Word of mouth is the most powerful advertising tool we have to grow memberships. According to a survey by Ernst & Young, 71% of people surveyed will consult a friend, family member or colleague before selecting their next financial institution. So how do you get this word-of-mouth machine working for you?
Ask for Referrals.
Quite simply, ask your members for referrals. You’ll definitely get more than if you didn’t ask at all! Most likely, you already get some referrals, but if you made this an “all-hands-on-deck” effort, imagine how many you could get.
Go Where the People Are.
There is a place that already exists where word-of-mouth runs rampant – it’s the world of social media. Consider tapping into this discussion. You can do so via your own credit union Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter page (or even Instagram or Snapchat!). Or you can participate in relevant discussions in these various social media channels.
Make Referrals Easy and Fun.
Make referring easy to do with electronic invitations. Use technology to spread the word through texts and emails. And be creative! People would much rather share something fun than something that might be perceived as dull or too much effort. Brainstorm some fun themes! Have contests! Get your members involved.
Keep it a Focus.
It’s easy to get your team excited when you kick off a brand new effort. But it’s critical to keep your team engaged and asking for new business. Make and keep the referral component a priority in your frontline team’s responsibilities.
Finally, Be Awesome.
What are you doing that your competitors are not?
The hotel industry is a great example of “What Next?” They continually evolved to meet their guests’ changing needs. First, they added bottles of water at check-in for thirsty travelers. Then they added charging stations near the beds for convenient cell-phone charging. Travelers are usually hungry when they arrive, so the hotels responded with snacks and food at reception. And then came wine receptions! Umbrellas by the door in case of rain! Board games and puzzles in the lobbies!
The hotel industry is always brainstorming: “how else can we make our guests comfortable? How else can we solve their problems? How can we make their experience as pleasant as possible? Are you pushing your team to make a better experience for your members?
Partner up to Get Started!
If you’re wondering why all credit unions aren’t running successful deposit-driven referral programs, it’s because fostering excitement and motivation is the easy part. Without automation to make it simple and data mining analytics to make it effective, managing your own referral program can be extremely challenging.
I have personally seen many referral programs fall flat due to a lack of focus, lack of training, poor reporting (or none at all!), no changes to the marketing plan and lackluster employee involvement. One route your credit union might consider is to hire a referral/loyalty partner to help you through planning, implementation and post-launch.
Today’s consumers have the world at their fingertips, so they’ve grown more demanding and less loyal. Referral experts can help you navigate through this challenging consumer landscape with proven methods that will ensure long-lasting results.
Here are the top 5 things to look for in a referral partner:
- Profitable Results
You’ll need to know the number of account openings per branch, per year that resulted from your referral program, as well as the average revenue contributed by each account, and the lifetime value of each account.
- Automated Solution
An effective partner will provide proprietary software, the newest techniques and the most effective forms of communication to create a program that is automated and easier to execute.
- Comprehensive Reporting
Effective reporting is one of the most critical parts of a referral program necessary to measure the incremental profit each new account delivers – including detailed info on the account balances, fees, types of accounts and method of acquisition.
- Ongoing Training
Seek a partner that can provide professional trainers to keep your team engaged and focused on account growth and building relationships – not just getting a single account once the consumer is in the branch.
- Ongoing Marketing
Keep the relationship going with referred individuals and the referring members through email, direct mail, phone, and proven marketing programs.
So what’s next for you? What can you do to create a great experience for your members?
If you want people talking about you, you need to stand out. Nobody talks about great service anymore…they expect it. If you want your members to talk about how great you are, you have to be great and you have to be better than others!
Knock their socks off with great services, create an experience in the branches, keep asking for referrals, and find the right partner to help you establish an automated, measurable and profitable referral program!