Sales and Onboarding Failure

Sales and Onboarding Failure

I recently received an e-mail from a salesperson at a company whose product I was test driving. I had a two-week trial period, then converted the account to permanent usage. Two days later, I received an e-mail from someone at the company asking how the trial went. He also asked what it would take to convince me to use their product. At least one person at that company had not gotten the memo that I was already a customer. I generally delete sales e-mails, but this presents an important teaching moment that I felt compelled to share.

I deleted the e-mail and brushed it off as a hiccup in their process, but not everyone does that. In fact, the stakes are higher when consumers already have a standing relationship with an organization, like their bank or credit union, for example. How do you think your customers or members would react if you sent them a letter or e-mail inviting them to take advantage of a product they already have? They might brush it off, or they might:

  1. A) get irritated that you are spending time and money on something irrelevant
  2. B) get offended by your lack of attention to their relationship with you, or
  3. C) question your financial institution’s competency

Following up with your customers or members is a critical piece of your marketing and sales strategy. If you don’t have an onboarding process in place to start communicating with your customers or members aggressively as soon as they join, you are missing an opportunity to catch them while they are really paying attention. It’s almost like the honeymoon phase of a marriage. People are more willing to listen and get excited about a relationship in the early stages.

But poor onboarding is just as bad, if not worse, than no onboarding at all. When someone is establishing a relationship with your financial institution, it’s offensive to them when you don’t know what products and services they use. It tells them you are more interested in the sale than the relationship. It makes them feel like just another customer or member. That is the exact opposite of how you want them to feel.

Don’t let this happen to you. If you have an onboarding process, avoid complacency. Always look for ways to make it as streamlined and non-offensive to your database as possible. If you don’t have an onboarding process, get one. When executed correctly, it becomes an effective relationship-building tool.

Three Reasons to Conduct a Marketing Audit

Three Reasons to Conduct a Marketing Audit

This blog entry originally appeared on

In the financial services industry, the mere mention of an audit makes some people nervous. Often, they start second guessing themselves. What if we made a mistake? What if we’re not as stable as we thought we were? What if they tell us we need help?

Here’s the question they should be asking. If you have the chance to be even better than you already are, don’t you want to take advantage of that opportunity?

Financial institutions conduct financial audits all the time, but how many conduct marketing audits? Aside from the ones we work with, very few actually do this.

A marketing audit, as the name implies, is an examination of your financial institution’s marketing collateral, website, social media presence, marketing budget, marketing calendar and marketing strategies. Most of the time, a thorough marketing audit also includes mystery shops of not only your branches, but of your competition’s branches, as well. A marketing audit is a unique opportunity to have an objective third party identify the strengths and weaknesses in your marketing initiatives and observe whether or not what you advertise (i.e. convenience, friendly service, etc.) is actually being executed at your branches. If your financial institution has never been through a marketing audit, here are three reasons you should consider it.

  1. A marketing audit helps your marketing budget

Every marketing budget has a limit, and most marketers say theirs is too small. A marketing audit identifies how much you should be spending and the most effective ways to spend it. If something isn’t working, why should you continue spending money doing it? On the flip side, you may have a campaign you’d like to do more often, but you don’t have the budget to do it. Stopping what isn’t effective clears up more money to do what is effective.

  1. A marketing audit identifies brand gaps

Your job as a marketer is to promote your financial institution and generate interest in consumers. That all becomes pointless if consumers do not receive the service in your branches and call center that you promise in your marketing collateral. That’s a brand gap. You could have the most attractive, attention-getting marketing collateral in the industry, but have nobody to reinforce that in other parts of your financial institution. A marketing audit identifies those brand gaps and provides recommendations on how to close them so your entire organization is more efficient.

  1. A marketing audit gives you permission to say no

It’s no secret that marketing and other parts of the organization don’t always agree. Have you ever had a CEO or other C-suite executive make you do a campaign that didn’t fit with your brand or your target audience? A marketing audit puts the tools in your arsenal to demonstrate why that person’s idea is not a wise marketing investment. Believe it or not, most executives are more willing to listen to your marketing department after they pay a third party to review your marketing efforts.

Marketing defines how consumers view your financial institution. A marketing audit will analyze the effectiveness of those efforts and help you maximize and grow your marketing results.

