Socially-Distanced Marketing, Strategy, and The Force

Category: Articles (Page 3 of 64)

A Messenger Conversation of Financial Guidance, CUs, and Puns

Originally published on CUInsight.com

A few days ago, a friend asked me a favor. Since I’m a “financial expert” (Um, really? Oh boy.), she asked me to speak with her friend about credit card options. The other person had a challenging credit history with little financial knowledge at all.

A Facebook Messenger request later, and the chat began. My goal was probably familiar to those of you working with members:

  • Identify her challenges
  • Focus on her goals
  • Educate on her options
  • Develop a knowledge base she could build upon
  • Provide tangible actions she could take right now

Going in, she was open to learning, guidance, and had a good grasp of what she didn’t know. Maybe not common, but refreshing. 

I should also make clear: This entire conversation occurred over text on my phone only. Consider that as we look to digital solutions for all member engagements.

Since the conversation was for her, why not format the article about it the same way?

Challenges

Pushing Stone Uphill

Her story is one you will recognize. She made some poor financial decisions in the past (through lack of understanding, financial need, or immaturity). As a result, she had a poor credit score. Even worse, she saw the score as a scarlet letter.

“No shame. No judgement,” was my reassurance. You’re making great decisions now. That’s what matters.

On top of that, a common challenge across society: Family history of financial mismanagement and stress. Bravely, she claimed, “I want to break the cycle and not have to stress about any of [it].”

Beyond the poor credit score, she felt she didn’t know much about financial matters. Not quite true, since she understood the importance of carrying no credit card balance, finding a rewards card, and avoiding fees.

The biggest challenge was her feelings towards what she felt she didn’t know.

Goals

Path Up Mountain

First and foremost, her goal was to rebuild her credit. Seeing the current score made her upset. Beyond that, it limits opportunities that may emerge.

Accomplishing the first tied into the second: Get a good credit card. In my mind, there was no question her best bet was with a credit union. Lower rates (if necessary) and more accepting approvals drove the decision. Given where she lives, I had a good idea of where I’d suggest.

Options

You know that just signing up a member with a particular service may not be the best approach. If they don’t understand why it is their best choice, loyalty or trust won’t develop. So it was time to evaluate and discuss options.

The chosen credit union has a few different credit cards, and I gave her the opportunity to review the first two. I honestly don’t know which she would get approved to carry. The important points:

  • No annual fee (unless you get insane rewards, this is totally unnecessary)
  • Low interest rate (ongoing, not just some promo period)
  • Low minimum credit limit (better chance to get approved)
  • Possibility for rewards (incentive to use the card, helping credit score)

Knowledge

Brain

Here’s where I got into “Credit Union Geek” mode. After wondering how to apply, it was time to explain what a credit union really is. Focusing on the member-owned and not-for-profit differences from banks, her response:

“I always wondered what the true difference was. That’s awesome. That’s amazing. Makes sense why people have their accounts there versus the big [banks].”

I still believe people make decisions based on what the institution can offer them; a clean and functional app, competitive financial products, easy support if needed. However, the “credit union difference” can be the “cherry on top” for marketing efforts.

So now she knows what credit unions are, a basic history of the movement, and what that means for her. She’s sold. Now, as Tony Robbins would say, “take immediate action.”

Action

Clapper with Blurred Chalk

It’s easy to just put stuff off for another time. And then the impetus goes away. We get lazy. Other distractions emerge. To make serious changes in her financial life, she has to do at least one thing right now.

  1. Join Suncoast Credit Union. Yes, my company works with them. It’s a great relationship. Their members also seem to love them. So why not refer?
  2. Use our financial literacy platform. My company offers Learn4Saving freely to financial institutions for their members. If it can help her, perfect!
  3. Connect with Suncoast’s dedicated financial guidance counselors. They have a team trained to help with financial challenges or just answer questions.
  4. Use my “inside connections” and speak to a certain team to get started. Hey, feels special having a dedicated extension to dial when you’re just starting out!
  5. Begin “paying yourself first”. That new savings account is a good place to start.
  6. Build a basic budget. It can be simple, just something that helps you identify where money flows once it’s in your hands. Especially now, too much is unpredictable to bother getting really specific, and what value does that even add?
  7. Deal with my many puns. Somehow, this was well-received. I try not to take “credit” for my skills. And I’ll be “saving” plenty more for another article. You could even say I’m “budgeting” them for later.

I’d say step 7 is definitely the hardest.

What You Don’t Know

Book Icon

What began as a favor turned into a learning experience for me as well. I really hope it made a difference for my new acquaintance. Too many people feel stress and shame when it comes to discussing financial matters.

That’s a stigma we need to address.

It’s easy to look at someone with a low credit score and think, “well, they just don’t save or spend responsibly.” Thankfully, I know so many credit union people who understand and go deeper.

Because if you only help the people in perfect situations, are you really helping?

