Learn Marketing & Strategy Insights, You Will.

Author: Joe Winn (Page 1 of 81)

Speaker, educator, and all-around awesome geek serving the credit union world. Identifying and overcoming emerging challenges within the industry. Also, being a secret ninja. And a Jedi.

Spreading Savings Stories At Your Credit Union

Originally published on CUInsight.com

Why would someone want to join your credit union? Or keep their relationship over switching to a seamless app-based fintech (or snazzy big bank) platform?

It’s easy to talk about the mission, how members are the owners, and that the institution is not-for-profit. But these tell people nothing useful, nor do they give them a tangible reason to bank there. People think they’re making decisions rationally, but they’re really acting on emotion.

Between my business partner (who’s also my dad) and myself, we’ve dedicated over half a century to providing for credit unions. I don’t share that for accolades (applaud if you’d like), just so you can understand the perspective from which I approach this topic.

Most credit union marketing goes in one of two directions:

  1. Explains what the credit union is, making the assumption this is sufficient to convince someone to want to bank there
  2. Shares what your institution offers, and sometimes even how you do so

The first has no direct bearing on a person’s financial life (yes, I get that it’s what enables lower fees and whatnot, but that’s all abstract and intangible to your target audience). The second is what marketers call “features and benefits”.

There’s no emotional connection to either. Both assume a rational decision-making process, which we know now doesn’t exist.

“Hold up, Joe! We’re a credit union, and our mission is always about the why. We strive to help people create stronger financial lives.” I hear you, truly. But read that again. Where is the emotion focused? It’s not to the individual you’re trying to attract, but rather a “big picture” that’s hard to pin down.

Dollars and Sense

Vegetable Pizza
Well, great. Now I’m hungry.

Think of fast food and restaurant commercials. Do they spend their limited time talking about the mission of affordably satiating everyone’s hunger? No, they feature macro shots of their food items, make you hungry, and probably end with a “by the way, check out all you get for just this much money!”.

Bonus points for implying you’ll have a better social life if you choose to eat there.

So how can your credit union use this successful strategy? Focus on your members’ stories! (Chime does this ridiculously well with buyer personas.)

Our partnership with protection product providers as well as being credit union members ourselves gives us access to some compelling stories…and by stories, I mean, “big dollar numbers that will catch people’s attention”. 

Regularly, I learn about paid GAP claims of $8k, $10k, even $14,000, and more! For the average American, that kind of avoided out-of-pocket expense can be life-changing. Surely worth including in marketing efforts, don’t you think?

Our own vehicle enjoys a bit too much vacation time in the service center. Using a VSC policy purchased at a local credit union, paid warranty claims have exceeded $6000 so far. Yet when we reach out to the institution to encourage promoting their impact, it’s been radio silence.

Talking about your mission is one thing. Showing examples of how that mission of financial empowerment saves members thousands (people like you, dear viewer!) connects emotionally. Plus, choosing to save money sounds like pretty rational decision-making to me.

Make Your Credit Union An Easy Choice

Path Choice
Help more members find the rainbow.

Insurance commercials focus on the ease of filing claims, speed of payment, and how their prices are better than competitors. That’s fine when you already know their products; usually it’s homeowners insurance (basically impossible to get here in Florida) and auto insurance.

Do your members (and prospective ones) even know the insurance products you offer?

And how often is their first and last response to them, “I decline”, on the loan documents?

Instead of talking about how “credit unions are different”, share the stories that will catch people’s attention:

  • How Tasha avoided an out-of-pocket $8,400 expense after her car was totaled (with CU’s GAP)
  • When Steve could get his $3,500 car repair completed for only the $150 deductible (with CU’s VSC)
  • That time when Andy unexpectedly lost his job, but had his $545 monthly loan payment waived for 4 months, when he found another position, relieving the financial stress (with CU’s payment protection)

If your marketing simply said, “our credit union offers GAP, Payment Protection, and VSC, and they’re cheaper than the dealer”, would it generate an emotional connection?

Use your data. Surface the real stories. If you can get the members to tell them, even better.

Sure beats promoting that members get a vote in your operations.

Change Has Changed – Your Guide to Adapting

Originally published on CUInsight.com

2016 feels like a long time ago, right? Towards the end of that year, I wrote about how, unlike the way our brains work, change doesn’t happen linearly. Sidestepping any math, this means people are unprepared for the realities of today, never mind tomorrow.

