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Tag: credit union mission (Page 1 of 3)

More Members? Or More Engaged Members?

Originally published in CUInsight.

After analysis, your credit union executive team decided “more members” is a top-priority goal. Cool. Where are your credit union’s greatest opportunities for member growth?

  1. Expanding SEGs and community charter
  2. Improving outreach to eligible potential members

You can either attract people from the existing pool, or make that pool bigger. That’s it. (I mean, sure, you can acquire a bank or merge with another credit union, too. But then isn’t that just making your pool bigger?) The most important question to ask here is: Why?

Why do you want more members? Are your current ones not taking advantage of your services? Does your board want to “spread the credit union love” to a greater community? You need answers to these questions before taking any next steps.

It might just be that your strongest member growth opportunities come from within. You can grow revenues, enhance services, and provide a compelling work environment for your staff…by connecting with existing members.

Plus, the cool part of building member engagement is that, if you build the strategy in from the start, new members come as a bonus! I mean, people talk (and post on social media)…let’s make sure those words are of praise and joy!

Start With Existing Members

Two People with Coffees on Wooden Table
Get to know your members and what they really want or need.

In 2015, I suggested asking your members what they want. 

In 2022, Miriam Ackerman, Co-Founder of NetGiver, challenged institutions to think from their members’ perspective, not just their own KPIs of growth. “Does your member need another loan?” She encourages credit unions to connect with members along their financial journeys.

Your new homeowners may not need a mortgage for a long while, however, if you maintain that relationship, serving their current needs (and helping them achieve goals), they’ll come to you for that HELOC in 5 years…no question.

It’s All About The Feels

Credit unions need to understand that not every communication is a sale (or pitch). Sometimes, in the words of Ms. Ackerman, credit unions should just “share their happies”. Tell your stories, celebrating those daily moments where the mission shone through:

  • How an MSR went out of their way to make a good experience great
  • The scholarships presented to some of your youngest members
  • A family going through a tough time, where the credit union helped when others wouldn’t

These will “sell” better than any credit card campaign. Want to grow member’s share of wallet? Give them a reason to feel emotionally connected to your credit union. Then, make your services relevant and simple. As I wrote in 2017, “giving back really does have an ROI.”

Engage…Your Members Personally

Heart on Paper with Crayons
Would members draw this for you?

Taking your member growth efforts into warp speed means getting personal. Now that your members truly understand why the credit union exists, it’s time to advance some journeys. Your staff love to help members. Let’s give them thousands of opportunities.

And as credit union branding and marketing expert Jackie Brown explains, staff empowered to solve member problems are more engaged as well.

Instead of looking at each season as spots to promote auto lending, credit cards, or mortgages, take a year to “get to know” your members, and vice versa. Literally. Set up a campaign to personally discuss their financial situations: Email, snail mail, SMS, whatever works.

Remember, your members most likely don’t even know what your credit union does.

Pair each member with an employee. Share their name and direct contact info. Use an easy scheduler such as Calendly to set up 15-minute discussions. Make it clear there will be NO SELLING during these conversations…to both members and your staff.

We all know most people have unclaimed opportunities to save money, usually through lower rates on lines of credit. Sure, there are great tech solutions for this, and you should use them. But start with the personal connection. You might discover there’s more than just a refi.

And to get members into those chats? Run a weekly or monthly raffle for AirPods, and, promote that you’ll donate $20 to a local charity for every member who has a financial discussion. Thoughtful social media engagement can also build your following.

Use your data to make additional awards that highlight “the credit union difference”. Scholarships are awesome; just make sure the eligibility meets thoughtful DEI efforts (ie. “Most volunteer hours” may be unachievable for a student in a financially challenged household).

Provide what the fintechs cannot: A humanized banking experience. Then, because you partnered to have the tech members expect, they can get the best of both worlds.

Chime is cool, but it can’t do that.

Referral? But of course!

Birds at Bird Bath
No matter your “water cooler”, everyone talks.

Members also get an additional entry into that raffle for every referral who becomes a member (and meets some basic activity). There’s a reason Rafflecopter exists…businesses understand the value of rewarding a share.

If you have a referral platform, here’s the chance to grow its usage. Direct conversations can also pose to members, “if you thought this was helpful, we can also help your family and friends as well! You earn referral bonuses and they get improved financial security!”

Whatever you do, make it simple and integrate into the places members are. I see your posts on LinkedIn…your members don’t. Ensure your social media team is comfortable with Instagram, SnapChat, and TikTok. Make sharing content the goal: Find your “Loyal Larry’s”!

Engaged Members = Improved Community

When your credit union shares its influence, good things follow. Your success is everyone’s success. If 1,000 of your members take advantage of the financial review, a local organization receives $20,000! Which is one more great story to share, a topic I first broached in 2015.

