This post might not be for you. Or, it could be exactly what you and your credit union team need.
Inspired By: Someone Else’s Faux Pas
I’ll be honest; the inspiration came from a local chamber of commerce, not credit union. So, it’s possible none of you are making this mistake. Unless you are…
We’re going to talk about messaging. Public perception. How you convey yourselves to your target audience. Be it your members or the community at large. Just as it can raise positive awareness, publicity can paint an undesirable picture. I saw this happen with a large chamber of commerce in my area. Pretty sure they didn’t notice the faux pas. So what happened?
Who’s Your Target Audience? (ie. Who do you serve?)
First, let’s back up and ensure we are all on the same page. Whether you’re a chamber of commerce or credit union, who is your target audience? Exactly.
Local businesses and their staff, residents, and those you wish to attract to the area.
Who do you serve? Well, your members.
When these two things line up, you can better pursue your mission.
In the case of this chamber of commerce, they held a major event, complete with ribbon cutting by the mayor, to celebrate the opening of…a Krispy Kreme.
Now, I don’t know if their stores are franchise or corporate, yet think about it. Is this the message they really want to promote? That a big, multi-national corporation gets special treatment and recognition, while thousands of local businesses, each with their own unique stories to tell, get ignored?
To clarify, this isn’t something they do for every new business opening, even of chamber members.
In real estate, the oft-repeated phrase is: “Location, location, location.”
Here, could we say it’s “perception, perception, perception”?
If an institution talks about being there for the “little guys”, then makes a big deal out of the exact opposite, what do you think?
It comes across as hypocritical towards the local businesses they espouse to promote and support.
Where is the event for the local business whose staff and owner overcame enormous struggles to be successful?
Or even to just open their doors?
Like I said, you might not be making this mistake. But in case you are…awareness is a good thing.
Today, Apple held their seasonal keynote event, to highlight new services in a range of categories. You may get a kick out of their Apple TV+ lineup. Maybe you’re stoked about reading all your magazines on your iPhone with Apple News+.
But you’re here for Apple Pay improvements. We are talking about the banking world, right?
It’s a “mobile-first” card, in that you do most of your spending, tracking, and reward redemptions all within the app.
The entire platform lives within the native Wallet app in your iPhone. No more downloading a banking app just to pay the credit card bill.
You can track spending by category, merchant, and even view trends. Payments are simplified, with realtime interest calculations based on what you choose to pay. And rewards deposit daily (they’re calling it Daily Cash) into your Apple Cash account (we’ve spoken about this before).
And the physical card is shiny! (It’s made out of titanium!)
Fabulous metal aside, you care about what the card offers. And is it a threat to your institution?
Spoiler: Yes. Probably.
The Apple Strategy
With more than a billion active devices, any time Apple does something, it matters. Few companies have the ability to affect the behaviors of so many so quickly. I’m not even suggesting you try.
What they did with Apple Card is look at all the pain points within the credit card realm:
Redeeming (and understanding) rewards
Understanding interest costs (and how to minimize)
Getting questions answered
Then they added a bit of Apple touch to align the offering with their mission:
Beauty (it’s subjective, sure, but the card is so pretty!)
The result is a mobile-first, simplified, and streamlined vision of a credit card.
Here’s how they addressed those pain points:
Application: Tap to apply. Done. It automatically issues the digital version, adds it to your Wallet, and that’s it. The physical copy gets mailed.
Tracking spending: The app color-codes spending categories, gives merchants their real logos, and uses machine learning (AI) to decrypt those obscure “IC SPEND A-MERCH 14312” charges (it was the Greek food truck, by the way). It will even show it on a map and link to it on Yelp!
Paying/Interest: Graphical wheel that you slide your finger around to see your payments change, along with the interest accrued. Financial education with a swipe.
Rewards: 3% at Apple, 2% using the digital version, 1% with physical card. Redeems automatically as cash every day (with notation) into your Apple Pay Cash card. Which you can spend at merchants, online, send to friends/family, and more.
Privacy: No merchant gets any details about you on any purchase.
Security: Every payment uses a one-time code (just like any other ApplePay transaction). Suspicious transactions appear as notifications (and can be approved or denied with a tap). A new card is sent out and no changes needed.
Support: Using Business Chat for iMessage, customers can simply text their question to the service. A person answers and helps them out. Through their normal messaging app.
Fees: They don’t have them. Any. At all.
Can Your Credit Union Compete?
That’s a great question. On the surface, no. You cannot create such a streamlined system with the tight integration between bank and provider.
However, all is not lost!
