August 16, 2012
Credit Union Management magazine’s Web-only “Inside Marketing” column runs the third Thursday of the month.
What is the most effective type of article to convey your credit union’s message of: “We are here to provide you with the best financial services this side of the Saturn’s 62 moons, bar none?”
Many folks would opt for the straight shot of the hallowed, yet mighty, member testimonial. Good choice for starters. But how effective is a member testimonial? Sure you see loyal members on TV or hear them on the radio boasting about their beloved credit union’s low, low rates complemented by the high level of customer service.
The only problem with the testimonial is that, well, it’s not really a story – unless it has a beginning, middle and end. Most don’t, as they usually state the obvious: “My credit union rocks because they helped me finance my new car at a super low APR.” That’s cool, but just about any financial institution can say that these days.
How about tugging a few heartstrings? We saw plenty of these feel-good, tear-jerking stories during the 2012 Olympics, featuring countless athletes sacrificing and overcoming all odds to win a medal for their respective countries. Fantastic stories they all were – and credit unions should take a page from this NBC Olympic marketing manual and put it to use, pronto. Even the Proctor & Gamble “Thank You, Mom” commercials during the Olympics were very well done – tugging on those heartstrings.
To stir your members’ emotions a bit, how about telling some relatable stories such as:
- How your credit union helped a new member eliminate debt, build savings, and become a homeowner.
- How your credit union helped a teenager apply for a loan and buy his/her first car (their parent co-signing, of course).
- How your credit union’s new remote deposit technology helped an elderly member, who doesn’t drive anymore, make life a little easier by depositing checks from home.
- How your credit union helped a busy single mom quickly and easily pay her bills online so she has more time to spend with her kids.
Each of these scenarios can be summed up in a few short sentences – a requirement of the testimonial. You want to keep your testimonials relatively short so they are easy to digest in about 10-20 seconds, which makes for perfect ad copy. If you need to go more in-depth, then read on.
Problem, Solution, Results
The mighty testimonial, if used correctly, rules – and there are plenty more emotional examples to provide. But there’s a close second to the testimonial titleholder and that is its first cousin, the case study. They are alike in many respects, but the case study is obviously a bit longer with more detail describing the problem, the solution and the results of your credit union’s helpful services. Apple does this storytelling about as well as anybody. Check out Apple’s iPhone in Business section and you’ll see why.
The beautiful thing about case studies is that they come from objective resources, end users, consumers who have nothing to gain. They take the time to tell their story of the situation they were in (the more dire, the more effective), the solution they found (your credit union’s services), and the results they have experienced since becoming a member. These stories—whether told on paper, shot on video, or recorded for audio—work very well in the credibility department, as the message they convey to consumers comes directly from their peers. As a result, many can relate to the situations and want to enjoy the results that your credit union has already provided many other members.
And, because of their length, you can’t really make this stuff up. You’d get in trouble and lose all credibility and possibly plenty of business. Nobody wants to be affiliated with an organization like that anyway. Your credit union, however, is more than likely loaded with dozens and dozens of juicy member case studies (and testimonials) ripe for publishing. So what are you waiting for?
Show Expertise with a ‘How To’
Let your passion for finances shine in your marketing messages to members. A great way to do that is to be an educator. Tell “how to” stories because you are the financial expert. Consumers today, and probably always, are looking for some direction and good advice regarding their finances. I know I do. I turn to my credit union routinely for this expertise. They are my prime resource in this area. You can be a primary financial resource for your members, which ultimately enhances your value.
So how do you do this? Provide some expert “how to” advice-type stories that are relatable to your members. These stories are just like the depressing ones you see in the tabloid magazines strategically stacked on each side of the grocery store checkout line that you can’t help but notice (but you hope nobody is looking at you noticing). You know, the ones bearing headline like “9 Ways to Flatter Abs.”
Finances are the same way – only they can actually help you…
- “9 Ways to Save for Your Dream Home”
- “16 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement”
- “How to Lose Your Debt and Build a Solid Savings in 6 Months”
- “99 Ways to Make Your Mate Love You – #1: Smartly Managing Your Finances for a Secure Future!”
I have one more story type for you. It’s called the op/ed or opinion/editorial. These pieces can sometimes be controversial, but are always quite effective in positioning your credit union and the op/ed’s author as a leader. These stories state your position on a current trend and any solutions you have to offer. They don’t have to be political, although most are, especially dealing with today’s tidal wave of financial regulations. That’s fine, so long as you’re fair.
Many times, however, the better route is to state your stance on a new financial service, such as mobile banking, and where you see it headed. You can also discuss the mortgage lending business and how your credit union plays a huge role in helping consumers become homeowners. You can state your position on the current state of the economy and how credit unions can help manage consumer finances. You can simply reiterate the difference between banks and credit unions. And, as we know, there is still plenty of educating this industry needs to accomplish with the consumer.
If you want to tread the controversial line, opining about such topics as housing finance reform, member business lending, tax exemption, interchange fees, etc., is definitely allowed – as long as you state solutions. An op/ed without solutions is just whining. An op/ed with solutions shows leadership.
The one thing I wouldn’t do when penning an op/ed is address hotbed issues that don’t involve finance. For example, don’t talk about such sensitive issues as the war in Afghanistan, global warming, or even Miley Cyrus’s wacky new haircut. Stick to what you know best and how it will help consumers with their finances, while enhancing the visibility of how cool your credit union is. If you do that, you can’t lose.
The story types discussed are just a few ideas of the many that can be used to position your credit union as a trusted leader in the financial services industry. You can have your members talk about you, but make sure there’s substance behind the content. You can show example after example of how your credit union has helped make members’ lives easier and more prosperous. You can provide practical “how to” or advice pieces to help members with their finances. And you can plant your flag in the ground regarding your stance on a financial issue you feel will benefit your members. Just remember to provide a solution. That’s what consumers are looking for in these things: answers. Being the financial expert, you have them.
What are some of your story ideas that have helped benefit your credit union?
Mike Lawson, principal of the PR/marketing firm DML Communications, has two decades of journalism, public relations and marketing experience. His unique and robust knowledge allows him to meet the varied needs of editors, end-users and clients. Lawson's expertise enables him to enhance his clients' market exposure through media relations, social media tools, advertising efforts, target marketing strategies and more. He also speaks on PR, marketing and media issues to audiences nationwide. For more info, visit www.dmlcommunications.com.