Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Difference Between PR and Marketing for Credit Unions

Gallup recently studied perceived ethics with United States citizens and found that 72% of Americans believe moral values are getting worse in this country rather than better. Credit unions have long been held in high regard by their members and communities for their charitable and altruistic deeds, and perhaps this is a good time to sound off!

Before embarking on a campaign, one of the first things your credit union needs to do is address the differences and similarities between public relations and marketing efforts. Ultimately, many of their focuses are intertwined, and depending on the size and resources of your credit union, these roles may very well be enacted by the same individuals.

How they’re alike…

  • The Narrative – At their core, both PR and marketing look to tell a story, and look to frame it in a very specific way.
  • Creative Development – Not only do they both seek to establish a narrative, they both rely on talented content developers to plan and execute. This often requires a capable and clever writer.
  • Media Channel – More and more, social media is becoming a fundamental component of both marketing and PR for credit unions. There are other channels of course, but whether radio, TV, print or digital, the public consumes this info in increasingly similar ways and through similar channels.
  • Bottom Line – Driving traffic, increasing awareness and bringing more members into the fold. The bottom line will often the same in this aspect.

How they’re different…

  • Message – One of the more obvious aspects. Marketing typically promotes a product or service, whereas PR spreads information to gain exposure.
  • Direction of Interaction – Marketing promotes the transfer of a product or service from the credit union to the member, and PR promotes a bond between the organization and member.
  • Measurement – Marketing tends to be more quantitative in nature, and is measured in dollars and cents by return on investment. PR is more qualitative, and bases success on expressed public opinion and support.
  • By Way of… – In the end, they often serve the same purpose of fortifying and strengthening your credit union, but they achieve this in different ways. Marketing’s goal is financial strength by way of profit, and PR’s goal is enhanced connection with members by way of positive perception.

Depending on your credit union’s needs, public relations and marketing can be approached as two distinctly different ventures, or combined and synthesized into a single effort. With either approach, it’s important to understand and draw distinctions so that you can set the right expectations and get the most out of your labor.

If your credit union needs help promoting all of the great things that you do in your community, or are just looking to help drive the bottom line, CU Solutions Group can help! Contact us today to learn more.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Stop Dangling That Carrot: Other Ways to Motivate Credit Union Employees

In last week’s blog post, we took a look at employee engagement, and how management’s approach to engagement can effect job performance. In a perfect world, all of your credit union’s employees would be firing on all cylinders, all the time. But how realistic is that? Some people will be consistent top-performers, while others show up just for the paycheck. The trick is to take the paycheck people, and inspire them; inspire them on their own terms. This isn’t done by setting an all or nothing standard of excellence, but by individual goal-setting and creating a method of achievement.

Here are some key elements of goal-setting, and creating a means of success in any situation:
  • Motivation – The work that a person performs is a direct reflection of who they are as an individual – this is the psychological component of achievement. Motivation can be the hardest, or the easiest part, but is certainly the most foundational. Communicating a person’s role, why it is important and how it contributes to the larger picture can instill a sense of ownership over a process or procedure. If the situation allows, consider getting your credit union’s employees involved in the decision-making process or, at the very least, allow them to voice their input.

  • SMART GoalsThis was first developed by George Duran in the early ‘80s, and focuses on setting the right goals. According to the acronym, goals should be Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-related. While the motivation component focuses primarily on the employee, this component is more driven by management. It’s important to allow the employee to contribute to the definition of achievement, but credit union management has to make certain that the end product leads to a healthy bottom line.

  • Consistency Anything worth doing, is worth doing right; and consistently! Upkeep is the duty of all parties involved and encompasses nearly all facets at your credit union. Motivation is a spark that needs to be maintained and fanned until it becomes a fire, and then fanned some more. Situations and projects need to be reassessed and readdressed to make sure that they are consistently on track. None of these things matter if they are introduced and executed only once. Engagement is an ongoing and dynamic process that needs to be sustained in order for it to translate into performance.

