It is no secret to credit union marketers that consumers are crying out for financial education. According to a recent survey from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), 80 percent of adults in the U.S. say that they could use professional advice about basic financial issues, half lack confidence in their retirement savings, and almost 25 percent do not pay all of their bills on time.
The broad landscape of digital apps and products makes this problem even more complex. Consumers need a hand. As trusted financial institutions, credit unions are perfectly positioned to offer this guidance. Doing so doesn’t just improve the financial capability of the consumer population within financial institutions’ footprints – but it also provides a major opportunity for credit unions to attract new consumers and promote their services and products. In this article, we’ll explore why financial institutions should leverage financial education as a consumer marketing tool, and how to get started with your strategy.
Financial Education’s Role in Financial Marketing
A recent EVERFI survey found that 89 percent of financial marketers already use financial education in their marketing strategy. Why? Because they know that financial education can pull double duty as content marketing, a type of marketing that has proven to significantly outperform other types of advertising, marketing, and promotion. Financial education delivered as content marketing allows credit union marketers to provide real value to their consumers, and improve product and service conversion rates along the way.
Education is often considered the great equalizer, but we’ve found it can also be a powerful motivator. In fact, according to Powered Inc., consumers who complete online education are 29 times more likely to buy its sponsor’s products and 94 percent have a more favorable perception of the sponsor’s brand.
While financial education is critical, wrapping it into your annual marketing plan can feel daunting. As you’re starting out, it’s important to make your plan simple and concrete. The following six steps provide a quick overview of the process:
Step One – Set Your Goals
Your financial marketing strategy is only as good as the goals you set out to achieve – how well they are aligned with your business objectives and product priorities, and how actionable and measurable they are. As a starting point, you should establish “SMART” goals for everything you do, and be sure to include multiple stakeholders from across your institution so you don’t find yourself with cross-competing goals.
Step Two – Define Your Target Personas
Your account holders are likely diverse, with disparate financial needs and goals. Segment your account holders into discrete buyer personas and identify the unique requirements for each one. Whether you’re targeting Millennials, seniors, or all the life stages in between, develop your knowledge about each of your personas by talking to existing and prospective consumers and deploying research surveys to learn more about each segment.
Step Three – Audit Content Marketing Library
Financial institutions already have extensive content about their products and services. Evaluate how you can use existing content and where you may have gaps to improve your content library. For example, you may already have a website, a mobile app, and hard-copy brochures; however, to engage with your audience, consider supplementing this base with other types of content such as calculators, financial education, blogs, social media, co-marketing opportunities and more.
Step Four – Determine Distribution Channels
Once you know who your audience is and what content you need to create to engage them, how should you deliver that content for the best reach? Should you choose email, a website, social media, direct mail, webinars, in-branch training, blogs, paid media, direct mail, face-to-face workshops, or outbound calling? Each channel can be highly effective if used with a receptive audience. That’s where research and data come in.
For example, the average email open rate in the financial services industry is 16 percent. But you can achieve a much higher open rate when your emails promote financial education, and align consumer priorities to your content. Pacific Service Credit Union, for example, achieved a 30 percent email open rate when they promoted their new financial education program — nearly doubling the performance of the industry standard.
Similarly, social media platforms can be a useful channel, but they’re not all created equal. As an example, Facebook still remains the number one social network across Millennials, Baby Boomers, and Generation Xers; although Millennials are active on Instagram, SnapChat, and Twitter in a way that no other generation truly is. Learn about the potential effectiveness of all your distribution channel options, and leverage your marketing personas and current data to decide which platforms to use.
Step Five – Incorporate Employees into Your Strategy
Simply put, your employees are your greatest asset to any marketing campaign rollout, and engagement with financial education starts at the top. Choose an executive champion that has a passion for financial education and make sure their voice is heard across your financial institution. Then take time to incorporate employees into your strategy, and invite employees to participate in the same financial education program as your account holders. Why? They will be stronger advocates for your financial education program if they understand it from the inside – as well as more knowledgeable financial advisors.
Step Six – Execute Your Marketing Strategy
Once you’ve outlined your goals, target audience, content needs, and distribution channels, and have engaged and motivated your employees, it’s time to pull it all together into an overarching strategy and editorial calendar. Remember to start small, and keep your plan concrete. Make sure that you’re using analytics so that you can monitor your program’s performance after launch: email open rates, website traffic, new accounts opened. What worked and what didn’t? Figure out what was successful—and do more of it.
The ROI of Financial Education
Integrating financial education into your annual marketing strategy takes work, but the payoff is well worth it. For example, Community First Credit Union experienced a 40% increase in single-day new member sign-ups and generated an impressive $2 million increase in product sales after launching phase one of their financial education program. Bottom line? Consumer financial education really does work and can drive the goals of your business – and if you’re not providing it, it’s likely someone else within your footprint already is.
Want to learn more about marketing to your consumers through financial education? Download EVERFI’s The Ultimate Guide to Financial Marketing Strategy for 2018: An Interactive Guidebook for Credit Unions guidebook to learn a wealth of guidance and information on this topic, including extensive research data and worksheets to help you develop a successful strategy.
 “The 2017 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey.” NFCC, Harris Poll, 2017, nfcc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/NFCC_BECU_2017-FLS_datasheet-with-key-findings.pdf.
 “The State of Financial Services Marketing: The Role of Financial Education.” EVERFI, info.everfi.com/Financial-Services-Marketing-Study.html.
 “Online Consumer Education Programs Outperform Traditional Media Advertising and Direct Marketing Programs.” Business Wire, 22 May 2006, www.businesswire.com/news/home/20060522005461/en/Online-Consumer-Education-Programs-Outperform-Traditional-Media.
HubSpot. “2017 Demand Generation Benchmarks Report.” HubSpot, 2017, offers.hubspot.com/2017-demand-generation-benchmarks-report.
 “Helping Consumers Take Charge of Their Finances .” EVERFI, Aug. 2017, info.everfi.com/rs/410-YCZ-984/images/EVERFI_PacificUnionCaseStudy_August2%20%286%29.pdf.