Time passes

Author: Debra  //  Category: Technology

Work goes quite productively. I have interesting projects and enough challenges that I don’t sit and wonder what to do next.

I am working on a set of micro sites where the sky is the limit. I have started fairly conservatively, but that will change as I try new things. The idea is to change our image with each site, and then find out who is relating to the changes. Ultimately, this will help drive the next major revision to the main website.

It’s really exciting to have that opportunity to create, design, code, and monitor.

We need to be talking!

Author: Debra  //  Category: Marketing

I brought this topic up back in November of 2011. Since then, I keep hearing from so many sources that if we don’t get get people talking about us, we are missing out on the strongest marketing resource we have at our disposal.

“Conversation is the new SEO–the brands that people talk about most will rise to the top of search engines” WeAreSocial.net

We have a gorgeous events blog that sits on our front page. We can use this as a huge billboard to tell our members and the community who we are and what we are doing. There are so many amazing things we are involved in currently.  I need to find a way to get the people involved in the events excited and writing about their experiences and sharing photos. First person accounts are far more engaging than passing it off to a copy editor.

As we get better at sharing our involvement, the amount of conversations will increase. When people share our stories, we will rise on the search engines faster than any paid advertising.

Imagine the following scenario:

You are in a meeting and one of the people makes an off-handed funny statement. Everyone at the table pauses a moment, shocked (because it’s a little edgy), then the ideas flow. This isn’t just an ordinary ideal, it’s polarizing!

and that’s where it sits for months. Why? Because it’s a play on words and makes people a little uneasy. Is it dirty? No! Is it offensive? No! Is it politically incorrect? No! Is it a great idea that will get people talking? YES!

And that’s the point. We need to get people talking about us. We need to make ourselves stand out in the crowd. We need to take chances and broadcast all the wonderful things we do in the community. We need to proudly boast and get folks excited to share our stories.

The safer we stay, the more we fade into obscurity.

Because, after all, if we don’t give a shirt, who will?

Moving Target

Author: Debra  //  Category: Marketing

It was about four years ago when we started talking about Gen Y as a demographic to market to. We’ve created a program to appeal to the age ranges between…wait, was that 16 to 29. No, 14 to 32. *thinks* 18 to 28?

There are three large problems I am witnessing when it comes to addressing our Gen Y members, and until we clear these hurdles, our results are going to be muddy at best.

  1. We need a clear, specific standard by which we define Gen Y.
  2. Gen Y is a demographic of people born between a date range, not just a range of ages.
  3. Those at the mid to upper range of ages cannot and should absolutely not be marketed to the same way as the younger members of that group.

1. If we are constantly changing what we call Gen Y, we can’t nail down the right marketing. This should not be nebulous and moving. Truth is…we need to stop calling it “marketing to Gen Y” and start calling it “Marketing to young adults who are getting into college and the job market, all the way to getting married and having a family.”  There is nothing wrong with that. It would probably be a lot easier to manage the program if it always dealt with members between the ages of 18 and 28. Then let’s make that decision and run with it.

2. The alternative is to evolve the plan so that we are going after a market that is growing up and changing. Now there’s a concept to sink your teeth into. There’s been so much studied about Gen Y and their habits, but how are we changing how we address their needs as they age? When we started, we had the idea of introducing the program to kids as young as 14.  Today, those same members are now 18. Those that are 14…they are a new generation.

3. What appeals to a member who is looking at graduating high school is not the same things that will appeal to them in 4 or 5 years when they graduate college.  If they even get to or through college. Not everyone gets that opportunity. How can we market to a high school graduate and still make the person buying their first house and planning a family feel like we understand them too?

So can we have a canned program that will appeal to everyone at the same time?  I think we need to segment the program and start looking at a whole lifestyle approach to serving our member’s needs. As marketers, we need to juggle marketing to specific age groups -and- understanding the generational differences as they move from one group to the next.


