By Colleen Cormier, Account Executive for On the Mark Strategies
My son turned 14 recently. To help him celebrate, we took him and a group of his friends to an escape room, then head to a pizza buffet. Is there anything better than unlimited pizza for teenage boys? Unfortunately, that plan came to a screeching halt when we entered the restaurant.
About five feet into the establishment, we were “greeted” by a man behind a counter in a logo T-shirt who said, “We close in 20 minutes.” The buffet still had pizza on it, so I asked him if they would be adding to it before closing. He said, “we might consider a special request.”
We turned around and left, which is what your customers or members (or potential ones) would do if someone at your financial institution greeted them with such blatant rudeness. It was their loss and your gain, because here’s what you can learn from Pizza Inn’s poor service.
You only get one chance to make a first impression. I know it’s cliché, but it’s true. We easily had five other restaurant choices without having to get back in the truck. How many other choices do consumers have if they walk out of your financial institution unhappy? If there’s at least one other bank or credit union in sight, you can pretty much guarantee they won’t be back.
Always deliver on your brand promise. I walked in carrying a huge birthday cake. It should have been obvious to anyone with functioning eyesight that this was more than a group of people visiting a buffet. We were there to celebrate a special occasion, and Pizza Inn took that away from us. I was curious to see how that behavior compared with their brand promise, so I did some research. The Pizza Inn website reads, “It’s been a privilege serving loyal guests for more than three generations. Come and start your own family tradition with us today!” I don’t think this is the treatment Pizza Inn had in mind when it created its brand plan.
Consistency is key to a successful brand. We arrived at 8:30 p.m. According to the restaurant’s website, it is supposed to be open until 11 p.m. on Friday evenings. When we walked past the building at 9:30 p.m. to get back to our car, the place was dark. The information on your website must match the information in your branches and on your signage. If you can’t communicate your hours of operation consistently, potential consumers are unlikely to trust you with their money or anything else. It seems small in the grand scheme of things, but everything matters in branding. You must be consistent, even with the smallest details.
As much as I like Pizza Inn’s food, this experience left a bad taste in my mouth. I won’t return to that location, and my brand loyalty is questionable at this point. Perhaps Pizza Inn can afford to lose customers. I’m guessing your financial institution cannot.
What do credit union chief executive officers want from their chief marketing officers (or the person leading their marketing efforts)? That is a burning question Jeff Rendel sought to answer. He presented his findings at CUNA’s Marketing & Business Development Certification School (which if you have not attended is a “must do” event for every credit union marketer or business development person).
As part of his research, Rendel received over 400 responses from credit union CEOs.
“Talent is overrated,” Rendel said. “The responses showed that 61% of CEOs are not satisfied with the innovation shown by their CMOs and 53% of CEOs feel they aren’t getting the strategic thinking they need from marketing.” He went on to note that 47% of CEOs are unsatisfied with the level of agility demonstrated by their CMOs and 51% of CEOs are looking for better member insights from their marketing leaders.
So what do CEOs really want from their marketing team? According to Rendel, four traits were paramount:
- Strategic thinking
- Member insights
“Marketers must keep up with the pace of change,” Rendel noted. “What impresses the CEO is when the marketer thinks more strategically and delivers bottom line results.”
Through his interviews and responses, Rendel offered the new CMO job description:
- Member intelligence expertise—know what members want
- Help drive the business strategy—have strategic thinking across all disciplines
- Forward thinker—ability to create the future
- Teamwork—collaborate and involve other departments
- Agility—keep an open mind and respond quickly
- Business growth—have an ability to generate and grow profitable sales revenue
Rendel added the following list of items that REALLY impress the CEO:
- Delivering the impossible
- Leading change; being uncomfortable with comfortable
- Aligning marketing with strategy
- Leveraging digital and data for growth
Impressing your CEO is not about designing a really cool looking brochure or newsletter. It’s about thinking strategically, focusing on the member and delivering results.
“Can you hear me now?” is a question made popular by Verizon several years ago. Now their competitor Sprint is making fun of and using Verizon’s former spokesperson in a new marketing campaign.