Your Brand and The Lego Batman Movie

Your Brand and The Lego Batman Movie

This article contributed by Taylor W. Wells, Communications Director with On The Mark Strategies

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to check out The Lego Batman Movie at a local theater. A terrific mix of kid-friendly humor with plenty of shout-outs to the old-school Batman (think Adam West and Michael Keaton), the movie was a hit with both children and parents in the audience.

Spoiler Alert: While I won’t give away much in case you haven’t seen it yet, a recurring theme in the movie is that in order to succeed (both personally and as the Cape Crusader) Batman must learn to work less as a loner and more with the team. The same thing can be said of your bank or credit union brand.

Sure, your financial institution leadership team took the initiative to craft the brand and launch it. But now, it’s definitely a team effort. In order for your brand to succeed, it takes a complete and total buy-in of not just your leadership team but also, critically, your staff. And by staff, I mean everyone — front-line, back-office, IT, HR, you name it. Everyone has to believe in the brand and live it in front of each other and in front of your consumers every day in order for it to survive.

Application Point: A number of banks and credit unions invest a great deal of time and money in creating a brand and then simply launch it to the public with little to no training for their staff. This is somewhat like taking a friend to a fishing hole jumping with fish but refusing to give him a worm for his hook. Without that training tool, your staff won’t know how to live the brand and, more importantly, cannot reasonably be expected to represent the brand to consumers.

That’s why brand training is so important. It gives your frontline staff the tools they need in order to understand the brand, live the brand and represent the brand.

If a hard-nosed loner like Bruce Wayne can learn how to work as part of the team, your staff should have a much easier job of it. Back-up your brand expectations with serious brand training and realize better results.

Storytelling Increases Brand Value

Storytelling Increases Brand Value

The results of recent consumer choice experimentation conducted by advertising agency Hill Holiday confirms the rising tide of grassroots data about brand storytelling – products and services that have a story are worth more to consumers than those without.

The research in question looks specifically at four consumer purchase options: hotel studies, works of art, wine and items listed for sale on eBay. In every instance, those items backed up by some sort of personal testimonial had a greater perceived value in the minds of consumers. For example, works of art that included a brief personal story about the artist were deemed 11% more valuable. Similarly, items listed on eBay that included brief descriptions (rather than just pictures) attracted 64% higher bids.

There is a direct application here for banks and credit unions and their brands. Namely — your brand is worth a lot more to consumers if you take the time to tell its story. This is not necessarily the story of your brand as detailed in messaging like vision, mission and tagline statements (although these are important). Rather, the story here must be about your consumers and how they benefit from interacting with your financial institution.

Application Point: You can have the best-looking collateral marketing material in the world but without compelling brand storytelling it’s not worth the paper on which it’s printed. In order to make your brand pop, you have to tell its story. It’s terrific you have low rates on loans and a variety of checking account options. But have you ever taken time to listen to your consumers and learn how they benefit from these products and services? More importantly — do you then relate these first-person consumer testimonials about your products and services in your brand and marketing?

Let’s say you have a lobby poster featuring a consumer standing beside a new truck he just purchased. He got a great low rate. Extended payment terms. Skip-a-pay option once a year. Loan insurance. Terrific. Now, tell the real story. Give a brief bio of the member; why he needed the truck, how he uses it in his business, how it has impacted his personal and financial growth. These are the key points that consumers relate to. Rates are important. Dreams and providing for your family target the heartstrings and are the real essence of your brand story.

If a brief review of a hotel room from someone who actually stayed there increases perceived value by up to 5% (as related by the above-mentioned consumer study), it makes sense for your bank or credit union to tell the story of the people that actually use your products and services. Brand storytelling, in essence, drives up the perceived value of your bank or credit union.

Re-Learning Features and Benefits

Re-Learning Features and Benefits

Ooops. I said it incorrectly. Even for someone that has worked inside financial institutions for twenty years, I still occasionally make that mistake as I transition from thinking about “features and benefits” to “benefits and features.”

Why is that — a simple reversal of the words — so important? The answer is easy. For far too long, bank and credit union professionals have settled comfortably into the “features-dump” method of interacting with consumers. That is to say, when a consumer interacts with a financial institution representative, that person typically goes into a half-asleep recitation of all the bullet point nuts-and-bolts that go along with a particular product or service. For example, they talk about the percentage rate of a certain lending product or how many boxes of free checks you get with this type checking account.

