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7 Strategies that Smart Credit Unions Will Have in 2021

A lot has changed over the past year. We were already living in a digital age, but the COVID-19 pandemic has issued us into a new era where online business is not only popular—it is crucial. In fact, nearly 51% of small businesses have increased online interactions with their customers and about 36% are doing sales online, according to e-commerce support platform Oberlo.

Consumer habits and the global economy are changing, which means that the financial industry will be majorly affected—and credit unions in particular. As member-owned, non-profit organizations, credit unions will need to adapt to the times if they hope to compete with large banks and financial institutions.

Here are seven strategies that smart credit unions should incorporate if they want to stay relevant in 2021 and engage their target customer base.

  1. Audience research. Consumers in 2021 are looking for different things than they were in previous years. If your credit union has researched your audience and created target demographics and customer personas, it is time to go back to the drawing board. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way consumers think and operate. If you want to make sure you are reaching your target audience, you will need to reevaluate who you are reaching and how.
  2. Website upgrades. First impressions matter. The average user will leave your website after 10 to 20 seconds if they can’t find the information they’re seeking. To capture the attention of potential customers in 2021, your credit union website needs to have a responsive design, be aesthetically pleasing and connect to the user’s values and tech-savvy lifestyle. Simple factors such as typography and intuitive interface design may make or break your chance of engaging millennials on your website.
  3. Mobile-first design. Today’s online consumers are much more likely to use a mobile phone to access a website than they are to use a desktop computer. They are also selective about their mobile app experience. For example, 43 percent of millennials have at some point abandoned mobile banking activity due to a poor user experience. Top reasons millennials may discontinue using a mobile banking app include lengthy processing time and complicated forms.
  4. Social media. Social media accounts aren’t just a way to promote your product, they are channels for direct communication with clients and potential clients as well as a tool for building brand trust. The average consumer spends more than six hours each week engaging with social media, and the majority view social media as the most effective advertising medium.By directly engaging with followers, answering questions, commenting on posts and asking for feedback, your credit union can build trust and credibility.
  5. Video capabilities. In 2021, more and more consumers are attending virtual events and communicating through video conferencing software. In the absence of in-person interaction, video is the next best medium for communicating the emotional and visual appeal of a product or service. The only thing worse than a lack of live and pre-recorded video content is poor quality video content—whether from a technical or production standpoint. Your credit union’s video capabilities should be on-trend and technically on-par with banks and large financial institutions in order to stay competitive.

Featured in Forbes: How Tech Can Revolutionize The Music Industry

Last month, ATX Web Designs Founder Daniel Griggs was featured in a Forbes article titled How Tech Can Revolutionize The Music Industry During the Pandemic. ATX the Brand is based in Austin, Texas—the live music capital of the world and a burgeoning tech hub. The Forbes piece explains how the tech and music industries can join forces to help preserve arts and entertainment during a time of significant loss and change.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

One of the biggest lifestyle disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the loss of live music and entertainment. For an industry that relied heavily on ticket sales and sponsorships from live performances, the restrictions on large gatherings and congregating indoors were a heavy blow. Some venues and artists attempted to find loopholes or work around regulations by hosting socially distanced events, but the concert industry still forfeited more than $30 billion as a result of the pandemic. The BBC estimated that musicians lost two-thirds of their income in 2020.

Enter the techies. As the owner of a web design and digital marketing agency, I have seen the demand for web-based solutions and virtual alternatives explode during the Covid-19 pandemic. My company is based in Austin, Texas, which is both the “Live Music Capital” of the world and an emerging tech hot spot that has outranked Silicon Valley for the past two years. It logically follows that Austin would lead the way in discovering new ways to optimize the convergence of technology and live music.

Austin’s annual music festival, South by Southwest (SXSW), typically takes place in March, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the globe and generating more than $300 million in economic impact for the city of Austin. The festival was canceled in 2020 as a result of the pandemic but has reemerged in 2021 as a virtual event.

As a tech entrepreneur, I was excited about the possibilities of a digital SXSW experience, but as a music lover, I wanted something more. I was missing the raw, unfiltered, exciting nature of intimate live performances and underground events — that feeling of walking into a bar and discovering my new favorite local band or artist.

To read the full article on Forbes’ website, click here.

5 Ways Franchises Can Dramatically Improve Their Online Brand in 2021

We were already living in a digital economy before COVID-19, but the global pandemic has emphasized the need for companies of all types to improve their online presence and prioritize digital marketing.

Studies show that in 2021, nearly 50 percent of consumers are avoiding leaving their homes and also predict that 2.14 billion people will buy goods and services online this year. After a year of lockdown, many companies have discovered innovative ways to market and offer their products and services online—and some are making the switch to virtual operations permanent.

While COVID-19 cases are decreasing and businesses in some states are reopening their doors, marketing will never be the same. It is time for brands to upgrade their digital presence or risk becoming irrelevant.

Franchises in particular can benefit from investing in their online branding. Franchises face a unique marketing challenge. To succeed, franchisors need to support the independence of individual franchisees while maintaining a brand continuity. Online marketing efforts need to be both creative and consistent.

