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Top 14 New Rules for Authentic Communication in Our Digital Age

Meredith Olmstead
Jul 23, 2019 10:30:00 AM

Times have changed. We all know that. In order to stay relevant with customers we must adapt along with the times. So here’s how to stay real during this digital revolution.

1. Don’t Be Afraid to be YOU

Get rid of the jargon and just SPEAK to your audience. As YOU. Put people’s names on your articles and emails. Let your employees own their own voices and brands as they advocate for your institutions.

The human side of your bank or credit union is what will set you apart and bring customers back again and again. Don’t hide your messaging behind a generic company name or email address… let your team members be themselves! 

2. Embrace the Chaos

As Mark Schaefer puts it so eloquently in his recent book Marketing Rebellion, “We’re moving inexorably toward a subscription-driven, human-driven, emotion-driven, ad-free, funnel-free, big brand loyalty-free world… the alarm bells are ringing.”

Schaefer also points out that 80% of consumers don’t trust corporate advertising in ANY form! This is what he means by chaos… everything in marketing is changing, and this is true for all industries. So, embrace the unknown and get ready to try new things. You will fail often, but you will also succeed, and people will respect you for being flexible and keeping up with the evolving marketplace.

3. Live Chat in All Channels

It doesn’t get more authentic in digital then being able to talk to a real person while you’re there. You need to make live text and chat features a priority for implementation at your institution. Even if it’s only active during business hours that’s better than not having it at all. And consider adding video if possible. Let people see the face of your institution! They won’t be disappointed.

4. Don’t Just Talk About Yourself

No one wants to listen to you constantly broadcast your products/services online. Make sure the content you share and discuss is varied and includes topics of interest to people outside of your bank or credit union. Otherwise you’ll just be another annoying business hawking your goods on the internet. Bring value and be open to talking about all kinds of subjects.

5. Emotion Drives Action

When creating messaging around your institution, try to focus on the emotions tied to your product/services in marketing - not just the product itself. Include a real and heartfelt testimonial from a member you’ve recently helped or a video of a family visiting the home of their dreams that your staff helped them close on. People relate to these kinds of stories and if they come from the actual customers you helped; they will be that much more relatable.

DOWNLOAD: 12 Decisive Steps to Grow your Financial Institution

6. Focus on What People Want for the Long-Term - Not Just What’s Trending NOW

In an Inc. Magazine article from last year, Jeff Bezos explained that rather than just focusing on what is changing now, he gears a portion of his business on what customers have shown matters to them over the long term. In the case of Amazon that’s low prices, selection and fast delivery. Once you have narrowed down what will NOT change for your customers, you can focus your products and communications around those priorities.

7. People Want Trusted Advice… Give Them What They Want!

For financial institutions consumers have proven they want value, trusted advice and convenience. But as explained by Paul Mc Adams, J.D. Power senior director of the banking practice, “The challenge for banks is getting the advice formula right and delivering it in a personalized manner across all channels—not only at the branch, but also via the website and mobile app.”

8. KISS "Keep it Simple Stupid"

It is not an in your face kind of environment any more with how the internet serves people. If you want a person’s attention keep the information and process for getting it simple. Remove as many clicks and steps as possible for people to get to what they are looking for. Then catch their eye with color and emotional cues.

9. Be Relatable

If people can’t relate to you, they won’t fully understand your perspective and therefore they probably won’t really listen. Try to personalize your message and visuals to the audience you are serving them to.

For example, If you’re talking about retirement accounts have two stories to share, one that appeals to younger people think about the long-term and one that appeals to older groups who might need to be more aggressive in saving as they have a shorter time frame to work with.

10. Speak Conversationally

It is hard for anyone to keep up with financial lingo, especially if they don’t work in the financial industry on a regular basis. Plus, too much financial language usually drives people away since it can be intimidating and seem like work to learn. So, keep your advice in terms everyone can understand. And if you have to use a technical word to make your point make sure you explain it clearly and never assume people know what you mean unless you tell them.

11. Give Credit and Take Ownership of Mistakes

You don’t have to always be proving your perfection as a financial institution. Sure, it’s ok to sometimes celebrate your accomplishments and achievements, but also be mindful of the fact that you couldn’t have achieved these milestones without your loyal customers or membership.

And if a customer has taken the time to share a frustration or possible problem there is a mistake, make the effort to reach out and correct it as soon as possible. It says a lot more about stellar customer service if you take the time to address the issue where the complaint was aired, acknowledge their disappointment, don’t deflect blame and try to find a solution that works for everyone involved. Never ignore or dismiss the issue in hopes that it will just go away. Treat every complaint as a learning opportunity for you and your entire team.

12. Ask People What They Want More of

If your team is struggling to find content that resonates with people online, take some time to simply ask for feedback. We often run ‘get to know your customer’ contests that ask people about their favorite local businesses, restaurants and activities. This gives people the opportunity to talk about themselves, which we all enjoy from time to time, and we are also able to learn a lot about the people consuming our content online.

Then in the future we can share information that is more relevant to our audience. It’s a win-win.

13. Us vs. We

Balance what your financial institution has to offer in terms of products, achievements and accomplishments with ‘us factors.’ That is, how is the member/customer benefitting? How will it positively impact everyone involved. Don’t just toot your own horn all the time, rather show people how you care about the bigger issues and community impacts.

14. Feature User Generated Content

In this day and age, it’s important to realize that your customer is going to be the strongest source of marketing for any business. With people distrusting company messages and promises it’s essential that you find ways to share the experiences of your loyal and satisfied customers. You can do this with user generated content.

Run testimonial contests, create videos of people telling their stories, create a selfie wall at your local branch locations and encourage members or customers to take photos and tag themselves. And make it fun! Maybe run a free pet or kids portrait session or out of a branch location or put on a huge member appreciation event and encourage people to share it on social media for a chance to win a big prize. This kind of user generated content is worth more than any display ad will ever be!

This was originally shared as a guest blog on CUInsight

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