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“Is Your Marketing Yelling or Conversational?” asks Mark Arnold of On the Mark Strategies
Monday, May 13, 2013 6:25 AM

Think about the deluge of marketing messages you encounter on a daily basis. It’s inescapable. Old school vehicles like radio, television and direct mail crash the party with loud and overbearing voices. No less guilty are new school voices like e-mails, website banners and in-app ads. What they lack in volume they more than make up for in stealth. 

Have you noticed a singular theme running like a thread through the vast majority of this din? It’s an assault on your eardrums and mind! It’s “look at me now,” “hear me now” and “act on me now!” It’s a little reminiscent of a three-year-old child intent on convincing her mommy to get-get-get her that cookie immediately. This isn’t conversation; this is yelling. This is demanding. This is riding on the hope that enough emotional bludgeoning will eventually lead to a desired response (i.e., buy this car, use this type of soap, get me that cookie).

This is marketing at its worst – at its least effective and least attractive. It’s the kind of marketing that gives decent marketing a bad name. It’s marketing that rarely works and more rarely comes close to a reasonable return on investment (ROI).

Is this the type of marketing your credit union uses? Are your messages more or less yelling at your members? If so, it’s time to seriously re-think the way you do things and consider conversational marketing.

Conversational marketing is not a new term, but its application is relatively new. To understand conversational marketing, you must realize that every marketing interaction with members isn’t just a one-way street where you blast them with a message. Rather, they are opportunities for conversations in which you communicate with the member, learn more about what makes that member tick as a consumer, and thereby more carefully tailor a message that fits his or her needs. Conversational marketing also requires you to acknowledge that members are not a captive audience and that they can easily walk (or run) away directly into the arms of your competition. Conversational marketing isn’t about you, it’s about the member.

More and more retailers (and that’s what credit unions are – retailers) see and recognize its potential and value to build long-lasting relationships with members.

What are some ways your credit union can engage in conversational marketing with its members? Consider the following:

Engage members in social media. Perhaps nowhere else are people more likely to talk about what they like and what they hate than via social media. Is your credit union out there listening? If not, you’re missing a treasure trove of member data and conversational marketing opportunities. Use tools like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest , YouTube and your blog to connect with your members and ensure you listen to what they say out there.

Actively listen to your members. Instill this in your team members, especially front-line staff. Train them to devote all their attention to a member when he or she encounters one and to ask clarifying questions if they do not understand what a members is saying or asking. To help members understand that you have listened and do understand what they have said, employ tactics such as maintaining good eye contact and re-stating the issue at hand.

Develop a polished elevator speech. An elevator speech is a roughly 30-second snapshot of what your credit union is and what it provides to its members. Have your staff develop one so they can share the good news about your credit union any time they get the chance, even outside the work environment. Ensure it’s authentic and sincere. When your staff can share real and relevant stories about what the credit union means to them with others, they’ve taken a huge step toward becoming conversational marketing ambassadors.

It’s a real marketing jungle out there. Every tree and vine hides a not-so-subtle message to consumers that’s all too often loud, brash and inconsiderate. Consumers are now essentially immune to such marketing tactics. Instead of coming in with a blitz of credit union messages that will only dash themselves against an impervious wall of member indifference, consider engaging them in meaningful conversational marketing. Your marketing plan and bottom line will thank you for it.