Predictions abound for the new year and I don’t want my message to get intertwined with all the marketing prognosticators pumping out predictions. So, I want you to know that what I’m about to share with you isn’t guesswork. It’s thirteen viable and relevant steps you can take right now for building a holistic, results-driven and integrated approach for growth across your entire organization. Not all these steps apply to your situation, but there’s a good chance that a number of them do. Here we go:

1. Unchain your name – is the name of your organization constrained by past associations, sponsors, affiliations or geographic boundaries? If so, no volume of marketing and advertising will overcome consumer perception that “this isn’t a place for me”. Adopt a new inclusive name now. See how Lockheed FCU went about it.

2. Differentiate your brand – it’s a noisy and crowded financial services marketplace. If your brand isn’t well defined and clearly different than your competitors, you’re not going to stand apart from the fray and get noticed. As marketer Jack Trout famously said… “differentiate or die”. View many great executional examples of differentiation amongst the 2012 Golden Mirror winners from 2012.

3. Evangelize your associates – from front-line associates to the entire c-suite, everyone in the organization should bleed the brand and embrace the culture, values and promise behind it. People make the difference if they’re fully onboard. Don’t believe me? Pick up a copy of a Zappos.com culture book. You’ll be blown away.

4. Create advocates – after you’re squared away internally, you’re ready to focus on end-users. Increasing the proportion of advocates for your brand will drive acquisition, elevate retention and turn your referrals into solid gold. Advocates have higher balances, higher NPS and utilize more products and services. Advocacy rules and makes marketers drool.  Read how to convert detractors into brand advocates in this Financial Brand feature story, Angry Customers are Gifts.

5. Practice storytelling – storytelling is at the very heart of how we humans share and connect with what we value about our heritage, our families, our communities and ourselves. Brand storytelling is about connecting a deeper emotional level that a brand should evoke, with the inner feelings of the recipient. There must be a deep affinity between the two or the relationship is just a forgettable transaction or a low price commodity. Check out Solarity Credit Union’s name launch video below.

6. Refine your message – edit, condense and simplify your communication to conform to the sound bite world we live in. Treat all of your primary messages as if they were going up on a billboard… concise and clear… up to 5 or 6 words. It’s hard, but you can do it. And the rest of all that copy? Try a Twitter-style constraint of 140 characters. It will drive higher recall.

7. Elevate your creative – if the suit makes the person, then your creative makes your image.  You’ve got to step it up. Style, tone, imagery… it really matters in image building. Sure, you can shoot your new television spots on the intern’s video camera, but when they play next to the professionally produced spots in the same break, how are they going to portray your organization? Head over to YouTube to see how Elevations Credit Union has ratcheted up their television and video creative.

8. Define your target audience(s) – why keep saying “everyone in the community”? You can’t make an efficient media buy for “everyone”. You can’t craft an effective and relevant brand message for “everyone”.  Segmentation leads to targeting which leads to relevant offers, effectiveness, efficiency and ROI. Benefits go well beyond media; targeting focuses your entire organization, your brand and your unique competitive advantages.

9. Utilize a strategic media mix – research reinforces this idea and reminds us that a well-targeted mix favorably impacts recall as well.  Multiple studies have found that advertising on multiple platforms substantially increases consumers’ ability to remember an ad campaign compared to when the ad is viewed in one medium alone. The consumer shift to online and social media alone requires that you adapt and add a balanced approach.

10. Get socially engaged – having the right conversations with the right people is the right idea, but it’s much more than social media alone. Social media is just another tool in a marketer’s toolbox, albeit an increasingly important and local one. Find ways to get totally immersed and involved with your client base first before you try and get them to like you. Then make sure your dynamic content strategies have them coming back for continuing conversation. For a great example, click over to Onpoint Credit Union’s “Share your story” on-going conversation.

11. Evolve your branch – the branch is now the alternate channel. Its traditional role as the main transaction center will continue to diminish. Are you adapting your network using new technology and developing advice and knowledge centers where you can deliver a brand experience that builds your advocate base? You read about these two steps above, didn’t you? Revitalize the branch today before it becomes a brick & mortar albatross you can’t sustain. See first hand how Vancity Credit Union underwent major change in the way it does business in its branches.

12. Embrace technology – If you don’t evolve mobile banking, and specifically mobile deposit and apps, then this is the year you get left in the dust. Arm your in-branch associates with tablets for robust consumer interaction. Install multi-tasking transaction equipment and bring fewer tellers out front to manage them… just like Home Depot and the airlines do with one associate and six self-serve registers/kiosks.

13. Go geo-local – despite everything going on with transactions, branches, POS, technology, etc., the battleground for share remains in the local geographic area of your footprint, and more specifically, in the footprint of your individual branches, storefronts and ATM locations. As they say, “think global, act local”. Target your marketing and advertising into these footprints and don’t worry about the entire market unless you have complete saturation with your network. As Willie Sutton almost said, “Spend your marketing dollars where it makes the most sense, because “that’s where the money is”.

There you have it. I’ve delivered thirteen specific paths to pursue to evoke transformational change across your entire organization.  What would you add? Where do you start? If I’ve piqued your interest, maybe I’ve earned a chat with you to figure it all out.

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