Determining the ideal media mix for your credit union

Let’s be honest, advertising and marketing is a huge expense on your budget and unfortunately (and to your detriment) one of the first line accounts to get cut when expenses need to be reduced. The bottom line is that people need to know your credit union exists, but how do you know which of your ads are worth the investment? This dichotomy has been plaguing business leaders for many years.

Credit unions, like most businesses, rely on a variety of marketing and advertising methods to reach potential members and generate leads. As technology has advanced, the options available have exploded to meet the needs and expectations of consumers. Modern media planning involves evaluating and considering both traditional and new media options as well as keeping your eye on new options coming to the table.

Traditional media include formats designed to help businesses reach a broad target audience through billboards, newspapers, magazines, television, radio, and more. As outbound marketing, they rely on sending messages to consumers regardless of the level of interest. Most of the options available from traditional media are non-digital. Credit unions have used these methods for generations to reach potential and current members.

New media, also called digital media, is focused on targeting narrow and well-defined audiences through programmatic digital advertising. These inbound marketing ads reach consumers seeking information related to the promoted products. Digital media includes social media, online ads, digital radio (e.g., Spotify), digital video (e.g., Hulu & YouTube), emails, and search results. Most new media options are delivered online, via mobile, and require internet access to receive. 

When it comes down to cost, traditional media options tend to be more expensive than new media due to their broad targeting and advertising channels. Coupled with the general availability of smartphones, the decline of TV subscribers, the short shelf life and expense of print ads as well as the the ability to choose how to consume information via new media, all led to a reduction of traditional media spends.

However, this does not mean that you should stop all traditional media advertising. While often positioned against one another, some of the most effective advertising campaigns use a combination of both conventional and new media options for one straightforward reason – not everyone consumes information in the same way. By combining both outbound and inbound marketing, you can reach your membership both before they know they need your products and while they are looking for assistance. Changing financial partners is a task for busy people. When the do make the decision to change, you need to be in the right place at the right time.

There are currently five different generations in the marketplace – Seniors, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z. Each generation has been influenced by various factors which affect not only which media options they use, but the level of trust they have in each. When it comes to the consumption of media, the availability of technology is a defining factor in evaluating the expectations and use of media for different generations. In a recent article, Martin Recke categorized the generations into two groups, which we feel simplifies it all – digital immigrants and digital natives. Their new media intake has been found to be based on the level of digital access available to them when they were growing up.

Digital immigrants include Generation X, Baby Boomers, and Seniors, who had to learn technology as it became available. These individuals remember a time before the internet. They grew up relying on traditional media as the primary method of obtaining information about what was going on in their community and the world. However, they have also come to value the information they can find when searching on Google, scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed, or visiting your website. They are likely to research information first and reach out in person or via phone for the next step.

Digital natives have high expectations when it comes to finding the information they need. They are more comfortable adopting new media options (e.g., TikTok) when they become available. Digital natives are more consciously aware they are being marketed to by your credit union. Connecting with them means capturing their attention in the 5 seconds before they choose to skip watching your ad in favor of their next YouTube video.

In the end, there is an art to effective media planning. What works for another credit union may not work for yours, so it is important to identify the best media mix not only to reach but also engage the members who need what you offer. There are essentially three key steps to follow when determining the ideal media mix for your credit union.

  1. Who needs the product we are promoting?

This step will help not only with determining which media options make the most sense but also which message to communicate in your advertising. It is a balancing act that requires prioritizing or even creating categories for your audiences. For instance, when it comes to attracting new members, you will immediately think of Gen Z because they are entering the workforce and will need a checking account. Yet, you will also identify people who have newly moved to your community regardless of their generation. The placement approach for each group will be different. 

  1. How do members currently communicate with our credit union?

If you pay attention, advertising to each audience becomes a system of determining how they are communicating with your organization. If you notice an uptick in mortgage phone calls from a neighborhood when you run a billboard campaign in that area, it tells you that the billboards are a contributing factor. If most of your communication regarding personal loans happens via Facebook direct messages, then positioning ads for personal loans on that social network makes sense to reach those members.

  1. What do we want current and potential members to do when they see our ad?

Calls-to-action is an essential aspect of any advertising campaign. After all, they are the linchpin to ensuring you can measure the effectiveness of your efforts. For instance, if your ad focus is on opening a new account, the call-to-action is likely driving them to your website to complete a new member application or online account opening form. That call-to-action can be tracked not only by the number of completed forms but also by how many phone calls you received for assistance with new account openings or new member forms. Without a strong call-to-action and method of tracking, it is not possible to determine the ROI of your campaign. 

Media planning is not one size fits all. Do your upfront homework, test, continue to research your audience trends, and hone your efforts. And remember, do not buy media inventory from a media outlet because it is cost effective or “on sale.” Buy it because it hits the mark. And always negotiate for added value.

Betsy McCloskey

Betsy McCloskey

Betsy McCloskey is one of the founding partners for Plaid Swan Inc., a female owned marketing communications company located in Iowa. With over 25 years as a marketing executive, McCloskey ... Web: Details