Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: partnerships

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.

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

Let’s Market Your Competition! Wait, what?

Have you ever walked into a Dunkin Doughnuts to find them selling Krispy Kreme treats?

Probably not. Same reason you’d be hard pressed to find Apple selling Dell computers in their stores, or Toyota marketing Ford trucks.

Why is that? Chances are, you’re reading this blog thinking, “Well, of course they don’t. Those are their competition!”

It’s also possible you walk to your own beat and exclaimed, “Ah, ha! Having an open approach to competitor’s products could be a brilliant way to foster trust and growth in your industry!” Ultimately, only the Macy’s Santa has adopted your approach.

Might that mentality of giving and helpfulness be pervading our credit unions? Oh no, they’re behaving ethically!

It’s not the steadfast dedication to members to which I speak; it’s the willingness to promote their competition. Yes, credit unions nationwide are sending their members to big banks, online merchants, and other businesses. And they call it, “Helpful Resources”!

Allow me to explain. We’ll use auto lending as an example. Many credit unions wish to empower their members by offering links featuring vehicle reviews, trade-in values, and more. Thank you for looking out for me. Like most, I despise over-paying. But there is another side to those links…they make money! In the early days of the internet, sites like NADA, Cars.com, and Kelley Blue Book were funded by the sale of their print resources, commissions from vehicle sales, and memberships. Nothing the credit union could lose, anyway.

Times have changed. Paper catalogs have transitioned to online databases, and informational sites have morphed into loan generation engines. Take a look for yourself. NADA Guides has their own Finance Center, which ends in offers for financing…not from your credit union. Cars.com has a financing calculator with offers called RoadLoans. Even Kelley Blue Book has LightStream, a division of SunTrust Bank, powering their financing program.

If you link to these sites, you are sending your members to your competition. It is no different than hanging banners for Bank of America mortgages inside your branch. Is that the service you want to provide?

Take a look at your site. Strategic partnerships where you both benefit are valued and should be featured; links where you can only lose need to go!

Disclosure: Our company helps credit unions grow their auto lending.  By following the advice presented above, our own clients may improve results, thereby improving our own success.

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