by Greg Crandell
Research used to be a chore. If you were researching a broad topic, you had to go to your very expensive set of encyclopedias. If you wanted to know about something more modern and changing, you had to visit a library (gasp!). The Internet changed all that by making everything you could ever want to know easy to access and easy to act on, whether it’s on your computer or on your smart phone.
The more our lives are made simple by the Internet, the more we come to lean on it and the more frustrated we get when we don’t have it. While these past twenty years have seen great strides forward for the Internet, banks and credit unions stay behind the curve. Many financial institutions don’t realize how much information is out there and how far removed their websites and marketing efforts are compared to the billion dollar institutions that drown search engines in traffic and links.
As Terry Jones of Travelocity.com wrote about in a recent CU Times article:
Over 50% of U.S. retail will be affected by Internet search in just two years. And that has changed the world of marketing.
Marketing used to be a one-way street–the brand talking to you. Now marketing is a two-way street as consumers are involved and engaged with blogs, wikis, shared video and social networks. And perhaps this is why Yellow Pages sales are expected to decrease 40% during the next four years.
One of the best ways to build trust with a prospective client is to tell them what other people think. Online retailers do that with reviews. In your world, testimonials serve the same purpose. Testimonials are a very powerful way to begin to build trust.
Once a client has purchased, use email to effectively deepen your relationship. Email can cross sell, introduce new products and keep you top of mind.
Good points, all. I wrote a response to this article as a letter to the editor, an excerpt of which is below.
Today’s credit unions must keep up. That means developing a strong online presence, a personalized email messaging program, a system to offer mobile access and notifications, and an interactive, two-way marketing focus. Credit unions need to be available and make information easily accessible 24/7. It’s what today’s members expect.
We are an industry that was built on personal relationships. But even in a relationship business – and I would argue especially in a relationship business–connecting with today’s members using traditional and digital means is a smart strategy for success. The time to make a commitment to digital is now.
It’s those personal, powerful connections, combined with instant access to information and very little breakage/confusion that are going to pull the smart credit unions along while others fail. Having an online banking product, a website, and emails that stand out and make a case, not to every consumer but to the individual will mean everything.
Financial institutions also need to learn that “searching” is a two-way street. Yes, customers and members can look up information about you and your competitors all they want. Your information about them is, likewise, very powerful. Take a look at this article from Roger Ahern of Experian:
Critical decisions regarding creditworthiness, fraud prevention or lifelong customer loyalty can be made (or lost) with each transaction. Increasingly, these transactions are as anonymous as a drive-through order box. With more and more Net-savvy customers conducting business online or via mobile devices, the window for up-selling or making critical risk assessments is open very briefly.
Instant prescreening becomes even more critical when used as an upstream filter to prevent fraud, increase revenue and minimize losses on applicants with the highest risk. Using powerful decisioning capabilities, the instant prescreen process accesses current credit information in real time via a “soft” inquiry (which doesn’t impact the customer’s credit report) and calculates predictive variables as well as fraud and risk scores.
The process then provides an assessment of whether a candidate should be prequalified and, if so, which specific offer best fits the customer’s needs. These scoring values can be set to adjustable thresholds depending on the value of the offer or the acceptable risk tolerance.
In short, yes, being easy to find and easy to use is important. But it’s just as important to find all the information available to you about your consumer and market smart, not hard.