On Fire and Inspired

Author: Debra  //  Category: Marketing

I can’t even begin to explain how deeply I was inspired by the Colloquium. The best I can do is to share the big things that happened. There were three specific ideas that I am bringing back as projects that I feel incredibly, deeply passionate about.

  • We -must– do a superior job at sharing our stories. Only 11% of the Filene associated credit unions are sharing their stories to the membership. We are being encourged to not let this opportunity fly past us.  We have a leading edge format (our blogs and social media presense), but we are not populating it with info. I still don’t know what the branches are doing in their communities. It frustrates me that we are doing so much, but not talking about it. No one is writing for the community blog, or sending me regular info both pre and post events so that I can get the word out. Our blog and facebook and linked in and twitter should be full of these stories.  We need to invite our members to these events on a grander scale, not only just telling them about what we did.
    • I need guidance on how to make this happen. I can only report on what I know. But I will do whatever it is going to take to see that we stand out in our communities for all that we do.
  • Frank mentioned at our budget meeting that he would like me trained to write apps. At the time, I had no impetus other than ‘oh cool talent to have.’ I had a moment of inspiration where I came up with a fantastic app that I don’t see available. I would like to develop and write an app for mobile devices that enables a person to see what kind of events are going on that they could volunteer at. It would be searchable by organization or date. Imagine grabbing your phone and looking up what’s going on locally on a particular weekend. We could start this out by just doing ELGA events, then branching out to Genesee County events…and from there, get people to use our model for building this for their communities. I still have a lot to learn, but this is something I want to work on.
    • I can learn this skillset on Lynda.com. This would be a side project.
    • I would love to work with Cheryl and the Business Development Team on this as a project. We need to brainstorm how to make this happen.

Still more goodies from the trip

Author: Debra  //  Category: Marketing

More things to remember:

  • Meeting and talking to Kristen Christian about Bank Transfer Day. What an amazingly and charming young woman.
  • Breakfast at Google. Best part was one of their managers saying “wait…you do both the design AND the coding? Do you realize how RARE you are!!”

Our organization still stands out as a leader for our on-line experience. We are doing more than 95% of the credit unions represented at the colloquium and are equal to the other 5%. We impressed the Google and Facebook reps.

I met some fabulous people, including the amazing young woman behind the Bank Transfer Day, who spoke to us on Tuesday about how it happened and what’s next. She literally moved me to tears with her passion and intelligence,  I got to talk to her one-on-one afterwards. She’s positioned to be a spokesperson for GenY and I learned a lot from our short conversation.

There was a recurring theme in all the talks. That theme was “Now is Our Time” Bank Transfer Day was ‘the beginning’ of getting the public to know who credit unions are. Now is our time to ride the wave that has been created.

I wanted to take some time to write out all the major points of what I got from the colloquium, both to share with you, and to ingrain in my mind what got me so inspired.


