In the financial services industry we can obsess over our competition. What is Jones National Bank doing in the community? Have you tried the mobile app from Big National Bank Brand? How is ABC Credit Union opening so many new accounts?

While it’s important to maintain a healthy eye on your rivals, when it comes to branding your credit union or bank you should focus your efforts on your audiences and not your competition. Why? Because branding is often more about internal aspects than external factors.

One of the main internal components of your brand plan is your audience (and note, we’re not using the term “target” because that implies you are going to shoot your targets (no one wants to be a target audience).

Here are three ways to make sure you maintain your focus on the consumers and not the competition:

  • Study your consumers—You can’t reach those you don’t know. So learn as much about your potential niche groups as possible. For example, many financial institutions want to get younger so one of their target audiences is “the Millennial Generation.” But as we noted in this post, that is way too broad and vague; there are several sub-groups of the Millinnials (like HENRYs, Millennial Moms, DINKs, etc.).
  • Develop a brand plan—Every financial institution needs a brand plan, a document that details its vision and its messaging. One of the brand plan’s key components is a list and description of whom your financial institution is trying to reach. You cannot be all things to all people. So stop trying. Determine which consumers you want to focus your branding and marketing efforts.
  • Train your staff—Once you have your key consumers identified, then you can provide specific training to your employees on how best to connect with those key consumer groups. For example, we’ve conducted generational training for some of our clients. This instruction helps employees learn how to talk with consumers that are different from them.

Please note I’m not saying the competition doesn’t matter—it does. As you develop your brand you certainly want to create one that is unique and different in the marketplace. Of course, the only way to do that is to make sure you don’t replicate what others are doing.

However, the best brands worry far more about the consumers than the competition.