Credit Unions Need Modern Websites

 

Progressive credit unions must capture the attention of members and potential members with a compelling online story via a modern corporate website. Does your website match up?

Great design. This should be obvious but many credit unions still utilize outdated websites with poor design and awkward usability which hurts their credibility. Prospective members are making decisions about where to put their money. They need to feel trust and a strong design is necessary to communicate brand integrity. Credit unions should focus on a clean, crisp design that stays very content-driven.

Social media. Today’s consumers are on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter and they sometimes read blogs. Smart credit unions will take advantage of this by creating special promotions for “fans” or “followers” on these networks in order to build a list of permission-based constituents. Each presence on a social network links back to the appropriate content piece on the credit union website.

Blogging. Every credit union website should feature a blog. Educational blogging helps build authority and places the credit union in a position of “trusted advisor” to its members which opens the door to up-selling additional products. Blogging also boosts search engine rankings.

Up-to-date rates. When consumers are researching your credit union online, makes it easy for them to find rates. Keep in mind that your rates do not have to be the best. If you post your rates clearly and your competition keeps it a secret, you will create more trust in prospective members because you are giving them an easy path to information, which increases their comfort level.

Online registration for seminars/webinars. Being very member-focused, credit unions are in a great position to offer educational seminars to their members. Make it easy for people to sign up for these events via your website. Also consider conducting webinars to allow your members and prospective members to learn valuable financial information by participating from their computers over the Internet.

Usability. Credit union websites should pay strict attention to common usability norms. Navigation should be in logical places, navigational items should use common naming conventions, and sectional or sub-navigation should be well-structured. Since credit unions typically have so much content to publish, card sorting exercises should be used to determine the most logical structure to present to users. Over and over, most organizations are finding that “About Us” and “Contact Us” are the two most popular navigational items that website visitors click on. Don’t deviate from common conventions like these.

Professional content. The underlying foundation of all these other tools is content. On the web, content must be clear, concise, and logical. Follow the inverted pyramid rule and keep it simple. Make sure your content is written by a professional to ensure that website visitors feel a sense of trust and credibility as they research your credit union.

As member-focused financial organizations that value education and community, credit unions are in a unique position to connect with members using web tools like never before.

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e-Statements help credit unions progress

By encouraging members to replace traditional paper statements with e-Statements, credit unions can make a two-fold positive impact. They can protect members’ identities by reducing the paper trail of regular mail and thus the chance for identity theft, and they can cut back the need for resources to create paper statements and in turn, improve the environment. And, in order to successfully execute the e-Statement initiative, making members aware of the option and encouraging them to switch over, many credit unions have developed some clever campaigns and incentives. Here’s one example.

FAA Credit Union (Oklahoma City, OK), a CUBUS client, began offering e-Statements more than 10 years ago, and did so for a couple of reasons. They saw it as a safe, secure and quick way for members to receive their monthly account statements and a cost effective way to get information out to members. Members no longer have to wait for the mail to arrive since their statements are available online as soon as the clock strikes midnight on the first of the month. They can store this information without hassle or worries of filing paper, and can use it as a way to reduce fraud and identify theft.

The credit union offers specials to members twice a year, sometimes offering a $5.00 cash gift if they activate e-Statements, or they feature a large giveaway such as a laptop, cash, vacation or other prize given to a lucky member who is an e-Statement subscriber.  The credit union sees their monthly activations triple during a promotion month — typically the promotions last three months and they see this lift through the duration of the promotion.

If your credit union needs to progress in the area of e-Statements, consider the CUBUS solution. Email us at sales@cubussolutions.com to schedule a personal demonstration.

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Skate to where the puck is going to be

The user increase and adoption of mobile banking looks like a hockey stick. It is expanding way faster than was ever seen for the online banking channel. Based on a study by Aite Group, over 50 percent of consumers already use online banking and 20 percent already use mobile banking. Forrester forecasts 61 million United States consumers will use mobile banking next year, up from 47 million in 2012.

Credit unions and banks are developing and releasing mobile banking capabilities, scrambling to keep up with the demand. But the increase in utility for the member means the potential for increased exposure and risk. With three channels of access (web, app, text messaging), multiple operating systems, and rapidly changing technology, it can be easier for fraudsters to create widespread mobile scams. Consumers are also concerned about security, with almost half saying they didn’t use mobile or online banking because they weren’t convinced it was secure. Is there a dire threat that should makes credit unions or consumers shy away from this technology?

