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Know How To Be Prepared For Any Emergency Or Crisis

emergency communication

As much as we’d like to avoid them, sometimes mother nature and circumstances have different plans when it comes to an emergency, crisis, or natural disaster. As we are prepping and watching many others prep for a potential hurricane impact, we can’t help think about the preparation, marketing, and communication for this and other types of emergencies. Does your business or credit union have a plan? Do you know how to communicate with your members or customers, as well as your staff in the event of a natural disaster or another type of crisis?

Unfortunately, we’ve dealt with many natural disasters and emergencies over the years, both internally for our company Epic and as the marketing firm for many organizations and credit unions. In our experience, we cannot stress enough the importance of being responsive and communicative during a crisis situation. How a company responds and reacts to a situation can be more important than the crisis itself.

During any crisis situation communication is key – every stakeholder needs (and wants) to be in-the-know. This means your marketing and communications team needs to be prepared to handle any situation that could arise. Communicate before (if you have the option), during, and after any situation. Communicate what you are doing to prepare for a natural disaster, how you are going to take care of your employees, how you will be able to still serve your members or customers. If it is a different type of crisis like a PR crisis, communicate how you are working to resolve the situation. The key is to be as open as you can be and to provide your stakeholders with as much information as possible.

Be sure to have a plan and know what to do when disaster hits. After you create the plan, test it – things can change and testing could show gaps in the plan. Do you have backup communication if cell towers are unavailable such as social media, email or other types of message applications? Be prepared and know what your team and your business need in order to stay on top of any situation.

We’ve made sure we can be there to support our operations as well as be there to serve our clients. Whether it is updating websites, posting to social media, or any other types of communication we have the capability to serve during emergency events. Our experience has allowed us to refine our process and change what’s needed to always be available, even when city services aren’t.

Marketers and communications specialists for credit unions and other organization need to be fully prepared to protect credit union, employee and business interests in emergency situations. Create a plan that works for your business or credit union. Having a plan will help you respond to the unexpected better. If you have any questions or need help developing a plan give us a call or email us at connect@epicmc2.com we’d be happy to help.

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What is integrated marketing?

Integrated Marketing

Image via: https://todaytesting.com/

The landscape and dynamics of marketing have been changing rapidly. With the introduction of digital marketing some years ago now, there has been an increase in the amount of technology and tools that are available. Additionally, the marketing space has become more crowded. A company can no longer just put out some print ads and sit back and wait.

To have optimal results when developing marketing campaigns, it is best to use an integrated approach.

Today we’ve seen a shift in marketing towards more digital mediums. This is not a problem for millennials and younger generations who have been raised in a digital age, but digital marketing may not work as well for other demographics. There is a need for a blended approach as consumers still want variety.

An integrated marketing campaign essentially means to combine communication mediums for a unified and multi-channel approach. Mediums can consist of email, billboards, print, radio, public relations, and digital to name a few – combining traditional with digital marketing. A fully integrated campaign should deliver the same experience and messaging across the different channels.

For example, if you plan on sending a direct mail piece include follow up emails and digital ads to deliver the same message. This will reinforce the messaging and make sure that your content reaches your desired audience. An integrated marketing approach will ensure that all messaging and communication strategies are consistent and centered on the customer.

Need help with your integrated marketing campaign? Let us know, we’d be happy to help.

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Why Developing Personas is Important for Your Marketing Efforts

Mike Millenial Image

What are personas or buyer personas? Personas are fictional representations of your customers or members. Personas are key in helping companies better understand their customers. To create effective targeted messages you need to know your audience. Personas help paint a picture of who your audience is, what products they are most likely to use, and how they like to interact with you. This makes it easier for you to tailor your content, messaging, and create products specific to the needs of your target audience.

Personas can be an excellent tool that can be integrated throughout your marketing especially in your digital initiatives. And help lay a foundation for better user experience and personalization. They help create personalization, which enables you to create specific targeted messaging for different segments of your audience. Personas can also help you pair the right product and messaging to the right customer. Additionally, personas can help you create a better marketing plan.

When developing your personas start with 3-5 key groups of your current customer or audience base. Focus on the major needs and expectations of each segment, then define their goals. Knowing what your audience’s goals are will help you align products and services that will help them achieve those goals. Take the time to develop your personas and represent your audience well.

Example Persona

Name: Mike Millennial
Gender: Male
Age: 28
Relationship status: most likely in a relationship or newly married
Goals: Pay down student debt and save for his first house
Pain points: he finds it difficult to save money while paying down debt
Key Products/Interests: debt consolidation, savings tools, convenience services
Preferred Communication: text and email, will research products online before making a decision

Though your persona is a fictional character, it represents real people who share similar traits. By giving a name to a specific persona, you make it much easier for people inside your organization to understand the issues facing the defined personas. You also provide insight on how to potentially solve these issues. All of the defined traits that these personas possess are based on trends and patterns collected by doing research.

