Why ask why?

Remember the “Why ask why, try Bud Dry.” commercials?  This blog isn’t about those.  What it is about is the importance of asking, “Why?”

Why is a pretty popular question asked in conversations between friends, it’s even more popular in conversations between adults and 3-year olds.  Where it’s not as popular is in the business world.  By now, you know I love to talk about credit unions, but I’m sure the absence of “why” in the workplace is fairly prevalent throughout the entire business world.  Why you ask? (If you asked why, even in your head, this blog has already served part of its purpose.)  Well, in my humble opinion, the absence of “why” is primarily due to fear.  More specifically, fear of possible repercussions.  Coming in at a close second, perceived lack of time is another culprit.

If you ask me, “why?” has got a bad rap.  This is probably due to those conversations between 3-year olds and their parents, but let’s set those incidents aside for a minute and look at why asking “why?” is essential to developing sound business strategy.

“Why?” is a portal to deeper understanding.

So, your CEO, President, VP (you name it) has asked you to complete some task.  You and I know that you’re asking yourself, “Why?”, but you wouldn’t even entertain the idea of letting those three letters cross your lips.  Right?  Why?  Because no one wants to questions the boss person (See, I am politically correct most of the time.)  This may be true with some “leaders”, but I guarantee that an effective leader is secretly waiting for you to ask.  For more on leadership, check out Matt Monge.  He’s got a lot of great stuff but this blog is especially relevant to this discussion.

Consider another situation.  Imagine you and your team are assembled around the table discussing a new marketing campaign or business initiative.  Have you ever questioned the motives, intentions or expected results?  Those are pretty important issues if you ask me.  Sure, your leadership team probably (keyword probably) has answers to those questions, but shouldn’t you be privy to those as well? (Sometimes you might not, I get that.)  But, what if a simple, “why” could pull those motives, intentions and expected results into question?  What if a simple “why” could help fine tune those expectations?  What if the expectations are unrealistic?  “Why?” is the only way to start conversations that NEED to happen, but most of the time they don’t.  We must to be flexible or cartilaginous as an industry.  We can start by being flexible with our employees.

If we can not get our entire team (I’m talking CEO to newest employee) to understand why they are being asked to do something, there’s no possible way that the proposed initiative will be as successful as it could be.  We are thinking creatures.  We are asking, “Why?” unconsciously all day long.  It’s time we make a conscious decision to grow in understanding about why we are doing the things we do.

 The best laid plans…

The best laid plans are NOT laid without someone asking, “Why?” (Several times in most cases.)  Bringing a product or service first to market is a great thing, but if you don’t have a clue as to what you’re going to do once it’s “out in the wild”, you’re bound to be spending a lot more time creating a plan of action that could have already been established if one brave person would have just asked a simple question or two.

Even if you launch a product, service or initiative and it’s wildly successful, we still need to ask “why?”  What did we do?  Was it just good timing or did we rock it out because we did all of our due diligence and had a solid plan in place?

If you didn’t quite accomplish what you set out to do, “why?” becomes even more important.  Why didn’t this work (Why is a gateway question)?  What could we have done differently?  What can we learn from this?

No one likes to play 20 Questions, but I’m confident that any sensible business person would choose 20 Questions over a failed business initiative.

In summation

Asking “why?” is essential!  Pick your spots, but seeking a deeper understanding is always a good thing.

Do you have any examples of when simply asking “why?” has helped you?  Any stories of when “why?” may have not been worth it?

I’d love to hear them!

 Without wax,

Bryce

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50 Ways To Lose Your Members

First things first, Paul Simon is a musical genius.  Now that we have a common understanding, I will proceed.

Recently, 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover graced my ears.  I did not actively seek out this tune, but the precocity of iTunes shuffle prevailed once again.  Because I’m always thinking about credit unions (seriously, it’s an illness), I thought, “If Paul and Art think it’s easy to lose a lover, it’s probably even easier to lose a credit union member.”

I (think I) know what you’re thinking, and yes, it is a stretch.  Either way, member retention is something that a lot of credit unions don’t focus on.  It’s not to say that we are lazy as an industry, but let’s face it, we’ve all got a lot going on and many of us are lucky to keep our heads erect due to the sheer weight of the multiple “hats” we’re wearing.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of tuning in to a Google Hangout with Tom Glatt and a few others  and he echoed the importance of member growth.  Remember, you can’t have growth if you’re CU is hemorrhaging members.  So, here it is: 5 (not 50) Ways to Lose Your Members (not lover):

 

1. Don’t make a new plan, Stan

“We always run this loan special in the Spring…”  Times, they are a changing.  Your credit union needs to change with them.  So much is said about “thinking outside of the box”.  I say this, “There IS NO box!”  Let’s stop talking about cardboard and get down to brass tacks.  Be unconventional, question traditions and don’t just do what you’ve been doing for years “just because”.  Credit union members have a lot of choices.  Online banking is taking off and banks are working to become less, well, “bankish” every day.

