the movies early just so I can see the previews.
There actually is a great deal marketers can learn from watching movies. Movies (at least the good ones) tell powerful stories—which is what effective marketing is all about.
In addition to stories you can also learn (and use) some famous movie quotes if you are a marketer. In fact, there are several lines from certain movies you can use when you are in those planning meetings or budget discussions. Just whip out one of the phrases below and see how your colleagues respond.
Here are five movie quotes every marketer should memorize.
- “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
You always score points when quoting from The Godfather. But there actually is a key marketing principle from Don Corleone you should use with all your promotions. Be sure your campaigns include an offer consumers can’t refuse. Make your products and services so compelling that they immediately see the value in your offer.
Do you need a bigger marketing budget to accomplish your growth goals? Then whip out your best Rod Tidwell moves from Jerry Maguire and simply say in that budget meeting, “show me the money!” In all seriousness, the best way to build a budget is to use the task approach: match your budget to the organization’s overall tasks it wants to accomplish. Link the budget with goals and then you’ll get the money.
- “You can’t handle the truth.”
You have to use your best Jack Nicholson impersonation when using this line from A Few Good Men. There are times in marketing when you are delivering some unpleasant information to executives (your brand awareness is low, employees are not engaged with your brand, etc.). So if they push back on the facts just remind them how important the truth is (even if it hurts). And if they challenge you about the important role of marketing, then use another quote from the same movie: “You need me on that wall.”
- “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”
Many times failure in marketing is a result in a failure to communicate. This line from Cool Hand Luke is a positive one to reference. Examine all your marketing pieces: are they crystal clear or will they result in clouded communication? Think also about your staff: have you clearly communicated your brand to your employees? If your team does not fully understand your marketing messages, then you will have a failure to communicate that message to a broader audience.
- “There’s no place like home.”
How can a list of movie quotes not include something from The Wizard of Oz? Your marketing must connect on an emotional level with consumers. Branding is not about your products and services: it’s about how you make consumers feel. Your branding—just like being home—needs that emotional connection. Use this quote from Dorothy to remind you to build a brand around feelings.
Hopefully when it comes to your marketing you can now quote from Star Wars, “May the Force be with you,” rather than quote from Gone with Wind, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Does your financial institution have a vision statement? Is that vision statement so convoluted with jargon that you don’t really know what it means? You are not alone. In my experience, few people in any organization know that organization’s vision statement, and even fewer actually care. That is a sign that your vision statement needs a makeover.
Vision statements have an important role in the life of a company. According to missionvisionstatement.com, enterprises using mission statements and vision statements successfully outperform those that do not by more than six to one. They set the tone for where the company wants to go and what it hopes to accomplish. They aren’t just decorations on the wall (at least they shouldn’t be). They are supposed to inspire employees and guide leadership decisions. That can’t happen if nobody can understand them.
If this describes your financial institution’s vision statement, I challenge you to try revamping it in six words or less. This concept is known as thinking in business card or billboard format. The idea is that anything longer than six words won’t fit on a business card or be legible on a billboard. It forces you to get to the meat of what your financial institution is about without all the fluff. In fact, your vision statement should answer the question, “What are we about?”
Is it really possible to do this in six words?
Read the rest of the article in the December issue of On the Mark, my monthly e-newsletter. You’ll find examples of some very successful companies whose vision statements contain fewer than six words.
Also, in the e-newsletter, find three tips for setting goals you’ll actually achieve. This is the time of year when many of us make resolutions and fail to follow through with them. This year, resolve to set achievable goals instead.
As you scan your 2016 marketing calendar, it is probably already full with a complete list of tasks to accomplish this year. But are they the right tasks? Each January I offer suggestions regarding what financial marketing executives should focus on in the coming year. For the past few years I’ve done “15 Marketing Tasks for 2015” and “14 Marketing Tasks for 2014.”
But as the years continue to increase, let’s get real: doing 14, 15 (and 16) marketing tasks is probably not going to happen. After all, one of the keys to marketing success is focus. So rather than a giant laundry list of “To Do” items I’ve boiled this year’s list to the top six marketing tasks your credit union or bank should undertake in the New Year. Accomplishing these six items will ensure your success moving forward.
Please feel free to also contribute your own ideas!
Financial institutions are historically conservative. That also means we all tend to be alike and do the same things over and over with our marketing. Which can result in boring campaigns. Make 2016 the year you take some risks. Examples of risk taking could include pushing the envelope with your creative, stop doing traditional advertising (like newspapers and newsletters) and hiring a young person to develop your social media efforts. In talking with a new client recently, she said she switched marketing agencies because she was tired of seeing the “same ol’, same ol’” campaigns every bank and credit union runs.