By developing personas you will gain knowledge and understanding of target audience. With this knowledge, you will be able to become more audience focused. Your audience goals and needs will become clear allowing them to be a focal point for your efforts. You will also be able to improve the quality and effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

Need assistance developing your personas? We’d be happy to help. Contact us at connect@epicmc2.com.

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How to Create Compelling Subject Lines

In today’s highly digital environment, one’s email inbox is constantly full of emails all competing for the recipient’s time and attention. So how do you make your email stand out and be one that will be opened, maybe even read, rather than immediately deleted or skipped over?

The majority of people spend a mere second to determine if the email is something they want to read or discard. If the subject line isn’t captivating or compelling enough it will get skipped over, even though the email may have valuable information for them. Research shows that 47% of recipients open email based on the subject line alone. That one-line description is your first and only shot at connecting with your audience.

There are many guidelines that you can follow when crafting your subject lines. The tactics for developing impactful subject lines vary, but we’ve gathered the guidelines that can help improve your email marketing results.

 

Keep it short.

There are several reasons to keep the subject line short, for one, you need to be able to quickly grab your audience’s attention.

Another reason is due to a large number of emails that are opened on mobile devices. Subject lines will get cut off if they’re too long. Look at your subject lines and remove any fluff words or words that matter less and don’t contribute to the message. Remove words like ‘newsletter’ as these may actually decrease your open rate.

 

Add personalization.

Personalize your subject lines. Use the name of the recipient or location. When you use personalization it adds a sense of rapport, especially when a name is used. Research has shown that emails that included a recipient’s first name in the subject line had higher open and click-through rates than emails that did not. (Read more about adding personalization to your marketing strategy.)

 

Make it interesting.

Your subject line should be interesting and unique. Tell the recipient what’s inside your email in an interesting way that will capture their attention. Pose a compelling question, provide a call to action, or incentivize them to learn more by opening the email.

 

Provide value and invoke trust.

As with most marketing, email marketing should include a value proposition. The subject line should communicate the value of the email and how it will benefit your audience. Be sure to be convincing and provide information on how it will benefit their lives or their business.

While your brand should emit an element of trust, trustworthiness should be a priority when sending emails. Your email content should match your subject line. Don’t make false promises.

 

Lastly, test out your subject lines. Your audience may respond better to “Sally, your exclusive offer awaits!”  than “Get your exclusive offer today!”. Test your subject lines by doing an A/B split and see which gets a better result. With A/B testing you can try out different versions of subject lines.

 

We hope these guidelines will help you formulate your next subject line. If you need assistance with your subject lines and your email marketing, contact us at connect@epicmc2.com. We’d be happy to help.

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Website Redesign: Things to Know for Your Next Website Redesign Project

website redesign

Research and proper planning can go a long way in preparing you for your next website redesign. We’ve gathered a few tips to help you get started and hopefully make things a little less stressful.

 

Audit Your Current Site

To prepare for your upcoming website redesign, do an audit of your current site. It is best to have a good understanding of what is currently on your website and be able to answer questions like What is the most popular content/pages? What is most searched for by your users? Knowing what pages your audience frequents, what is missing and what is popular, you’ll have a better understanding of what content needs to be updated and added.

If you have Google Analytics for your current site, this information can be used to help you better understand how your audience interacts with your website. This insight will prove to be quite valuable in identifying content and other aspects of your website your users want most.

 

Set Goals

Your website can be the first interaction potential customers have with your brand. What type of first impression do you want to make? A good one, if not a great one, we’re sure. Providing a great user experience will help to create a great first impression. In order to do this, you’ll need to have outlined clear goals for your website.

You’ll need to identify what type of interaction you want on your website, whether you want to generate leads, and how you will define conversions. (A conversion is a desired action performed by your users, i.e. sign up for a newsletter or apply for a loan.) Your website should educate and inform your visitors. Information should be easily obtained. However, if you don’t want a static brochure-like website, it is important that interaction can be done just as easily as gathering information.

Knowing your goals before you start redesigning your site, will help you have a clear plan and make better design and content choices.

 

Understand Your Audience

Understanding your audience is a key component of providing a great user experience. Knowing what your audience wants and what problems they need solved, as well as how they prefer to communicate and interact with you, will help guide you through the design process. Understand your user and understand the journey they take when deciding on your products and services.

