What's Truly Different About Your FI?


Perhaps you are familiar with the board game Guess Who?  It’s a popular game, quick and straightforward, that was first introduced nearly 40 years ago. Two players compete by asking well-crafted questions that help them identify which of the 24 individuals pictured on the gameboard matches the card in their opponent’s hand.

Those who excel at the game know how to ask yes/no questions that quickly eliminate a large group of people pictured: “Does your person wear glasses?” No. “Does he have a mustache?” Yes.

Now, let’s imagine you and a collection of your favorite FI competitors as part of a financial “Guess Who” game. 

What identifying factors do you have that would let you eliminate everyone else and leave you standing alone, demonstrating how you are truly different from your competition?

Let’s consider some of the responses FIs give when asked what makes them unique:

  • We have the best employees
  • We support our community
  • We have a great mobile app
  • We have great rates
  • We are your local solution
  • We offer the products you need

If you were applying these characteristics to a financial “Guess Who” Game, it's likely that nearly all of the competitor candidates would still be standing after those statements.


Maybe there are unique benefits that already exist and you just need to uncover their significance or maximize the opportunity they might represent. Then, perhaps most importantly, communicate their value. For example:

  • “Our digital presence was voted Best in the Midwest and we are adding new customers at the highest rate in 10 years, thanks to the value they are finding in our extensive digital services.”
  • “When we say we have the lowest rates, we work hard to make sure that is the truth. In the past five years, our fixed mortgage rates were lower than our top competitors 90% of the time. You can count on us to save you money and get you approved more quickly.”

At the least, digging deeper and defining proof of some of the above responses may be a starting point as you work to differentiate yourself from the candidates in this competition.

  • What’s different about the way you support your community? Perhaps you offer late-night hours with financial planners on hand to advise customers. Or, do you have examples of how your service to the community goes beyond presenting oversized checks for the cameras? Are you able to prove the impact you make?
  • What unique storytelling opportunities can you capitalize on? Take this heartfelt example from a Midwest bank that demonstrates the human side of banking and demonstrates brand values in a personal and inviting way.

It might also be time for you to forge ahead and develop a higher-level position that goes far beyond a single feature—something attractive, unique and valuable. Either way, the exercise of identifying those attributes that truly set you apart is a valuable use of time in a sea of undifferentiated brands and commoditized product.


Perhaps it’s time to explore this further. Take time to buy your best team members lunch and play your own version of financial “Guess Who.”

Consider, also, a reverse game and the valuable insights it might provide. Take your strongest competitors and see how easily it would be to identify their unique position, leaving them as the last one standing. Don’t forget to include your non-traditional competitors on the game board. It always helps to identify what you are up against.

Product Redesign Pitfalls to Avoid


But as community FIs compete for valuable deposits and face lower acquisition rates for important lead products like checking accounts, a thoughtful product redesign might be exactly what you need to help retain and grow your business.

Perhaps there is an opportunity to draw in new business with a more attractive deposit account that could fill a valuable gap in your product line. Or, it may be time to revamp your entire product mix, reconfiguring the features and benefits you offer in a way that would change your business for the better.

To make it easier to move forward and ensure success, here are a few strategies from the product redesign team at Galapagos:

1. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for you—or for your customers. Don’t jump into a product redesign without knowing your customer and your market opportunity. 

“We always start the product redesign process by gathering both customer and market data to determine gaps and opportunities,” said Jacqlyn Burde, Strategy Executive at Galapagos Marketing. “The foundation of all of our product recommendations is built by studying the distribution of the current account line-up and looking at market potential for growth. Understanding the customers you have, and what types of prospects are available within your footprint, is what drives a strong recommendation.

“Identifying your product gaps and customer needs will help to justify the inclusion of a particular feature/benefit in your lineup. Conversely, if you don’t do a competitive review, and are mistaken in thinking you have a unique or differentiated lineup, your rollout will not yield strong results.”

2. Don’t assume that you can buy it better than you can build it.  

Many banks are surprised to discover that it actually may take longer, cost more, and be more restrictive to buy from a third party than to put in the initial work yourself to build the products. Ensure that you understand the buy vs. build options and set realistic expectations before you proceed.

