Socially-Distanced Marketing, Strategy, and The Force

Tag: credit union mission

A Messenger Conversation of Financial Guidance, CUs, and Puns

Originally published on CUInsight.com

A few days ago, a friend asked me a favor. Since I’m a “financial expert” (Um, really? Oh boy.), she asked me to speak with her friend about credit card options. The other person had a challenging credit history with little financial knowledge at all.

A Facebook Messenger request later, and the chat began. My goal was probably familiar to those of you working with members:

  • Identify her challenges
  • Focus on her goals
  • Educate on her options
  • Develop a knowledge base she could build upon
  • Provide tangible actions she could take right now

Going in, she was open to learning, guidance, and had a good grasp of what she didn’t know. Maybe not common, but refreshing. 

I should also make clear: This entire conversation occurred over text on my phone only. Consider that as we look to digital solutions for all member engagements.

Since the conversation was for her, why not format the article about it the same way?

Challenges

Pushing Stone Uphill

Her story is one you will recognize. She made some poor financial decisions in the past (through lack of understanding, financial need, or immaturity). As a result, she had a poor credit score. Even worse, she saw the score as a scarlet letter.

“No shame. No judgement,” was my reassurance. You’re making great decisions now. That’s what matters.

On top of that, a common challenge across society: Family history of financial mismanagement and stress. Bravely, she claimed, “I want to break the cycle and not have to stress about any of [it].”

Beyond the poor credit score, she felt she didn’t know much about financial matters. Not quite true, since she understood the importance of carrying no credit card balance, finding a rewards card, and avoiding fees.

The biggest challenge was her feelings towards what she felt she didn’t know.

Goals

Path Up Mountain

First and foremost, her goal was to rebuild her credit. Seeing the current score made her upset. Beyond that, it limits opportunities that may emerge.

Accomplishing the first tied into the second: Get a good credit card. In my mind, there was no question her best bet was with a credit union. Lower rates (if necessary) and more accepting approvals drove the decision. Given where she lives, I had a good idea of where I’d suggest.

Options

You know that just signing up a member with a particular service may not be the best approach. If they don’t understand why it is their best choice, loyalty or trust won’t develop. So it was time to evaluate and discuss options.

The chosen credit union has a few different credit cards, and I gave her the opportunity to review the first two. I honestly don’t know which she would get approved to carry. The important points:

  • No annual fee (unless you get insane rewards, this is totally unnecessary)
  • Low interest rate (ongoing, not just some promo period)
  • Low minimum credit limit (better chance to get approved)
  • Possibility for rewards (incentive to use the card, helping credit score)

Knowledge

Brain

Here’s where I got into “Credit Union Geek” mode. After wondering how to apply, it was time to explain what a credit union really is. Focusing on the member-owned and not-for-profit differences from banks, her response:

“I always wondered what the true difference was. That’s awesome. That’s amazing. Makes sense why people have their accounts there versus the big [banks].”

I still believe people make decisions based on what the institution can offer them; a clean and functional app, competitive financial products, easy support if needed. However, the “credit union difference” can be the “cherry on top” for marketing efforts.

So now she knows what credit unions are, a basic history of the movement, and what that means for her. She’s sold. Now, as Tony Robbins would say, “take immediate action.”

Action

Clapper with Blurred Chalk

It’s easy to just put stuff off for another time. And then the impetus goes away. We get lazy. Other distractions emerge. To make serious changes in her financial life, she has to do at least one thing right now.

  1. Join Suncoast Credit Union. Yes, my company works with them. It’s a great relationship. Their members also seem to love them. So why not refer?
  2. Use our financial literacy platform. My company offers Learn4Saving freely to financial institutions for their members. If it can help her, perfect!
  3. Connect with Suncoast’s dedicated financial guidance counselors. They have a team trained to help with financial challenges or just answer questions.
  4. Use my “inside connections” and speak to a certain team to get started. Hey, feels special having a dedicated extension to dial when you’re just starting out!
  5. Begin “paying yourself first”. That new savings account is a good place to start.
  6. Build a basic budget. It can be simple, just something that helps you identify where money flows once it’s in your hands. Especially now, too much is unpredictable to bother getting really specific, and what value does that even add?
  7. Deal with my many puns. Somehow, this was well-received. I try not to take “credit” for my skills. And I’ll be “saving” plenty more for another article. You could even say I’m “budgeting” them for later.

