Archive for June, 2010

A recent article in US Banker put some numbers behind a message that we’ve been pushing for a long time: social media should not be used as a platform for blatant advertising or product pushing – especially not in financial services.

Only four percent of social media users have ever visited a financial institution’s profile on a social networking site, which might suggest that consumers aren’t really interested in having “social” contact with their bank or credit union. Or, maybe it indicates that financial institutions are just using social media the wrong way. I think it’s a combination of both, but probably more of the latter. Honestly, most bank and credit union Facebook pages are not value adding – they tend to list opening hours and general info, have some pictures from events at branches, etc. None of that gives a person any reason to visit.

Research indicates, “the top three types of messages that consumers indicated were appropriate from a financial institution were: customer service (34 percent), community involvement (29 percent) and educational (28 percent).” Seeing as customer service is at the top of the list, maybe banks and credit unions should take a page out of Zappos’ or JetBlue’s book and start using Twitter/Facebook as one of their primary communication tools. I can think of more than one instance where it would have been helpful if I could have asked my bank a question over Facebook (they are in a different time zone). Unfortunately, the closest thing I could do was message them through online banking, to which it took them three business days (that’s right, THREE) to respond. Unacceptable? Absolutely.

In this day and age, consumers expect quick response from companies – especially the ones they trust with their savings. Social media would help banks and credit unions reach the level of responsiveness that consumers are accustomed to. It may take some effort and learning, but sites like Facebook and Twitter are free, so what’s the downside?


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This is the second installment in our five-part series about the main elements of bank and credit union word of mouth marketing. Please see the first installment to learn about the first T, Talkers.

Topics: The Second T
Once you have identified your Talkers with clarity and confidence, and you’ve answered the question “what do these Talkers care about?” you’re ready to move on the second T: Topics. If the (paraphrased) WOMMA definition of word of mouth marketing is to “give people something worth talking about, and make it easier for them to have that conversation,” then Topics are the first half of that equation. With Topics, we’re asking ourselves, “now that I understand my bank or credit union’s Talkers really well, what will I be able to give them that they will find so interesting that they simply will not be able to keep their mouths shut?!”

What They Find Interesting…Not You
One of the hardest parts of this for banks and credit unions is putting yourself in the Talker’s shoes firmly enough to understand what they find interesting…and realizing that what they find interesting is not what we as daily practitioners find interesting. To our presidents and CEOs, our “excellent service” is unendingly fascinating…but not so much to an average person. Sometimes what people find interesting is the seemingly inconsequential stuff, like pink envelopes or dog biscuits for pups.

“OMG, have you heard about _____?!”
Simply put, what you’re trying to do is be able to fill in this blank. What would make the Talker proactively grab a friend, and say, “OMG, have you heard about ____?” The answer to this, of course, is completely reliant on who the Talker is, and what matters to them…which is why Talkers are the first thing you must focus on. Once you think you have a Topic, insert it into this blank and see if you could imagine someone actually saying that.

What Can We “Give” Them To Talk About?
While this question is challenging to answer, the answers are actually quite unlimited. We could give them something tangible they might find compelling, like a gift of some kind or something they unexpectedly come across and can physically interact with. We may give them a piece of information, such as something that’s not public knowledge–a piece of insider info that makes them feel special. Or, we may give them an experience of some sort, which they feel compelled to talk about because it was so noteworthy. For instance, that could be a hug instead of a handshake. Or you went to Starbucks and brought them their favorite latte before you met with them.

Next Post: Tools
At this point, you’ve got a solid list of Talkers, and you know what each one cares about. You also have identified Topics you can give each Talker group, that they will find so interesting they can’t keep it to themselves. In the third post in this series, we’ll cover Tools: the vehicles you can create to let the message spread further and faster.

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ManifestoCover-MediumOur teammates at CBC have announced the publication of their newest position paper, The Decommoditization Manifesto: Part 1. This downloadable position paper is the first in a series discussing how entrepreneurial banks and credit unions can break free from the chains of being a commodity in a commoditized industry. As the series is released, the key relationship between word of mouth marketing and decommoditization will unfold.

If you’re interested in how your bank or credit union’s overall competitive business strategy relates to word of mouth marketing, you will enjoy this series of position papers. CBC has provided the following brief excerpt from the introduction:

Tired of Being Powerless Yet?
It’s not easy to be a leader at a bank or credit union these days. Your board, your management and your colleagues demand results, results, results (read: growth), and you’re on the hook to deliver. That’s a lot of pressure.

The worst part is that you very clearly have little-to-no control over your growth. It feels like your only way to grow is win the pricing war on both sides of the balance sheet, but you know that’s not a sustainable strategy. You’re courting consumers like mad, but you have almost no ability whatsoever to influence them. In short, you have no control over your own destiny—you’re completely at the mercy of the consumer, who has all the power. Bummer.

Take a moment to step back ask yourself why that’s the case. Why does the consumer seem to have all the power in that relationship?!

To find out, download The Decommoditization Manifesto: Part 1 now.

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