Knowing your users and their buying journey will help you identify gaps. Once you know your gaps, you can begin plan on how to correct and make adjustments for your new website. This will allow for your redesign to generate real results.

 

These are just a few tips to help you be better prepared for your next website redesign. Need help redesigning your website? Let our website experts help. Contact us today at connect@epicmc2.com. 

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How to Make Your Brand Stand Out from the Crowd

Standout

Today’s brands have to have great benefits, provide value, and most importantly be unique. Considering how crowded the landscape is in any industry these days, it is especially crowded in the financial sector. Other credit unions and other banks offer the same or similar products and services that you do.  How can you stand out from the crowd?

 

Identity

Create a brand identity that is unique and that will resonate with your audience. Define what your brand will stand for, what you are best at, and how you can fill the gaps in your market.  Are you really great at helping small businesses? Great, this is an excellent platform you can stand on and build upon. Your brand identity needs to be able to stand up against your competition, as well as stand out from the crowd.  If you don’t have a clear understanding of your identity it will be very hard to market yourself to your ideal audience. Know what makes you different and incorporate it into your brand.

 

Connection

Your brand is the perception of your credit union in the eyes of the communities and members you serve. How your audience perceives your brand is perhaps one of the most important aspects of growing and maintaining your credit union. It is important to have a deep understanding of your audience and to connect with them. Develop a brand voice and tone that speaks directly to your audience. If you can, you should give your audience (your members) something that they can’t get anywhere else.

 

Value Proposition and Benefits

When marketing your brand, don’t just focus on your products and services. What does your brand do well that others don’t? Focus and double down on your strengths.  Other institutions offer the same or similar products and service that you do. Instead, focus on how your products and services can benefit your members and your community. How do you provide value to your members? Address common pain points consumers have with your products and services.

 

Consistency

Be consistent. I repeat, be consistent. As said earlier your brand mostly relies on the perception your audience has of your brand and credit union. Being consistent in your messaging, positioning, values, and identity will help you establish and develop trust and loyalty. Create a brand guide or style guide that outlines how your brand should be portrayed.  Pay attention to the details. Your emails to members, your website, and other forms of communication should all reflect your brand. Consistency also reflects stability. Consumers want to see stability, especially when it comes to choosing a financial institution.

 

All in all, it is important to stay true to your brand and be as unique as possible. If you have questions about branding, creating value propositions, or other brand elements, we’d love to help. Contact us at connect@epicmc2.com.

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Google Knowledge Panel: What You Need to Know

Google Knowledge Panel

Have you done any searches online lately? We’re sure you’ve noticed that just below the top few results, there’s a big square with three suggestions of local businesses that are relevant to your search.  The first few results are always paid ads from pay-per-click campaigns. The three results are organic search results that Google feels are most relevant.  The recommended results from the “Knowledge Panel” drive a lot of traffic and sales for these companies.  

Unlike paid search, you can’t do anything, in particular, to make sure your company is featured in here. The results come from the Google Knowledge Graph, and that’s based on your local search engine optimization.

 

So what you can you do to improve your online presence?

A key part of local search optimization is making sure your free Google My Business account is verified, has accurate information, and has recently updated information about your business, including pictures. The Google My Business information seems to act like an API (Application Programming Interface). An API is a little piece of software that feeds information directly into the knowledge graph, and into the knowledge panel.

 

How critical is it, anyway?

We know you’re thinking – maybe that’s one more thing I just don’t want to worry about right now. How critical is it, anyway? What are people searching for on their phones and tablets? In early 2017, Hitwise did a comprehensive report of consumer insights. For the financial services industry they stated:

“Given the sensitive nature and importance of online banking, this industry is one of the few where the majority of searches still originate on desktop devices. In fact, according to our analysis, only 39% of online searches driving a visit to a banking or finance site originate on a smartphone or tablet. However, there are still plenty of financial topics where mobile is now the go-to device when seeking specific information. For instance, financial searches mentioning “ATM” or “near me” originate on a mobile device 84% and 83% of the time, respectively. And while it’s intuitive that such location-based searches would skew mobile, it may come as a surprise that searches for “15-year” and “30-year mortgage” are also overwhelmingly mobile (73% of such searches are initiated on a mobile device). So are “interest rate” (65% mobile) and “mortgage calculator” (55% mobile) searches, indicating that today’s would-be new home buyers begin their journey to home ownership on a smartphone. “

 

How does this relate to your credit union?

This tells us that for many of the products credit unions (or any business) offer, having a good, local mobile search optimization may be critical to becoming part of a potential customer/new member’s decision set.

