Thursday, December 13, 2012

Social Networks and the Job Search

I recently went through the difficult experience of losing my job. After only 7 months in the position, the company had a significant change in direction and a number of us were let go. I am currently looking for a new opportunity.

In the past, the job search would have gone something like this:
  1. Grab the classified ads section of your local paper
  2. Find potential openings
  3. Mail resume and cover letter to potential employers
  4. Wait for invitation to interview
  5. Repeat  steps 1-4.
Today, with the plethora of online services and the ability to apply online, it seems so much easier than before. But is it really? Now, with the ease of applying online, potential employers receive dozens (if not hundreds) of applications. How can any one recruiter or HR person really deal with that quantity? The short answer is: they can't.

Other than a few friends whom I contacted directly, I chose to communicate my change in status through an InMail in LinkedIn. So my first reaction was not to begin applying and waiting but to reach out to my professional (social) network on LinkedIn. The response and support from the community has been terrific. It's made the process so much easier (emotionally) because there is a connection, most of which were a result of a face to face interaction. While it's hard to say where I will land and how effective this approach will be, I plan continue to use this tool as I explore any and all opportunities.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Beer and Banking in Baltimore

I recently read a book about the history of the brewing industry in Baltimore. It's written by Rob Kasper, a former reporter at the Baltimore Sun, and is entitled " Baltimore Beer: A Satisfying History of Charm City Brewing". It chronicles the history from the 1800's, when the first generation of German's arrived to the the heyday of the 50's and 60's when local brewery's like Gunther's, American and, the king of the locals, National Bohemian, compete for the hearts and thirsts of the Baltimore natives. They supported the local sports franchises ands were active in their communities.

Unfortunately,as the 70's and 80's came, these local brews were bought up by the larger national players, all but eliminating this local industry. Interestingly, the last few years have brought about a resurgent of local craft breweries, like Heavy Seas, the Brewers Art, and Flying Dog Brewery, to name just a few. It's become a very dynamic and exciting time for the local beer lovers.

So what does this have to do with banking? The demise of the brewing industry almost mirrors that of the local banking industry. Such strong financial institutions like Union Trust Bank (one of the oldest banks in the US), Equitable Bank, Maryland National Bank and, most recently, Mercantile Bank and Provident Bank, were all gobbled up by the much larger regional and national players. Today, there are only a handful of banks actually headquartered in Baltimore City.

However, all is not lost. As with the brewing industry, there are a handful of local community banks that are filling a niche that the larger banks have abandoned. They are doing this by providing a more  personalized service and local decision making to support the unique needs of the local community. Let's hope that, like the local brewers. community banks can be a growth industry as well.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mr. Tire, Part Two: Marketing to a Very Dissatisfied Customer

I wrote in a previous post (How Social Media can Succeed and Fail at the Same Time) about my recent experience (on Super Bowl Sunday) with @MrTireAuto when I purchased two new tires.After communicating with a Corporate Marketing person on Twitter and via email, I've still never heard from the store manager.
So, this week, a direct mail postcard arrives in my mailbox. It's from, you guessed it, Mr. Tire reminding me that my 60,000 mile scheduled maintenance service is due and, of course, they can perform it. So what do you think my first reaction was? "You've got to be kidding me, right?" There is no way I'm going to go there for this service (or any other, for that matter) and this marketing effort just reminds me how they never followed through. And, of course, provided me with another blog post.
So thanks, @MrTireAuto, for the reminder. Unfortunately, probably not the "reminder" you wanted it to be.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Do Negative Ads Work in the Battle between CU's and Banks?

With the Republican Presidential Primaries in full swing, it brings to mind a recent social media campaign from a credit union in New York. The credit union in question is Summit Federal Credit Union in Rochester, N.Y., which produced a video entitled "Sh!t Banks Say". you can view it below.
If this were the primaries, the banks would be Mitt Romney, representing the institutions who are gouging consumers with fees and are more interested in profits than service. Credit Unions, on the other hand, would be Rick Santorum, emphasizing the "moral bankruptcy" of these institutions and his efforts on behalf of the working people. All communicated through a series of negative ad campaigns from both sides.
As noted in numerous publications and blogs (including Bank Technology News and Snarketing 2.0 , a blog from Ron Shevlin ), this is an ongoing trend for credit unions; to bash the banks. However, as also noted in these articles, these negative efforts do very little to emphasize the benefits of a credit union. Much like our current crop of Republican candidates, it's more the danger of electing the other than providing a clear, positive differentiation of their candidacy.
Whether this will work in the political realm is to be determined in the months ahead. So the question is; Are these effective tactics for credit unions? What do you think?

