Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: assume

Clarity. It’s Pretty Obvious.

Originally published on

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!

Far Beyond the Save Icon

I hate losing stuff.

Recently, we addressed the issue of people not backing up.  I had a humbling moment when assumptions took over (oh no!) and I learned how it is still an issue.  So here’s what I do to ensure no digital content I care about is ever lost.  And, to speak to its effectiveness, since that fateful paper on China, I have not lost a single file.

Here’s my backup strategy, in glorious detail:

Dropbox.  If you don’t use Dropbox, you should.  It’s the closest thing to a magic lantern I’ve found.  Think of it this way: Any files/folders you put inside the Dropbox folder on your computer become magic-ified.  Every change is instantly saved to the Dropbox server, as well as made accessible on every other device you have Dropbox installed.  It will mirror the content on another computer while transforming your tablet and phone into remote extensions of your computer (every file is there too!).  Downsides: You are limited to only a few gigabytes for free (can pay for more) and it’s not “backup”, as anything you delete on your computer (or phone, tablet, etc.) is also deleted online, but, if your computer crashes, your data is restored with only a few clicks on the new machine.  So, for permanent storage…

Time Machine.  No, not H.G. Wells.  And not the TARDIS either.  This is the next best thing.  As a Mac user, I embrace an automated backup solution built into the operating system.  It’s about the easiest backup system ever devised.  Connect a large external drive to your computer, select “Use as Time Machine backup” when prompted, and you’re done.  Every time you plug in this drive, your computer backs up any changes without you needing to remember anything.  You can even restore previous versions of files in a geek-tastic space interface.  Say you were creating a report, and realized the next day you accidentally deleted an essential paragraph.  No problem.  Open the file in Time Machine, copy the paragraph back to the current version.  Of course, I’m paranoid, so while I trust Time Machine, I want control of my backups as well.  Which means I also use…

External drives.  Everything in my Dropbox folders as well as other files of personal value (75 years of family photo albums, 30 years of home videos, a 10,000 song music library, 12 years of e-mail databases etc.) is backed up to external drives.  Being a geek, I take old laptop hard drives that outlived their computer (more common than you would think) and place them in external enclosures.  Every few days, I update these backups manually.  To ensure if even a backup dies I cannot be caught in a catastrophic loss situation, I back up to 5 external drives (yes, I’m crazy).  That’s not enough security for paranoid me, meaning…

Other computers/offsite.  Another computer is as good a backup as any drive.  So, I use my family’s computers to back up my photo albums and other content we share.  The information is updated on those through my external drive backups.  Additionally, I keep one external drive in a separate geographic location from me, so in case something horrible happened, I’d still have access to the data somewhere (hopefully) safe.  But this is all a pain for everyday work, therefore…

Automatic saving.  These blogs are composed in Evernote, an automatic-sync app that works on all my devices.  It saves content to their server every few minutes, so if I have a crash, I lose almost nothing.  Once the entry is complete, I copy it into my blog, which, of course, saves text as you type also.  For other work, I use Pages (Apple’s Word-like program) and other software, which saves every second.  Other systems which behave in this fashion include the new Office, Google Docs, and many apps on mobile.  But what about content which isn’t on your own computer?

Server backups.  A website is hosted on a computer with drives that can crash, just like your own.  We hope our hosting provider has a good backup strategy, but I’m sure you can guess what I think about relying on others for safekeeping.  All of our websites are backed up daily on our server, with the databases backed up to a secondary server weekly.  Additionally, the content and databases are stored securely on a Dropbox-synced volume (and backed up to multiple external drives).  My iPhone and iPad back themselves up each night to iCloud, and I also perform local backups with iTunes (which are saved by Time Machine).

Whew!  It sure seems like a lot when it’s all written down.  But just like cleaning your toilet, it only takes a few minutes each week, and the results speak for themselves.  I feel terrible for people when they talk about losing important data, and I’d like them to know it isn’t a foregone conclusion anymore.  The power of preservation is yours.  Embrace it, and sleep soundly knowing your data is safe.

And the clean toilet.  That’s really nice also.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss creating your own backup strategy for personal or business use, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  I’d be happy to help however I can.

Disclosure: Signing up for Dropbox through the link above gives both you and me additional free storage space.

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.

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