The methods of attracting and retaining credit union members have changed dramatically in the last five to 10 years. Suddenly, public relations tactics, not marketing, are preferred for driving revenue.
Bringing in new members used to be a numbers game. It still is, to a great extent, but the rules of engagement have changed. Attracting prospects isn’t about pushing out sales messages to as many people as possible. Rather, it’s about drawing people in by creating and distributing content that serves them, not the credit union. Continuous sales outreach and self-promotion have fallen out of favor.
The consumer is bombarded by choice. They don’t choose a financial institution because they saw an ad or read a mailer. They have become immune to sales pitches, advertising, post cards branch blitzes and cold calls. Rather, consumers prefer be courted over the long term with relevant content, third party credibility, social media engagement, and more visibility of selective member facing personnel and management team via personal branding.
Today, the recommended process for increasing market share is to attract audience, develop relationships to build trust and credibility, and collect warm leads. Then is the time to initiate the sales process. Staffed by people with strong writing, communication and strategic planning skills, the public relations function has always been about relationship building, reputation management, positive media exposure, brand journalism (a.k.a. content marketing), speech writing, the newsletter, community relations, corporate giving, and more.
Because this change happened so rapidly, most credit unions, known for being slow adopters, are struggling to keep up. To make matters worse, the rooted credit union leadership team continues to resist the mandates of the digital environment, which is evident in staid, self-promoting website content, the use of social media as a free advertising platform, the scarcity of management LinkedIn profiles, and more.
The way to keep up with how target markets now make decisions is by updating four, crucial pieces of the business plan: repositioning the brand, building a bigger platform in the digital space, PR training for in-house marketing specialists, and changing mindset that values brand engagement over self-aggrandizement.