Directions - 1All too often in financial institutions, we become enamored of how green the grass is on the other side of the fence. We easily become obsessed with all the neat toys and gadgets the competition up and down the street is using. We also tend to try to look just like them, walk just like them and talk just like them.

Bad idea.

Why? Innovation often requires that we break the mold — not adhere to it. There are certainly things we can learn from the competition, but it does not necessarily follow just because they are doing a certain thing so must we.

Rather than follow the herd, your bank or credit union might do better to take an opposite direction. Following are a few ideas to help start your thinking process.

  • Instead of trying to match rates, focus more on exceeding service levels. Yes, many consumers are rate watchers; however, true differentiation is made in member or customer service. Rate shoppers will watch rates — but real and meaningful consumer connections are made or broken on service.
  • Instead of trying to match brick-and-mortar, focus more on exceeding in digital service. The future of the brick-and-mortar branch is still being written (and rewritten). The only thing certain about physical branches is that they will look and function differently in the future than they do now. While you can’t lose sight of the importance of physical branches, make sure your bank or credit union keeps a close eye on its digital service footprint. You must be easily searchable and accessible to members and customers seeking you online. If not, you’ll lose them before they ever set foot inside one of your physical locations.
  • Instead of playing it safe and easy with your marketing, focus more on grabbing attention in meaningful ways. The same old marketing calendar you’ve used for years is probably just as boring to your members or customers as it is to you. Rather than adhering to the same-old same- old, seek to inform and educate consumers about who you are and what you do by highlighting your brand. If consumers know your unique story as a bank or credit union, they are more likely to use you and talk about you with friends and family than if you send another round of boring postcards about the next used car loan promotion.

It’s a scary thing to think about going against the grain. However, true gain is often found in just such an approach. Sometimes going in the opposite direction of the competition is the shot in the arm your marketing and branding needs to make a real difference in the lives of consumers.