 3. Don’t begin the redesign project until you define what success will look like. Clear up any assumptions from the start.

Start by establishing your redesign goals—and ensure that everyone is on the same page. You might be interested in increasing fee income or perhaps you want growth and are willing to give up fees to get that. If you have multiple goals that clash, you won’t get far.

It’s also beneficial when your internal team has a clear picture of how far they want to push. It helps us successfully work within those parameters. We have had clients say, “Don’t let core system limitations persuade the recommendations,” while other clients ended up objecting to many potential solutions because they didn’t want to deal with the implications to their core.

The same holds true for deciding what you are willing to pay for acquisition (either by reducing account fees or paying higher interest).

 4. Don’t underestimate the value of a strong offer that’s also logical and easy to understand.

While the data element is very important, it’s also critical that the end result is a strong offer. Don’t make your accounts illogical. For example: Why would there be higher fees on a non-interest-bearing account than a standard account? Why would there be a high minimum direct deposit requirement for an electronic-only account when it may be prohibitive for the very audience you’re targeting? Be thoughtful and consider who the account target is when designing the account.

5. Be sure to consider the unforeseen consequences of your product design choices. Consider the following:

Will your revised product offering confuse the customer?

Are you making your bank or credit union all about “free” and undervaluing what you offer—an increasingly important issue as FIs work to reposition themselves around advisory capability.

Is there a chance your changes will lead to attrition? (One Midwest bank incurred a 34% attrition rate in the first year of new free checking accounts opened.)

6. Don’t just make it about a checking account product. Perhaps it’s the household relationship that you need to consider.

Some organizations define success by a simple number (we want to add 500 checking accounts), but Galapagos has helped clients focus on adding certain accounts that develop quickly into broader relationships and prove to be more successful.

“We worked with one eastern U.S. bank and recommended that they add a relationship checking account,” said Stephen Willard, Senior Data Analyst at Galapagos Marketing. “With that change, they experienced tremendous growth in both checking and loan relationships. The average deposit relationship for these households is 6x greater and their average loan relationship is 10x more than their other consumer checking households.”

7. And don’t be too narrow in what you define as a “product” when you configure a new offering. 

Channel convenience has become a primary driver in selection and may take precedence over rates, price, and other features.   

8. Don’t shortchange employee training.

You can design the greatest products in the world, but if your sales team isn’t on board your success will fall flat. The frontline staff needs to know the new products inside and out, understand how they work, and importantly, why customers should be interested.

9. Don’t forget to properly map a customer-friendly process for account migration.

Whether you will be moving customers to new accounts automatically or letting them self-select, make sure you have considered the implications and mapped the product moves and the steps to success.

 10. Build in enough time to create and implement a thoughtful communication program, one that includes simple and effective ways for existing customers to learn about and open these accounts.

Be prepared to effectively sell this account in the ways that matter to the customer or prospect. That means that you are adding it to your online account opening selection, promoting it effectively in your branches and your digital space, and marketing it through your onboarding and CRM programs. Don’t rely on it to sell itself just because it’s on the product list, and don’t make it more difficult than it should be to get started.

We encourage you to consider whether a product redesign belongs on your organization’s “to-do” list. If you are willing to accept the challenge and avoid these pitfalls, the end result could be an extremely valuable solution that achieves your business goals and also makes your customers happy.

Interested in discussing your product strategy or the need for new products? Contact Jacqlyn - jburde@galapagosmarketing.com

Planning for a conversion? Many of the same pitfalls apply. Contact Dan for more tips on a successful outcome - ddewaal@galapagosmarketing.com

Been through this yourself? Share your own “Pitfalls to Avoid” with us. We may add them to the list.

Conquering Your Core System's Shortcomings


While reading about the Naval Academy freshmen attempting the Herndon Climb recently, we couldn’t help but liken it to how bank marketers have to face major obstacles—like their core system—to be successful.

