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I got a great piece of direct mail yesterday. I know! Can you believe I said that – as much as I detest this tired old marketing method?

It was a 5 1/2 X 8 1/2 folded post card with a special cut, glossy card stock with four color printing. This piece was not cheap.

On the front was this tantalizing statement: “Coming your way: an easier and more rewarding upgrade experience” from United Airlines.

Okay, I’ll bite. I opened it up to a simple chart comparing United to American, Delta, Continental, US Airways and Southwest. It was showing how generous United has become with their first class upgrades for elite passengers. Of course Southwest scored a big fat zero on their chart because, um, and maybe United doesn’t know this – but Southwest Airlines doesn’t play the First Class game. As they like to put it “Everyone’s in first class with Southwest.”

United has changed a policy and they’re using a slick marketing campaign to look like they are doing something really cool. I used to have to sign-up for a first class upgrade and have enough coupons or miles in my account, in the event my name was called, to “buy” my way up. When you’re an elite traveler (100k miles a year) you get these coupons all the time. I never ran out.

So what they’re really doing is saving themselves time and money by discontinuing the charade of the coupon and automatically putting all elite travelers on the upgrade list. Sounds lovely, right?

Here’s what’s really going on. United has cut back their number of flights significantly to ensure a packed house. They are usually calling for volunteers to take a later flight because flights are overbooked. Very few people buy first class these days so to accommodate an overbooking, they move elites to the front of the bus. They are in effect, already doing this.

This reminds me of some member reward programs that offer free money orders to elite members. Those with over $50K aggregate balances – you know, the money order users.  We’ll have to do nothing, but look like we’re doing something.

United must have some marketing budget to burn up cuz this direct mail piece is gorgeous. I gotta give them credit – but I don’t expect to be upgraded anytime soon. I dropped down to the dreaded Premier (elite) status in February. 2009 was a slow travel year for me. I am now barely above the rung with the goats and chickens.

I think I’ll enjoy my open seating, all you can eat peanut buffet and cheerful flight attendants on Southwest thank you very much.

Today I made my last trip to Pop’s for my lemon curd scone and coffee. I decided to buy one of their sweatshirts as a memento of this trip. The Oregon Coast is filled with stores shlepping souvenirs – but I chose Pop’s. It cost $45.00 for a hoody. But I gladly paid it.

Rather than just taking my order and my money, on the first day they asked me where I was from – and I shared my trip with them. By my second visit, I was a regular. I got introduced to “Bob” their favorite customer and his dog.  I took pictures of their restaurant and placed them on Trip Advisor until they get their own website. I blogged about them. Their lemon curd scones will literally change your life.

As I was crossing the street to my cottage it hit me. I just did what my first book predicted. When you are truly branded, you create an experience so intimate that people will tattoo your logo to their body – or in this case, plunk down 45 clams to advertise for you.

The ladies at Pop’s are truly tattoo-worthy.  Is your company?

That’s how many I’ve written this week. Combined with what I already have – ladies and gentleman – we have a draft.

Now the painful editing process begins. I have my ideal readers on standby. I trust they will be honest. It’s what I need at this stage.

But I do wish my Nana was still alive. She loved everything I did. I would go stay with her at the beach and she’d have canvas and oil paints waiting for me. I painted her this large pictures of a big orange cat.  She hung it in the living room! I even remember thinking it didn’t really match her decor. I was 12 – so it was not that great.  Years later I would buy a t-shirt that summed up the way my Nana felt about art – it simply said – “Good Art Won’t Match Your Sofa.”

I dedicated my first book to Nana. She gave me the confidence as a child to try things. She saw beauty in everything – and sadly died of a brain tumor that robbed her of her vision in her final year. But even to the end, she made me laugh and smile and could kick my ass at cribbage with her Braille playing cards.

I dedicate this second book to the credit union movement. This year I celebrate my 30th year as an evangelist. On June 16, 1980, I stepped into the lobby of Pacific NW Federal Credit Union in a light blue, white pin striped cotton skirt that buttoned down the side with giant buttons, and a white blouse. I remember that outfit because when I took a break to go to the bathroom, I had to unbutton it and promptly dropped the back of it in the toilet.

