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February 13, 2013

Thoughts on the State of the (Credit) Union (and Bank Marketing Survey), 2013

Filed under: Banks,Credit Unions,DigitalMailer,e-Statements,email marketing,mobile technology,ROI,Special Reports,Survey,targeted marketing,Twitter,web sites — 12:23 pm

by Jimmy Marks

Last night was the State of the Union address. All the big-wigs in Washington, D.C. gathered together to applaud, not-applaud, talk, listen, and pretend to listen to a summary of how America’s doing and what the administration is likely to do in the coming year.

But nothing President Obama said was as stirring or shocking as what I read yesterday in the State of Bank & Credit Union Marketing report from the Financial Brand and Aite’s Ron Shevlin.

[Author's Note -- As this is a "State of the Union" themed post, please feel free to stand up and clap or sit and stare disapprovingly as you choose. Make a real show of it and disturb everyone in your office. That's what I'm doing.]

In the past, this report has been an eye-opener about the world of credit union and bank marketing and this year did not disappoint. Well, it sort of disappointed…because there are a lot of roadblocks for banks and credit unions (and yes, us CUSOs and vendors) to overcome this year.

 ROADBLOCK 1: The “More-with-less” Conundrum

We’ve heard this lament a lot in the past few years. When a marketing department scores big gains with less money, they get even less to use the next year. When they don’t make an impact with a smaller budget, their budget gets cut, almost as a punishment. Darned if you do, darned if you don’t. 33% of banks and CUs surveyed say their puny budget’s a “major challenge”, and some 73% say it’s an issue. What’s more, most respondents say their budget’s going to stay the same in 2013 (41% say no change, up or down). EIC of the Financial Brand Jeffry Pilcher has some pointed words for those who want more money and more man-power — prove your department’s worth the cost.

Reality Check: You’ll get more money in your budget just as soon as you can prove you deserve it. If you can’t demonstrate an ROI, why should your CEO allocate more resources to marketing?

Indeed, measuring ROI is considered a problem for 78% of FIs surveyed. Why? It’s easier than ever to track traffic back to your site and sort out visitors by their point-of-entry. Email marketing still exists (and still works) and you can use it to track opens, click-throughs, bounces…what’s hard about finding the ROI there?

PRO-TIP: Start working smart. Don’t send everyone to your homepage. Send visitors who read a billboard ad to a link they wouldn’t read anywhere but the billboard. Send visitors who get a piece of direct mail a link that they can’t click on the website in any standard menu. Generate offer codes that can be entered during the loan application process for discounts or special offers. Keep track of which accounts were opened and where. Did you get more new members at the county fair or the branch on Main Street? How many people are using their online banking for transfers and new account opening? There’s a way to know all of this. It starts by setting up clear paths between the attention step and the action step.

And when you’re not sure why someone’s applying or joining? Ask.

ROADBLOCK 2:  ”Let’s Stay Together”

Cross-selling and increase in PPH is the number two priority of all respondents (loan growth was #1, no surprise). Way down on that list? Customer/member retention. It’s like everyone forgot that it’s a lot easier to cross-sell and promote to a current customer or member than to educate and sell to a brand new one. I think these two entries go hand-in-hand. And how do you encourage your current consumer base to get more involved?

That’s right, you talk to them about their specific needs, give them useful guidance and promote the products that make sense in their situation. No more “one size fits all” approach — that kind of marketing just doesn’t make sense anymore for something as intimate and important as financial services. In this Ernst and Young report from 2012, 41% of US respondents surveyed say their bank tailors its promotions to their needs, whereas 42% say they’re “not sure”.

PRO-TIP: Never assume your customers and members know everything they ought to know, and more importantly, never assume they’ll go looking for it and land on your solution. Start talking about how you fill voids and suit needs on a one-to-one basis. Through technology, it can be done.

ROADBLOCK 3: The Left Hand, The Right Hand

Ever heard the phrase “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand’s doing”? In this telling statistic, 63.3% of banks and CUs surveyed say they want to promote their mobile banking solutions in 2013. I’m not sure if “mobile” is consistently interpreted as “online” or “via smart phone and tablet”, but sixty-three percent want to spread the word and drive mobile services adoption. That’s after those same people said their top three marketing priorities were loan growth, wallet share and customer acquisition, in that order. Weird, right?

And with so many people in the industry claiming that technology will cost banks and credit unions their personal touch, doesn’t this seem counter-intuitive? Shouldn’t the desire to create a friendly atmosphere and have knowledgable frontline staff mean more than strong mobile platforms? Well, it doesn’t. The numbers, they do not lie.

That obviously doesn’t mean that a friendly, smart staff and a dedication to customer/member satisfaction don’t mean anything to banks and CUs. Good people doing good work for the good of the consumer is what makes a business great. But banks and CUs are wising up to the fact that you get more mileage out of making simple banking tasks easy to do and making money more transparent and easily managed.

PRO-TIP: Make the online banking easy-to-use across platforms and always work to keep pace with new technology, not to play catch-up.

ROADBLOCK 4: More Social Media, Less Social Media Understanding

70.5% of those surveyed say that social media is more important to them in 2013 than in years previous and 5% say they seek to hire a social media vendor to help them. 76% already use social media and another 11% say it’s on their radar.

That’s a lot of wishing. Who out there has a plan?

According to the study, 46% of respondents say they don’t monitor their presence in the social space. 21% say they don’t get mentioned. More than half spend ten hours or less per week in the social media scene.

PRO-TIP: No deposit, no return. The FIs that do well on Facebook and Twitter have an active staff that don’t operate in a vacuum. They find community items that mean a lot to members and followers and they really do care about the output. There’s an ocean of difference between “content” and community. Learn it if you want to stand out from the hundreds and hundreds of banks and CUs that couldn’t make it work.

ROADBLOCK 5: Same old, same old. 

What struck me in the “biggest challenges” section of this report was how often I’d heard the same complaints in the past. Some problems just refuse to go away.

“We are risk averse and/or slow to adopt new ideas”.

“Our I.T. infrastructure is inflexible and limiting”

“Limited data analytics tools/capabilities”


Sometimes, the biggest problems aren’t the technology, their territory or the target audience. The biggest obstacle is on the inside and it affects everything on the outside.

PRO-TIP: Find better ways to increase internal dialogue and solve problems. Define goals and see them through. Increase chatter between departments and make sure everyone’s working on the mission. Invest in new technology now so that by the time you’re ready to deploy, it’s not already on its way out in favor of something else.

I know, easier said than done…but worth saying, I think.

If you haven’t moved over to read it already, go read the Financial Brand’s full rundown and take notes. There’s a lot to cover and a lot to consider before we get too far into 2013 and you can’t make the kind of impact you’re looking to make.

Thank you all, and God bless the USA…and all the bank and credit union marketers working on new ways to make an impact. 

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