Posts Tagged ‘Open Source CU’

The Innovator’s Dilemma

January 29, 2009

Today, Matt Davis, aka the CUWarrior, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at last October’s 2008 Indy Partnership Symposium, and has a blog here, posted a great article on Open Source CU, titled Using the Blue Light to get a Green Light.

He brings up some great points about innovation, which I can’t disagree with in the abstract. It is indeed an excellent technique to start an innovative project at the lowest cost possible in order to get buy-in from upper management. It doesn’t make sense to spend large dollar amounts if the payoff is unsure. Financial institutions, or any businesses for that matter, would go downhill rapidly if they did so often.

But I want to make the case that it’s not always possible or advisable to innovate by dipping a toe in the water. Here are a few cases where “DYI” innovation won’t make the grade:

1.) The innovation requires a large scale for the desired effect to be realized, or it’s launched in such a small scale that it doesn’t get noticed.
2.) More cost in dollars is expended trying to do it yourself than it would have taken to hire a professional
3.) The innovation does not take off because it was ahead of its time
4.) Your competitor spots your innovation, and implements it more fully than you did, stealing customers in the process

But on the flip side, here are reasons why you SHOULD attempt something on a small scale before going bigger:

1.) It turns out no one wanted your innovation after all. At least you didn’t through money away, and you’ve learned something along the way about your customers and/or your organization.
2.) Your original idea was too complicated; it turns out that the foundation was right, but it needed to turn in a different direction. By expending the minimum resources in development, you can make the necessary adjustments without having spent too much.
3.) If the innovation is a good one, it should reach a self-funding state relatively quickly. You can test, prove the business case with results, then develop it in due course as funds warrant.

So how do you tell in which camp an innovation belongs? It comes down to your organization’s DNA, the filter by which you run everything. The more an innovation directly lines up with your organizations brand, its DNA, the more resources should be allocated to the innovation.

On a completely unrelated note, check out this cool restoration of an old school traffic light, made before the color yellow was invented.

36 Credit union social media do’s

July 15, 2008

This morning I saw that social media sage Chris Brogan had put together a list of 50 social media strategies. Without peeking at his list (honestly!), I decided I should put together a list of Do’s and Don’ts for social media as it pertains to credit unions. I’m sure that I left out plenty, so feel free to add your additional ones here! And here’s a nice buttoned-up, three-page PDF version of the 63 CU social media do’s and don’ts.

Oh, and by the way, I’m delivering a webinar on Building Relationships with Social Media on EverythingCU on Thursday. I’ll be discussing 7 case studies, among other things. I’m really looking forward to it, and am very excited we have 36 credit unions signed up so far.

Because this list is long, I’ve split up the Do’s and the Don’ts into two entries:


  1. Do become well-versed with all of the available social media tools before diving in. (Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, podcasting are great starting points.)
  2. Do start your social media marketing strategy planning by thinking about what your TARGET AUDIENCE is interested in.
  3. Do make sure that your social media strategy reinforces your CU’s overall business or branding strategy, and is designed to, at the least, create awareness of what your CU is great at.
  4. Do feature your online initiatives in a computer kiosk in your lobby. That way your members will not only learn about what they can do remotely, they’ll also associate what they see online with a tangible presence.
  5. Do learn the basics of how RSS and blogs work.
  6. Do give guidelines to anyone who will be contributing to your CUs blog.
  7. Do put your rates into RSS format.
  8. Do comment on your members’ blogs. They LOVE that, and will share the love in return. That’s the best way to increase readership of YOUR blog.
  9. Do put valuable information that is currently in your print letter ALSO onto your blog so that your members can comment. Feel free to inform that online commenting is available at the end of the print newsletter articles that are also featured on your blog.
  10. Do feel free to blog your newsletter articles before they appear in the print version. Many people aren’t paying attention to your blog, and will be reminded to go there when receiving the print version in the mail.
  11. Do write down your social media strategy so that the rest of the management team can see the cause and effect chain from your marketing efforts to how its helping the CU generate awareness, leads, new referrals, new members, and new sales, or in general reinforcing the CU’s brand.
  12. Do start with the overall campaign concept, then figure out what social media tools are the best fit.
  13. Do reinforce your traditional marketing campaigns with your online efforts and vice versa. These are not separate silos.
  14. Do build up a network of friends among your members BEFORE you start trying to “market” to them.
  15. Do use social media to start conversations among your members about your CU and ask for honest feedback.
  16. Do monitor discussion about your CU on third-party sites using Google Alerts.
  17. Do create a business fan page for your CU on Facebook.
  18. Do be a real person and use real language in all social media venues. Be as polite and professional as you would face-to-face.
  19. Do always make sure your blog posts are attributed to the author, and not to the faceless credit union.
  20. Do only write a blog post when you have something important to say to your members.
  21. Do put your fun and interesting CU events onto Facebook.
  22. Do write your blog posts in a way that invites your members to comment on it. We’ve been so used to one-way communication with our members, that we have to retrain our brains to write in a way that invites dialogue.
  23. Do realize that for the most part, your members are more interested in other members’ comments on your blog, than on the article you originally wrote. Feature comments front and center.
  24. Do optimize your web site and online banking to work on mobile phones, Blackberries, Treos, and iPhones.
  25. Do call your core processor’s rep every day until she gives you a mobile banking offering for your members.
  26. Do attend the nearest PodCamp to you to learn more about what this social media thing is all about.
  27. Do understand that your members expect you to be present in the online conversation about you. They’ll interpret a lack of presence as a lack of caring about their concerns.
  28. Do understand that you’ll have to hold many of your members hands if you want them to participate in your online efforts. But each time that you do, you will be earning their gratitude, and perhaps loyalty. Everyone likes to learn how to do cool new things, without being made to feel like they are stupid.
  29. Do read web sites and books about it: The Cluetrain Manifesto by Christopher Locke, Naked Conversations by Robert Scoble, and The New Influencers by Paul Gillin
  30. Do read blogs about it: this one right here, OpenSource CU by Trabian, Marketing Whims by Ron Shevlin, NetBanker by Jim Bruene, Currency Marketing by Tim McAlpine, CU Hype by Tony Mannor, and scores more.
  31. Do realize that your members know better your CUs strengths and weaknesses than you realize.
  32. Do realize that your front line staff are your best and most important allies in social media marketing. They are far more familiar with it, and trusted by their own friends than you are.
  33. Do involve your front line staff with your social media efforts every step of the way.
  34. Do involve your members at every step of the way with your social media efforts.
  35. Do realize that the relationship your members have with each other is often as important, and sometimes more important, than the relationship they have with you or your credit union.
  36. Do involve your members in competitions and let them see how they stand. Members love that, and will check back often if you do!

