7 ways to get more (and better) creative ideas from your credit union team

Credit unions are a unique business. However, there are certain things that all businesses share. One of these is the need for innovation. Because the credit union business is constantly changing (now there’s an understatement!), it’s vital that credit unions keep innovating to stay ahead of the curve. And all innovation begins with a single, creative idea. But how do you get those creative ideas? Here are 7 ways that you, as a credit union leader, can get more (and better) creative ideas from your credit union team.

  1. Get them out of the workplace.

A change of location helps shake the brain out of its routine. It also gets people away from the multiple distractions of the workplace, which are not conducive to creativity. So try having a lunch meeting at a local restaurant. Maybe a nearby hotel has a nice lobby area for a small, informal meeting. If it’s nice outside, go to a park! Anyplace other than your credit union’s version of “Meeting Room C.”

  1. Give them the “What”; let them give you the “How.”

Nothing kills the creative spirit more than being micromanaged. Creative people (and we are all creative people) love being challenged. As a leader, it’s your job to set the goal (the “What”). Now, ask your team to come up with the “How.” Tip: prepare to be surprised by some brilliant ideas that you would never have thought of!

  1. Ask crazy questions.

When looking for creative solutions to your next credit union challenge, ask your team “crazy” questions. Questions like: “How would we solve this problem if we had $20 million to throw at it?” “How would a professional dancer solve this problem?” “How would three cats, working together, solve this problem?” Not only will this force your team members’ brains into their naturally creative space, you may just find the germ of an actual solution in some of the answers they come up with!

  1. Make a “play space.”

Creativity needs stimulation to thrive. People are more creative when they play. If possible, furnish one of your meeting rooms with a few toys (Nerf® balls, Legos®, etc.) and interesting, colorful magazines (not credit union—or any industry-related—magazines!). And, if you’re really serious about this, paint this room a shade of green. Studies show that the color green boosts creativity!

  1. Invite an outsider.

Every now and then, invite someone from outside the credit union (and, preferably, from outside the financial services industry) to sit in on a meeting. An artist, a comedian, an art historian. Someone who sees the world through a completely different lens than you or your team. This person might see solutions, or come up with ideas, that would never occur to someone from the credit union industry.

  1. Send your team out for a walk.

According to recent research done at Stanford, people do their best creative thinking while in motion—outdoors, down a corridor, or even just a treadmill. Many leaders have discovered the multiple benefits (including, of course, health) of holding “walking” meetings.

  1. Initiate “Plagiarism Friday.”

(Full disclosure: I plagiarized this idea from someone else, but I can’t remember whom.) Every Friday, have each member of your team bring in one great idea from outside the credit union industry and share what makes the idea creative and innovative. Then ask your team how that idea could be incorporated into the credit union.

  1. (a bonus tip!) Let your team know that ideas are welcome, encouraged, even required, from everyone.

No one has a monopoly on great ideas! That next breakthrough idea—the one that takes your credit union to the next level—can come from anyone on the team.

Creativity and innovation are the keys to your credit union’s success. Every new challenge (and it seems like there’s a new one every day) requires a creative solution. It’s up to you, as a credit union leader, to encourage, support, and value creativity from everyone on your team!
[“Source-ndtv”]

4 Ways Mobile Devices Impact Your Business and Marketing

4 Ways Mobile Devices Impact Your Business and Marketing

1.  Mobile devices have a smaller screen. This is painfully obvious, but have you designed for it? Mobile screens are changing e-mail messaging structures. I read an Infusionsoft report that highlighted this and implored customers to pay attention to the mobile screen. Dozens of others have followed suit. What will your customers see on a smaller screen? Is the subject line more important than ever because it is all they might see?

It is frequently stated that e-mail is dead due to mobile and social networks. E-mail is far from dead.  Although stats show that many people are migrating to social networks to communicate, consider the fact that Facebook recently decided to create an e-mail platform. Why? Because people need and want more than short updates and chat to communicate.  If you’re wondering what your e-mail might look like on a mobile device, Web-based service provider Email on Acid lets you test your e-mail as it will appear on many browsers and mobile devices.

The smaller mobile screen will also impact how a customer sees your website. Many mobile devices don’t allow or use Flash technology, so you have to think about that. It may be worth considering a mobile marketing platform instead. One of the top mobile site builders is mobiSiteGalore. Yes, it would be a pain to maintain two sites, but it could also be more cost effective.

2.  Location, location, location used to be the real estate world’s maxim, but should now be the marketing and small business owner’s maxim.  Location-based offers and services will change how customers engage in almost every way. Customers have the ability to be hyper-connected with their social networks.  You have only to look at Foursquare and Gowalla to get a glimpse of the power of location.

3.  Use of mobile apps is growing. Whether you know it or not, customers are scanning and comparison shopping, on the spot, in your retail store.  Search and search engine optimization are rapidly changing. On the Droid X I’m testing and will be reviewing here shortly, one of the top apps was a barcode scanner used via the smartphone camera.  Think of how you can tie mobile coupons to your offers.

I worked on a project in Japan years ago; in that country, I could use my cell phone to pay for an in-store purchase.  Japan leads U.S. mobile technology by five to 10 years and possibly Europe and other parts of Asia by one or two years.  Along with your Google Places (or Facebook Places) page, you can add a QR code (like a barcode) to your site, to your retail store window and your e-mails. The viewer or recipient can scan that code with a smartphone and receive a special offer or welcome message.  There are a few easy QR creation sites out there if you want to create a code for your site, e-mail or storefront.

