tOSU and their Helmet Stickers

There’s a popular commercial running these days about why The Ohio State University has kept their helmets the same for decades. The commercial explains the logic (in short) behind how and why their student-athletes earn buckeye leaf stickers to be placed on their helmets.

If you were to look up symbolism in the dictionary or online you will learn that symbolism is defined as:

“the use of symbols to represent ideas or qualities.”

Qualities. Ideas. Symbols.

Symbols can be very powerful. If you have any doubt about their importance, look no further than how popular emojis, avatars and bitmojis are. Symbols are incredibly persuasive because they take complex ideas and simplify them. In the world we live in, I believe we all are looking for more simplicity.

How can we apply this to our businesses? It’s easy. Stop trying to put your mission, vision, and values into words and think about its essence. If you cannot define what you aim to do and why you exist by creating a symbol, there is a very real possibility that your teammates and consumers of your products/services have no idea why you exist.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, can you recite your organization’s Mission Statement? Can you recall your vision without looking it up? When you make your organization’s purpose easy to understand, you create a common language. You create opportunities for your brand ambassadors to understand your purpose, but you also allow them to express your purpose in their own unique way.

People do not buy products. People buy relationships. People buy “stuff” that they can relate to. Even if everyone within your organization did memorize your Mission Statement, would it resonate with your target market? My guess is that it would for some, but it wouldn’t for most.

Simplify your messaging. Empower your teammates and watch the results. You will be amazed.  There IS some value in “doing things the way we have always done them” if what you are doing is truly meaningful and memorable.

Just my thoughts. What are yours?

Without wax,

Bryce

 

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Redefining ROI

ROI-graphReturn on investment (ROI).  Every business person is familiar with this term and if you are a marketer, like me, it’s kind of a big deal.  No matter the nature of your business, marketers spend money to make more money.  It’s a pretty simple concept to grasp, but I’m not convinced that all of us really understand everything that needs to be involved to deliver firm numbers and report results.  So, now that I’ve put my credit union hat on, let’s talk about some of the issues I’ve encountered personally and heard from other people over the years.

Planning

It’s astonishing to me how many times I hear that marketers do not have a strategy or plan for the year about what they will be advertising, why they will be doing so at a certain time and how much of their budget will be allocated to a specific campaign.  If tracking is a big problem, this one is even bigger.  If you don’t have a plan, it’s impossible to track.  If you don’t have a plan, you become reactionary instead of proactive.  If you don’t have a plan, your message has a greater chance of getting lost in all the other advertising that is going on around you and your members.  There is certainly no shortage of financial institutions in any market, so, if you don’t know how you are going to deliver your message and why you’ve chosen a certain way, good luck standing out.

Execution

If you have a plan in place it is much easier to execute (no brainer, right?), but planning doesn’t mean you have to stay rigid.  Rates change daily and financial marketers are constantly playing a balancing act of gaining deposits or lending money out.  When you have a plan, you know what an ideal year would look like, but you also know where you can reallocate funds should you need to focus more on deposits or loan growth.  I can’t stress enough how these things should be interrelated, but often they are not.

Tracking

A lot of people aren’t tracking their total marketing spend!  This blows me away, but it’s a bit more complicated than it sounds.  The biggest here is that a lot of credit union folks don’t spend the time to calculate their allocations to each delivery channel and they don’t work close enough with their accounting teams to crunch the numbers before going live to determine what a “win” looks like.  A win isn’t just making more money than you spend, but providing a real value to all of the people who take advantage of what you’re selling.  Great product + significant income = win.  I’m not saying that I am the world’s best “tracker”, but if we all don’t continue to try to improve, we are doing ourselves and our members a great disservice.

The above are only three key aspects of calculating ROI, but let’s get into the whole redefining idea.  You need to generate a return.  Regardless if you are not-for-profit, non-profit or for profit, we all need to make money.  In the case of cooperatives (credit unions are cooperatives, btw), we need to make money so we can re-invest in our members and our communities.  So, the standard ROI is a given.  What I believe cooperative marketers need to really focus on in addition is Return on Involvement (ROI2).  To me, ROI2 is a function of our obligation to practice the Cooperative Principles, manly Concern for Community (#7).

