Is your credit union stuck in black and white?

There was a blip in the early 2000s when flared jeans came back around with a vengeance. This wasn’t great for me as a short person, because it meant all my jeans had frayed, muddy bottoms that dragged on the ground everywhere I went. I remember my mom telling me that this was a recycled trend from the 1970s and that it would fade. That one day I would be wearing, GASP, straight-leg jeans. I remember standing defiantly in my bedroom, giant pairs of jeans in hand for my aunt to hem, declaring, “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Bell-bottoms have always been in style; you just stopped wearing them because you’re old and unfashionable. I’ll wear them forever!”

All. None. Always. Never. Right. Wrong. These are the favorite words of a black-and-white thinker. They’ve clearly been some of my most-used words for a long time. But living at polar ends of the spectrum – both personally and organizationally – only serves to keep you stuck exactly where you are. After all, if “that’s just the way things are” and the only way they can ever be, why would you take steps to change?

As creatures that love stability, we humans quickly adapt to the patterns found in coming to the same job every day for years. Change comes slowly in the day-to-day, and it can be difficult to get a macro-level view of how consumer and industry trends are changing. “The way things have always been” can work for a very long time as you see the same members day in and day out, who have the same financial needs year after year and who are used to the way you do business. Until suddenly, one day, it seems like those members all very quickly have different needs. They’re all walking in with straight-leg jeans!

If you find yourself saying things like:

  • Marketing has never worked here. Every time we’ve tried something, it’s failed.
  • We could never have non-members open accounts online…it’s just too risky!
  • None of our members like email or social media. They’re all into doing things in person. 

Take a moment to try to find the gray area in between that would allow you to make small shifts. Could you devote decent resources to one laser-focused marketing campaign that’s different than what you’ve done before, just to see if it works? Could you start the process of being comfortable with non-members opening accounts online by having them fill out part of your application via a landing page form that goes to a designated member of your staff? Could you make it a priority for one month to collect more email addresses from members and see how they respond to the few you send out, just to verify your claim?

The choices we make at our credit unions aren’t locked in a time capsule; just think back to some of the decisions you personally made 10 or 20 years ago, and how different your life would look if you refused to ever stray from them. The next time an employee, consultant, member, or volunteer asks you to think outside the box and you find yourself reaching for an absolute, take a moment to get creative as to what your gray might look like – you just might find that flared jeans weren’t all that you made them out to be (and that your mom was right…always).

Liz Garster

Liz Garster

Liz Garster is AVP of Marketing & Client Services at TwoScore, a firm dedicated to helping credit unions achieve their strategic goals through marketing. Working in credit unions for over ... Web: Details

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