Here are the 27 Don’ts.

P2P Lending and market leader advantage

June 26, 2008

Twit/blogger friend Mike Templeton, online manager of the Iowa CU League’s The Members Group, a payment processing CUSO, tweeted this morning that another twit/blogger friend, Ron “The Shevlinator” Shevlin was just quoted in an Aite Group report about large banks starting to have success with marketing online. This report reminded me that Ron recently commented on Open Source CU that he was secretly skeptical of the future of P2P Lending sites, (like Prosper), because someday banks will wake up and smell the coffee, and simply do it themselves.

Woah, Ron, hold on there. You may be right, but I think you are wrong on this point, and here’s why: Why haven’t banks and credit unions gone running to develop their own P2P Lending solution as of yet? For most FIs, there are many reasons: 1.) They haven’t heard of P2P Lending. 2.) They don’t see why lots of people would jump on this. 3.) They aren’t legally able to do it. 4.) They don’t see it as significantly different than what they are currently doing. 5.) It would canibalize their own lending business 6.) Their field of membership/geographic reach is too small to make the investment in technology infrastructure worthwhile 7.) Most FI’s don’t have the resources in time, expertise and dollars to invest in such an effort.

But say you ARE a huge bank, and do have the time, expertise, and resources to roll your own P2P Lending solution. You still have a number of strikes against you.

1.) Prosper has a multi-year headstart on you. This headstart is significant in customers, transactions, reputation, and expertise, both technological and tactical.
2.) Why would people choose you over Prosper? This is where reputation is all-important. If you’ve been fee’ing your customers to death, they’re not going to come running to you just because you announce you have P2P Lending.

I can hear the counter-argument now: “Prosper is a niche presence that most Americans have never heard of.”

Indeed, while the current membership of 725,000 is a small percentage of all Americans, it is nevertheless big enough to make it the fourth largest credit union in the nation if it were a credit union. And Prosper is growing fast, and is now starting to advertise. Also, while this membership is still relatively small, it is composed of the early adopters. While the mega-banks have advertising budgets that may exceed Propser’s entire operating budget, for the most part, the people who would go online and use P2P lending are not the ones that would be influenced by television and other mass-media. The people who utilize P2P Lending are the people who are involved in social media, such as blogging, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Brightkite, etc.

Prosper has what I call the eBay advantage. eBay is not the best auction technology that exists. I’m sure Christie’s and Sotheby’s have superior auction sites. But eBay is where everyone is, which is an upward cycle. All the buyers are there, which means that all the sellers go there, which means that all the buyers go there, etc. And the other thing which continues to make eBay the place to go for your online auctions is the issue of reputation. Hundreds of thousands of people have carefully managed their reputation in online buying and selling on eBay, and this reputation is not transferable. All these folks are not going to leave behind their reputation on which they’ve expended huge effort. And now that Prosper has community reputation features in P2P lending and borrowing, all the more reason why Prosper will remain the place to go in P2P Lending.