4.  Text messaging still matters. Even with the growth of iPhones and Droid-powered smartphones, these are still only a slice of the mobile market. Millions of people are still engaging via text messaging and SMS platforms. Your customer will opt-in to text message (SMS) offers. You don’t have to wait for smartphone usage to completely dominate. Text is a favorite way consumers communicate, but is not used often enough as a way to market. Again, this isn’t spam, but permission-based marketing.

One of the best posts I’ve read about mobile marketing trends came from one of our contributors, Paul Rosenfeld of Fanminder. Granted, Paul is in the mobile marketing (SMS) space and has some bias, but he paints a fair picture from all I’ve seen and studied about mobile.  One important note from that post: “Gen Yers (18-29) say their phone is the most important device they own.” I would argue that other generations are saying the same thing.

If you want to get just a taste of the many mobile applications for small business, read my 19 Mobile Apps post.  What mobile apps are you using, developing, or researching?  Please share them here in the comments.

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

10 Ways to Improve Your Business with Mobile Technology

A recent study shows how reliant small businesses have become on mobile technology. The 2013 AT&T Small Business Technology Poll says 85 percent of small businesses now use some kind of smartphone. And 80 percent of small firms founded less than two years ago use tablets, the survey also showed.

Customers are becoming more mobile too. The International Data Corporation, a global marketing intelligence firm, says the number of smartphones shipped now outpaces the number of “regular” cell phones worldwide. Tablets are on the increase with customers too.

Improve Your Business With Mobile Technology

Add Mobile Payment Options for Customer Convenience ~ USA Today

Uyen Nguyen owner of Lemongrass Truck, a growing food truck business, reckons her budding company would be nowhere at all without mobile technology. Her company uses tablets to take credit card payments at points of sales and uses social media to let mobile customers know where their truck will be located from day to day. Mobile technology makes sense to Nguyen because her whole business is mobile.

Arm Your Sales Team With Mobile Tools ~Tweak Your Biz

Zoe Maldonado, blogger at TechBreach, writes about the tools of the modern sales force. These include smartphones, PDAs, laptops and tablets. Smartphones and tablets provide mobile sales teams with constant communications and productivity tools including email, internet scheduling and calendars. Mobile business applications allow teams to do presentations, engage in social collaboration and even prepare invoices.

Use QR Codes to Engage Customers in the Mobile Space ~ Right Hand Planning

Online marketing and SEO consultant Peter Semple gives two case studies showing how small businesses can do this. In one instance, a savvy auto mechanic sent out a direct mail piece with a QR code allowing customers to download his mobile app. In another, a local promotional clothing company offers customers a protective sleeve for wireless credit cards. On the sleeve is printed a QR code to the company’s mobile store.

Add Cloud-Based Software-as-a-Service for Mobile ~ TechCrunch

Companies like T-Mobile have begun offering cloud-based services for mobile customers, including telephony features like voicemail, CallerID, conference bridges and more. Increasingly, these services will now be available for the small business market, too. This latest package is aimed at companies with 20 or fewer employees.

Increase Agility and Reduce Costs ~ Firmology

Boil it all down and the real benefit of mobile technology is agility and efficiency. Sam Frymer, founder of personal consulting firm the Awesomeness Institute, points to the time you save sharing information instantly via email, social media, or other electronic documents from no matter where you are. Add to this eliminating paper from your world completely and you can begin to see the increased efficiency and decreased costs.

Use Mobile Apps for Management Tasks ~ Digital Journal

A study by email marketing company Constant Contact finds small businesses are using mobile apps for a host of management activities. The study found small businesses most often used apps for activities like scheduling and time management, customer communications, GPS and mapping and accounting and invoicing.

Do Banking in the Mobile World ~ American Banking

There’s at least one other small business task you can complete using mobile apps, though it’s a task that didn’t show up on the list of popular activities in the Constant Contact study. Small businesses can use mobile apps to do their banking too. Check out the latest feature on Jot, a mobile app Chase provides its business customers.

Use Mobile Video Messaging Apps ~ OurHelix Blog

Mobile video apps aren’t limited to Vine, the 6-second looping video app Twitter acquired while still in development and launched a few months ago. There are also apps like Tout and Viddy. Amy Nedoss, strategic direction and business development leader for OurHelix, takes us through some of the basic differences between these apps and then gives us an overview of what businesses can do with each.

Create a Mobile Friendly Website ~ Entrepreneur

Your website should be easy for mobile users to view. One way to accomplish this is to simplify your web design so it is easier to view on a smaller screen like the one on a smartphone. Another is to create a special mobile version of your site designed specifically with mobile visitors in mind.

Look Into Responsive Design ~ Small Business Trends

When looking into creating a mobile friendly website, one term that keeps coming up is “responsive design.” Simply put, this means creating a website that is not designed for a specific format. Instead, this kind of website resizes itself based upon the screen of the device upon which it is being viewed. In practice, this may be the most versatile solution for the issue of making your site friendly to mobile users.

Have we missed something? Tell us how you’re using mobile technology to improve your business today.

[“source-smallbiztrends”]