Credit unions are typically blessed by active and involved boards of directors. These individuals volunteer countless hours of their own time, combined with passion and energy, all in the pursuit of shaping and guiding a better credit union for members. They are also often the most connected and involved of credit union members. Board members deserve praise and accolades for all that they do for credit unions and their members.
Having said that, there is one thing that (more than likely) your board of directors is not — your credit union’s target audience.
While credit unions are evolving and there are exceptions to the rule, board members tend to be of an older and more established demographic. They may also often represent the origins of the credit union (for example, the employees of the original sponsor company or select employee group). Again, while these anchors to the past are amazing assets to have, they probably don’t represent your credit union membership in the here and now. They also probably don’t represent your credit union membership as it is likely to grow or as you envision it to grow in the coming years.
So, for all the experience and energy the average board brings into the credit union growth strategy, they can also be a hindrance. If credit union marketers and executive management teams continually pitch marketing, growth and branding ideas to their board as if it represented their average member, the potential for a harmful disconnect exists. Depending on the make-up of the board, it is possible they either do not or cannot understand and relate to the dynamics of marketing and branding strategies as they apply to the younger demographic of the credit union.
Credit union marketers and executive management teams can help avoid this disconnect by actively seeking ways to engage with their actual target audience — the members. Below you’ll find a few ways in which you can do this.
- Reach out to them where they are using social media. A great deal of your social media strategy will depend on your actual targeted membership (College students? Married couples entering adulthood? Minority markets?). Tools to consider using include Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Social media participation numbers will continue to grow and your credit union must consider these channels when trying to reach its target market.
- Use your brand to establish a unique retail experience for members. That’s right, a retail experience. Credit unions must come to realize that they are retailers of financial products and services. And just like consumers have a multitude of choices when it comes to clothing, cars and cell phones, they can also choose from a huge number of financial service providers. In an age of hyper-competition, your brand and the experience it provides to members is often the only real differentiator for consumers in their decision-making process.
- Go mobile. Your target audience almost certainly already is. Along the lines of a social media strategy, a mobile strategy empowers your credit union to connect with its target audience where they are — and in this day and age that means with mobile devices. Strive to make your credit union as easily accessible as possible with smartphones and tablets. Mobility enhances the desire for convenience and when consumers are faced with the choice between an easily accessible competitor and a stodgy old credit union reluctant to embrace mobility strategies, it’s a pretty straight-laced decision — you lose.
- Think smaller when it comes to content strategy. The typical target audience of younger members consumes a great deal of data every day — they just do it in many, smaller bites. No one has the time (or interest) anymore to browse page after page of tightly packed text in your brochures and website. Think in Twitter terms: try to condense everything you communicate to members in as small a number of words as possible. We’re not talking sacrificing quality here, far from it. Just strive for ways to condense your marketing and brand messages into a more target audience friendly format.
- Identify with your existing membership for more meaningful connections. This may require you to leave the comfort zone of board rooms, offices and statistics, but it’s a necessary step in helping to connect with your actual target audience. Look for ways to connect with your target audience like using your existing MCIF system or with the help of a third-party vendor. You can also pursue options like member interviews, email surveys and even focus groups. When you reach out to existing members and ask their opinions on what matters to them about the credit union, you might be pleasantly surprised at the response rate you receive. Such data is invaluable in helping you connect with your target audience.
Again, credit union boards of directors are often comprised of the best and brightest when it comes to engagement and passion. Unfortunately, they are also just as often not demographically representative of the typical target audience for a growth-minded credit union. Finding ways to break out of the board of directors mold and creating brand and growth strategies around actual target markets helps ensure credit unions address the expectations and needs of a diverse and evolving consumer base.