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Tag: member engagement (Page 1 of 6)

Spreading Savings Stories At Your Credit Union

Originally published on CUInsight.com

Why would someone want to join your credit union? Or keep their relationship over switching to a seamless app-based fintech (or snazzy big bank) platform?

It’s easy to talk about the mission, how members are the owners, and that the institution is not-for-profit. But these tell people nothing useful, nor do they give them a tangible reason to bank there. People think they’re making decisions rationally, but they’re really acting on emotion.

Between my business partner (who’s also my dad) and myself, we’ve dedicated over half a century to providing for credit unions. I don’t share that for accolades (applaud if you’d like), just so you can understand the perspective from which I approach this topic.

Most credit union marketing goes in one of two directions:

  1. Explains what the credit union is, making the assumption this is sufficient to convince someone to want to bank there
  2. Shares what your institution offers, and sometimes even how you do so

The first has no direct bearing on a person’s financial life (yes, I get that it’s what enables lower fees and whatnot, but that’s all abstract and intangible to your target audience). The second is what marketers call “features and benefits”.

There’s no emotional connection to either. Both assume a rational decision-making process, which we know now doesn’t exist.

“Hold up, Joe! We’re a credit union, and our mission is always about the why. We strive to help people create stronger financial lives.” I hear you, truly. But read that again. Where is the emotion focused? It’s not to the individual you’re trying to attract, but rather a “big picture” that’s hard to pin down.

Dollars and Sense

Vegetable Pizza
Well, great. Now I’m hungry.

Think of fast food and restaurant commercials. Do they spend their limited time talking about the mission of affordably satiating everyone’s hunger? No, they feature macro shots of their food items, make you hungry, and probably end with a “by the way, check out all you get for just this much money!”.

Bonus points for implying you’ll have a better social life if you choose to eat there.

So how can your credit union use this successful strategy? Focus on your members’ stories! (Chime does this ridiculously well with buyer personas.)

Our partnership with protection product providers as well as being credit union members ourselves gives us access to some compelling stories…and by stories, I mean, “big dollar numbers that will catch people’s attention”. 

Regularly, I learn about paid GAP claims of $8k, $10k, even $14,000, and more! For the average American, that kind of avoided out-of-pocket expense can be life-changing. Surely worth including in marketing efforts, don’t you think?

Our own vehicle enjoys a bit too much vacation time in the service center. Using a VSC policy purchased at a local credit union, paid warranty claims have exceeded $6000 so far. Yet when we reach out to the institution to encourage promoting their impact, it’s been radio silence.

Talking about your mission is one thing. Showing examples of how that mission of financial empowerment saves members thousands (people like you, dear viewer!) connects emotionally. Plus, choosing to save money sounds like pretty rational decision-making to me.

Make Your Credit Union An Easy Choice

Path Choice
Help more members find the rainbow.

Insurance commercials focus on the ease of filing claims, speed of payment, and how their prices are better than competitors. That’s fine when you already know their products; usually it’s homeowners insurance (basically impossible to get here in Florida) and auto insurance.

Do your members (and prospective ones) even know the insurance products you offer?

And how often is their first and last response to them, “I decline”, on the loan documents?

Instead of talking about how “credit unions are different”, share the stories that will catch people’s attention:

  • How Tasha avoided an out-of-pocket $8,400 expense after her car was totaled (with CU’s GAP)
  • When Steve could get his $3,500 car repair completed for only the $150 deductible (with CU’s VSC)
  • That time when Andy unexpectedly lost his job, but had his $545 monthly loan payment waived for 4 months, when he found another position, relieving the financial stress (with CU’s payment protection)

If your marketing simply said, “our credit union offers GAP, Payment Protection, and VSC, and they’re cheaper than the dealer”, would it generate an emotional connection?

Use your data. Surface the real stories. If you can get the members to tell them, even better.

Sure beats promoting that members get a vote in your operations.

6 Credit Union Lessons From My Favorite Theme Parks

Originally published on CUInsight.com

Theme parks are awesome, especially Disney and Universal. Combined, I’ve been to both more times than I can count…literally. Besides making me a de facto guest services agent for other visitors, I also study how they operate. Why yes, happy to point you to the nearest Hidden Mickeys (it’s not my first mention)!

Take Universal, for example. It’s owned by Comcast, yes, the cable company with a consistently lowest-rated customer service experience. Yet at the theme parks, you would never guess they’re affiliated (besides the ample NBC and Peacock branding).

At their best, it’s a “Disney-magic” equivalent. At their worst, it’s still light-years better than the smoothest interaction you’ve had discussing your internet connection.

What has their customer relations training understood that we can adopt into our credit union world, admittedly a very-different industry? (Disney literally has a business institute to train companies in their operating style, so there’s value here)

Learn from my time at these bastions of customer service excellence with 6 lessons:

1. Not every attraction is for every person, but everyone is welcome

Joe at Universal Studios Entrance
Trust me, a Jedi I am.

At Magic Kingdom, you can expect lots of kid-focused rides and experiences. Spending time with Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood is wonderful, but maybe you want thrills and spills! Well, the trio of mountains has you covered (Space, Thunder, and Splash).

Even though these are quite different, Disney makes sure you can bring your kids to the “wildest ride in the wilderness”. And if they happen to be too small to safely ride, there’s a child swap area to let everyone take the train through Tumbleweed.

No matter your preferences, age, or abilities, both Disney and Universal take care to ensure everyone is welcome (and I can speak from experience that they fix issues when made aware).