Additionally, the Google Knowledge Panel is the eye-catching result in the middle of the page. The panels takes up almost the whole screen on a mobile device, before you scroll down to other organic search results. Most consumers click on the first most relevant thing they see. And most don’t scroll through a couple of pages of Google search results before picking one, they pick the first one that looks good.  If they don’t like that one, or the site takes too long to load, they may choose the second or third result. Rarely do people go past the first page. 

 

Having good search optimization, including a speedy website load time and having up to date, accurate information in Google My Business is simply the starting point to giving your credit union every chance of winning new customers through online search. Feeding the Google Knowledge Panel as much information as possible through Google My Business – and keeping it up to date – is the best way to make sure your credit union shows up when someone is looking for a new loan, an ATM or another service you offer. It’s the best way to get new customers outside of paid advertising, and it helps Google work for you.

 

If you need help setting up your Google My Business account or need more information about local search optimization, contact us at connect@epicmc2.com.  We want to make sure you are found online and earn the local business you deserve.

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Social Media Marketing Education Programs

Social Media Education

We are happy to announce our very own CEO, Nancy Dibert, has partnered with the University of Delaware Professional and Continuing Studies to teach Social Media Marketing.

UD’s Social Media Marketing program now includes two new powerful programs: Fundamentals of Social Media Marketing and Advanced Social Media Marketing for Business. These programs will provide broad and deep coverage of in-demand social media marketing skills, including social media monitoring and listening, audience engagement, content curation, strategic planning, campaign execution, paid placement, measuring results and ROI and more.

Nancy’s deep understanding of social media and social media marketing is vast, expanding to a multitude of platforms, with a long list of proven results for many projects and clients. Being a social media expert means being a lifelong learner due to the constant evolution of the social media climate. We’ve always taken the approach of educating our clients about different marketing channels, including social media; partnering with University of Delaware for these programs just makes sense – it is what we do everyday. We hope you join us in one of our upcoming classes.

Learn more about the programs and register at http://www.pcs.udel.edu/socialmedia/ or download the flyer.

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5 Things Credit Unions Should Know About SEO

SEO

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO is a term that’s thrown around a lot, but not everyone really knows what it means or what goes into it. We want to help demystify SEO for you, so you can help make your Credit Union website easier to find online for both your current customers and potential members!

1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a fancy way of saying “Google Friendly”.

Google and every search engine, to be honest, is in the business of trying to deliver the best and most relevant results to people looking for answers online. As a result, you need to give the search engines relevant terms- keywords- to help them understand what your website content is all about, so it can serve it up as an authoritative website to people doing research online.

2. Understanding Key Words and Phrases.

If you’ve ever run a Google Adwords (pay per click or PPC) campaign, you know that you can “bid” on having your ad served to someone based around a certain keyword. Popular keywords are very competitive and thus cost more per click than what we call longtail keywords, which are multiple words, or a phrase. Long tail keywords are much less expensive to buy for PPC campaigns, and they are easier to rank for in search engines.

For example, the keywords “car loans” is $8.14 per click and auto loan is $14.50 per click when we checked on Google’s Adword’s Keyword Planner tool.  What does this tell us?

The Keyword Planner tool gives you both the estimated traffic and the competition for these keywords- which means they are probably key phrases to work into your content, even if you may want to run any PPC campaigns on more location-specific keyword phrases.

Ranking in your local market for these words is going to be expensive, so going for more location specific and company specific keyword phrases, such as “[Your Credit Union] auto loans” or “[Your city/county/town] auto loans” will be more cost effective, and it will help you show up in more localized search as well!

When we write content for our Credit Union clients, we keep a list of their keywords and keyword phrases on hand, and we may even check with the Keyword Planning Tool what the local search volume is for those terms. Then we write the content with those keywords in mind, working them into the piece so it sounds natural. We also use those keywords in the “tags”- header tags, the title, and the meta-description, to help tell Google and other search engines what the content is about. This make sure that once the piece is published, it will have all the information Google needs to serve up our content in their organic search results, which will provide us with free website traffic now and in the future.

3. Building Organic Traffic- the traffic that pays you back.

One of the reasons you see so many companies adding a blog to their website is that blogging and publishing helpful, relevant, customer-education driven content is like catnip for search engines- and consumers searching for answers to their problems.  Once you have a great piece of content, adding the appropriate tags and spreading your article through social media will also help increase links to your content and signal search engines that your content is worth taking a look at- helping to boost its search ranking. In addition, that article will hang around on your website can continue to drive traffic for a long time- adding to your reliability as a trusted resource- another signal Google uses when providing users with the most relevant content.