  • We need to tell our “really compelling” stories.
  • Advertising that people “TRUST”
    • 90% trust Recommendations (we need to get these through our on line resources)
    • 75% trust Branded websites (we’ve got this)
    • 65% trust Email that they signed up for
  • “Consumption is often collective” The point here is that marketing to a ‘person’ is not as effective as marketing to the family or social unit our members are a part of. My take-away here is that we need to tailor our 2012 marketing to families  to really bring home the relationship concept.
  • Families are now being described as diconnected by distance, but more strongly connected through social media and the internet. Families are playing games via Xbox and similar things even when they aren’t in the same state, or country. Skype and FaceTime are bringing families closer.
  • As CU’s, we are being implored to “tell us your story”
  • People like to be rewarded for playing along. We need to find a way to create virtual badges when our members join us for different things on line.
  • The amount of personal interaction content is doubling each year. The internet is the new way people are connecting with family, friends and community, and it’s only getting better/easier/stronger.
  • We need to maximize our impact by
    • Developing emotionally rewarding concepts/marketing
    • Understand what it is our members actually believe about us
    • Make our messages highly unique to drive word of mouth
  • We need to get ourselves out of safe and rational messages and do something more edgy. This does -not– mean objectionable images or topics, but unusual or unexpected. Things that will stick in our members minds.
    • The Sunnydale Credit Union did a “Sunnydale is Love” campaign with shiny happy people. It flopped. When they did a big % off Loans promo, people flocked. Folks are innundated with shiny happy people ads. They are no longer making an impact.
  • It takes a lot of time and money to change someone’s mind.
  • Gen Y believes in local living. They value optimism and a ‘can do’ attitude. They want to be informed about how Credit Unions are a part of that. They also require of us “hassle free deals”
  • We need strong visual ‘cues’ that show we are about collaboration and relationships. Not just words.
  • Creative people become more creative when their work areas are covered with visual stimuli. Target the outcome.
  • We need to bring our brand persona to life.
  • We were told repeatedly that our story is unique, but our brand isn’t. This is for credit unions as a whole.
  • We need to know who our best cross-sellers are and learn all we can from them, and then share that information.
  • “Sneaking in fees” “learning about fees after the fact” and “punishing those that can afford it least with fees” are the main reasons why Bank Transfer Day worked.

Credit Union Digital Branding Colloquium


Thank you for attending the Credit Union Digital Branding Colloquium hosted by the Filene Research Institute. Due to your generous ongoing support of Filene, you were invited to this colloquium to learn and strategize around your own digital brand and how credit unions are affected by online communities, and digital discussions.

Below are the presentations from the event:

Author: Debra  //  Category: Marketing

I love the work that I do. I am not ashamed to admit it. I am a marketer, and I work in the financial sector. And I am not a villain.

In this time of the #Occupy Movement, it seems that people want to vilify everything that deals with both of those things.

Only, what I do is nothing to be ashamed of, and it makes me very frustrated when people make grand sweeping statements condemning marketers and/or bankers. The problems with corrupt practices that are out there are very specific and simply don’t apply to what I am involved with.

My eldest works as a graphic designer for a marketing firm. The company she works for only works for non-profit organizations. I love seeing the things she creates for women’s organizations, they Olympics, and animal protection collectives. I’m proud that her work helps fund some amazing efforts.

As a marketer, my job is to keep our name in front of the customers we serve and show them all of the products they can use to meet their financial goals and obligations.

We recently held a focus group where our customers told us that we aren’t doing a good enough job of telling them about all the things we offer. This came as such a surprise to me, because it feels to me like we are obnoxiously sharing information. But that’s not true. No matter how many places we put our message, some of our members will not get the information they want and need.

So it’s up to my team to learn how they want and need to hear our information. This is really a very cool thing…learning how people want to get their advertising.

We don’t try to sell customers a list of things we want them to have. We have a variety of products designed to help solve their financial needs and we need them to know we have these things.

Some people are hard to get through to because they work on misconceptions. Like something is too hard, to complicated, too time consuming, too unobtainable…and they aren’t, but in order to help them make the best decision, we need them to understand our products.

Something as simple as “your bank is charging you more on your credit card than we will. Transferring your credit card to a credit union will get you a better rate that you can pay off faster” seems so straight forward, but people feel it will be too hard to transfer, too time consuming, or that they have credit issues that would make us deny them. We would love to break those barriers down.

And that’s why I am constantly learning how to communicate with people in every medium. This is a very fulfilling part of work for me, getting to understand the minds of people.

So I make no excuses for what I do to make a living. I am proud to be doing what I am doing. And I get to earn a better than decent living doing it.

No excuses.

Digital Branding Colloquium

Author: Debra  //  Category: Marketing

My CEO sent me an invitation to a rather remarkable event:

How should credit unions think about their digital presence as marketing moves to an electronic format? What kinds of communities should credit unions build around their brands? What tools are most effective?

