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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4 New Year resolutions for consumers to try, in order to save money in 2014

Another year is over and it’s time to start on a fresh note again. We are a week removed from New Year’s day and it’s high time to start following the resolutions rigorously. Every new year provides you with an opportunity to boost finances and live healthy and wealthy. It’s all about how well you grab the opportunity to keep your finances on track. However, it’s a general habit to make new year resolutions and leave them in midway. Saving money should be a habit too!  So I pray you get back in the habit or start a habit of saving money.  Think of it as paying yourself to stick to your resolution.

4 Resolutions that you must follow rigorously in 2014 to save more

Around 54% of Americans consider financial resolutions to be extremely important. Well, financial resolutions are important and you must follow them to keep your finances healthy. So, here are 5 most essential financial resolutions that you must follow to keep your savings growing. Have a look at the 4 resolutions below:

401(k)1. Be resolute to save enough for your 401 (K) plan: Apart from your liquid savings account and emergency fund, it’s important to save in 401 (K) plan as well. 401 (K) is a specific retirement savings plan provided by most of the employers. This is a great way to secure financial life after retirement. So, this year make it a point to max out your contributions to the 401 (K) plan. Talk to your employer and start savings on a regular basis.

Credit cards2. Make it a point to use credit cards as little as possible: Be more resolute this year to manage your credit cards carefully. Take care of the cards and it’ll be easier enough to tame the bills. Keep checking your account statements every month, don’t shop beyond 30% of the credit limit and pay all the bills in full before the due date. These habits are essential to make the most of your credit. In this way, you’ll be able to control your credit card debts and your credibility will increase along with your savings.

Debt-blocks-3. Get rid of the habit of debt accumulation: Neglecting debt is something that can ruin your finances beyond your imagination. Many people are there who come up with the resolution to eliminate debts every year but right after a few months, they start falling behind. If you’re also a part of that group, then make sure to change your habit. Consolidate your due bills or arrange a settlement with your creditors. These are the most effective ways to eliminate debts gradually.

Coupons4. Be a bit more responsible as a consumer: Apart from everything else, the best new year resolution can be controlling your spending habits. When it comes to saving money, nothing can be more effective than controlling your expenses. If you’ve already spent a lot for your New Year bash, then make it a point to keep your expenses low for the coming months. Pay off your due bills first. Only after clearing your dues you should think of spending. But never spend beyond the limit of your affordability.

So, with the arrival of a new year make it a point to follow these 4 resolutions and save money to secure your financial future.

 

 

Author Bio- Andrew Jackson is a financial writer who loves to analyze personal finance and credit card relate issues to help consumers manage their money. He regularly contributes to numerous informative blogs and financial websites.To get the more information on personal finance & credit card debt issues you can join the Google+ Page of Ovlg.


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Money Talks: Your Kids and Money

So 73 percent of parents keeping their kids in the financial loop…big deal. It shouldn’t be much of a celebration. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education only about 75 percent of students earn their high school diplomas nationwide.  Are we celebrating that too?  During my VERY brief stint as a personal trainer in college, I had very a hard time working with clients because while they listened to me in the gym during their workout, they didn’t when they got home.  They didn’t have someone at home willing to keep them accountable. My point is that kids may pay attention in class, but without the parents help at home, we are going nowhere fast!


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Bank Spotlight: Middleburg Bank – The Mascot Approach to Marketing

Adopting a mascot at your financial institution could significantly help engagement with your customers, while making your branding efforts easier.  One financial institution, Middleburg Bank, has not necessarily out foxed anyone, but rather out focused other banks in their marketing approach around their “spokesfox”, Mosby.

As Mosby says on Middleburg Bank’s Website: ” I have been associated with the Bank since 1924, when the first office of Middleburg Bank opened across from the Red Fox Inn. ‘Why is a fox associated with Middleburg Bank?’ you might ask. Well, for generations, we foxes have long been a part of the culture of Middleburg and the surrounding areas of Virginia. As the fox is an intelligent, resourceful animal (if I do say so myself), I was chosen to represent the spirit of the bank and I’ve been an integral part of the Bank’s identity for many years. A couple of years ago, the Bank wisely made the decision to feature me as their “spokesfox” and since that time, my role within the Bank has continued to grow. In fact, last month Gary let me take over the Bank’s Facebook page and interact there with our many clients and fans.”

I’m on hundreds of bank websites/social media pages each week and Middleburg Bank really stands out, thanks to Mosby.  In talking to Robert Miller, Chief Marketing Officer at Middleburg Bank, he says that without Mosby, their marketing would look very different “with messages built around products, rates and commitment to the community.  While we still touch on some of those things in our
current marketing, using Mosby has allowed us to develop a distinctive identity, voice and personality.  We believe that over the long haul, this approach will drive the brand’s likeability and help separate us from the pack.”

I can identify with this, stemming from a couple of my own experiences.  Universities use mascot’s for the same purpose as banks; to symbolize the identity of the group, school, city or community for which it represents.   I was the Cougar mascot (Butch T. Cougar) of Washington State University.  I was surprised about how much time I had to put in to understand the personality of Washington State’s beloved mascot.  The Cougar mascot before me was Blitz the Seahawk for the Seattle Seahawks and he helped train me.  This may sound silly, but there were three of us all playing the role of Butch T. Cougar and we all needed to have the same walk, mannerisms etc.  They took this serious enough that I was not allowed to tell anyone who I was.   It was to remain a secret until right before I graduated.

Yet another example comes from when I did a couple of appearances as Chase the Dog, while working for Chase Bank.  Now, I was there during the “fun” occupy movement and let’s just say Chase wasn’t seen as the best bank in the universe, yet there was more engagement happening in our branch around a mascot that couldn’t talk then we had prior.  People could identify with the personality of a dog; loyal, happy, loveable and eager to meet new people.

So what’s the point?  Well, so many financial institutions have enough people working on marketing, that it’s hard to find one voice or one personality.  Having one voice and personality is so important and nobody knows what that voice and personality looks and sounds like better than the bank.  There is an Irish Proverb that says, “The fox never found a better messenger than himself.” This is so important because if someone else does all the work, you may have a very different voice/personality and this could compromise your brand.  When asked by folks why I love Washington State so much, all I have to do is describe the personality of the mascot I worked so hard to become; Courageous no matter what, community focused, VERY spirited, kind, and willing to waive the flag anytime, anywhere.  How do you easily describe your bank’s voice/personality without your financial institution just adding to all the white noise? I know how Middleburg Bank does…

Middleburg Bank’s Website Logo