Sadly, few leaders (elected or otherwise) understand this concept. But you, my dear reader and honorary geek, can!

Linear Change

Measuring Tape on Wood
One number after the last. No surprise jumps.

We think in a line. A → B → C and so on. The Industrial Revolution led to mechanical advances which moved forward greatly during (and because of) the World Wars, and this spawned the modern technological age. Transistors launched a million possibilities, and we live in that digital era.

The Small Screen Got Bigger (And Crisper)

Depending on your generation, you grew up with a B&W or color TV available in some fashion. Then came VCRs (or DVD players), along with cable/satellite boxes, and, by then, you might go for a snazzy HD TV. You’re living in the future! A future where you can finally make out the hockey puck!

A few more years passed and 3D was all the rage (and then it wasn’t), only to be replaced by 4K and HDR. For most of us, that’s where we are today (end of 2023). A lot of change, but not difficult to grasp. Screens got incrementally better, with some jumps larger than others.

Banking Goes Digital

During this same timeframe, banking has remained pretty similar. People can have a checking (share draft) and savings (share) account, along with special accounts like CDs, plus lending products. However, the act of interacting with these services couldn’t be more different.

First, there was online banking, which revolutionized accessing account details. In the early days, it was mainly a ledger that supported transfers. The web portal was akin to walking into a branch, only, paper and people-less, and open 24/7 (phone banking is a thing, but it’s a pain).

Mobile Check Deposit
The innovation that put change on an exponential path.

Then, we got what I consider the biggest banking innovation of the modern era: Mobile check deposit. This fundamentally changed how you interact with your banking institution, and eliminated the need for many to ever visit a branch. It also laid the “mindshare” groundwork for future P2P services.

Which brings us into the smartphone era with services like Zelle (bank-owned), Venmo (private company), Apple Cash, Cash App, etc. At this point, if you can’t do something on your phone (in the app or other simple path), and there’s no regulatory prohibition, why not?

These are massive changes, but they’re still pretty much linear. One thing led to the next. Many of us pushed credit unions for years to truly take on digital transformation strategies (that particular ship has sailed). Most are still woefully behind.

It’s time for a new approach. One that aligns with how the world is changing today.

Exponential (or Logarithmic) Change

Exponential Growth Dial

Spoiler: Change has always been exponential, it’s just that the rate was slow enough that we perceived it as linear.

Transistors? While their number (used to) double every 18-24 months (Moore’s Law), the scales in which they existed were shrinking dramatically. There’s a bit of marketing-speak involved, but modern chips have components less than 10nm across (a silicon atom is 0.2nm)!

Climate change, biodiversity, sea level rise, and other environmental issues are also seeing an increased rate of change. In other words, extreme weather is getting both more extreme and more common. Rising seas of last century are now coming up faster. Species loss is increasing.

The challenge today is the rate of change…of change.

It’s Not Just Tech

When we think of change, it’s easy to gravitate towards technology. Its forward march highlights the concept in tangible ways. Your really old phone was hanging on a wall. Your current one is a glass slab in your pocket that vastly outperforms the Apollo moon landers…and Mission Control.

It’s true, tech has revolutionized society and how we interact. At this point, you’re probably expecting me to dive into “AI” and chatbots. I could, but there’s so much already written, and frankly, I think what I already wrote about them explains their issues (and potential) just fine.

Change in Environment and Society

While technology lets us put our finger on specific change, it’s the more abstract stuff that creates real challenges.

The entire concept of “culture wars”, outlawing discussion of systemic racial inequities, and taking away women’s rights…each of these are symptoms of parts of society encountering exponential change and not knowing how to cope. Fear leads to poor choices (and groups taking advantage of that).

So…Banking?

Your credit union isn’t immune to these changes. And it’s not just implementing more streamlined LOS platforms or mobile apps. A credit union is made of its members, and those are just people…people who are facing a rapidly (and more rapidly) changing world.

Credit unions have a future in embracing their past. Sure, you still gotta improve your tech stack (look forward rather than just at today’s expectations). But it’s about growing into the credit union you could be. Change will continue to occur; evolve your systems and processes, retain your culture.

Turns out, I went into this back in 2018. And dove deep into the concept in 2020 with a focus on credit union’s role in society. Thus, I inadvertently proved my point that lots may evolve but the core principles should remain true. Didn’t Edward Filene once say “keep purpose constant”?

