In the 1986 film “Top Gun,” Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell and his Radar Intercept Officer Nick “Goose” Bradshaw fly a state of the art F-14 Tomcat. Two people were required to pilot the aircraft because the plane’s sophisticated systems generated so much information that it was not possible for one person to comprehend and act on all of the feedback. Information overload literally boggled the mind.
You do not have to be in the cockpit of a fighter jet to experience information overload. Think back to 1970 (most of you will need to Google the ‘70s) – consumers were exposed to an estimated 500 advertising impressions per day. By 1997, the number of daily ad impressions blossomed to over 2,000. The barrage of messages more than doubled to over 5,000 impressions per day by 2007. In 2013, we were each exposed to an estimated average 30,000 ad impressions per day. What can a credit union do to stand out from all the clutter?
1. Identify your credit union’s highest value proposition. In strategic planning brainstorming, credit union leaders often point to “service” as the thing the credit union does best. Unfortunately, consumers may not believe it when you say you provide great service. If you are going to hang your hat on service, find members who are recognizable in the community and ask them to tell your story for you. Testimonial advertising can be very powerful if it comes from a trusted third-party source.
Better, break your great services into its component parts and sell the specific benefits. Perhaps you have seen the emergency room billboards that have an electronic sign saying how long the wait will be if you come in right now. OK, if you are bleeding you probably will not drive around town looking for the ER billboard that posts the shortest wait time but you probably get the point.
Best, get really good at something, tell your community about it, and consistently deliver your promise. Instead of saying you are “competitive,” do something better than your competitors. Think about it, if you are not better than the competition at anything, why would anyone move their account(s) from the financial institution they use now to your credit union?
2. Choose your target market carefully. Identify the financial decision maker(s) in the households you would like to attract as new, or more engaged existing members, and design your message to speak directly to them.
We develop filters to manage what we actually pay attention to. Case in point, my wife bought a new car last summer. It is a nice car, just what she wanted, and she had not seen another single car just like it – until the drive home from the dealership when she saw three of her new “one of a kind” Toyotas. The cars were out there before the purchase, but our minds were not channeled to notice them until AFTER our decision was final. It’s something scientists refer to as post-purchase reinforcement.
Our filters trigger when our mind is opened by a need or want. Marketing efforts are much more successful if impressions are delivered to the most likely candidates for the benefits you offer AND the message is delivered at the exact time the window of awareness is open.
3. Appeal to what is most important to your “ideal” member. A member once told me she was a “drive-thru mom.” She went on to explain that she had small children and that she literally made purchasing decisions based on which providers offered drive thru services. In her mind, nothing could compensate for the hassle of getting the little ones in and out of the safety seats. If this Mom was your target member, you would have to appeal to the ease of using the drive through or electronic services.
4. Choose the right channel(s) to reach your target audience. I get my news from internet news sources and the radio news station I listen to while driving to and from work. My retired elementary school teacher wife gets her news from Facebook and the Sunday newspaper we still subscribe to so she can get the weekly grocery coupons. I wear the pants in the family, but my wife tells me which pants to wear… If you want to sell something to my household, someone on Facebook will need to give you a plug.
5. Be consistent with your messaging. You will never know when consumers’ the financial decision filters are going to open. But, to be successful, your messaging has to be there when the filters open. Having a recognized brand helps, but you cannot rely on past messaging to break through the clutter at the exact time a decision is being contemplated. Who among us has a brand that rivals Coke, Nike, or MacDonald’s?
6. Don’t abandon the effort too quickly. Since your messaging is often noticed ONLY when a consumer opens their filter to what you are offering, you will likely be very tired of your message before it is actually recognized by the member or potential member. Each time you change the message to any given target market you may be starting over. Resist the urge to try something else before a marketing initiative has had time to gain strength.
I have heard marketing professionals say your message has to be irresistible. Perhaps that is true, but irresistible is a hard standard to achieve. At a minimum, your marketing message needs to be compelling enough to get your target audience’s attention. Irresistible? Perhaps not. But at a minimum, your message must be consistent, compelling and delivered when the audience is ready.