On November 15, try 2011, join the Filene Research Institute in San Francisco, along with speakers from Google, the University of Arizona, Facebook, and others at this invitation-only, limited-seat event. We will delve into the tools and strategies needed for credit unions to reach, strengthen, and sell to their desired communities in the new digital marketing environment.

I rushed right out and signed up for this event in San Francisco and I am jittery with excitement for what I can learn!

Keeping it in our Communities!

Author: Debra  //  Category: Marketing

About 2 years ago I went to a Diebold seminar on using ATMs for marketing. I learned that we had the ability to create coupons for our members. I presented this info to our Business Development Manager and she gave me a local racetrack to test this with. This was the first year’s results:

The program was started at 12:01 on August 1, 2010. At 6:45 am, August 5, we recorded 2,214 Transactions across 7 of our ATMs (except Clio & Consumers)

The coupons were printed (on request) 300 times.   That’s a 13.5% response.

On Monday, the owner stopped by to say that they got 12 coupons for Sunday’s event, which was 21% of those printed (57 by 7 pm). This was after the program was in place for approximately 19 hours.

Our results for the second year showed a 12.9% response rate.

We have found that the members respond to specific coupons with an offer that has immediate value. This is why the Buy One/Get One just described worked but the “get additional discount on your loan rate” did not.

I have always felt that the best venue for offering something amazing to our members is tap into our Member2Member businesses for additional special discounts.

We could create packages that M2M businesses can purchase, and generate additional income from the program.

  • A business would have to offer a value that they aren’t offering elsewhere, or isn’t easily gotten in another manner. This would be crucial for this to really have value for our members.
  • Length of Program
    • Option A: 2 Weeks
    • Option B: 4 Weeks
  • We have 14 ATMS.
    • Option 1: All ATMS
    • Option 2: A single branch
  • Program Limitations
    • Print coupon once per card, or unlimited.
    • Print only for ELGA members (this is not currently set up but can be), or for anyone using the ATM.
    • Only one coupon can run at a time.
    • First come, first serve for dates.
  • They need to report back how many coupons get used to help us verify program success
  • I would manage the scheduling

One of the hottest things out there right now is keeping money in local communities and we could be on the leading edge by instituting a monthly program for coupons from our Member 2 Member businesses.


Pattern Matching for Success

Author: Debra  //  Category: Financial

I’m pretty sure I’m going to want a way to look back and see what it was thinking when I started this financial journey. So, I’m recording it here.

On June 29, I got to tag along with work folks to a Get Motivated seminar. I was able to listen to brief motivational talks from people like Colin Powell, Lou Holtz, Rudy Guiliani, John Walsh, Howard Putnam, and Bill Cosby.

And Kris Dhanam, who moved me to tears, talking about how he tells his son every night “you are mine and I love you” and encouraging parents to make sure that your kids know you love them with words as well as actions.

I don’t care how tough you think you are, or if you think you’re above needing motivation, listening to these people talk…each had at least one message that I could take back with me and make me feel stronger for having heard them. I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve heard all the cynicism, and you can keep it. I prefer feeling empowered and eager to do more with my life.

Now, the catch with this seminar was that it really was a sales event. I knew that going in, but I wanted to hear these people talk, so I figured it was worth the cost (free).

What I didn’t realize, is that I would hear something that would make me want to spend $99 to learn more. I even went so far as to text Brian to tell him that we were going to take 2 vacation days and listen to some advice on investing. 3 others that I work with decided to do this as well, one was our CEO.

What I heard was that people could take control of their money and retire in confidence instead of worrying about how their lives would be impacted by not having enough money.

I want to eventually retire well and work on things that I want to work on. And I know that following my current path isn’t going to make that happen. I don’t play the lottery. I might write some wonderful books, but in reality, I’m very likely not going to be the next Neil Gaiman or J.K. Rowling (don’t blanche at them in the same sentence, I’m talking about success here).