The Times They Are A Changin’

Time and Change
It’s easy to feel spun around as…the times are a changin’.

Change will continue at an increasing rate, and don’t feel bad if it seems overwhelming. It is. But stay focused on the things that matter: Fair treatment of all peoples (in rights and respect) and our shared planet, plus the prosperity of society (across a wide range of definitions).

Sidenote: That sentence is pulled from our company’s original mission statement in 2008. We strive to “keep purpose constant”.

Oh, and AI platforms will play a role in all of this (the 2023 word of the year is “hallucinate”, for when these systems confidently make stuff up). That role will definitely be to further mix up the status quo. I’m confident you will also find uses to improve member financial wellness!

And here you are, 1000 words in, better understanding and prepared for the changing change of the world (or just with your head spinning)! It’s pervasive across all areas, so keep an eye out for it, as well as for people who are using the uncertainty this change brings to advance their own agendas.

Embrace openness and curiosity over fear. Credit unions were built to make the world a better place, one member at a time. Let’s do all we can to ensure change always leans towards kindness and prosperity for all.

AI Writing Tools: The Coolest…Until They Aren’t

Originally published on CUInsight.

Can you feel it? We’re in a bubble, and it is expanding rapidly. What makes up this enveloping sphere?

AI writing tools. ChatGPT-powered chatbots.

Incredible technology, right? It’s sci-fi, made real! Finally, we have the Enterprise’s computer or HAL…hmm, bad example.

These are impressive tools. But it’s important to recognize what they are…and what they aren’t. Despite seeming incredibly smart at times, these large language models (LLMs) are exceedingly dumb. They’re not AI by any means (it’s a pop term which has now lost most of its previous meaning).

At their core, they are advanced autocorrect and autofill platforms. Yet that can still be useful. I’ll get to how this impacts credit unions and your members, but first, we have to understand what these systems really are. Lots of hype, not enough data.

Sidenote: I am not going into the image generation models here. They exist, they probably have more downsides than benefits, and I make fun little graphics for blog posts with them. I’m also not including their enormous energy needs, which isn’t great.

Better. Good enough?

Keyboard Autocomplete

Take out your phone (if you’re not already using it now). Start writing an email. Notice how it suggests the next word above your keyboard? If you keep tapping an option, you’ll eventually get a run-on sentence that might, or might not, be total gibberish. (iOS 17 will improve that dramatically)

This is how ChatGPT, Bard, or anything based on them works, too. It predicts the next word based on what has already been output. “But Joe, not only did you have a whole interview with ChatGPT, it can do all sorts of complicated things!”

You’re right. And there’s absolutely a place for this technology. We just need to recognize where it does and does not fit.

What makes sense for a ChatGPT-type platform:

  • Organizing tasks
  • Laying out a social media or blogging schedule
  • Adopting a certain tone in a piece
  • Helping write a first draft of code, formulas, or other content
  • Creating frameworks for replicated processes
  • Diving into a topic you’re already familiar
  • Member interactions that are a step above the 1st generation chatbots, but worse than a person

Here’s what you should not rely on these systems to do:

  • Replace copywriters (or anyone, really)
  • Copy/paste content from it for use in any context not explicitly presented as “ChatGPT-generated”
  • Give you answers without having other sources available
  • Get medical advice
  • Use in legal arguments (unless you want to forever be known as the lawyer who presented made-up cases in front of a judge)

Hallucinations: On being wrong

AI Hallucinations
“Trippy” for computers can mean “make stuff up”

My greatest concern with these platforms is that they’re extremely convincing and certain. I’ve had conversations where it assures me the answer is correct…even when I know it is wrong. Gaslighting to the extreme. This ranged from math questions to factual challenges.

In the legal arguments referenced above, ChatGPT convincingly made up cases which never happened. Why? How?

Remember what it is: An autofill system.

The platform recognized how case records look, how they’re formatted, even trends in how they are resolved. Then, it made up its own to fit that mold. They seemed convincing, because to even trained eyes, they looked like how real case citations should appear.

There’s no motivation towards being “right” or “wrong” with a LLM. The goal of the system is to generate the next word, not fact-check itself. Thus, the tech industry came up with a harmless-sounding term for it: Hallucinations.

In other words, when your chatbot hallucinates, it’s creating new “facts” to fit the response. Lying, you could say, but that infers intent. Once again, a chatbot has no “desire” to be factual or not, only provide a response that seems appropriate.

