Language and words matter. Especially when you are undertaking a branding or marketing project.
Too many times when doing branding efforts and marketing campaigns the term “target” or “target audience” is used. But the word target implies you are shooting at something or someone. And no one wants to get shot.
What do consumers really want from you? They want to be your partners. They want you to help them. They want to know you have their back.
Yes, target marketing matters. You certainly can’t be all things to all people and you must allocate your marketing dollars wisely by choosing certain segments with the right messages.
However, in our effort to focus we sometimes lose sight that people are people.
Think in terms of what type of people you help the most. Who benefits the most from your products or services? Whose unique needs are you best at meeting? That mindset changes the focus from a target to a person.
What words can you use besides “target?” As mentioned above, try partner (and if you are a credit union stop using the term select employee group: no one knows what that means). You can also try “ideal member or customer.” Perhaps “key group” is an option.
Any of the words above work. They imply your focus is on the consumer and not just what they can do for you. Branding and marketing is not about you—it’s about them. And the “them” don’t want to be your target.
Think about yourself. Would you rather be someone’s target or someone’s partner?
Marketers are word people. We like words. After all, that’s why we’re in marketing. But are consumers reading your words? In all honesty, probably not. Why? One reason is because we are writing too much.
It’s time we cut the copy.
People are consuming their information in small bites. The reality is they don’t have the time or the interest to read everything you are writing.
As marketing guru Seth Godin says, “Say what you need to say, then leave. Less is actually more.”
Where possible, use bullets, lists, subheads and short paragraphs. If necessary, break a long item into multiple pieces. The key is to make your copy “scannable.” Time how long it takes to read the article, brochure, postcard, web page, etc. If it’s more than 90 seconds, odds are they will go to something else.
How people consume your information is changing. They are far more likely to be reading your e-mail on their phone. And in a phone format, that means you need to use less text.
Where possible, use video rather than text. People are viewing far more than they are reading today.
Completing a marketing audit will help examine your materials for length and effectiveness.
In visiting with a client recently we were talking about her newsletter. When I noted the amount of copy in her piece she confessed, “If I received our newsletter in the mail, I wouldn’t read it.”
So for this post, I’m going to practice what I preached.
Cut the copy.
How do credit unions and banks reach the Millennial Generation with financial products and services? That is a burning question financial institutions have asked—and will continue to ask—for years.
A recent study from Yahoo reveals solid data financial marketers can leverage to their favor (if they apply the information). According to BizReport, here are some key findings:
- Most (67%) of Millennials are interested in learning more about finance
- Nearly half (48%) watch personal finance video content
- Most (82%) consume financial content via their phones
- A large percentage (37%) are interested in live streaming finance events.
John Piontkowski, Vice President & Industry Lead (Finance) for Yahoo, says, “Millennials are digital-first consumers, which means they’re not just reading articles but watching video content on multiple devices. Financial brands need to keep this in mind and develop content that is optimized across screens.”
So from a practical standpoint, what tips does this information yield when offering financial products and services to those in the Millennial Generation. Credit unions and banks must:
- Make video a core medium—In too many financial institutions video is just an afterthought. We focus all our time, creative and copy on “traditional” mechanisms (e-mail, newsletters, in-branch posters, etc.) and may do video as an “add-on” or last minute feature. But the study shows that Millennials are consuming finance content via video. Think of all the financial literacy material you have and answer this question: how much of it is in video format?
- Make all marketing material mobile friendly—The numbers don’t lie: 82% of Millennials are consuming that financial content via their smartphones. Content optimized for mobile means short bites of information, easy to read on the small screen and highly scrollable. Think of your marketing pieces and answer this question: how easy is it to see on a smartphone?
- Focus on key life events—Notice that the study talked about finances (and Millennials viewed finances) in terms of “finance events.” In other words, it’s not about conducting a transaction or getting a loan for this generation. It’s about having an event or experience. Going to college, buying their first car, starting a job, owning a home, etc. are financial happenings and big deals. So make sure you are capturing these moments in your members’ or customers’ lives. For example, you could have them video those experiences and talk about how those moments were possible because of your financial institution. Think of your recent marketing campaigns and answer this question: how much of it was promoting a life stage event rather than a product?
The Millennial Generation is different. We are therefore going to have to adapt how we reach them with our financial products and services. As Piontkowski notes, “Marketers that spend time understanding millennials and their preferences will be able to build better campaigns that drive awareness and loyalty.”
For a complete copy of the study, click here.
“Communication and language have changed,” writes Chris Brogan in his recent weekly business advice piece (which you can only receive by subscribing to his e-mail list, which I highly recommend). He goes on to say, “It has to be received and understood for it to be communication. Otherwise, it’s noise.”
As a credit union or bank, are your marketing messages getting lost in all the noise? Perhaps it’s because you have not changed your communication. If you are still using the same tools, same messages and same campaigns from even two years ago then you are not adapting.
