Mediocrity - 1Mediocrity. The very word is detestable. No one wants it. And if you’re a Dallas Cowboys fan like I am you are faced with it every football season. 8-8. Not good enough to make the playoffs. Not bad enough to have a high draft pick. Just “blah.”

Does that also describe your bank or credit union? In a Credit Union Insight piece, I wrote about Five Signs Your Credit Union Is Heading Into Mediocrity. While recognizing what those signs are, it’s also equally important to know how to avoid becoming a mediocre financial institution.

There are 10 ways to avoid that slide to mediocre. Below are five of the 10 (I’ll share the remaining five in an upcoming post):

(1)   Conduct strategic planning on a regular basis—If the last time your credit union or bank conducted a strategic planning session was Y2K, then you are probably behind with your planning. One of the keys with strategic planning is consistency. For example, I asked one of my most successful clients why they did strategic planning every single year (their growth was strong, their key ratios were solid, etc.—did they really need to do planning this particular year). One of their board members said the reason for their success was that they committed many years ago to always do a strategic planning session (during good times and bad times).

(2)   Make sure you are focused on moving sales up—Sales is the lifeblood of any organization (and any financial institution). If your front-line people are not focused on building relationships with consumers then your bank or credit union will slide into mediocrity. Don’t run away from sales or treat sales like a dirty word. Selling the right way (with more of a service and consumer first approach) works. If you’re not selling you’re not growing. And a lack of growth fosters mediocrity.

(3)   Protect your brand at all cost—With every major initiative (new products, additional branches, budget cuts, etc.), you must ask “how will this affect our brand?” Protecting your brand means executives having a brand plan in place and employees living your brand every day. If the brand is not at the forefront of both your long-term strategy and day-to-day activities prepare yourself to suffer through an 8-8 football season.

(4)   Determine how your credit union is different—You and your staff must answer the question “what makes our bank/credit union different?” And you can’t use words like community, people or service. That is cliché differentiation. Rather peel that onion layer back and go deep. If you are only dealing with differentiation on a surface level, that’s all you’ll get. Avoid mediocrity by going deep.

(5)   Offer at least one consumer-facing product this year—You don’t have to offer one new product a month to stay current. But you do need to offer new products on a regular basis. Maybe it’s mobile banking, investment services, a PFM solution, or a new twist on some type of checking product. The key is that your new offerings must be consumer facing and something that improves the lives of your target audience.

Those are just five suggestions for ways to avoid that slippery slope slide into mediocrity. We’ll give you five more in the next post. In the meantime, what else can credit unions and banks do to avoid mediocrity?