Banking on Digital Growth
Banking on Digital Growth

Episode · 6 months ago

104) #DigitalGrowthJourneys: Why Conversational Content Wins


When it comes to financial content, there is a myth that everything needs to be formal and traditional.

So many financial brands are limiting their reach by not producing conversational content.

Just ask today’s guest Madeline Anderson-Balme, Marketing Manager at MIT Federal Credit Union, where she exploded the brand’s audience by connecting in a conversational way.

In this episode, we discuss:

- Why a conversational approach is so effective

- How to get buy-in for a new content approach

- Why home-grown content beats curated content

You can find this interview and many more by subscribing to Banking on Digital Growth on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or here.

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Banking on Digital Growth in your favorite podcast player.

...when we have unique content that we'redeveloping, it means something to our writers. My staff actually writes theirown content based on their lives, so it's things that they care about, theirpassionate about and so the content is personal and that connects with anaudience. Mhm. You're listening to banking on digitalgrowth with James Robert lay a podcast that empowers financial, brandmarketing, sales and leadership teams to maximize their digital growthpotential by generating 10 times more loans and deposits. Today's episode ispart of the digital growth journeys series where James robert uncovers andexplores some of the industry's biggest digital marketing and sales stories ofsuccess. Let's get into the show greetings and hello, I am James robertley and welcome to the 104th episode of the Banking on Digital Growth podcast.Today's episode is part of the digital growth journey series and I'm excitedto welcome Madeleine Anderson Balmer to the show. Madeline is an award winningmarketing manager at M. I. T. Federal credit union overseeing day to dayoperations for the marketing department while also sitting on the kunamarketing and Business Development Council committee. She's also a contentwriter which is going to make for some really good content and conversationtoday with the work that you guys are doing over there. Welcome to the showMadeline. Thank you. I'm really happy to be here. Well, I'm excited. I'mexcited for this conversation. It's been great to see your own personalgrowth over the years when it comes to the work that you're doing, theimportant work, the meaningful work before we get there. I always like tostart off on just a positive note. What is going well for you right now,personally or professionally, professionally? I'll start with rightaway. Um we're really excited to have our team's going back into the office,which some people may not like if they have a long commute, but most of us arehappy to be back together and working Side by side, which is a big changeafter 14 plus months of being at home working personally. It's great tocontinue to do my blog that I started last May. As I mentioned before, it issomething that started with the pandemic and got me into food andrestaurants and cooking and hiking and that's also been an exciting break fromcredit unions. Well, you know, you talk about food, you've got my attention onthat on that person. What's been the biggest or the most interesting articlethat you've published around food? You know, it's interesting. One of thefirst posts I put up there was about frying fish with my father and linkedinand it kind of blew up and brought a lot of people to the blog, but alsokind of interesting that I have a following around the world. So I have alot of followers in India, there's a lot of followers in France. So it'sreally nice to connect with those people and hear their voices and seewhat's interesting to them. Isn't it interesting when you think aboutcontent, how big the world is, but then how quickly it becomes very small andconnected and we really are so alike. Were very different in a lot ofdifferent ways, but we're so alike. And I think that's the beauty about food.Food is something that can bring everyone together literally around thetable to have conversation to connect and really begin to relate andunderstand one another, even though we might come from different walks in life.My wife, for example, is Lebanese and so we've I mean everything literally isaround either the island in the kitchen or around the table and it's all basedon food and just great conversation, good friends, good family. So Iappreciate the work that you're doing on that front to bring people togetheron a subject like this and and speaking about bringing people together, whatI'm hoping that comes from today's conversation is to educate and toinspire others on their own digital growth journey. Regardless of theirwalk to this point, they could be...