In reality, the biggest threat right now is mobile malware. Android smartphones and tablets are the hottest targets. Virtually all mobile malware samples detected are intended for Android, ranging from malware that sends out SMS messages, or fraudulent SMS payments, mobile botnets, spyware, and Trojans that can capture or destroy data from Android devices. Malware virtually doesn’t exist for Apple’s iOS. Even so, the threat is small: In the first quarter of 2012, virus-protection company McAfee tracked nearly 7,000 types of Android malware threats (not bank specific), versus 83 million targeted at PCs.

Mobile banking introduces a great opportunity to improve the member experience through anywhere, anytime banking, but credit unions introducing this new channel to their members, need to ensure the risks don’t outweigh the rewards. Additionally, credit unions need to effectively communicate the safeness of their online and mobile banking platforms. The CUBUS mobile banking platform has multi-layered authentication which thwarts fraudsters and malware so they can’t penetrate a member’s account.

In short, the mobile train has left the station, but it’s not too late to get security strategies in order by applying the same layered security approach applied to other banking channels and by keeping a watchful eye on account behavior. By doing this, you can reap all the opportunities mobile has to offer, and avoid the risks.

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Word of Mouth Marketing: A double-edged sword

Marketing via word of mouth has the power to quickly build up or tear down the reputations of products, services and organizations. Although many brand interaction stories are shared offline, word of mouth can also go viral very rapidly through social media. In order to leverage the power of word of mouth it’s critical to understand the dynamics of this intangible and often elusive form of marketing.

Building Trust

Trust lies at the core of every strong personal relationship – the same goes for relationships stakeholders have with your credit union. The driving force behind members’ desire to share positive stories about your credit union is the trust they have in the products, services and people.

Trust is not built overnight. It’s nurtured over time with every member, vendor and employee micro-interaction. The truth is that stakeholders see through brand hype and the only real way to build trust is make a promise and deliver on it. The classic example is customer service. Credit unions need to make sure they meet or exceed the service expectations they’ve created with members – falling short on these types of basic brand promises will result in the wrong kind of word of mouth.

Viral Capacity

As social media becomes ubiquitous the speed and frequency of word of mouth communication will continue to increase. The ability for stories to scale beyond traditional channels i.e. face-to-face, phone, etc., can become a double-edged sword.

Unfortunately, as quickly as positive stories get exposed, negative word of mouth seems to travel even faster. Your credit union needs to understand the growing role of technology and its ability to aggregate, amplify and distribute individual voices. That’s why it is crucial to monitor these news ways of communication.

Elusive

Positive word of mouth is often viewed as the pinnacle of marketing, highly trusted and believable. But, by its nature it is enigmatic and difficult to fabricate. Consumer experiences driven by basic business fundamentals such as quality, service and experience seem to fuel it.

Because word of mouth is intangible it’s easy for leaders to lose sight of the effects to the bottom line. There needs to be more awareness of the individual online and offline interactions taking place across your credit union and the potential long term impacts to brand equity.

Maybe it’s as simple as an honest look in the mirror. What would you tell your friends about your own products, services and culture? What types of individual interactions do feel are the most important in helping prompt positive word of mouth? The comments are yours.

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Six tips for better email marketing

Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective and therefore profitable online marketing solutions available to any business. Its simplicity and speed, combined with its low cost and transparent, easy-to-understand reporting, make it a popular driver of business for companies and organizations of all sizes. Despite this, many fail to maximize on their potential from email marketing. Here are six tips to help make your email campaigns better.

1.      Keep It Relevant

When members and non-members give you permission to add them to your email list, they do so with the understanding that they will receive relevant email marketing messages based on their previous interactions with you (e.g., a purchase, request for information, etc.). It is imperative that you get to know your subscribers and tailor your messages to their individual needs. Irrelevant and therefore unwanted emails will damage your reputation, reduce open rates, and potentially drive recipients to unsubscribe or, worse still, mark your campaigns as spam.

2.     Remember That Less Is Definitely More

Email marketing campaigns are best kept short and to the point. You should try to keep any scrolling to a minimum and, through the use of clear calls to action, (i.e Learn More), direct recipients to your website as quickly and efficiently as possible. Compared to the limited functionality or control in the email environment, a website visit will better enable you to track a customer’s journey across your products or services, capture more detailed data, and carefully guide or influence potential conversions, such as sales or lead-generating opportunities. Optimizing your website landing page (i.e., the page your subscribers arrive on after clicking on your email campaign) by stripping out unnecessary links and navigation will help increase conversions.

