The way people seek information to make financial decisions has shifted almost entirely to the Internet. That’s true for most communications channels, too. For example, media outlets (editors, reporters, producers) prefer to receive story pitches via email and by performing key word searches, rather than sort through piles of faxes. The Yellow Pages have gone the way of the dinosaur.
According to media consulting company LocalMediaMethods.com, organizations that blog receive 55 percent more web traffic and 70 percent more leads than those who don’t. Furthermore, blogs and social media channels are attracting customers and prospects. Fifty-seven percent of companies using blogs reported that they acquired customers from leads generated directly from their blog.
If your credit union or bank has held back from allocating a larger portion of the marketing budget into electronic communication and blogging, now is the time to start. The fundamental shift has already happened. We’re well past the stage of “early adoption.”
Here are several tips to help you get your blog off to a good start, gain traction, and build your brand with new customers and members:
1. Use content that serves your readers. Topics can include case studies, “how-to” articles, common mistakes made by customers or the industry, tips, employee profiles, community news, current events, etc. Ask yourself, “What do my customers want to know?” Using current events as an example, almost everyone pays attention to what’s going on in the news, but they may not understand how it affects them.
2. Update regularly. Readers expect blogs to be refreshed often. If you update your blog less than once per month, you may not develop a strong readership.
3. Stick with it. Make a commitment to keep it going. An abandoned blog doesn’t impress readers about your company.
4. Make it useful. If you offer helpful tips and links to other resources on the web, your readers are more likely to tell others about your blog.
5. Keep it friendly. Speak directly to your readers. Tell them a story. Use an authoritative yet conversational and informal voice. If your blog entries are clear, concise and compelling, readers will want to return again and again.
6. Monitor often. Subscribe to “Google Alerts.” This service crawls the web looking for the keywords you specify, such as the name of your institution or the names of guest authors of your posts. Check the blog every day for comments. Also monitor for advertising compliance, fair lending compliance, consumer complaints and customer information sharing. Monitoring can be outsourced or built into a job description of someone in the marketing or compliance departments.
7. Allow open discussion. Be prudent, but allow open discussion. Don’t delete a critical comment out of hand. Remember, that person also has a microphone in the form of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Instead, allow the comment and respond to it immediately. Ask the commenter to continue the discussion in a more secure environment, such as over the telephone. Ensure you handle the issue properly by consulting others as needed.
One final note: Achieve a “meeting of the minds” with senior management what metrics they require to demonstrate your blog’s effectiveness. Capture all the baseline data you have available and report regularly to senior management.
Samples of data (monthly snapshots) might include number of new customers per branch, total deposits, number of loans in the pipeline. Add Google Analytics to your site so that you can monitor traffic flow throughout your site, the amount of time people are spending on your site, etc. Keep track of the number of subscribers to your blog.
Your Holy Grail, or ultimate objective, is to demonstrate with numbers that your blog has at least “moved the needle,” and ideally, achieved the desired objectives. Good luck!