How Bath Mats Can Solve Your Credit Union Challenges

That’s it. All these articles, conferences (Ha! Remember those?), white papers, and trainings, and the solution was just getting bath mats.

How has no one told you this before?! The insight of a lifetime! If only it were that easy.

Where did this bath mat thing originate? Great question.

Insights From A Brewery

Our credit union chapter held an event at a local brewery. It was impressive how the community ideas mirrored between the CU folks and the beer team. You know credit unions focus on helping others. Interestingly enough, the brewery operated in the same way.

Brewer and Beer Vat

Most importantly, the brewery understood the value of addressing problems before they emerge. Which is where the bath mats come in.

Their bathrooms have blowers to reduce paper waste and keep it more tidy. Of course, what always happens under the blowers? All that water you just shook off your hands ends up on the floor. Which probably gets stepped in, spreading dirt and making the floor slippery.

That wasn’t acceptable to them. So, they preemptively solved the problem. By placing bath mats under the blowers. Go ahead, shake it off all you want. Water isn’t getting on the floor.

Back to our main premise: Bath mats were the solution. What about at your credit union?

Solving Problems Before They Happen

I shared that story to highlight an important idea: Issues don’t have to wait until someone complains to be addressed.

Look at your operation as a whole. There are a lot of moving parts. Plenty of places something can go wrong. What are you doing about it? Do you acknowledge these issues exist and fix as they show themselves? Or, do you think ahead and make quiet changes so they never happen again?

Preemptive solutions make for a smoother experience.

Look At Complaints…From Everyone

Problem and Solution Chalkboard

Members get priority. Obviously. When they have a problem, and it’s your fault, setting it right is your main concern. Once the member situation is resolved, you have completed phase 1: Solution. Now, you can move on to phase 2: Prevention.

What happened to cause that member complaint? Is there anything you can do right now so others won’t experience the same problem? Perhaps a description is worded in such a way that it can be misinterpreted. Or maybe training didn’t cover that specific scenario.

Address it now and spread that knowledge across your team. And then, progress to phase 3: Exploration.

This part is challenging but the rewards are massive: Higher member satisfaction and increased staff morale. Because solving problems your own credit union caused is less fun than helping members progress on their financial journey!

Steps to Complain, ahem, Improve

Issues Notebook
  1. Look at member complaints. Research support records (simpler if you have a unified ticket system, like Zendesk or similar). Find all the negative reviews on Facebook and Yelp. You’ve got them. The vast majority of businesses never answer. Be the exception. And then explain how you’re going to fix it.
  2. Use social media to discover members’ biggest CU frustrations. Seriously. Make it a fun contest if you want. Call it “CU Peeves” or something. Share things your own team can’t stand, then encourage members to rag on you. It’s like a roast, except you also benefit. Plus, you’ve just increased social media engagement.
    • At the end, let staff and members vote on the #1 frustration and then share how you’ve addressed it. I’m picturing banners in branches and on your website with member frustrations next to their picture (humanizing is important), alongside your solution.
    • Create a page showing how you’re making the CU better for everyone through these “small” improvements. It’s marketing, without feeling like marketing.
  3. Ask your staff. And listen. The “and” here is important. I’ve seen a lot of businesses solicit input from their employees on how to improve. It’s mostly quiet as they fear repercussions or ridicule. Or, they’re accepted, but no changes are actually made. Be open to criticism. Welcome it. Just how you did with members.
    • Your staff deals with your credit union every day. They literally know best its most annoying challenges.

Fix. Assess. Repeat.

You’ve done all these things. That’s awesome! I bet you discovered a whole lot of issues few in upper management ever realized existed. And now they’re solved for staff and members!

Blue Arrow Circle

You’re not done.

It. Never. Ends. This is a continuous process that must happen regularly. As staff, members, and technology changes, new challenges will emerge, too.

And maybe one of the things really is bath mats. See? I told you!

A Credit Union Futurist? Or Jedi Knight? [Video]

May the Fourth be with you today and always.

In pursuit of Jedi ideals of equity, freedom, and justice in the galaxy, we discuss the future. Not in a galaxy far, far away, but right here. What does the future of this scenario look like?

It’s a complicated question and one which nobody has the complete answer. However, there are some good ideas. Looking at current and historical trends, then extrapolating the most likely path…

No, we’re not going complex formulas and such on you. Let’s keep it simple. My main points:

  • Continuing to serve existing members in a challenging time
  • Managing a remote workforce and the consequences (and opportunities) that come with it
  • Commercial real estate and the coming implosion
  • Fee structures and making sure you’re not punishing those least able to afford it
  • Equity moving forward to empower all while sharing honest and unbiased education

Ok, that’s enough introduction. Just be happy I didn’t use the intro crawl. Hmm, that isn’t a bad idea… Nah, we’re good. May the Four…ahem, the Force, be with you!

What, you don’t have Jedi robes?

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