Originally published on CUInsight.
If members are using your credit union website, have you already missed an opportunity?
Make your website great at attracting new members. Your online banking and mobile apps should serve member needs, or provide an easy path to the solution. In other words, your credit union website doesn’t matter (*for members).
After such a statement, you might expect all the site design firms to prepare “why your credit union website is essential for members” articles. Hey, if I have that kind of influence, wow! They would still be misguided.
Here’s 3 reasons why your site doesn’t matter (to your members):
- Many websites are trying to do 2 things, educate members and attract new ones.
- Automatic pre-approval systems can display personalized loan product offers.
- SEO can be optimized to attract new visitors (and create new members).
In research after drafting this piece, I found a fitting resource from CU industry site design firm BloomCU. Written in 2016, it helps credit union staff ask the right questions when setting up their site. Though dated, they got this close to realizing my position.
1. “Attract” & “Educate” Work Poorly Together
Ok, let’s say we agreed your site isn’t for existing members; that doesn’t mean BloomCU’s guidance is wrong. Just recognize that your vision and goals for the site might be slightly different. What is it trying to accomplish?
- Help a member find resources or take action towards some goal?
- Convince the visitor to become a member of your credit union?
Most sites look to achieve the first goal. That makes the latter more difficult.
Connect with visitors by illuminating the pains they currently have, then explain how your credit union can solve them. Show, don’t tell, by featuring applications and other processes that are surprisingly fast, easy, and attuned to their needs.
Too many sites try to achieve both goals. A single page may promote the benefits of membership, but also guide members to taking action towards some task. Unlike those musical mashups on Glee, they struggle to accomplish either.
A Shining Example
One of our clients actually achieved this step on their own! Take a look at Wellby Financial‘s new design, language, and overall site. It’s focused on attracting members by highlighting their specialities.
Conveniently, if existing members arrive, it gives them information they may also want to know, while not compromising the primary message.
And the Other Direction
Sometimes, credit union websites end up becoming, “hey, let’s just put this somewhere” repositories. One large client has an unformatted sidebar list of over 20 links. They are unrelated, unsorted, and have no connection to the page you are currently on.
Your mobile app and online banking systems are 100% for serving members. Let your site be at its best attracting new ones. Eager to show me how your site has a strong member focus? That it clearly integrates into your app to address questions and guide towards new products?
Nice work. Two questions:
- If your site is tailored so well towards your members, where are you selling people on the credit union?
- What drives new membership growth?
Make Your Website “Community Central”
Leave your website to present how your credit union serves members, the community, and what you can provide to make the visitor’s life better (financially and otherwise, by addressing their pains). Then provide real-world examples. (Another time to “show, not tell”.)
Definitely include interviews with members (in text and video), featuring their actual photos. I may use stock imagery, but you shouldn’t! (Speaking of…) Humanize your credit union!
On this note, I love when credit unions use imagery from the communities they serve. Even better when the photographer is a member (always include a credit with their home city and “member since”).
Sidenote: This is where your social media engagement comes into play. It’s a fun circle. Your site portrays the credit union as a welcoming community featuring content by your own members (because it’s owned by them, of course!). Social media solicits that content from members, helping foster the welcoming community.
2. Automatic Pre-Approval Systems > Generic Loan Info Pages
What’s more engaging for a member? To learn about your loan offerings on a series of webpages, or get proactively notified of the loans they can get right now in the app? With a tap (or click, if they’re computer people), they can see rates for all products in one place.
To take advantage, all they need to do is press Apply. Since the pre-approvals are already done, they don’t have to go through lengthy applications. You may have heard of CuneXus. It’s a great system that grows lending. It can also be really expensive for your credit union.
My own company can help you get similar proactive approvals on your lending products. So far, we’ve been blown away by the capability and ease-of-use. And that it’s integrated into other valuable services means costs are more manageable.
Sure, I’d love to chat to see if this system is a fit for your credit union, but I’m a terrible salesperson. I’ll just encourage you to improve personalization and engagement, even if it means using a competitor’s (great, but definitely more expensive) product.
Some of our clients talk about adding personalization features in their websites. That’s cool, I guess. Isn’t that why your mobile app exists? It already knows everything about the member, while also being linked into your core & LOS to let them take immediate action.
Personalized websites are a neat tech feature, but I feel like, for this purpose, they’re the right answer done the wrong way. If your mobile app doesn’t seem up to the task, and your online banking provider wants bags of cash to add features, it’s time to look towards partners.
Get fintech and “big bank” capabilities without needing venture capital or billion-dollar valuations. Unless you want to just keep appealing only to an aging membership (now exceeding 51 on average, according to CUNA).
Combine that age-old (get it?) challenge with over-the-top financial services companies and you’re putting your institution into the “dumb bank” path I first wrote about in 2015.
3. SEO With One Goal
“No PR is bad PR”Sarah Cooke, former editor-in-Chief, Credit Union Times
If you’re not focusing on your SEO and online presence, then when people search for your credit union, they’ll find predominantly bad news: Robberies, bad reviews, and more. That’s not who you are. Set your own narrative.
Earning your place at the top of (or even in) search results is a science and an art. There’s an industry that exists solely to boost your ranking, highlighting its importance in modern marketing.
Already a challenge; why make SEO more difficult by muddying the site message?
You aren’t trying to convince members to join. And you aren’t showing guests the intricacies of your lending products.
The terminology of a site that’s selling and a site that’s informing is totally different. In my company blog, we’ve covered how SEO can grow your credit union, and also shared the essential guide to SEO performance. Let’s make it bring on new members:
- Embrace brevity
- Use keywords (including long-tail, ie. the long phrases people use)
- Keep an updated blog answering questions people have
Keep it Short
Embrace brevity. I know, even seeing myself write that brings a tear to my eye. Me, the one who excitedly composes 3,000 word articles on a topic. Oh, I’m sorry. I’m being told that’s actually a “short story”. But you read it all, right? Right?
Even this article is probably (definitely) longer than it should be. Luckily, I have wonderful readers like you who get so engrossed, they stick around for the incredible insights.
All seriousness now…get in, make your point, then get out. It’s hard, but it delivers.
Use a competitive keyword analysis tool to see the terms people use to find financial solutions. Integrate these terms into your content, from home page to products to blog.
Mention them a maximum of 3 or four times in a page. Too many and you get punished for “keyword stuffing”. Unlike the delicious Thanksgiving stuff, this one is bad and can cause your site to get pushed down in search results.
Long-tail keywords are where your efforts will shine. These are phrases like “where to get a cheap car loan near me”. They’re specific, and also will have less competition, meaning, they’re easier to get in top results (and cheaper for Google Ads).
If you’re reading this, then you just answered the why. People look for answers to their questions. Unbiased articles are great ways to address these concerns, then sometimes refer to your products (and membership). Search engines love this kind of content. So do people.
Your Site Matters, From a Different Point of View
When online banking had few features, it made good sense to have a website around providing all the information you might need. Now, your mobile app (which is the primary channel for members to engage the credit union) does tons more.
Build this up so a member can grab their phone and do almost anything in just a few taps. New features (which you can partner with fintechs to get…no need to change your core or LOS) make static info pages obsolete. Personalized options drive action.
My dad (and business partner) wrote way back in 2014: “It’s Not a Website. It’s Another Branch”. At the time, cool fintech stuff didn’t yet exist. Today, though, I wonder if the title would change. “It’s Not a Website. It’s Your Best Member Acquisition Tool.”
Of course, who am I to say? I’m just a geek.