...coming from marketing, they could becoming from a cell's background, they could be in leadership as well. And solet's go back in your mind three years to start this conversation. The worldreally was a different place. But I want to go back in time. I want to gowalk through that journey with you. What did digital marketing and cellslook like for you and your team back then at M. I. T. Federal credit unionwow. So in 2018 2019 content wasn't a thing as much for M. I. T. We did nothave a blog. We did a lot of template emails without social media, but it wasnot conversational. It was, they're selling something, which is really notthe way to do social media or it was something that they just felt like, hey,here's a community story, let's share that out there. But there really wasn'tan educational aspect to it. And so as we grew forward in time, theeducational piece became more important. I started financially empowered women,which was a program, a series of communications and education. Back whenI first joined on my Aunties credit union and that was a huge hit and thatkind of around the 2018, 2019 timeframe, we stopped doing that program becauseit's expensive to do all these social activities and things, but wetransitioned into financial education documents, PDFs and things people coulddownload off the website. But how do you communicate a pdf? It's notpersonal, it's not conversational. So that's where we started to really lookat opening a conversation and being there for our members as a resource.But in a way that they could connect with as far as the language we use, thetopics we talked about in the positioning of the communication. Ireally like that focus as you go back in your mind was financially empoweredwomen. I think that's a unique niche market opportunity, one that I do a lotof advising and guidance and teaching around and I think the more that we canbecome focused around a niche, understanding what those problems are,what those pain points are for that market segment. But it's the women thatI'm seeing is really an underserved opportunity. It's a conversation that Iwas having with Sherry Storm and as she has done some very interesting thingsand and that market over the years, when you think about this idea of nicheand a focus, what have you done in that area to provide a not such a maybe abroad swath of content, but really focused on maybe a few niche marketsegments or maybe just a few products. How does that play out with the workthat you're doing well with the content, especially with financial empoweredwomen. Women are the decision makers in most households for finances, however,they don't have the same training and what we found. And also at MIT, there'sbeen kind of a study regarding women being afraid to be in a setting wherethere is a majority of men and then speaking about their lack of knowledge,they don't want to put that out there. So what we did was open up a discussiongroup in a setting where they felt safe, whether it was a restaurant, a wine barat yoga class and then opening the conversation to say any question iswelcome and that's kind of what we needed to do with that content was sayit's all open for discussion and there are no wrong answers, there's no wrongquestions. It's just an open discussion where everybody's talking from theirposition and where they're coming from, that was really well received. But asit moved on, we had people that wanted to bring their boyfriends because theydidn't know and they were afraid to speak about it. So rather than beingfinancially empowered women, we switched it to the few theories be oneof the few that actually is educated on that content. Oh, I like that. Andyou're right. You know when when you...

...bring in that other side of theequation from you know couples and partners, that's a whole uniqueopportunity. One that we're seeing fin tech really tap into. For example, youhave Honey Fi, you have twine, there's a couple of others who are tapping intothat unique market segment that unique market opportunities, solving somereally, really I think important problems because we know that financialstress is one of the leading causes for a relationship to begin to deteriorate.And when we can have open and honest conversations and really be thefacilitator of those. I think that's where the big transformations begin tohappen. Let's flash forward now. Coming back from 2018 2019, what have been thebiggest transformations that you have experienced with your marketing at M. I.T. Federal Credit Union? Well, we were very excited in 2019 to be lookingforward to rebuilding an entirely new website. That was our big push for 2020and we had all great intentions and then march hit and we were all workingfrom home and having to develop content for 150 website pages remotely was ahuge challenge. And we had added the blog, which was a big push for me. It'skind of a passion for me of content development and I was not going to letup on deadlines. My team will tell you kidding, but we pushed through. Andalthough we did have to postpone our launch until december, there were otherreasons behind that, but really getting buy in from senior management, gettingour board behind it because it was a new face for the credit union out therein public and actually saying, hey, let's provide content that touches onpeople, but also educating senior management and our members about searchengine optimization of why you put certain things on a website that maybeweren't there before. So that was a big challenge for us. And in september oflast year, we had the opportunity to offer a social impact internshipthrough P K. G at MIT and they offer students a chance to work in a positionthat can provide a social impact to an underserved market or to an unbankedgroup, anybody who actually has some negative impact and ways to help thatcommunity out. So we opened up a position and in january we actuallybrought in a student hired a student that was going to produce log contentfor that community. You bring up a very important point when you talk about byin alignment. Senior leadership, senior management. The board, for exampledigital growth. It's a team effort that brings together marketing cells, Ops I.T. Leadership teams to do even better to grow from good to great when youthink back what has been the most helpful for you to gain that alignment?To gain that by and to gain that support from others so that you can allcontinue to commit to move forward together. Because without it I've seenthat's where marketing might do a little bit, they might move forward,make a little bit of progress but they didn't have the full either alignmentcommitment or buying from other key stakeholders and then things begin tofall apart. How have you been able to gain that buying that support alongyour journey here? I think the biggest step for us and getting that buy in wasto convince them that they didn't have to jump in with both feet. You can testthe market, test the waters a little bit, give them a check in point like,well we'll see how it goes for three months and then we'll give you theopportunity to change what we're doing. Like just take, like set yourmilestones and check in with them and provide numbers. If we can providenumbers, then that's a little bit more easy to convince senior management andthe team. If you can show on R. O. I.

