How do you stack up? Results from our 2016 Digital Marketing Survey

Did you know that marketing professionals at credit unions overwhelmingly agree on the best method to attract new members, but only a small minority of them is doing something about it?

And that’s not all:

  • A quarter of credit union marketers are still not using email marketing
  • 82% are not using a marketing automation platform
  • Only 15% claim that their digital marketing strategy is fully planned for 2016

It is also interesting that marketers have strongly-held beliefs about what the best methods are to attract new customers, but most aren’t doing anything about it today.  As an example:

  • 82% say that word of mouth and referrals are the best way to attract new customers but …
  • only 39% have a referral program in place

It’s probably no surprise to you that budget, time, and resources are cited as the primary challenges to implementing these marketing tools and strategies at credit unions across the country.  So what to do about it?  And – perhaps more importantly – where’s all this data coming from?

RewardStream and CU Grow recently surveyed marketing professionals at credit unions and community banks across North America.   Responses came back from marketing managers, VPs and CMOs at credit unions with assets from hundreds of millions to over $1 billion, and credit union memberships from under 10,000 members to over 200,000.   The responses from this cross section of credit union marketers tell us a lot about how marketing managers are trying to get more done with less, how they’re struggling to get executive buy-in, and trying to get their jobs done with technology that may not be best suited for their needs.

The survey participants have shown us that there’s some work to be done to drive better marketing practices and adoption of technology amongst marketing professionals at credit unions.   And it’s possible that there’s more at play here than a lack of budget, time and IT resources.  After all, every department in every business across the country could use more time, money and people.  But based on the types of tools that marketers say they are using, and the lack of broad adoption of digital marketing techniques, it seems like it’s time to turn the standard obstacles of limited budget and resources into opportunities.  Indeed, the market for Software-as-a-Service (aka SaaS) marketing automation systems has been built on those very simple needs:

  • To do more with less.
  • To centralize marketing activities.
  • To deliver more effective results.
  • To make marketing metrics available across the business.

Marketing and sales professionals have started a variety of different software companies over the past twenty years because those founders discovered that they were constantly trying to drive new business with limited marketing budgets, shrinking marketing teams, and IT departments overwhelmed with the core on-premise business tools.  They needed technology solutions to human challenges. SaaS technology – the ability to access powerful software tools hosted off-premise or in “the Cloud” – is now delivering on it’s promise to provide easy access to broadly-available tools, simple user interfaces, integrations with your back-end systems, online support and training, helpful user communities, and – most importantly – self onboarding designed to get you up and running quickly.

Marketers now have a rapidly expanding universe of digital marketing tools to choose from, all of which are designed to save time, money and headcount.   And it’s not all hype. If we look at Gartner’s digital marketing hype cycle,  some solutions like lead management tools (where email marketing platforms lie) and campaign segmentation tools are well on their way to the plateau of productivity, meaning that they’re ready for prime-time.

But while it might not all be hype, it certainly is confusing.  This graphic, showing the thousands of software tools that exist today to fulfill any number of marketing functions, is terrifying enough to drive any self-respecting marketer back to account statement inserts and bus bench advertisements.  And perhaps therein lies the challenge:  The confusing array of options available to marketers may be causing inertia.  After all, who has the time to do the research to find the right tool for the job?  And who can explain and justify the tools to an executive team unfamiliar with marketing in general, let alone digital marketing strategies?

Many of you will remember the revolution that occurred as we marketers transitioned from sending snail-mail to generating email campaigns in order to reach our audiences and generate leads.   The ability to see who has opened the mail, and who has clicked on the call to action has completely changed the makeup and resourcing of our marketing departments.  Credit Unions who have transitioned the majority of their members from those printed statements to e-statements can easily understand the powerful effect that digital communications have had on other aspects of the business.

It seems therefore that building a complete digital marketing strategy needs to start with some basic questions of us:

  • What are our goals?  (e.g. Attract a younger demographic; grow our loan business; increase the acquisition of high lifetime value members.)
  • Do we have a plan to achieve those goals? (e.g. Leverage marketing techniques that will increase response rates from millennials; create a product plan and vision to that delivers differentiated loan offerings; segment our member base to identify high LTV clients and drive more business from that demographic.)
  • Can we execute the plan with the resources and budgets that we have? (e.g. Can our team actually reach our target audience with the right message and nurture those prospects through to a buy-decision?)
  • Can we accurately measure the results we achieve? (e.g. How will we know if our efforts have been effective? … and can we achieve the growth initiatives profitably?)
  • Can we act on what we learn to tune the process along the way?  (e.g. Can we respond quickly to what we learn, and tune messages, media, and delivery to be more effective?)

For those of us without digital marketing strategies in place or the tools we need, the question is easily answered:  Either we have all the marketing people we need to achieve our growth initiatives or we don’t.  And if we don’t, the right software is always cheaper than people.

We also know that implementing software solutions is fraught with many perils:

  • We train someone up, and they leave;
  • We get a program up and running, and priorities shift faster than the technology can adapt;
  • Our results take longer to reach a return on investment than the executive team is comfortable with.
  • The software vendor’s promise fails to meet expectations: the old bait and switch.

And so on. So what’s an intelligent marketer to do?

It would seem that the key would be to focus on the areas of your growth initiatives that are going to achieve the biggest bang for the buck, and choose tools that can help you get better at that. Start simple. Start with something that you can focus your time and attention on: And it makes sense to choose customer acquisition initiatives are the most effective, and the least expensive to implement.

Learn more about what credit union marketers have to say about this conundrum by downloading the results of our survey today.  If you don’t have time to read the report, you can also watch a short webinar introducing the highlights.

Use the comments below to let us know where your challenges lie, and how your team is adapting.

Neil Parker

Neil Parker

Neil Parker is the VP Product Management and Marketing at RewardStream. Neil has 20 years experience in Product Management and Marketing at companies such as Glenayre, Infowave, Sierra Wireless, Contigo ... Web: Details