Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: cooperatives

Say My Name!

Last March, I composed a post called A Loan By Any Other Name. The thesis was that as long as your members embraced your services, who cared what they called them? You could be, “that car pay thing”. As long as the auto loan was paid each month, specifics didn’t matter. I’ve decided to revisit the topic after learning more about partnerships and the co-op environment. Whereas in that discussion, I addressed product names, here we will look at the name use of the entire institution.

What’s in a name? I suppose about the same as a motto. What’s the motto? Nothing, what’s a motto with you? (I can’t resist my Disney references)

Nearly all of our partner credit unions have undergone a name change at some point in their history. Sometimes, it is to reflect a new affinity group or open charter. Other times, it is to clarify their mission to the membership and community. Most are good, some, fantastic. Is there an inherent benefit to a stylized name over “Such and Such Community Credit Union”? Depends on market coverage, size, and other factors better for your board to address than me.

The important part of your name is that it gets used, and in the right situations.

Think of a company with which you’ve had unsatisfactory dealings. Now say their name out loud. How do you feel? Uptight, frustrated, angry? What about a company you love? Don’t be shy, speak up! Better? Perhaps even the sound of their name made you smile.

Which reaction do your members have when vocalizing your credit union? Or worse, do they not even know?

Your members may see your name in different ways. Some, as a bill pay entry only. Others, their financial family. With a bit of networking on your end, that name can gain some serious value!

If a member uses your name in a positive light, that’s a referral, and it holds tangible value. Building on the stories in “Credit Unions, Spelled C-o-m-m-u-n-i-t-y“, helping each other comes by working together. Seek out responsible businesses (and fellow cooperatives) in your local area. Work out incentives your members can receive just by saying your name. Perhaps it’s 10% off dinner or a complimentary admission to a local museum. In return, offer new member programs for the staff or volunteers at these venues. Be creative in the arrangements! At the end of the day, both sides benefit, and your name spreads with a smile.

The next time they say your name could be for a home mortgage.

Image credit: lifeingroup5.com

Beyond Your Bank

40 million people in the U.S. belong to one of these. Over 100 million people hold membership with this. Enjoy the outdoors? Chances are, you’ve purchased from the largest of its kind in America.

What do these mysterious organizations have in common? They are all cooperatives. The first? Electric co-ops, where members own the entire distribution network. The second you should recognize: Credit unions! Finally, that last one is a bit surprising…REI, the outfitters, and the largest consumer cooperative in the country.

Besides being interesting factoids for your next trivia competition, how can this knowledge help?

Before answering, let’s take a step back. A few weeks back, I spoke with staff at CU Social Good, where they are collecting hard data of credit unions’ positive impacts on their communities. They lamented the challenges in getting them to “brag” about their accomplishments, which is why they’ve created a site doing just that. Remember, credit unions don’t like to talk about their community efforts. What can I say, they’re modest! However, it was not lost on anyone at CU Social Good that there was significant value going unrecognized.

Filene Research Institute set out to understand the situation. They conducted a study on co-op partnerships. Yes, cooperatives cooperating. Turns out, there’s opportunity to be had!

You can read the major results of the study on Filene’s site (it’s well-worth the read), but here’s the gist: Credit unions can grow by working with other cooperatives. In fact, it is the primary differentiator they can embrace between themselves and for-profit banks. The possibilities are significant (my examples):

  • Working with a food co-op to offer members an easy place to pick up their weekly produce (and encourage to join the CU)
  • Helping finance the startup costs involved with a housing initiative aimed at putting dry roofs over more residents
  • Provide additional savings for your electic co-op as a member paying through your CU account
  • And much more

Each of these organizations is focused on something beyond the bottom line and the membership is the barometer of their success. Imagine if each worked together to expand their own initiatives while promoting their fellow organization!

We truly have not even scratched the surface of what co-ops working together can produce. I look forward to the continued partnerships and cross-pollination between organizations.

Once again, take a look at the study by the Filene Research Institute (full report is available for all member credit unions and staff) and brainstorm how your credit union can grow while helping other co-ops!

Disclosure: I am a credit union member. My family owns property serviced by an electric co-op. I’m a fan of both.

Image credit: https://ravereader.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/endor_celebration.jpg

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