If you can show an increase in thenumber of website visits or the number of clicks throughs from a blog articleto a sales page, that's where they're going to say, oh I get it now.Technology has transformed our world and digital has changed the wayconsumers shop for and buy financial services forever. Now, consumers makepurchase decisions long before they walk into a branch. If they walk into abranch at all, but your financial brand still wants to grow loans and deposits,we get it. Digital growth can feel confusing, frustrating and overwhelmingfor any financial brand, marketing and sales leader, but it doesn't have tobecause James robert wrote the book that guides you every step of the wayalong your digital growth journey, visit www dot digital growth dot com toget a preview of his best selling book banking on digital growth or order acopy right now for you and your team from amazon Inside, you'll find astrategic marketing manifesto that was written to transform financial brandsand it is packed full of practical and proven insights you can start usingtoday to confidently generate 10 times more loans and deposits now back to theshow. That's a very important point because I think we forget to look atsmall incremental winds measuring progress, not perfection. And so thepilot program element of this is really critical from my experience to helpgain that buy in because it, what happens is you move forward, you makeprogress, confidence increases as your reporting these winds and the progressthat you're making back. You know, specifically when it comes to contentand a blog, for example, that's a long play. It takes some time to gainmomentum as you and I were talking before we hit record. Anotherorganization who has shared their digital growth journey on this podcastis Louisiana Federal Credit Union and they went from, you know, 1000 visitsto their blog pages per month and then 2000 and then they brought in full timeinternal resources went from 2000 and 20,000, 20,000 and 50. And now they'reon track to almost there almost doubling it every single year. Witharound 50 60% of that coming from organic search. So my thinking is at60,000 visits coming in from organic search. What is the cost or what wouldbe the cost to buy that traffic? Because now we're getting to the earnedor owned and it's a whole, unique different way of thinking about this.So where have you made progress? Because you've also had someone's herethat you've been able to report back and build the confidence of internalleadership? Yeah, I mean, we actually set up a tracking system to monitor thecurated content we have versus the original content. Now, curated content.You know, the first week it's out there for promoting it through social mediaor posting it on Lincoln or whatever. Then we're going to see some traction,we're going to see some to that page, but it's not in our voice, it's notbranded with us and it doesn't necessarily connect to our audience.Whereas when we have unique content that we're developing, it meanssomething to our writers. My staff actually writes their own content basedon their lives. So it's things that they care about, their passionate about.And so the content is personal and that connects with an audience. Plus, weactually went out and got a student that's writing, so that's very specificto MIT. And so that gives us a better amount of traffic. So, since welaunched the blog in December, we've had about 21,022,000 visits to our blog,which we're thinking it's great for the first year on a blog. And most of thattraffic is organic. So we're seeing, you know, searches, people are doingsearches on whatever being Google all the different search engines providingthem with links to our website. And like I said, it also talks to our brand.So it actually is telling people who we...

