Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: offerings

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

A Loan By Any Other Name…

By now, you are likely acquainted with hybrid vehicles. It all began with the Prius, and to this day, it is still the dominant vehicle in the class. For many people, Prius is synonymous with “hybrid car”. Toyota managed to achieve the holy grail of marketing: Proper noun in place of a noun. What does that mean? Let’s take some examples. What do you call the activity of using the copy machine? How about a tissue? Or an adhesive bandage? And then, there’s the king of them all…that gelatin-based wobbly dessert.

Can your idea become the Kleenex of tissues, the Jello of jiggly sweets, the Band-Aid of bandages, or the Xerox of copying?

Probably not.

Hey, I have the utmost faith in your efforts! First, however, consider the odds. How many products/services do you refer to by their brand? A dozen, at most? Your idea can be a great success without becoming a fixture of public consciousness. Sure, you Google your way through an Internet search session, but do you “credit union” your loan application? You know the answer. And that’s just fine.

These brands achieved success beyond their wildest marketer’s dreams, yet it is not an absolute. When you take a picture with your phone, do you call it a Polaroid? Why not? It’s instantly available, able to be shown and shared with others near and far, and might even become clearer if you shake it around. Some brands don’t adapt, and the word goes with them.

So it’s not the fact that people say the brand name, it’s that the product offers such a great benefit. Band-aids still cover cuts and bruises, with the confidence its removal will be pain-free. Jello still jiggles as if it were alive. Xerox machines still represent the boundary between screen and paper in an office.

At the end of the day, the (arguably) horrible pickup line still applies: “Hi, my name is Joe, but you can call me anytime.” As long as your members are aware of and getting great service through your credit union, does it really matter what they call it?

All brand names copyright their respective owners and are referenced in fair use, but, I’m no lawyer, so who knows?

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