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The Elephant (Banker) In The Room

November 3, 2010 6 comments

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the CU Water Cooler Symposium. When Matt Davis invited me, I was very hesitant. “You actually want a banker to attend?”, I asked.  “Sure, why not?”, was the response. “You can bring a different perspective.”

So off to Fishers, IN I went. Let me tell you, this had to be the best conference I’ve ever attended. There were two days of great speakers and a wealth of information. As someone commented, if you didn’t get a ticket because you thought it would just be about social media, bad mistake.

The tweets from the event are only a sample of a information we received. You can find an archive here.

While the symposium as a whole was great, I’d just like to highlight a few sessions:

Robbie Wright, from CU Innovators, spoke about using social media to discuss the hard topics.  He said that instead of just talking about marketing fluff, we should try solving the hard problems.  Credit unions need to focus on the non-sexy to stand out for their customers.  At the end of the day, credit unions are a business, not a charity.  They can’t just focus on “being on Twitter and Facebook”. Social media needs to add value to customers and the credit union.  You should build a business case to use these tools and income is a good thing.

Rebecca Corliss, from Hubspot, gave a presentation on inbound marketing.  I’m a big fan of Hubspot and have always wanted to meet someone from the company. Hubspot really helps you leverage your online presence to generate leads. Old school marketing is interruption based while the new school is permission based.  Some advice Rebecca gave was to think of inbound marketing as an ecosystem, not a cubicle.  You need to target your keywords in order to build your rank.  Inbound marketing is an investment and can build down the cost of leads.  Another piece of advice was to have more than one “contact” form.  The forms on your website should have a “call to action”, not just ask for generic information.

Ed Brett, from Westminster Savings, would probably get the vote for best speaker.  No slides, just straight talk.  Ed explained that although his credit union was much smaller than the competition, they were able to compete because they take advantage of their small size.  Smaller companies are able to be much more agile so there are less levels to go through to get to a decision.  At larger companies, there are more politics, agendas, and decision makers.  Also, credit unions need to be better bankers than the bankers.  This is a business and they need to help people do their banking better.  There should be less emphasis on social media and more on simplifying banking.  If you want to be agile, you should partner with agile vendors.  At the end of the day, you need to bring value to your members.  Ed also gave three statements that really stood out to me:

1. I challenge you to find other industries that are seeking to model their service after credit unions (banks).
2. The only innovation in financial services over the last 50 years has been in ‘access’
3. Your job is not to use technology, but to apply it.

Maya Bourdeau, from Attune, spoke about Psychology in Marketing.  She talked about how her company discovered that small sample sizes gave as good results as large pools of participants.  But, of course you have to be very discriminate in selecting your small sample.  Another thing they discovered through their marketing development was credit unions need to show two times the value to get members to switch from a bank.  They also said to keep it simple and explain the personal benefit.  For example, instead of saying “we helped people save over $7 billion”, say “we can help YOU save $200”.

In addition, I had the opportunity to be on the expert panel about credit union branding.  One recurring theme was credit unions really need to sit down and decide what they want to be.  I mentioned that credit unions need to play to their strengths and explain how they’re different from banks.  Most people don’t know what the difference between the two is.  I also stated that “credit unions can’t out bank a bank, we’ve got that down”.

All in all, this was a great conference and I’m looking forward to going back next year.  One question I was continually asked was, “why don’t you work for a credit union?”.  My response was, “I believe I’m a credit union person trapped in a banker’s body.”  As Morriss Partee said, that statement is “an instant classic”.

You can find more summaries here:
CU Times
unCUlturers
Committed to Memory
Currency Marketing
The 2020 Vision of Marketing
Video of Presentations

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BarCampBankCharleston: Recap

March 1, 2010 1 comment

Well, we finally pulled BarCampBankCharleston off.  Although there were only six of us in attendance, I believe everyone felt that the event was very rewarding.

Jared Smith (@jaredwsmith) from ReadWriteWeb kicked off the first session with a talk about social media.  Because it was mostly First Federal employees at the event, he geared his talk towards how we used social media.

Since we already have a Facebook page and twitter account (@firstfederal), he gave us some ideas about how we could use these sites for lead generation.  One example was using geo-targeting in advanced search on Twitter to target prospective customers.  Another was using Collecta for real-time search about any posts about our bank.

He seemed impressed with what we’re currently doing.  One thing he mentioned was not sending private information through social media.  He said that personally, he would feel very uncomfortable contacting his bank with confidential information through such a channel.

Next, Adrienne Cobbs, from First Federal, gave a presentation on business continuity plans.  Some things she talked about were recovery and resumption tasks for critical business processes, alternative facilities and establishing reliable communications with employees and customers.