While features are not a bad thing (and financial institution professionals certainly must know their features) they are a snooze-fest when it comes to the consumer. What the consumer wants to hear (and what is more likely to build deeper relationships) is not a litany of features but rather the benefits to that individual. In other words, “what’s in it for them?” That’s where benefits arrive.

There’s an old saying — “features tell but benefits sell.” This is entirely true. Features are the blueprints of a particular product or service, but that’s not usually enough to entice a consumer to make a purchase decision. Rather, benefits sell because they open up the consumer’s mind to the dream that goes along with that product or service.

For example, while a low percentage rate alone is great, what the consumer really is thinking about is getting behind the wheel of that new car or truck. Similarly, getting a free box of checks with your checking account is cool, but maybe that consumer really wants to hear how this account will help him or her get back on their feet after a financial lifestyle calamity.

Idea In Action

The brand team at UniWyo FCU in Laramie, Wyoming is definitely taking benefits and features to heart. In fact, their staff is so hyped about the brand and ways to nurture it that a volunteer “newscast” developed featuring employees interviewing each other about elements of the brand. In the most recent podcast, one staff member interviewed another about referrals and received great information from their lead referral team member that in turn was shared with the rest of the staff.

“In this podcast, one of our team members discussed her secrets to success when it comes to referrals,” said Tara Springsteen, Vice President of Operations with UniWyo FCU. “Very often, as the employee related, it comes down to listening to our members and then describing our products and services not so much in terms of features but of benefits and positive results for our members. When you explain it in terms of being able to save someone money, the message strikes home quicker and clearer than an awkward and potentially confusing description of features.”

For many years, banks and credit unions have trained to “features and benefits.” The challenge in the emerging hyper-competitive digital financial marketplace is reversing the trend and focusing more on training staff to “benefits and features.”

Video Is Great, But Watch Your Generations

Video Is Great, But Watch Your Generations

A recent study from online product review mecca Influenster reveals fascinating online video preference statistics about Generation X, Generation Y and Generation Z. While many bank and credit union marketing professionals increasingly turn to video to make a brand impact with consumers, they should also keep in mind their target generation when using this powerful tool.

According to the data, 35% of Gen Xers watch videos daily on YouTube, followed by 49% of Gen Y and 70% of Gen Z. So, video consumption increases as age decreases. However, what are these consumers watching? The majority of Gen X and Gen Y viewers are checking out how-to videos and product review videos. Gen Z has a preference for product un-boxing videos and “haul videos” (basically a video posted to social media site in which someone shows off and describes the products they recently purchased on a shopping binge).

What does this mean for bank and credit union professionals? They must customize their video content for consumers with an eye towards generational differences.

For example, usage statistics indicate video is least popular amongst the older Gen X demographic and wildly popular as consumers get younger. Video content is also critical. Gen X and Gen Y indicate a preference for how-to and product review videos. This indicates your financial institution might do better with this age group by creating videos with a how-to approach.

On the other hand, Gen Z, while still watching product review videos, is also diving into newer genres like product un-boxing and “haul videos.” Thinking creatively, can your bank or credit union create some type of un-boxing or “haul video” featuring products and services you offer?

While video is not the “silver bullet” marketing cure-all, it is a powerful tool that increasingly more financial institution marketers utilize. When creating video, keep a generational approach in mind. What works well for the aging Gen X crowd does not necessarily translate to success for their younger peers in Generations Y and Z.

Strategic Planning Lessons From the Oscars

“And the Oscar goes to……” Was it Moonlight or La La Land? For a few minutes, no one really knew. There was confusion and to some degree quite a bit of chaos. Hopefully those two words (confusion ad chaos) do not describe your strategic planning sessions!

All Jimmy Kimmell joking aside we can learn quite a bit about strategic planning from what happened (good and bad) during this year’s big Oscar show.