If you aren’t familiar with the Herndon Climb, it’s when the Naval Academy freshmen (also known as plebes) work to scale a greased, 21-foot stone monument to capture a cap that has been placed on top. It is the ultimate test of the teamwork and perseverance taught during the Naval Academy’s plebes’ first year. They don’t quit until they accomplish it – and it is a major milestone that leads them to their subsequent training and future military career.

So, what’s the connection?

Sometimes, a core system can feel like a steep, slippery, uphill climb requiring great strength and creativity to find a way over, around or through the challenges in order to achieve customer satisfaction and robust organizational growth.

If this is the challenge that you are facing, take a minute and find comfort in knowing that you aren’t alone. In fact, a recent NTT research study found that 2/3 of bankers identified at least one major challenge with their existing core deposit banking systems. Now, let’s consider how you can use teamwork and perseverance to find your way to greater success.

 Here are a Few Ideas for Getting Over, Around, or Through the Obstacles of your Core System

Claim a Seat at the Core System Table Don’t let your core system be seen as simply a technological or operational function. Make sure it does what EVERYONE needs it to do. It’s a key driver in marketing and customer experience, and all interested parties and users should be present and have a voice when core system decisions are being made.

One of our clients recently proceeded with a new version of core software that also included valuable service screens to help diagnose and solve customer service issues. However, they didn’t involve the frontline staff in the plan and implementation—and went live with the new system, but without changes to the service screens in place.  This resulted in problems ranging from fixing payroll issues to difficulty opening CDs.  Customers were impacted, productivity was affected, and the bank employees were uninformed and frustrated. With the right people involved, this wouldn’t have happened.

Probe. And Be Persistent. When your core is managed by an Operations or IT department, valuable information often ends up siloed within the core and within the bank. We know of a high-performing credit union in the Midwest that actually created a corporate initiative to counteract that. It involved all areas of the organization, with each department creating a wish list. An expert from the core provider then interviewed the participants and discussed what existed—or what could be built to address the company’s needs.

The credit union discovered new functionality, as well as better ways to use what they had. For example, the marketing department expressed its desire to add a cross-functional communications preference field to satisfy operational needs while also improving targeted marketing efforts. The core representative confirmed the limitations of the operationally-oriented solution offered, but then gave advice on a simple and smart way to program a broader solution within the system.

A process like this can be valuable to your provider as well, as their evolution is essential.  If they are paying attention to the changing competitive environment and your unfulfilled needs, they can be improving their offering—and communicating it more effectively. 

Find the Suppliers who are Doing What the Core System Can’t. For all of the things that your core system provider can’t offer, there are many other companies out there ready to successfully address those challenges. Online account opening, an expert digital offering, automated onboarding and “next best” cross-sell: There are other suppliers for all of that. With the right approach, success can be found. (We’ll share tips on how to select the right supplier in a blog post next month.)

At a recent Galapagos Marketing customer forum, one of our outside presenters speculated that we may soon get to a place where a financial institution simply shops a series of cloud-based apps that can truly connect and offer the required functionality, making it easier to stay competitive without overhauling an entire core to do so.

Sometimes, a Band-Aid is the Answer. As an example, there are “online account opening tools” that look like an online experience to the customer but require your operations team to actually open the account.  Before going this route, it makes sense to explore online account opening tools that will actually integrate with your system.  But if none of those are feasible, there are times when a band-aid beats the alternative of no viable offering on the horizon.

Don’t underestimate the value of your involvement in core selection, operation, enhancements, and even replacement. It could make a significant difference in the value your system offers (or, on the flip side, the challenges it creates).

Striking The Right Balance: Smart Overdraft Solutions


A financial institution in the Midwest engaged Galapagos Marketing to analyze their checking product line-up. Because one of the goals for the redesign was to increase fee income, we broadened our analysis for this effort to include a review of their overdraft fee strategy. 

The goal was to ensure that they had a solid overdraft strategy in place, that it was being applied appropriately, that it was operating within the current regulatory environment, and that it was a successful configuration for the bank while also remaining a reasonable program for the customers.


To ensure a thorough review, we began by understanding what the current process was, as well as the strategy behind it:

  • What are the rules?
  • How did it align with the bank’s overall customer strategy? 
  • How often are fees overridden…and why? 
  • Do these reviews involve manual processes?