...are, why they care about us and what wecan give to them as far as being a resource, not just a place that'sselling a checking account or selling an auto loan were actually somebodythat they can come to and here a real person speaking to them where they areabsolutely, you know, oftentimes when we look back on our own journeys ofgrowth, there there are some very specific roadblocks that we're standingin the way at the time or maybe they came up as we're moving forward. Andand when we come up to a roadblock, we have a choice that we have to make. Wecan either push through break through that roadblock or we can find a way towork around or or we just get stuck and we stop when you think about thisjourney that you've taken here, what have been maybe some of the biggestchallenges the roadblocks that you've had to overcome breakthrough workaround so that you can continue to move forward onward and upward. In somecases, we ran into a lack of comfort, I would say, with being conversational ina blog post, have people that are accustomed to a more formal,traditional type of a website and they're not used to conversational,they're not used to colloquialisms within a piece. They're not used toincomplete sentences, things like that, We're using slang, you know? And sowhen we do that, on the one hand, it's a challenge for my staff to get used towriting that way. They've been so accustomed to bullets and short phrasesand getting to the point quickly and learning how long tail keywords andthat type of thing help your search engine optimization, but also being avoice that people identify with. So the big learning curve for us was when webrought a student in two, right? And look at his writing and say, wow,that's really casual. Are we okay with that? Is that our brand? That took alot of discussion That took a little bit more editing that we maybe wouldhave liked initially. But you know, you have to take small steps, you can'tchange a brand overnight and you can't change your staff or your seniormanagement team and say, oh, just get over it, that's not gonna workeverybody comfortable and have them feel confident and proud of what you'reputting out there. That's a great point. I mean, even something as small but aslarge as tone as voice and being more conversational unless what I woulddiagnose as the traditional banker knees speak, if you will, what we havefound through digital secret shopping studies, it is actually the moreconversational tone that draws people into the narrative. It makes them feelbetter about that experience or that potential experience that they mighthave with a financial brand compared to say someone that could be positioningaround that more stuffy banker knees, bullets, etcetera. And it does taketime to shift that mindset. How important or maybe what role or how haslet's just call it training and education played into thetransformation like right here with your team or with senior leadership arewith the board. What role has training, education played into this thisnarrative for you? Well, for my team, we started using a tool called Grahamearly where you're able to set tone and voice and audience and so that we useall the time. I think we're like at the top 10% for how many words we've loadedinto that system because we use it every day. But also it really resultedin us needing to have a lot of conversation with management, runningthings by other people within the credit union. So a different audiencesare other staff frontline staff people in, you know I. T. And ops asking themto read through the content and see if anything offended them because we didstart really focusing on diversity and including other communities that theymay not be familiar with. And so certain language or topics may be edgyfor some people and not for others. So...

...being able to share all of that acrossthe company, we had readers around the credit union that just read content andmade their comments on it. Maybe they would say this sounds like a kid wroteit or you know, this doesn't sound like something that should come from acredit union or why are we writing about this topic? But when we explainedit and took the time to hear them, it helped us to fine tune the content thatwe were developing. Yes. That that idea of it feels like a kid wrote it. Youknow, it's interesting that that comment because I don't remember whatthe average grade level we should write to, but if I'm not mistaken, what is itlike 1/7 and an eighth grade level? It's usually seventh or eighth gradewhere we have mitt as higher experience. We go a little higher than that.Absolutely. Well, that's an important point because now you're coming backbecause mitt that is your audience. So audience does really dictate the toneand the voice and how your positioning and going to market here. You know,when you think back 2018, and obviously 2020 how have you handled and managedall of the changes that have been going on around you for your team? And really,I think to follow that, what is the most important trait as a leader toconstantly communicate those next best steps forward to others? What have youdone in that space? Well, like I said, even with our readers, everybody'sopinion is valued. You can't have anybody who's, if you asked for anopinion as well, I don't want to listen to that one. You have to listen toeverybody's opinion. And the challenges one over the past two years. Where howare we going to get this all done with all the other things that are happening?Because 2020 was kind of an ad hoc year. We had a plan and threw it out thewindow very early on and just decided to go data today. But I think trying tofoster that feeling of this is hard, but we're going to get through it. Weneed to be creative. Those were kind of the ways that we handle it. I can't saythat didn't mean we had a day where, You know, I was online at 9:00. I thinkto somebody saying this is what we're gonna do tomorrow. You know, or that Ihad myself or any one of my staff just get Fed up and say, you know what I'mout of here for the day. You have to be flexible when it comes to that thing.But I think also using creativity and looking at all of it as an adventure. Ithink that life is planned, then you're not living life and the same thing goesfor credit. You. If you think your strategic plan is going to be followedto the letter, probably not a very good plan because you did to set yourselfany stretch goals. So I think that that's what we needed to look at. Allthe things that changed at the last minute. That's life. That's marketing.You always have to go with the punches and also swing with the market. Thingschange. And what we're finding is marketing has a natural operatingtendency to be a bit more adaptive. Probably the most adaptive departmentin the financial brand. And we're quantifying that now with a couple ofstudies that were running, one of them is called Kobe, K O L B E and Kobelooks at the cognitive part of the brain for different areas. One is factfinder, one has followed through, one is quick start and then one isimplementer and what we're seeing is that marketing typically trends higheron the quick start side of things where other elements of the organization orthe roles in the organization, they're higher on fact finder and higher onfollow through, but way low on the quick start. So it creates this healthybalance because if you're all high on fact finder and follow through but lowon quick start, there's nothing to balance out that. And if you're allhigh on quick start below and follow through. In fact finder, you probablyhave a lot of great ideas but you don't execute and implement against those. Sothat's where I think this team comes back into play throughout theorganization. There's been a fantastic...

