As credit unions enter strategic planning season, we’re analyzing ratios, reviewing expenses and evaluating financial performances from 2019 as well as determining plans and goals for 2020. Everyone is trying to figure out how to get a bigger piece of the pie (wallet share) while maintaining the credit union philosophy (people helping people) and positively impacting the financial wellness of their member-owners.
As we reach for the stars, we’re also limited by the reality of the resources we have available to achieve our goals. Financial resources. Human resources. Technology resources. In the competitive space of financial institutions, a small credit union can still be relevant! And competitive. Bigger isn’t always better. We work with many credit unions under $50M in assets with one location, and they’re holding their own in the financial institution marketplace.
As you’re planning for 2020, here are some easy ways to elevate your marketing activities. Even for the smallest credit unions with the most limited resources.
- Review and Update Your Website.
Regularly. Often. And then again. This should be a given. But sadly, it is not. It’s astounding what credit unions have on their websites that is incorrect, outdated, or missing. If you’re a small credit union, your website may fall by the wayside. It works, and that’s good enough. But your website could be the first (and last!) impression a potential member has of your credit union. I encourage you to look at your entire website. Top to bottom. Every click. Every tab. Swap out pictures. Add member testimonials. Share real life member stories. Review content. Make sure everything is current. And accurate. Here’s a tip: Go buy a handful of $1 scratch off lottery tickets. Tell your staff you’ll give someone a lottery ticket every time they find something on the website that needs corrected or updated. You’ll be surprised at how many eyes are critically reviewing your site!
- Think big, crazy, impossible, never-in-a-million-years.
The sky’s the limit. Take a MacGyver approach on this one. Think of the wildest, craziest, biggest ideas you can come up with, and then see how you can convert it to a real-life project. Look at the opportunities within your reach and see how you can transform that into a member solution. For example, we tell the members what a downward spiral those payday lenders can be, but many credit unions never really had an alternative solution. Especially for those members with less than perfect credit. Until recently. Enter the “No Credit Check” Loan. Years ago, a No Credit Check Loan was unheard of. We’ve had credit union clients initially gasp at the thought of it. No way. Never. Not here. But we’ve had several small credit unions that have had tremendous success with this loan product, and the members love, love, love it. Delinquencies and charge-offs are minimal. With a thorough policy and checks and balances in place, this loan product could be a lifesaver for many of your members. Anything that will keep them out of the check cashing shops and the payday lenders is a win-win for all involved. Think crazy and impossible, and you just might come up with a great idea. Like MacGyver always does.
- Take a Risk and Do it Differently.
Credit unions tend to do the same project the same way year after year. Yawn. Sometimes because it’s easy. Sometimes because doing it differently would require more resources or more work. Switch it up. Do something a new way. Take a typical marketing project and change it. One idea is your newsletter. Newsletters printed and included with quarterly statements are how credit union newsletters were born. But we’ve evolved. The quarterly statement has become obsolete thanks to Online Banking. If you generate a newsletter, have you considered mailing it directly to the member instead of including it with a statement or a digital online version? If not, why? Cost? Postage? Never done a direct mail project? One of our smallest credit union clients ($20M) has transitioned their “quarterly with a statement newsletter” to a newsletter that’s mailed twice a year directly to members. Does it cost more? Yep. But here’s the thing. That credit union included a VISA Balance Transfer teaser ad (that started a month later) in their direct mail newsletter. The result? They had to start the campaign early because so many members inquired about it. The CEO said he never had members call about a promotion that they saw in a newsletter. Another campaign is a Skip-A-Pay promotion. Many credit unions have a form on their website, or the loan department promotes it. And they have minimal results. But for many of our clients, we’ve changed the process to a direct mail personalized letter that lists the member’s qualifying loans. Is it more expensive than having a form on the website? Yep. Does our method yield better results? Yep. We talked with a CEO, and when she finally approved our project, her response rate tripled! It’s the same offer, the same campaign, and the same fee. We just delivered the message in a different way. Yes, the cost was significantly more. But the results far outweighed the cost. They’ve been a Skip-A-Pay client for several years now, because they chose to take a risk and do it differently.
- Keep your social media alive.
When you decide to enter the social media realm, be realistic about what you’re willing (and able) to do. With limited resources, you may or may not want to be on all the platforms. But whatever you do, keep it alive. If you’re on Twitter, make sure you’re tweeting once or twice a week. If you have a Facebook page, post or share a few things weekly. Nothing can kill your street cred more than a dead social media presence.
- Share your marketing plan with ALL employees.
When we work with credit unions, we find the most successful ones share the marketing calendar of events with the entire staff. Every single person. They know what’s going on. They know what’s coming up. The more people who know what the marketing promotions and campaigns are, the more success you’ll have. Surprisingly, not all credit unions do this. A few years back, I had a speaking engagement and was chatting with a CEO about his staff. He told me that he couldn’t get staff buy-in to the marketing efforts. As we were talking, I asked if he shared the marketing calendar/schedule with his staff, and he said no. When I asked why the staff was not privy to the marketing calendar, the CEO said, “They don’t need to know that.” Sigh.
- Talk to your vendors and business partners.
You know – those vendors who call you once a month. Lots of credit union vendors and business partners have cutting edge resources. New products and services are out there. But you may never know, because every time your vendor wants to have a meeting, you’re too busy. Vendors and business partners WANT you to succeed. Talk to them and see if they might have a solution. Engage them in your success and look to them as a resource. Vendors know what other vendors do. Over the years, I’ve referred vendors to my credit union clients. And other vendors have passed my name along to credit unions. Before you screen out that vendor call, take a minute and see how they might help you.
Almost any credit union, regardless of size and resources, can implement these ideas if you change the way you do things. You’ll be able to up your marketing game in no time! And remember that famous quote from our old friend Charles Darwin, “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”