by Mark Arnold
Let’s face it: it’s gut-check time. By the time you read this, 2012 will have scarcely two months of life left in it. The calendar has, for all intents and purposes, flipped to 2013 (assuming the Mayan calendar thing doesn’t zap us all in December).
This is traditionally the time of year when credit union professionals—especially marketers—look ahead to the upcoming twelve months. As you lay out spreadsheets, host brainstorming meetings and prepare to submit budgets, wouldn’t now be a good time to bluntly ask the question, “just how bad is my marketing?”
Now, by that we don’t mean all credit union marketing is inherently bad. Far from it. In fact, I am surprised every day by the continued ingenuity and creativity of our industry’s front-line brand warriors. However, taking a look at marketing efforts with a critical eye can help hone skills and plans for 2013 and into the future.
With that, please take a few moments to review the following quick and easy questions. They can help reaffirm your marketing compass or point you in the right direction if you’re off a bit.
- Do you know who your members and potential members are? If not, how do you expect to effectively reach and market to them? Using an internal or external MCIF system can certainly help you determine this. Number-crunching is many a marketer’s best friend when it comes time to planning next year’s calendar. You must also be mindful, however, of other ways to take your membership’s pulse. Do you make an effort to visit with them in the lobby? Conduct regular member surveys? Informal ones? Focus groups or suggestion boxes? Do they interact with your credit union via its social media channels and, if so, what are they saying?
- What are the actual goals of your marketing and communications efforts? “We just want to raise awareness.” Does that still cut it with your CEO? I didn’t think so. While brand awareness and recognition are enormously important, they are also notoriously difficult (if not impossible) to determine. Every marketing effort should have a measurable goal associated with it. How many new and used car loans do you want to bring in with that springtime refi promo? How many new accounts do you plan to open as a result of participation in community events? What dollar amount of new CDs and money market accounts do you need in the third quarter? Tie a goal to everything you try to accomplish as a marketing and communications professional.
- How can you quantify and/or qualify those goals? The next logical step is coming back to the table after a marketing promotion and showing your credit union brass the results. Again, there is always a place for brand awareness and recognition, but it’s tricky to anchor actual numbers to that. You want to come to the table armed with solid numbers-oriented results that justify the time and expense your credit union puts into its marketing. And if the results aren’t terrific, be up-front about it. Use that data as a springboard to do even better next time.
- What makes my credit union unique in an ocean of competition? In buzzword language, this is also known as your value proposition. Why should a member or potential member do business with you as opposed to the dozens (and maybe even hundreds) of other local choices available? Your value proposition should address several key areas, including people (your credit union’s emotional appeal), products (how you focus them on peoples’ needs), places (your branch locations and online presence) and processes (how convenient and easy to use your credit union is). Remember to always put people first and product second. Your credit union cannot be all things to all people, so don’t even try it. Identify the sweet-spot where you routinely smack-down the competition and focus there.
- Are we creating any real call to action for our members? The greatest marketing efforts in the world go for naught if people don’t respond to them. Are you giving your members any real reason not only to get to know you better, but to do business with you now? Promotions with specific timeframes are a traditional way to help accomplish this. Another idea involves rolling special offers, in which one is replaced with another after a predetermined expiration date. Also consider social media-driven offers available only to members that access your credit union via those channels.
One way to help address many of these issues is to conduct or host a formal marketing audit. A full-scale marketing audit can help you dive deeply into your communications strategies and tactics. To learn more about how a marketing audit can help improve your credit union, check out this article.
There you have it: five questions designed to help you answer a fairly frank question. Since we don’t usually learn much when safely tucked into our comfort zones, coming out of them and tackling tough issues can dramatically improve your marketing efforts.
Unless, of course, the Mayans were right and in about two months we all get zapped by who knows what. Either way, happy marketing!