So, to answer the questions in the title: A member might bring in some revenue on a single service (most often indirect loans, which I don’t see fitting into your mission). An engaged member has multiple services, comes back for more, and brings their family and friends along.

Which would you prefer?

Image credits: Brian Merrill, StockSnap, Karolina Grabowska, Andrew Martin from Pixabay

Credit Unions Already Lost. So, How Do They Win?

Originally published in CUInsight.com

Raise your hand if your credit union is a leader in digital offerings. Keep that hand up if your members agree. Finally, hold it just a little longer (you didn’t expect this article to be a literal workout!) if your local community agrees.

Of course, I’m just writing on a page, so my presumption of response is just that, a guess. However, I can wager no one held their hand up the whole time. This may shock you, so grip your phone tightly, but credit unions…aren’t digital banking leaders. Then what group is?

Digital banks and fintechs. And, frankly, it’s not even close. To rub it in just a bit more, they also won the race for younger, tech-savvy generations.

According to Cornerstone Advisors research, “[m]ore Gen Zers and Millennials call a digital bank their primary checking account provider than those that consider a community bank or a credit union…combined.”

That data point bears repeating:

More people 40 and under use a digital bank for their primary checking than every credit union combined. 

Maybe credit unions just need to work on their marketing. Members love dealing with the best not-for-profit financial cooperatives around! Right? Wait, right? Oh no, not here too!

Turns out, member satisfaction with credit unions is down, and has been on that path for a while, especially with Millennials and Gen Zers. Interestingly, member satisfaction levels fell for credit unions at the same amount as digital banks grew their satisfaction levels (around 2%).

In other words, people who make up the bulk of the population (and more moving forward) prefer digital banks to credit unions. The biggest reasons? Lack of satisfaction with “online banking capabilities that are easy to use” and the credit union being “easy to deal with”.

What is a humble credit union to do?

Mission

Group of Young Men Together
They just want connection and simplicity.

Yes, mission.

Just not the way you may think. GAC and other gatherings bring together credit union lovers to celebrate driving their mission of financial education, inclusion, and empowerment. But, given the data, that’s either not what people want, or it’s not getting across.

Otherwise, credit unions would be the dominant banking option of choice, right? Which means there’s a disconnect.

I’d bet people do want these things. It’s why they use digital banks, which make managing savings, spending, budgeting, debt elimination, and investing easy. With a bit of education, apps guide users to take positive steps with their own money.

In other words, they help more people take greater control of their financial life. Financial empowerment, you could say.

How is that not the credit union mission?

Combined with community impact, it is the mission. Which means people want it, but don’t feel they’re getting it from credit unions. Or to do so, have to deal with disappointing digital services. Something’s gotta give.

Claim Your Measured Mission Identity

Table of People with Phones and Laptops
Working together through technology.

So what’s missing? Obviously, first, you need quality digital options. You won’t be able to build them yourself. Partner with great providers. Ensure everyone has APIs so it all talks seamlessly and makes members and staff lives easier. I’ve covered that before.

Tech in hand, that’s not all. You still need something else. Branding and connection. Let’s achieve that in two, highly simplified, steps:

  1. “Measure your mission.” My CU Geek posts called for this concept numerous times, but when Anne Legg spoke the phrase in a recent chat, I had to give her the credit.
  2. Claim your identity. A common concept for my loyal readers, but, once again, someone else explained it more clearly than my dozen posts did. Jackie Brown of JB Collaborates suggests you “discover your individual credit union’s true identity”.

And step 3? Well that’s spreading the word, through actions made obvious in the previous two exercises. If you did them right, and continue to tweak as you go, the outreach will stem from self-appointed brand ambassadors: Your members.

After all this effort, will your credit union attract back all those people already lost to digital banking platforms? Probably not. But you will stem the tide, while building existing relationships and engaging the community, inspiring others to join.

In other words, shore up your digital offerings. Once you’re directly competitive and comparable to digital banks in people’s minds, the community focus shines through. And that’s where you excel.

Credit unions won’t make every person a member, but they can make a positive difference in more lives. And after all, isn’t that the mission?

3 Reasons Why Your Credit Union Website Doesn’t Matter*

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):

  1. Many websites are trying to do 2 things, educate members and attract new ones.
  2. Automatic pre-approval systems can display personalized loan product offers.
  3. 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

Browser with Site Thumbnails
It’s easy to just be another tab.

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:

  1. If your site is tailored so well towards your members, where are you selling people on the credit union?
  2. What drives new membership growth?

Make Your Website “Community Central”

People Looking at Wall of Photos
Not literally, but representation is important!

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

Website on Computer
Booorrriinng.

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

Site Statistics
Design for your 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.

Keywords

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).

Blog

Blog SEO Social Media Connected
It’s all connected.

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.

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