The biggest waste of credit union marketing dollars is…

What YMC learned from our ‘hero’ credit union

Don’t invest one more dollar into marketing at your credit union until you read this: Your brand is everything and everything is your brand.

Let me give you some perspective. Every month our team participates in “Third Friday.” We break for lunch at noon and work in groups on bigger client projects.

This past month we experimented with something different. We chose three credit unions we believed had really good marketing. Their social media was engaging, their brand appeared to be consistent and stood for something, they clearly had an ideal member they were targeting, their content was informative and not salesy, and most importantly they seemed strategic in everything they did. Each credit union we chose had to have a consistent history of membership growth, loan growth and a strong ROA. We thought we nailed it. Three great brands from which to learn.

And boy did we. They were not what they appeared.

My group focused on a billion-dollar credit union in the Midwest. We were in love with their brand, their content and especially their numbers. In our first meeting, the team presented its findings in terms of everything we loved about them and things we could learn and possibly implement with our clients.

Prior to our next meeting I asked the team to interact with that particular credit union to learn how the staff executed on those brand promises and member service from the front line. We discovered our hypothesis about this credit union was dead wrong.

After being on long holds several times, we never were able to speak with anyone at the credit union. Social media comments and questions went unanswered. Emails went unanswered.

We were devasted.

Here was this brand that we were in love with, only to find out it was a bunch of fancy marketing covering up internal problems. Google and Facebook reviews were shut off; we’re guessing for obvious reasons. Reviews on sites like Bankrate, NerdWallet, and the Better Business Bureau confirmed our experiences. It wasn’t a fluke, a bad day or a bad week. This credit union had years of reviews reflecting poor member service.

Here are some takeaways you should discuss with your leadership team before spending one more cent on marketing:

  1. Overwhelmingly, respondents to a recent Kantar Media survey found that people trust friends and family more than paid marketing. In fact, 93% of people surveyed turn to friends and family for recommendations as opposed to traditional advertising. Consider what members of this particular credit union are saying to their friends and family, and the missed opportunities to earn new members and loans just by taking care of its existing members.
  2. This credit union’s marketing budget was wasted to acquire leads who took the time to reach out to the credit union to become members or apply for loans but eventually gave up and went somewhere else because they never heard back. I have to guess it was a good amount based on our personal experiences and the reviews.
  3. How much could the credit union increase share of wallet with its existing members if it had been more responsive? It’s hard to give a brand more of my business if they deplete trust on these very basics.

This credit union recently rebranded. That’s just putting lipstick on a pig. If you’re using a rebrand to cover up underlying issues without addressing those prior to the rebrand, you’re wasting a lot of members’ money because no matter how awesome your new brand is, members and potential members will discover your deceit quickly.

My advice for credit unions: before you spend one more dollar on marketing, experience your brand as a member. Are the promises you make in your brand message demonstrated into action by your team? Do member service issues need to be shored up before you try to acquire new members? You have one shot. If you blow it, all of the work you do in the future will fall on deaf ears.

Through the years we’ve collected many stories like this and put together a resource for credit unions considering a rebrand.

When do you know the time is right?

Where do you even start such a huge process? How do you choose the right partner?

Before you put lipstick on the pig, download this resource to avoid one of the most expensive mistakes your credit union could make.

Bo McDonald

Bo McDonald

Bo McDonald is president of Your Marketing Co. A marketing firm that started serving credit unions nearly a decade ago, offering a wide range of services including web design, branding, ... Web: Details