It was that kind of pure cotton that absorbed like a sponge and light blue turned to navy on contact. I contemplated quitting and running out the back door. But then I decided to face my fears, and make a joke about it. Everyone laughed with me – no one laughed at me. I was home.

Credit Unions have been my family. A big loud dysfunctional family with inbreeding and scandals and love and forgiveness. But I couldn’t ask for a better one.

I picked the Oregon coast for my writer’s retreat because, in March, especially during Spring Break, you can pretty much count on lousy weather. My grandparents lived on the coast and I never once saw the sun on vacation. There’s a joke in Oregon, What do you call a sunny Monday? The first day back to school after Spring Break.

I woke up this morning to the sound and smell of rain. Ahhhhh…finally. It’s going to be a good writing day.

Yesterday was impossibly gorgeous. I got cabin fever, went for a long walk and then tried to work at McMenamin’s Sand Trap. Bad idea. I sat next to the loud table, and ended up posting “There’s a Special Place in Hell….” on my blog. It’s funny the things that get the most comments. I love them all. When I pulled up my blog this morning my comment field was all lit up with little presents for me to open.

I haven’t had the urge to fill my pockets with rocks and walk into the surf yet so I’d say it’s shaping up to be a good writer’s retreat.

Cheers!

I just took a break from writing to walk along the beach. On my way there I passed a little flower stand with freshly picked daffodils in a variety of containers. There’s a metal box padlocked inside with a slit on top. That’s it. It’s totally on the honor system. I dropped 5 bucks in and selected a few flowers. Then I thought, “There’s a special place in hell for people that steal from this stand….”

Then I got to thinking, what a great coffee table book idea! Photos of all the wrongdoings in the world with the simple phrase…

“There’s a special place in hell for….

– people who tag (graffiti) historic places

– people who don’t turn their cell phones off in church

How would YOU finish that sentence…..

I’m up, I’ve been to Pop’s for my giant coffee and lemon curd scone – I’m serious, you have to have one of these if you ever come to the Oregon Coast – and ready to write another day.

I wrote for 7 hours straight yesterday, penning almost 3,000 words. And of those I’ll bet I keep 2800 of them. That’s progress. I’m excited. I ended the day with a walk on the beach, and a trip to the Warrenton fish monger where I discovered sea candy. Smoked scallops. Wow.

Writing can give you a kind of endorphin like running does. I experienced that yesterday – when I stopped thinking about it and just let it flow onto the page. I’ve felt that playing the piano when you can actually close your eyes and feel the music and stop thinking about your fingers connecting with the right keys. Thank you Sr. Annette for making me learn to type by touch.

That was the moment when I had complete clarity and could see what marketing will really look like in the year 2020. I know I’ve been steadily and regularly poo pooing traditional marketing like direct mail, newspaper ads and of course TV commercials. I also feel that social media is not a campaign and that having a Facebook page is akin to having a newsletter. Not that exciting – yet. And I’m amazed that no one has called me on it and said “So, Miss Smarty Pants, if all that is dying a grizzly death what will work?”

Spoiler alert.

My goal with this second book is to push CEOs and marketing professionals to systematically forget everything they know, before it destroys them. It’s not as simple as saying – you replace your direct mail campaigns with X and you’ll calculate the best ROI ever.  The 2020 vision of marketing is this: The CEO is the Pilot. The CMO has to be the co-pilot. There, I said it.

That means the CMO of 2020 needs to have the business savvy, strategic thinking and working knowledge of financials so they can take over if necessary. When in the history of credit unions has the CMO been anointed acting CEO? Never.

Before the CFOs get their panties in a wad, let me explain. You are air traffic control in this metaphor. You are monitoring changing conditions, to help guide the plane in. You are not on the plane. We need you on the ground.

Compliance, IT, audit, you are the mechanics. Constantly tinkering, checking, that we are stable enough to fly.