Once we understood the bank’s current procedure, we looked at:

  • The competitive environment
  • The bank’s desired approach, in terms of both philosophy and value
  • Customer behavior and needs

Then, we dug deep into the data:

  • Our calculations and analysis were designed to find opportunities and consider a broad range of scenarios that were in tune with the bank’s larger customer strategy, that satisfied the current regulatory environment, and that would be intuitive to both the internal staff and the customer.


  • The bank was waiving more overdraft fees than expected. Top-performing community financial institutions have collection rates of 95%; they were below that average, and also continuing on a downward trend.
  • There was a significant level of arbitrary and discretionary waiving of fees not guided by procedural rules.
  • Waiving those fees involved a time-consuming, manual process that further eroded profitability.
  • There was an opportunity to increase fees and, correspondingly, income—while still maintaining competitiveness and the integrity of the overall customer strategy.

We understand the desire to balance increasing income with being as customer-friendly as possible. It was no surprise that differing opinions existed within the organization regarding how the fees should be handled, as well as how fee changes might be viewed from a regulatory standpoint. To effectively address this, we considered multiple calculations/scenarios and provided a middle-ground recommendation, along with other options, to ensure we effectively represented the impact of the different decisions being considered.

The bank is finalizing their decision, and we will be working with them to implement their updated fee strategy effectively.  This straightforward analysis will increase the bank’s fee income. In fact, with minimal effort, they could be on track to increase it by more than 10% annually.

Interested in exploring your organization’s fee income opportunities? Wondering if it’s time to explore a product redesign?

We would be happy to discuss our thoughtful approach with you.

What to Do When Mortgage Production Falls: Six Strategies for Growth


Mortgage originations were down nearly 20% in the first quarter of 2018. This followed a decline in 4th quarter of 2017 and represented the lowest quarterly production level since the end of 2014, according to Inside Mortgage Finance.

We can talk about the “whys,” but none of the reasons are likely news to you: higher interest rates, first-time home buyers scared away by higher home prices, and the dread of participating in what can be a cutthroat process in a sellers’ market—as just-listed homes receive multiple cash offers on the first day and end up selling well above listing price. Add in the fact that annual mobility rates within the U.S. seem to be stuck at a postwar low rate of 11%, and the listless market is no surprise (Source: U.S. Census).

Even before this downturn, you may have found yourself facing a more competitive selling environment.  Mortgage providers have gotten more aggressive in their acquisition programs in recent years, leaving you working against more competitors, more attention, and that ever-present issue of enhanced technology.  How can you compete?

Many of our clients are successfully doing so, despite the factors noted, with the implementation of strategic and tailored solutions that reflect the conditions in their areas and the people in their market.


  1.  If home prices are rising in your area, look for prospects who might refinance to eliminate their PMI, lower their payment, or shorten their term. The financial benefit you can provide to these customers often outweighs a higher interest rate.
  2.  Increasing home equity also gives you the opportunity to find customers who would like to access extra cash. (A recent HELOC expansion program we implemented delivered an ROI of more than 3.0, and a separate program to spur use of inactive HELOCs resulted in a phenomenal ROI of 99.0.)
  3. Even if the interest rates aren’t reflective of a great refi market, you likely have pre-retirement customers and prospects who are realizing that it’s time to get more aggressive about paying down their mortgage. Look for ways to help them lower their rate and shorten their term.
  4. Watch for short-term opportunities—and have a campaign or program waiting on the shelf. When mortgage rates hit 5%, ARM products typically become immensely popular.  If you plan now, you can be first to sense the altered demand and quickly have your program in the market. Alternatively, in some markets, Jumbos afford opportunity.
  5. Increase outreach to centers of influence–particularly realtors and builders. Strong relationships with these individuals can boost pipelines of profitable new business.
  6. Commit to your course and promote, promote, promote!  Make sure your name is out there and your value is communicated. (Recently, for example, a client launched a campaign stressing the value of their experience and expertise to consumers struggling to understand and react to the changing market—a welcome opportunity to promote value beyond just rate.) Have access to a library of content in your CRM system? Encourage your team to launch automated touchpoint campaigns that target prospects and previous customers in meaningful ways–with messages that are relevant to their particular circumstances. Leverage digital campaigns, with lower acquisition costs. Do everything you can to ensure you will be top of mind when the customer is ready.

