Learn Marketing & Strategy Insights, You Will.

Author: Joe Winn (Page 1 of 77)

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.

Not All Change is the Same – Credit Union Edition

Originally published on CUInsight.com

How often do you hear advice suggesting you “make a change” or “step out of your comfort zone”? There’s a reason…consistency might be easier, safer, and reliable, but it doesn’t promote growth. Making a change is good, if it’s in the right direction, for the right reasons.

Yet not all change is the same. And that’s ok. So how do we make sure our diligent effort produces the best (or any) results? By understanding the kind of change you need.

Away Means Different Things

Joe Standing on Rocks
Joe following a 30 year tradition of climbing rocks.

Regular readers know I love to travel, especially to see friends who happen to live in really cool places. They’re no longer off-limits (thank you thank you thank you vaccine researchers and nurses!). Far off places, daring sword fights, magic spells, a prince in disguise!

My last post came from the seaside deck of a Rhode Island home. I had a lot to say about creativity being driven by a change of scenery. Perhaps after all our time stuck in the same environments, variety is a hot topic. Consider this, “change stuff, part 2.”

Since that trip, I’ve done more traveling! Crazy, I know. When in RI, I can count on connecting with kids, participating in impromptu art projects, and riding around in Teslas. Really, it’s a tough life. And the inspiration I get from the experiences are unique.

Last month, I reconnected with one of my best friends. She lives with her boyfriend and foster rabbit north of Atlanta. They’re child-free, big on hiking, RVing across the country, kayaking, boating, and cars that go fast while making satisfying noises.

Young Deer
As seen on one of our trails.

It’s a vastly different environment. Their neighbor even built a Miata race car! (I was able to ride along, which was a blast) We also had the chance to go on longer hikes through nearby National Park sites, see deer, and jet boat around on big lakes. More change, totally different.

You Get What You Experience

Each of these trips provided a separate set of insights. For the former, well, you saw my writeup. From the latter, I had less “downtime”. Whether playing complex and awesome board games or learning how to engineer a solar system into an RV, we were always active.

Turns out, I needed a bit of this, too. Sure, I didn’t sit down on my computer and draft out posts as much (maybe not exactly ideal), but we were tending to bonds built over many years. Had I gone with the same expectations of seeing nephews, I’d have been really disappointed.

It’s a bit like traveling to Disney (which I also did in this span). No one goes there to “relax and settle down for a while”, as much as their marketing might imply you can. Many know the feeling of needing a vacation from that vacation. Still fun, just totally different.

Joe and X-Wing
Stay on target.

Be open to getting the most out of every experience while pushing expectations aside. Now I’m starting to sound like my Tai Chi instructor. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Right Change. Right Place. Right Time.

Each day, I read articles about credit union evolution, digital transformation, and emerging competition. Most of these pieces miss the point, which I touched upon way back in 2016. Exponential change means these ideas are already outdated.

It would be like me traveling to visit my nephews expecting to engage with them as they were during my last visit…18 months earlier. Or planning to do the same things with friends, even though they moved from one side of the country to the other.

Or, what any Disney person can understand: Planning to do a theme park with a set schedule for every attraction, show, and food stop. I point and laugh at those people. That’s too stressful, and it’s just not going to happen. Things will change, and you’ll have to adapt.

Start With Your Need

The best industry articles encourage leaders to focus on the mission, understand their staff and members, and recognize the needs. Individual product choices, marketing decisions, and strategy plans follow from this analysis. (We do the same with potential and existing clients.)

Passionflower and Bee
Keep your goal in focus.

What’s the change you need to serve your need? Sure, credit unions are evolving. So is everything else. How can you best evolve to meet the needs of your members today, tomorrow, and maybe next year (looking ahead really is hard with exponential change)?

For example, tackling your digital transformation is essential. But, deciding to add a chatbot because it makes your service better for “young people” or “on the go” is the wrong approach. Just ask Anne Legg of THRIVE, who specializes in that data side of things.

Looking at your services lineup and coming to the conclusion, “there’s just not enough member choice”…well, that’s likely not a great formula, either. Rick Leander at LFB Holdings understands that more progress can come from subtraction, not addition.

Find the change that gets your institution on the path it needs. Is that from insights gained while watching the sea roll by in the Northeast? Or more literally, found on a trail in a National Park? Maybe the bustle of Disney provides the right kind of change.

