You've always known your competition. It's the bank or credit union down the street. As long as your rates and your product offerings outsmarted your fellow banks' there was no need to concern yourself with other competition.

But a new era has dawned. And banks and credit unions' biggest competition is no longer each other. It's the big-box stores and web-based alternatives that are increasingly entering the financial services market.

Major retailers have been growing their banking customer bases over the past decade, and it's not simply based on prepaid cards and money orders alone. Big-box stores now offer many of the same things a bank or credit union offers, including checking accounts, debit cards and lending services.

Even solely web-based companies are getting in on the action, providing personal financial management tools that appeal to young up-and-comers with their sleek designs, millennial-friendly messaging and user-friendly mobile apps.

So what can you do? Meeting this new level of competition might be solved, at least in part, by your marketing strategies. For example… 

What's your message?

Many of the consumers taking advantage of big-box retailers and web-based financial-service providers are drawn in by the simplistic, easy-to-understand messaging. From fee transparency to conversational copy to language that neither intimidates nor condescends, banks and credit unions should implement a retail mentality to draw in straying customers.

When are you available?

Imagine a bank that's open 24 hours a day. That's what major retailers can offer your customers. Sure, the idea of paying for the overhead that 24/7 hours would entail is next to impossible. But extending your hours beyond the norm and offering more self-service options online and outside the locked doors of your closed branches can help you combat this retailer advantage.

What do you offer?

Your commercial lending and business banking products and services are probably your moneymakers. But there's something to be said for offering convenience services. Especially when these services are precisely the ones your customers are looking to big-box stores for. Consider adding more inclusive product offerings, such as money transfers and prepaid cards - they may not be your primary ROI drivers, but they'll afford you countless opportunities to upsell attracted customers and members to more profitable accounts down the road.


Where Do I Start?

It's a whole new ballgame. The best thing you can do is size up your competition. Take a look at what the big new players are doing, and pinpoint what makes you particularly excel or stand out above the sea of newbies. Then tell that story - don't let another customer or member walk out that door.

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