In a recent post (The One Thing), we asked several financial services experts, “What is the one strategic thing credit unions or banks must do to grow?” We received keen insights from multiple viewpoints.

Due to space, we were unable to run James Robert Lay’s (president of PTP New Media) response. His take on aligning people, product and process, however is unique and offers a fresh perspective on how to grow your financial institution. Below are Lay’s comments.

Credit unions must take a step back and began to work from the outside in and align people, product and process around their purpose with a focus on digital channels. To begin, what kind of digital experience is your credit union providing to the consumers and members in your community? Forrester research shares that when creating and building loyalty, people respond more to the experience they have than their perception of price. The study reports that for banks and credit unions, customer experience accounts for 55% of loyalty.

To continue, Razorfish consumer research notes, “Digital experiences create customers. The overwhelming majority of consumers who actively engage with a brand in digital fashion are much more inclined to purchase products and recommend the brand to others. 65% of consumers say that a digital experience, either positive or negative, changed their opinion of a brand. Of those, 97% said that their experience influenced whether they eventually purchased from the brand.”

Finally, Nielsen’s research notes 50% of all mobile users rely on their device at the beginning of the research process, with 1 in 3 indicating that they use their device throughout their entire purchase process. So a consumer may hear your credit union’s radio ad or watch a TV spot and then what? What is your credit unions ZMOT (zero moment of truth)?

Let’s explore four ways your credit union can prepare for the consumer shift to digital channels in order for you to continue to generate leads for loans and new accounts through well defined and refined digital marketing and sales systems. At the end of the day, all roads and consumer sales paths lead back to digital.


What do you do? How do you do it? These might be pretty easy questions to answer about your credit union. The big question is why do you exist? What’s your purpose? Stop for a minute and don’t look at your mission, vision or value statements. Look at your purpose statement. Simon Sinek challenges organizations to start with why. As credit unions, we often know the answer to what we do and how we do it. However, we may not truly know why we do it. Does our staff know why we exist? Do our members know? Sinek notes that organizations who know and can communicate their “why” are more successful than those who simply share the “what” and “how.” People buy with their heart by examining the “why” and then ustify their decision with through the “what” and “how.”

Once your credit union has been able to identify its purpose for xistence, you can then focus on aligning people, product and process to osition your credit union as a financial expert and advocate in your community by empowering consumers with knowledge and insight. Credit unions can be cool.


Who is your credit union really targeting? Are you trying to be all things to all people wanting to attract consumers 18 – 65 who have both money in their pocket and a heartbeat? Or are you wanting to focus in on a few specific niche groups? As Seth Godin notes, we are all weird and belong to different tribes. Instead of focusing on everyone, take time create profiles of key demographics as this will allow you to create more targeted messages that can connect 1:1 with specific groups as opposed to sharing a general consumer messaging that may go unnoticed.

Confucius once said, “It is better when the good people of the village like him, and the bad people dislike him.”  At the end of the day, if your credit union tries to be all things to all people you risk becoming nothing to no one. Take a stand, be bold and have the courage to say no. Unfortunately, we can not help everyone and if we try to may end up causing more harm.


What is your credit union really selling? Are you promoting the features of your products or the benefits your products provide to improve someone’s life? Compare the way Microsoft and Apple have promoted their smart phones. When the Windows 7 phone came out, Microsoft promised “500 new features”. 500! WTF? You lost me at feature number 4. Research shows a direct correlation with the more options and features presented to a consumer, the more a consumer feels anxiety, stress and fear. On the flip side, less is more. Unlike Microsoft, Apple promotes the iPhone not with features but simply tells a story of how the iPhone can benefit a persons life by empowering them to do the things one enjoys such as reading books, playing games or listening to music. There is no talk of features from Apple but simply the sharing of benefits. When promoting your credit union’s products, reduce the talk of features to reduce the fear. Your product positioning must go beyond great rates and service.


How easy is it for one to apply for a loan online? What about opening a new account? Researching autos for sale? Or simply finding a way to get in touch with a real person through live chat or a phone call? The experience you provide to members is nothing more than well defined processes that have been refined over time. Focus on simplifying the solution and getting the right product to the right people at the right time. Utilize data to nurture 1:1 relationships with members before, during and after they adopt a new product or service. If a process takes five clicks, work to make it four, then three or less. Follow the wisdom of Henry David Thoreau and focus on, “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.” Remember, people wake up and say I need to buy a car, not I need to apply for a loan. Simplify the process to get the product to the people while never forgetting that the details matter.