Operations would be the crew aboard the flight. They are responsible for the inflight experience. And they need to SEE the pilot every now and again so we know we’re good to go. I know after 9/11 we bolted down the door, but after each flight, let’s come out and say “Buh Bye” to our customers, okay?  Thank them for their business.

Before we fly we need a flight plan. This includes our target (audience) and our unique destination (differentiator). Both pilot and co-pilot have this knowledge at all times. They work together to complete it. This is a big chunk of the book.

So stay with me on this metaphoric journey. Using those visuals, where would you say marketing is today? Take a moment to really think about it.

They are certainly not in the cockpit. They’re in an office somewhere printing brochures about flying, highlighting the features and benefits of air travel.

We have but 10 years to get from there to the front of the plane. I am laying the groundwork with this book. Stay tuned……

Yesterday was my set up day. I started with a long walk through the woods in Camas. Then showered, packed and drove the 101.4 miles to the front door of my little cottage in Gearhart. I was really nervous when I unlocked the door with the key that had a seashell dangling from it. I hoped the pictures on the web were accurate and up-to-date.  What if there was bad juju in there? You can’t see that in a picture, you have to feel it.

Click. Turned the nob. Oh, wow. My own tiny little piece of writer’s heaven. A gas wood stove that is controlled by the thermostat – which admittedly took me a loooonggg time to figure out. A kitchen stocked with champagne glasses for celebration. Upstairs, my bed tucked away in a loft like room with fabulous sheets and a big down comforter. The bathroom has a pedestal sink and a shower that looks like you’re standing on stones from the beach and one of those giant shower heads that is meant to feel like rain. Oh, and when I got my key from the owner she told me that in the garage there are bikes, and kites and clam guns. Perfect. Perfect.

I set up shop. My flip chart, pens, favorite books, Santa Fe candle, flying pig for good luck. Rearranged the furniture so I could pull the table from the kitchen and plop in smack dab in the middle of the living room facing the front windows, wood stove warming my back.

I walked 2 blocks down to the beach to say goodnight to the ocean. There were only a few people strolling along the shore. It truly is a recession. Two little kids were slinging handfuls of sand into the surf. I watched them for a good long time wondering what was going through their minds. Were they trying to exert their power over the breaking waves? Why sand and not rocks? It was wet send so it kind of threw like a rock….I wasn’t much of a rock thrower as a kid. I was trying to have this deep writer’s moment, just being there and observing. And finally just thought, weird little kids. I shrugged, took a deep long breath of the salt air and walked back.

This morning I had to start my day with a big cup of joe. There’s a coffee pot in my kitchen but it’s the sad Mr. Coffee that has seen better days. I noticed a bakery when I drove through town last night. Sadly, the bakery is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays – during Spring break. Again, hard times. But then I saw it. Pop’s. It’s a candy store with a glowing espresso sign in the window. Works for me.

I opened the door and the familiar bell rung – the kind that is tied to the door knob. Ahhhh….there’s nothing like a candy store where they actually make the candy. Think about it. You walk into a See’s or a Godiva and you smell the mall. You walk into Pop’s and you smell nirvana. I ordered my coffee and saw a fresh plate of scones. The Pop’s girl said, seeing me eye them, “They’re fresh and still warm.” That’s cross-selling people.

I just ate, and I’m not kidding, the best scone on the planet. You know how some scones leave kind of a weird film in your mouth? Not this one. And it was layered with lemon curd. I am ready.

Thanks for listening and for all the messages of encouragement you’ve sent already. Here we go!

My dear friend and mentor Sarah Canepa Bang uttered those words to me at the Holiday Inn in Wilsonville, Oregon many years ago. I was there all day hosting a league event. I got a message from the front desk to call Sarah at the office. This was before cell phones, remember those days?

On a break I went to the pay phone to call her. She simply said, “Can you meet me after the conference at the hotel bar?” “Um, sure,” I said. Of course I couldn’t concentrate the rest of the afternoon. Was I getting fired? What did I do wrong? Think. Think.

Sarah offered me a new job/opportunity. I felt wholly unqualified and told her as much. That’s when my professional life took an abrupt turn.

