The American Small Business Institute recently asked a colleague and mentor to answer this question: “What are the Top Five Qualities of an Advertising Consultant in 2023?”
Not one to lie, or waste an opportunity to share some tough words about marketing, he replied with this:
- Ability to write good ads. I’ve never seen a business fail due to “reaching the wrong people.” Businesses fail because they say the wrong thing.
- Knowledge of how to differentiate a business from its category. You must make your client’s business distinctive and memorable.
- Honesty. You must be willing to accept responsibility for the failure of your ad campaign.
- Courage to say what needs to be said to the business owner. This is how you avoid campaigns that fail.
- Wisdom to know that good advertising will not fix a broken business. Choose your clients carefully.
I cheered when I read those words, as they are hard truths not many marketing folks would share as an answer. So much so that I wanted to share them with you. Let me break these down with some thoughts.
- What words do you use to attract your ideal member? Are they meaningful to them? Are you educating, engaging, and solving their problem or shouting your products and services at them? If your marketing isn’t helping you meet your goals, there’s a good chance you’re saying the wrong thing. A good marketer will take the time to understand your ideal member, gain perspective on the problems in their life, and craft a message that paints you as the only trusted partner that is fit to relieve them of that pain. Most marketing folks won’t do this because it takes too much time. When that step is skipped, you’re sacrificing results for time.
- Not only are you competing with the 10,700 fintechs that want to eat your lunch but multiple banks, some predatory lenders, and with today’s competitive landscape in most markets you have other credit unions that are competing against you. ‘We’re a not-for-profit financial institution that believes in people helping people’ isn’t setting you apart from some of your competition. So, what will?Take Columbine Federal Credit Union and Mint Valley Credit Union as examples of how to successfully make your brand distinctive and memorable.
- A post-mortem is always recommended for your marketing. In my reviews, I put all the cards on the table and leave all options open. Often, businesses don’t succeed because we don’t ask for the business, but there are many times when marketing isn’t successful, especially when trying something brand new.
But I would never call it a failure; it’s an opportunity to learn. There’s always something to learn, and your credit union marketing team better be as good at owning a lack of success as they are at pointing the finger.
- Many marketing folks turn into the cowardly lion when dealing with clients. “Yes sir, yes ma’am – right on it!” That’s dangerous. It’s especially dangerous if you like ‘yes’ people. If you have a talented and able marketing person or consultant, give them the rules of the game and let them run. Your credit union’s marketing person or team must possess the courage to speak up when something isn’t right, to tell you not to put your hand on the hot stove because they’ve seen what happens when someone does that. They have the experience to help you avoid failures.
- “Choose your clients carefully.” I’m reminded of the old story about the owner of the dog food company who fired his marketing person because sales were down. He went through three different ad agencies with the same disappointing results. It wasn’t until his secretary had the courage to speak up and say, “Sir, the dogs don’t like the taste.” She knew, as her dog had snubbed his nose at the dog food over and over again.
As I interview potential new clients, I always look for the over-sharer. They tell me how everything is great and all of the great things at their credit union, and time and time again they are selling me (and themselves) a rotten storyline of wishes and hopes instead of reality. If they can’t admit what’s broken, I can’t help fix it. No amount of marketing can fix a bad product.
If you’ve spent this past year disappointed with your results, you have to ask if your marketing team is guilty of any of the above. You must also ask the tough question of yourself, as noted above in number 5. Does your credit union marketing suck, or does your dog food recipe suck? You need to have some tough conversations and gain perspective on the answer to that question before you can solve the problem and find success for 2023 and beyond.