Monday, March 28, 2011

Will free checking thrive or die at your credit union?

By Margie Church, Copywriter/Editor

I spend a fair amount of my day reading about business practices, trends in the financial market, emerging technologies, and all kinds of other things that help us keep abreast of the credit union market and anticipate the next best move for our clients.

Some days are real head-scratchers, aren't they?

We have some great insights to national trends, but nothing beats feet on the street. The pulse of what's going on in your neighborhood credit union. We invite you to share some of your insights with us today. 

Specifically, we're interested in your perspectives on free checking. We all know how bottom line-driven banks are. They're yanking free checking and debit card rewards programs, and fees are piling up. These days, there seems to be two options for bank customers– take it or leave it. More and more, it feels like even the threadbare "services" a bank provides are an inconvenience to them.

Who's taking it? Who's leaving it?
A recent study conducted by ACTON Marketing Intelligence, revealed approximately 93% of Americans have one or more checking accounts, and 94% of those are free. When asked the big question, how important is free checking to you?, a whopping, but not surprising, 85% said free checking is critically or very important. What's more, 92% of female respondents, and 79% of the males said free checking is critically or very important.

Makes you think, doesn't it? 

Digging deeper into the report, one learns that affluence or lack thereof doesn't matter either. Americans have a deep love affair with free checking and they're not going to give it up quietly. Fifty-seven percent said they'd switch banks or credit unions if free checking was eliminated or if fees were imposed on previously free services. The respondents would be willing to modify some banking behaviors to keep free checking, but they're clearly stating they want the choice. 

Banks have revealed their Achilles heel once more, giving credit unions yet another chance to take market share. At least that's what we think. 

But we're wondering what your credit union is doing. Are you keeping free checking come heck or high water? How is your credit union planning to cope with the inevitable loss of debit card transaction fees? Help us understand the neighborhood perspective. Because that's really where it matters. Leave a comment, please. We look forward to hearing from you. 

"The mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work unless it’s open."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cross-media strategies. Gotta have 'em.

By Margie Church, Copywriter/Editor

Many times I've studied my marketing budget and compared it to my sales objectives. And groaned. How could I possibly achieve the aggressive sales goals with this tiny budget? I might take a five-minute trip to La-La Land where management would agree to a lower forecast, but reality awaited my return. Whether our budgets are tight or not, we all must be good stewards of the amount we're given. Creative, careful selection of the right cross-media tools is the only way to make the most of the budget and achieve objectives

Start Right: Data Modeling
Data modeling is the difference between buckshot and arrows. Using data modeling helps ensure the recipient is highly qualified and/or highly likely to respond the way you want. Append MCIF or Data Systems information to qualify recipients and you'll produce fewer pieces, and of those, fewer will be wasted efforts. This saves money and improves your ROI.

Give a Campaign Depth
Once you've paid for your design concept and copywriting for your primary piece, it's very inexpensive to resize logos, layouts, and shorten copy. The graphic and headline can easily be turned into all kinds of print and electronic banners. A letter can be remodeled into highlights for an ad, statement stuffer, or email for follow-up. Tweet about your newest campaign.  Put a link on your Facebook page, blog about it, and don't forget your newsletter.

Switching Things Up or Same 'Ol, Same 'Ol?
As a marketer, we sometimes do things the same way because it's a habit. When our jobs are busy, it's fast. We understand how to do the work. But putting ourselves in the members' shoes makes us look at their needs and reminds us we want to keep members for life. We must try to keep up with these communications trends and find ways to use them to appeal to our current customers and the ones we're trying to acquire.

Communications tools are changing. FAST.  Email campaigns remain highly effective. PURLs (personalized URLs) and GURLs (generalized URLs) for instant responses are very convenient. QR (quick response) Codes are the newest way to marry print and electronic communications. (If you need more information about what QR Codes are, click here.) 

Some credit unions say their members don't like email marketing, or electronic response tools. If that's true, then why is mobile banking gaining such momentum and acceptance?  In 2010, approximately 17.8 million customers used mobile banking, according to data from TowerGroup, a financial services research firm. That figure is expected to jump to 27.4 million customers in 2011. By 2013, it's predicted that 53.1 million consumers will adopt mobile banking. 

Startling isn't it? What's driving the high adoption rate? According to TowerGroup, it can be attributed to:
  1. High smartphone penetration (wireless subscribers represent a mobile phone penetration of 90 percent of adults age 20 or older). It's not only the young crowd with these tools in their hands. It's also your core market, your most profitable segment.

    Consider that in the second quarter of 2010, smartphones represented 61.6 million (19%) of the 325.6 million mobile phones sold. This represents a sales increase of over 50% on the same time period in 2009. In addition, the Coda Research Consultancy predicts global smartphone sales of some 2.5 billion over the 2010-2015 period. This also suggests mobile Internet use via smartphones will increase 50 fold by the end of that same period.
  1. Changing banking preferences. ATMs and online banking are popular self-service models of banking. Mobile banking goes even further to provide access anytime, anywhere. Do you know any credit union members who don't appreciate convenience services?

  2. Faster networks, improved operating systems, and better interfaces add to the appeal of mobile banking services. Communications providers bombard consumers with the allure of high speed and reliable, time-saving connectivity. And it's cool. Judging by the number of smartphone sales and the ever-increasing speed of Internet connections, these providers are winning.
Repeated, Consistent Exposures are Crucial
Depending on which media you choose and your frequency, you might achieve awareness of your message in five to seven exposures. People might take action after 11 exposures. A combination of scheduling and media plays on the channel strengths, impacts your audience more effectively, and brings the highest response.

Confused? Let's say you sent a letter offering a fantastic auto loan rate. On the way through town, the member saw a billboard ad with the low rate. The next day, your CU's scrolling banner touted it again. A few days later, they received an email with the same fantastic offer.  In this scenario, you've achieved multiple impressions in different channels. This is likely to be more memorable than if the member had simply gotten three letters/postcards from you over the course of a few weeks or heard the same three radio commercials during the week.

Your budgets may be tight, but by slicing and dicing the delivery tools, you can make your campaign look bigger and you are likely to deliver a better ROI to your Board. Cross-media marketing is the way to go.

Think about it and then talk to us. We understand cross-media marketing and can help you with budget-friendly solutions.