Next time you’re looking to make changes at your credit union, approach them from a range of perspectives to ensure they’re both the right things and for the right reasons. Because goodness knows change is only going to continue.

That might seem a bit outside your comfort zone. Perfect, you’re already on the right road.

Get Up & Change Your View

Originally published on CU Insight.

This is one of those articles that make little sense if you don’t consider the publication date.

2019? “Huh, I mean, obviously.”

2025? “Oh, they’re talking about those dark times. Things are so fantastic now, it’s almost hard to remember!” (Hopefully)

2020? “Go out? Ha! You Zoom-hack our meeting with many clever jokes!”

Here in mid-2021, I hope the topic will land on understanding minds.

2020 Was Unique for Everyone

Each of us had a different experience through the pandemic. Some made radical changes to lifestyle, with stressors increasing, family dynamics strained, and finances depleted. Others had the “pleasure” of adapting to work from home (hi Zoom!) with social lives crushed.

In my case, little changed. I’ve been WFH for nearly a decade, and 98% of business interactions are over the phone or Zoom. Yes, we were the ones explaining the system to credit union staff before you had to do the same with your parents.

Sharing the Sameness

Cat on Sofa
Do you ever really “share” a sofa with a cat?

So I’m used to my immediate environment being constant. Which was both a gift and a, well, you know the rest. At first, the realization that others were facing what I considered normal spurred a creative rush. It was a perfect time to share how I’ve made it work for me.

Remember all those videos and articles? My Jedi robes? Creative they were, mmm? Mmmm?

Something was Happening

During the year, a change slowly progressed, consciously unnoticed. My creativity was lagging. We still put together interesting ideas for business, and I continued to get a few more articles out. But most of it was tweaking existing material to fit changed norms.

While this was all necessary, it shouldn’t have been the bulk of my effort. Why the shift? I’d attribute it to all of 2020. With a wealth of stressors, political insanity, health scares, and a restricted social circle, it’s the excuse to beat all excuses.

When you’re operating in crisis mode all the time, you’re not at your best.

No one should ever have to apologize for how they made it through 2020. You’re still here? Congratulations. And encourage everyone you know to get vaccinated.

It wasn’t until this week that I recognized the change. Why?

Other Humans!

Joe Winn Pulling Child on Board Through Surf
As hard as it looks. As fun for the smaller person as it looks.

Long-time readers will recall my visits to nephews. They love space, science, the ocean, and calling me “Uncle Joe”…a lot. (I’m not complaining!)

For the first time in forever, I’ve visited them again. Sure, I’ve been to Disney and Universal since the pandemic started, but that’s an exercise in schedules, wait times, and distancing from other people. A relaxed connection with others it is absolutely not.

This was a full-on life with a beloved family. A change of people and scenery from when you wake up to fall asleep. For someone who loves traveling and visiting friends as much as me, not having this for over a year was rough.

And the waterfront home doesn’t hurt. These sentences were written to the sight and sound of waves gently flowing against rock walls and wooden docks. Songbirds are celebrating the flowering trees, and destructive yet adorable rabbits bound about the yard.

In the realm of “changing your environment”, this is about the best you can do.

“Oh, hello unique thoughts.”

Person Writing in Notebook in Park
Let the pen (or keyboard) flow!

When you’ve sat in the same home, using the same desk (or sofa, or futon, or bed, or kitchen table) to complete your work, it’s easy to get mentally stuck. And we all know that innovation comes out of change. Which is really difficult to create when nothing changes.

The first day of working here (in a spinning round couch with a view to the water), I finished an entire Learning Library article. That’s unheard-of speed for me. And that’s between when the kids left for and returned from school.

Then there’s this tale, which I only began about an hour ago. It’s no core conversion, but I’ll take the progress!

Lessons from the Beach House

Sunrise Over Water
That’s a sunrise. A very-early annular eclipse sunrise, to be precise!

You’ve dealt with a lot. I don’t know your specifics, but it’s only now returning to some sense of, hopefully, better normal. To me, the trip was a delightful wake-up call (or was that the kids?). Maybe there’s some realizations you can glean from my experience:

  • Acknowledge your compromise
    • In some way, you’ve been off the 100% best version of yourself. It’s ok. Now’s when we can help get it back.
  • Get up
    • Yes, right now. Stand up. Do some stretches and breathing exercises. Walk around. It’s not just your watch telling you the value of movement. It really does help “get your juices flowing.”
  • Change your environment
    • If you can sit in front of a body of water, do that. If not, find something different to make your brain go, “oh, that’s neat; haven’t seen it in a while…or ever.”
  • Disconnect
    • Just for a bit, get away from your phone (you can keep your watch on for critical notifications), and let your mind wander. Free dissociation isn’t being “spaced out”, but rather, “connected to the world.” Take that as you will.