So Brian and I get up early on our vacation days (July 13 & 14) and fight I-75 southbound traffic to Troy and sit in uncomfortable chairs for 8 hours, listening raptly to them talk about how this can work. And realizing that to do it, we have to be smart and disciplined.

Brian sees my eyes light up as they start showing the patterns and processes that can lead to successful trading. He knows what that look means…it means that given the tools, this feeds a passion of mine. And he realizes that, despite his initial strong skepticism, if we get the right education, we can take control of our life and our finances. That it isn’t too late to live a very comfortable life of travel and fun and financial independence. The dream is there if we follow the rules we set up.

So we invest heavily in the education. $7k. Yeah. I’m not kidding. But we lost more than that in our 401k’s in 2008. Much more, actually. And if we don’t do something, we could lose more. So yes, we invested in us first.

The others from work are going to be coached by our in-house financial planner to try and achieve the same thing. I wish them luck. I think we made the right choice for us.

On Friday, we took the late afternoon off and went to Birmingham to open up our trade accounts and move our Roth IRA’s and one of my other IRA’s from when I was writing the Novell Networking books into an Ameritrade account.

We had such a wonderful time after doing all the set up. We did some window shopping, and bought chocolate, and dreamed really big dreams together. That right there was worth the price of everything. We ended up the day with a lovely dinner together and felt rich in options.

Then it was back home and back to learning so that we can get started.

Last night I fnished the first two courses: “Principles of Investing” and “Intro to Stock Trading” These are the courses included with the 2 day class we took. Brian is working his way through Principles now.

Now this stuff gets real. I’m digging into the first of the Options classes now. I’ve set up to take them on-line first, then with the live web class at the end of September through mid October. Six 2 hour sessions per class over 2 weeks, with homework. Then Brian and I are going to attend the Advanced Technicals class live in Troy toward the end of October.

My goal is to be doing paper trades in about 2 weeks. We have an amazing trade simulation program that lets us set up our accounts and pretend to our heart’s content until we are confident enough to use real money. It looks and feels so much like the real thing that people get nervous about using it.

This has become one of the most important things I’ll ever do for us and I’m thrilled and scared and eager.

Change of attitude imminent

Author: Debra  //  Category: Personal Growth

I work very hard and I care about what I do. I realize that I have a job that looks like it’s fun and cool and that I do it with apparent ease. Sometimes I make it look too easy, and that bites me squarely in the arse end.

I have worked very hard since I had my first job at 14 where I was a file clerk. I was never satisfied with just doing a good job. I wanted to be a shining star. I like showing off my brain and my talent.

I have earned every single perk and special consideration I have gotten. It’s what I’ve spent my career providing for myself. I understand that some folks would like to say “if everyone can’t do it that way, why should she?” but unless those people have worked for it and negotiated for it, they can’t really complain. Life isn’t fair and balanced, and I have no issue enjoying what I’ve been able to earn. I’d rather serve as inspiration for others to go get what they want out of a career.

I realize that we can’t know what it takes to do another’s job unless we actually do it. I know that most folks have no idea what it really takes for me to pull off the amazing things I do numberswiki.com

on a daily basis. They don’t even realize that these things they ask of me, that I deliver with eagerness, are actually amazing in the time frame and with the tools I have.

Which brings me to my change of attitude. I am going to try to put less pressure on myself to complete everything in record time and cease the fretting about work when I’m not actually working. I am no longer going to react to personal criticism when it is unwarranted, because I am not motivated by guilt.  I am going to learn how to accept that sometimes being average is perfectly acceptable in a world where average is a good thing. That was actually very difficult for me to even type. It’s not part of my nature.

But, if I can take the energy I waste trying to be everything to everyone all the time, then I can put it back into the projects that my heart craves. I can put it into my writing and into my art and into my personal growth as well as the wonderful parts of the job I have that I love.  Everyone gets the best from me and I still get to improve.

What I do is part of who I am, but I am not my job. I am so much more.