Banking on Digital Growth
Banking on Digital Growth

Episode · 1 year 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're developing, it means something to our writers. My staff actually writes their own content based on 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. Mhm. You're listening to banking on digital growth with James Robert lay a podcast that empowers financial, brand marketing, sales and leadership teams to maximize their digital growth potential by generating 10 times more loans and deposits. Today's episode is part of the digital growth journeys series where James robert uncovers and explores some of the industry's biggest digital marketing and sales stories of success. Let's get into the show greetings and hello, I am James robert ley 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 excited to welcome Madeleine Anderson Balmer to the show. Madeline is an award winning marketing manager at M. I. T. Federal credit union overseeing day to day operations for the marketing department while also sitting on the kuna marketing and Business Development Council committee. She's also a content writer which is going to make for some really good content and conversation today with the work that you guys are doing over there. Welcome to the show Madeline. Thank you. I'm really happy to be here. Well, I'm excited. I'm excited for this conversation. It's been great to see your own personal growth over the years when it comes to the work that you're doing, the important work, the meaningful work before we get there. I always like to start off on just a positive note. What is going well for you right now, personally or professionally, professionally? I'll start with right away. 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 are happy to be back together and working Side by side, which is a big change after 14 plus months of being at home working personally. It's great to continue to do my blog that I started last May. As I mentioned before, it is something that started with the pandemic and got me into food and restaurants and cooking and hiking and that's also been an exciting break from credit unions. Well, you know, you talk about food, you've got my attention on that on that person. What's been the biggest or the most interesting article that you've published around food? You know, it's interesting. One of the first posts I put up there was about frying fish with my father and linkedin and it kind of blew up and brought a lot of people to the blog, but also kind of interesting that I have a following around the world. So I have a lot of followers in India, there's a lot of followers in France. So it's really nice to connect with those people and hear their voices and see what's interesting to them. Isn't it interesting when you think about content, how big the world is, but then how quickly it becomes very small and connected and we really are so alike. Were very different in a lot of different 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 the table to have conversation to connect and really begin to relate and understand 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 is around either the island in the kitchen or around the table and it's all based on food and just great conversation, good friends, good family. So I appreciate the work that you're doing on that front to bring people together on a subject like this and and speaking about bringing people together, what I'm hoping that comes from today's conversation is to educate and to inspire others on their own digital growth journey. Regardless of their walk to this point, they could be...

...coming from marketing, they could be coming from a cell's background, they could be in leadership as well. And so let's go back in your mind three years to start this conversation. The world really was a different place. But I want to go back in time. I want to go walk through that journey with you. What did digital marketing and cells look like for you and your team back then at M. I. T. Federal credit union wow. So in 2018 2019 content wasn't a thing as much for M. I. T. We did not have a blog. We did a lot of template emails without social media, but it was not conversational. It was, they're selling something, which is really not the 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't an educational aspect to it. And so as we grew forward in time, the educational piece became more important. I started financially empowered women, which was a program, a series of communications and education. Back when I first joined on my Aunties credit union and that was a huge hit and that kind of around the 2018, 2019 timeframe, we stopped doing that program because it's expensive to do all these social activities and things, but we transitioned into financial education documents, PDFs and things people could download off the website. But how do you communicate a pdf? It's not personal, it's not conversational. So that's where we started to really look at 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, the topics we talked about in the positioning of the communication. I really like that focus as you go back in your mind was financially empowered women. I think that's a unique niche market opportunity, one that I do a lot of advising and guidance and teaching around and I think the more that we can become focused around a niche, understanding what those problems are, what those pain points are for that market segment. But it's the women that I'm seeing is really an underserved opportunity. It's a conversation that I was having with Sherry Storm and as she has done some very interesting things and and that market over the years, when you think about this idea of niche and a focus, what have you done in that area to provide a not such a maybe a broad swath of content, but really focused on maybe a few niche market segments or maybe just a few products. How does that play out with the work that you're doing well with the content, especially with financial empowered women. 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's been kind of a study regarding women being afraid to be in a setting where there 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 discussion group in a setting where they felt safe, whether it was a restaurant, a wine bar at yoga class and then opening the conversation to say any question is welcome and that's kind of what we needed to do with that content was say it's all open for discussion and there are no wrong answers, there's no wrong questions. It's just an open discussion where everybody's talking from their position and where they're coming from, that was really well received. But as it moved on, we had people that wanted to bring their boyfriends because they didn't know and they were afraid to speak about it. So rather than being financially empowered women, we switched it to the few theories be one of the few that actually is educated on that content. Oh, I like that. And you're right. You know when when you...

