An interesting survey regarding holiday shopping is also directly applicable to how banks and credit unions take care of their consumers. According to e-commerce tech company Radial, if a consumer is shopping online and finds a product out of stock, only 14% would still shop at the same site. A smaller percentage (5%) said they were likely to shop anywhere else. However, 81% of consumers indicated they would go to a competitor’s sight in search of this particular product.
While this is a compelling statistic for traditional retailers (like Target or Walmart) what does this mean for banks and credit unions?
Banks and credit unions must now think of themselves as retailers, no different in many regards from traditional retailers such as Starbucks, Best Buy or even Amazon.com. We are simply in the business of selling financial products and services instead of coffee, flat screen televisions and books. Accordingly, the survey offered the following advice for retailers: “Marketers and advertisers should take note that consumers expect convenience, exceptional customer service and a personalized experience at every stage of the purchase funnel.”
What does the purchase funnel look like at your bank or credit union? Are you providing something exceptional for consumers at every stage?
For example, you may think you are convenient for your consumers, but are you really? In the past, convenience was defined more in terms of brick-and-mortar branches and hours of operation. Today, convenience is defined electronically. Is your app up to date and easy-to-use? Is your website mobile-optimized? Do you offer online chat (like Truity Credit Union) for your consumers’ ease-of-use?
You must also consider the other stages of the purchase funnel in your overall consumer experience. Is your consumer service exceptional? Is it personalized? Does it end with the close of a transaction or do you pursue deeper and more meaningful relationships with your consumers on a regular basis?
Banks and credit unions can learn a great deal from traditional retailers, if they open their hearts, minds and ears to the information. To bury one’s head in the sand when it comes to shifting consumer demands is a quick path to irrelevancy.
If you’re an Amazon.com Prime fan you are probably well-acquainted with how the website works. Amazon.com is, in many ways, the flagship example of how modern consumer commerce best functions.
One of the more intriguing ways Amazon.com reaches out to its customers is through “product suggestions.” This is basically the tracking of your browsing and purchase habits and then suggesting similar or related products you might want to buy.
That most retailers actively data-mine their customers’ purchase patterns and habits is no big secret. It’s such a part of the consumer culture now that many people simply expect their preferred brands to know who they are, what they want and the best way to present it before any kind of sales pitch occurs.
Is your bank or credit union up to speed on this kind of high-level consumer engagement? It’s possible your member/customer information system retains data (such as who has a car loan, who doesn’t have a checking account, who has a teenager planning to go to college, etc.). While that’s a good thing, your staff must also actively engage with consumers on a personal, face-to-face level in order to gather critical information.
“Sales,” to many people (both consumers and employees) is a dirty word. Not many people want to think of themselves as a “salesperson” and even fewer consumers want to talk to one. The beauty of using the data you already have about consumers (whether digitally stored, mentally stored or, hopefully, a combination of the two) is that it isn’t selling. Not in the traditional sense.
When your employees actively engage with consumers, they are simply hearing what the consumer says they need and pairing a product or service to that. It’s more product knowledge/engagement than overt sales. The old adage “people love to buy, but they hate to be sold to” definitely applies here.
If your bank or credit union is not actively engaged with consumers and using the information they provide to offer your own version of the Amazon.com “product suggestions,” you are missing out on a huge opportunity. Take steps now to remedy that situation.
Moviegoers’ obsession with superhero -related films continues unabated. This year alone, theaters screened Deadpool, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse (they sure do love using colons in superhero movies!). The most current superhero flick is Doctor Strange (which I admit I have an interest in seeing).
There are plenty of superheroes out there. If your bank or credit union brand was represented by a superhero, who would it be and why?
Following are a few examples.
Superman: Your brand is a tried-and-true classic. Truth, justice and the American way. Red white and blue. Straight-forward, to the point and uncluttered. What consumers see and hear is what consumers will get. And they can always depend on you. A good example here is AmeriCU Credit Union.
Batman: Your brand, while appealing, has a dark side. Maybe your brand’s parents were murdered in an alley like the Caped Crusader’s (unlikely). Regardless, people recognize your brand by the powerful symbol it employs. For Batman, that’s the Bat-Signal shining on the gray clouds hanging over Gotham City. For your bank or credit union, it’s a bold logo and tagline expressing exactly who you are.
