Why your credit union should stop marketing, stop selling, and start helping

Over the past five years, we’ve been hearing about the disruption of banking resulting from an evolving consumer and the rise of non-traditional competitors. Now, much of this debate has revolved around the purpose and future of the branch.

Will the branch die?

Will it stay?

Will it change?

But throughout these conversations, the most important element that should be driving these debates has been lost.

Re-enter the consumer.

Not only has the consumer been sidestepped in these “bank of the future” conversations, but I believe the consumer has been forgotten in our marketing and sales methodologies. One way this manifests itself is the way banks and credit unions continue to structure their marketing campaigns.

In our credit union digital marketing engagements, we find that many clients continue to operate around product marketing calendar. For example, in the spring, a client may develop an auto loan campaign and then as summer rolls around, the focus shifts to executing a home loan initiative. Then when fall approaches, the financial institution’s moves on to marketing student loans. And then finally in the winter, the credit union launches a holiday loan campaign.

And the cycle repeats itself.

The problem with these marketing calendars is that they are driven by the needs of the financial institution and not the consumer.

Become Yoda

It’s time to reconstruct this outdated paradigm. Because what consumers really want is a fulfillment of their hopes and dreams, not marketing that’s a veiled attempt at promoting the needs of the credit union.

At this point, how a consumer’s journey ends in terms of how they apply for a loan or a new account is irrelevant. It could be in the branch. It could be over the phone. It could be online.

What’s more important is how credit unions can help guide consumers beyond their questions and concerns and get them to that point at which they’re ready to sit down and complete an application for a banking product or loan.

Watch: Credit union digital marketing video >>>

Last year, Kirk Cheyfitz, CEO of Story Worldwide, shared his thoughts about the current state of marketing and advertising: “The news media business got theirs. Then the music business; the book business. Now it’s advertising’s turn. This is not a positioning, messaging, or PR problem. This is a fundamental product problem. Translated into the language of advertising, ‘The consumers are rejecting our products.’”

He emphasized that it’s time to put the audience first — a simple concept that’s not always easy to execute. He said that what’s important is finding out what really matters to the audience. Otherwise, you end up delivering too many messages that don’t matter to a single real person.

I agree that no one likes to be sold to.

Instead, consumers don’t mind being helped, especially when it comes to fulfilling their own agenda, not that of a credit union.

Marketing is Not About You

The goal for those of us in financial services marketing should be to focus on the consumer’s needs.

As Kirk Cheyfitz suggests, being consumer-centric is a straightforward concept, but one that’s easy to overlook. So it bears repeating. Say it with me aloud: “My marketing is not about me.”

Maybe you agree with me. However, I understand that it’s a complete shift from how we’ve been marketing for decades — which is why this new paradigm may be hard for others in your credit union to accept.

Read: The credit union digital marketing story >>>

Banks and credit unions all promote the same commoditized “great rates” and “amazing service.” But when this happens, the message is inherently focused on the wants of the financial institution, not the needs of the consumer.

We need to change this narrative because it’s no longer relevant. Worse, it’s a recipe for failure.

“The Internet uncorked the genie of audience control,” Cheyfitz continued. “It is never going back in the bottle. It’s time to deliver really valuable experiences to ’empowered and skeptical’ audiences. It’s time for compelling stories, honest information, standing for something more than the next sale and being something more than a series of product claims.”

What this means is that it’s time for credit unions to make some hard decisions and choose to stop marketing, stop selling, and help to achieve digital growth.

It’s Time to Make a Choice

That’s not to say that the example of having a marketing calendar is inherently wrong or misguided. There are certainly applicable times to promote a specific product or service based on consumer behaviors and trends.

But it’s important to remember that consumers are driven by their own needs. Because a consumer will need a car loan when their car breaks down. And the time in which this happens probably won’t coincide with your internal marketing calendar to promote auto loans.

As we look forward, we have a chance to start with a clean slate when it comes to marketing our credit union within the communities we serve.

But you’ll have to make a choice: Either continue promoting “great rates” and “amazing service” or find the courage to stop marketing, stop selling, and give your consumers the guidance they really want — beyond their questions and concerns and toward their hopes and dreams.

Doing the right thing requires leadership and making tough decisions. But the upside is that you’ll connect with your customers and create marketing content that will help your credit union grow.

Jonathan Lay

Jonathan Lay

As Senior  Advisor at CU Grow, Jonathan Lay helps banks and credit unions use digital marketing to tell stories that sell. He brings over a decade of digital marketing experience ... Web: www.cugrow.com Details