But are you hearing what consumers are saying about your credit union or bank’s marketing? In his book Content, Inc., author Joe Puluzzi says, “Listening posts are all about getting as much feedback from a variety of sources as possible so you can find the truth.” Marketing is not just about sending. It’s about receiving. It’s about listening.
Want to improve your marketing’s effectiveness? Then try listening more to consumers.
Here are three ways to setup listing posts when it comes to your marketing:
- Surveys—Ask your members or customers what they really think about you. They’ll tell you. But watch “bland” and “boring” questions. When helping our clients develop their brand plans, we often survey consumers to get a feel for how they truly perceive their financial institution. One of our favorite questions to ask is, “If ABC Credit Union or Bank were a car, what type of car would it be?” That is a more emotional question and elicits deeper level insights into how they really perceive you.
- Conversations—One of the absolute best ways to discover what people think about your marketing is simply to talk with them. Sometimes the higher we move up the organizational chart the farther away we get from the consumers we serve. So when I was an executive at a financial institution I would routinely visit the branches and just chat with people who were coming in. Ask them what they think about your website, whey they bank with you and what matters to them in financial services. It’s amazing the insights you can learn from a short five-minute conversation.
- Social media—Are your people saying anything about you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social channels? Granted, many folks use social media to vent their anger. However, reviewing your Facebook account to see likes, comments, complaints, etc. offers a trove of information. Do people love you, hate you or even worse are they indifferent about you? Remember, social media is “social.” If you are only using social media to distribute information you are missing an opportunity.
And what happens if after you establish these listening posts you hear absolutely nothing? Crickets. Silence. That actually tells you quite a bit as well. It tells you no one is hearing your marketing messages. Probably because it is too boring. Remember, no one talks about a boring business.
And no one succeeds with their marketing unless they are listening.
Note: This article originally ran October 4, 2016.
Fall is a love/hate relationship for credit union and banking marketers. Love football season—hate budget season. Love falling leaves—hate falling budgets. Love cool temperatures—hate hot budget conversations.
Yes, it is indeed budget season in many credit unions and banks. A time for heated discussion on the financial instruction’s bottom line. Forget strategic planning—the true strategic priorities are often determined in the budget season and not the planning season. This is when you decide if you have the resolve (budget) to meet those strategic objectives you’ve set.
There are a number of items your credit union or bank should consider as you carefully make your 2018 plans.
Here are a few:
- Your marketing audit—We audit everything in the financial services industry. But one area that is sometimes skipped in auditing is marketing. A marketing audit will review all your pieces for consistency while also giving you strategic and tactical ideas. As one of our clients said recently of the marketing audit, “It gave us great feedback on where we need to focus our energies to grow better and serve our members. Having a fresh set of eyes on all your materials is a great way to better your brand.” Don’t let 2018 pass you by without reviewing your marketing.
- Your journey map—What is it like for someone to do business with your financial institution? Have you actually taken the time to map both the process and the experience? And then have you trained your employees to that experience? In other words, you need to operationalize your brand. Engagement training impacts the bottom line so significantly that many institutions are replacing sales & service training with engagement training. Don’t let 2018 pass you by without investing in your journey.
- Your digital efforts—Traditional marketing is not just changing; it HAS changed. Direct mail, billboards, TV, radio and even statement inserts are all going the way of the dinosaur. In a recent conversation I had with James Robert Lay, the CEO of the Digital Growth Institute, he noted that about 35% of all your marketing budget at a credit union or bank should be devoted to digital marketing. Don’t let 2018 pass you by without increasing your digital marketing spend.
- Your brand—Branding touches everything. As Ray Davis, former CEO of Umpqua Bank said in Leading for Growth, “If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know your brand is just about the most valuable marketing asset you’ve got.” If your brand truly is your most valuable asset, then how are you investing in that asset? Two practical steps you can take include developing a brand plan and conducting brand training for your employees. Don’t let 2018 pass you by without leading your brand.
Your budget conveys your priorities. You will notice a theme for 2018: your priorities should include your marketing, your experience, your technology and your brand. If you spend your dollars in those areas, you will reap the return.
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.