She had confidence in me – but I did not. I suffered from a well-known disorder called the impostor complex. I didn’t have a college degree. The person who was vacating this position had one – it was in Biology – but it was a Bachelor’s.

I won’t go into the reasons/excuses I didn’t go to college, that’s not the point of this post. But rather, to help people understand that you really can do anything in this country if you have the vision, passion and discipline.

I meet people every day that have amazing visions. I am surrounded by passionate people, on the internet and in my community. Discipline is the roadblock for most of us. As Malcolm Gladwell points out in his groundbreaking book Outliers: The Story of Success, it takes about 10,000 hours of commitment to move from novice to expert.  At a full time 2080 hour work year, that’s just under five years. IF you’re focused.

I leave for Gearhart, Oregon in a couple of hours. I’ve rented a little cottage, with a tiny kitchen and a wood stove. I am going to finish my book The 2020 Vision of Marketing: A Focus on Purpose. It has become an albatross of sorts.

God’s great equalizer – time. We all get 24 hours a day. You cannot earn more or be punished with less. You decide how to use those hours. I’ve been saying “I don’t have time,” when I am really saying “I’ve not been willing to make the time.”

So, here I go. Acting like the expert. Without a single writing class under my belt. Just a laptop, a flipchart, books I admire and a vision.

I’m going to blog each morning about my progress. It’s a great way to start the day, and I hope you’ll all be rooting for me as well as shaming me into completion.

Oh, and if I get the chance, I plan to dig my own razor clam, shuck it, and make chowder, like my Granddad and Nana used to do. That will probably be the scariest moment this week.

No one disputes that loyal members do three things:

  1. They buy more from you – increasing services per hh and profitability.
  2. Market for you – decreasing your marketing expense
  3. Tell you how to improve their cooperative – “I’ve been a member since…”

You know they do it – but can you measure it? A study released today from the Filene Research Institute, Exploring Ongoing Member Loyalty: Net Promoter in Credit Unions, proves that credit unions with the highest Net Promoter Scores (NPS) also have the highest profits. Fred Reichheld, author of The Ultimate Question, refers to NPS as the company’s growth engine. If done properly, it is a valid predictor of the future health of the organization. Unlike ROA which reflects the current operating condition.

In my opinion, NPS was the missing link on the balance sheet. The majority of our accounting measures focus on the quality of our widget (loan) rather than the quality of our product (service).  If your credit union believes that service is your differentiator, why wouldn’t you measure it as rigorously and accurately as ROA?

NPS does just that. And, it’s very simple.  By asking a random sample of your members this question: “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely is it that you would recommend the credit union?” you can begin to understand what really drives loyalty.

The Member Loyalty Group, a CUSO founded by Addison Avenue, America First, Baxter, BECU, Educators and San Francisco Fire Credit Unions, partnered with Dr. Laura Brooks (co-author of the book Answering the Ultimate Question) for the Filene Report.  If you’re not already a Filene member, you should join. If you are, your copy is on its way.

the impetus and driving force gained by the development of a process or course of events

I started to see it when I was introduced to Ondine Irving – via Twitter. She was able to slip outside the credit union bubble of information and influence and get the attention of Suze Orman. She did it quickly and effectively by having a very narrow target, a differentiator and a ton of tenacity. Like the old Faberge’ commercials, Suze told two friends – Larry King and Oprah – and they told two friends, and so on and so on.

A few filmmaker friends in a restaurant created MoveYourMoney.org. Not necessarily for credit unions, but The Wall Street Journal made the connection for us. Again, this is way outside of our credit union bubble of influence.

This week The Consumerist blog latched onto an OregonLive story about my little credit union. When you read this, and I sincerely hope you will, try not to see this as a negative. It’s momentum. Like we’ve never experienced before. People outside of our cocoon of influence (CUNA, NAFCU) are rendering opinions, facilitating conversations and raising awareness.

This is our national brand campaign! It’s word of mouth. It’s trusted, it’s being debated, and it matters. Members are marketing for credit unions again.

What will your members say about you?

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