Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: sales

Clarity. It’s Pretty Obvious.

Originally published on CUInsight.com

The topic for this post emerged while I was at a vendor expo prior to a major run. Ok, you got me. It was at Disney. Readers, “every mile is magic”!

One of the vendors was a title sponsor you may have seen mentioned on this blog: Misfit. They are an activity tracker/watch/smart device company owned by Fossil. I’ve used their original device since release: basic but functional. Since then, they have released a number of more advanced wearables. The evolution of the device I have now interacts with your phone as a camera remote, a “get me out of this awkward situation by calling me” feature, ability to control music, and even turn on/off smart lighting. And I thought mine was cool when it knew I was sleeping!

Their other devices range from a full-fledged smartwatch (like an Apple Watch) to one called the Phase. It’s marketed as a “hybrid smartwatch”. If you’re being honest (and isn’t that why we’re all here?), you don’t know what that means. It’s ok, I didn’t, either. Does it run on two power sources? Can I make it a normal watch, then flip a switch and have a screen turn on? Is it a tiny Autobot? I even picked up a brochure, and the only guidance it gives is that “it’s more than time”. Luckily, the company had representatives at the event to explain. Us charlatans were all off the mark. A “hybrid smartwatch”, as you obviously should know, is a device with a normal watch face, physical moving hands and all, yet inside, it has all the computers you’d expect out of something much more impressive. Instead of using a power-hungry screen, the watch moves the hands around in different patterns, which you have to remember their meaning. It’s like morse code for the tech world. (Was 10 o’clock Mom or Steve texting? Oh, it’s actually just 10:00.)

Now we are all on the same page when it comes to hybrid smartwatches. They’re normal watches that can do some “smart” things. Couldn’t you figure it out from the name? No? Psh, what are you, a normal person or something?

Misfit did that little thing we all fall victim to sometimes; they assumed. If you make up a new term, it needs to be repeatedly explained until it becomes common knowledge within your target audience. Otherwise, all you’re doing is confusing your readers and maybe even scaring them out of making a decision. “I don’t know what they’re talking about, but since it’s not explained, I bet everyone else does. If I ask, I’m the dumb one, so I’m not saying anything.” I’m sure within the industry, “hybrid smartwatch” is a common term with broad understanding. But did anyone check the real world?

There’s a possibility your own credit union is making this same mistake. As with most industries, we do love our proprietary terms and acronyms. VSC, GAP, CPI, PPI, AD&D, and more. You’re right, some have general understanding in the public, but not all. And aren’t you about educating your members to make better financial decisions (which may involve you making more money)?

All of your member-facing services should be presented in a simple, easy-to-grasp way. If a member wants the full details, that’s fine, but initial encounters must be instantly understandable. Take, for example, PPI (Payment Protection Insurance): “Get hurt or sick and can’t work for 30 days or longer? This pays your loan.” Everyone will get what it offers. GAP: “Totaled your car and insurance didn’t pay the whole loan? This pays the rest.” VSC (or Warranty for some CUs): “Car breaks? This pays to get it fixed.” In the latter example, you need to be offering a top-tier warranty service to say something so simple.

And that brings up a good point. Besides missing member purchase opportunities due to a lack of clarity, you could also be making things difficult for everyone by partnering with a challenging provider. Remember, my business works with CUs. No matter what we offer, we aim for it to be easily digested by staff and members, without lots of exclusions, loopholes, or other places where relationships break down. Your MSRs want solutions which can be quickly presented to members. Once you have to start clarifying where it does and does not apply, the sale opportunity is gone.

Ok, there was a lot in this piece. Let’s bring it all home.

  1. Hybrid smartwatches are normal-looking watches which do cool stuff. They show you by spinning their physical hands.
  2. Assuming always gets you in trouble.
  3. Every member service should be instantly understandable (if only at a, “that sounds useful, tell me more” level).
  4. All offered products, in-house and partnered, must be top-quality to ensure you don’t need to start presenting where they don’t apply (ie. A warranty which doesn’t cover sales tax).

Credit unions exist to help members make smart financial decisions. If we’re stuck with industry jargon, assuming everyone understands, while presenting complicated solutions, are we really fulfilling our mission?

This leads me to a future post which will discuss the idea of selling. Yes, you should be selling to your members. Why? And how? You’ll just have to wait and see!

What’s Obvious for You…

…might be an unknown for others. Which isn’t so much an issue until you, oh yes, we’re going there…assume. Consider a meeting with a vendor or a prospect (sometimes you’re the salesperson, others, you’re the one buying), and they keep bringing up a term. It sounds important, and perhaps even central to their thesis, but it is never explained. Let’s be honest, you have no idea what they are talking about.

We’ve all been in that situation, where everyone seems to know something we don’t. How does that make you feel?

A natural response is, “why don’t you just ask?” And let others see your weakness? Never!

