Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Scientific Method in Marketing

chemistryRon Shevlin posted a great article a while back about getting your business into social media. This quote from Ron really caught my attention,

As “innovation mania” sweeps through the halls of marketing, many marketers are looking to experiment with social media, lest they get “left behind.” While I’ve got nothing against experimenting, I am against experimenting for the sake of experimenting.

I couldn’t agree with him more.

If there was one thing that I got out of chemistry class during high school, it was scientific method (and possibly a love of making things change color, burn, and explode).

Scientific method always calls for a control, a set of variables and the discipline to change one variable at a time to see the effect versus the control.

This doesn’t simply apply to chemistry, physics or biology, but any instance of experimentation.

The creation of a new idea is always exciting. It’s easy to get excited about social media and rush to put a blog, MySpace page, or Facebook page up for your credit union to “experiment” with social media.

Without the principals of scientific method, it isn’t really an experiment at all.

Create a control

Creating a control is extremely important in experimentation. When applied in science it means running an experiment once without any variable present, like growing a culture of bacteria without any substances present to measure its rate of growth.

In marketing, you can create a control by running a pilot. Test the original idea within a selected group and measure their reaction.

Before piloting, identify what the variables in the project are so you can measure the response accordingly.

The other important aspect of creating a control group is to make sure the people in that group fit the programs target audience. Identify the types of people you want to aim for with the finished product and find people that fit the bill. What’s the use of testing a product targeted towards youth with a group that includes a portion of people who are 35+. That would be like testing the reaction of a flu virus to penicillin by testing the penicillin on a mold culture; it just doesn’t make sense.

Change one variable at a time

Once you have your variables and target audience identified and have started piloting the project, measure how your control group is responding based on that set of variables.

Don’t expect, or try, to overhaul the whole project at once based on the feedback you get. Make small changes one variable at a time and measure the effect it has on the control group as a whole. If you change everything at once, you will never know what variable it was that caused peoples reaction to become more positive or negative.

The purpose of a pilot should be to collect actionable data, and the more things you change at once, the harder it becomes to identify the specific changes that caused the reaction in the control group.

Test, test, and retest

The advantage to running a pilot before a full launch is that you get the chance to play with those variables. If you launch a product to the public and then change it every few weeks, people are going to start getting annoyed.

Take the opportunity to change variables in a closed environment. Test people’s reaction to each change methodically and carefully. Analyze their responses to each change and track the changes that elicit a positive response.

By doing this, you can create a finished product that reflects the nuances of peoples preferences and create a product that resonates as completely as possible with the target audience that was reflected in your control group.

So if social media fits into your brand strategy, go ahead and experiment, but do it right.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Are You Advertising Your Security, or Proving it?

Its no secret that credit unions aren't often in the media spotlight. So, like most other credit union folks out there, I've been really excited to see so much positive press coming out about credit unions.

I recently attended the 2008 Partnership Symposium in Fishers, Indiana. During the Idea eXchange section of the conference we discussed pretty heavily what credit unions should be doing during this financial crisis.

What should credit unions be saying to take advantage of the situation, and take advantage of all the positive press that has been given to credit unions.

My suggestion? Say nothing.

I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but hear me out.

You can say whatever you want. That doesn't mean its true.

Even the giant banks that are seeing most of this financial mess are saying "hey we're cool, everything's cool, we're safe and sound! Seriously, trust us."

Every single bank out there, including those that have recently failed, have touted the security and financial soundness of their institution. Many of those claims have been proven false.

Add this to an existing lack of trust in financial institutions...

and you get a large population of America who just had their skepticism proven. People are tuning out the feel-good, "don't worry, we're safe, trust us!" messages more than ever.

It doesn't matter what you say as a financial institution right now, it will be met with a large dose of skepticism.

It doesn't matter that you are a credit union putting out reassurances and not a bank because...

People don't see a difference between banks and credit unions.

As a certain CUSkeptic pointed out at the Partnership Symposium a couple weeks ago, to most people there is no difference.

I see the difference, and the fact that you are even reading this blog probably means you see the difference, but to your average Joe Sixpack its all the same thing.

So we're just supposed to sit here and wait?

In a way, yes. There isn't much we, as credit unions, can do by pumping out advertising to emphasize our security. Between consumer unease, distrust, and fear it probably isn't going to be heard or trusted if its coming from your marketing department.

Say nothing, but do everything.

The real opportunity here is not the chance to spout marketing that touts your security, but the opportunity to prove it.

Pay attention to all this positive press.

This may be the closest thing we get to a national brand. We have nationally trusted press selling the virtues of the credit union movement for us. They are telling the people that read their papers, blogs, and articles what they see as the unifying benefits of belonging to a credit union.

I don't think anyone would argue that this press is reaching, and being trusted by, far more people than an ad on local cable or a page on your credit union's website.

What we need to do now is...

Make sure we live up to the hype.

Take this positive press for credit unions and use it as a litmus test for how you are meeting expectations. Are you living up to the credit union "brand" that is being presented in these articles?

The best thing we can do to take advantage of the current financial situation and the positive press it's brought credit unions is to live up to what the people who people trust are praising about the credit union movement.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Morriss Partee CEO of Everythingcu.com at the 2008 Partnership Symposium

Morriss just wrapped up the final presentation of the day with a session on creating an engaging community.

Here are a few highlights.

This is our time to shine.

Community is not just a business to business thing, its between individual people.

