Are we really listening?

Author: Debra  //  Category: Communicating, Marketing

We submitted one piece of marketing material for awards from last year.  I would have liked to see more, advice but I’m waiting until next year to submit our web site (which I think is very innovative and fresh) as well as the In Your Words program.   I am already bracing for a brisk discussion on whether our web page or just the Gen Y Blog will get submitted.  But that debate is for another day.

I found a blog for The Nexus Connection from CUES who do the Golden Mirror Awards.  This was one of the two organizations where we submitted our product brochure for judging.   The blog is written by one of the judges and he listed a lot of items that I think we really need to pay attention to; both for improving our efficacy, this and for creating award winning materials.

Sadly, abortion I found several areas where we were not the shining examples of innovation.

The hottest items on the docket dealt with the Green initiative.  These quotes came out of their observations:

“Small to mid-sized credit unions (assets under $700 million) are consistently doing better creative work than bigger shops.”
– Brent Dixon is the Founder and Principal of The Haberdashery

“The bigger you get the safer you get. Too many cooks have to put their seal of approval on everything which ultimately
waters it down”
– Tim McAlpine, Creative Director, Currency Marketing
“Who knows your business best? Your or an outsider? Others can give you a view from a broader perspective and give you a
shot of reality when you are delusional, but the lens you view your business from is a key component. Sometimes outsiders
discount that component and you end up with the cold porridge look.”
– Gene Blishen, General Manager, Mt. Lehman Credit Union

Brent went on to talk about an observation he made that I wish I could utilize for our efforts:

There was some really impressive brand design work and brand standards books. Again, a lot of this was by mid-sized CUs.
And two of my absolute favorites were done entirely in-house.

We really should encourage our in-house talent.  As Gene said, who knows our business better?

Another blog written by a Golden Mirror Awards judge, Denise Wymore, has a ton of excellent advice.  The first was about how we determine ROI and how sloppy many of the submissions were this year.

CUES gave us a guideline (or definition) of the point values. How ROI was calculated on the entries was all over the board. I like to call this marketing math – and I blame the CFO for making us do it. We are, after all, creative people, and man oh man did I see some creative math. I almost felt like some marketers were viciously complying with ROI.

I’ve always had a problem with the ROI marketing math. Unless you have a coupon or some way to really validate that your newspaper ad, direct mail piece, radio spot directly contributed to the increase in business, can we really say that effort is responsible for the increase? Or, is it because you convinced your CFO to give the best rate humanly possible on that IRA during peak IRA season?

This is not going to be a popular thing to say, but I think in these tough times we need to be more responsible with our members’ money.  We are, after all, a financial cooperative.

We need to submit pieces where we can actually get an excellent feel for the impact of the piece.  Are we really spending our member’s money wisely in the pieces we create for them?    Do we really know if the pieces are having an impact?  I can now create landing pages for our marketing pieces to help and try tracking that information.  We need to put more effort into making sure what we’re publishing is having the desired impact.  Have we become too reliant on what someone else tells us is “the right look, the right vehicle”?

Below are more of Denise’s observations of the submissions this year:

I was surprised at the number of entries that still used the “spray and pray” approach to marketing. With all the tools available to segment members, even with creative marketing math, I don’t see that this is a good idea these days. Some credit unions have confused their “territory” with their “target audience.”

Marketers love paper, don’t we? I think I rubbed off my fingerprints touching the gorgeous papers used in some of these pieces.

We don’t take advantage of this option at all.  When I first started, it was stressed that we use the better paper for certain things.  Now that I don’t do any of the printing myself, no one seems to care.  Saving money has become the rallying cry.  As it should with many things, but when we really need to get attention, then we need to do things that make our members  stop, look, feel, and read our material.

Photography–I was pleasantly surprised to see a distinct decline in the “shiny happy people” usage. Nicely done.

That one hurt the most because we’ve been using Shiny Happy People motif in nearly everything we’ve created for the last year.  We’re behind the times again and that frustrates me.  We need fresh ideas if we’re going to let our pieces compete with what everyone else is doing locally.  We aren’t producing innovative pieces.

The one category that gave me flashbacks to 1983, however, was the radio production. I know it’s fun to go into a recording studio and even more fun when you can hear your work as you drive to the office, BUT…..if your goal is to “young-it-up,” your radio ad is not going to do it. Period.

First–even though your media buyer will tell you that Z100 Morning Zoo is the spot to attract 18- to 24-year-olds, most of these folks are ignoring you with their iPods.

So what can we do, Denise? Well…….think business development. And not in the usual way of sign up a SEG, drop off brochures and pray. Think of it literally as creating buzz in the Gen Y world. I saw one entry that, in my opinion, did not have a category. It was a blog and it rocked. It had nothing to do with credit union products or services, and that confused many judges. It had everything to do with the counter culture that was growing in the credit union’s marketplace. You can’t measure ROI on it, you can’t control when people read it (with a media buy), direct mail won’t drive people to it and members contribute to it! WOW!

This could, should, and HAS to be us next year.   They are already considering adding social media to the award process next year.

It’s time we stop finding ourself lagging a year behind the innovators.

Just because I see it doesn’t mean I can change it.

Author: Debra  //  Category: Communicating, Marketing, Technology

It’s frustrating to see walls that have been built between people and departments. I know how they get built. It takes time and strong personalities and a need to be ‘right’ or ‘best.’ When those things are strong in the mid to high levels of any company, vitamin it becomes increasing difficult to succeed at lower levels. Banging your head against those walls repeatedly gives you a headache, abortion and the walls feel nothing at all. The eventual outcome is that you stop even trying to make things better.