One of the main lessons learned from last year’s Financial Brand Forum was the simplicity revolution in banking. As Jeffrey Pilcher noted, “There are a million other things people would rather do than banking; it’s boring. It’s tedious. It’s complex. You must build a strategy around making banking easy.” So rather than push products with your marketing look for ways to solve people’s problems and save people time.
- Conduct a marketing audit
This is on the list every year. And it will remain on the list until you complete a marketing audit. Why? Because conducting a thorough marketing audit provides a turbo boost to your efforts. If you want immediate impact and improvement with marketing, then a marketing audit will help you accomplish just that. Lori Perkins, vice president of marketing with Rock Valley Credit Union, said “Business is way up since our marketing audit with On the Mark Strategies. We’ve had thirteen consecutive months of positive loan growth since the marketing audit. Our assets are up, new members are up and checking accounts are up. The overall marketing process was tough but Mark and his team are honest and not scared to tel you what you need to hear to improve. The marketing audit, looking back, made my job both easier and stronger.”
In almost every strategic planning session I conducted last year, every client had a strategic initiative to get younger. Banks—and especially credit unions—are skewing older. If you want to become a rock star at your financial institution, then solve the “we need to get younger” conundrum your executive team faces. Stop marketing to Baby Boomers and focus on the Gen. X and Gen. Y niches. If you don’t reach the Millennial Generation, your financial institution will die. You might have to pivot your brand to woo Millennials. Reach them during key life moments and reach them through Mom and Dad.
Every bank or credit union has gaps in their brand. There can be gaps between your brand and your strategy, gaps between your brand and your people and gaps between your brand and your operations. The only way to build a truly successful brand is to close those gaps (or a concept we call bridging the gaps). For example, if your brand messages are all about service and people yet a marketing audit reveals that your employees are disengaged then you have a brand gap. Or if your brand message is all about “easy to do business” and it takes 24 hours to get a loan approval and you can’t open an account online, then you have a brand gap.
Consumers are not just using technology—they are wearing technology. From Apple Watch to Google Glass to Samsung Smart Watch we are immersed in these new tech toys. At USAA you can now log onto mobile banking with facial recognition. Biometric banking and security selfies are here. What does that mean for marketing? When it comes to financial marketing, the fields of technology and marketing are actually merging. As you review 2016 strategic initiatives, you must answer the question, “what is our bank or credit union doing to move the technology ball down the court?”
2016 has the potential to be the best year ever for credit unions and banks, especially if their marketers complete the above tasks. But those are just a few suggestions. What other tasks do you think financial institution executives should add to 2016?
An increasing number of banks and credit unions have either undergone a name change or are seriously considering one. Reasons for this include: the need to be more competitive, reaching additional potential new consumers, economic changes limiting the viability of single-sponsor financial institutions and general population demographic shifts.
Whatever the reason your bank or credit union may have behind its need for a name change, the job is a daunting one. Changing a financial institution name involves much more than just updating letterhead and the website. To approach the name change process in a more strategic way, we recommend the following trademarked four-step plan.
The research portion of a name change process involves a great deal of highly-detailed and data-rich work. Research includes taking a look at your local competition, demographic information about the members you serve and your overall community as well as surveys of members, staff, your executive team and the Board of Directors. Name change research involves internal, external, qualitative and quantitative data culling. Every base is covered in this portion of the name change process to ensure your bank or credit union is headed in the right direction.
The strategy portion of a name change process typically begins with a brand workshop involving your executive management team and board. During the workshop, many questions are covered, such as “Who do we want to serve?” “Who are we?” and “What do we represent in the eyes of local consumers?” This also includes messaging strategy, mindful of the fact that your new name must reflect both who you are and who you’re trying to reach. This is a comprehensive process that starts broadly with a look at potential names and then narrows the field down. For example, do you want your name to reflect your geography or something special about your area or location? Or are you looking more outside the box with a highly creative name?
The creative portion of the name change process ensures that all your research and strategy both match and work in sync with your new look. This will include specific elements such as colors, fonts, taglines and logos. A brand identity questionnaire is also completed to ensure creative elements connect with research and strategy.
The training portion of the name change process is vital. It is therefore critical to provide staff brand training before, during and after the name change occurs. You must give staff the tools they need to change as the financial institution moves forward with its new name. You must also provide staff brand training as new employees join the bank or credit union family. Training is not a “one and done” operation.
Changing a bank or credit union name is one of the biggest jobs that any marketing professional can undertake. By partnering with On The Mark Strategies and following these trademarked steps, however, bank and credit union marketing professionals and leadership team members can help increase their chance of a successful name change process.
“When we got ready to change the name of our credit union, we didn’t really know where to start. We brought in Mark Arnold and he really helped us get started with the process. Our brand was crafted from the bottom up. It came from interactions with our membership. Mark was able to tune into that and work with us to develop the brand…”
President, Heart of Louisiana Credit Union