It’s helpful to note that success can often be achieved through straightforward programs that don’t require elaborate efforts to implement. We have seen strong results and positive ROIs (a 6.0 on our most recent effort) when we work with clients and target customers and prospects—even with simple mortgage propensity programs. We’re able to use customer data, P$ycle segmentation data, and other relevant information to target effectively. 

A look at three recent direct mail campaigns executed by Galapagos Marketing.

Not to be discounted is the fact that these programs can also improve the lives of customers by helping them get what they needed: through better rates or terms, access to cash, and increased convenience.  Growing your business and improving your customers’ lives is, of course, a winning combination.

Let us know the greatest challenges you are facing in the mortgage business. Email or call us anytime.

Your Brand, Your Story: How Storytelling Sets You Apart


In 1940, Frank was preparing to marry the love of his life, Barb. Frank, a farmer in a poor rural community, saved for months in hopes to scrape together enough for a modest ring. But as their wedding day – September 20 – approached, Frank was still short on cash for his wife-to-be’s ring. He sought out a loan to make up the difference. When other banks wouldn’t loan him the $25 he needed, his local community bank did.

Nearly eight decades later, Frank and his wife are still in love – with each other and that bank. They still bank there and, according to Barb’s recently-completed bank survey, "couldn’t imagine banking anywhere else."


This is a story from one of our clients. It epitomizes what they stand for and how they do business. In essence, it’s come to be its brand: A Midwest-based community bank that’s been around since the 1800s, they pride themselves on helping others when no one else will. They have dozens of stories like this one that all connect with the crux of what their brand stands for – strong community relationships through support of its individuals.

Those who work at financial institutions know that the bulk of the workday is spent assisting customers with their transactions and making sure that all systems are operating effectively and securely. Is that work important? Absolutely. Compelling, when described in this manner? Not so much.

Every activity that occurs in a bank or credit union, large or small, is a difference maker for the people they affect. And finding your brand story is just a matter of looking beyond the transaction, getting to the human element behind the mechanics of banking.

Why Tell Your Stories?

Your stories help differentiate your company by creating a sense of connection and understanding that communicates your advantage far beyond theoretical concepts of banking products and good customer service.

  • People connect to stories. In many ways, stories allow you to communicate information about your company that audiences might ignore if placed in formal marketing communications.
  • Your audiences will see beyond a standard list of financial services and know that your company has something more to offer.
  • People will likely want to align themselves with your company, because your values seem to align with their own—giving you opportunities to deepen relationships with existing customers and develop relationships with potential ones.

Recently, we’ve seen a flood of community financial institutions invest in the power of brand. In a sea of sameness – predictable logo colors, similar mission statements, similar product offerings – it’s time for an awakening of sorts. As we work with FIs, we’ve seen how the power of finding your institution's stories can frame the definition of who you are and what your brand needs to communicate. We’re helping community FIs redefine their brands, and storytelling is at the heart of it all.


Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to communicate a brand’s values. Making a human connection through a story – rather than a recital of facts and product offerings – provides the opportunity to connect with an intriguing, authentic narrative and a strategic message that enhances the brand, customer relationship, and organization.

So, why aren’t you telling your story?

Every company has a story to tell, but have you ever been able to put your finger on what yours is (or should be)?

It’s probably easier than you think, and your story can practically write itself. So, how can you get started?

Discover the Stories

  1. Start with your employees.  Engage them in sharing their favorite experiences and encounters while working at the bank. Look for the human or emotional connection.
  2. Don’t stop with one. There are many chapters and layers to your brand and your success. Keep looking for them.
  3. Find the stories that connect with your mission and plan, then use them to convey key attributes of your brand. Is your bank consistently warm and thoughtful? Perhaps you lend to community members who other banks hesitate to take a chance on. Find your theme and tell stories that support it.