...bring in that other side of the equation from you know couples and partners, that's a whole unique opportunity. One that we're seeing fin tech really tap into. For example, you have Honey Fi, you have twine, there's a couple of others who are tapping into that unique market segment that unique market opportunities, solving some really, really I think important problems because we know that financial stress 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 the facilitator of those. I think that's where the big transformations begin to happen. Let's flash forward now. Coming back from 2018 2019, what have been the biggest transformations that you have experienced with your marketing at M. I. T. Federal Credit Union? Well, we were very excited in 2019 to be looking forward to rebuilding an entirely new website. That was our big push for 2020 and we had all great intentions and then march hit and we were all working from home and having to develop content for 150 website pages remotely was a huge challenge. And we had added the blog, which was a big push for me. It's kind of a passion for me of content development and I was not going to let up on deadlines. My team will tell you kidding, but we pushed through. And although we did have to postpone our launch until december, there were other reasons behind that, but really getting buy in from senior management, getting our board behind it because it was a new face for the credit union out there in public and actually saying, hey, let's provide content that touches on people, but also educating senior management and our members about search engine optimization of why you put certain things on a website that maybe weren't there before. So that was a big challenge for us. And in september of last year, we had the opportunity to offer a social impact internship through P K. G at MIT and they offer students a chance to work in a position that can provide a social impact to an underserved market or to an unbanked group, anybody who actually has some negative impact and ways to help that community out. So we opened up a position and in january we actually brought in a student hired a student that was going to produce log content for that community. You bring up a very important point when you talk about by in alignment. Senior leadership, senior management. The board, for example digital 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 you think 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 all continue to commit to move forward together. Because without it I've seen that'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 alignment commitment or buying from other key stakeholders and then things begin to fall apart. How have you been able to gain that buying that support along your journey here? I think the biggest step for us and getting that buy in was to convince them that they didn't have to jump in with both feet. You can test the 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 the opportunity to change what we're doing. Like just take, like set your milestones and check in with them and provide numbers. If we can provide numbers, then that's a little bit more easy to convince senior management and the team. If you can show on R. O. I.

