by Randy Schultz, Weber Marketing Group
As long as we insist on telling members and consumers things they don’t really care about, what kind of measurement of success are we going to achieve as a credit union? Are we helping people solve their problems – or is it an attempt to have them use our products and services to solve our own growth and profitability issues? Yes, as is usually the case, I have more questions than answers.
So what are members interested in? It’s not the fact that you provide checking and savings and loans. Many financial institutions do that. They want to know how you can help them solve their problems. One of the most effective ways to communicate your ability to solve problems is through stories – true stories about how the credit union has helped members attain a goal or moved them forward on the path of life. Stories engage our emotions and bring the products and services we offer to life. This, in turn, spurs people to take action to replicate that success in their own lives.
Let’s face it – unless you have a member who is a true advocate of your credit union, or credit unions in general, most consumers see little difference between financial institutions. We both provide banking services? We both tell everyone we’re caring, responsive and personal? Although we love “differentiating” ourselves by talking about membership, being a cooperative – a not-for-profit and advocating for members, the market share of credit unions tell us that this message may not be resonating with the average person. And statistics I’ve seen recently truly seem to echo the fact that overall market-share has eluded us as the cohesive industry we’d like to think we are.
Many of you may say, “It’s not quantity of members, it’s quality of members.” And if that translates into greater profitability for the credit union, I’m all for it! But can we survive on those members alone? I for one would love to think there are enough of them out there to go around for the just over 7,000 credit unions who are left (this month).
And then there’s the millennial market that will someday save our credit unions with their wealth, passion for change and technology (so we don’t have to keep building all those branches they never use – another fallacy by the way). Do we honestly believe that banking is anywhere near the top of the priority list when you’re 17,19, 21? I would challenge you to think back to when you were that age. What were your priorities? Did they have anything to do with joining a member-owned financial cooperative? This doesn’t mean we should ignore this important market. But to engage them, you need to find out what they hold near and dear to their hearts (besides their iPhones). Discover what problems of theirs you can solve and see how any part of your brand aligns. If it doesn’t, believe me you’re going to have a hard time attracting their attention and little chance of keeping it long enough to tell them or show them why your credit union is any better than the community bank down the street.
As we look to continue to build membership to solidify our industry’s future in the financial marketplace, we need to ensure we’re not simply in the financial services business. Are we helping people solve their problems – or are we so busy solving our own…that we’ve lost focus?