Sidenote: Interestingly, “hallucinate” was originally a good thing, showing how the chatbot could “imagine” itself as a programming language or other platform. The original definition had nothing to do with making stuff up.

Bias

Bias Scales
Facts aren’t always facts here.

There’s also a danger of bias. While questions about Stalin mention the massive loss of life and human rights violations, it does not for current world leaders. Once again, it’s because the responses are created from content accessible online.

If certain people, policies, or ideas are associated with a lot of disinformation or propaganda, you can bet it will be reflected in answers. Without context or note. What exists, persists.

The Growing Bubble

Expanding Bubbles

Ok, with some background, we can now go back to the bubble. You have noticed just how fast ChatGPT became, well, everywhere. And every tech company (besides Apple) has thrown their shirt into the LLM game as well.

Microsoft has shoved ChatGPT (they invested billions) into Bing search. Google has Bard and is also testing “Search Generative Experience”. Nearly every smaller tech company I know is launching an “AI feature” of some kind, be it Canva, ActiveCampaign, Spark, Adobe, Zoom, and many more.

When a single product concept expands this quickly, across that many industries, I see a bubble. Eventually, interest will stagnate, people will tire of the “convenience”, and these generative chat systems will settle into a more permanent, and subtle, part of our tech world.

I hope.

Of course, the companies profiting from them want this bubble to grow forever.

Google wants to replace web links, keeping you on their sites (and seeing their ads, if you’re not using an adblocker). Nvidia, the graphics card maker powering many of these systems, is keen for it to grow, as they get to sell more units, following the crypto crash (using their cards).

Little players don’t want to seem laggards, so they launch things as well. They’re typically generators for writing or content layout. If these help your overworked marketing team, awesome.

The rush to fake “AI” is a bubble, and running too fast has consequences. Take care with anything you read, see, or hear. You can be sure unscrupulous actors will be using these tools to further drive their agendas and create the illusion of fact or reality.

Your Credit Union

Person and Robot Doing Work at Desk
Work together to unleash your creativity!

We’re here, as promised.

Even after all these cautions, for any credit union not yet using these LLM platforms, I’d still ask, “why not?” Their use cases are substantial, so long as you do not share your member or internal information with them (most systems add that data to the model).

To me, it’s the mundane, repetitive tasks where these systems shine. Need to figure out Excel formulas for some data calculation? Ask (then check to make sure they really do what it says). Want a marketing strategy for a promotion with a rock ‘n roll flair? Describe it.

If you have a blog that suffers from a lack of content, and you have no desire to create quality human-generated material for it, guess what? Your neighborhood LLM can help. Plan out a post schedule, get topic suggestions, and then draft out ideas.

My recommendation would be to create better, human-written, more relevant, and impactful articles, but if that’s not an option, ChatGPT is there.

Human or ChatGPT?

I read a lot of content in our industry. Not all pieces are stellar. Sometimes, on the particularly terrible ones (that I know were written by a human), I create a short prompt for ChatGPT to replicate. Then, I send both results to a friend to play our game: Human or ChatGPT?

Over half the time, we agree the GPT one was a much better article, even if we could recognize some of the LLM traits.

For any institution using staff resources to write these posts, I ask: When a free chat system can do better, why would your members care?

Here’s what you should do

Zooming in On AI Computer
Watch for progress!

Keep a close eye on ChatGPT and other LLMs. Watch the field to see progress, as well as challenges. Understand the benefits and downsides. Talk to your staff to learn if and how they are using them in their own life.

Through your day, make a point of asking one of these writing tools to compose what you have to do next. Get better at clarifying your request to the system (Side-effect: You get better at explaining what you want!). Compare what it creates to what you made.

If it’s as good or better, with no concern of “hallucinations”, use it moving forward!

I’ve commented on LinkedIn how we will eventually get to a point where so much content is generated that the new trendy thing will be to have a human make it! Bubbles and cycles.

Remember, like every other new technology, LLM chatbots are tools. A hammer can be used to bang in a nail or hit someone over the head. It’s up to the owner to decide the use-case. Take the same approach with these. Also please do not hit anyone over the head.

And to send us off, here’s a ditty from ChatGPT:

In the realm of finance’s digital tide,

Credit unions embrace tech as their guide.

With ChatGPT’s aid, they forge a new way,

Empowering members, trust paving the day.

Together they thrive, on innovation they ride.

ChatGPT
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