Hulk: Your brand is a bruiser. Unrefined, uncultured yet powerful. There aren’t a lot of subtle nuances to your brand and it is a brand of few words. Rather than tiptoeing through dark alleys or flying high overhead, your brand prefers to smash walls and break doors to make an impression. A good example here is Navy Federal Credit Union.
Aquaman: Your brand is lame, unappealing and in desperate need of help. Sorry, Aquaman fans. It’s true.
The superheroes that appeal to our inner psyches say a lot about us as human beings. The brands that appeal to us also say a lot about the banks and credit unions that use them. Branding is not a job for the timid or faint-hearted. Rather, it’s a job for superheroes dedicated to hard work, success and a higher purpose. Whatever superhero best fits your brand, approach it boldly and courageously.
Unless it’s Aquaman.
Check out this YouTube video. It’s several years old, but the message about customer service and brand are still vitally relevant.
In it, the disgruntled Taco Bell customer displays the food she claims to have received earlier that day. As you can tell by the video, somebody, somewhere really messed up.
The disgruntled customer clearly and eloquently lays her opinion on the line: “Even though this is fast food and I don’t expect five-star service, this is simply about caring and paying attention to details when you’re working. This says ‘I don’t care what goes out to the customer.’”
That’s a powerful indictment against a well-known fast food brand. Given our age of instant social media access, this consumer was able to quickly and easily post a video expressing her disappointment with the service and the food.
What does the way your employees live the brand say about your bank or credit union? Even though we’re talking loans and checking accounts instead of gorditas and tacos, the same lesson applies. Your brand is your statement to consumers establishing a promise of service excellence. It doesn’t matter how terrific your collateral marketing material looks or how many heads nod about the brand during employee meetings — all that does matter is how every single member of your staff embraces the brand lives it in front of consumers.
Brand buy-in is critical. In the case of this video, a Taco Bell employee (or employees) dropped the brand ball and got negative exposure and feedback in front of a wide audience. Can your bank or credit union afford the negative brand impact that comes from showing your consumers you simply don’t care? Odds are, no.
That’s why every member of your staff, from the CEO’s office to frontline positions and everyone in between must live the brand. Every day. At every consumer interaction. Every dropped brand ball can (and often will) come back to haunt you. So make sure you take care of your consumers in the way your brand promises. And don’t stick a melted taco box inside their gordita.
This entry authored by Taylor W. Wells, Communications Director with On The Mark Strategies
A few weeks ago I was in my favorite local grocery store when I came across a rotisserie chicken. Rotisserie chicken is great but there was something special about this one. You see, it was seasoned and topped with bacon. Not just any bacon. “Real bacon.”
This item wasn’t on my shopping list and wasn’t entirely practical for feeding my family. But — it had bacon! I love bacon. Just looking at the word on the packaging and the picture was enough to sell me. I walked out of the grocery store that day the proud new owner of a beautiful bacon-topped rotisserie chicken.
Successful brands are in many ways driven by purposely-selected buzzwords. Advertising in general is also propelled by those words. You probably know many of them from living as an ad-bombarded consumer. Some of the more powerful brand-propelling buzzwords include:
And the list could go on. Does your bank or credit union focus on select buzzwords that help propel your brand?
It’s not a matter of simply slapping a word on a direct mail postcard or on your website. The word must be authentic and true to your bank or credit union brand culture. It must also ring authentic and true with your consumers. For example, if you tell consumers you are buzzword “friendly” or buzzword “fast,” then you’d better be friendly and/or fast. If not, savvy consumers will quickly see through your ruse and you are in danger of developing a brand gap.
Buzzwords are called buzzwords for a reason. They buzz in people’s heads, resonating true and generating potential consumer response. Your bank or credit union brand is no different and must offer brand buzzwords that are legitimate and motivating.
And if you can find a way to stick bacon in there somewhere, more power to you.
