Although credit unions nationally have the greatest number of active charters, banks average a 10x larger average asset size per institution. At approximately $470 million in assets each, modern credit unions must punch above their proverbial fighting weight. This is true across all functional disciplines of the organization, perhaps none to a greater degree than in marketing.
Fortunately, today’s marketer is armed with a litany of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) online tools that serve to level the promotional playing field. This article will outline and describe many of those marketing SaaS categories and considerations for selecting the right ones for your credit union.
It’s certainly true that thousands of marketing SaaS solutions are within reach; defining your credit union’s set of success factors and understanding your business constraints will ensure you make a no-regrets selection.
Today’s MarTech (Marketing Technology) software toolbelt is chock-full of both public-facing communications tools and brand management resources. These help a credit union marketer to refine their internal and external message and develop scalpel-precise audience segments. While your credit union may not need every individual layer of the full MarTech software stack, having a comprehensive understanding will serve you well as your needs become more complex.
- Project management: Strong execution starts with organization and accountability. A typical credit union marketing unit often has at least a dozen different messaging campaigns and defined audiences in motion, while either developing or overseeing development of a dozen more. An intuitively simple, yet capably robust project management software not only allows credit union marketers to make sense of the chaos, but it also aids in storytelling for other internal stakeholders. Tools like Trello allow for highly visual tile-based organization while Wrike provides a spreadsheet-like interface. Asana is a great resource for creative teams seeking coordination, while a solution like Jira is great for web development where tracking change history is critical.
- Data analytics: Whether your credit union’s marketing discipline is tasked with producing business intelligence or is a key stakeholder in actioning the output, an effective data analysis tool can transform the complex into digestible insights. If data science reports to marketing, warehousing and visualization tools like Tableau and Power BI are smart mainstream considerations. For competitive market visibility and peer benchmarking, Callahan’s Peer Suite or S&P Global’s Marketing Intelligence may serve the need. Traditionally, credit union marketing teams have relied on a Marketing Consumer Information File (MCIF), which connects to the core data processor and creates a household view of the member’s relationships for streamlined correspondence. Legacy MCIF tools Like Fiserv’s Raddon Integrator and Marquis ExecuTrax are still accessible for this purpose, while more demanding and nimble teams are looking to predictive AI solutions like IntelliFi powered by Faraday. These modern AI-driven tools not only aggregate traditional disparate member relationship data sources but pair those data streams with propensity models and lookalike audiences to allow marketers to action the data. A critical question for credit union marketing leaders to ask when choosing between these two analytics approaches is whether the output is primarily backward and descriptive data reporting (as in a traditional board packet) or if the analysis insights need to be deployed back into the marketplace for future growth.
- Customer/member relationship management (CRM/MRM): As new interaction points continue to develop with credit union members, maintaining a singular “source-of-truth” about their interests and needs has never been more important. A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is an elegant second screen used by your credit union’s member-facing staff to record these interactions, while also keeping track of sales opportunities and support cases. When your member experience staff adopt a CRM solution, it’s a remarkably powerful arrow in the marketer’s quiver as it fills in gaps about the member’s life and preferences in ways traditional demographics never could. CRM solutions represent perhaps the widest range of selection for a discerning credit union marketing leader. Next-generation platforms like FortiFi powered by Creatio offer an extensible, no-code environment with an affordable, rapid deployment. Legacy solutions like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics also have wide connectivity and a broad range of integration partners but require significant investment and a high degree of technical understanding to deploy correctly. Even core data processors provide a CRM option, with Fiserv offering Enteract and Jack Henry’s Synapsys, which can be used alongside its Symitar Episys core. These “onboard” solutions tend to be highly specialized but also very limited in their set of functions and outside connectivity, as they’re intended to function best with their companion data processor exclusively.
- Marketing automation: In the past decade, most marketers have embraced the practice of communication based on triggered “if/then” logic, or marketing automation. The software responsible for these behaviors-driven messages is accessible to credit unions who are willing to define their member audiences and author communication journeys for them. Often, these automation tools are connected to the aforementioned CRM or MCIF tool chosen by the credit union’s marketing and member experience teams. CRM-connected automation tools like Hubspot, Marketo, and Salesforce Marketing Cloud are most capable when paired with their companion software but are functional standalone. Much like those incumbent CRM solutions, these proven platforms also compete against new, nimble players like Creatio and SharpSpring. These emerging solutions can connect to a range of data sources and are typically available at a more affordable subscription cost.
- Email broadcast: For some marketing teams, an email broadcast solution is the most thoughtful intersect of cost and capability. While basic legacy solutions like Constant Contact and MailChimp continue to iterate on their offering and provide creature comforts, they are still designed for all industries. Creatio has introduced a modern credit union email authoring client that is CRM-connected for both passive member journey messaging and traditional ad hoc broadcasting. Other solutions with tailoring for financial services include Doxim, DocuMatix and EMMA, but marketers should weigh that tailored fit against possible lag-behind modern email authoring and sending standards.
