Credit union experts share advice on search engine optimization, data, social media and beyond.
The implications of "always-on" marketing are broader than even creating a 24/7 strategy. Today's marketer must adjust on the fly to meet new and changing demands, with technology and talent requirements evolving almost every day. We asked three experts in the credit union space to weigh in with their always-on best practices.
Trisha Torrado, senior manager/marketing and communications for CUES Supplier member Franklin Madison, Franklin, Tennessee:
- Identify 2020 marketing goals. First, it’s critical for a credit union to identify its goals, stresses Torrado, then craft a strategy and tactics to achieve those goals. “Also, as a marketer, ensure you set a realistic budget to fund your strategies.” And don’t neglect creating solid content marketing strategy that aligns with your credit union’s overall marketing strategy.
- Understand and embrace the new SEO. Currently, there is a blurring of traditional and new SEO. “Years ago, you might have had a webmaster run a credit union website and oversee optimizing the HTML code,” she explains. “But going forward, successful credit unions are building unique landing pages for each, specific campaign, and marketers need to lead this initiative.” Search engine algorithms now value content, not just structure, which means website construction and maintenance is no longer just a technical job.
- Welcome the ease of new technology. New developments are making it easier for “non-techy” marketers to move at a much quicker pace. “For example, marketers can now make website edits in seconds,” notes Torrado. “Compare this to a decade ago, where it would have taken much longer, up to a week, for similar website updates.” Now there are tools and web plug-ins that give a marketer complete control over updates.
- Shift everything to mobile-first. “I don’t know if credit unions understand how important optimizing their website for mobile is,” she adds. “Google has changed its algorithm to be ‘mobile-first.’ What this means is that credit union websites must optimize for mobile, or Google will penalize them in terms of ranking. … If a credit union knows that 99% of their visitors come from desktop computers and 1% comes from mobile, it still needs to optimize for mobile. Otherwise, it will fall in the SERPs (search engine result pages).”
- Focus on relevance. It sounds so simple, yet many businesses—including credit unions—don’t do this often enough. “A best-practice approach is to determine a unique, relevant message and call-to-action for each [marketing] campaign,” advises Torrado. “Then, when executing that campaign, ensure your content is consistent across all tactical elements. The keyword search terms for paid advertising should also match the website URL and the content on the webpage,” she adds. “It’s surprising how often this isn’t followed. If you’re not sure how to do this, try the Google Keyword Planner. It is a free tool that marketers can use to search for keywords and see how a list of them would perform.”
Janá Stevens, VP/marketing for $6.2 billion Citizens Equity First Credit Union, or CEFCU, Peoria, Illinois:
- Stress personalization. Every credit union has an abundance of information about its members, but it is not easy to turn that information into something usable without being intrusive, offers Stevens. “If credit unions can find solutions—take mass amounts of data and turn it into something beneficial for members—and if it can be done on a one-on-one basis, that’s huge. And that’s what consumers are looking for.”
- Be transparent. “Especially in how you use your members’ data,” she stresses. “For example, consumers tolerate their data [being] used to reduce things that irritate them. They are much less understanding of data used in a way that seems intrusive or ‘creepy.’ A great rule of thumb is to ask: ‘Can you comfortably describe a data-driven project, its business objectives and its use of member data in a public forum?’ If not, perhaps it’s not a good brand investment.”
- Understand how members use their preferred social media platforms, such as Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. As social media continues to evolve, credit unions should stay on top of all new platforms, their strengths and demographics, and more. “By pinpointing how users are spending time on different social media outlets, you can evolve your message to align with their needs,” adds Stevens.
- Meet the member where they are. “We left the age of pushing out a message and hoping someone grabs on to it long ago,” concludes Stevens. “It’s essential to meet the member or potential member when and where they want to make contact. Use all of that data to make informed decisions about each individual and to serve the marketing messages or touchpoints designed just for them.”
CUES member Frank Kerner, content and digital strategist for $397 million Pelican State Credit Union, Baton Rouge, Louisiana:
- Hire people from a variety of backgrounds. This fosters a more well-rounded marketing strategy, suggests Kerner. Homogeny can be a detriment to a potentially phenomenal team. “At Pelican State, our marketing team has a wide range of education, backgrounds, as well as experience from different industries. I think that adds to our team's ability to see things from different perspectives and bring new ideas in.”
- Clean up dirty data. Make it someone’s job to review and manage campaign evaluation reports and coordinate “data clean-up” with other departments. “This is imperative for every marketing department of the future,” adds Kerner. “Dirty data can mean your always-on marketing isn't as effective as it could be.” However, hiring the right talent for data review may prove to be difficult, as these specialized job candidates tend to be coveted by marketing agencies.
- Evaluate results as is done in digital advertising. “Here, you monitor digital ads and optimize them daily,” he notes. “Why aren’t more credit unions using this same approach with their data and marketing automation? Have someone who analyzes and interprets data regularly, while optimizing automation efforts. It’s a necessity for the future.”
Stephanie Schwenn Sebring established and managed the marketing departments for three CUs and served in mentorship roles before launching her business. As owner of Fab Prose & Professional Writing, she assists CUs, industry suppliers and any company wanting great content and a clear brand voice. Follow her on Twitter @fabprose.