Here are four lessons along with practical applications (because learning without application is meaningless) credit unions and banks can learn:

  • Start with something funThe opening number from Justin Timberlake was high-energy. It also set the tone for the entire night. He did a fantastic job involving the audience: getting them on their feet, clapping and singing. Similarly, start your planning sessions with some type of ice breaker or game rather than a boring review of your financials. We often will use games with such as Toss Up or Jenga with our clients to not only have fun but also get people moving and then applying strategic lessons from those activities.
    • Application: Start your planning session with some type of activity that gets people out of their seats. There is magic in movement.
  • Involve the “every man”—About halfway through the festivities, host Jimmy Kimmell brought movie fans on a tour bus into the auditorium for a surprise visit. “Gary from Chicago” shared a magical moment with him, his fiancé and Denzel Washington. While you may not want to invite “ordinary” consumers into your strategic planning session, you certainly want to make their voice heard. One exercise we do with our strategic planning clients is the “Empty Chair” exercise. We place an empty chair near the front of the room and ask “If your customers or members were hear, what would they say they want from your financial institution?”
    • Application: Conduct member surveys and focus groups with your members prior to the session; also, ask for and receive feedback from all levels of the organization (not just executives).
  • Plan for contingencies—Of course, the most memorable event of the night was when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway read the wrong winner for “Best Movie” category. That is a moment that will down in Oscar history. Perhaps they could have prepared or maybe done a better job adlibbing. But nothing like that had ever happened before: and that’s just the point. There are going to be things that come up after your planning session that you didn’t think would ever happen. So be ready for them.
    • Application: No matter what goals you set during your planning session, spend time answering these question, “What can go wrong?” and “What type of contingency plans do we have?”

Don’t let your red carpet strategic planning event turn into chaos and confusion. If you want to make your strategic planning session extraordinary then start with something fun, reflect on the past, involve the “every man,” and plan for contingencies.

Your Bank or Credit Union and Brand Intimacy

Your Bank or Credit Union and Brand Intimacy

Increasingly, you hear people talk about getting consumers to like your brand. But liking a brand isn’t enough. For your bank or credit union brand to succeed, your consumers must love it. And for them to love it, they must feel some sort of intimate connection with it.

Yes, that’s right — intimacy.

While intimacy and a financial institution brand may not seem to go hand-in-hand, there is definitely a place for it at your bank or credit union. So, how can a bank or credit union establish an intimate bond with its consumers? According to a recent report, the top five brands with intimate connections to Millennials are Apple, Nintendo, Netflix, Amazon and Disney. There are lessons to learn here. And don’t shy away because of the Millennial reference. The examples below apply to any age demographic.

While the companies listed above may not have a lot in common on the surface, they all demonstrate ways in which brands can connect intimately with their consumers. Consider the following for your bank or credit union:

  • Emotion over logic. Generally, consumers don’t make purchase decisions based on logic. They are driven primarily by emotion. Companies like Disney do a terrific job of establishing that emotional connection. Are there cheaper places to take your family for vacation than Disney World? Absolutely. But consumers will pay that premium because of the emotional connection, memories and family fun. Your financial institution must also give consumers a reason to choose it when logic says otherwise. For example, while your competitors may have more branches or better rates, you must offer something (generally along the lines of superior experience) that provides an emotional connection and generates brand loyalty.
  • Content is king. Your bank or credit union must provide terrific consumer information in order to stand out from the competition. Simply going for “sell, sell, sell” all the time will only turn off consumers. Companies like Amazon do a great job providing content for consumers (an example of this are customer reviews on Amazon). Your financial institution must also be a leader in content if it wants to establish intimate links between its brand and consumers.
  • Actively listening to consumers. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates famously remarked “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” This definitely applies to banks and credit unions. While we all love the glowing reviews, don’t turn a blind eye towards upset consumers. Hear what your consumers are saying about their pain points in doing business with you and actively work towards remedying those. For example, if you’re getting a lot of complaints about your outdated website, take a serious look at a redesign.

In order for brand to work, your financial institution executive management team must lead it. Your staff must live it. Only then can your consumers love it. Love, in great measure in branding, is determined by intimacy with consumers. So — just how intimate is your bank or credit union brand?

Forget Share of Wallet; Go For Share of Heart

Forget Share of Wallet; Go For Share of Heart

Every credit union or bank wants to increase their share of wallet with consumers. They want more business with existing customers or members. If someone has a checking account with you but no loan, go for that auto loan. If they have a checking account with you but no credit card, go for the plastic. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that approach. In fact, gaining more wallet share is often a key strategy for most financial institutions and an easy way to increase profitability.