The more common reaction is to push away what makes you feel “not ok”. In this case, it would be the other party in the meeting. As you can imagine, chasing out potential partners isn’t a great way to expand, so how do we find a happy medium?

Let’s step into a new pair of shoes, this time, those of that person who made you feel inferior. Can we agree they were not aiming to insult you or give you overt rationale to send you away? They made a mistake; they assumed, and you know what happens when we assume. (If you see what I did there, fantastic, if not, that’s ok: I made an assumption of you knowing the oft-repeated line regarding assuming, “you make an ‘a**’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’!” This would be a great example of what you want to avoid.)

Back to the meeting. How could it have been handled to keep everyone “ok”? For starters, ensure everyone is on the same page, on everything. It is possible you have heard advice regarding use of industry jargon. Short answer? It’s all correct. A credit union which does no indirect lending may not know how the process works, what the terminology is with the dealers, or even the competition. Beginning a discussion on dealer fees, then referencing DealerTrack (a principal source dealers use to search loan options), may put the unknowing CU representative in an uncomfortable spot. Bottom line: If a random person doesn’t understand you, the person sitting across the desk or on the other end of the phone may not either.

Why am I writing a post on something which, in hindsight, seems so obvious? Because we did it, too. During a meeting with one of our credit union clients, we began a discussion of one of our services, mentioning another place members can get a loan. However, this alternative is a last-resort option, known for very high rates and challenging terms (there’s no question the credit union was a far better choice). We presented it directly, “as a credit union, you are in a perfect position to serve these members and truly improve their lives.” Sales strategies aside, this is entirely accurate. However, the credit union executive was not familiar with this other loan source, and, likely not wishing to feel silly, didn’t ask. Nor did we explain. It created a situation where they wanted to make any excuse to say no because it was uncomfortable.

In that scenario, it was our failure. We assumed, and were wrong. In the future, we are going to address these potential issues up-front. We will ask if they are familiar with any terminology before discussing. We might say, “I don’t suppose you are familiar with so-and-so products?” If they respond, “yes, we are”, then great, we move forward. But it gives them a moment to say, without showing any weakness, “actually, no, would you mind discussing that further?”

We’re all on the same page, and suddenly, what’s obvious for you…

…is obvious to them, too.

Write to Educate, Not Confuse

It is an altogether established fact, contrary to what logic may dictate, amongst the academic and corporate business worlds, both literary cognizant populaces, that composing documents with a willingness to dig deeply into the complexity of the language being composed enables widespread viewership and understanding.

So, did that make any sense to you? Don’t feel bad if you needed to read it a few times to get the gist; that’s not unusual. When you are trying to get a point across, do you want to muddy the waters of understanding with overly complex writing? To say something in many words that could be said in few?

I spent many years within the academic world, receiving a Master’s degree in my field. You won’t believe how many papers I read (and conversations I had) where the level of discussion was so high none of us understood what was going on! It’s as if to be seen as credible and intelligent, you must express your ideas at a level above that of the average person.

Well that’s convenient. Just talk above everyone’s head; hasn’t that always been the best way to explain yourself?

Unfortunately, it happens outside the world of Ph.Ds (even they need to re-read the tough sections!). You see it on the news and in industry publications…but where do you never see this? That’s right, marketing.

As a marketer, your goal is to catch the audience’s interest long enough to present your idea and motivate them to take action. That may mean visiting a website, going to a dealer, buying a product, etc. If your limited time is spent confusing a potential customer, you can imagine how it affects sales.

Ok, class. It’s research time!

When you’re presenting or writing in your preferred field, I’m sure you can discuss at a very high level. In fact, it’s probably when you get most excited. Details, complexity, rationale, and research! This is awesome! And your audience is lost. They’re not dumb, just in that area, they’re not as advanced as you. Which is ok. Talk to me about fashion or accounting at an advanced level, and I’ll give you a blank stare that truly has nothing behind it. But, bring up technology, world news, or other topics where I hold an understanding and interest (those usually go together), I’m engaged and following, no matter how in-depth you get. Understanding all depends on how easily read your material can be.

Imagine this: You’re offering a new accounting platform, I mean completely new to the industry, but it is wildly great. Cuts hours out of doing payroll, tax filing, and even finds more deductions than anything else on the market. You know your product totally, absolutely rocks. But I have no interest or understanding, remember? However, as a business owner, I’m the exact target of your marketing…I’m who would benefit the most from your solution. How do you present it to me? Do you dig into the complexities of how it works, using long, drawn-out sentences? Do you present me a 10-page research summary about how it achieves such great results?

Of course not! You simplify it down to its most basic level.

We’re here to change perceptions. We believe accounting should save you money and time, not consume it. That novices and experts alike can generate equal results. We believe your finances can be well-managed without needing a degree. To this end, we created our Accounting Plus platform. So you can do what you do best: running your business.

So go forth and be simple! The next (scheduled) post will connect this concept to reading levels. You won’t believe what grade level your writing should be.

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