‘There’s Power in People’

Crazy fans and advocates are more powerful than any broadcast channel.

March 14, 2012
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People before products.

That’s James R. Lay’s mantra, but it’s not based on any touchy-feely notions.

“There’s power in people,” says Lay, grower of relationships for PTP New Media in Pasadena, Texas. “People trust recommendations from people they know, not from businesses.”

Lay cites findings from Econsultancy that 90% of consumers online trust recommendations from people they know, and 70% trust the opinions of unknown users. And nearly 80% of consumers say recommendations from other consumers are the most credible form of advertising, Nielsen reports.

As a result, Lay believes credit unions should rethink their approach to cross-channel marketing—connecting with members on an emotional level, not pushing products through traditional marketing channels.

“We don’t want customers or members,” he says. “We want crazy fans and advocates. They’re more powerful than any broadcast channel.”

Lay says credit unions can begin to achieve that aim by:

• Replacing fear with fun. All of us, whether we’re eight or 80, like to have fun. Therefore, people will respond to marketing efforts that incorporate fun.

Lay recalls that when Microsoft released a new version of the Android phone, CEO Steve Ballmer promised the device would have “500 new features.”

Apple, on the other hand, promotes how its iPhone makes life easier.

“Having 500 new features isn’t fun—it’s scary in the eyes of consumers,” Lay says. “It’s information overload. Fear equals risk.”

One way to incorporate fun in cross-channel marketing is to give members a starring role.

Lay cites a credit union that highlighted its “everyday superheroes,” real members who used various credit union products, such as “super auto loans for everyday superheroes.”

The promotion changed each month and incorporated multiple marketing channels: in-branch, print, posters, flyers, ATM screens, community partnerships, e-mail, and a microsite.

“It was the best campaign they’d ever done,” Lay recalls.

• Doing the opposite of what others are doing. “If everyone else is cutting their marketing budgets, think what would happen if we added to ours,” he suggests.

• Creating an emotional connection. TOMS shoes, for example, donates a pair shoes to a child in need for each pair it sells. As a result of its “one day without shoes” movement, hundreds of thousands of children in Argentina received new shoes.

The company has built a community around how customers wear its shoes, Lay says.

“Done right, cross-channel marketing can tell a story. Look at how you can bring emotion into your marketing: How does it touch the heart and soul?”

• Being bold and standing out. Lay says too many credit unions do marketing R&D: “rip off and duplicate.”

“Make your marketing your own and go against the norm,” Lay advises. “Realize you can’t please everyone—and it’s scary being a nut.”

Lay addressed the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council’s annual conference in New Orleans.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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