By Robert McGarvey
Face facts: you have to market to survive, and nowadays, lots of credit unions need to have survival on their minds. The herd is thinning. What can you do to come out a survivor?
Marketing is not in the credit union DNA. That’s reality. In the industry’s formative years, a factory or a brewery opened in a town, and eventually, a credit union sprouted out of the workers’ needs to get financial services. Many of the workers in fact banked at the credit union.
Life was easy; it was good…
But life changes. Meanwhile, the big banks aggressively market. So do most of the biggest credit unions.
To get new members you need to get noticed. You need to get out the word that credit unions are a better deal.
Credit unions have a brilliant selling platform. For the vast majority of people, they really are a better way to bank. Maybe the 1% need the full services of a money center bank, but the 99% don’t.
So how do credit unions get out the word?
Focus on Facebook. That’s advice from multiple credit union digital experts. Their point is that Millennials in particular spend a lot of time there – but by now so do many from many generations. Word of advice: find a half-dozen credit union pages on Facebook that you admire, and ask how yours can be that good. Many point to Navy Federal, BECU, and Digital as leaders. But hunt until you find ones you admire, and get your page to the same level.
Also explore buying Google Adwords—a tool set well-explained in this article on the CUNA website. Put simply, Adwords lets a credit union buy particular keywords that connect ads to consumers through their searches. The key is buying only words that work for you and that are reasonably specific. Used well, Adwords are a goldmine for savvy marketers. Used indiscriminately, it’s a fast track to high costs with few benefits. Do the research first.
Find Your Niche. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Leave that to the mega banks. Focus in on a particular audience—and a particular set of needs—and go hard after it. A $50 million credit union can’t imitate Chase. But it can provide just the services needed by corn farmers in a few Midwestern counties, and that’s a pathway to success.
Know Your Members —and Potential Members. Tempe, AZ marketer Mike Jones said that his client Canyon State Credit Union in Arizona dug deep into the personalities of the new members it hoped to recruit. And it hit upon a surprising insight: they are attracted to long form posts, especially on Facebook. Standard advice is keep such items short and snappy. But Grand Canyon has found it gets better results with more info.
Jones elaborated: “we’ve found that for Canyon State Credit Union that long-form content does much better on Facebook than shorter, less informative content—at least for the particular audience segment that they are targeting. When we added more long-form content to their posts, it increased per-post engagement by 100% which led to an increase in new member leads from Facebook.”
That’s a powerful insight. Know what will engage your prospective members, and give it to them. Don’t be shy about using trial-and-error to get there. Track results and modify accordingly.
Ask Your Members for Help. Probably the single most powerful growth tool for any credit union is enlisting current members to help. Many people don’t join credit unions because they don’t understand the benefits. Then, too, many of us are skeptical of claims made by businesses, credit unions included. So get members to tell their friends about the credit union advantage.
How to persuade them? Just ask.
Give them talking points, such as “member-owned” and “here to serve members, not distant shareholders.” Stress benefits, such as very competitive loan rates, which are often the best in town, for instance. And let your members loose.
They will be doing their friends a favor telling them about credit unions.
Get the leadership active. That’s more advice from Mike Jones who said, “Have your CEO and board members and other key executive leaders post (or re-post) content from the credit union on their social profiles. This is especially impactful on Linkedin for those credit unions that offer products and services for businesses, as their leadership’s personal networks can prove to be their best means of outreach to new customers.”
Bottom line: know that today it’s up to you to implement tactics for growing membership—the credit union that does that is securing its own survival.