I’ve made a point to talk about partnering in many previous posts. It’s just as valuable (if not more so) today!
Your institution is good at the money part. You might also be great in the relationship area.
But, let’s be honest. You’re not awesome with the technology. It’s a constant effort to keep up with evolving expectations as it is, right?
That’s why you need to partner with companies who specialize in these things. My last post talked about making member communication simple. That’s one of their pain points!
And the most cynical/sarcastic/actually realistic answer to this question:
Sure, because it only works for members with an iPhone. Look at all those Android users you can still attract!
Mobile First = Simple First
You’ll hear a lot of talk about how “mobile first” design is essential. That making services for a computer is immediately alienating your target audience. I’m betting the firms which sell you these platforms will be climbing over each other to talk about how their stuff is so mobile first ready.
It’s not wrong. There’s a lot of value to making sure your offering is accessible from where people are.
However, I want to be clear:
Mobile First doesn’t just mean you need to make sure it works on phones.
Mobile First means that your driving strategy is:
How can we make something so simple, so intuitive, so obvious that members can do what they want in a few seconds?
Apple stepped back and saw many of the traditional challenges in credit cards. Then, they built a system (with appropriate partners) to overcome these “yucky spots”.
It’s about looking at what the real problems are, and how you can address them.
If Edison had only tried to make a brighter candle, he would never have invented the light bulb.
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How do you connect with members? Phone? E-mail? In-person? Carrier pigeon? Owl?
Each have their drawbacks, especially the pigeons, since they’re extinct. Who answers their phone anymore, and we all get so much e-mail, standing out is challenging. Not every member visits your branches, and without a letter from Hogwarts, they wouldn’t even know about the owls!
Through my work with credit unions, the medium most favored tends to be e-mail. It’s cheap, relatively easy, and can reach a wide swath of the membership. There are pretty large downsides, though. Many people receive hundreds of messages a day, then there’s the spam. Getting noticed, read, and clicked is a major victory. Despite these challenges, e-mail still makes sense. Just not as the only thing. Here’s where we listen to your marketing team and diversify engagement.
Let Me Just Check This Alert
What communication medium does nearly everyone read promptly, then act upon? Ding ding. You can go check that message…I’ll wait. Yes, text messages. Be they iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or good-old SMS (that’s the green bubble for iPhone readers), they get read. How can your credit union take advantage for member communication without “spamming”?
As you may know, there are some regulations governing phone number usage (TCPA). You can send a single service notification, but future messages require additional opt-in. There’s more to it, yet with that as a starting point, it sure doesn’t sound like a useful engagement strategy. Or is it? I know where I’m going…to get some opt-ins!
Why Text Members?
Let me back up for just a moment. Why bother texting members? Case studies found recipients of SMS reminders or calls to action acted at a much higher rate than those sent paper notices, phone calls, and e-mails. So if you want to spur members to action, there’s no more effective way than through text. But it has to be relevant. Otherwise, you’re the spam. How do we set the member expectation of hearing from their credit union?
Display your SMS number prominently in branches and online.
Encourage members in all interactions that if they, “Want more from their CU to add xxx-xxx-xxxx to their contacts!”
Are you more likely to read a message from a random phone number or one which has a contact name linked?
Place a widget on your website for members to opt-in their mobile number.
Upon mobile banking sign-in, ask if members have their phone number in their profile.
Provide a vCard download on website (mobile and desktop) so members can add the CU contact information in one click or tap.
Recognize it’s their credit union
Opt-in to receive specific messaging (which has a pre-defined maximum number of texts sent per week/month)
Find value in the messaging,
then it can become a valuable outreach strategy.
Of course, this is only for non-secure marketing and service messages. If only there were some way to continue the conversation on that phone…
Two-Way Texting & More
Turns out, that marketing text isn’t the only thing you can do. A company called Shastic developed Elle, a two-way texting platform for credit unions. What does this enable? Well, for one, your member can answer that text. And your team can respond. It’s like a chat. In a text. Ok, it is a chat. This means your marketing out is now using the same channel as support in. With the ability to easily share documents and other information with your members. And you’re now a 24/7 operation beyond online banking.
Not all your members use that channel (though a huge portion do). And it’s about being ubiquitously available. So, keep your Twitter account active for answering public and DM (direct message) requests. Then, there’s the newest player on the block (for iOS users): Business Chat for iMessage. A few small companies are starting with it now…you know, like Wells Fargo. This platform already supports the exchange of money (ie. buying stuff) using your Apple Pay(or Apple Pay Cash) account (which, if you’re promoting, can absolutely be your cards!).