Here are five ways franchises can upgrade their online presence to stay competitive and thrive in 2021.

  1. Create a style guide. If your franchise doesn’t already have a style guide, then creating one will be essential to improving your digital marketing and branding. Cohesive branding is crucial when it comes to franchise marketing. Even if local branches have a lot of diversity, brand messages and brand personality should be consistent across local franchises and should match the corporate vision. In your style guide, you’ll want to determine the feeling or emotional experience you want to create through your brand, select a content tone, identify your key phrases and hashtags, and determine the unique visual components of your brand (colors, logos, etc.).
  2. Conduct audience research. Consumers are looking for different things in 2021 than they were in previous years. The world has experienced widespread trauma and loss and has gone through social and structural changes that affect consumer priorities and behavior. Even if you think you understand your target demographic, it is time to conduct a new round of research to better understand your audience’s pain points and priorities. By understanding your audience more thoroughly and holistically, your franchise will be able to develop digital marketing strategies that are efficient and effective.
  3. Utilize SEO. It is important for brand uniformity and visibility that each franchise location appears on the first page of search engine results. Many individuals do not scroll past the first page of Google results. While franchisee landing pages should be consistent and contain keywords that pertain to the target demographic, it is crucial that landing pages do not duplicate content. This could cause your company to be penalized by Google or other search engines. Also note that franchisee websites under independent domain names may take longer to be ranked by search engines than sites housed under a corporate domain.
  4. Develop a comprehensive social media strategy. Social media can be a challenge for franchises. Since the medium is more personal than websites or traditional marketing materials, each account will inevitably vary in voice, tone, aesthetic, and frequency of posting. Franchises should develop a cohesive and comprehensive social media strategy that is controlled at the corporate level or develop a social-media-specific brand and style guide for franchisees. This style guide can be developed in-house or with the help of a marketing and branding agency.  
  5. Integrate domain names. It is essential for franchises to present a united front and remain consistent across platforms. The landing pages for local franchise branches should either all be hosted under the main corporate website or they should have parallel, independent domain names. If a franchise decides on independent franchisee domain names, it is critical for each site to reflect the same brand personality. Franchises should decide on a domain name strategy and make it consistent for all franchisees. It may be helpful to host group trainings with franchisees to explain the strategy and reinforce consistent brand messaging.

As a franchise, it isn’t enough to have a polished corporate website. It is also vital that franchisee sites and social media accounts are consistent, are optimized for search engines, and reflect your corporate brand. Remember that a better digital structure will create more brand value, visibility and credibility, and will ultimately help your franchisees increase sales and retain customers.

ATX Web Designs offers branding strategy and digital brand development services. For more information, drop us a line!

5 Social Media Tips for Small Businesses

Running a small business requires the ability to multitask and wear many hats. Entrepreneurs and small business owners don’t always have the resources to hire staff or assistants to complete the tasks that many larger companies dedicate whole departments to. A small business owner often has to handle the administrative, marketing, customer service and financial aspects of the company in addition to providing or organizing the delivery of products and services.

One aspect of small-business ownership that can feel daunting and overwhelming is social media management. While large corporations have teams of people researching, posting and responding on social media platforms, small companies don’t always have the time to prioritize engaging on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other sites.

If you are a small- or medium-sized-business owner and aren’t able to dedicate a lot of time to social media management, here are a few tips to help you keep up with the trends and get the most bang for your buck when you are able to post.

  1. Schedule your posts. Scheduling your posts weeks or months in advance will save you a lot of time and stress in the long run. Instead of worrying about what content to post each week, you can block out a few hours of time each month to plan social posts ahead of time. You can schedule posts through the social media platforms themselves or upgrade to a paid post scheduler like Buffer  or Hootsuite for an even easier and more streamlined experience.
  2. Post consistently. Studies have shown that consistency is key when it comes to social media posts. Whether you’re posting daily or a few times a week, maintain a regular pattern so that your followers know what to expect. The most recent surveys show that posting at least once per day on Instagram and Facebook will garner the most engagement, but posting consistently is more important than posting every day.
  3. Add value with your posts. Your social media feed shouldn’t read like an advertisement. If most of your posts are promoting your products or services, you will lose engagement and followers. Instead, make sure about 70-80% of your content is something that adds value for your followers. Examples are educational information, tips and tricks, freebies and contests, or humorous content that provides a much needed chuckle.
  4. Interact with your followers. Consumers are more likely to purchase and promote brands that interact with them on social media. Set aside a day or two each week to respond to comments and questions so you can show your followers that you are active and engaged.
  5. Look at your analytics. Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites offer users data about posts, followers and engagement. By viewing your insights and analytics you will be able to gather useful information, such as which types of posts get the most engagement and when your followers are most active. This information will help you maximize your social media efforts.

