Is Marketing An Experiment?

Hello everyone!  Back from vacation means back to the blogging!

Recently, a good friend and colleague of mine was let go by his credit union. No names will be shared to protect him (the innocent and insanely talented) as well as to protect the credit union (although I’d love to call them out by name for reasons you will see in a second.)

My friend isn’t out of a job because of performance – that’s the good news.  His credit union actually eliminated his position.  Wait, it gets worse!  Not only was his position eliminated but the entire marketing function at the credit union was jettisoned into the abyss.  The reasoning (and this is a direct quote from the credit union’s executive management) “we’re done with the marketing experiment.”

To be honest, at first I was stunned when I heard that.  But as I thought about it more, it dawned upon me that marketing (as a function) still does not garner the respect it deserves.  To be blunt: marketing is NOT an experiment.  It is a crucial function for credit unions.  Marketing is a catalyst for growth and anyone who has ever worked in marketing understands that their efforts are a critical part of an organization’s operations.  To refer to marketing as an experiment is not only ignorant but incredulously stupid.

Credit union marketers have a challenging and sometimes daunting job.  Some of the challenges marketers must work around include an ever-changing marketplace, globalization, shifting demographics, well-financed competition, evolving communities, and the increasingly burdensome regulatory environment.  And those are just the external forces over which marketers have no control whatsoever.  Let’s not forget the internal challenges – shrinking budgets, lack of respect from leaders at some credit unions, high employee turnover especially in the marketing field, stifled creativity, and lack of training just to name a few.

I hope that this instance of the experiment ideology remains forever ensconced in the realm of the disregarded.  But we all know that isn’t realistic.  There are still a lot of credit union marketers who feel increasingly frustrated and unappreciated.  That is a dangerous trend and needs to stop.

There are many outstanding marketers working for credit unions – these folks are smart, passionate, creative, intuitive, and strategic.  Marketing is not an experiment.  It is an important component to a credit union’s success.  Its role needs to increase rather than decrease.   Some executives need to understand and accept that the marketplace has changed and that marketing is a necessity and that the people charged with its duties should be treated with respect and should be provided with the necessary resources to achieve success. 

Ask the executives at Nike, McDonalds, Chevrolet, or Disney if they consider marketing to be an “experiment.”  They will laugh you right out of the room.



About Your Full Potential, LLC

I am the President of Your Full Potential, LLC and the Founder of ABSURD! Leadership. I am a professional speaker and have addressed thousands of people throughout the United States and internationally on the topics of leadership, sales, service, business development, marketing, and strategy.
This entry was posted in Budgets, Business Development, Community Charters, Credit Unions, Innovation, Leadership, Management, Marketing, Performance. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Is Marketing An Experiment?

  1. Can you at least tell us the asset size of the CU?


    • $72 million. Little to anemic growth over the past couple of years. Membership growth in particular is falling by double digits. Could be due to them saying NO to just about everything the Marketing Director wanted to do to create awareness and spur growth. Just sayin….


  2. The challenge is that marketing is expensive. And for some parts of marketing, ROI is elusive. So what you end up with is a black hole for a budget if it’s not reported properly and if expectations aren’t leveled. The challenge marketers have is to determine how to demonstrate the impacts of their efforts in a way that leadership can understand, otherwise, it’s an expensive experiment to leadership, one that only gets more expensive over time and harder to justify.


    • Thanks for the input, Rob!

      Marketing costs money and ROI is critical. No denying this! But how can an organization grow if there is no marketing of services? Further, the marketing landscape has changed so much just in the past few years. So-called traditional marketing has been upended and replaced by things like digital marketing, online marketing, mobile marketing etc. All of these come with fairly accurate tracking mechanisms that marketers can use to better demonstrate ROI.

      It is good to hear from you. Readers, I have known Rob for 35+ years. He and I went to grammar school together but have not been in contact pretty much since then. Facebook is a wonderful thing!


  3. It’s the softer side of marketing such as social media that is hard to demonstrate meaningful metrics around. But just because value to bottom line is difficult to show with SM, you are surely doing yourself a disservice by not being part of the conversation.

    Inbound marketing programs cost money, so does churning out content, and not to mention SEM. A leader only looking at spend without giving the flavors the necessary simmering time will probably give up on the soup. But you get what you put in–the longer you let it cook the more flavorful the soup will become. ROI will clearly be demonstrated over time. All pieces compliment each other – it’s like a tightly wound web, and eventually – it will be a tightly wound golden web (green web? money web?). Giving up on marketing is more of an experiment than marketing is. Good luck to whomever is thinking that if you put up a sign they will come.

    By the way, Sean, I’m only 26! I have no idea what this 35+ thing is that you are talking about. And although it seems that we might differ considerably in age, it’s great to be in contact with you again!


  4. Interesting post and ditto for the comments. I offer a few observations:
    1) perhaps the $72MM Credit Union eliminated the marketing department because they are getting ready to be acquired by another (hopefully much larger) Credit Union. Frankly, $72MM asset Credit Union is too small to operate effective and efficiently.

    2) perhaps the marketing department was ‘killed’ because the CU had ‘Little to anemic growth over the past couple of years’. This statement is a severe condemnation of the overall Strategic Plan … though obviously marketing is just one piece in the overall puzzle.

    3) It isn’t hard to see why the CU management could conclude that marketing is an “experiment” given that it generated little or no value (again, no indictment to the individuals since we don’t know who they are, and certainly it is more than fair to say that blame ought to be shared by the larger executive team).

    Marketing SHOULD be a crucial function for credit unions. Marketing SHOULD be a catalyst for growth. But in many cases this just isn’t the case. Too often marketers are doing what they’ve done for the last 20 years, and this just isn’t sufficient. Too few are true strategic partners, too few provide strategic insight into the needs / wants of their (current and prospective) membership; too few help to to truly differentiate CU’s offering. Too many are focused on replicating what hundreds or perhaps thousands of other CUs are doing. As a result, sameness = irrelevancy for consumers and small businesses. As a result, most CUs experience low or no growth of revenues and profitability.


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