But what about gaining more share of heart?

When I mention “share of heart” I’m referring to how the consumer feels about your credit union or bank. Not whether or not they use your products or services but rather what images or thoughts come to mind when they think of you. The more positive feelings they have towards you then the more share of heart you have. And if they don’t feel anything about you (positive or negative) then you don’t have a large share of heart.

Here are three ways to increase the share of heart someone has with your financial institution:

  • Improve your brand—The best brands going today are the ones that engage consumers emotionally. Think Apple and Amazon. People love those brands. They don’t just have consumers’ wallet, they have consumers’ heart as well. Don’t think a financial institution can illicit positive feelings because banking is boring or a chore? Then think about USAA and how it consistently ranks number one in net promoter score. If you know someone who uses USAA chances are you know someone who loves USAA. Improving your share of wallet will mean improving your brand.
  • Update your marketing—The marketing at most financial institutions focus on particular products’ features. The rate, the term, the function, etc. However, to truly touch consumers’ hearts your marketing should emphasize your products’ benefits. As someone once said, “features tell, benefits sell.” When we conduct marketing audits for our clients it is amazing to see how much of their material is dry, boring and a feature dump. We encourage many clients to make sure their marketing is emotional. Gaining more love for your bank or credit union will mean updating your marketing.
  • Change your training—No matter what you say your brand is and no matter how cool your marketing messages look, it’s your people who have to deliver (or sell) to consumers. So when was the last time you really trained your staff to your brand or trained them on connecting with consumers? Too much training within the financial service industry is focused on basic service skills, product knowledge or operational issues. Rather than offering the usual training material, try doing generational training, brand training or engagement training. Connecting deeper with consumers’ hearts will mean changing your training.

So does all this love really impact the bottom line? Absolutely. While love may be a squishy subject it is also a realistic profit driver. As Ray Davis, former president of Umpqua Bank said in Leading for Growth, “If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know that your brand is just about the most valuable asset you’ve got.”

Four Marketing Myths

Four Marketing Myths

In recent posts I’ve talked about Four Branding Myths and Four Strategic Planning Myths. While we referenced Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster and Elvis, we also “myth busted” a few common assumptions when it comes to branding and strategic planning.

The same holds true for marketing. There are many myths, half-truths and false assumptions when it comes to the important role marketing plays in the growth of your financial institution. It’s critical that executives don’t fall for these marketing folk tales.

And just like the Myth Busters had to set us straight about if it’s possible to cook lasagna using a dishwasher as an oven, it’s time to bust a few myths when it comes to marketing.

Here are four marketing myths:

  • Marketing is advertising—When you say the word “marketing” most people immediately think of their favorite TV commercials, radio spots or billboards. The reality, however, is that those are just advertising mediums. Marketing is WAY more than just advertising. As Alex Goldfayn says in The Revenue Growth Habit, marketing is “systematically communicating your value to people who can buy from you.” The reality is marketing is goes beyond what you say in your ads.
  • Marketing is a department—Who is in marketing? The answer to that question should always be “everyone.” Every single person at your credit union or bank is in marketing. Yes, even your collectors and accounting personnel. In fact, your staff are not just employees; they are brand ambassadors. The reality is marketing touches everything.
  • Marketing is an expense—Ask any CFO what marketing is and the vast majority will say it’s an expense. As John Wanamaker once family said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Therefore, marketing should provide a return on investment for those marketing dollars. If you try and cut marketing to save your budget dollars this year, what are the long-term impacts of that down the road? The reality is marketing is an investment.
  • Marketing is just about creativity and having fun—In one of my favorite Dilbert cartoons, his boss family says “You will now be working in the marketing department until further notice.” Then on the next frame you see the doorway to marketing, which says “Marketing Department: Two Drink Minimum.” Unfortunately, that is the perception of most marketing departments: it is just about creating pretty pieces and having a good time. However, marketing is more and more about data and analytics. To succeed in reaching consumers today, you must mine all the data you have on them. The reality is marketing is just as much science as art.

Obviously, there are key aspects to marketing that involve advertising, marketing personnel, money and creativity. However, to believe those things are the keys to marketing is to believe in a marketing myth.

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