  • Leading It’s not always about where you are, but where you are going. Trajectory and momentum are crucial to the process, especially when goals are near completion. We should always keep an eye on the obstacles ahead so that when our goals are met, we’re ready to meet the next challenge.

It all boils down to the classic negative versus positive reinforcement argument. Negative reinforcement leads to avoidance – employees will typically do as much as necessary to avoid reproach, and stop right there. When your credit union’s employees are driven by achievement, they are much more likely to go above and beyond. While simple recognition of good work can certainly help, the effects are often fleeting. For lasting performance and production, a true driving force, we need to engage and tap into something more constant. A structured means of achievement can be just that.

CU Solutions Group and HR Performance Solutions are dedicated to providing human resource solutions that help credit unions thrive. Click here to learn more about our performance driven products and services.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Employee Engagement – How Do You Measure Up?

Okay, I have three numbers for you – or percentages I should say – 30, 13 and 70. According to a recent study conducted by Gallup, 30 percent of U.S. employees are actively engaged in their job. Mull that over for a moment. That means seven out of ten folks around you will probably do enough to earn their paycheck, and nothing more. Sure, they’ll get the job done, but are by no means driven to go above and beyond in their work.

Sounds pretty bad, right? Well that’s actually quite better than employee engagement worldwide, which sits at a dismal 13 percent. Thirty is starting to sound good … Don’t fret though, there’s still one more number: 70. Management is shown to account for 70 percent of variance in employee engagement.

The tone set by leadership is shown to systematically carry throughout the company and directly influences engagement. If you can manage to get the right person in the role, that 30 percent engagement can be driven considerably higher. Management is the key.

Focus and approach

I’ve witnessed the effect that management has on engagement firsthand. In a former life (or so it feels), I was a sales manager for a big box electronics retailer. The biggest driver of profitability, by and large, was television sales. The TV by itself has a high profit margin, but when you add accessories, cables, surge protectors, Blu-ray players and audio, profits can soar. These stores live and die by the success of their TV department.

As you can probably guess, sales managers place a great deal of focus and investment on their salespeople – developing their talents, honing their skills and teaching them how to educate and connect with customers. While the underlying focus is often the same from manager to manager, approach can vary wildly.

Inaction in action

I recall one manager in particular and his method of “talent development.” Employees would regularly approach him after a sale, proud of their accomplishment, and looking for a little approval and encouragement. His response was typically a back-handed compliment: “Nice, I see that you sold an HDMI cable, you should have sold the surge protector too,” or, “Great, they purchased home theater surround-sound with the TV, why didn’t you sell professional installation?” No praise went without criticism; no good deed went unpunished.

In his mind, he was placing the bar higher and higher – helping his salespeople strive to be the best and reach a standard of excellence. It worked in a few cases. More often than not however, employees disengaged, confident that they could never do enough to satisfy. They could never reach their goals, because they were always reestablished right before they were met.

It’s all relative

I always did my best to encourage performance through individual achievement rather than a single standard of excellence. The biggest difference between these two methods is the approach towards goal setting. The first method establishes a measure for greatness, and produces an all or nothing mentality. In the words of Jedi Master Yoda, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Maybe this works in the Marine Corps boot camp, professional sports and the Jedi Academy, but it’s not a prudent approach for an every-day Middle America workforce.

The other method takes a little longer, but is much more productive. We have to first take stock of an employee’s skill set and potential, and then work with them to establish a “next level.” Something that they can own; something on their terms. If we view performance as falling somewhere on a continuum, focus moves to direction and momentum. Not just good or bad, but getting better or getting worse. As long as we can keep consistently ticking along upwards, slow and steady will often win the race.

In part two of this post, we’ll look at some tangible methods of engaging employees. In the meantime, if your credit union would benefit from more streamlined and simplified performance management, click here to learn more about Performance Pro!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Inspiring a Civil Workplace at Your Credit Union

by Joyce Marsh, SPHR, Sr. HR Consultant

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone said and did the right thing all the time and no one’s feelings ever got hurt? That would be a perfect world – which, of course, we know we don’t live in. But we can wish, can’t we?!