If you can show an increase in the number of website visits or the number of clicks throughs from a blog article to 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 way consumers shop for and buy financial services forever. Now, consumers make purchase decisions long before they walk into a branch. If they walk into a branch at all, but your financial brand still wants to grow loans and deposits, we get it. Digital growth can feel confusing, frustrating and overwhelming for any financial brand, marketing and sales leader, but it doesn't have to because James robert wrote the book that guides you every step of the way along your digital growth journey, visit www dot digital growth dot com to get a preview of his best selling book banking on digital growth or order a copy right now for you and your team from amazon Inside, you'll find a strategic marketing manifesto that was written to transform financial brands and it is packed full of practical and proven insights you can start using today to confidently generate 10 times more loans and deposits now back to the show. That's a very important point because I think we forget to look at small incremental winds measuring progress, not perfection. And so the pilot program element of this is really critical from my experience to help gain that buy in because it, what happens is you move forward, you make progress, confidence increases as your reporting these winds and the progress that you're making back. You know, specifically when it comes to content and a blog, for example, that's a long play. It takes some time to gain momentum as you and I were talking before we hit record. Another organization who has shared their digital growth journey on this podcast is Louisiana Federal Credit Union and they went from, you know, 1000 visits to their blog pages per month and then 2000 and then they brought in full time internal resources went from 2000 and 20,000, 20,000 and 50. And now they're on track to almost there almost doubling it every single year. With around 50 60% of that coming from organic search. So my thinking is at 60,000 visits coming in from organic search. What is the cost or what would be the cost to buy that traffic? Because now we're getting to the earned or 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 here that you've been able to report back and build the confidence of internal leadership? Yeah, I mean, we actually set up a tracking system to monitor the curated content we have versus the original content. Now, curated content. You know, the first week it's out there for promoting it through social media or 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 not branded with us and it doesn't necessarily connect to our audience. Whereas when we have unique content that we're developing, it means something to our writers. My staff actually writes their own content based on 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, we actually went out and got a student that's writing, so that's very specific to MIT. And so that gives us a better amount of traffic. So, since we launched 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 that traffic is organic. So we're seeing, you know, searches, people are doing searches on whatever being Google all the different search engines providing them 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 we can give to them as far as being a resource, not just a place that's selling a checking account or selling an auto loan were actually somebody that they can come to and here a real person speaking to them where they are absolutely, you know, oftentimes when we look back on our own journeys of growth, there there are some very specific roadblocks that we're standing in the way at the time or maybe they came up as we're moving forward. And and when we come up to a roadblock, we have a choice that we have to make. We can either push through break through that roadblock or we can find a way to work around or or we just get stuck and we stop when you think about this journey that you've taken here, what have been maybe some of the biggest challenges the roadblocks that you've had to overcome breakthrough work around so that you can continue to move forward onward and upward. In some cases, we ran into a lack of comfort, I would say, with being conversational in a 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 to incomplete sentences, things like that, We're using slang, you know? And so when we do that, on the one hand, it's a challenge for my staff to get used to writing that way. They've been so accustomed to bullets and short phrases and getting to the point quickly and learning how long tail keywords and that type of thing help your search engine optimization, but also being a voice that people identify with. So the big learning curve for us was when we brought 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 a lot of discussion That took a little bit more editing that we maybe would have liked initially. But you know, you have to take small steps, you can't change a brand overnight and you can't change your staff or your senior management team and say, oh, just get over it, that's not gonna work everybody comfortable and have them feel confident and proud of what you're putting out there. That's a great point. I mean, even something as small but as large as tone as voice and being more conversational unless what I would diagnose as the traditional banker knees speak, if you will, what we have found through digital secret shopping studies, it is actually the more conversational tone that draws people into the narrative. It makes them feel better about that experience or that potential experience that they might have with a financial brand compared to say someone that could be positioning around that more stuffy banker knees, bullets, etcetera. And it does take time to shift that mindset. How important or maybe what role or how has let's just call it training and education played into the transformation like right here with your team or with senior leadership are with the board. What role has training, education played into this this narrative for you? Well, for my team, we started using a tool called Graham early where you're able to set tone and voice and audience and so that we use all the time. I think we're like at the top 10% for how many words we've loaded into that system because we use it every day. But also it really resulted in us needing to have a lot of conversation with management, running things by other people within the credit union. So a different audiences are other staff frontline staff people in, you know I. T. And ops asking them to read through the content and see if anything offended them because we did start really focusing on diversity and including other communities that they may not be familiar with. And so certain language or topics may be edgy for some people and not for others. So...

