Marketing: The forgotten arm of growth – Part 1

I have been doing marketing for well over 18 years now, and one thing that has fascinated me working with credit unions is why isn’t marketing doing more? 

Talk to any marketer today at your CU and it’s not because they don’t want to. I know incredible marketers at credit unions that eat, live, and breathe helping their institution grow and some do an incredible job. I have had amazing credit union marketers on our podcast, Banking on Experience, talking about innovative ways to grow their CU. All of them I know are key to their own CU’s success. So, it leads me down a rabbit hole of sorts trying to answer questions on why marketing is not one, if not THE, key driver of growth. 

  • Are they set-up for success? 
  • Does the rest of the org know their value?
  • Does the rest of the institution even understand what they do?
  • Can they measure what they do?
  • Where do the leads come from?

These questions happen to not be uncommon for CUs but for all marketing organizations across many industries. The value of marketing is challenged and pinned between whether it’s a cost center or a revenue driver. Can we measure the impact of this campaign or not? 

But there is one GIANT difference between CUs and other industries in this regard: they have deep roots in their communities. This gives them a natural channel, if you will, to drive demand. 

I’m in Utah, and I see what local credit unions do. They are all over the place: at sporting events, at grocery stores, on billboards, etc. It’s NOT a brand awareness problem for many in this space. You’re there and we as potential members see you. So what’s the problem?

I want to tell you a story. Not too long ago, I switched all of my financial accounts from Chase Bank to a local credit union. I won’t tell you which one, and you’ll soon understand why.

This credit union doesn’t lack technology, they don’t lack data on me or my family, they don’t lack a strength of voice or brand. In a lot of eyes, they are the cream of the crop here. So, why is it that when my 15-year-old, who I have a checking and savings account for at this CU, gets a birthday email saying congrats with a “surprise inside” message? I curiously opened the message to find a loan offer and a credit card offer … I’m sorry, but my newly 15-year-old son is not looking at loan options in his life right now.

It wasn’t the thought that was off, or the automation. It was the value. Why not send my 15-year-old a small gift card to buy an app, or deposit $5 in his checking with some education on saving it for when he turns 16 so he can have money to buy gas when he gets to drive? The ideas are endless but for some reason, the care of what a member really needs and wants has been lost. 

I also happen to use apps that allow me to easily pay others and I do some day trading on the stock market. My new institution doesn’t offer a way for me to connect my banking information to those apps. Talk about a rude awakening for me after switching everything over. When we think about how difficult it is to switch someone from a large bank to a CU, the last thing they want to worry about is the simple stuff that should be a given. Why create friction for them to use their money the way they need to?

Imagine how difficult it is to change every account you have and all the auto-pays you have set up to a new account number and routing number. I’m talking your cell phone bill, your internet bill, your utilities, your mortgage, your credit cards, your auto, etc. The list is big, so there has to be an amazing reason to switch. As credit unions, we need to put ourselves in our members shoes more. Credit unions typically know their members better than most companies know their customers, so what can get people to switch? The right type of marketing can.

CUs compete for the attention with the biggest brands in the world, but those big brands don’t have the clout credit unions do in their communities. This IS a competitive advantage. It is why CUs should win every time. 

It’s not the billboard that’s going to get someone to switch or the logo on the Utah Jazz arena. It’s the experience people have and the spread of that experience by word-of-mouth through the community. It’s the in-app experience giving me the ability as a member to be served and offered things I truly need. Not a complete guess on if I’m ready for a loan or a credit card. It’s the in-branch experience where employees are well versed in teaching me as a member what products would benefit me and why.

Marketing can spread the brand, campaign, and product offers to every inch of their institution by simply providing a visibility to staff so that every opportunity is an interaction to make a difference and grow the relationship. Instead, it’s on a billboard, a direct mail piece, or a birthday email offering my 15-year-old a credit card.

James Gilbert

James Gilbert

James currently leads the Marketing Team at CRMNEXT, a CRM solutions for financial services. He recently lead a global marketing team at CloudCherry, that was acquired by Cisco with a ... Web: Details