Our credit union clients with member databases have discovered many of the unintended consequences data-driven decision making has on their senior team, organizational responsibilities and business partners. Using member data as opposed to intuition or antidotal information begins to change the decision making process supporting many CU activities such as; strategic planning, product/service design, service distribution channels, sales and direct marketing campaigns to cross-sell members and to acquire new members.
This last activity requires a new and very specific skill set from your advertising agency. As your credit union grows/expands its marketing functionality, is your ad agency equipped to grow along with you? This is a critical decision – in large part the value of your member data comes from the ability to design and implement successful direct marketing programs; a responsibility you share with your ad agency.
At his point it helps to ”level set” on the definition of direct marketing. Direct marketing utilizes the demographics and other lifestyle characteristics of members in conjunction with their CU product usage. This data drives personalized messaging and product offers down to an individual member level.
The ability to segment members helps direct marketers reduce the cost of media by directly targeting members with specific offers using individualized media. In fact, with the rapid increase in the availability of personal data and the technology to make sense of it, many CUs are working with “segments of one” that rely on individual demographics and identified member behaviors or “trigger” events that signal a marketing opportunity.
One last –important– characteristic of direct marketing; it’s accountability. This means you know the what, when and how each member receives the personalized email, phone call or snail mail offer of the campaign. This accountability is critical for evaluating the effectiveness of each component of your direct marketing campaign, maximizing your marketing effectiveness over the course of many campaigns. It is this accountability that presents the opportunity for you and your agency to not only set new account goals for campaigns, but to also incorporate “learning goals” for each campaign.
Learning goals can help increase your agency’s ability to build more effective direct marketing campaigns by developing a better understanding of members’ preferences regarding media, messaging, the call to action, products/service delivery and elements of your brand. Designing direct marketing campaigns to maximize results and learning optimizes the value of your customer database.
The skills required to design and implement successful direct marketing are not typically found in smaller advertising agencies. Before getting into the specific skill sets you should be looking for in a data savvy ad agency lets a look at the components that make up direct marketing and their relative importance.
In very simplistic terms there are three critical drivers of a successful direct marketing campaign.
- Targeting Criteria.
This is the most critical component of direct marketing campaigns; it identifies the CU members who receive specific offers and how the offers are presented. For example, two possible media options for a direct marketing campaign are; email or snail mail. With either media, the ability to target distinct member segments is directly related to the success of your campaign. If you are putting together a home equity cross-sell campaign to existing members it is important to select a group of members who are not only interested in a home equity product, but who own a home.
You start the discovery process to identify HELOC prospects by looking at members who already have a home equity line of credit. Once completed, the next step is to look at members with the same demographics who do not have a HELOC. There can clearly be more than one segment of membership that have a home equity loan.
We can use this information as the starting point and keep refining the targeting criteria with additional member data that might include a member’s product usage, home ownership, length of this ownership and incidence of children (by age). Additional analytics of this group by age can begin to identify the motivation for product purchase; such as college tuition, home improvement or even a second home purchase.
- The Offer.
Developing the offer is a direct result of your work with targeting criteria and the ability to create distinct targets of members with specific needs for purchasing the product. The offer addresses the “buy motives” of these specific member segments and maximizes responses by utilizing all the knowledge gained regarding preferences for media, messaging and brand portrayal. Messaging, structuring of product fees and service delivery can all be configured to make the direct marketing campaign more compelling to specific targets within the overall campaign.
Keeping with our home equity example, we have seen credit unions structure their home equity line of credit differently for different segments. For segments with a higher potential to draw down balances in the short term (credit hungry) some CUs have kept the closing costs but offer a discounted introductory APR on the outstanding balances. This pricing increases responses to the campaign by making the product attractive to those members that we have identified as serious borrowers. With accelerated draw down of the line of credit, even with a discounted APR, the ROI of the campaign goes up. So in crafting an offer to successfully sell each target, the selection of members, messaging, offer and media must all seamlessly communicate the same unique selling proposition.
- The Creative.
With the first two components we have identified discrete groups of members with similar motives for purchasing your CUs products. We have also worked to maximize our responses to these groups by keeping in mind the preferences they have with regard to product structure, media, messaging and brand.
With data driven marketing, the creative becomes a more tactical aspect of the total marketing campaign. While it is still important to reinforce your CUs brand and to use language and graphics that encourage members to read the promotion – in the data driven marketing campaign it is not the top priority.
For the typical small ad agency, this is a significant paradigm shift. Previously, without data to define target audiences and offer development the only way to evaluate an agency’s work was the quality of their creative. Now the “artistic” quality of campaigns comes from the ability to pull inspired member insights from your database and use these to match segments with the appropriate products and offers. And, to construct campaigns in such a way that even if they fail to generate the desired amount of new accounts, there are embedded learning goals that explain the results, providing direction to do better next time.
With your new member database installed, how will you work with your ad agency to maximize your investment? The following are based on the premise that you have a good working relationship with your agency and would like to continue working with them as you grow into using member data.
Introducing analytics into your marketing discussions can be disruptive at first. As you go through your initial data discovery, it is important to identify team members and make sure all team members are involved – including your ad agency. Understanding the process, priorities for the member experience and segmentation framework put everybody on the same page – communication is important within your designated team to gain the most value from everyone participating on the team.
Many CUs create a “Power Users” group. This group is the driving force for data discovery; they typically meet on a regular basis to swap analytic techniques and insights. Be sure to include someone from your ad agency in this group. The Power Users are the core of data innovation for your CU; learning new insights about members and then bringing them back to the full team to begin defining marketing and sales opportunities.
Finally remember your ad agency has a skill set that up to this point has served you well. That skillset gives them a uniquely different perspective of your member insights and the opportunities they represent. It has been my experience that your ad agency is a valuable marketing partner uniquely qualified to turn member insights into successful campaigns by managing the many tactical decisions required – and that is where your investment in a member database is maximized.