Five Marketing Red Flags to Avoid

Mark Arnold

There are common marketing mistakes that are easy to fall into no matter how many years you've been in the business. I call these red flags.

When you see red flags anywhere, it’s a time to stop. Not slow down. Stop. Not be cautious. Stop. Not go another direction. Stop.

When it comes to marketing your credit union or community bank, you should never stop. However, there are things in marketing you might be doing that are actually red flags. Actions or practices you should stop.

If you are not growing at the rate you desire or if you are not hitting your goal numbers, oftentimes it’s a marketing challenge. If you want to have better results, the answer isn’t to market less, it’s to market more. In fact, a recent article in CU Insight noted that increasing marketing expenses by just 0.1% of assets on average increased asset growth by 0.82%. However, marketing must be done correctly. And that means avoiding certain traps.

Here are five common marketing mistakes, or red flags, to avoid in your marketing.

Marketing to everyone


As Donald Miller famously says, “niches lead to riches.” If you are trying to reach all of the consumers in your marketspace with the same message, more than likely you will attract none. For example, when creating your brand plan don’t try and be all things to all people. At most pick three or four subgroups and customize copy and visuals that will resonate with them.

Marketing to yourself or board


Speaking of target audiences, you (and your board) are more than likely NOT who you are trying to reach. Just because you like a particular marketing piece does not mean your intended niche will. If you or a board member says, “I don’t get it,” that might actually be a good thing. For example, you may place radio ads on stations you never listen to. Or you may do a Tik Tok video when a board member has no idea what that channel even is.

Marketing without numbers


In today’s advanced field of marketing, data wins. In the book Six Disciplines of Agile Marketing, author Jim Ewel quotes W. Edwards Deming as saying, “In God we trust. All others bring data.” With marketing, you need to look at numbers that are both coming and going. In other words, as you prepare (coming) your campaign or brand research the demographics or mine you existing data. And after a promotion (going), examine what worked and didn’t by conducting a return on investment (ROI) report.

Marketing without taking risk


Financial institutions by their nature are conservative. However, in marketing creativity (which also means taking risks) wins. How many times have you seen the same types of visuals used for those same auto loan campaigns that are run every year? Enough already! For examples of how some banks took a few risks with their marketing, check out this post from The Financial Brand (Thirteen Unconventional Marketing Campaigns for 2022).

Marketing without input


Sometimes we are too close to our marketing. We need an honest look at what we’re doing. As John Wanamaker famously said, “Half my advertising spend is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” If you have never assessed your marketing, then that is a red flag you must address. Brad Norton, SVP of Marketing for Utah Community Credit Union said after our review, “Right after your presentation to our managers, my CEO whispered to me that the marketing audit and findings was probably the best thing this credit union has ever done.” To learn how a marketing assessment can help you grow, check out this information.

Marketing is moving at an all-time fast speed right now. One way to actually move your marketing forward is to stop—stop avoiding these red flags (which only slow down your growth).

Mark Arnold
Founder and CEO
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