Socially-Distanced Marketing, Strategy, and The Force

Tag: credit union staff (Page 1 of 2)

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?

The Importance of CU Staff in New Program Launches

Originally published on CUInsight.com

Hooray! Your credit union finalized another service partnership! It’s been a long road of due diligence, contracts, negotiations, board meetings, and conference calls, but you’re done.

The time has arrived for implementation!

“I get the feeling Joe is going to say the hard part is just starting.” How do you always know what I’m thinking?

While it doesn’t have to be the “hard part”, making a strategy work is always more than set-and-forget.

Marketing

Let’s start with building a marketing plan. Unless you don’t want anyone to know about it. Which is…odd, but your choice.

For everyone else, it’s time to decide the target audience for your new service. Is it every member? Possibly, but more likely, there’s something that makes some better prospects. Figure that out, and tailor your messaging and outreach to them.

We call it a “buyer persona” and it will help you focus your efforts most efficiently.

Staff

What about staff? Do they have any role in the success of this new service? Maybe just a tiny bit. Or a lot. Even staff who don’t regularly meet with members can play a massive part in making or breaking a launch.

So how do you educate them while building buy-in, excitement, and support? Great question.

Staff Need To Love It

There are a lot of systems that keep your credit union operating. From your core to the LOS to cash counters, it’s a lot of tech. But you and I know what really keeps the credit union running: Your dedicated staff.

Which means that new service needs them to love it, too, if you want it to succeed. What is your strategy to build this relationship?

Seems simple enough: Distribute a staff FAQ to ensure they’re aware. Then hold branch manager trainings. It’s a golden recipe for success, right? I mean, who doesn’t love training sessions?

Your Staff Are Members

Let’s back up a bit. When your credit union first approached this program, there was a clear member benefit, right? Of course. And your staff? Many of them are members, too.

What does that mean? Well, treat them as extra-lucky members! How cool they get to use this awesome new program before anyone else!

Soft-launch your new service with them. Not only is this an engaging way to educate them about the service and its benefits, but it also connects them to it. (Plus, it lets you work out any kinks without the risk of customer service crises.)

Now, when your members have questions, they’ll feel comfortable talking about it (and possibly even excitedly recommending).

Remember, staff are members.

Let Them Play

I run training sessions for our own services, and always conclude with this statement:

“We encourage you to use this system on your own; in test mode, you can play all you want. Get comfortable, because what’s comfortable for you becomes easy to recommend to your members. You’re helping, not selling, and isn’t that why you’re at a credit union in the first place?”

Your staff is the front line to your members. As trusted advisors, they can make or break any initiative. Understanding that unique relationship, we bring them into our launch and ongoing promotion efforts.

Rewards

For example, over the holidays, we run campaigns which raise money for their foundation. It may not directly educate about the service, but it definitely helps associate it positively with your team.

Through the year, we encourage our clients to give staff ownership in the programs. If it fits your culture, staff incentives, giveaways, and other rewards are fun ways to ensure the service stays top of mind.

In Sight. In Mind.

Over the long-term, we aim for in-sight, in mind. This can mean different things at your institution, and also depending on what the new service is.

One option is having a physical marketing piece of functional value. That way, each staff member can refer to it when speaking with members.

Involve Staff

Marketing is an essential way to reach your members. But it’s evolving. Inbound marketing strategies let you address their challenges without intrusive pieces. Staff also play an important role.

Their engagement and training is crucial to build trust and ensure consistent growth. Together, you have a solid plan for success.

Disclosure: My company works with credit unions and their staff for promoting services to their membership. When our partners use these strategies, they improve their results, thereby causing me to benefit financially. Looking back, this seems like the most obvious disclosure I’ve ever written.

Sheer Experience

Friday, I took a road trip to meet with one of our credit union partners. Though I’m sure they wouldn’t mind their name being used, let’s say it was “Awesomesauce CU” in the Central Florida region. The goals of the meeting were simple: Get to know the staff face-to-face, learn about how our solutions were going for them, and brainstorm ways we could make all processes simpler and more effective.

So what did they want?

The CEO wished for access to more benchmarks, guiding their initiatives with respect to other average and best performers within the industry. Makes complete sense, and is already underway. The CLO wanted more processes in place to ensure members 1) get pre-approved for loans and 2) book those loans with the credit union. Agreed, because that’s the whole point of the game! The Loan Call Center Supervisor wanted less work and more results, or, in her words, “It don’t gotta be that hard.” It sure doesn’t.

At the outset, the staff all made clear they supported the program and wanted to see it succeed, but had concerns about initial hiccups along the way. That’s normal, we explained, as our partners have the most issues in the first three months following implementation, then they find a rhythm which works well for them. But that doesn’t make struggles ok! What can we do to minimize those launch challenges?

We had an all-hands meeting scheduled to run for an hour. Two and a half hours later, everyone was satisfied with the ideas generated. Thus begins the process of seeing what can be implemented and how. But first, lunch. Three of the staff were able to join us for a meal filled with everything but business. That’s not to say these CU staff didn’t care about their work!

Between our three lunch companions, there was nearly 100 years of experience at this one credit union. Looking back at our board room meeting, if you weren’t with the CU for over 20 years, you were a newbie.

After a too-large lunch combined with stories of travel, motorcycles, and families, we returned to the branch to get cracking. When a successful initiative means your staff is overwhelmed, it’s time for some better processes. I listened as the credit union’s point person moved step-by-step through their daily effort. “That’s way more work than we intended,” I thought as she finished. However, our company doesn’t have access to the LOS or internal member lookup system for each credit union (and given the security needed, we don’t want it). As a result, it’s difficult for us to know what is involved to move, view, or edit data within their system. We made some suggestions on reducing steps and explained how other credit unions have found their stride, with an eye on making everything just take less time. I relished the opportunity to learn how it all “goes down” in a working environment.

They requested process improvements for our side as well, and those are now being organized and sent to the appropriate parties for consideration. If we can do them today, it’ll happen. For things that take some corporate cooperation, we’ve begun that endeavor.

We had 2 hours of interaction time scheduled with their team. Over 4 hours in, we were still sharing ideas and seeking to overcome challenges. When we arrived, we were vendor partners there to streamline the system and answer questions. That evening, we left as friends. And I found a fellow Whovian!

As partner meetings continue to be more common, I’d like to devote some time sharing those experiences on this blog. Since we learn the most when everyone’s participating, I welcome your comments when you see something that resonates, or is completely different from how you’re always done it. Without the “Credit Union”, this blog would just be a geek rambling. Thanks for reading, sharing, and contributing!

Image credit: http://www.zedonbusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Business-Partnership.jpg

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