Fall is a love/hate relationship for credit union and banking marketers. Love football season—hate budget season. Love falling leaves—hate falling budgets. Love cool temperatures—hate hot budget conversations.

Yes, it is indeed budget season in many credit unions and banks. A time for heated discussion on the financial instruction’s bottom line. Forget strategic planning—the true strategic priorities are often determined in the budget season and not the planning season. This is when you decide if you have the resolve (budget) to meet those strategic objectives you’ve set.

There are a number of items your credit union or bank should consider as you carefully make your 2018 plans.

Here are a few:

  • Your marketing audit—We audit everything in the financial services industry. But one area that is sometimes skipped in auditing is marketing. A marketing audit will review all your pieces for consistency while also giving you strategic and tactical ideas. As one of our clients said recently of the marketing audit, “It gave us great feedback on where we need to focus our energies to grow better and serve our members. Having a fresh set of eyes on all your materials is a great way to better your brand.” Don’t let 2018 pass you by without reviewing your marketing.
  • Your journey map—What is it like for someone to do business with your financial institution? Have you actually taken the time to map both the process and the experience? And then have you trained your employees to that experience? In other words, you need to operationalize your brand. Engagement training impacts the bottom line so significantly that many institutions are replacing sales & service training with engagement training. Don’t let 2018 pass you by without investing in your journey.
  • Your digital efforts—Traditional marketing is not just changing; it HAS changed. Direct mail, billboards, TV, radio and even statement inserts are all going the way of the dinosaur. In a recent conversation I had with James Robert Lay, the CEO of the Digital Growth Institute, he noted that about 35% of all your marketing budget at a credit union or bank should be devoted to digital marketing. Don’t let 2018 pass you by without increasing your digital marketing spend.
  • Your brand—Branding touches everything. As Ray Davis, former CEO of Umpqua Bank said in Leading for Growth, “If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know your brand is just about the most valuable marketing asset you’ve got.” If your brand truly is your most valuable asset, then how are you investing in that asset? Two practical steps you can take include developing a brand plan and conducting brand training for your employees. Don’t let 2018 pass you by without leading your brand.

Your budget conveys your priorities. You will notice a theme for 2018: your priorities should include your marketing, your experience, your technology and your brand. If you spend your dollars in those areas, you will reap the return.