This year has us examining everything with a new perspective. Financial institutions are a great case in point. Many are taking fresh looks at outdated policies and procedures, making progress in leaps and bounds. With this openness to change, let’s also challenge some traditional marketing methods. I’ll start: why are we still creating those standard product and service campaigns?
You know, those automatic HELOC and auto loan promotions in the spring, then credit card promotions right before the holidays?
Or those knee-jerk campaigns in response to product usage reports, Fed rate changes or because someone on the board had a light-bulb moment?
These actions might get a small bump in numbers but I see them causing more harm than good. The stress it puts on the team to pivot all the time, the constant need to come up with fresh campaign ideas at the drop of a hat, the inconsistent messaging put out in public, just to name a few.
And these product campaigns still don’t address the elephant in the room – how to stand out from the competition. Or even how to compete, especially with those fintech/online-only banks.
It’s time to shift the perspective in your marketing practices from short-term, knee-jerk reactive or routine product promotions to long-term strategic growth.
Why? Here are five reasons to make this overdue change.
- Fix Your “Busy”
“Busy” is the standard mode of operation for any financial marketer. Lots of spinning plates to juggle, late nights, weekends – stressed out no doubt. Have you considered ways to fix that? And I’m not talking about some project management type of fix.
First, let’s take a look at why you’re busy. Based on the patterns I’ve seen both as an in-house marketer and through my clients, “busy” stems from these activities:
- Requests from other departments
- Last minute changes from leadership
- Shifts in the economy
What’s underneath these activities is an even larger issue: you and your team are seen as order-takers, not strategic influencers.
What if you said “no” to pop-up requests from other departments?
What if, when presented with reports, you said “No worries! Based on usage history, this is just another swing in consumer behavior. That same data shows us it will swing the other way soon. We’ll be just fine.”
What if you collaborated with leadership to create a long-term strategic plan and then had the guts to stick to it? (more on this below)
You’d see those last-minute requests drop off, that’s what!
You would fix your busy.
- Table Stakes
Another reason to stop running product promo campaigns? Those products are just table stakes – the items needed to just sit at the table and play the game. Consumers EXPECT you to have great rates and product features. Stop spending time, energy, and budget promoting them! Yes, I know the team has worked hard to implement your digital services or HELOC features, but the average consumer doesn’t see that much difference between your products and the competition’s.
What’s that you say? Your rate is a half point lower? Well, by all means…
- Rate Race = Easy Come, Easy Go
If an account holder comes to you because of your lower rates, they are just as likely to leave you for a lower rate. These are not the loyal members worth pursuing. And trying to gain their share of wallet is like chasing a rainbow. So put an end to those campaigns touting a tiny change in your mortgage rates or a HELOC special. Focus instead on gaining account holders which align to your brand. Consumers want to hear more about what makes you different. They want to connect with you. Promote the stories of how you help people and the community, which leads me to…
- Consumers want a provider with a purpose
We’re hearing everywhere that consumers are more attracted to brands with an authentic purpose. There are countless studies showing it (see a few here and here). Consumers are tired of, and blind to, advertising that’s all about the latest special rate or hottest feature. Show them there’s more to your financial institution than that. Show them you care!
“People Helping People” is a purpose right in line with these newer consumer expectations, so start there! Then use your FI’s unique take on it to refine your brand. This is how you ‘compete’ with fintechs. This is what will set you apart from the competition, not some lower rate.
Plus, a broader branding campaign with a consistent, meaningful message builds better recall in consumers anyway. And just think, you’ll have your advertising schedule and creative assets planned out for the year (or two!). Even more time gained back from those promo campaigns.
- More time for strategic planning
Remember how stopping product promos can fix your busy? The time and creative energy you would’ve spent on those reactive campaigns can now go to research, data analysis, understanding your members – all important activities to inform successful plans. And with that data backing up your plans, peers and leaders will have no room to challenge said plans! Stop product promos so you can spend more time in the strategy part of marketing.
These are certainly big shifts to how most credit union marketing departments operate. I get it. I spent eight years leading one. Habits are hard to break. Getting other departments to see your department in a new light will be hard. The payoff is huge though. The less time you spend on individual product promotions will leave you more time to spend on the credit union’s growth as a whole. It seems counterintuitive to lay off promoting your products. Grab this opportunity to see your marketing plan in a whole new light then use your courage to do what’s right for the long-term success of you, your team and your credit union.