...being able to share all of that across the company, we had readers around the credit union that just read content and made their comments on it. Maybe they would say this sounds like a kid wrote it or you know, this doesn't sound like something that should come from a credit union or why are we writing about this topic? But when we explained it and took the time to hear them, it helped us to fine tune the content that we were developing. Yes. That that idea of it feels like a kid wrote it. You know, it's interesting that that comment because I don't remember what the average grade level we should write to, but if I'm not mistaken, what is it like 1/7 and an eighth grade level? It's usually seventh or eighth grade where 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 back because mitt that is your audience. So audience does really dictate the tone and 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 managed all 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 to constantly communicate those next best steps forward to others? What have you done in that space? Well, like I said, even with our readers, everybody's opinion is valued. You can't have anybody who's, if you asked for an opinion as well, I don't want to listen to that one. You have to listen to everybody's opinion. And the challenges one over the past two years. Where how are 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 the window very early on and just decided to go data today. But I think trying to foster that feeling of this is hard, but we're going to get through it. We need to be creative. Those were kind of the ways that we handle it. I can't say that didn't mean we had a day where, You know, I was online at 9:00. I think to somebody saying this is what we're gonna do tomorrow. You know, or that I had myself or any one of my staff just get Fed up and say, you know what I'm out 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. I think that life is planned, then you're not living life and the same thing goes for credit. You. If you think your strategic plan is going to be followed to the letter, probably not a very good plan because you did to set yourself any stretch goals. So I think that that's what we needed to look at. All the 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. Things change. And what we're finding is marketing has a natural operating tendency to be a bit more adaptive. Probably the most adaptive department in the financial brand. And we're quantifying that now with a couple of studies that were running, one of them is called Kobe, K O L B E and Kobe looks at the cognitive part of the brain for different areas. One is fact finder, one has followed through, one is quick start and then one is implementer and what we're seeing is that marketing typically trends higher on the quick start side of things where other elements of the organization or the roles in the organization, they're higher on fact finder and higher on follow through, but way low on the quick start. So it creates this healthy balance because if you're all high on fact finder and follow through but low on quick start, there's nothing to balance out that. And if you're all high on quick start below and follow through. In fact finder, you probably have a lot of great ideas but you don't execute and implement against those. So that's where I think this team comes back into play throughout the organization. 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 listener is to help inspire positive transformation, ford movement. Growth helped them to take action with confidence and all of that begins sometimes with just a very simple step. When we think about the journey that you've taken, what is one small, simple practical action that you would recommend for a financial brand marketing cell, maybe even a leadership team to consider as the next best step forward on their own digital growth journey. I guess the simplest step would be to take a fresh look whether you're walking into an existing credit union and website and blog or your at your current one and you've been there for 10 years. it doesn't have to stay the same. Everything can be improved. You don't have to have a blog to have effective content development. You can look at pages and decide how that's going to work, but always being willing to take a fresh look at things and listening to people that would be it on page 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 a digital growth strategy. On that note about taking a fresh look, a follow up for you when we think about content from your lens of the world. What is a a common belief that others might have in the industry about content that you just passionately disagree with. Credit unions have to be serious. I guess one of the brand, one of our brand definitions is that we're quirky and people 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 be just serious. You can have a little fun, you can have a little bit of quirkiness out 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 throw in maybe a joke or you look at something through a different perspective, that's going to catch somebody's attention. Absolutely, absolutely. Madeleine if anyone is listening, they want to continue this conversation that we started today. What is the best way for them to just reach out and say hello to you? Well, they can email me at the Credit union. 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. Or you can visit my personal blog at Mad taste dot com. So that's M A T T A S T E S dot com and comment on anything you like. I love it and I really appreciate the story that you've been on the journey, that the adventure to use your words, the adventure that you have been on over the last really, I would say 15 months if we're looking at that as just a a new over the coming the monster like story arc type because that's something that we've all been working to do is overcome this monster of Covid. But really what I see is the opportunity for financial brands is to help are account holders are members of the credit union. Our customers that are at a bank help them to overcome the monster of financial stress. That's why we're continuing to do what we're doing and why I'm so grateful for the knowledge that you've shared. Thank you so much Madeline for joining me for another episode of banking on digital growth. I think it's great as always and until next time be well. Do good and make your bed. Thank you for listening to another episode of banking on digital growth. With James robert ley like what you hear, tell a friend about the podcast and leave us a review on apple podcasts, google podcasts or Spotify and subscribe while you're...

...there to get even more practical improvement insights, visit www dot digital growth dot com to grab a preview of James roberts, best selling book banking on digital growth or order a copy right now for you and your team from amazon inside you'll find a strategic marketing and sales blueprint framed around 12 key areas of focus that empower you to confidently generate 10 times more loans and deposits Until next time. Be well and do good.

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