Ensuring that employees practice civility at your credit union is a progressive activity. Civility being courteous and polite. It doesn’t sound that difficult to be nice, but because of various negative factors, we sometimes digress. Following are some tips for resisting bad manners and encouraging civility at your credit union. Remember, it starts with you:
  • Personality conflicts – Empathetically putting oneself in the other person’s “shoes” can help you see the conflict in a completely different light.
  • Holding your tongue – Think before speaking. Look for the good in others and focus on their strengths.
  • Lead by example – Random acts of kindness and sincere compliments of a “job well done” are always encouraging. And they’re much better than speeches that tear someone down.

The Cost of Incivility

Incivility is degrading to all who are affected by it, regardless of whether it is directed at them or if they’re a witness to its hurtfulness. When incivility reigns, it can quickly turn into a claim of harassment or a hostile work environment.

Train your employees to be respectful of others, and to look for positive qualities in them too.
Someday, they themselves, could be the victim, and what a lonely place that would be! Teaching employees to be aware of, and think about, the effects of what they say or do can help them be more thoughtful and considerate workmates. Civility leads to less turnover, better productivity and a happier staff.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

5 Ways to Grow Your Credit Union This Summer

Most organizations seem to face a summer slowdown each year, even credit unions. Thanks to summer vacations, both staff and members become sparse. Even though on some of these slow, summer day it’s nice to relax and enjoy the calm. But there are several, and more productive, ways to spend these upcoming summer months.

  1. Play Online
    No, we’re not talking about Candy Crush Saga or Minecraft … But on a slow business day take a look at all of those new social media platforms you’ve heard about but never tried. Set up a business profile and test it out. Come fall, if you don’t think it’s worth it – just remove your profile. You won’t know unless you try!

  2. Update Your Site
    We’re sure you’ve been meaning to update your website’s content or layout all year long. But the day-to-day tasks can force you to put it on the backburner. Summer is the time to go through your site to ensure everything is current. It’s also the perfect opportunity to review it and see if it’s time to get a new look to better mesh with your credit union’s brand, or update it to be responsive. Don’t wait until fall when your workload picks back up.

  3. Get Out There
    With all of the summer festivals and community events, now is when you want to get out and about and mingle with your community. Sponsor a charity run or host a booth at the art fair. You’ll not only get your credit union’s name and brand out there, you might get the chance to network some new partnerships and enrich the ones you already have. Plus, who wants to sit at a desk when it’s so nice outside!

  4. Snap Some Pics
    While you’re out and about this summer, don’t forget to take plenty of photos! Thanks to the prevalence on cameras on phones, you have no excuse to get some pics when your credit union is at these community events. Once you take them, just don’t forget to post them on your Facebook page or website for all to see. Nothing boosts traffic as much as a great photo.

  5. Tend to Your Staff
    Staff development can also be something that gets put on a backburner when those deadlines keep looming. Work one-on-one with staff to ensure they’re keeping up with their goals and that any issues are being properly addressed. No use waiting until the end of the year reviews to improve the performance of not only your staff, but your credit union as well.
The good news is that no matter what season, the CU Solutions Group team is always ready, willing and able to support your credit union. Our marketing, technologyand HR divisions can help you with any and all of the tips above. Just let us know what we can do to make your credit union’s summer be the best yet!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How Credit Unions Can Ride the Tide of Increasing Auto Loans

Recent reports from CUNA show new auto loans increasing 1.1 percent in March 2015, and a whopping 22.6 percent year-over-year since March 2014. While other economic indicators have bounced around during the first quarter, these auto loan numbers suggest increased consumer confidence in their own ability to repay on a major purchase.

Credit unions can ride the tide of growing auto loans by integrating Spireon’s LoanPlus CMS into their loan offerings. The program was designed to help members with less than perfect credit finance a vehicle at a reasonable rate while simultaneously protecting the credit union’s (and the greater membership’s) best interests.

More loans, less risk

With LoanPlus CMS, your credit union will be able to have a small electronic device installed on the vehicle that your member is financing. This “Remote Collateral Management Unit” is essentially a GPS tracking device. For recovery efforts, the system not only allows a credit union to locate a vehicle, but an additional option allows it to be remotely disabled.

