Matt Andresen

Former mascot, banker, co-owner of web analytics co. and financial advising co. Currently PR, content and analytics marketing dude with Cleland Marketing.


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Bank Spotlight: Mascoma Savings Bank – Culture, The Feeling’s Mutual

mascoma bank color logo

“Ask a group of community bankers what worries them and they’ll come up with similar answers – credit union and Farm Credit System competition, regulatory burden, and concerns about the viability of community banks,” according to Jeff Plagge, President and CEO of Northwest Financial Corp. and ABA Chairman.  While I agree these are areas of concern, I would be more concerned with culture, something that Mascoma Savings Bank has had figured out since 1899, with the help of Senior VP, Samantha Pause.

In Samantha’s words, “We don’t have stockholders, which means our number one focus is not the dividend we are going to pay to stockholders.  Instead our number one focus is our customers and our community.  Mutuality drives everything we do.  It drives how we react to our customers and community.  It drives the types of products and services we offer.  It drives our approach to sales and service, and it drives how we market ourselves.  Are we concerned about the bottom line? Of course we are. We are a business.  But, because we are Mutual, we can focus on what is best for our customers and our community, long term.”

At first I thought her bank was very unique, which in many ways it still is, but then I did some research on their origin. The first United States savings banks were envisioned as philanthropic endeavors, designed to uplift the poor and working classes. The banks were started by philanthropists, who took on the positions of savings bank trustees, managers, and directors as opportunities to teach the lower classes the virtues of thrift, and self-reliance by allowing them the security to save their money.

While a huge reason why Mascoma Savings is able to act in this way comes from the savings banks’ origins, another big reason is because they get the full backing of their CEO.  Samantha says that, “Our CEO is dedicated to the mutual structure of our bank and understands that our main purpose is to be a true community bank.  Because of this, he wants to ensure that everything we do is centered around the level of service we are providing.  A lot of the marketing and advertising that we do is centered around providing information to the community.  Whether it is information on products, services, financial education, or information about community events, our main focus on advertising is being a provider of information.  When we focus totally on what is in the best interest of our customers and community, sale happen.  Our customers know who we are, they know how we contribute to the community and they appreciate that.  They choose us as a bank because of our culture.”

 
Zappos Loyalty Team

Zappos Customer Loyalty Team

Culture?!  Who knew?! Your culture is who you are as an organization.  I had the privilege of listening to Alfred Lin, the COO of Zappos speak a while back and he said Zappos is a service company that happens to sell shoes.  Now why does this stick out?  So many other organizations claim to stand behind their service, but end up just adding to the white noise.  Zappos walks the walk.  For instance, they put everyone, I mean everyone, through the same 4 week training process. About a week into the training, Zappos makes what it calls “The Offer,” telling the potential future employee, “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you have worked, plus a $2,000 bonus.”  What a buy in! Imagine if banks started to do this?! They focus on the customer so much that ROI is an automatic by-product. 

So if ROI is not at the core of why you do something, how do you measure success and profit?  Samantha says that, “We measure success by the response we get from the public on our advertising efforts.  We aren’t measuring success by ROI.  Instead we gather feedback from community members and local businesses to find out if our advertising is effective.  We do so through word of mouth, surveys, and focus groups.   We have received a lot of positive feedback regarding these efforts.”

This really seems to work.  Now, I am not saying that banks with stockholders are bad, I use to work for one, but without a shift of culture and really walking the walk, you will continue to do the same things over and over, sounding like every other bank out there.  As Mr. Einstein stated, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I think it’s time to try something different…really different.

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With A Little Help From My (Community) Friends…

Scientific Method - DougIn all of my schooling (from Kindergarten through my bachelor’s degree in college and continuing through current life learning) the successful epicenter of it all came from one man whistling “Dixie.”