I’d say step 7 is definitely the hardest.

What You Don’t Know

Book Icon

What began as a favor turned into a learning experience for me as well. I really hope it made a difference for my new acquaintance. Too many people feel stress and shame when it comes to discussing financial matters.

That’s a stigma we need to address.

It’s easy to look at someone with a low credit score and think, “well, they just don’t save or spend responsibly.” Thankfully, I know so many credit union people who understand and go deeper.

Because if you only help the people in perfect situations, are you really helping?

Are You A Dumb Bank? (Part 4ish)

Originally published on CUInsight.com

This is a spiritual continuation of a series from a while back, titled Are You A Dumb Pipe. The idea is related; read on to understand how. 

For every 100 members buying a car, 8 will pay in cash and 30 will lease, leaving around 60 which continue to be an opportunity for your credit union.

Of those, many will simply finance at the dealer, signing with captive or another indirect lender.

Was it yours? Maybe. Probably not.

Since most people pay for cars at the dealer, it only makes sense to pour resources into indirect, right? Operating in this fashion reminds me of my post on being a dumb pipe.

Becoming A Dumb Bank

Skyscrapers and Plane
One of those has the main offices. Which one? Who cares?

Indirect lending is making your credit union a dumb bank. Your members won’t know who you are. They don’t care. You’re a line in their bill pay platform, and it’s probably set to automatic, anyway.

I’ve spoken to the lending teams at many credit unions. The allure of indirect is strong. Do nothing, get auto loans. As long as you approve and fund them in good time, you’re done.

I’ll be honest; I’ve lost some business to it. However, it’s costing credit unions like yours far more. It’s the same as the internet providers being just a dumb pipe (with the loss of Net Neutrality this will change).

It’s the path to becoming a faceless lender.

What’s Wrong With Being a Faceless Lender?

Credit unions see financial interactions in a different way than any other institution. It’s what makes you, well, you. And not a random bank. Right?

I mean, if I’m wrong, say so and continue down the path you’ve set. Become the faceless money storage and lending facility.

Faceless Woman Illustration
“I guess some people work there…”

It’s true, there are a lot of people who will never care about their bank, credit union…whatever. When it does what they expect, it’s another utility which receives little attention.

If something goes wrong, well…”geez, this bank just sucks!”

You can try to engage them, but the decision is theirs.

However, if you are in any way trying to fulfill your mission statement, this is not the path forward. As your services become commoditized, your interactions devolve into support requests and complaint resolutions.

So what’s wrong with becoming a faceless financial institution? It becomes nearly impossible to achieve your mission, which is a disservice to everyone.

You lose the ability to help your members in all the unique ways available to credit unions. Financial coaching? That would have been nice. Investment guidance? I’m sure they’ve got it handled.

Even a simple grasp of how fee structures or interest rates can affect someone long-term? Hey, if they don’t know you, they don’t engage.

And if you try to connect, well, you’re just that faceless money box. Have you earned their time and attention?

Where “Faceless” Works

Am I saying indirect and other “faceless” services are bad? Not at all. They can serve a valuable role in boosting asset volume in many credit unions.

Of course, indirect isn’t quite the money-maker some think it is. So I’d keep a close eye on that.

Sometimes, you just want to run a service that’s “set and forget”. If this fits your strategy, and is properly accounted, then enjoy the growth it delivers!

Stick Shift
I’m more of a manual kind of guy, myself. Automatic is good for certain things.

However, I have noticed a growing trend of institutions putting more resources into this basket…at the expense of their direct member engagement.

There are a lot of industries where your company can remain unknown while also a part of everyone’s life. That works if being faceless yet ubiquitous fits the mission.

I don’t believe it does for the credit union industry. Do you?

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