Your credit union can (and should) have a target persona, but it’s also essential to design your services and interactions to fit a wide range of needs, life stages, and financial situations.

Most credit unions already do this to some extent (it’s what they’re built on), but ensure it’s consciously done everywhere. Make everyone feel welcome, no matter their credit score or checking balance. Recognize that different products may serve members in specific ways.

2. Protection (from sun, rain, or financial uncertainty) is important

Joe in Poncho at EPCOT - Disney
“Don’t rain on my parade!”

My “home” theme parks are in Central Florida. Most of the year, the sun is unrelenting. At the same time, it can rain on any given day, too. Between burning in the heat or getting drenched, you need protection. Both parks provide ice water for free, because dehydration is no joke.

For the rest, bring (or buy) the protection necessary. From sunscreen to ponchos, they’ve got you covered if the need arises.

The same goes with financial uncertainty. It seems like the “new normal” we have is shifting from one type of uncertainty to another. So ensure all members can access (and understand) your range of protection products.

Too often, I have meetings with credit unions where we go off-topic and they start sharing some interesting financial empowerment tools available. Very cool, but why are they so well hidden, and if I’m just learning about them now, how many members are aware?

When things go weird (which is all the time lately), be sure to roll out those poncho, umbrella, and sunscreen stands.

3. Moments of magic are where loyalty begins

Joe and Spaceship Earth - EPCOT - Disney
#NoFilter

“Disney magic” is so oft-repeated, it’s almost a cliche. Yet their cast members are encouraged to deliver these experiences when possible. Recently, a team member at Universal made their own kind of magic for my mom and I. What they did wasn’t required, requested, nor expected.

We left the park that evening excited from our experience, improved by one small gesture. And, silly as it is, I have an improved perception of Universal because of it.

How can your MSRs deliver moments of magic to members? Solving problems when they arise is essential, but expand that brainstorming to bring smiles to those already satisfied. There’s a huge difference between, “yeah, they’re fine” and “wow, listen to what they did!”

Loyalty doesn’t just stem from doing things as advertised all the time. Take every opportunity to bring magic into their financial life, from fixing issues with a smile to making the good…great.

4. Queues stink, but if they’re essential, make them interesting

Joe Through Time at Country Bear Jamboree - Magic Kingdom - Disney
Same me. Same place. Different time.

Theme parks have two constants: Everything is expensive and you’ll be waiting in lines. Since your credit union drives financial empowerment, it’s probably not the most expensive choice in town. So let’s look at the latter.

For better or worse, both parks offer ways to reduce time spent on line for attractions, store purchases, and food. Like them, use the mobile tools available to assist members with their questions. Streamline processes to request the least amount of information.

If you’re in a top attraction queue, I can guarantee the line has all sorts of things to grab your attention. That’s probably not an option at your credit union, but if your phone support is overwhelmed, make sure members can save their place and get a call back.

In-branch, observe if you have busier times. When that happens, can you repurpose other staff to address certain member requests instead of having them wait? The Universal Banker has a basis in this concept.

5. It’s easy to get overwhelmed

Joe at Tomorrowland Speedway - Magic Kingdom - Disney
Please do not bump the car ahead of you. We’re very serious.

Theme parks are big, sensory-stimulating places with tons of options. Frankly, even for regulars like me, they can get overwhelming. Do we stop in for this show or set up early for the parade? Wait, then we might not make it over to the new roller coaster!

Not to mention remembering to find someplace to eat. Oh good, you brought snack bars.

Your credit union has a lot of products. Unlike us, the typical member isn’t immersed in it day-to-day. So what we consider a normal span of offerings might be overwhelming for them.

Design your website, app, and train your team to recognize this fact. Theme parks have paper and digital maps that break down everything you can do during your day. Consider emulating this approach with your own services.

Seriously, is there a single place I am able to see every way you can help members? (Our company has a PDF guide to our Mission-Focused Toolkit that drives awareness and interest.)

I guarantee you have members right now who don’t know about products that can improve their life. How can you give them a map to the nearest restroom…I mean, to enhance their financial wellness?

6. If it gets to customer service, you’ve already missed something

Joe Hugging Truffula Tree - Universal Islands of Adventure
Go talk to the tree-hugger.

None of us want to call, chat, or visit guest services. It’s good they’re available, but that I had to go to them means something was missed. My experience or knowledge is lacking in some way that needs fixing.

Why do members reach out to your customer service channels? Could you redesign the site, app, or branch to answer these questions preemptively? Are these account-specific issues?

Did they really need to talk to a live person (or does that open the door to new conversations?)

A good FAQ is fine (though not one I saw recently with over 50 answers), but that’s not where you answer questions, paradoxically. Those are your fallbacks.

The main content should address the pains, opportunities, and common inquiries. Flowery and clever marketing content is a lot of fun, but if you can read/watch it and still have basic questions, there’s room for improvement.

Bringing the (Credit Union) Magic

Joe and Figment During Half Marathon - EPCOT - Disney
“One little spark”

Stop and think about credit unions for a moment. That they exist at all is pretty magical. These member-owned places where you can safely store and borrow money, while also working to grow everyone’s finances for the benefit of the community…pretty cool, right?

Disney loves to call itself “the most magical place on Earth”. But can they help drive community financial empowerment? Ok, maybe through their credit union, Partners FCU. Theme park affiliated or not, credit unions have magic of their own!

How will you bring that magic to your members?

“We all have sparks, imaginations.
That’s how our minds, create creations.
For they can make, our wildest dreams come true.
Those magic sparks, in me and you.”

Figment, One Little Spark

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

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