Featured in Forbes: Digital Transformation is About Process, Not Products

On May 21, ATX Web Designs Founder Daniel Griggs was featured in a Forbes article titled Digital Transformation is About Process, Not Products. ATX the Brand is based in Austin, Texas—one of the fastest growing tech hotspots in the country. Some experts predict it may eclipse Silicon Valley as a hub for digital innovation. Tesla founder Elon Musk is opening a factory outside the city and tech giants Intel, Apple, Oracle and Facebook all have headquarters or offices in the area.

As a web development and digital marketing agency, ATX the Brand works with many tech companies in the Central Texas area, as well as local entrepreneurs and startups. Our team is able to observe trends within the industry and speak to the ways businesses can successfully capitalize on new developments related to digital branding and marketing.

One of the biggest trends we have seen among Austin-area business owners is a push for the “digital transformation” of their companies in order to stay relevant and competitive in the rapidly evolving digital economy.

Here is an excerpt from the article on digital transformation:

The unfortunate truth is that many businesses equate their online brand with their website and see “digital transformation” as no more than a site upgrade or redesign. The fact of the matter is that digital transformation is about your company’s processes, not about your products. Your processes include your customer relationship management (CRM) system, your security, your marketing strategies and your administrative systems — and these processes are vital when it comes to sustainably growing your business. They are the pieces that your customer doesn’t immediately see or know to look for but will ultimately have the biggest impact on their experience with your business.

Your website and mobile app are important, but they are really just the tip of the iceberg. If your company hopes to stay competitive in the digital economy, you need more than a pretty website or trendy mobile app. You need to understand the mind and the values of the modern consumer and learn how to build your business processes around the needs of your target audience.

In focusing on the visual aspects of their brand, some business owners forget to ask themselves the following important questions:

• How do I manage bookings?

• How is customer data filed and organized?

• What is my process for following up on leads and inquiries?

• How are my services promoted and marketed?

• What is my process for gathering feedback and implementing changes?

The answers to all of these questions are critical for growing a business in a digitally competitive economy.

To read the full article on Forbes’ website, click here.

7 Ways to Stretch Your Marketing Budget

You’ve got to spend money to make money, according to the old saying, but how much should small and medium-sized businesses be investing into marketing and advertising? Whether your business is growing rapidly or you are just figuring out how to make ends meet, marketing is an essential component of company operations that you can’t afford to ignore. While some businesses do very well through word-of-mouth marketing, there is a limit to how much you can scale through organic referrals alone.

The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends that businesses generating less than $5 million a year spend about 7 to 8 percent of gross revenue on marketing and advertising. Other industry experts have suggested anywhere from 5 percent to 14 percent.

If these numbers seem high to you, or you are wondering how much you are realistically able to invest in marketing, here are five ways to stretch your marketing and advertising budget to get the most bang for your buck.

  1. Social media. Social media platforms are free marketing tools that can help you raise brand awareness and gain customer trust. While social media followers don’t necessarily equate to sales, building out your Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms can be an extremely valuable long-term marketing investment. Make sure you are using your social platforms to provide value to your followers and engage with them regularly.
  2. Experiment. Marketing is all about experimentation. Instead of sinking your entire monthly marketing budget into ads or cold email campaigns, opt for small, cost-effective experiments to see what type of messaging and content delivery strategies resonate with your audience most right now.
  3. Partnerships. Partnerships and collaborations with other businesses are an affordable way to build your brand and get exposure. When creating partnerships, you want to work with companies that target your same demographic but are not direct competitors.
  4. Media relations. Pitching your business to local media is a way to get free exposure for your company. When pitching, make sure that you provide a specific, timely angle or a reason that a certain publication’s audience would be interested in the story.
  5. Incentivize referrals. By incentivising your current customers to recommend your business, you can boost organic traffic and sales. Affiliate programs, giveaways and contests are some relatively inexpensive ways to increase referrals.

Is Your Small Business Website Secure

On July 2, ATX Web Designs CEO Daniel Griggs was featured in Forbes in an article titled Is Your Small Business Website Secure?. As website templates and DIY web design programs become more popular, they also increase the potential risk of security threats.

The article outlines several ways that small businesses in particular can help ensure their websites can protect customer information and company data, as well as preventing other security breaches.

Here are a few of the important security questions business owners should ask about their websites, as outlined in the Forbes piece:

Is your website hosted on a secure server with an SSL certificate? If you collect private information from site users, you need a hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS), which prevents the interception of data. Additionally, SSL will encrypt information so that it cannot be breached.

Does your website require complex passwords? Requiring all users to use complex passwords when signing into your site will help prevent their accounts from being hacked. For example, you can require users to use a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters and special characters in their passwords.

Do you have a firewall in place? Firewalls can block duplicate internet protocol (IP) addresses automatically, which prevents spammers and hackers from registering multiple accounts from the same computer.

Does your website contain custom coding? Unfortunately, website templates built through CMS like WordPress can be more susceptible to hacking. Custom coding is much more difficult to breach.

Are your plugins up to date? Failing to update your software and plugins can result in security vulnerabilities and issues on your website.

To read the complete article, click here.