Successfully Share Them

  1. Take care to articulate the story well. Include the emotion or element of humanity that will resonate with your audience.
  2. …but keep it short and sweet. An impactful story is one that can be easily remembered and re-told. Focus on the problem, the solution, and the success.
  3. Tie these stories to the value proposition that you offer your customers and community.

If you need help telling a compelling story—or help finding a strong story to tell—contact us.

Feeling Buried? A Lesson From the Legendary St. Bernard

TWO out of THREE organizations will fail at implementing strategic plans this year. Here’s how you can be the one that succeeds.

Long before these high-spirited, drool-coated canines found a place in our hearts (and next to us on the sofa), St. Bernard dogs made a name for themselves during the late 1700s by saving lives. Monks used the burly dogs to help them on rescue missions during treacherous snow storms in the St. Bernard Pass, a path that led travelers through the Alps between Italy and Switzerland.


The dogs, working in pairs, continually made rescues for 150 years – saving buried, tired, and injured travelers. One dog would lay on the stranded traveler to provide warmth while the other alerted the monks for help. The dogs became so reliable, that when Napoleon and his 250,000 soldiers crossed the St. Bernard Pass between 1790 and 1810, there were zero casualties.

What does this have to do with your marketing strategy?

While we sincerely hope your corporate hallways are not as treacherous as the St. Bernard Pass, come April every year they may be susceptible to an avalanche of their own - the one that comes with first-quarter strategy stall.

In our 20+ years consulting with community financial institutions, we’ve seen organizations' enthusiasm for strategic execution fade as people get buried by their day-to-day workloads. ‘I’ll start that tomorrow’ turns into ‘Let’s push that to next quarter’, and good initiatives die on the vine.

While you may feel it’s only your organization experiencing this, think again. Two out of every three organizations will fail at carrying out their strategic plans this year. Lack of execution is top-of-mind for every exec. In fact, when Harvard Business Review surveyed CEOs about their biggest concerns, strategy execution topped the list – right along with the economy, innovation, and topline growth.

Many organizations buckle down on strategy with antiquated methods to get back on track that end up further stalling progress – see HBR’s ‘Why Strategy Execution Unravels – and What to Do About It’ video -- but sometimes, it's the simple fact of being buried that stalls progress and points to, if not a brandy cask, then a strategic partner to help dig out and get your agenda back on track.

That’s where Galapagos comes in.

Community banking is our focus. We understand the organizational and market challenges you face in executing effective strategy. We’ve purposely built our team to complement yours, providing specialized help in the areas of planning, market insight, project management, and marketing communications – precisely when and where you need it. 

To get a better idea of how we help, take a look at some of the projects we're working on for other community FIs.

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7 out of 10 bank executives agree: Strategic planning fails to deliver

Perhaps that’s why 87% of organizations fail to execute on the plans they produce every year? It’s difficult to generate the necessary enthusiasm and tenacity required to execute on a plan that fails to inspire. So check out ten questions to ask to make sure your plan stays relevant.

The Changing Basis of Customer Loyalty

Let me guess – you compete on service. The majority of community banks say they do. It makes perfect sense when 94% of customers cite excellent service as the #1 consideration in choosing their banking provider, according to our most recent Community Bank Customer Commitment and Loyalty Survey.

But do you know what comprises “Excellent customer service” in the minds of your customers?

Atom Bank: Splitting the Industry

Are you “insidious and self-interested?” (Not you personally, but your bank?)

These are the words used by Mark Mullen, CEO and founder of Atom Bank, to describe Britain’s legacy banks. Atom is one of four, so-called, “challenger” banks who have been issued coveted licenses in the U.K. to provide a new, digital and optimized-for-mobile banking experience to attract the next generation of customers.

There is no doubt that capturing this new wave of banking customers will be a challenge. And we always knew it would take continued investment in technology… but rebranding as well?

Why a good website isn't enough

A well-designed, experience-rich website is at the core of any successful digital strategy. But for community banks, it’s not enough to drive new business.

Leveraging insights from the study of leading online-only and mobile financial solutions companies to employ a distinctive digital strategy can help community banks compete effectively and double their online business.