“Over 20 years ago, teacher Doug Eldon was having his sixth grade students work from a big, beautiful, new, thickly illustrated textbook. The problem was too many students couldn’t remember or understand what they had just read, even though they used the materials with hands-on activities. Students were overwhelmed by the amount of information. So Doug started whistling “Dixie” one day in the shower and soon came lyrics all about the scientific method. Eventually he had a nine verse song which he offered to those who were having difficulty learning, and to make a long story short, they understood and remembered the information, as demonstrated by the improved test scores (and their confident smiles).” – Lyrical Learning Website

Doug Eldon was my six grade teacher and I was one of the students having difficulty learning. Science quickly became one of my favorite subjects.  If only finance was too.  Now, while most parents want want their kids to make their own mistakes, I am sure running up huge credit card debt (like I did) wasn’t what they had in mind. Mr. Eldon was only one man and he developed this one great idea.

What I am asking for here, is not to have teachers simply step up their creativity (by cloning Eldon’s creativity), but for community members (such as financial institutions) to supplement teachers in their efforts to provide life lasting moments.  These community partners could easily help provide helpful financial content.  Think of it this way; teachers  are like a 747 airliner traveling through the sky without time or money to land for gas.  Now what if there was a community partner acting as a refueling plane, that can provide gas in mid-flight? I think you get my drift…

It has been over 20 years since I first participated in Mr. Eldon’s lyrical science learning, but I remember nearly every word to those songs.  Its direct science benefit ended in my singing under by breath in my college science classes.  I never had a community partner help in the way I suggested above, so all I can do is wonder what I could of avoided if Mr. Eldon had taught economics.

A musical excerpt of the scientific method: http://lyricallearning.com/songs/scimethod.mp3


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18 Ways to Engage and Build Teams in a Social Era

Social has taken away numerous connection barriers within the workplace, giving companies more direct access to not just push information out to their employees, but to actively engage in ongoing conversation with them and allow them to do the same. All the talk I see is about consumer engagement reaching out and creating conversation with customers and potential customers, but how about with those even more important… your employees, co-workers, and yes, even the dreaded C-Suite.

“Fear has to be left at the door, and social platforms where your employees already live can be leveraged in this respect.”

Companies often forget about their employees and do not realize that not only are they their most valuable asset from a production, sales, operational standpoint, but that they are and should be their most valuable advocates. Empower those who work for you to create conversation and represent your brand—especially those who have a customer service or customer-facing role.

If they build it, service it or sell it, they’re in a perfect position to communicate with your audience in a way that humanizes your brand, but only if you let them. And the best way to begin this process is to not only allow, but empower communication within the organization. Fear has to be left at the door, and social platforms where your employees already live can be leveraged in this respect. Companies that censor employees on social media are only hurting themselves. Use these platforms to build a culture that encourages teamwork, friendship, loyalty and fun… yes, FUN!

“All the talk I see is about consumer engagement reaching out and creating conversation with customers and potential customers, but how about with those even more important… your employees, co-workers, and yes, even the dreaded C-Suite.”

Many companies that are fearful of social media put muzzles on their employees in an effort to control the social conversation. However this conversation is what can add value, create a strong bond with the company and foster relationships that will be the glue that binds, motivates, and drives everyone to succeed.

“Companies that censor employees on social media are only hurting themselves. Use these platforms to build a culture that encourages teamwork, friendship, loyalty and fun… yes, FUN!”

Companies we need to seize the moment and learn to look forward to the things sitting right under all our noses. It can be the simple things that connect employee to employee and leadership to everyone. That type of thinking will tap into our heart’s posture… unite us, make us look out for one another, and build a loyalty that allows a company to thrive for the long-term. It’s way too easy to miss out on how this can build a powerful workforce there for each other everyday.

Here are 18 ways to empower, encourage, and build a team that thinks of itself as a family…

1. Let them try.

2. Let them make mistakes.

3. Set goals with them.

4. Hold them accountable.

5. Tell them you are proud of them.

6. Fight for them.

7. Let them learn to fight for themselves.

8. Do not let fear dictate.

9. Look them in the eye when they talk.

10. Let them dream.

11. Let them see you dream.

12. Let them create.

13. Let them imagine.

14. Listen, listen, listen to them.

15. Give them grace.

16. Take breaks.

17. Learn to adapt.

18. Embrace who they are.

“Tell a child, a husband or an employee that he is stupid or dumb at a certain thing, that he has no gift for it, and that he is doing it all wrong and you have destroyed almost every incentive to try to improve. But use the opposite technique, be liberal with encouragement; make the thing seem easy to do, let the other person know that you have faith in his ability to do it, that he has an undeveloped flair for it — and he will practice until the dawn comes in at the window in order to excel.” ~Dale Carnegie

Connect with Ted Rubin

Ted is the co-author of Return on Relationship™. Pre-order your copy here. Ted is also the Chief Social Marketing Officer at Collective Bias.

