Finding your growth targets: How to market your credit union

Take a guess: what percentage of Americans do business with credit unions?

Answer: about 25% according to Experian.

That means 75% have nothing to do with credit unions.

As for the 25% who do, only a fraction of them do the bulk of their banking at a credit union. Many have rarely used a Share draft, a savings account, or perhaps a car loan.

Add it up, and there are over 200 million prospects out there for you.

This is about the time many credit union leaders’ eyes glaze over. Who can blame them? It’s daunting—and blinding—to see so much opportunity.

But some credit unions are now recognizing that there are big opportunities if they narrow the playing field. That’s a starting point for effective, leanly budgeted credit union marketing in 2018.

Finch Brands, a Philadelphia marketing agency, told about its experiences working with a credit union in a northeast Pennsylvania, blue collar town. The institution’s name doesn’t matter. What does matter is that in many ways this is every credit union. Mid-sized in a community that is not growing and with lots of competition on the ground. The credit union had been relying on traditional, low key credit union marketing tactics such as sponsorship of local teams and attendance at community events. It had been doing all the basics but felt its growth was stalled. So it wanted to try something entirely different and more aggressive. So, it turned to Finch.

Finch built a multi-pronged campaign—on billboards, social media, TV, radio, and even movie theater advertising—that featured credit union employees and members. It kept hammering home the message that we are in this together, that the credit union had a profound emotional tie to its community, that the credit union is the community. The campaign put faces on the credit union—humanizing it—and stressing the local roots.

Finch tells the results it delivered: within a year membership increased 43%, and a new branch opening was the institution’s most successful ever.

Dazzled? Indeed. But you can do likewise.

A key to these successes: “You have to know who you want to focus on,” said Bill Gullan, Finch’s president.

There’s that theme again. To succeed, narrow the focus.

Other experts second that notion.

Don’t overreach, stressed Keith Kemph, a credit union expert with CC Pace, a management consulting firm. Really drill down to the products and demographics where your success is most probable. Kemph elaborated: “I get concerned when credit unions want to expand beyond three to four key market segments as it quickly dilutes the market differentiator of service and value propositions it must deliver to its members.”

Choose wisely stressed Kemph. “Trying to force growth in a specific market segment outside of your core competency can be costly and fatal in some instances.”

It sounds counter-intuitive that the way to grow is to think more narrowly. But often it’s exactly the route that works.

The next step: “Look at your products and decide who they best serve,” said Gullan.

That’s key, multiple experts agree. Know what you do very well, figure out who is most likely to benefit from these products, and go after those prospects.

Many tools today, especially digital tools available on services like Facebook or via Google’s AdWords, allow for fairly precise geographical targeting. Marketing services that sell consumer data also allow for precise targeting of offers.

Keep experimenting, keep honing the targets, and definitely track results so that it becomes clear which campaigns are working, which aren’t, and which consumer groups are more receptive than others.

Is this easy? It’s definitely not. 21st-century marketers have an arsenal of powerful tools that prior generations could not even dream about, but using the right tools in pursuing the right consumers is never easy.

Kemph elaborated: “I’ve always said, there is no silver bullet in marketing. It’s not the one or two key things you do but the 35 different things you’re doing all the time to demonstrate your value. This approach will allow you to go deeper into each key segment rather than going wider and losing sight of your vision, mission, and values. In that case, everyone loses.”

Read that advice again. Know the key segments—the key areas of opportunity. Then go deep after them and keep going.

Robert McGarvey

Robert McGarvey

A blogger and speaker, Robert McGarvey is a longtime journalist who has covered credit unions extensively, notably for Credit Union Times as well as the New York Times and TheStreet, ... Web: Details