Triple your new checking account acquisition

Off-the-shelf checking acquisition programs have been a staple in the industry for nearly 20 years. For some banks, they’ve proven successful in generating new accounts and driving fee income. But increasingly, their performance has left a lot to be desired. 

A new approach tested by Galapagos clients has delivered results far superior to those free-and-a-gift programs, with higher response rates and generating new customer relationships beyond just free checking.

Dipping Your Toes in Social Media: LinkedIn

As a first step, it’s a good thing to look at what social media channels you’re using, how you’re using them and if they can be of assistance to help you with your business goals. I’m of the belief that not everything needs to be a venue to sell (surely you each have someone in your Facebook timeline right now who is constantly talking about that ONE THING that they sell – and every post from them is about how great that thing is and why you should buy in). Using social media like that alienates your connections and is a surefire way to get you unfriended (or, if your friends are more conflict avoidant, they’ll merely hide you from their news feed so they never see anything you post – without actually having to pull that trigger and unfriend you).

Your efforts should be measured and balanced – and from a professional standpoint, you should start by directing your focus towards one platform: LinkedIn.

(That’s not to say you should never post about what you do or seek referrals on Facebook – but feel free to keep that personal channel mostly personal! There will be more about Facebook to come next time!)

Why LinkedIn?

Because LinkedIn is primarily a business/networking social media platform, people are more receptive to your messages here. LinkedIn is not only a great tool to network with your colleagues, it’s a fantastic venue to read up on a prospect you wish to call on, or someone you’ll be meeting, prior to your meeting. A quick scan of someone’s profile gives you a chance to do a bit of sleuthing prior to your meeting – do you have any connections in common? Interests? Did you go to the same school?

The things you post on LinkedIn will show up in the feed of those you are connected with – you have a chance to post content that positions you as being up-to-date on what’s going on in the industry. The things you like on LinkedIn will also show up in the feeds of your connections (so don’t hesitate to “Like” posts from your organization’s LinkedIn page, or your teammates!). You’re all probably reading some fantastic industry specific news – don’t be afraid to share those articles with a little blurb – especially if that article relates to something that you can provide, or guidance you can offer.

Example – President Obama announced in January 2015 that FHA would drop the mortgage insurance rate. It would have been reasonable to post a link to that article with commentary – perhaps something along the lines of: “This is great news if you have an FHA loan – because it means that refinancing now allows you not only to take advantage of current low mortgage rates, but the drop in mortgage insurance rate as well!”

If you haven’t looked at LinkedIn in awhile, dust it off. Your efforts need not dwarf the efforts you spend with your existing clients or following up on leads received through your website – once your LinkedIn profile is polished and updated, you can get away with spending as little as 15 minutes a week there.

What you need on your LinkedIn profile:

  • A professional looking profile photograph – does it have to be a stern, personality-void headshot? No. It’s okay if your photo conveys who you are – however, this is probably not that venue for a picture of you with your kids and certainly not the place for that selfie you took in a restroom mirror.
  • A title that is representative of what you do – this is one of the most prominent fields when someone clicks on your profile, just below your name – and is one of the top-level categories when searching on LinkedIn. (Example of a great title: Senior Mortgage Loan Officer with your organization).
  • Summary – Who are you and what do you do? This summary is your chance to describe your current focus – be specific! Instead of saying “mortgages” – add detail – do you like to work with first time homebuyers? Do you really love to work on refinances or FHA loans? The more specific detail, the better – because it helps create that bigger picture of what you do for someone browsing or searching LinkedIn.
  • Experience – While it’d be ideal to have your profile complete with all of your work history, for starters, just make sure your current role is there and complete. Ultimately, you’ll want this to be as complete as possible – but Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  • Skills & Endorsements – This calls for you to once again name your key areas of focus. In this section, you can select up to 50 skills and areas of expertise to note on your profile. These are the things that will pop up on LinkedIn for your connections to endorse you. (Yes, the endorsing thing is strange in that people who have no real knowledge of just how good you are at xyz can endorse you for that very skill!) Here you have the opportunity to once again shine the spotlight on WHAT YOU DO BEST.