4. Name Your Pages with Keywords Related to the Content.

Providing search engines with recent and relevant content helps boost your SEO- but don’t forget that you also need to ensure that the URL for these articles is related to the content. For example, you want an address that reads www.yourcreditunion.com/best-auto-loans-for-recent-college-grads vs. www.yourcredituion.com/page1/blog/october2017. Naming your page with keywords related to the content of the actual page will also help boost your search ranking- and it’s easy to do.

5. Don’t Forget Speed.

Another key to being found in the speed at which your page loads, both on a desktop and on mobile.  Google has a great tool where you can test the load time for your site https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-us. If your site is not loading fast enough on mobile, you may be losing potential customers- and keep in mind, reports estimate that close to 60% of all search is now taking place on mobile devices.

SEO can sounds big and scary, but if you know a few basics including these tips, you can help make sure your credit union website is doing everything it can to boost its search ranking, before you ever even consider running a pay per click campaign.  Investing a little time in developing your keywords and getting good at using them in your content is a bit like brushing your teeth every day- It’s the daily step that contributes to the long term health of your website and search ranking, and it doesn’t have to be painful at all!

Interested in learning more about SEO or how to implement in your marketing strategy? Send us an email at connect@epicmc2.com today!

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Email Marketing Best Practices

email marketing

Email marketing is one of the most powerful tools your business can use. With well-earned opted-in subscribers, email marketing has perhaps the largest opportunity to be a return on your investment in turning subscribers into engaged customers.

 

But where do you begin?

Terms like click-through rate, conversion rate, or A/B split testing may sound daunting at first. We’ve done the legwork for you and identified email marketing best practices to kick your email marketing into high-gear!

 

First things, first: define your audience.

Think about who is on your email list. You may want to segment them into different categories such as ages 18-34, repeat customers, or customers you haven’t heard from in a while. You can use a tool like Constant Contact or Mailchimp to create email segments. You should promote your email sign-up on places like your website, blog, and landing pages.

 

Subject Lines, the most important part of your email.

You’ll want to create emails that people read, click through and encourage further engagement with your brand. First, you’ll want to persuade subscribers to open your email with a compelling subject line. The subject line is perhaps the most important component as it determines whether or not your email will be clicked on and opened. You may find success with a longer subject line, or subject lines with keywords. Use A/B Splits to test subject lines out and adjust accordingly. Try using action verbs and give readers a taste of what’s inside (while providing value). Don’t overdo the caps or emojis, readers will find this spammy. We all receive dozens of emails a day, what’s going to make you open an email?

 

Call-to-Actions

Create compelling call-to-actions (referred to as CTAs). In the body of the email you’ll want to include CTAs – this could be in the form of links to your latest offering, a flash sale, your blog, or an option to download your latest ebook, and more. Make sure to provide context to your CTA – to earn clicks try answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” Call to actions allow for consumers to continue down the consumer journey and hopefully to a conversion.

 

 

Email Design

Whether you use a template, hire a designer, or have a developer on hand to code your email, your email design should align with your branding, especially that found on your website. It should be obvious who the email is coming from, the transition from email to landing page or website should be seamless.

Create an email checklist before you send any email: do you have the right image to text ratio?  “Image only” emails go into spam, images may be turned off by users, and images may take more time to load. Try 80% images and 20% text as a good rule of thumb.

Do you have a text version available to support your HTML email? Having both versions ensures that however people choose to view emails in their browser that they are able to do so. Did you proofread the copy? Did you test to see how your email appears on different browsers or mobile devices?

 

Email Performance and Insights

The best way to evaluate the success of your email marketing campaign is to review your engagement after each email send. You should look for key engagement indicators including how many people opened your email, how many people clicked on a link in your email (and what links they clicked on), and who unsubscribed. These are valuable insights to determine if your subscribers are finding your emails useful. Watch these metrics over time to determine how often you should be sending an email – if engagement drops off when you send an email every week, try stepping down to once every other week or once a month, even. You don’t want to fatigue your audience.

 

A/B Testing

Another tried and true tip when it comes to email marketing is to A/B test your email. Put simply: this means changing your subject line, design, subject matter, or CTAs one element at a time, then sending your email to a significant sample size. Why this is important: you can make more informed future email marketing decisions about what gets your recipients to open and click on your content.

 

Make sure the unsubscribe option is obvious in your emails. Yes, you want everyone to love every email you send but sometimes this just isn’t the case – and it’s better than ending up in the spam folder.

Finanlly, send email that is valuable to your users and that will ultimately strengthen your relationship with them…that will keep your customers coming back for more!

Need help getting started? Drop us a line at connect@epicmc2.com and we’ll invigorate your email marketing!

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