Who are you?

CU Grow builds humanized digital marketing and lead generation systems for credit unions and community banks. We exist so that credit unions and community banks may continue to exist, and grow, in a humanized digital economy.

Why Did you start your business?

Long story short. During my sophomore year in college my girl told me in the library one day that I would never make it in my punk rock band and to do something with my life. So I quit my job waiting tables, sold my band equipment and started a "web design company" called Past the Present. The goal was to lead the business of today, past the present, and into the future of tomorrow. That was in 2002. And my how things have changed with technology, consumer behaviors and also with my business. Past the Present eventually became PTP NEW MEDIA in 2004 and for the next eight years we focused on the credit union market space. Eventually we grew into a full service marketing agency and spun off credit union focus t-shirt line that by itself generated over $1,000,000 in revenue. However, the rapid growth was also a challenge and in 2013 decided to take a step back and reinvent the company now a third time. But this time it was much harder as I was going to shrink things to grow again and once again rebranded with CU Grow. Now we take over 12 years of experience with much more focus and help credit unions and community banks plan, develop and optimize digital marketing and lead generation systems to lower acquisition costs for new accounts while increasing profitability of current account holders. The main problem we are solving is how to generate leads for loans and new accounts for credit unions and community banks in a humanized digital economy. As consumer behaviors change and they continue to adopt digital channels for product research, product purchase and even banking, credit unions and community bank lead generation models must also evolve. It is time to break the traditional marketing and operational rules and methods many credit unions and community banks have grown accustomed to over the past decades. It is time to adopt a new framework and operating model to generate and convert leads for loans and new accounts in a humanized digital economy. Over time, the agricultural economy gave way to the industrial economy. This then gave rise to the technological economy followed closely by both the digital and human driven economy. It’s the combination of the technology from the digital economy with the personalization of the human economy that leads us to a humanized digital economy. We define this humanized digital economy as digital processes or systems designed and optimized over time that offer personalized solutions to consumers’ needs at the most opportune time for purchase during the buying cycle based upon their individual persona and digital behavior. And this personalization goes much further than using a consumer’s name on a direct mail piece. It is now derived from taking into account all our personalities, demographic, psychographic, transactional and digital behaviors.

What makes your business unique?

We believe that digital is the future of lead generation but that does not mean lead generation has to be impersonal. By first defining specific market segments, credit unions and community banks can use humanized marketing automation platforms to deliver relevant content, such as video, through a mobile optimized user experience to generate and convert leads for loans and new accounts. Our five main areas of focus revolve around: Digital marketing planning and training Content marketing and distribution Marketing automation and user experience Ratings, referrals and reviews Web design and development We define content marketing as a process used to create and distribute relevant and valuable content on a frequent and consistent basis to attract, acquire, and extend an offer to a clearly defined market segment – with the primary objective of driving profitable consumer behavior and a secondary objective of positioning the credit union or community bank as a qualified financial matters expert within their community. Marketing automation software allows a credit union or community bank to scale recurring digital marketing and sales processes that improve the efficiency of execution to lower the cost of acquisition through digital segmentation, lead generation, lead capturing, lead nurturing and lead scoring while increasing the profitability and share of wallet through onboarding, cross-selling, retention and referrals. When combined together, marketing automation technology increases the effectiveness of content marketing by delivering humanized messages and offers regardless of where a lead is in the digital buying cycle. Everything we do is guided by the CU Grow Digital Lead Generation Framework. This framework consists of seven interconnected levels that helps take a lead from intent to conversion and beyond. Depending on an organization’s goals for growth, our digital marketing and lead generation framework can be optimized for three different activities: Goal Attract: Generate or re-activate leads - Top of the funnel (ToFu) Goal Acquire: Convert leads for loans and accounts - Middle of the funnel (MoFu) Goal Extend: Increase profitability and wallet share - Bottom of the funnel (BoFu) Target By analyzing a financial institution's CRM, PFM and core system, credit unions and community banks can segment their membership beyond traditional demographic data. Using both psychographic and transactional trends, organizations can further identify and segment markets to target through a variety of digital marketing channels. Capture Credit unions and community banks can complement their current calls to action with downloadable consumer resources including buying guides, checklists and on-demand webinars to assist a consumer in the buying process. Financial institutions can now capture a consumer’s basic information, while storing it in a CRM, to nurture the consumer with additional relevant content and touchpoints as they move through the buying process. Nurture By defining digital journeys, credit unions and community banks can map out a digital nurture strategy for each defined market segment and product offering. This provides a consumer with a highly tailored and customized digital experience that builds a digital relationship over time through relevant content. In addition, by employing lead scoring in the nurture process, credit unions and community banks can take a proactive approach by using CRM alerts to receive a notification to reach out to a consumer who is getting closer to conversion. Convert The work of a website is never finished as 65% of consumers have had a digital experience change their opinion about a brand. Even if a financial institution had their website developed in the past year, an ongoing investment in a website can help to ensure it is continuously optimized to convert leads for loans and new accounts in a humanized digital economy. In addition, the use of video on landing pages with related forms and calls to actions can increase conversions by 80%. Watch a Simple Digital Conversion Example >> Onboard A digital onboarding process that is properly mapped can be optimized and personalized for each consumer and product by using specific pieces of content in a predefined digital consumer journey. Video can also enhance and humanize the digital onboarding process. More importantly, onboarding can be an ongoing event to help improve member retention and engagement by offering tailored content and recommendations based upon specific digital behaviors a consumer makes. Cross-sell Using surveys in the digital onboarding process can provide additional consumer insights to help recommend other relevant financial products and services. In addition, providing advice and assistance to help a consumer use an account or service provides additional opportunity to increase share of wallet and total member lifetime value. Additional digital cross-sell opportunities can also be found through 3rd party loans and credit card data provided through a PFM or other online banking platform. Refer Referrals, the most trusted consumer marketing channel, could help credit unions and community banks realize a lower overall consumer acquisition costs in a digital future. By making referrals part of the digital lead generation process and system, financial institutions can begin to lower the overall consumer acquisition cost. Credit unions and community banks can also continue to generate leads for loans and new accounts from current account holders by providing a way to facilitate and incentivise these digital referrals.