Friday, February 24, 2012

How Social Media can succeed and fail at the same time

I recently had a less than ideal experience buying tires a couple of weeks ago. I'd gone out to the Mr. Tire website looking for 2 tires for my car. I found a reasonably priced option and called the local Mr. Tire. I'd bought tires there in the past and had a fine experience. I was informed that the shop didn't have the tires, but the manager could go pick them up and have them there the next day (Sunday). I agreed and we set up an appointment for 12:30 on Sunday.
I showed up for the appointment and found out the tires weren't there. He made some excuse about not having the truck the day before and couldn't get out to pick them, the warehouse was closed on Sunday, blah blah blah. Frankly, it didn't really matter why. So, even with the "discount" to compensate me for hassle, I left with two new tires and paying $385, about $100 more than I had planned.
Like any savvy consumer, I decided to go back out on the website and compare the price from my bill to the one on the site. The tire price on the web site was $184 per tire. When I looked at the bill, the list price of the tire was $190 and the "discount" reduced it to $180. Wow, what a generous gesture. It felt like a "Bait and Switch" routine. I'm getting angry just thinking about it.
So I went out and tweeted the following" Had a horrible experience at @MrTireAuto.Won't be going back there again.". I received an empathetic response from them and, after going back and forth for a few days, sent the person an email outlining the whole story. She responded and ended the email with the following" I'm going to pass this on to our Customer Service team for followup with you and the store manager directly." It's been almost two weeks and I've heard nothing from either.
So what's the moral of the story? Make sure you align your social media interactions online with your service and delivery channels off line. This has made an already bad experience even worse. Not only have I tweeted about it, I'm now writing a blog post. When I worked for 1st Mariner Bank, we had a similar experience except we were on the receiving end of a tweet that stated" First Mariner Bank- you're dead to me". (I was the lucky one who had to deal with that!) To see how we handled it much differently, check out this post, First Mariner Bank: A New Shining Star in Social Media PR

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Who Loses when Consumers Debank?

As I started catching up on my reading, I came across Ron Shevlin's recent post on Snarketing 2.0 last week. Titled The Debanked: The $1.7 Billion Threat to Banks, Ron defines the these customers as " Mainstream consumers who willingly opt out of the traditional banking system." These could be consumers who have chosen to manage their daily financial needs by using prepaid cards. Debanked consumers can be distinguished from the UnderBanked as they are typically young, highly educated, and employed or employable. I think of many of the young people who've participated in the recent Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.
The $1.7 Billion represents the fees lost by banks as these customers leave. So who in the financial services industry gets hurt the most? In my opinion, it is the community banks and credit unions. The Mega-Banks have been willing to give up these customers and the related fees (Bank of America's decision to decline any Reg E overdrafts on debit card transactions, for example). Community banks and CU's don't have that luxury.
So if you are a community bank or credit union, don't miss the boat (although some would argue they already have). Look at a prepaid card program as an add-on to regular checking options. It's what a whole new generation of consumers are looking for, and WalMart and other retailers are more than happy to provide it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Plumbing Project, Home Depot, and Banking

I spent this past Sunday working on a typical plumbing project; lots of self-inflicted issues (like cutting a pipe that I shouldn't have) resulting in multiple trips to Home Depot, and lots of purchases and returns.
It was on my third trip to Home Depot (and to be honest, I went to a different one then my first two visits to avoid additional embarrassment) that I talked to Frank, the plumbing guy who finally helped me to get to a solution and end the madness. So what does this have to do with banking?
As I discussed in my previous post, community banks struggle with the balance of technology and people. Home Depot, like many other retailers, seems to understand the balance. I used the self service checkout to make my purchases each time. But when I had a question or, by the end, a major problem, it was Frank's help that added value in the interaction.
To me, that highlights the inherent synergy between self and full service. In addition to Home Depot, I've gotten used to pumping my own gas, purchasing items at Ikea, or making purchases online. However, when I have a problem or a more complex transaction, I want to work with a person. either by phone or in person.
Banking is really no different. With all the self service tools available, many customers never have to deal directly with a bank employee. How can bank employees add value in this era of self service? What about helping out the consumers who are struggling to get out of debt or recover from financial issues by partnering with a credit counseling service? Being problem solvers will add value and create some loyalty from your customers. This should, in turn, provide the opportunity to offer more products and services.
Banking has become an industry of scale, much like the "big box" retailers. For community banks to survive and thrive, they truly need to re-invent themselves. Sticking with the status quo by competing with the big banks just won't cut it.