Okay, that’s my two cents, tell me why I’m wrong! 🙂

How many CUs should be blogging?

January 24, 2008

It has been fascinating to follow discussion on why more credit unions are not blogging several years after blogging became somewhat mainstream. The earliest reference I read was Trey Reeme’s post on CUES’ Skybox blog, one and a half years ago. More recently, Tim McAlpine in Vancouver asks CUs if they will blog for the money if not the love, which then got Shevled by the Shevlinator. The following message is partly aimed in response to Ron, who I think needs a trip to America’s CU Museum in Manchester, New Hampshire. (It’s only 51 minutes away from your office, Ron…. looking forward to joining you there on April 5 for BarCampBank NewEngland.)

Ron has some outstanding points to consider in developing an online strategy. Yes, a marketing person should always consider the broader strategic picture and figure out if/how blogging may or may not fit into that. Especially if you work at a large bank, where ROI is watched like a hawk.

But Ron is himself missing the bigger picture when it comes to credit unions. Namely, what is the purpose of a credit union? Why were they founded? These questions are even more on the forefront of my mind since I made a presentation last week to Lehigh Valley Educators CU in Allentown, Pennsylvania on the history of the credit union movement, and how their credit union fits into that amazing one hundred year history. (Yes, this is our centennial year in the United States.)

What is the major difference between banks and credit unions, besides lower loan rates, higher savings rates, lower or no fees, etc. (which is not even true in many cases nowadays)? It’s the self-governance, the fact that I personally can be elected to the Board of Directors. Since the Board equals .00001% of the total membership, most people never actually get to serve on the Board. But in theory, the Board is there to serve my needs and best interests. Prior to the internet age, there was no practical way that Average Jane Concerned Member could communicate with Elected Board Representative Wiseone. Now, via blogs, not only is that possible, it is possible to hold those conversations out in the open. Why wouldn’t Board members want to invite participation from their members? Why wouldn’t they want to discuss policy openly? Why wouldn’t you want to find out from the members themselves what it is they want in THEIR financial institution?

Ginny Brady is doing that with the Boardcast. But she is the lone voice out of 8,000+ CU boards. (Multiply that by an average of about 9 directors per board, and she is one in 72,000.)

It’s not easy being a Board member. It’s an unpaid position, and mostly thankless. Most members don’t realize that.

Most members feel disenfranchised from the institution. They feel it’s faceless, and that “it” doesn’t care about them. So why should they keep their accounts there or feel anything special towards it? By keeping policy decisions behind closed doors, Boards and CUs are perpetuating that the institution doesn’t really care about its members.


You want loyalty from your members? You can’t purchase loyalty. You can only earn it. You want your members to have a relationship with you? That starts with having a relationship with your members.

So how many CUs should be blogging? 100% of them.

(Credit unions that are planning on converting to a bank charter may be excused.)

Let me go out even further out on a limb. Trey and the rest of the gang at Trabian have always been very diplomatic when it comes to the question of blogging and credit unions. They have been very polite by saying you should determine if your culture is READY to blog. I’m going to flip it around.



Now having written some inflammatory remarks, I will back off that statement in three regards: One, because blogs are ‘hot’, I am seeing and hearing talk about blogs where a different form of media/communication is more appropriate, such as an online discussion site. Two, when I say blogs, I really mean open communication with your members. If you are still small enough or still have a focused FOM, and are in regular communication with your members via face-to-face discussions, or other channels, then you don’t need to have a blog. Three, blogging is indeed NOT a be-all, end-all panacea. It’s just one tool in a marketing toolkit. There is still a place for traditional media, as this Fast Company article on how trends happen points out.

But for all the CUs out there that are not growing, that are floundering with a lack of membership growth, that have ‘gone community’, that are looking for direction, you need to start communicating with your members, and not marketing ‘at’ them. And blogs are an exponentially less expensive way of doing that than focus groups.

Washington CUs descend upon Spokane

September 12, 2007

After giving a talk about Bringing Your CU into World 2.0 to the Credit Union Association of Oregon in Tigard, I flew up to Spokane to join the festivities at the Washington CU League’s annual convention. Upon checking in at the conference hotel, I immediately recognized Trey Reeme of Trabian and OpenSource CU in the hotel lobby, and said hi before he had to go prepare for his talk the following morning. Trey let me know that Robbie Wright was still up and about, and so I also got to finally meet him in person, as well as fellow Trabian, Brent Dixon. Also in the mix were Matt Vance, Marketing Director for Industrial CU, David Bennett, Director of Public Relations for the league, Benny Haagen, Director of Lending for Educational Community CU in Everett, and Gaye White, Branch Manager at Peninsula Community Federal CU on the Olympic Peninsula.