What's the biggest mistake you've made with your business and what did you learn from it??

The last "real job" I had was 12 years waiting tables. I was fortunate enough to start my company while living at home with my parents giving me time to get things up and running while putting myself through school. Even though some say that I have been successful, I am troubled by that statement as I believe I have had a lot of failures along them way. Some public. Some personal. A couple of big things come to mind when I am asked this question. First is the fact of be careful of rapid growth. This is something that I experienced from 2008 - 2012 when the company grew from 2 people to 12 people. The problem was not the growth but how we were being forced to grow... by the market. For example, a client would bring us in for a project and then we were asked to do other things beyond our area of focus. Being young, I figured it was dumb to turn away the opportunity or money. This however put us on a path to creative burnout and a cycle of sell, create, execute, repeat. The more staff we had the more clients we needed. At this time I was also traveling and speaking on the road about 30 times a year. This caused great conflict back home with my wife as we had a 2 and 1 year old. By this point, the business was owning me. I was not owning the business. So I called in some outside help from a consultant. He gave me a new perspective and have had to make some real tough choices over the past year that I probably should have done earlier. I fired half of my staff as it was clear that some were spoiled and had become comfortable while at the same time I fired clients. Some of these clients had been long term clients but the problem was is they no longer valued our expertise and we had become nothing more than their creative bitch to execute half ass bull shit ideas. We had lost control and power in the relationship. During this process of destruction, I saw a future of hope but knew I had to make some tough changes. It was basically like starting over as CU Grow is a much more focused and mature organization that is being built smartly from the ground up using processes, frameworks and models to guide our thinking. I still struggle with the fact that I had once had a very "successful" business. However this "successful" business was running, and ruining, me and my relationship with my family was shit. I think this speaks greatly to the psychological challenges many entrepreneur face but no one really likes to talk about. I can not stress enough if you need help, get help. Professional help. A consultant. Even a therapist. Because sometimes that is what is needed to get out of your own head and see another path. Now as I build the business back up again for a third time I am keeping my priorities and check, putting my family first, have a much greater sense of self and see a much brighter future where I can redefine success on my own terms, not the marketplace.

what big goal do you have for your company and how do you plan to achieve it?

My big goal for CU Grow are to help keep select credit unions and community banks thrive in a humanized digital economy. I am wanting to make a deep impact on how they re-envision their business and lead generation models. This will be accomplished by leading with digital education, something that is greatly needed in financial services, as well as continuing to be guided by the CU Grow Digital Lead Generation Framework that will be optimized and improved overtime. Another important element to achieve this goal is to continue to position ourselves as the premier experts in digital marketing and lead generation for credit unions and community banks. This positioning will be achieved through our continued writing and speaking. In addition to a very active blog that is complemented by webinars and videos, I am also in the process of writing a book to showcase the digital marketing and lead generation expertise we bring to the financial services marketplace. While the above goals are important for the success of the business, the most important goal of all however is that of keeping my perspective as to what is really important in life which is my wife and kids. Without them, nothing else really matters and will eventually fade away. I want my legacy to live on through them.

what advice or tips do you have for people wanting to start their own business or follow their dreams?

Don't listen to the great lie inviting you to follow your passion, do what you love and you will be successful in business. That's straight up bullshit. There are many starving artist, actors and entrepreneurs who have done just that and have not made it. If you want to build a business that is sustainable. Find a problem. Solve a problem. Charge a lot for your solution. Make it better overtime. Don't get sucked into the business and lose yourself as a person. Find balance. Run. Think. Write. Eat healthy. Pray. Meditate. Reflect. Read. Learn. Sleep. Ask for help. Give back. Mentor. Share. Do the right thing. Stay positive. Have faith. And always... always... be thankful for what you have each day because no matter how much or how little you have, you are most likely much better off than many other people in this world.

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