It could be said the creative credit union is a paradox as this industry is often slow or unwilling to accept creative, innovative or new ideas.
Why is this? What holds you back? Is it the fear of change? The fear of failure?
Creativity, according to dictionary.com, is the “ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality.” In short, creativity is more than pretty pictures and graphics. Creativity can and should be found in all areas of your credit union.
I believe creativity must involve all stakeholders at your credit union. Many times, creativity is reserved for your credit union’s marketing department, but in my opinion, creativity is everyone’s responsibility. Anyone, from the front line to accounting, can create meaningful new ideas, forms, or methods. It is important not to forget consumers in the creative process as you are creating products and services specifically for them.
You must remember that at its very core, the idea of banking and dealing with finances causes stress for many. Banking, as a verb, sucks. I challenge your credit union to focus on creating ways to help reduce the friction and pain of banking with a focus on people, product and process.
Placing people at the beginning of any creative process will put you on the path for creative success no matter if you are creating an ad campaign, new product or improving a process. A focus on people, by its very nature, allows your credit union to live the philosophical idea of “people helping people” that should drive us all in this industry.
Once you truly identify your credit union’s purpose by examining your mission, vision and values, you must then make the hard choice of what people your credit union will help. Trying to reach everyone can put your credit union in danger of becoming no one while being drowned out by the noise of other financial service providers both traditional and nontraditional.
By selecting a targeted group of people to focus on, your credit union can create products and processes for this target market to help reduce the friction and pain of banking. This then creates the possibility of turning these people into walking and talking billboards for your credit union by delivering a positive, frictionless experience.
Instead of bringing the same products to market that others are offering, create products that complement your focus on people. The products and messages you create to promote those products should focus on your target market’s human needs.
At the end of the day, it can be said that all your credit union can offer is checking, savings and loans. I don’t agree. The overall product may be the same as what others offer, but the details of your product offering can be creatively tailored to your credit union’s target market.
For example, let’s say your credit union’s defined target market is teachers. You could create a product specifically for them that addresses a pain point or life need, which may not necessarily be financially related. Many school district budgets are being cut around the country and getting basic classroom supplies, such as paper towels, are coming out of a teacher’s own pocket.
What if a benefit of membership at your credit union serving teachers was to provide a couple of rolls of paper towels for their classroom each month? This product enhancement with a focus on people’s pain points would truly show the benefit of membership and could even become a conversational piece in the teacher’s lounge.
Credit unions often times promote an amazing experience but what is that amazing experience made up of? Experiences consist of well-thought out and defined processes that have been improved over time by analyzing patterns.
To creatively improve upon your processes, put yourself into the hearts and mind of consumers and start the experience where a majority of people would begin theirs. It is important to remember that banking is no longer a place people go but now something people do. In today’s ever increasing digital world, an experience with your credit union will most likely begin online through a desktop browser or mobile device.
What is the digital experience you are delivering to consumers? Does it complement your positioning and vision with a focus on people while reducing and removing the friction and pain of banking? How easy is it to open an account or apply for a loan? After reviewing these different digital experiences, once again made up of many processes, take time to analyze and create new ways to improve the digital process, thus improving the overall digital experience for people. Doing so may improve the very first experience people have with your credit union.
To continue to be relevant and compete with an increasing onslaught of traditional and nontraditional competitors, your credit union must embrace creativity, innovation and re-examine how you view the world.
No longer can your credit union afford to think outside the box. The simple fact is by doing so, the box still exists and it can be very easy to find your credit union back in the box. To truly create and move beyond the status quo, your credit union must destroy the box and embrace new creative thoughts and ideas driven by a focus on people, product and process.
James Robert Lay is CEO of PTP New Media
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