- Design: Traditionally, most credit union marketing teams have focused on project management and delegated execution of graphic and web design to specialty contractors. Today, onboard creative expertise and software tools are much more universally accessible, and teams are insourcing day-to-day design needs. A classic example of this shift is Adobe Creative Cloud’s move toward a subscription licensing model for its traditional suite of design software—Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere, and Dreamweaver, among others. This shift was due in part to browser-based solutions like Canva, GIMP, and InkScape emerging with a very lean approach to layout and photo-editing. Whether you are looking for a traditional and proven local design software ecosystem, or a capable and lightweight solution on a shoestring budget, there are tools available to meet the need.
- Campaign tracking: While most of the stack layers outlined above are critical to defining audience segments and delivering communication to them, many fall short of being able to fully display engagement and throughput of those promotional efforts. As a credit union marketer, you’ll find that your key stakeholders care deeply about being able to understand the relationship between marketing dollars spent and members and balances gained. Therefore, using a tool like Google Analytics to develop online traffic funnels, see call-to-action pageviews, and solve “shopping cart abandonment” woes is a smart idea. If your goal is getting message recipients to complete a certain form or event, a solution like Mixpanel can be a good companion to a sitewide monitor like Google Analytics. However, many new predictive analytics SaaS platforms and even some legacy MCIF tools have onboard campaign tracking modules, so be certain to explore the full breadth of your existing tools. In addition to campaign tracking, ensuring the search engine hygiene and ADA/WCAG compliance of your brochure website and its action pages is critical. Tools like SiteImprove and SEMRush may be useful additions to your portfolio of marketing effectiveness software.
As you have read through these MarTech stack layers, it’s natural that you may have felt a bit overwhelmed by all the different solutions and alternatives—especially considering these are only examples of the wide range available in the marketplace. How does today’s credit union marketer evaluate every solution and dial in on the right one for each turn of the MarTech maze?
Being both a wise and discerning (even perhaps shrewd) MarTech client involves a clear sense of what your credit union wants to strategically accomplish, and where your limited resources of both money and time can be best placed. Take the following questions into account as you craft your solution stack and navigate the maze:
- Which channels are most critical for our messaging? If you are a community-based credit union looking for new member growth, the most likely combination of messages are digital programmatic placements (PPC, pre-roll, etc.) and direct mail, so your focus may need to be design and campaign tracking. By contrast, if your field-of-membership is closed and your key success factor is deeper share of wallet, you might prioritize automation and CRM.
- Do we have access to the data we need? Many of the layers and example solutions described above rely heavily on access to audience data, namely your member Personally-Identifiable Information (PII). Determining whether you have database-level access to your member contact information, as well as other relationship attributes necessary for rules-based automation, is a critical step in your decision-making process. This is often accomplished via an Application Programming Interface (API), a Software Developer Kit (SDK), or Structured Query Language (SQL). Avoid waiting until the implementation phase of your software to discover you are limited to cumbersome daily file extracts to load into your “automation” tool.
- What matters most to our key internal stakeholders? Marketing has the difficult job of balancing what it understands as the member and market needs against what fuels the organization’s balance sheet and income statement. The past year has been a thirst for liquidity, with most credit unions seeking out affordable deposits. As organic loan demand begins to slow, will you be asked to activate lending campaigns? All the layers described above play utility roles in this ever-evolving climate, but knowing the immediate needs of your companion leaders and how they are resourced may help you to maximize your MarTech stack outfitting. For instance, if loan demand is the next focus, improvements to analytics and CRM may be the best near-term investment. If you’re unclear about the greatest marketing priorities within your organization, consider starting with your project management solution and involve those key stakeholders in shaping how those projects are rank-ordered.
- What competency gaps exist within our marketing staff? When it comes to creative execution, there’s no substitute for human capital. However, between the ongoing refinement of MarTech SaaS layers and the emergence of generative AI, your credit union may be able to strategically defer on adding to its marketing payroll for a brief period. Consider which roles or competencies your team may be missing and whether there are technology “plugs” for those gaps. For instance, when it comes to design, you may be able to rely on an Agent-of-Record for large brand identity and campaign assets. This lets you license a lightweight software solution like Canva for small social media deliverables and daily tactical needs without putting a full-time designer on staff.
- What’s next? Two seemingly simple words with many potentially complex answers. While the economic forecast and your marketer’s crystal ball may be somewhat opaque for now, looking into the future is a smart idea when adding to your MarTech stack. Waiting until you need an automation solution is too late, as they take time to connect, configure, and layout with content and brand assets. The same can be said for CRM, analytics, and campaign tracking solutions. All involve time to implement, for the users to develop technical competency and usage habits, to begin expecting a return on the investment. Asking the ‘what’s next?’ question involves courage and placing strategic bets. However, the return can often vastly outweigh the risk if that question is asked alongside the others that come before it.
The MarTech maze is complex indeed but defeating it with the right set of layers outfitted in a thoughtful fashion is a worthwhile victory. To seize that victory requires knowledge of the software alternatives and the strategic tradeoffs they pose, a clear-eyed sense of resource constraints and organizational needs, and a willingness to engage in partnerships with providers who share your credit union’s values. In addition to ‘self-serve’ MarTech solutions, collaborate with the brand strategy experts who will help you shape your credit union’s distinctive image and voice in the marketplace.