The overall goal is to allow you to say “yes” to a member auto loan when you would have otherwise said “no.” Some credit unions have balked at the idea of expanding their loan portfolio through non-prime offerings, and it’s an understandable sentiment. After all, one of the cornerstones of the credit union movement is to provide members the best available options, typically through lower fees and better rates. But it’s important to view this from the member’s perspective. That’s exactly what this is – their best available option.

Treating everyone fair

In the financial services industry, it’s not reasonable to expect that everyone will be treated equally, but it is reasonable to expect that everyone be treated fairly. When a member approaches you with a less than ideal credit history, offering the best possible option while helping them rebuild their credit creates a best case scenario.

When denied by their credit union, many borrowers turn to buy here/pay here lenders. The rates that your members accept from a dealer direct program are loaded with acquisition and assignment fees in addition to participation and other hidden charges. Offering an attractive alternative to borderline predatory lending will save your at-risk members hundreds, even thousands, in up-front fees, and thousands in interest over the term of the loan.

This is an excellent option for members who need a fresh start or are just beginning to build their credit. Even when opportunities are limited, it’s still our duty to create a best case scenario for these buyers. Treating our most vulnerable members fairly while mitigating risk to the cooperative can be a precarious balance, but the LoanPlus CMS program can do just that.

Read more about Spireon’s LoanPlus CMS program here, or contact CU Solutions Group to learn more about integrating this collateral management program into your lending strategy!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Credit Union Marketing, Appealing to Emotion and Millennials

I recently read an article written by CO-OP Financial Services that was published in the Credit Union Times. Four Major Consumer Trends This Year focuses on opportunities that credit unions have to improve their bottom line and strengthen bonds with their membership. The trends identified were:
  1. Betterment – The Human Desire for Constant Improvement
  2. Ubitech – The Pervasiveness of Technology
  3. Helpfull – The Age of Increased Member Expectations
  4. Local Love – Community Was Never More Important
I hadn’t gotten far through the article when my mind took a detour. While all of these components are important, and in many ways essential to acclimating to a changing landscape, the philosophical concept of betterment can underscore any and all marketing efforts enacted by a credit union.

Strategy over tactic

The article sites Maslow’s “Heirarchy of Needs,” the idea that humans have several levels of requirements which fall into a hierarchical pyramid. Near the base are more physiological needs concerning basic health and safety, and near the top are ego-leaning needs regarding esteem and self-worth. It follows … Someone struggling to make ends meets is probably not all that worried about designer suits and handbags (at least we’d hope not). An individual must sufficiently meet a lower level’s needs before moving onto the next set of concerns. It’s this cyclical human drive that is at the base of our approach to virtually everything: betterment of the self.

This reminded me of another study I had recently read conducted by Filene Research Institute. Its Gen Y & Money: Overconfident and Undercapable study asserts that while 70 percent of Gen Y respondents regard themselves as having “high financial knowledge,” only 24 percent were able to answer three of five simple financial literacy questions correctly, and only 8 percent were correct on all five.

How it all adds up

All very telling, but what does it all mean? It suggests to me that these young accountholders want to think of themselves as knowledgeable; there is a desire for financial betterment. While overconfidence invites criticism and head-shaking, let’s ignore it and feed their desire for economic understanding. We don’t have to feed their egos, but we can keep their secret safe while giving them the knowledge to give their claims substance.

Consider tying financial education into content marketing when reaching out to millennials. There are simple instances where these individuals may have a rudimentary understanding of a financial process, but lack real specifics. How many millennials can accurately account for interest paid over the life of a student loan, or the benefits of consolidation? How many can clearly define the monetary implications of a 60- versus a 72-month auto loan? How many can detail the intricacies of APR and closing fees when purchasing their first home? This is knowledge that they want – perhaps part of the betterment that can help them along to another level in their hierarchy.

If you’d like to learn more about CU Solutions Group’s turnkey financial education tools, or need help developing a content marketing piece, don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us today!