In a recovery run, you aim to reclaim what was lost. During your slow journey to “normal”, live in a state of open recovery. And be kind to yourself and others.

Let Your New Ideas Flow

Crayon Box with Child Drawing
Give a kid crayons, paper, cardboard, scissors, tape, etc. And then just watch.

For me, interacting outside my “pandemic bubble” was a welcome shock. Part of what makes a recovery run so interesting is that you often don’t realize what you’ve lost until you get it back. This is about running and also not about running.

Connecting with others helped me connect with myself. And getting up to change my view made all the difference.

How will you unleash your great new ideas?

Featured image credit: My nephew, after he took his mom’s iPhone.

Is Your Credit Union Delivering Hi-Res (Lossless) Value?

Today, Apple announced (after months of rumors) some big improvements to music streaming. Starting in June, your favorite songs will sound a lot better. And this absolutely relates to your credit union (when don’t I make the connection?).

Apple iPhone Hi-Res Music
Image credit: Apple

Skip the audio explanation if you must. You’re missing out, but I understand the need to get right to the point. I’ll help you identify what your credit union should be doing to ensure the value you create is recognized. For everyone else, let’s sing!

What’s in a Song (File)?

(The not-too-technical dive into how music works on your phone, iPod, or even CD collection)

So here’s the basics on digital audio, from a guy who puts way too much time into his music quality (When Circle of Life blows your socks off, everything’s just right):

  • Most services stream music at “near-CD quality”, which has some technical numbers surrounding bitrate (how big the file is), bit depth (difference between quietest and loudest sounds available), and frequency (amount of times per second the amplitude is sampled). Don’t worry about that stuff.
  • This quality means a lot of the original information is thrown away, but it still sounds good because engineers are really smart about only tossing the parts of the file we can’t hear too easily.
  • Whether you use Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, or another “standard” service, a typical stream or file is 256kbps (bitrate), 16-bit, 44.1KHz. You can go a little up or down, depending on data usage or service, but that’s close enough.
  • Hi-Res (specifically Lossless) audio aims to capture every piece of the original recording. It does so by bumping up each of those values. Bitrate goes up about 5x, depth to 24-bit, and frequency to 192KHz (usually).
  • But that’s just the technical side, and I can guarantee your speakers aren’t good enough for you to notice much of a difference from just those changes.

You may be wondering, “why bother?” if I just explained that few people will ever hear anything. Great question. It’s also one the music services considered, so they’re not just bumping up the raw audio quality. They’re also adding value.

Your Music. All Around.

Crowd and Stage Lights at Concert

Full disclosure: I wrote that headline before seeing that Apple wrote…hmm, the same thing. Something about “great minds”?

When you have more room to put audio information, it’s worth considering what you can do beyond making that cymbal crash just a tiny bit more realistic. Imagine being at a concert (remember those?). How did it feel?

If it was a great venue and the band (and sound engineers) were top-notch, you had a special experience. Their music didn’t just come from right in front of you. Nor did it sound like it was only blasted from their loudspeakers.

The music arrived as a series of individual sounds, woven together in an intricate pattern. The drums were “behind” the lead vocals, while the bass hung out on the “side”. The rhythm guitar kept things moving on the other end.

Building a Soundstage

Audio Mixer
Adjust the dials of your own member value offerings.

You hear music aficionados describe the “soundstage” of great recordings as they review headphones, speakers, and amplifiers. My Sonos systems are especially adept at doing this. (Yes, that was a promo for them. Sorry not sorry.)

Listen to some Beatles songs and you’ll notice their skill at creating a soundstage. Each of the Fab Four can be heard harmonizing or playing from a different “position” in the song. And though some were remastered, a lot of it came from 60s tech!

Of course, for that to work, you have to be planted in front of a high-end system, or, wearing premium headphones. Not to mention the source music has to be great. Or, there’s some new options in town.

Dolby Atmos

Most of the time, you hear about this for action films and shows. A typical surround system has 5.1 speakers (three in front, two in back, and a subwoofer). This gives you sound all around you in a single plane.

