Interview with Bo McDonald
Clearly, no brand should exploit the Coronavirus pandemic, but what can banks and credit unions now do to demonstrate authenticity?
I love stats, so let me start with that. According to a recent consumer study from Vision Critical, 91% of consumers value honesty in the brands they do business with, and 63% choose brands who show authenticity over any other reasons, including price. You may have the most pristinely written copy in your emails that is oozing with empathy, but when someone calls your branch or call center to discuss their situation and it’s met with no empathy or lacks care… you’re brand is toast. You lied. Right now the front line needs to take a little extra time with each person, to listen to their situation, and to respond with solutions. Don’t say it if you aren’t willing to back it up.
Financial institutions are going to struggle for a while, can financial marketers survive this crisis and what advice do you have for them?
During strategic planning events I’ll often ask boards and leadership teams this question: If you had to close up and lock your doors today, would people miss you or merely be annoyed that they have to find another “paycheck motel” (to quote Ron Shevlin.) This is when having a niche and serving that niche better than anyone else, is so important. For example, I love how Fidelity Bank in New Orleans has taken a stand to focus on women. Much of their social content and messaging focuses on sharing the stories of “Powerful Women” in their community. Members FCU in Cos Cob, Connecticut has re-invented themselves from a struggling educational systems based credit union to focus on the underserved Hispanic community. Right now, both brands have extreme loyalty among their ideal consumer, and that’s going to pay dividends when times are tough. Be brave. Find a niche you can serve well, create your message around that ideal consumer, and be OK with the fact that it won’t appeal to everyone.
Do you foresee everlasting impacts for the financial services industry as a result of the crisis?
For those who have said that tech isn’t important, they are eating their words right now. I don’t think anyone could have dreamed this up in a realistic “worst-case scenario” but it truly is a worst-case scenario. Moving forward, the financial institutions that survive (or want to survive) are going to have to invest more in remote services and take fintech seriously. I don’t mean chasing the latest shiny new toy, but really focusing on improving the member experience by utilizing technology that exists. For example, our clients that have eDocs for their loan signatures and remote deposit capture are sitting in a good spot right now, as opposed to those who haven’t invested in these services.
Business continuity plans have been truly tested for America’s financial institutions. What can marketers do to better prepare for any future crisis?
Something that I learned years ago from Dr. David Tuyo, CEO of University Credit Union, was the value of “scenario planning.” Really in-depth scenario planning. Taking three or four distinct scenarios from best to worst and creating an “if this, then that” plan. Right now, we’ve had to throw out most of our second quarter plans for our clients and move in a different direction. Luckily, for many of our clients, we have those backup “if this, then that” plans. Instead of having to spend time thinking about what we’re going to do, we can get right down to implementing those revised plans based on the current situation.
I know you now spend a lot of time in New Orleans and seemingly embraced the city’s culture. How has it transformed you?
I was once very high strung and intense. To a point I still am, but the laid back ways of New Orleans have seeped into me. I’ve learned to calm down, and ask myself; is this important enough to get my drawers in a bind? Usually, the answer is no, and I react to things much differently than I once did. I’ve also learned to celebrate life. One of my favorite events is the annual NOLA version of “Running of the Bulls.” It consists of thousands of people clad in white with red bandanas being chased through the streets by a thousand roller girls dressed as bulls and armed with whiffle ball bats whacking people on the arse after drinking sangria at 6 am. Their motto is “por que no.” I’ve adopted that.
Bo McDonald founded Your Marketing Co just over a decade ago and has enjoyed continued growth since then. His past ten plus years at YMC have been defined by industry-disrupting ideas, a whole lot of laughs, and a creative boom in credit union marketing.