Sell the dream: Your products and services aren’t special

I offer this as a friendly challenge: the products and services your credit union offers are probably not that remarkably different, better or more innovative than most of what your competition has.

If you find that a little unsettling it’s probably a good thing. Retail operations (including credit unions) typically don’t adapt and evolve unless they find themselves in an uncomfortable position.

The products and services you offer — checking accounts, loans, digital, etc. — are not bad. However, when you get right down to it, are the products and services you offer really all that different from the competition? Doubtful. Sure — every once in a while somebody will offer a new gizmo that is different and catches the consumer eye — for a while. Eventually, however, somebody else will appropriate the idea (a nice way of saying steal) and it’s no longer unique.

Consumers come to your credit union not so much for the product or service. For example, they’re really not coming for an auto loan. What they’re coming for is the dream of driving the vehicle. They’re not really coming for a checking account. What they’re coming for is the ease and convenience of managing their financial livelihood to free up time so they can concentrate on things that mean more to them. Credit unions that focus on selling the dream rather than products are better positioned for success.

To sell the dream your staff must re-learn what it has probably regarded for many years as the traditional “features and benefits” way of thinking. This feature-centric way of promoting products and services focuses on the features side. Features (think the bullet point list of things on your brochures or website that describe an account, for example) describe what a particular product offers. However, they are typically dry and boring and don’t speak to the dream. The benefits of a product, conversely, directly address the higher aspirations of a product or service (such as the examples above regarding checking accounts and car loans). When your staff approaches members with the idea of promoting benefits first, their likelihood of successfully achieving the sale rises dramatically.

This type of paradigm-shift in thinking doesn’t come quickly or easily (especially for staff that have worked front-line positions with members for years). It requires a 180-degree shift from focusing on the nuts and bolts (features) of a product or service to the more member-centric dream (benefits) aspect. A dramatic shift in thinking and member interactions such as this doesn’t come about accidentally — rather, it happens with continuous, rigorous and regularly reinforced training as well as predefined expectations for employee success.

Credit unions with an eye towards future growth welcome uncomfortable revelations such as this. Once you understand that it’s not the features of a product or service that attract a member but rather the benefits (and dreams) they offer, you can begin the pivot towards dream-centric member engagement.

Mark Arnold

Mark Arnold

Mark Arnold is an acclaimed speaker, brand expert and strategic planner helping businesses such as credit unions and banks achieve their goals with strategic marketing insights and energized training. Mark ... Web: Details