The Internet attributes this famous quote alternately to Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
We may never know who said it, and it may be one of the most cliché quotes—maybe you even have a framed photo of Einstein with these words in bold block letters against a stark black background starting you in the face. The point isn’t the quote itself, it’s what you’re willing to do, or not do, in the quest for better outcomes.
So, what are your plans this year to achieve different or improved results (i.e. capital growth, business loan strategy, attracting younger members)? If your 2015 plans include all the same actions and executables as previous years, and yet you expect to see better results this year…you know where I’m going with this.
I have two new ideas that I’ve seen some, though few, credit unions trying recently. To me these are very new, very innovative approaches for credit unions to achieve all sorts of different results.
1) Partner with other local, cooperative or like-minded businesses in your community
Think about it as a “local force” or coalition of local businesses. The idea isn’t to create another business-focused alliance for purposes of trading insider best practices, but a consumer-focused alliance that helps those who want to support local businesses more easily find them and understand the value and impact of local. What other local businesses serve individuals that are likely to become members of your credit union? (Hint: grocery cooperative.) Think about how your business can help them grow. On a larger scale, how can every local business work together and share marketing resources to promote the concept of keeping money local rather than just promoting an individual business?
Local business associations exist in many cities where ‘local’ has been a popular buzzword for a long time, like Dane Buy Local in Madison, WI and Austin Independent Business Alliance in Austin, TX. Check it out–there are credit unions involved in these groups. If your region doesn’t have one yet, think about starting one, either formally or informally. Pick up the phone and call around. Get together for a networking opportunity and ask everyone “What do you need to grow your business this year? What can we do to support each other with those needs?”
Once you do some local connecting, take the ideas large-scale through social and digital means. Take advantage of how well the concepts of a thriving local economy, personalization, sustainable communities and a healthy environment play out on social media. This kind of content is social media gold. Collectively, go farther by asking your community members exactly what they want from local businesses–then act on it. Try something like IdeaScale where community members can submit feedback and ideas, and can vote the best to the top. Macro businesses can beat local businesses on many levels but they can never know the wants and needs of your community better than local.
2) Create in-real-life experiences that online financial providers and disrupters can’t replicate
If you read this article about bookstores struggling to compete with Amazon on volume and price – and swap out ‘bookstore’ for ‘credit union’ and ‘Amazon’ for ‘online or disruptive financial provider of your choice’, you will be inspired to try some new and amazing things in your credit union branches. If financial products and services are your books, who or what are your authors? What kind of sensory or first-hand learning experiences can members have when visiting your branches? What real path can you provide that will make their lives better, easier, more?
Summit Credit Union has an Inspiration branch which has large-scale scenes of dreams (Leaning Tower of Pisa, a street in England) and goals (a university hall, a beach) aimed to “inspire and motivate people to action.” Again, there’s power in promoting these “touch and feel” experiences digitally as well, through your website and social media. There’s no way an online financial institution can connect with customers about the value of saving better than you can when you’ve got them there in the sand at your branch’s beach. And that will generate powerful content for others to see and want to come experience for themselves.
Whether you try these ideas or something else completely, the important thing is to stretch yourself and your credit union to try something you’ve never tried before. Don’t be surprised when you start seeing different results…this means you’re not insane. Cheers to a brave new 2015.