“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