Brogan identified the following five communication trends:
- People aren’t reading as much. Nineteen minutes a day.
- Language is shifting. From “conversational” to “informal.” From “in depth” to “as brief as possible.”
- Visuals are more and more core to everyday language.
- It’s even more brief. Like Facebook messenger brief.
- Multi-touch communication across a variety of platforms is more the norm than “where’s that one place I know I can reach them” communication.
So what does all this mean for financial institution marketers? Plenty. Here are four steps you can take immediately to maximize your communication efforts in this ever changing fast-paced world.
- Cut the copy—If you do nothing else, reduce all the words you are using in your marketing efforts. People just are not reading your stuff anymore. Enough said.
- Conduct a marketing audit—The highest impact action step you can take to immediately improve your marketing efforts is to conduct a comprehensive marketing audit. While everything is audited in credit unions and banks, we rarely review one of the most important areas: marketing. Check out this video on how a marketing audit brings success.
- Use more video—Newsletters, brochures and annual reports are old school. Your credit union or bank needs to adapt by using more video. Answer these questions: what percentage of your target audiences are viewing video and what percentage of your marketing materials is in video?
- Use creative visuals—Images matter more than words. So stop using clip art and even canned, “perfect people” pictures. Instead, use real members or customers. The more creative and attention grabbing your marketing materials are, the more likely they are to be seen.
Think about your marketing efforts. Are you cutting the copy, auditing your marketing, implementing video and using creative visuals? If not, then you need to change how you communicate.
It’s all too easy to become overly-accustomed to the rigmarole of the daily grind. This is not unique to banks and credit unions. It applies to pretty much every walk of life. Emails, voicemails, meetings, travel, social media, etc. Anybody — indeed, any retail entity — can fall victim to complacency.
If your bank or credit union is comfortable, that’s a bad sign. That means that you are more than likely complacent with the way things are. If the dizzying rate of change in how consumers handle their personal and business financial products and services is any indication, we can ill-afford to allow this type of complacency in our financial institutions.
For example, when’s the last time you felt challenged by a competitor? When’s the last time you analyzed your core products and service offers? When’s the last time you had a true outsider perspective on the way you advertise and work with your consumers?
If you’re having a hard time answering any of these questions, it’s a good time to consider a marketing audit. Marketing audits delve deeply into the cultural DNA of your financial institution and help analyze an enormous amount of data, from your collateral marketing materials to how your competitors treat consumers to key demographic information about your marketplace.
A marketing audit also offers a wealth of data, both strategic and tactical, that your bank or credit union can then use to fine-tune its approach to financial products and services. This offers a treasure-trove of actionable business intelligence.
If your bank or credit union is comfortable, it’s definitely time to analyze your marketplace position. Being too comfortable can, in certain situations, be a sign of sluggishness and unresponsiveness to change. The hyper-saturated financial services and products marketplace simply does not allow for this kind of complacency. A marketing audit can help combat that.
You (and hopefully your employees) know your products and services. The multiple checking accounts, the various loan offerings, the numerous CDs and investments. But what about your current customers or members? How much do they really know about your products? The answer is “probably not much.”
How many times have you heard someone say, “I didn’t know you guys offered __________?” Insert your favorite product into that blank: mortgages, GAP insurance, business services, free ATMs, leases, investments, etc.
Think about this issue as a math problem. On a scale of one percent (low—they know nothing) to 100 percent (high—they know everything), what is the average percentage your existing customers or members know that you offer? We’re talking about people who already actually do business with you. They already have something with you (a savings account, a checking account, an auto loan, etc.).
Is it 20%, 30%, higher or lower? My guess is it is probably somewhere between 20 to 30 percent. But think about that: that means the average person doing business with you today probably doesn’t know 70% of all the great financial products and services you have.
Let’s take another step with that math problem. What would happen to your bottom line if you reduced that knowledge gap from 70% to 50%? In other words, what would happen if all your current consumers knew at least half of what you offered?
The answer: they would do more business with you!
So what is the solution to this simple math problem? You have to close the awareness gap.
There are two “levels” to closing this awareness gap: the personal level and the mass level.
The personal level refers to getting your employees to inform current members/customers in their one on one personal interactions. Every time they have a conversation or are doing a transaction, simply say something like “I’m glad you have your checking account with us. Do you also know we also offer great investment services?” or “Thanks for cashing your check. I noticed you’re driving a new vehicle. Do you know we have great rates and we can probably save you money if you finance it with us?”
The mass level refers to communication efforts on a larger scale. These include your e-mails, your website, your newsletters and any other mediums and mechanisms you use. It can take the simple form of a product spotlight, a testimonial from someone currently using a product or the top benefits from a particular service.
Marketing is not rocket science. In many cases, it is just getting your existing members or customers to become more aware of what you can do for them.
You can grow your credit union or bank exponentially in 2017 not by adding one single new consumer, but rather getting your entire existing core base to get one more new product or service.