If the end of a brutal and atypical presidential campaign taught us anything, it’s this: you must expect the unexpected. Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, Donald Trump’s victory astonished practically everybody, Democrats and Republicans, armchair analysts and veteran political pundits.
While there are many lessons to learn from this presidential campaign, one in particular applies to banks and credit unions. Just as candidates for political office must know the voting public, so must financial institutions know the people they serve. If not, you will not establish vital connections (often emotional connections) with these consumers and will therefore fail to build bridges to them in meaningful and long-lasting ways.
Following are a few ways banks and credit unions can help ensure they truly understand their consumers.
Talk to them. This may require you to leave the comfortable bubble of your office, but it’s vital. Get out from behind the desk and visit with your consumers. Hear their concerns. Pay attention to their wants and needs. And make sure they know that you care about the challenges facing their financial livelihoods.
Offer solutions that matter. Your consumers aren’t typically interested in a long list of bullet points that explain how a checking account or loan product works. Rather, they want to know how your products and services can positively impact their lives. In other words, while things like rates and fees are important, your consumers are much more in it for how a particular product or service works out for them in the real world.
Respond accordingly. If, after talking to your consumers and offering solutions to their challenges you find that your bank or credit union still comes up short, own that. Maybe your checking accounts and lending products just don’t reflect marketplace demand. Or perhaps your online access points are substandard in the light of today’s technology. Regardless, if consumer feedback tells you something, your bank or credit union is wise to act on it.
Knowing the people you wish to serve is vital to any business, cause or politician. And while your bank or credit union’s ultimate goal may not be the White House, its cause is the same — to meaningfully connect with consumers in such a way that drives them to cast their vote/wallet share in your favor.
If you followed the 2016 World Series, you know it was a nail-biter. Two perennial underdog teams, the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, went down to the wire before the Cubs pulled off the win and ended a 108-year-old championship drought.
Cubs fans were elated. Indians fans were heartbroken. And one Indians fan found himself with a permanent reminder of making a premature assumption with a tattoo of the Indians logo and the words “2016 Champions” on his arm.
Some people would call this team passion. Others might think more in terms of putting the cart before the horse. Either way, there’s a definite brand lesson to learn here: before you spend a great deal of time, money and energy on your brand, you need to know a few things first.
- Who you are. This requires asking tough questions about your bank or credit union. What do you do well? What do you not do well? Whom do you serve and who should you serve? Trying to slap a brand on a financial institution before answering these critical questions is foolhardy.
- Where you are. What products and services do you currently offer? What products and services (and red-tape) should you consider reducing or eliminating? Where do you stand in terms of access, both brick-and-mortar and digitally?
- What you want to be. A lot of this goes back to your strategic plan. A bank or credit union without a strategic plan is like a ship without a rudder. Without a goal at which to aim, your brand identity will likely falter and flop.
It pays to look both inward and outward when it comes your brand before you present it to your staff and the public. Otherwise, you risk tattooing your bank or credit union with pictures and words that simply do not accurately portray your cultural DNA. And brand removal is every bit as painful and expensive as tattoo removal.
“Thank you.” They are two of the most powerful words in the English language. During this Thanksgiving season hopefully you will hear those words more often than usual. But the reality is as a society we sometimes jump from Halloween to Christmas. We don’t pause long enough to truly say thanks to those around us.
Saying “thanks” should be a key component to your brand—especially during this holiday season. Great brands focus on people and there are many groups you should focus your thanks on right now.
Here are four ways to have a thankful brand:
(1) Thank consumers. Sincerely.
Thanking people for doing business with your credit union or bank should not just be a seasonal activity; it should be a part of your every day routine. Competition for financial services is astronomical. So don’t take consumers’ business with you for granted. Sincerity in how you thank is critical as well; watch rote “thank yous” and going through the motions. Simple acts like sending Thanksgiving cards to your top depositors, giving branch visitors a piece of candy with a thank you note or having staff sincerely say “we are grateful for your business” are ways to thank consumers.
(2) Thank staff. Creatively.
No matter what your brand vision or brand niches are, it’s your employees who live your brand every day. So be sure to thank them for being the public face of your organization. While words of encouragement and pats on the back are good, brainstorm creative ways to recognize staff. Ideas include gift cards to grocery stores (people are cooking lots this time of year), a few hours off during the day to do some extra shopping and throwing a killer holiday party people will talk about for years.
