Posted by George Pasley
Last week I had the opportunity to attend the CU Water Cooler Symposium. When Matt Davis invited me, I was very hesitant. “You actually want a banker to attend?”, I asked. “Sure, why not?”, was the response. “You can bring a different perspective.”
So off to Fishers, IN I went. Let me tell you, this had to be the best conference I’ve ever attended. There were two days of great speakers and a wealth of information. As someone commented, if you didn’t get a ticket because you thought it would just be about social media, bad mistake.
The tweets from the event are only a sample of a information we received. You can find an archive here.
While the symposium as a whole was great, I’d just like to highlight a few sessions:
Robbie Wright, from CU Innovators, spoke about using social media to discuss the hard topics. He said that instead of just talking about marketing fluff, we should try solving the hard problems. Credit unions need to focus on the non-sexy to stand out for their customers. At the end of the day, credit unions are a business, not a charity. They can’t just focus on “being on Twitter and Facebook”. Social media needs to add value to customers and the credit union. You should build a business case to use these tools and income is a good thing.
Rebecca Corliss, from Hubspot, gave a presentation on inbound marketing. I’m a big fan of Hubspot and have always wanted to meet someone from the company. Hubspot really helps you leverage your online presence to generate leads. Old school marketing is interruption based while the new school is permission based. Some advice Rebecca gave was to think of inbound marketing as an ecosystem, not a cubicle. You need to target your keywords in order to build your rank. Inbound marketing is an investment and can build down the cost of leads. Another piece of advice was to have more than one “contact” form. The forms on your website should have a “call to action”, not just ask for generic information.
Ed Brett, from Westminster Savings, would probably get the vote for best speaker. No slides, just straight talk. Ed explained that although his credit union was much smaller than the competition, they were able to compete because they take advantage of their small size. Smaller companies are able to be much more agile so there are less levels to go through to get to a decision. At larger companies, there are more politics, agendas, and decision makers. Also, credit unions need to be better bankers than the bankers. This is a business and they need to help people do their banking better. There should be less emphasis on social media and more on simplifying banking. If you want to be agile, you should partner with agile vendors. At the end of the day, you need to bring value to your members. Ed also gave three statements that really stood out to me:
1. I challenge you to find other industries that are seeking to model their service after credit unions (banks).
2. The only innovation in financial services over the last 50 years has been in ‘access’
3. Your job is not to use technology, but to apply it.
Maya Bourdeau, from Attune, spoke about Psychology in Marketing. She talked about how her company discovered that small sample sizes gave as good results as large pools of participants. But, of course you have to be very discriminate in selecting your small sample. Another thing they discovered through their marketing development was credit unions need to show two times the value to get members to switch from a bank. They also said to keep it simple and explain the personal benefit. For example, instead of saying “we helped people save over $7 billion”, say “we can help YOU save $200″.
In addition, I had the opportunity to be on the expert panel about credit union branding. One recurring theme was credit unions really need to sit down and decide what they want to be. I mentioned that credit unions need to play to their strengths and explain how they’re different from banks. Most people don’t know what the difference between the two is. I also stated that “credit unions can’t out bank a bank, we’ve got that down”.
All in all, this was a great conference and I’m looking forward to going back next year. One question I was continually asked was, “why don’t you work for a credit union?”. My response was, “I believe I’m a credit union person trapped in a banker’s body.” As Morriss Partee said, that statement is “an instant classic”.