A Dolby Atmos system goes one more dimension, with, say, 5.1.2. That extra two would represent a pair of speakers which create an “above you” sensation. Instead of a helicopter flying from behind to in front, it could be hovering directly overhead.

Apple Music is adding Dolby Atmos to millions of songs. Which means your music, when using supported headphones and speakers, can sound like it’s coming from all around. And that’s not their only treat.

Spatial Audio

Headphones on Books
Image credit: Sound On from Pexels

This one I lament not having been able to try. Anyone want to get me the AirPods Max? I’ll even give you a shoutout!

Spatial Audio is an Apple-exclusive feature that has been described as, “you have to experience it.” In essence, what you hear is “locked in space” no matter how you move around. The sensors in your headphones keep track to manage the sound field.

In a sense, it’s like Dolby Atmos that follows you around.

That doesn’t sound too exciting, but every person who’s used it says it’s amazing. It’s also coming to the HomePod (which doesn’t go on your head), so this Sonos user is crossing his fingers for non-Apple speaker support!

Anyway, that kind of immersion is coming to Apple Music as well. Another piece of value, that not accidentally will also help sell more of their compatible products.

Member Value at Your Credit Union

Group of Hands in Center
Bringing people together for good.

How does this whole audio exploration and announcement relate to your credit union operations? Perfect question. Because you deserve to sound your best! Ok, not just that. It’s about how you frame the value of being a member.

I deliberately skipped the most important part of the Apple Music announcement:

They’re providing all these new capabilities for every existing subscriber. Even with this new stuff, the subscription price will remain the same.

They added value to the experience. Just like you do all the time at your credit union. Think back over the past year:

  • How many things did you set up to make your members feel safe, connected, and empowered?
  • Did you raise fees or interest rates to provide these new services and capabilities?
  • Would you say your credit union in 2021 is a better place to achieve your financial goals than your credit union in early 2020? Or 2019?

I can guess the answers to that last bullet. Would your members say the same? Have you communicated these improvements so they understand the value you deliver?

Just Doing It May Not Be Enough

Idea Bulbs and Strategy Gears Equal Growth
Take your ideas, add a strategy, assess the results.

Your credit union made a lot of adaptations and improvements to weather the pandemic. It also has a history of continuous service across all offerings. I know because I checked your CU history page. Yes, for your credit union.

Creating a better place for your members to save, borrow, learn, and protect is your mission. But it’s not how you make those things happen. That requires some sort of marketing or outreach.

If you improve various credit union services, but your members don’t know, did they really get better? It’s a strange question, yet so much of your ongoing success is bundled into perceptions (what have you done for me lately).

Say you have a great new platform for automating savings day to day. That’s wonderful, and is a direct answer to the seamless ability of many fintech apps and big banks. But there’s one problem: No one knows it exists. Is it still so impressive?

Enhancing Value & Marketing…Together

Turntable and Laptop
Let’s learn about marketing on vinyl. It always sounds better, right?

Here’s one place Apple has a leg up on you. Ok, on all of us. They don’t need to market (though they still do, quite a bit). Others are happy to talk up their latest actions (I recognize the irony here).

If you don’t have major media, bloggers (hello), YouTubers, and specialist sites writing about your services, this section is important. Because it means your marketing needs to be a source of information.

You create value for members. That’s perfect. Now, you need to tell your members about that new (or existing) value. How you do that depends. Maybe an app notification. Perhaps a home page mention. Could even be a physical letter.

I’m a fan of combined marketing outreach to engage across a variety of mediums. That way, your physical connects to your social feed and more.

Whatever channels you choose, the message needs to directly address one of two things:

  • Pain
  • Pleasure

The first is overcoming a member pain. In other words, something they don’t enjoy or want. Your value is in replacing that pain with, well, not pain. The second is creating immediate or anticipatory pleasure. I’m giddy with excitement!

As an example, making it easy for members to avoid fees is addressing a pain, the pain of paying. Offering a savings tool that runs automatically is addressing a (future) pleasure, where members are looking forward to what they can do with that money.

Create Your Own Hi-Res Value

From car buying services to new app features, you have a wide range of ways to deliver value. Look at your own data to see what valuable capabilities are going unused. Then, show members how they can further enhance their relationship.

And where it makes sense, partner or build your next great value-add. I look forward to hearing (get it?) about your credit union’s newest hi-res value!

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