Follow Ted on Twitter @TedRubin.


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Bank Spotlight: First National Bank – The Return on doing More with Less

Marketing budgets are being cut or unchanged year after year forcing bank marketers to continually to do more with less.  While I could do an entire post on budgeting strategy, that post would inevitably find its way to a discussion on social media.  Laura Pomerene, Marketing Director at First National Bank and Trust, would probably agree.  Laura and her Marketing Coordinator colleague, Britney McKay,  have recently introduced social media into their marketing plan (in April of this year) and the push to do this didn’t come about without a well thought out strategy according to Laura:

“It was important for us to first develop a strategy before jumping in feet first. A common perception by management was that we needed to take advantage of this ‘free’ medium.  We were cautious not to blindly and badly throw a Facebook page out there without thinking about what we wanted to accomplish.  We started when we felt comfortable with our initial strategy, which was to align our brand first with a community focus.”

What many banks don’t realize, is that social media won’t transfix your mission, vision and values, it will transform it. First National Bank does have a twitter account as well, but they don’t plan on implementing their strategy until next year.  I would say that while social media is very important to the future relevance of your financial institution, a written down strategy of its intended use and maintenance are even more important, since as the adage says, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”  The last thing you want to do is engage in these social media networks and have them fall dormant.  A study of 314 banks on twitter found that 1 in 5 of those banks became Twitter quitters.  Social media is important, but so is heeding the advice from this study from  TheFinancialBrand.com, showing that “many are just going through the motions, spewing lame tweets about rate changes or happy holiday wishes. These guys can probably find more productive things to do with their time.”

Now, if not right away, the social media discussion always turns to Return on Investment.  ROI is important, but the on a 70,000 foot level, it should be seen more as ROR (return on relationships).  Before First National Bank launched their Facebook page, they hired a company called General Sentiment to create a benchmark report, partially to determine what was and what is being said about them.  In this process of creating a strategy and implementing some kind of ROI, Laura was careful to listen to one of her colleagues, Jeff Marsico as he pointed out that “if you’re measuring in terms of the number of eyeballs, you’ve just lost the credibility of your CFO!”  As you plunge into your strategy you will repeatedly have to justify the time and future expense of what you are doing to get management buy-in.

“We looked at the competitors in our marketplace and very few are using social media well and none of them have really taken a strong role in thought leadership.  We think this could have some enormous opportunity for us.  The challenge we have is getting the buy-in to actively involve more of our talented employees in this process,” says Laura.

You first need buy-in of your management team on your initial strategy to get buy-in to use these talented employees. In the end it is a matter of showing social media as a solution to doing more with less and then involving the management team and talented front line employees to carry out the strategy that will become a big part of the future success of your bank.

Of course it’s not just banks that are in need of buy-in to get a social media strategy up and running.  New research has found that 72 percent of businesses using social media do not have a clear layout of goals or strategy. As manifested before, a lot of this comes from not having a clear understanding of what the ROI looks like, something that keeps management from buy-in.

Rob Ployhart, a professor of business administration at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, says that “the data businesses are looking for will be available within three to five years, making social media more credible in the eyes of some businesses. In the meantime, however, businesses can still utilize social media as a part of their business. Ployhart recommends businesses set clear goals and policies to maximize the impact that social media can have within an organization. Overall, Ployhart says businesses must have confidence in social media above all else in order to reap the benefits that it can offer.”

The take away here comes down to one word…strategy.  Strategy can paint a picture of the benefits of doing more with less and what ROI looks like now and in the future. All of this provides a strong case to full company buy-in, specifically management.

“In today’s world, we are all interconnected. Companies that are thinking about this proactively are the ones that are probably going to have an advantage in leveraging this technology,” Ployhart said. “I’d be surprised if the first few companies that get in there don’t have a lasting competitive advantage.”