Hey, credit union CEOs, time to put your money where your mouth is!!

Ok, so now that I have your attention, we really need to talk about your priorities. It’s been a few years now that I’ve worked with only Credit Unions around marketing, and now sales, and I’m continually noticing one thing again, and again… there seems to be a desire from CEOs to shift your approach to growth, but a lack of real commitment to make this change happen.

Let me be more specific. In a recent survey from my friends at CU Grow, they noted that the average Financial Institution spent $40k on their website, but the average branch construction costs well over $1 million, and this doesn’t even include annual maintenance costs!

Now my agency doesn’t even sell website redesign services, so I’m not complaining here in hopes to line my own pockets. But my point is this… your website is:

  1. Your BEST sales person,
  2. Your branch that literally NEVER closes, and
  3. Your highest trafficked location, by a MILE!!

So, what gives with these kinds of budgeting priorities? A website should be constantly tweaked, maintained and optimized; it should be designed out of the gate to convert leads, and sell, and this won’t happen with a measly budget and 3 years of stagnation until you touch it again! This shift is called growth driven design, and it works! (Google it!)

And the website process is just the start of my complaints around Credit Union budgeting. What about marketing? I consistently see mid-sized CUs with only one person in the marketing department, or maybe two, if they are lucky. But these staff are constantly asked to do projects outside of their marketing area of responsibility. They often don’t have the time for or access to on-going training to stay up to speed on the changing marketing place, and they lack marketing budgets that are flexible and growing.

Again and again I hear from CEOs that they want loan growth, member growth, member engagement, and to better connect marketing leads with conversions. But you can’t do all of this without making a real commitment to process, and that requires three main things: 1. Staff, 2. Budget and 3. Time! Here’s why…

STAFFING CHANGES NEEDED

Now I’m not saying you need to go out and hire a bunch of new people, but there are two clear shifts happening within the FIs that I see having the most digital success.

First, Cus need to train your teams around the changing consumer buying journey and how to better reach members and potential new members online and via mobile. This can include working with an outside partner for training or attending one of the many training programs put on by CUNA or other great national and regional conferences. I also firmly believe that you should encourage (require) staff to allocate 1-3 hours per week for online training of some kind, and then make sure they have the time available to make this happen. (And this means NOT over loading them with ad hoc requests of all sorts that fill up their days!!)

Secondly, if I were a CEO at a Credit Union today, I would strongly consider consolidating marketing and sales staff under one departmental umbrella of business development or revenue growth. This is needed because marketing and sales teams MUST be more closely aligned to better coordinate the handoff of digital leads for sales follow up. And having revenue teams that work together to meet growth goals is the key! There should be absolutely NO competition between these two groups for staffing or budget. It must be a unified effort.

BUDGET SHIFTS THAT WORK

Now here’s where things get tricky for me, as I’m NOT a numbers girl, and would never claim to be. But I just know that FIs have the funds they need to make many of the changes I’ve already mentioned. The money is somewhere, it’s just about priorities. If branch walk-in traffic is down, then what are you doing to re-purpose your staff in those locations to better leverage their expertise and knowledge?

Why not create a team of marketing and member service (sales) professionals that work as a unit, some in headquarters AND some in branches, and connect marketing and sales efforts with actual conversions? Give them a shared budget for digital ads, social media, a marketing tool or integrated CRM, and content creation, and then let them use these channels to bring in new members or launch campaigns to cross-sell to existing members?

The FIs we see having the most success have done just this. They’ve created a large team that spans departments and brings talented staff members together in multiple locations. But this isn’t the status quo, it’s not easy, and it takes budget and time to develop.

IT’S A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT

I was on the phone with a CEO last week and he and I had a great conversation about all of these shifts in digital priorities and approaches. And then he asked me, “well this is all great and I like it, but how can I grow loans now?” Truly, I was at a loss. See, I’m not in the business of driving short-term bumps in loan growth for an FI. That’s just not what we do, and that kind of short-sighted approach will not lead to long-term success.

We are advocates of the long game, and do you want to know why? The average banking consumer takes 3 weeks to 6 months to make a new account or product decision! And they consult on average 8.9 sources of information along the way. These are big purchases for most people, and these kinds of decision don’t happen overnight.

Furthermore, hawking special rates to get short-term loan growth won’t help your FI build a foundation for long-term success. In order to remain relevant in this age of Fintech and online-only banking opportunities, Credit Unions need to continue to build trust and rapport with their members. And you don’t do this with fly-by-night rate promotions. You do this by providing meaningful financial solutions and building real relationships with members. You do this by being understanding, and treating members with care and compassion. And these things can be highlighted digitally with great content, testimonials, and thoughtful campaigns.

These are the characteristics that make CUs continue to stand out in today’s financial world, and these will be the foundation for building future success. But without proper staffing, budgeting priorities and a time commitment to the process, these advantages will be lost to big banks and ever evolving Fintech solutions.

If you want to learn more or if we can help please get in touch! We live for this stuff! ☺

Meredith Olmstead

Meredith Olmstead

Meredith Olmstead is the Founding Partner at Social Stairway, LLC, which provides Digital Marketing services to Credit Unions and Affiliates. As an experienced Director of Online Marketing, she has implemented ... Web: www.socialstairway.com Details

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