Is your credit union ready for data-driven marketing?

The sales of data analytics software is expected to increase to over $17 billion in 2018.  This means you will be getting even more calls and emails with the offer to learn more about a new data analytics product or an improvement to your existing services.  As many credit unions have found out (some too late) there are many moving parts to designing and building an effective marketing analytics function, making evaluating these offers very difficult.   

With resource being tight, it’s possible to hire and rely on data consultants to get your project going, but unless your leadership team is squarely behind moving the entire organization into this new business model, your efforts will have limited results. The challenge is to make sure everyone views your member data as a valuable asset, and helping your managers understand the fundamentals of data-driven decision making.

Once a coherent, integrated process for managing member data and the analytics platform is developed, leadership’s role in maintaining and keeping the strategy healthy, growing and productive is important for long term success.

Support from Your Leadership Team is Critical

Leadership at many credit unions will acknowledge the necessity for investing in the development of a data-driven marketing function. However, given the resource constraints we all face, many are reluctant to commit the budget and personnel resources to pull it off. Many times this is simply because senior managers are not sure how this new marketing tools will support the organization’s future growth and revenue goals

Any data analytics strategy without broad leadership support will almost always end up stuck in the mud. “Support” means both budget support and office politics — managing turf wars and facilitating interdepartmental cooperation. It’s critical that project leaders/advocates ensure managers at all levels and in all departments fully understand the payoff, because implementing a marketing analytics strategy is a process that involves both scale and effort.

If leadership and influential associates in your credit union don’t buy into the project little will become of the effort.  If your credit union has already initiated a marketing analytics strategy, senior managers will want to see the impact and results of the investment. So think of your lobbying efforts as a form of internal PR. Don’t let the project fail before it’s had the chance to be successful.

The emergence of member data as a tool requires senior managers in your credit union to understand more of the nuts and bolts than ever before.  Training and education should be provided for these decision-makers to allow them to understand how to best leverage the data and member insights in decision making.  General meetings about marketing and data analytics do not qualify as formal training on how to maximize the value of the institution’s data. Training on specific issues and challenges unique to each position is critical for managers who must apply and evaluate these new data-driven insights on a daily basis.  

Don’t Forget to Listen to Members

There is a danger in becoming so analytics-focused that you forget to listen to what your members are saying and how they are feeling about your institution.  Using analytics to drive decision making can become even more powerful when you combine the qualitative feedback from members with the quantitative data from their banking behaviors.

Getting feedback from your members can take many forms — for instance, using qualitative (focus groups) research to help identify their service preferences and/or their financial goals.  Member studies typically consist of both qualitative and quantitative research steps, and are commonly used at the start of a new marketing campaign or product/service development. This information is critical to better understanding factors that drive member satisfaction, increasing member share of wallet and longevity with your credit union.

Focusing on your members and how they feel about your organization is critical to your growth. As evidence of this growing importance of member satisfaction, many credit unions are aligning themselves organizationally around the member journey.  This type of reorganization helps them better serve their members by putting the right member data and servicing capabilities together to create unique marketing opportunities.

This focus on the member journey can also help you discern the difference between predictive data insights and “nice to have” member facts.  Today with so much transaction, demographic and behavioral data available, it becomes increasingly necessary to be able to tell the difference between relevant data/insights and noise. Any data-driven strategy needs to stay focused on what is important to the overall credit union growth strategy.  

Set Realistic Goals for Your Project

While the potential impact of your new data-driven marketing functionality is significant, the project path will have a few unforeseen twists and challenges.  So it is important not to establish unrealistic expectations with your leadership team. Your success will be driven by many factors, and it will likely take more time than anticipated to mesh it all into an effective, well-run platform. Often in the effort to get approval for your project, there can be a little too much exuberance when it comes to setting dates. The old adage, “under-promise and over-deliver” works well here.

In general, projects never progress as fast as we would like.  One factor to keep in mind when you are setting out your project plan; its human nature for people and organizations to be resistant to change.  Building a new data-driven marketing function is a big change for your credit union, so make sure to build in some time for internal “sales” for your project.

For member data to become an integral part of your credit union a significant shift in the institution’s culture will need to take place.   This shift is driven by your associates viewing (and using) member data in marketing decision-making and it typically occurs more as a slow evolution than a bolt of lightning.  As various constituencies within the credit union begin using member insights to drive decision making; the core processes driving the credit union will begin to evolve.

Getting Started with Data-Driven Marketing

Credit unions who are not currently using member data will want to develop an implementation strategy that’s big in its long term potential, but one that provides interim milestones based on the reality of available resources.  Trying to build it all at once will leave many internal stakeholders questioning the validity of your program. It is important from an internal sales and cultural point of view to develop interim milestones that deliver small but impactful wins.  

For many smaller credit unions, it can be difficult to dive right into the appropriate analytics solution – because they don’t know what is possible. Many credit unions find success in starting small and getting their hands-dirty with member data by creating a small/trail database using a subset of their member data.

This hands-on experience can help your leadership team begin learning more about the potential for using member data, the resources required, the organizational implications and to establish a realistic project ROI. Understanding these factors helps credit union leadership better manage and meet internal expectations for building and using this new functionality and significantly increasing their chances for success.

Frank Koechlein

Frank Koechlein

Frank Koechlein is the President at Empower Your Analytics and coauthor of the marketing resource book “The New Marketing Analytics”. Frank has over 40 years of marketing experience in the ... Web: Details