Consider this example:

A local high school submits a proposal for you to run an advertisement in their Fall Sports Program.  You get to place your logo and a sentence or two about your business.  The cost is $200.

Sure, supporting schools is a great thing to do, but when was the last time you (or anyone else) bought a sports program to peruse the advertisers?  probably never.  Where is the ROI2?  You’ve done your part, but what did your institution or your members get in return?  Could you not have been a little more creative and received better exposure for the same dollar amount and still supported the school(s)?  Furthermore, if you sponsor one school in your field of membership then you probably have to do the same for everyone else.  $200 can quickly turn into $1,000 or more.  No good.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes “feel good marketing” is a necessary evil, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.  The key here is looking for opportunities to generate ROI and ROI2.  Most of the time, you will have to have a presence at things that your sponsor or endorse.  It’s as simple as having team members at the ready to thank current members for their loyalty or to tell your story in a compelling way that you could never do in a sentence or two in black and white ink.  Use the Cooperative Principles as the filter in which all decisions are made.  If a proposal for sponsorship doesn’t meet at least two requirements, you probably should pass.

The formula for calculating ROI is pretty straight froward and the same could be said for ROI2.  For starters, we can figure out how many people will our marketing spend (sponsorship) reach or directly impact?  Is it hundreds of people or thousands?  What does the business get in return for our spend (how does it help them maintain a program or provide more programming?)  How does this spend benefit the cooperative as a whole and not just our business needs (would our members be comfortable with us spending their money on this?)

So much more could or should be said, but you’ve spent enough of your time reading this far.  What are you thoughts?  Does ROI2 really exist?  Is the idea too much or a purist ideal?  What can we do to make sure we are creating ROI2 (assuming it exists)?

Without wax,

Bryce

Storytelling: So Easy, Even a Caveman Can Do It.

geicocavemen2ORIGINALLY POSTED ON CHATTERYAK.COM

 

Content marketing has been around for ages, and it has been a hot topic around the marketing and advertising world for the last several years.  Now, it appears that credit union marketers are taking note (as they should) and that makes us happy.  If you’re not sure what content marketing is, you’re in the right place.  In this blog, we’ll be sharing what we know and we’ll also include some helpful information from other thought-leaders on the subject.

So, let’s get the definition stuff out of the way first.  According to the leaders in the industry, The Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is defined as:

 “a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Sounds a lot like social media, right?  Sort of.  Social media is a great delivery channel for your content, but content marketing is so much more than simple tweets and Facebook/Google+ posts.  When it comes to credit unions, content marketing is all about solving the problems of your members.  Now, this seems like a very simple concept to grasp, but solving your members problems is much more complex than the following line of thinking:

 “Members have a lot of credit card debt on high-interest credit cards and our credit card has a lower rate.  Therefore, we should scream our {low} rate from the rooftops.”

The above is what most credit unions have reduced their marketing and advertising messages to.  Your credit union is so much more than a purveyor of loan rate loans and minimal fees.  You see, content marketing is all about telling a story that people actually want to hear.  If we continue to compete only on rates and service, we will continue to lose out to other financial institutions and here’s why: Your members care less about you and more about what you can do for them.

From the beginning of time, people have been telling stories.  From cavemen (and cavewomen) to the Egyptians, the world is covered (literally) in stories.  Bringing things a bit closer to modern times, the first true form of content marketing was created by a little tractor company known as John Deere.  In 1895, the company produced and distributed “The Furrow” a magazine designed to help farmers find solutions to the problems they faced on a daily basis.  The magazine was not littered with ads for tractors and guess what, it’s still being produced today! (Joe Pullizi tells the story way better here.)

So what does this mean for credit unions?  We think it means our industry needs to start worrying more about what our members want and less about what we wish our members would do.  In the end, it boils down to basic psychology.  If you want someone to perform a specific behavior, you need to give them a reason or motivation.  Motivation can be internal or external.  Here is an example of each:

External: If you become a member at ABC credit union, we will give you $25.

Internal: A person is so compelled by your credit union’s story or branding that they want to become a member.

