As you scan your 2016 marketing calendar, it is probably already full with a complete list of tasks to accomplish this year. But are they the right tasks? Each January I offer suggestions regarding what financial marketing executives should focus on in the coming year. For the past few years I’ve done “15 Marketing Tasks for 2015” and “14 Marketing Tasks for 2014.”
But as the years continue to increase, let’s get real: doing 14, 15 (and 16) marketing tasks is probably not going to happen. After all, one of the keys to marketing success is focus. So rather than a giant laundry list of “To Do” items I’ve boiled this year’s list to the top six marketing tasks your credit union or bank should undertake in the New Year. Accomplishing these six items will ensure your success moving forward.
Please feel free to also contribute your own ideas!
- Take risks
Financial institutions are historically conservative. That also means we all tend to be alike and do the same things over and over with our marketing. Which can result in boring campaigns. Make 2016 the year you take some risks. Examples of risk taking could include pushing the envelope with your creative, stop doing traditional advertising (like newspapers and newsletters) and hiring a young person to develop your social media efforts. In talking with a new client recently, she said she switched marketing agencies because she was tired of seeing the “same ol’, same ol’” campaigns every bank and credit union runs.
- Simplify your banking
One of the main lessons learned from last year’s Financial Brand Forum was the simplicity revolution in banking. As Jeffrey Pilcher noted, “There are a million other things people would rather do than banking; it’s boring. It’s tedious. It’s complex. You must build a strategy around making banking easy.” So rather than push products with your marketing look for ways to solve people’s problems and save people time.
- Conduct a marketing audit
This is on the list every year. And it will remain on the list until you complete a marketing audit. Why? Because conducting a thorough marketing audit provides a turbo boost to your efforts. If you want immediate impact and improvement with marketing, then a marketing audit will help you accomplish just that. Lori Perkins, vice president of marketing with Rock Valley Credit Union, said “Business is way up since our marketing audit with On the Mark Strategies. We’ve had thirteen consecutive months of positive loan growth since the marketing audit. Our assets are up, new members are up and checking accounts are up. The overall marketing process was tough but Mark and his team are honest and not scared to tel you what you need to hear to improve. The marketing audit, looking back, made my job both easier and stronger.”
- Get younger
In almost every strategic planning session I conducted last year, every client had a strategic initiative to get younger. Banks—and especially credit unions—are skewing older. If you want to become a rock star at your financial institution, then solve the “we need to get younger” conundrum your executive team faces. Stop marketing to Baby Boomers and focus on the Gen. X and Gen. Y niches. If you don’t reach the Millennial Generation, your financial institution will die. You might have to pivot your brand to woo Millennials. Reach them during key life moments and reach them through Mom and Dad.
- Bridge brand gaps
Every bank or credit union has gaps in their brand. There can be gaps between your brand and your strategy, gaps between your brand and your people and gaps between your brand and your operations. The only way to build a truly successful brand is to close those gaps (or a concept we call bridging the gaps). For example, if your brand messages are all about service and people yet a marketing audit reveals that your employees are disengaged then you have a brand gap. Or if your brand message is all about “easy to do business” and it takes 24 hours to get a loan approval and you can’t open an account online, then you have a brand gap.
- Invest in technology
Consumers are not just using technology—they are wearing technology. From Apple Watch to Google Glass to Samsung Smart Watch we are immersed in these new tech toys. At USAA you can now log onto mobile banking with facial recognition. Biometric banking and security selfies are here. What does that mean for marketing? When it comes to financial marketing, the fields of technology and marketing are actually merging. As you review 2016 strategic initiatives, you must answer the question, “what is our bank or credit union doing to move the technology ball down the court?”
2016 has the potential to be the best year ever for credit unions and banks, especially if their marketers complete the above tasks. But those are just a few suggestions. What other tasks do you think financial institution executives should add to 2016?