Posts Tagged ‘Trabian’

Thank you, Doug True, Forum Solutions, and Trabian

October 7, 2008

Symposium 2008I had the privilege of speaking to credit union professionals last week at this year’s Partnership Symposium. This unique event was hosted by Forum Solutions and Trabian. I had heard last year’s event was quite the happening, via the CU blog/twittersphere, from such sources as Trabian’s Open Source CU. In fact, last year’s event was one of the first times I learned something valuable from someone (Brent) twittering at a conference (when Shari Storm was speaking) that I wasn’t attending in person.

My presentation was on strategies for successfully building community online. In the first part of my talk, I made the case for why online community building is a natural and important extension of a credit union’s offline community. I then presented seven strategies that I’ve found to work in creating’s online community of 6404 credit union professionals, and showed ways in which credit unions are applying those same strategies in their own online community building efforts.

I enjoyed immensely the Q&A portion of the event with moderator Ron Shevlin, and loved the questions that he asked me (as well as all of the other speakers). There is only one question that I would have answered differently had I anticipated it, and that is the question, “for which CUs is online community building NOT right for?” My off-the-cuff answer was that it’s not right for CUs who don’t care about community and run their shops just like a bank. But what I should have answered is that it all depends on their members and potential members, and what online communities currently exist for those people. If there already exists an online community for a CU’s core membership, then it makes no sense to re-invent the wheel. Instead, staff of the CU should join and participate in the existing community. But if there is currently no online community for the core membership, then there is a huge opportunity for the credit union to fill the void.

My only disappointment from the week is that the internet bandwidth was not sufficient during my presentation for it to be recorded. But I have posted the slides of it here. I am gratified that Andy LaFlamme of Maine State Credit Union live blogged my talk on the CU Loop.

StretchIt was an honor to be asked to present, and a joy to reconnect with so many CU colleagues, as well as meet so many participants in the CU blog/twittersphere in person for the first time. Extra special thanks to the gracious Forum Solutions team, including Doug, Jen, Leah, Kristi, Ashli, Cameron, and Andy for taking such good care of us during our stay, and making us all feel like rock stars. The stretch limo taking me and Tim McAlpine back to the airport was an extra nice touch. (I’m sure the limo was for keynoter Tim, and I just happened to be catching a ride at the same time.)
(Photo credit: Gene Blishen)

Matt Dean of Trabian: A vision of the hyperlocal CU

October 2, 2008

Matt Dean, President of Trabian, shares his vision for the hyperlocal CU at the Partnership Symposium in Indianapolis.

[Brent Dixon recorded this session on video here.]

Online banking: Statements become live links to transactions.

For instance, you spend $32.94 at the RAM, an excellent local restaurant and brewery. This becomes a live link to the restaurant and live reviews. Not just a garbled bunch of unintelligible numbers and letters. Logo included. Then merchant has a dashboard with the information.

From member point of view: Savings goal integrated in. Shows item and progress toward goals. Dashboard given to the local shop carrying the product. What if merchant could then see that people were saving and give special offer to them? Member then has the option to see offer if desired. And make counter offer. Credit union can then offer to help member finance the difference, know what the loan is offered for.

Transaction is more than a line item in a database. Is a relationship between member and merchant. CUs can bring tangible benefit with local focus. CUs can do this because they have trust. This also promotes thrift and prudent lending.

Currently: tiny value in online banking statements; this would have much more value. Right now, statement is read-only. This would add interaction.

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.

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.

New BarCampBanks update

October 18, 2007

I just had a great Flashmeeting with Frederic Baud in Paris and Matt Iverson in the Bay Area. (Love the Flashmeeting interface…. good stuff.) Frederic is interested in helping Matt get BarCampBankSF off the ground, and helping me get BarCampBankNewEngland off the ground. So here’s what came out of the virtual meeting:

BarCampBankSF: Matt Iverson of BoulevardR has interest from Jason Knight of Wesabe, as well as the Mint people and Bryan Sims of Brass, in being a part of the event. That should be enough to get the ball rolling. He’s thinking about doing it on the Sunday before President’s Day, so that’s February 17. He’s looking for local Bay Area help in organizing the event and finding a venue, and he’s thinking about holding it in or around the UC Berkeley campus.

BarCampBankNewEngland: I’ve talked with Peggy Powell, the director for America’s Credit Union Museum, located in Manchester, New Hampshire, on the site of the very first CU created in the United States, and we’re looking good for holding the event there. I think it’s mahvelous that we will be discussing the current revolution in personal finance at the site where the CU revolution in personal finance was launched 99 years ago. At this point, I’m thinking April 26, 2008, and would love any input/feedback on that date for coming to New Hampshire for the event.

I’ve got interest from several parties for being a part of this event, including Ron Shevlin of Epsilon, Peter Glyman and Shawn Ward from Geezeo, and Doug Williams, and possibly Trey Reeme, and Matt Dean of Trabian. If you would like to participate, please put your name down on the BarCampBankNewEngland page.

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.