How Credit Union Websites Are Like Cars

Some credit union websites are pretty. Many are ugly. Ugly or pretty, most of them don’t ‘work’. In my experience, most financial firm’s websites, even the pretty ones, fail to move the business forward.

To be clear, by ‘work’ I mean you have some business objective in mind and ‘working’ means you are moving towards that objective for your credit union or other business.

I was with a client the other day, talking about websites and why some ‘work’ and most don’t.

On reflection, here’s why thinking about your website as a car can help. These are the five elements that make cars (and websites) work. From most obvious to most overlooked.

The design

We tend to judge a car by its looks. When seeing a car for the first time, the way it looks instantly makes us feel a certain way. Excitement, repellence or indifference.

We talk about ‘designing’ a new website. And for good reason. Images, colours, layout and fonts are all vitally important to get right of course. If visitors can’t read and navigate your website easily on a mobile phone then you may as well not bother at all. 

Design has a huge impact on how we react to seeing a website for the first time. For a business website, design plays a crucially important role in getting visitors to consider taking action that ultimately contribute to your business goals. Prettiness is not the goal.

Making your website visitor feel welcome and intrigued is however, just the first step. The look and feel of your website also needs to align with their expectation of a financial organisation. That means the design has to instil a feeling of trust and confidence. Without it, your website visitor is hardly likely to contemplate entrusting their finances with you.

If your site looks like it was thrown together with a DIY website builder, they’ll understandably run a mile.

In a world of distractions, if by some miracle, we have managed to get someone to visit our website we need make them feel welcomed, intrigued and confident enough to investigate what’s in it for them.

The engine

How a website does what is does, is like the engine of a car. It’s what makes it do something useful, like get you from A to B.

In your case that might be enabling a visitor to run a calculator, sign-up for a newsletter, pay a joining- fee, apply for a loan, or set up a savings plan.

Netflix, Amazon and Uber have conditioned us to expect an ever more smooth experience. As a result, those expectations are rising all the time.

If you try to force people to download forms, print them off, fill them in and post them back then don’t be surprised by the result.

Almost no-one will take out a loan when they visit even the best websites for the first time. The most effective websites are built to encourage visitors to take mini-steps as they gain trust over time and over multiple visits.

The irony is that what makes a car do what it’s supposed to do, is invisible. The engine (like the air conditioning or sat nav system) cannot be seen. The equivalent to a car engine in your website is computer code.

The code that makes your website work cannot be seen and yet… your visitors will judge your website (and by extension your business) by what it does and how well it performs.

Like a car, your site needs to meet your visitor’s (ever rising) expectations and perform as well as it’s looks suggest.

The dashboard

OK, let’s assume (haha) you have the equivalent of a car that looks OK, and is capable of doing what it’s supposed to do.

What’s next? Well, many people will think of a speedometer to gauge how fast it’s going and maybe a rev-counter. The temptation is to cram your dashboard with all kinds of knobs and dials.

The problem is that without measuring the things that matter (those that move your business forward) you’ll end up not being able to see the wood for the trees. Plugging-in Google Analytics and occasionally glancing at random stats is utterly pointless.

When it comes to your website, it pays to set things up properly to track what really matters. Yes, you want a dashboard but it needs to help you see the right things at the right time. For example, which of your social media, SEO, email marketing and ad campaigns are giving you the best ROI in terms of moving the needle on your business. Where are you getting the biggest bangs for your buck?

As the old saying goes, if you aren’t measuring it, you aren’t managing it.

The fuel

No point in having a great looking car that does 0-60 in 2.6 seconds (like a Tesla Model S P90D in ‘Ludicrous’ mode) if there’s on-one around to drive it.

Let’s not forget, your website is a means to help your ideal customers (or members) reach their goals. Replace the broken washing machine, pay for Christmas or go on that overdue holiday.

They are in the driving seat.

The equivalent to a car driver for your website, is a visitor who chooses to take control of the journey to becoming a customer (or member). In practise, this is a process that will take days, weeks, months or even years of repeated visits to your website (as well as your email, social media and 3rd-party sites).

But how do you get visitors to your website – some of whom will hopefully turn into customers (or members)?

There are many ways but in the end it’s all about communication. And that means media or ‘content’. Useful articles, how-to guides, info-graphics and educational videos are merely the tip of the iceberg.

The right ‘content’, in the right place, at the right time goes a long way toward making people aware of your existence, earning their trust and ultimately leading them to the driving seat (of your website). Like a car, your website needs regular top-ups of the right fuel.

You won’t get the drivers you need without enough of the right fuel (or content).

The magic ingredient…

The trouble is, no matter how great the car looks, no matter how well built and finely tuned the engine, even with a full tank of fuel and a driver, the car will not move.

The car will not move without lubricant.

This is the final element, the most powerful and yet the most overlooked. The one that serves to motivate the driver (of your website) to take action. Its purpose is to show them the destination and move them to take action.

The lubricant for your website is what marketers call ‘copy’. Copy is the power of the words on your website. Words that convey emotion (as well as cold logic). Words that earn trust. Build credibility. And move people to action.

Copy can be anything from button labels to tag lines to product descriptions and many others. The difference between getting this right and messing it up is enormous in terms of the impact on your business.

Most people either aren’t aware of the power of lubricant (‘copy’), or else they put the wrong lubricant in the car. Worst of all, they mistake their destination with that of the driver. They simply shout at random visitors to ‘apply for a loan now’. And they wonder why nothing happens.

You are not the driver. And the destination is not about where you want to go.

Thinking about who’s destination the car (or website) is for, changes the game. Getting that right is the key to getting the car to move.


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Ben Breen

Ben is a co-founder at NestEgg. He's been transforming the bottom-line for startups to tier one investment banks for over 30 years via digital technology & growth strategy. Tai chi and leaf tea keep him going.

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