Strategic plans for credit unions are created from the hard work and effort of many people, both volunteers and managers, who come together with their background and ideas, and armed with statistics and data, to layout the financial institution’s future.
Creating a credit union’s strategic plan, is a multi-day process which involves a broad analysis and discussion which addresses the entire business structure of the credit union ranging from short-term ideas to long-range forecasts.
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The areas focused on in the strategic plan can run the gamut from branch planning, to membership growth, asset growth, loan products, operating services, technical development, and the credit union culture. Every single portion of the credit union strategic plan includes marketing, either internally to staff, or externally to existing and potential members. With top to bottom engagement in the credit union’s overall strategic plan, in theory, the ones that have successful years are those who develop their marketing plan based on hitting targets within the strategic plan.
To understand the relationship between the two, it’s important to understand the purpose of strategic planning; the planning process; the difference between goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics; and the important role of measurement in strategic planning.
The Purpose of Strategic Planning
Strategic planning is designed to provide a credit union, its divisions, departments, and individual staff or volunteers with a game plan or road map to achieve specific goals and objectives. Both internal and external effects and opportunities are identified in the strategic plan and need to be considered in the creation of strategies and tactics. From a marketing standpoint, strategic planning might help to identify new market opportunities in addition to new competitive threats.
The Planning Process with Executive Staff and Board Members
A number of people and several steps are involved in any strategic planning process. Ultimately, the marketing staff, with input from other executives in the credit union, should contribute and develop a strategic marketing plan to implement the overall strategic plan as part of the planning process or immediately afterward.
To develop a strategic plan, your credit union will need to identify the overall planning goal, invite participants, gather data related to the internal and external environment, conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, develop specific objectives, create strategies and tactics, and design a measurement and reporting process. In many organizations, the overall strategic plan provides direction for the creation of sub-plans. Here is where the strategic marketing plan development comes into play.
Goals, Objectives, Strategies, and Tactics
The components of a strategic marketing plan include goals and objectives as set forth by the strategic plan and, strategies and tactics to meet those goals and objectives.
Goals are broad and provide general direction in terms of what the credit union and the marketing component would like to achieve, for example, an increase in non-interest income. Objectives are tied to goals and provide more specific, measurable outcomes — for example, increase membership around a specific branch for a specific product, by a certain amount or by a specific date.
Strategies and tactics indicate how goals and objectives will be met. Strategies are broad: for instance, implement a social media strategy. Tactics are more specific and indicate the individual tasks to achieve the strategies — for instance, set up a Twitter account or establish a YouTube channel.
The Important Role of Measurement
It is not enough to create plan; your credit union’s strategic plan must include a way to determine measurement of the goal and a process for monitoring and reviewing results. An overall strategic plan might outline broad objectives for marketing; the marketing plan would detail more specific objectives for the marketing department to monitor and report on. The results achieved — whether they fall short or exceed expectations — provide input used to consider changes or adjustments in the plan. Ongoing measurement and reporting can help to ensure the strategic plan continues to achieve measurable results.
Developing your Marketing Strategy
Developing a marketing strategy with your credit union’s strategic plan as the guideline, helps you focus on how you will sell your financial institution’s products or services.
However, your goals, and how you intend to reach them, may change as your credit union changes from year-to-year. For that reason, your marketing plan should be reviewed annually to update your implementation strategy. The beginning of a new calendar year is a good time for this exercise.
What’s the “Why” of the Marketing Plan
The purpose of your marketing plan is to outline how you will reach your target audience and sales goals for each branch and department of your credit union. To do this, it is critical to develop a strategy to promote your products or services. Placing details in your marketing plan helps you analyze its success at a later date and update it as needed.
For example, if your target customer is a teenager to grow youth accounts, and you initially planned to promote the credit union to that demographic on social networking sites, examine whether you met your marketing goal and if it was productive. It might be more successful to promote youth accounts to parents or grandparents who realize the value of a savings account.
Components Needed in a Marketing Strategy or Plan
To develop your marketing plan and strategy for the year, review your progress from your last plan. If you don’t have one, create a template of what products were promoted last year by advertising and promotions in each of the credit union’s business areas. Read through your credit union’s strategic plan for guidance prior to creating a strategy for marketing. Once you’ve established where the credit union wants to position itself in the coming year, figure out how you’ll get there through your marketing plan. Focus on seasonal sales and how to improve during lulls and busy times. Repeat the strategies that were most effective and include the cost estimates for each one. Look at your competitors in the market including other credit unions and banks to see what they promoted throughout the calendar year. A good competitor file is key for understanding how their marketing plans evolve.
Rolling out the “New” Marketing Plan
Once you understand what you need to accomplish to grow the credit union based on the strategic plan and through your new marketing strategic plan, implement your strategy by matching the strengths and talents of your coworkers or marketing firm to different segments of your plan.
For example, if a goal is to increase your online presence, you might have a staff member with experience and success with web content, advertising and social media who can take the lead. Understand from your member research what social media sites they frequent and where to reach each demographic. While Facebook is a must for some people, Instagram is the medium of choice for others. Don’t forget to engage your members on LinkedIn, too. It extends a professional profile for the credit union.
Explaining your annual marketing plan to the marketing staff helps them understand why they are assigned to certain tasks and how their efforts benefit them and the credit union. Also, ask them to develop this strategy with you. If you have a one-man operation, talk to your branch managers or operations people to determine key aspects of your plan. What might work at your branch close to a business center might not work for a branch in a smaller community.
Analyze and Review your Marketing Plan Often
Once your annual marketing plan is updated, it must be reviewed periodically throughout the year. Look at your goals and the strategy you developed to achieve them and determine if you are on track for reaching them. Ensure that you are accomplishing the strategic plan, and you do not need to make any changes to it due to unforeseen circumstances, such as the competition opened a new branch in the same block or your go-to radio station was sold and changed its format. This process is ongoing, so your yearly marketing plan and strategic goals must be revisited regularly, such as every quarter, to help you analyze its success before the year is over.
To help create the tactical side of your marketing plan, you can find great resources on the internet that have been successful for other companies, including 45 Marketing Ideas for Small Credit Unions.
On top of reviewing your marketing plan quarterly – set yourself up for success by developing an ICE plan alongside your strategic marketing plan.