Word of mouth is what worked for credit unions at first. The internet has enabled the spread of word of mouth in a big way.

Mass media has never really worked very well for credit unions.

Facebook has 100 million members.

Facebook would be the 12th largest country in the world if it were a physical country.

The traditional view of marketing is that the CU is in the center of the universe and we are sending out messages at them.

The networked word shows that those members are all connected in some way or another socially.

If we can engage in two way communication, we can become a part of that social network.

"56% of Americans fell a strong connection and better served by a company that is involved in social media."

The relationships that could be formed between front line and member via social media (if it were unblocked) could be much more powerful than marketing messages injected into the social media venue.

7 points of a successfully engaged community:
  1. Have a common bond or purpose
  2. Make them the rock stars
  3. Give them a voice
  4. Make it easy
  5. Its alive (there are people behind the pages)
  6. Make it easy to refer a friend
  7. Merge online and offline communities and activities

well folks, that's all for the traditional sessions for the day. I'll be updating during the Idea eXchange sessions as I get the chance.

Andy Janning AVP of Training and Quality Service at the 2008 Partnership Symposium

Andy just gave an interesting session on how to fire up your trainers.

The major points were:

Most trainers are constantly worried about "their place at the table". They should be worried about everybody else's place at the table. It is their job to change behavior to increase the performance of other employees.

Who's place do you really care about?

Are you looking at the smile sheet or the balance sheet? Trainers shouldn't be concerned about whether or not people liked their training sessions, but rather, what measurable effect the session has on employee behavior.

A good trainer is an agent of change. They are focused on helping reach goals. They measure how their training changes the behavior of employees.

Knowledge isn't power, performance is.
what you know doesn't get you a promotion, how you perform does. Training needs to be focused on performance changes rather than a deluge of information.

Jeff Russell CIO/VP of The Members Group at the 2008 Partnership Symposium

Jeff Russell of The Member's Group just finished his session on the future of payments.

Here are some Highlights.

People have things that they want to sell and there are people that want to buy them.

What roll do we play in that transaction.

If we don't pay attention to our roll as intermediary we have no right to be the intermediary.

The primary driver of payment convenience is however the people choose to interact.

Check usage is dropping by up to 18% each year.

There has been a digitalization of life. We don't need a physical instrument to move money.

Does anybody really want a card, or do they just want what it buys. "I don't want a hot water heater, but I want hot water."

18-24 year olds write 1.6 checks per month. Only 44% have written a check in the last 30 days.

Tomorrow's members may never have a checking account or even know what to do with the checks.

The mobile channel is key. Text message banking, the shift of online banking to mobile platforms and the ability to transact on a mobile phone will be a growing driver of payment systems.

Paypal is betting that some years down the road, mobile will be the big method of payment for consumers.

The current mobile payment system is a closed system. When will it be open.

2009 MasterCard will allow P2P transfers. Visa will launch a P2P payment system this month.

New model for payments is location based, knows your preferences, and automates the payment process via the exising mobile infrastructure without physical currency or a card changing hands.

The mobile phone is no different as a payment instrument from a mag-strip card.


  • Define your own payment strategy.
  • Stay on top of new trends.
  • Look for collaboration.
  • What do we do about the loss of interchange income?
  • What's our role in the future of payment processing?

Jeff Stephens of The Creative Brand at the 2008 Partnership Symposium

Jeff Stephens of the Creative Brand and also creator or the Blow Up Your Marketing podcast on Banktastic TV, just finished his presentation. Here are a few points I'd like to highlight.

Open minded and focused thinking are key.

Find your soul and you'll find your brand position.

Stop trying to be better and be different.

If you are focused on anything that ends in -er (better, friendlier, etc.) then you are competing on the same point as many other institutions and are a commodity and have little control over the direction you go. You're focus is determined by what others are doing.

3 points to being different

1) Find the story
2)Tell the story
3)prove the story

Its hard to tell the story if you don't know what it is.

The story is already there, you just have to find it. You have to be introspective, clear away the cobwebs and rediscover what your story is.

Don't worry as much about who your members want you to be, focus on who you are. This leads to Authenticity, being who you are and not all things to all people.

Its "differentiation" not "betterentiation"

You need to be apples to oranges, not apples to better apples.

Indifference will kill you.

Do something distinct enough to elicit a response. If some people hate it, that means some people will love it.

"Advertising is the price you pay for not being remarkable" - Anonymous

The more specific and narrow your postion the better job you can do creating relevant experiences.

Tim McAlpines Take Away Points From the 2008 Partnership Symposium

Tim McAlpine just finished his presentation at the 2008 Forum/Trabian Partnership Symposium. I won't Give you a full recap of his presentation, heck you can watch the whole thing live over at opensourcecu.com, but here are the take away points he gave.

  • Is it possible for a credit union to have super fans?
  • Innovation takes trust and a leap of faith.
  • Gen-y is not a passing trend.
  • Rethink the 3 month promotion.
  • Do one thing really big.
  • Mixing sales and social media is ok.
  • Give young people the resources and they will do great things.
  • Sense and respond
  • Keep it fresh.
  • Ask for the sale.
  • There are incredible young people everywhere.
  • Expect the Unexpected.
  • Dream big
  • Don't do anything half way.
  • Be afraid of Ron Shevlin

I'll try and post points from each speakers presentation as they happen. Stay tuned and check out the live feed!