I’m not there yet. I have a remarkably strong head and the stamina of experience.

The wall I’m currently trying to chisel a pathway through is called Gen Y. Now, despite being told that I am not Gen Y (which is an ageist statement that infuriates me by implying that one can only communicate with Gen Y when one is a Gen Y) I have a very strong social sphere that is well populated with Gen Y. And amazingly, I can relate and understand their views and many of their needs and wants. Being that I am not typical for my generation, I find that a real benefit.

I also have my finger on the pulse of social networking as strongly, and often more technically deeper than, most of the Gen Y people I work with. My biggest frustration is that I cannot get management to recognize this and tap into it. I am not trying to take over anything. I just want to be a vital part of where we will be going with our efforts to tap into this market. I do not want to just be told what I am doing. I want to be a part of the decision making process.

If the people working on the Gen Y project were to write a description of the person they would most want as a resource, I qualify on so many levels…and yet, even though I have repeatedly asked to be on the task forces, no one is including me in on anything other than telling me what has already been decided and giving me tasks. I’m stumped. I don’t know what to do any more.

  • When I heard that the rock was established, I immediately went to the party responsible and asked to be included in the planning.
  • I have repeatedly told my management that I want to be included in these decisions.   I even had to insist that I not be -excluded- when told that I was too busy with other things.  This is important and I can and will adjust my schedule to fit it.
  • I’ve said often that I would make an excellent moderator (not the -only- moderator, but one of the team!) I keep several blogs and have a lot of experience in managing people.  I would be an asset, and yet whenever I say that, the response is tepid at best.  I keep being told that the blog project will be managed by Gen Y.
  • I am certain that not every person on successful Gen Y projects are actually in that generation.
  • I have asserted that the blog project needs to have Marketing involved even if the project isn’t one of our rocks.  I have met with strong resistance to have this happen.  There needs to be some tie into our current web page to be successful.  The blog IS a part of ELGA.  We need to coordinate how that happens and start some dialogue on a game plan.  Keeping me out of these talks would be a misuse of talent and makes no sense at all.

If it turns out that I am not an integral part of this project, it will come as a big blow to my morale.  My entire reason for what I do is to be valuable, not just a tool.

On the importance of knowing

Author: Debra  //  Category: Communicating, Marketing

There are a lot of different ways of running a department and a lot of different leadership styles.   Not all work, purchase and not all fail.  What’s really important is evaluating and re-evaluating to make sure that what we have is actually working.

The biggest frustration I have as a relatively new team member is that I don’t always know what to expect.  I know that the marketing manager juggles a wealth of knowledge in our department, pharmacy and I want to tap into that.

I have an agenda.  I admit it freely.  I want to see our department run smoother, with less panic moments.  I believe with all my decades of business experience that in an industry like ours, if it’s a recurring event on an annual basis, we should know about it.

On Wednesday, I’m going to try once again to pitch the idea of creating a Marketing Calendar that has ONLY the annually recurring events and the dates they occur.  This will allow me to plan my tasks far more effectively and I also believe that it will benefit the entire department to have a year view in mind when we are asked about what we’re doing.

Personally, I would love to look at the Calendar in March when I have some time to think and see that Credit Union Appreciation Day is in October and start to brainstorm ideas on how we can make that a really memorable event.  I need to know that I can’t slate time in August for Back to School planning during the Member Appreciation/Sweepstakes event since all resources will be put toward that event.  I need to start thinking about promotions for Graduates in January, not in May when it’s too late.

This should be an easy sell, but it’s not my first attempt.  If necessary, I will push this individually until I can build the calendar on my own.  It’s just that important.

Technology Tools

Author: Debra  //  Category: Communicating, Technology

I love technology. I embrace it. I love to see how I can make all of my tools work and play together.

My favorite tool is my cell phone. Between calls, ampoule texts, click and emails, I can act on things with immediacy, and multi-task with incredible efficiency.

Is it rude to do this? I suppose it can be, but a lot of that is interpretation by the person(s) who feel slighted.

An example of embracing cell phone technology in the business world came during a great presentation I attended at the CUES Immersion Learning Experience in Minneapolis this past May. The presentation was Relax, Rediscover and Redeploy: The Three “Rs” to Defining New Media for Credit Unions presented by Jim Larranaga of Priority Publications.

He started the presentation by telling people to turn on their phones, to stay connected, because he realizes that we’re all trying to maximize our abilities to absorb and transmit the ideas we’re exposed to. Work and emergencies do not stop just because you’re not at your desk. Some of us can even take an inspirational thought we get at a presentation and spread it to the appropriate ears at the moment it is most effective. This is a valuable tool!

I completely believe that using technology while attending a presentation has limits. It should not be distracting to others, to the speaker, and should not prevent you from being present and listening to the speaker. But that’s a matter of personal interpretation. I relish that speakers recognize this and work with it.

The people I work with, both my credit union coworkers and the vendors I’m dealing with, have my desk phone number, my cell phone number, and my email address. I work remotely 2 to 3 days a week. I need to be accessible and I am. It is not my fault when someone who doesn’t embrace technology complains that they can’t reach me when they only use one resource. That’s old school thinking in a Brave New World.

I should file this under Notes from an Alpha.