...conversation Madeline and as we wrap up,I want to get really practical with you because my goal for the dear listeneris to help inspire positive transformation, ford movement. Growthhelped them to take action with confidence and all of that beginssometimes with just a very simple step. When we think about the journey thatyou've taken, what is one small, simple practical action that you wouldrecommend for a financial brand marketing cell, maybe even a leadershipteam to consider as the next best step forward on their own digital growthjourney. I guess the simplest step would be totake a fresh look whether you're walking into an existing credit unionand website and blog or your at your current one and you've been there for10 years. it doesn't have to stay the same. Everything can be improved. Youdon't have to have a blog to have effective content development. You canlook at pages and decide how that's going to work, but always being willingto take a fresh look at things and listening to people that would be it onpage optimization. To that point, it doesn't have to necessarily be a blog,but there are opportunities to use content to utilize content as part of adigital growth strategy. On that note about taking a fresh look, a follow upfor you when we think about content from your lens of the world. What is aa common belief that others might have in the industry about content that youjust passionately disagree with. Credit unions have to be serious. I guess oneof the brand, one of our brand definitions is that we're quirky andpeople are afraid to go there because they figured, well, where about money?We need to be serious. People need to respect us, but you don't have to bejust serious. You can have a little fun, you can have a little bit of quirkinessout there and look at what your content is saying. If it's just the same old,same old, you're not going to catch anybody's attention. But if you throwin maybe a joke or you look at something through a differentperspective, that's going to catch somebody's attention. Absolutely,absolutely. Madeleine if anyone is listening, they want to continue thisconversation that we started today. What is the best way for them to justreach out and say hello to you? Well, they can email me at the Creditunion. M palmer. That's M B A L M E R at M I T F C U dot M I T dot E D U. Oryou can visit my personal blog at Mad taste dot com. So that's M A T T A S TE S dot com and comment on anything you like. I love it and I really appreciatethe story that you've been on the journey, that the adventure to use yourwords, the adventure that you have been on over the last really, I would say 15months if we're looking at that as just a a new over the coming the monsterlike story arc type because that's something that we've all been workingto do is overcome this monster of Covid. But really what I see is theopportunity for financial brands is to help are account holders are members ofthe credit union. Our customers that are at a bank help them to overcome themonster of financial stress. That's why we're continuing to do what we're doingand why I'm so grateful for the knowledge that you've shared. Thank youso much Madeline for joining me for another episode of banking on digitalgrowth. I think it's great as always and until next time be well. Do goodand make your bed. Thank you for listening to another episode of bankingon digital growth. With James robert ley like what you hear, tell a friendabout the podcast and leave us a review on apple podcasts, google podcasts orSpotify and subscribe while you're...

...there to get even more practicalimprovement insights, visit www dot digital growth dot com to grab apreview of James roberts, best selling book banking on digital growth or ordera copy right now for you and your team from amazon inside you'll find astrategic marketing and sales blueprint framed around 12 key areas of focusthat empower you to confidently generate 10 times more loans anddeposits Until next time. Be well and do good.

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