Banks and credit unions sell the same widgets.  Package them differently.

 

2. DON’T keep doing what you’re doing

Your credit union is unique, no doubt.  Is your membership aware of your CU’s uniqueness?  It is totally necessary to be innovative with marketing and branding strategies, but other things are better left as is.  Member service (I will only address this topic once) is important.  If you’ve got a member-centric mindset and your credit union lives it every day (every day), please skip to #3.  If not, please proceed.

I’m sure many of you have experienced the member that only conducts their business with a certain Member Service Representative (insert your CU’s title).  Why do members do this?  They do this because at one point, that employee went above and beyond what was asked of them for that member.

In my opinion, if we all went above and beyond, this phenomenon would fade away.  Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing, but one member’s preference to work with only a specific employee implies that they may have had a less than stellar experience while interacting with a different employee.  We need to strive to provide the best service, we don’t necessarily need to talk about how awesome we are at it, though.  Not sure if you’re employees are making the grade?  Why not employ a mystery shop program?  We need to stay honest with ourselves, outside parties are great at doing this.  No one likes holding their own feet to the fire (if that’s even physically possible.)

 

3. Hop on the bus, Gus

Get out of the office and get into the community!  Already doing three community activities?  Why not make it six?  If people don’t see you out in the communities that you serve, how will they get to know more about you?  Other than what you post on billboards and run on the radio or TV, how are your members and prospective members learning about you?  Community events, when done correctly are the best marketing your credit union can do.  Let your members see you living the credit union lifestyle.  Start conversations with them outside of the branch.  Ask how your credit union is meeting or falling short of meeting their needs.  Show them that you care (actually caring helps as well) and use their feedback to address issues that need to be dealt with.

Let me be clear here, I am NOT talking about throwing sponsorship dollars around.  I am NOT talking about hanging a banner somewhere with your logo on it and expecting people to see it, actually process it and then make a “buying decision”.  No one does this, no one.  We need to get our brands out there in traditional ways, but if you can get your brand out there and have employees there to talk about making people’s lives easier, your credit union’s success at retaining and attracting new members will skyrocket.  What I AM talking about (Willis?)

 

4. You don’t need to discuss much?

You may not need to discuss much about “leaving your lover”, but you do need to spend time talking strategy.  Ideally, the amount of time you spend should shake out like this (from least amount of time to most): 1. Talking (everyone loves meeting right?) 2. Planning (“Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”) 3. Executing (Not that sort of executing.)

We’re busy, but no one is too busy to do their due diligence.  Plans should always come first!  You may want to be the first credit union on Pinterest (trivial right?), but once you get on the website, what the heck are you going to post?  How are you going to use it to provide value to your membership?  How are you going to avoid being a salesperson?  You can apply this to budgeting, loan growth, marketing, membership growth, you name it.  I’m not casting stones here, but it has become apparent to me that there is a lot of doing, but little thought behind the action.  Lay your plans first, carry them out and then assess what can be done better.

 

5. Don’t let your meaning be lost or misconstrued

Don’t embrace social (new) media.  There’s no ROI, right?  I’m calling BS on this argument.  You want statistics?  Well, go find them for yourself.  I am more concerned with results.  I’ve been a part of managing social media campaigns for credit unions for three years (impressive right? lol).  There is an ROI and it CANNOT be measured traditionally.  You don’t measure water and square footage the same way, how can you expect to measure two completely different tactics the same way?

I expect, no, I welcome disagreement.  Discourse is good.  Results are better.  What are the results of a properly run social media campaign?  At the credit union I worked at prior to my current venture, we decreased the average age of our membership by 3.5 years in twelve months time.  Furthermore, 86% of net new members were under the age of 46.  Need more?  Here, 60% of that same net new membership was under 31 years old.  Read this white paper for more.  Pick your metrics, work your plan and reap the rewards.

Social media is the easiest way to get your message out of your branches and in front of more people.  It is a relationship builder.  Stronger relationships generally lead to higher member retention.  If you’re lucky enough, you might get people talking about you.  When this happens, sit back and enjoy the show.  I’m not saying Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and whatever other platform you prefer should be your primary focus.  What I am saying is that they provide value to your members and when you have the right person running your campaign, it’s cost effective and high impact.

 

What are some other ways to lose your lover (err… members?)  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Without wax,

Bryce