She mentioned that continually testing your plan was critical.  A disaster is a poor time to find out that your offsite changed the tape backups and yours’ are no longer compatible or the phone system only has one working line.

Using social media was also brought up as a way to keep employees and customers informed.  For instance, if our website was down, we could post information on our Facebook page and use Yammer to get information to employees.  Keeping the media informed was also a key point.

Finally, Quintin Sykes (@bank_daddy) from Cornerstone Advisors spoke about trends in the banking industry.  One thing that stood out to me was the payments space.  Phone manufacturers seem to be holding off on NFC until the merchants have their systems in place.  But the merchants are waiting until customers have devices that can use NFC.  Classic chicken and egg scenario.  Also, there are many vendors but universal standards haven’t been set yet.

Another thing was the jury is still out on the benefits of PFM.  Although I’ve heard that it helps drive up retention rates, hard numbers haven’t been issued.  So if banks can’t quantify a ROI, they will be reluctant to jump into offering the product.  I plan to discuss my thoughts about this in a later post.

Overall, I think BarCampBank was a success and I look forward to helping organize another one next year.  We’ll really have to get the word out and let people know that collaboration is a good thing.  Just knowing about new tools and what the future for the industry holds is valuable stuff that we can all use.  I’d also like to thank our sponsors: ECPI College of Technology, ClairMail and Cornerstone Advisors. See you next year.

First Federal on Social Media, Part Deux

March 27, 2009 2 comments

First Federal has now added their social media links to their Contact Us Page.  So far, the Twitter account has mostly been used to announce workshops that the bank has sponsored.

First Federal Contact Us

First Federal Contact Us

Here are the links to their sites:

Twitter: @firstfederal

Facebook: First Federal FB

YouTube: First Federal Online

Time To Get Social

Well, First Federal is starting to tip its toe into the pool of social media. After securing our Twitter account last year, I began having occasional lunch meetings with our webmaster and our contact in Marketing.  We’ve been discussing some strategies and have looked at what other banks and credit unions are doing.

Needless to say, with everything happening in our industry, tools that can provide free marketing are starting to look pretty good.  Also, permission marketing seems to be a better way to connect with our customers and market.  It doesn’t hurt that one of our local competitors is also embracing the web in their business strategy.

With that said, I’d like to invite you all to follow us on the following sites:

Twitter: @firstfederal

Facebook: First Federal FB

YouTube: First Federal Online

Also, you can follow me on Twitter at @gpasley.

Who’s Your Targeted Customer?

March 18, 2008 2 comments

Contactless cards, mobile banking, personal financial management software, FaceBook applications. All of these can be great for the financial services industry and a lot of people are trying to figure out the best way to leverage them. The question is, who are you providing these services for?

Have you actually sat down and had a group session discussing your plans for these new services? Or is it more like a 3 year old, wanting what big brother (competition) has? There seems to be a lot of “me-too-ism”, mostly because of fear. “If the big boys have it, we have to get it also in order to compete.”

Whether that is true is open for discussion, but if you do decide to follow the leader, do you have a plan? As an example, let’s take mobile banking. Most FIs fall into one of two categories: 1. Let’s be a first mover in the market or; 2. Let’s see what problems the first movers have and which channel (SMS, WAP, client app) wins out.

The biggest problem for adoption that I see is, no one is talking about how to market this new service. Yes, statistics show that 99% of people in the world have a mobile phone. Yes, even your grandmother knows how to “txt her bff”. Yes, Asia, Europe, and Africa have mobile payments, which is growing daily by leaps and bounds.

But for some reason, I don’t think your customers really care about the statistics. Better yet, do you have any idea what your customer wants? A couple of weeks ago, I overheard two couples talking about our bank and one was trying to access our online banking on his Blackberry. When I finished my meal, I went over and introduced myself. I told them that we were looking at mobile banking and explained a little of it to them. When I finished, I asked if it was something they would be interested in. Both couples said yes and the one with the Blackberry said we could sign him up ASAP.

We’ve also done a survey with our retail and commercial online banking customers. The responses matched up with what consultants, such as Javelin, have been saying. However, it all boils down to how we offer this service.

Honestly, I don’t think most of our older customers would be interested in mobile banking. Unfortunately, we also have an older customer base. But if we marketed mobile banking to the younger crowd, we could bring in brand new customers. Since we have a few local colleges in the area, I think that’s a good plan. This age group also “lives” on their cell phone and would most likely be open to “on-the-go” services.

We’re all trying to grow our customer base. But instead of buying new technology and just fitting it into your current customer base, think about how it can benefit you in other ways. Before you just add that new service all willy-nilly, you need to have a plan. As the saying goes, “Those that fail to plan…”