**This is a “Guest Opinion” piece I wrote for the May 9, 2012 print edition of Credit Union Times. I wanted to share it with my readers here on the blog. Enjoy!**
We’ve all heard these truths:
1. Credit unions have a golden opportunity to capture more of the market share.
2. We need to make sure that we are “getting the word out” in order to bring in new members.
3. Credit unions need to focus on attracting younger members to remain viable in the future.
I have had the extraordinary privilege of building relationships with credit union marketing professionals across the country – in credit unions that fall into all asset categories and fields of membership. Hundreds of conversations have taken place during which the challenges associated with credit union marketing have been discussed, debated, and (in some cases) even lamented. There are different viewpoints and opinions on the most effective way to market a credit union’s services and benefits.
That being the case, I find myself coming back to one fundamental concept when I think about marketing. It’s amazing how ideas can be nagging, persistent, insightful, and intriguing at the same time. The benefits of trusting your gut instincts and intuitions have been touted for centuries. And in the realm of credit union marketing, I think a marketer’s gut instincts are especially useful.
So here it is – the idea that has been coming up again and again and the more I think about it, the better I feel about the potential for marketing in the credit union industry. Credit union marketing must be incredibly personal. But it has to go beyond that. If we truly want to tell our stories, communicate our benefits, change people’s lives – our marketing must touch people’s souls.
It is time for credit unions to take a long, hard, critical look at their marketing tactics. The debates about the effectiveness of direct mail, e-marketing, social media marketing, quarterly newsletters, postcards, etc. will continue. But what if credit union marketing personnel and senior management moved the conversation in a different direction? Instead of spending so much time focused on cost and ROI – talk about whether or not the marketing tactics that you are considering have the ability to transcend the stigmas associated with them. Please don’t think that I am telling you to disregard cost and ROI – that is not the case at all.
An example – many credit unions don’t like to do direct mailers anymore. Why? Because most direct mail solicitations or advertisements end up in garbage cans. That is true in my own home and I bet it’s true in yours. What if marketing folks moved past this problem and started to ask why this is the case. As I was thinking about this column, I answered the question – at least for myself and why I throw most of these things away. It’s because they are never personal – and I don’t mean that my name isn’t on the thing. A person’s name can be all over a direct mail piece and it still can be impersonal.
People are struggling right now. The economy, while starting to recover, still has a long way to go. If credit unions truly want to stand apart – everything that we say, everything that we do, everything that we are must permeate the very people we are striving to serve. It has to go beyond a “personal touch.” If credit unions can effectively connect with a person in ways that alleviate fear, inspire hope, validate feelings, and ignite passion – we will have truly lived up to our social purpose as defined by CUNA – “people helping people.”
Are your marketing tactics doing those things – alleviating fear, inspiring hope, validating feelings, and igniting passion? Are they fostering belief, creating urgency, encouraging people to improve their lives and situations, and affirming that the credit union wants to build lasting, productive, and meaningful relationships with those they serve?
When your credit unions have these marketing discussions – be sure to ask those questions. If you can answer in the affirmative, I think that you will find that using strategies that “fit the bill” will be more than worth the costs associated with them.
Credit unions should not be afraid to tell people (in the most crystal clear ways) that they can save consumers money, help them rebuild their credit, provide financial education, and guide them through the financial challenges that may come their way. Many credit unions do imply these things in their marketing and advertising but can’t figure out why nothing seems to resonate.
Try this – be blunt. Be as blunt as you possibly can. Just say what needs to be said. People aren’t looking for sales pitches. They are looking for answers. So give answers. Provide solutions. Be brutally honest. Have the courage to be bold and forthcoming in your marketing.
In the movie, What Women Want, Mel Gibson’s character (Nick) is tasked with designing a TV ad for Nike. His boss, played by Helen Hunt can’t seem to create anything on her end and Nick struggles as well. As you might expect, Nike is a very large account for this particular ad agency and to lose it to a competitor would be devastating. Finally, Nick realizes that he has been approaching this task incorrectly. He realizes that no ad will ever resonate with audiences unless it speaks to them in a very personal, very real, and very motivating way. In the end, he creates an ad that does all of those things.
At your credit union, make sure that your marketing gets personal, dives deep, and touches the soul. Take a lesson from Nike and “just do it.”