Socially-Distanced Marketing, Strategy, and The Force

Tag: phones

LOL, Emoji, Checking Promotion: Texting As Credit Union Member Engagement?

Originally published on

How do you connect with members? Phone? E-mail? In-person? Carrier pigeon? Owl?

White Owl
This is not Hedwig.

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

iMessage Logo
Image source: Wikimedia

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.

If members:

  1. Recognize it’s their credit union
  2. Opt-in to receive specific messaging (which has a pre-defined maximum number of texts sent per week/month)
  3. 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!).

So with all these options, let’s get texting!

Making Change With Your Change

Unless you were in cryogenic storage on your way to Pandora, you’re likely aware of the Apple event held Tuesday (September 9).  Among the wonderful surprises they had for us was Pay (properly written as shown with the Apple logo…Mac users, that’s Option-Shift-K).

Tim Cook explained that their goal was to make the lowly leather wallet a thing of the past.  Pay is their first step in that direction (though I would say the iPhone began the journey, carrying photos, cards, and more, but, stay on topic here, Joe).  Is it as revolutionary as implied?


Apple is unique amongst technology companies.  They are rarely first to announce/release anything.  In fact, they are often last.  Music players?  Archos had decent-enough MP3 players long before the iPod.  Phones?  Palm, Microsoft, and RIM (Blackberry) made smartphones for years prior to the iPhone announcement.  Tablets?  You could buy a Windows tablet way back in the 90s.  Was it terrible?  Only if you wanted to use it like in Star Trek.

Waiting is a tough pill to swallow.  You’re watching potential market share pass you by, and shareholders see profits missed in every competitor’s sale.  But, if done strategically, it can make you great. More about waiting in the future.

Google has had a mobile payment system for a few years now, called Google Wallet.  It integrates with Android (and iOS) devices, and on certain phones, can support touch-to-pay at merchants using compatible terminals.  No credit cards to carry or swipe.

Sound familiar?

In principle, Pay is no different than efforts made before.  It imagines a future where we pay for things easily and securely by waving our phone (or wrist) in front of sensors or tapping a button on a website.  Money is transferred.  We get our coffee.  The universe is happy.

What makes their platform unique is scale, trust, and integration.  At launch, over 80% of cardholders will be supported by large banks and Navy Federal.  I’m certain the second line of launches is not far behind.  Where can you use the system?  Well, launching with over 200,000 places ready to go is nice.  Knowing every Whole Foods you enter will accept your phone to pay is reassuring.  Then there’s trust.  I won’t delve into what makes the system so secure, only the most visible: a fingerprint.  To pay, you “sign” by validating your fingerprint.  Can’t fake that one.  Finally, the concept is integrated into places both in the real world and online.  Sites/apps will have a “Buy with Pay” button, eliminating the need to enter your name, address, card number, expiration date, or anything.  Again, verify with a finger, and you’re done.

Does Apple make money from it?  Sure.  Does it make our lives just a bit easier?  Definitely.  I realized yesterday that Apple obsesses over the things we consider minor annoyances. What bothers you is a critical flaw for them.  Frustrated you left the light on in the living room before leaving for a trip?  Properly equipped, you can get a notice when your phone detects you’ve left the house, asking you if it should be turned off.  Did you leave the credit card you wanted to use for shopping at home?  That’s ok, you can just tap it in your phone.

Integration of our lives digitally is happening.  Claiming each improvement is only a small change with no revolutionary impact is being short-sighted.  Seldom do we realize we’re living a new chapter in the next generation’s history books.  This was another turn of the page (or screen, on the hovering-holo-e-book-reader).  If you’re not already preparing for this and what will evolve from it, you’re falling behind.

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