(3) Thank back office. Publicly.
It’s easy to recognize that are on the front lines; the ones making the loans, talking to consumers and opening accounts. But the reality is your level of external service will never exceed your level of internal service you provide each other. So thanking those collection officers, accounting personnel and IT geeks is part of your brand as well. Some “behind the scenes” folks may not want public recognition but most would appreciate it. Ways to thank back office staff include taking their pictures and using those photos in a promotion, e-mailing the entire staff recognizing those key departments and taking them on a long, special lunch.
(4) Thank community. Humbly.
“Community” is an overused crutch word in credit unions and banks. Every institution loves the community or all about community service. We also tend to “toot our own horns” when it comes to what we are doing in the community. While that is certainly good public relations, during this Thanksgiving season take a different approach. Try giving to the community in small ways that don’t require a public service announcement or a photo of your CEO giving a giant check. For example, volunteer hours in a children’s hospital, give gift cards to the elderly at retail establishments and make an anonymous donation to a low-profile charity.
As credit unions and banks we have lots for which to be thankful. Our consumers. Our employees. Our communities. So let’s make thanking those groups in tangible ways part of our holiday traditions this year.
In marketing we spend a ton of time analyzing our competitors. Where is Bank A building their next branch? What is Credit Union B doing to raise community awareness? How is this new online institution going to impact our attempts to reach the Millennial Generation?
In the classic SWOT analysis, the “T” stands for threats: what competition is threatening us today? Some marketing departments even spend tons of their time researching and conducing data analysis on their peers and competition.
Honestly, who cares what your competition is doing?
You should put far more of your focus on your audiences and niches than your competition. And notice I didn’t use the word “target” in describing your key groups. Why? Because target implies you are trying to shoot or kill them. No one wants to be a target. So don’t think of your consumers as targets, but rather as important groups you are trying to reach.
Ask what your audience’s pain points are. Learn as much about them as possible. Their needs and wants. Their financial dreams. Where they spend most of their time. What they do for hobbies. How they make financial decisions.
The more you know about your audiences—not the more you know about your competitors—is what will drive your marketing and branding success.
Ways to concentrate on your audiences include surveys, focus groups and just simple conversations with those you are trying to reach. It’s doesn’t take rocket science but it does take time, focus and energy.
You are not a marketer: you are a problem solver. And to solve consumers’ problems you first have to know what their problems are. Or you have to know them.
If you are doing the right things when it comes to your marketing and branding your competition doesn’t matter. But your audience does.
Rome didn’t fall in a day. Most knots take time to unravel. And that irritating frayed string on your favorite Christmas sweater, if left uncut, can eventually ruin a garment.
The same thing applies to the brand at your bank or credit union. After all, you spent a great deal of time, energy and resources in creating and launching a brand. Now the job is to ensure the integrity of your brand over the long-term. Letting all that work and investment go to waste simply isn’t an option.
Here are a few ways you can help ensure your brand integrity.
- Active policing. As the person (or people) in charge of brand integrity at your bank or credit union, you must be active shepherds of that brand. This means getting out from behind your desk, patrolling the branches and interacting with staff. It also means making the hard calls when it comes to enforcing the brand with employees.
- Developing a brand playbook. Also sometimes referred to as the “brand manual,” a brand playbook outlines in minute detail exactly how the brand is to be lived. Employees should refer back to this brand manual on a regular basis to help reinforce the expectations your bank or credit union has when it comes to living the brand.
- Continuous training. You probably have some sort of brand kick-off party to celebrate the formal launch of your brand. After that probably came a period of training to the brand. But brand education only starts there. Your bank or credit union must work to ensure continuous training for both new and tenured employees so the brand and its importance is fully integrated in their minds.
If you pick at that thread on your sweater, without repairing it, eventually it will unravel the entire thing. The same principle applies to the brand at your bank or credit union. Don’t let all that hard work fall to the wayside. By active policing, developing a brand playbook and continuous training, you help provide the framework for a strong brand for years to come.