While building a strong and impactful brand is much more difficult than doling out $25 for each new person who walks through the door, an externally motivated member’s affinity toward your brand will be much weaker than someone who saw/heard what your credit union has been doing and sought out membership on their own.  Taking things a step further, if you build the foundation of your membership on externally motivated individuals, it will be much harder for your credit union to get those members to understand the cooperative mindset and you will likely remain in the rut of competing on price rather than value.

In 2014, choose to build value!  Rediscover your credit union’s story and tell it from a perspective that resonates with people (members or not).  Maybe even checkout 6th Story to see how they can help you with your credit union’s story.  Remember that people don’t want to hear from organizations that consistently talk about how great they are.  Get into the practice of demonstrating the value you offer and create compelling stories (content) that you can share via social channels, on your website or in your newsletter (if you still do one of those).  Think about what your credit union does every single day and repurpose that information.

What are your thoughts?

Without wax,

Bryce

The Next Top Credit Union Executive: Takeaways

thankyou“I’ve got a pretty good idea what children are, and we’re not children. Children can lose sometimes, and nobody cares.”
― Orson Scott Card, Enders Game

First of all this is not a blog about losing.  Please do not let the quote fool you.  I just saw Enders Game (one of my favorite books of all time) in the theatre last week as it has now been made into a movie.  This blog is really about learning.

Most of you reading this know that I was blessed enough to take part in a competition that started with 141 candidates and I made it to the Final 5.  Things didn’t shake out the way I wanted them to, but in the end, the credit union industry has gained another driven, progressive and energetic leader and Next Top Credit Union Executive 2013 in  Amanda Brenneman from Maps Credit Union.  I was fortunate enough to spend several days with Amanda, Chad Huseby (@HUSE59), Zac King  and Rob Carabelli (@MHFCURob) this past week and I can tell you with 100% certainty that we all share the passion and desire to make an impact in the lives of the members we serve and the industry we love.

I would be lying to all of you and myself if I said I wasn’t disappointed when I left San Diego, but the saying goes, “You learn more from your loses than your victories.”  After 24+ hours, now I need to focus on what I can learn and how I can become a better credit union advocate, young professional and leader.  The Next Top Credit Union Executive Competition has taught me countless lessons about time management, presentation skills, networking and working hard while also completing my daily responsibilities.  I’d like to thank the Credit Union Executives Society (CUES), DDJ Myers  and Currency Marketing for making this opportunity available to young credit union leaders.

I’ve learned a ton about myself and one thing I can’t help but reflect on is how much amateur and high school wrestling has taught me about being a successful young professional and good person (my own opinion) in general.  The only way to make it to the Final 5 is to have self-discipline and that is most certainly required of anyone who has wrestled, had to cut weight and complete their studies while depriving themselves of their favorite meals.  In this case, it wasn’t about not eating delicious food, but I had to really pick and choose when I was able to participate in leisure activities and when I needed to write a blog, brainstorm for videos (Thanks to Jordan Destree for his professional video editing skills) or practice my presentation (58 live run-throughs, btw).

One on one.  When you wrestle, you compete to help your team score points, but essentially you are out there on the mat and whether your hand gets raised or someone else’s does, well, that’s all on you.  I think the same goes for public speaking.  When you’re on that stage, it’s your job to perform, present your message and “win” the crowd.  There are plenty of other similarities, but I think that you get the gist.

Last and certainly not least, I couldn’t finish this blog without thanking everyone who has supported me through the entire process.  I will undoubtedly leave someone out (not on purpose) but here goes.  I need to thank Jane Anderson for thinking enough of me to send in my first nomination.  Jane, you’re faith in my abilities and my project has meant the world.  Kevin Ralofsky, my friend, mentor and colleague also deserves special acknowledgement.  Kevin took a chance on me a little over 3 and a half years ago and to this day, we work together as a team and I learn something new from him every single day.  Kevin and his family have become a part of my family and I think that it is safe to say that I have become a part of his.  I’m not sure about what gave him the inclination to take a chance and hire a twenty-something with no knowledge of credit unions, but I am thankful that he did.