3.     Consider Frequency and Timing 

The relevancy of your campaigns will nearly always be more important than the number of messages you send. A single ill-thought-out monthly email newsletter, which offers little value to the recipient, will be less welcome than a more frequent series of targeted, relevant, and actionable emails. The optimum delivery time will vary depending on your target audience. For example, an email targeting a potential business client will best be delivered during working hours, while an email targeting a young mother may return more positive results if delivered later in the evening (once the kids are in bed). Testing will help you optimize your timing and frequency strategies in terms of engagement, unsubscribe requests, and return on investment.

4.     For Subject Lines, Think Headline News

Your subject line is your first line of defense between your subscribers and the delete button. It should scream benefits. Think of it in the same way as a newspaper editor does a headline. Your subject line should tell the full story and entice the subscriber to read more. Because of this, you should give your subject line as much thought (if not more) than your body text.

5.     Take Time for Text 

Make good use of real text (not graphics) at the top of your email. A graphic-heavy email will appear blank until the subscriber has selected to download the graphics. Real text in the message will remain visible even in HTML emails and will entice subscribers to open the complete email. As noted in Rule #2, your body text should be both concise and informative, telling the complete story as quickly as possible. Use good calls to action (e.g., Buy Now or Learn More) to drive traffic to your website with the promise of more detailed information.

6.     Automate and Schedule

Email marketing shouldn’t tie you to your desk. Use your email marketing software to automate and schedule email campaigns to reach your lists at a time that best suits your members. You can also use auto-responders to set up a series of emails that roll out over a specified period of time following an event. Auto-responders are ideal for delivering detailed content, such as educational or thought-leadership programs, in bite-size chunks.

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Nine ways to boost your online marketing

1. Website

A credit union’s website must be outstanding. Most consumers search before they buy. The website has replaced the branch as the new first impression. It’s the first place potential members will go to learn more about your credit union.

2. Email marketing

Email marketing is affordable, produces real-time feedback and is an attractive option for anyone with limited funding for marketing or support staff. It can be an effective tool for targeted campaigns. Its affordability, however, also makes it one of the most misused or overused tools. Just because it can be created in house, doesn’t mean it should be. And just because it can be sent frequently, doesn’t mean it should be.

3. Blogs

Blogging is another way of creating a connection. It enables your credit union to stimulate and facilitate online conversations with members and non-members. A simple blog can also drive up web traffic from search engines. Providing information consumers want, and not necessarily pitching them products, can help build trust and your credit union’s reputation.

4. Social media

Businesses that take advantage of social networking as a marketing tool will have an edge over competitors who do not. Social media is a great opportunity for credit unions to cut through the marketing clutter and engage members. Give members a chance to share their stories and talk about what they want to talk about.

5. Web video

Consumption levels of web video are exploding. Using the tool for marketing can give your credit union the ability to create direction connections with target audiences, both members and non-members. Videos also set off emotional triggers that the written word cannot: A video testimony from a member who became debt-free with the help of his credit union can go much farther than the same story in written form.

6. Mobile marketing

Nearly half of all cell phone owners currently own a smartphone. Nearly 90 percent of these people have the Internet or email on their phones, and 68 percent use their smartphones to go online daily. One quarter of these people use their phones solely for Internet access. Text messaging is the most widely used form of mobile marketing. But location-based targeting, when people “check-in” with mobile apps, is growing in importance. Experts believe, however, that credit unions should spend most of their resources on their mobile websites.

7. QR codes

The quick response (QR) code—basically a next-generation barcode—is an example of how quickly mobile marketing is changing the way businesses interact with consumers. QR codes can be a relatively low-cost, easy way to offer coupons and member benefits with a simple scan of the code. There’s really no limit to how marketers can use QR codes, and many are trying out inventive approaches.

8. Search engine marketing

Search engine marketing can be an important tool in capturing business. Consumers in search mode often are consumers in some stage of the buying cycle. If you can capture their attention, you may be able to capture their business. Credit unions with limited budgets can also take advantage of pay-per-click advertising. There’s no out-of-pocket expense for your credit union if consumers don’t click.

9. Google Places

Nearly all consumers (97 percent) search for local businesses online, according to Google. If your credit union is not listed online, you’re missing a golden opportunity to be found in your own community. Google Places, which is free, is similar to an enhanced yellow pages of business listings that show up in search engine results.

 

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How to get more car loans: Information

Your members may love your credit union, but if a bank, auto dealer, or anyone else has a lower interest rate, that love will not be strong enough to keep their auto loans at your credit union.

Auto loans are seen as a commodity these days. What makes your credit union the number one choice? What makes members think of your credit union as soon as the thought of buying—or refinancing—a car comes to mind?

