Achieve membership growth and loyalty by identifying shared values

Creating a credit union members will rally behind

Almost every credit union I talk to says membership growth and member loyalty are major challenges they are trying to address. For every new membership opened, another is closed because it is dormant. Improving awareness and understanding are closely related as marketers try to reach larger and more diverse potential membership bases.

Additionally, in an age of mergers and expanding fields of membership, the challenges are exacerbated if we lose focus on the differentiating factors of our credit union and the importance of connecting to members through shared values.

We need to get back to owning the cooperative difference and tap into culture to build brand ambassadors and earn member loyalty.

What does that look like? Think of products, brands, and organizations for which you really feel an affinity. And not just “oh yeah, I’ll drive across town for their donuts because they’re the best!” I’m talking about “I read every newsletter the second it hits my inbox, I started a local users meet-up, and I’m writing my third fan-fiction novel.”  

It’s the level of fandom that not many reach. It’s the world of Harley-Davidson, Lego, and maybe your local food co-op. There’s engagement, even love because these brands understand the culture and connect with their customer’s values.

Start with Empathy

If you want to build a credit union that gets people truly excited – like members giving high-fives when they see your debit card being drawn out to pay, similar to VW drivers flashing peace signs in passing –  you need to start by getting to know your members at a deeper level. You need empathy.

It’s one thing to know the demographics, saving, borrowing and spending habits of your membership. It’s an entirely different story to know their goals and aspirations, what success looks like to them and what obstacles are getting in their way.

Take the time to determine who you are building your credit union for. Then, make sure your team knows what it’s like to walk in their shoes. Conduct interviews, surveys, focus groups, and data dives to fill in the whole story.

Create a Sustainable Difference

After you have a crystal clear picture of who you’re shaping your credit union to serve, assess your operations and business culture. Determine where you’re not meeting your members’ basic product and service needs, and create a roadmap to get there.

At that point, you’ve offered the table stakes. But because you know your members, next is when you identify your unique difference, your winning hand. What can you do differently to uniquely deliver solutions for your members’ needs and offer services or community involvement that support their values?

Understanding culture and changes in culture can help you answer this question. Consider what’s going on in their lives and the issues that matter to them. Determine which ones you can address and build it into the values of your credit union.

Maybe your original SEG was in manufacturing and a large portion of your membership base is currently facing job instability and unemployment due to outsourcing. You could decide that you will make a difference by helping your members find stability and build wealth. That could mean training your front line to be financial counselors; developing products that make it easier to afford regular expenses during job transitions; supporting new businesses and entrepreneurs; and partnering with organizations that help with re-training, skills development, and job placement. Making this a focus, you could help your members regain stability and pride in their employment.  

Designing your operations, your mission and your partnerships around values that connect you to your membership builds stronger bonds. You’re making sure members are coming to you for more than rates and they’ll be more likely to become ambassadors and megaphones for your credit union.

Be Authentic

Finally, to get this right, it has to be authentic. When there’s a disconnect in what we’re saying and what our members are experiencing, it spells nothing but trouble. Consider the PR nightmare one airline is currently facing, the backlash a cola recently experienced from a “tone-deaf” ad on race-related protests, or the SNL comedy sketch on the cause bandwagon-jumping of Super Bowl Ads.

If you are aligning yourself with a group, community or cause, make sure you understand it. Have people who can give you the insight you need on your staff, boards, and committees. Going back to my earlier examples, Lego doesn’t just sell toys, they know how to connect with makers and have fostered a community that rallies around creativity and expression through engineering.

There are no one-size-fits-all way to implement this because each credit union and community is different. Always start with your member, then decide how you can make a difference to them.

Jennifer Laud

Jennifer Laud

Jennifer is a credit union marketing consultant and the owner of Jennifer Laud Consulting. She has a background in strategy and a passion for positioning credit unions to find their ... Web: Details