Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: different

Different Credit Unions For Different Members

“Our members are different” might actually be true.

However, it’s for different reasons than cited. Most people react similarly to good marketing and smooth user interface design. They may not recognize why, but there’s a reason Google looks nearly the same as it did a decade ago.

However, individual credit unions may have a focus which makes them a better choice (pun intended) for certain members. While one member may be looking for the lowest credit card interest rates, another wants the highest rewards. During a recent visit to a number of clients in the Philadelphia area, I encountered this variance. While we were talking about goals and strategy, one credit union waved off anything below “C” paper for auto lending. Though they would work with members on individual exceptions (mainly to “look beyond the number”), it wasn’t their focus. The next day, I visited a credit union who went well into the low 500s for auto loans. “Our D paper is most other CU’s F- paper!” they exclaimed. The risk management was designed to accommodate these loans and they reaped the benefits of higher interest rates. This credit union felt that it was important to serve members who would otherwise be stuck in “Buy Here, Pay Here” financing.

What type of credit union are you? Is adopting a public face with impressive main office architecture, driving CU-branded cars around town, and sponsoring events your “thing”? Or, do you operate with a more low-key approach, relying on your existing members to spread the word and passing on those marketing dollars in the form of lower rates or greater dividends?

I’ve been to a lot of credit unions in the past few months. From a roadside office to a mountain compound to a 1700s governor’s mansion, the variety is incredible. I’d wager the variety of members served was equally so.

Is there a “correct” balance? Yes, one which allows your credit union to serve your current and target members to their highest satisfaction. This may mean offering numerous options for every service (though the Paradox of Choice normally precludes it…for much more on the concept, continue here or my post), focusing on rewards programs (make it a game!), or presenting “credit building” solutions. It’s all about your members. And you’ll get it wrong. So you tweak your strategy, ask your membership (remember the note cards?), and get better in the future.

Isn’t that, in and of itself, a way of being different?

Image credit: https://sorryabouthatbud.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/mm-edited.jpg

The Best, Most Innovative Blog Post Ever Shared

Be honest. We all exaggerate. In our personal lives and in business. Just look at an online dating site. Yeah, you’re making $250,000+ and spend most of your time traveling to exotic destinations, supporting charitable causes in each place. Oh, and you happen to look like (insert your ideal here). Weird, all your photos look professionally done.

Or, on your resume. I’m sure you did great work at that last credit union, but did you really “implement a company-wide program which resulted in a 78% improvement of job satisfaction, while increasing member engagement by 47%”?

If you’re the person to whom these are both true, we should meet. And I’m not saying exceptional people or businesses don’t exist. But that’s the thing, they’re exceptional, which tends to mean, “uncommon”. If you have to ask if you or your credit union fits the definition, it doesn’t. Sorry.

So why do we position ourselves as “the best”, “the most innovative”, or “the only”? I’ve been guilty of it, too. It’s something I try to recognize, as it immediately detracts from the message I wish to convey. We all can have great ideas, but none of us always have the best ideas. Yet doing it makes us believe we are now in a position to offer valuable insights. “Sure, you can listen to them, but since I’m the best, you might want to heed my advice…just saying.”

It doesn’t work that way. Thought-leaders become such by being thought-leaders, not by saying they are.

Where am I going with this post? Great question. If you’re reading this, you’re probably affiliated with the credit union industry. Or you’re my mom. Assuming the former, you are familiar with the exceptionalism claimed by credit unions. I get it. You know you are the better option for much of your community. I know you are, too. But the way to attract them is not by saying how great you are. Think about it this way: How many ads do you see/hear each day? How many of them implore that their service/product is the greatest ever and you need to buy it now? Exactly. As a result, you’ve grown numb to the message. “Introducing the best…”, “We’re the greatest…”, “Try the life-changing…”, blah, blah, blah.

I visit a lot of credit union websites, and interact with even more though social channels. One thing I consistently see is this exceptionalism. I know you live it and truly believe, but saying you are the “only” financial institution to “go out of its way every day to value you as a person, to make you feel delight, and to improve your life” comes across a bit unbelievable. There are around 6,000 credit unions in the US alone. Do you really think none of the others seek to do the same? I’m unfairly picking on this credit union, since they are just the most recent I’ve seen making such statements.

What can you do instead? A local CU near me (not a member, but my closest branch, so I use them for certain activities), Tropical Financial, connects with each visitor. Their home page begins, “We’re banking on South Florida to help you feel good about banking. The same way a warm cup of coffee makes you feel.” (Sidenote: A future. AI. improvement. would note that I don’t drink coffee, but rather tea, and change the text for me) The call to action is, “Help me feel good about banking.” It’s great in every way. It is unique. It appeals to emotions in a way nearly everyone can relate. Without saying, “we are the best at banking in South Florida”. They’re assuming visitors have felt that banking isn’t always pleasant, and who doesn’t want to feel like they do after a warm cup of coffee? (Point to show even good efforts aren’t perfect: Their site title says, “Tropical Financial is Miami Florida’s Best Credit Union”…though that might be for SEO – UPDATE: Tropical FCU responded that is exactly the reason!)

Saying you’re the best, hardest-working, and most caring and honest institution around feels like marketing. Asking someone if they want to feel great doesn’t. Much how you shouldn’t promote your auto lending by saying, “we have the greatest rates EVER!”, the credit union itself deserves a more thoughtful public image. It’s people you want to attract, not loans or share accounts or credit cards. People, who then will use those services you provide.

Take a look at your public (and internal) messaging. Does any of it sound like something every other credit union has said? Evolve. Be exceptional. It will be noticed.

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