In a word: information.

In this era of information overload, you can still be the best information provider on car loans, car buying, and everything else that’s car-related. So, while you may not win the rate game, you’ll still be in a position to compete for the loan—and in today’s market, that’s saying a lot.

If you’re doing a mailing, take a moment to step back and see it from your member’s perspective. Another full color, glossy brochure saying the recipient is pre-approved for up to $32,000? Join the stack in the trash can.

But what if the offer provides tips and techniques on buying that next car, truck or motorcycle? What if it gives members ideas and advice on how to shop, what to watch out for, what the dealer invoice really means, and what to look for? What if the mailing was so conveniently sized that members just stuck it in their pockets—or wallets—and took it with them when shopping for a car—giving you the chance to be present when they’re thinking about a loan?

Email is another great option for auto loans. Because content marketing isn’t a one-time deal, and the idea is to build credibility and loyalty by being the ongoing source of information for your members, you want to include information. It doesn’t have to be full articles. A brief tip or idea will do. But do it on an ongoing basis.

If your email newsletter is weekly or bi-monthly, you’ll want to include a section on cars—buying them, caring for them, saving on gasoline, anything auto-related. When members begin to realize what a wealth of information you’ve been providing, they’ll think of your credit union first when they start thinking of buying a car.

Social media has its place in auto loan marketing too. But please don’t tweet or post something to your Facebook page that says something like, “Great rates on new and used auto loans at ABC FCU!” Even announcing your auto loan promotion on social media platforms should be done carefully. You don’t want to become known as one of the many boring, promotional credit unions that nobody wants to follow.

Instead, how about asking members about their auto buying experience? Get a conversation going, because that’s the strength of social media. Ask members to weigh in on their favorite car-buying experience ever, on what their experience has been with local dealers, on whether or not they’d buy a car for a teenaged child, or whether that child should participate in making the payments. In this case, your members are providing the content. The only catch is that you have to get them started.

To do that, brainstorm for conversation starting ideas. Do this quarterly and come up with at least one car-related topic per week. Look at what other credit unions are doing. Read up on the specific topics you want to talk about, and word your questions or posts in a way that makes people want to respond. Being controversial can work wonders! Build in a contest, if you like, to draw more attention and participation. Find videos, infographics, or just humorous pictures, and ask members to weigh in.

Your members have choices. Coming to the credit union for an auto loan is not a given. But by being there for members before they need you, by providing them with ongoing, unique information on everything auto related, by positioning yourself as the auto loan source, your members will feel like they’re in good hands when they come in to apply for a loan. And they’ll want to get that auto loan from your credit union.

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Upgrade to our CUNotify suite of products

We officially announced today a major upgrade to our CUNotify, a notification suite of products aimed at communicating different types of messages electronically to credit union members through alerts, statements, letters and reminders while drastically reducing paper costs. The upgrade includes new alerts as well as numerous triggers for auto-subscribing members.

No other company has a product like CUNotify which offers so many options for member alerts. Having multiple alerts lets credit union members gain more control over their finances, which in turn creates stickiness and loyalty, plus helps prevent fraud by enabling members to monitor more accounts more easily and more frequently, speeding detection of fraud and reducing fraud losses for the member and the credit union.

The CUAlerts solution lets members customize alert preferences such as when account balances go above or below a certain level, how many times a day to receive alerts, specific email addresses and more. The alerts also provide an additional opportunity for credit unions to market and cross-sell to its members. With the upgrade credit unions can now automatically subscribe members for a pre-defined set of alerts for each type of account they have. That can include non-sufficient funds, Reg D, low balance, cleared check, debit card usage, loan payment due, CD maturity and more. Previously members had to sign themselves up for the alerts. With these new enhancements, credit unions can make it easy for members to be informed about all of their accounts.

New alerts added:

  • Debit/credit card ordered alert notifies a member when their card has been shipped.
  • ACH/NSF alert lets the member know if they have insufficient funds when they transfer money using ACH or if they wrote a check that was converted to ACH.
  • Debit card NSF without Privilege Pay Alert notifies a member if their card was rejected due to insufficient funds. This alert can also be used to remind members of the benefits of the Privilege Pay service.
  • Debit card transaction denied alert serves as a fraud warning and notifies members when their debit card was denied, and other conditions such as card frozen, account overdrawn, card labeled as lost, etc. Under the latter conditions – generally to be known by the member – it means that the card is being used by someone other than them.
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Member engagement equals higher loyalty

A new report from Aite Group introduces and defines a new metric for banks and credit unions who want to understand drivers of customer loyalty. The Group says that their new Referral Performance Score (RPS) overcomes the shortcomings of the Net Promoter Score, which has for years been the industry standard for measuring loyalty drivers.