My parents.  My parents have always been a driving force in my life.  I think most children are always seeking ways to make their parents proud, so, I’m really no different than anyone, but not all children are fortunate enough to have parents who raised them to understand the importance of working hard for the things that you want, being respectful and willing to learn from anyone you can and being open to “losing”, but at the same time never making excuses.  I don’t really believe in luck and some people will say, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”, but I believe that everyone should work hard at everything they do and the better person you are, or, said differently, the more you give of yourself, the more blessings you will find come your way.

Friends and family.  My friends and family have been amazing.  For the last several weeks, I have been the most annoying Facebook “friend” and Twitter users that ever existed, yet people have rallied behind me.  People have spent their own time sharing things about me and doing their best to promote my efforts for the Next Top Credit Union Executive title and I can’t help but think, “Why?”  Their (your) efforts and the time you gave benefitted them (you) in no way and yet they (you) did it anyways.

I thank you all for what you have done for me.  Please know that I am grateful beyond any words I could possibly comprehend or type.  I intend to push forward and make this project successful and continue to develop new ideas.  Thank you for the outpouring of support and love.

Best regards and without wax,

Bryce

The final #NTCUE push!

Image

The good new is that after Tuesday at 5PM Pacific time, I will no longer clog your newsfeed or Twitter stream.  The bad new is that I am way behind in like (heart clicks) on the Credit Union Executives Society (CUES) Next Top Credit Union Executives website. Can you please visit these link and click the heart button? You can even leave a comment and share them with your friends (They will love it .) That would a really nice thing to do, btw.

http://www.nexttopcreditunionexec.com/blog/applicant-8-bryce-roth

http://www.nexttopcreditunionexec.com/blog/top-15-post-bryce-roth

http://www.nexttopcreditunionexec.com/blog/top-5-video-bryce-roth

The heart button is always under the video or at the end of the blog.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.  The people I have met along this journey and what I have already learned is priceless.  Your support means the world to me.

Without wax,

Bryce

Next Top Credit Union Executive Competition 2013

NextGen-CFCU-whiteBGIf you’re reading this, thank you!  For those of you who do not know me and are still reading this, thank you!

So here’s the story:  Back in May of this year, I was fortunate enough to be nominated by a kind soul, Jane Anderson, for the Credit Union Executives Society (CUES) Next Top Credit Union Executive (NTCUE) Competition.  This is an international competition and there were over 30 initial nominees.  Nominees were asked to create a video describing a project they are working on or developing in order to move the credit union industry forward.   You can see my first video here.  I was blessed enough to make the next round which narrowed the nominees into a field of 15 finalists.  Those of us who made the Final 15 were asked to submit a blog post (if you’re bored you can read mine here).  Based on our first video and blog posts, the judges of the competition selected 5 Finalist.   As a finalist, we were all asked to submit a final video describing the progress of our project (here is my final video.)

At this point, all I can say is that I am extremely blessed to have been given this opportunity.  Making it to the Final 5 is an even bigger blessing.

So, one week from today (Monday, October 28, 2013) I will have 7 minutes to present my program, Next Gen Outreach (super cool website here).  The judging shakes out like this:

1.   40% judging panel scores

2.  20% Live audience votes

3.  20% Online voting

4.  20% social actions (comments, likes and tweets – on the two videos and one blog post)

Voting begins November 4 at Noon (Pacific) and ends on the 5th.  Not sure of the exact URL right now, but it will likely be here: VOTE

The first two are within my control.  I promise to do my best to represent CitizensFirst Credit Union, all of my teammates, our members and the entire Next Gen group, but I REALLY need your help on items 3 & 4.  If you have the time, please check out the videos and blog (I hyperlinked them above) and if you think I deserve your like, comment or vote, I would really appreciate it!  In addition, you can help by sharing the links to the blog and videos on Facebook and Twitter.  If you use the hashtag #NTCUE and mention me @bryceroth all of that social chatter will help me with number 4 above.

I can’t thank all of you enough for your support.  This has been a great experience and has afforded me an opportunity to grow professionally and personally.  I look forward to presenting to the audience next week in San Diego and I will be sure to Tweet and Facebook the URL where you can watch the live streaming of all of the presentations.

Thanks again!

 

Without wax,

Bryce

 

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