In the second quarter of 2012, Aite Group surveyed 1,115 U.S. consumers online using their RPS metric. The results confirm the importance of finding the most actively engaged customers.

The report found 36% of respondents had referred friends to their primary financial institutions in the last 12 months. Only about 10% actually grew their balances or number of accounts, giving the industry a referral performance score of 353, out of a possible 10,000 points.

Credit unions fared better for referrals, with nearly half of customers saying they referred customers in the last 12 months. By contrast, just under one third of large bank customers did. But there’s an important cross over relative to growing the relationship during the course of the year: 12% of large bank customers said they increased balances or number or accounts, while just 7.5% of credit union customers did. Large banks actually fared better with a Referral Performance Score of 381, versus 353 for credit unions.

Consumer decisions to either refer or deepen their relationships with financial institutions depended heavily on what products and services they used, which is where large banks often have the advantage said the report.

Fifty-five percent of customers who grew and referred their banks also used personal financial management tools, the report said. Seventy-one percent of those who did both also owned a smartphone, and 52% owned a tablet. More than one third said they were mobile bankers. Sixty-seven percent also followed their financial institution on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

This group may also represent future trends in banking: about 40% indicated they want to use their mobile phones to replace cards to make payments, and about the same amount wants to use mobile phones to make payments.

But attitudes and actions weren’t shaped by technology alone. Customers with debit cards also tended to more actively refer their financial institutions and to buy more products. Nearly 90% of the most active referrers had a debit card account, and about a third said it was associated with a rewards program that most liked.

The level of engagement with one’s financial life, satisfaction with debit card rewards program, mobile channel affinity and activity, and social media connections all contribute to driving referral and relationship growth behavior among consumers.

NOTE: Some of the information in this post was sourced from American Banker.

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Lessons to learn from data looting

Just type “security breach” into Google just about any day of the week and you’ll see a variety of different companies suffering from small to large data breaches. Last week it was LinkedIn and CloudFare. A few months ago data from up to 1.5 million credit and debit cards from all major card brands, including MasterCard, Visa and Discover, was stolen in a massive data breach via a third-party payment processing facility. These incidences bring to light the fact that sensitive information can be breached at any point in the supply chain of companies that handle this information.

The enormous costs and far-ranging consequences of a breach truly are enterprise wide concerns. Breaches are expensive, requiring extra staff, external legal counsel, credit monitoring services for victims, and more. The Ponemon Institute reported that the average cost of a breach was $7.2 million in 2010, or $214 per compromised customer record.

Global Payments (GPN), the public company responsible for the debit card breach, is a perfect example of how great the losses can be. GPN has lost nearly 20 percent in value since the disaster and VISA took them off their preferred credit card processors.

What can credit unions do to hedge against this type of breach and their consequences?

1. Choose your vendor/partners carefully. In the age of outsourcing, good chance your member’s information will be “sourced out” – despite contracts guaranteeing the opposite. If it can happen to the big banks, it can happen to you. Validate the security of suppliers that handle your sensitive information, including backup tapes and documents.

2. Train your employees. Train employees on your security policies and procedures and performing periodic spot checks to measure compliance. So called “insiders” continue to pose a threat to the security of their organizations. This is particularly true as the increasing adoption of tablets, smartphones and cloud applications in the workplace means that employees are able to access corporate information anywhere, at any time. It is essential for your credit union to put the proper information protection policies and procedures in place to counterbalance these new realities.

3. Crisis communications. What happens when there is a breach? Do you have a crisis management plan? Notify members as quickly as possible to minimize their exposure…and yours. Develop a plan to manage the situation. Use email, SMS, website and postcards. Effective and appropriate communication to members who have been impacted by a breach includes describing the type of data that was lost or taken, an estimate of probability that the data will be abused and the business recourse that your credit union will offer. Members expect the credit union to protect their data; but when that doesn’t happen, they would also like to have the issue explained fully and quickly.

4. Tell members to set up email/text alerts for debit and credit card transactions. When was the last time you marketed alerts as a key component in the defense against fraud? Now might be a good time to start. Once these alerts are set, any fraud is instantly communicated to the member, who can take the necessary steps to minimize the risk, e.g. tell you about the breach, e.g. change passwords, etc.

Taking these precautions is no guarantee of avoiding a publicized security breach. But they’ll go a long way in properly allocating your limited budgets toward the areas of greatest risk.

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