As a credit union marketer I’m often faced with answering the million dollar question: How do we get people to better understand and want credit union membership. When we discuss this topic in a room of credit union marketers, you often find answers like low rates, and great member service as things that set us apart. I don’t mean to laugh at those responses but if that’s all we got then we should all pack it up and go home. These conversations have left me feeling that credit unions are having a bit of an identity crisis. I’ve spent a great deal of time lately evaluating various types of messaging and advertisement and I’ve determined something. We are wasting tons of money promoting fluff. As a result of this investigative mission, I’m challenging myself to make some changes to my own marketing ideas this New Year.
Marketers like to make things look and sound pretty. But no matter how pretty our pieces are, useless information is still, useless. Beautiful graphics and key words are great but they should be focusing on specific tangible benefits. Particularly, how we can help our members save and earn more money. Rather than simply highlighting low auto rates as big as possible, in attractive fonts and color palettes, show members how that low auto rate will help lower their monthly payments.
Talking about intangible benefits should be limited to things that make a difference. Touting great service and knowledgeable staff is about as relevant as putting “We Have Clean Toilets!” on a billboard. People expect great service. It’s not a differentiator. Your intangible benefits may be different than mine so here are a few examples to get you thinking on the right track: community involvement, charitable causes, and financial literacy.
Set Yourself Apart… The Right Way
I’m not trying to start a controversy because I know how much we love using words like join, membership, and share draft, but in all honesty, credit union lingo just makes me shudder. Additionally, I think it’s high time we stop flipping out when someone mistakenly references us as a bank. What do you expect people to say? “When I leave work, I’m going to go take care of my credit unioning.” I digress…if you‘re not familiar with credit unions, the lingo is confusing. Sometimes we try so hard to show that we are “different from banks” that we end up creating an intimidating exclusivity. Instead, highlight the awesomeness of member-ownership in ways that make sense to anyone inside or outside of credit union world. Dare I say, even go as far as to tell people that they can bank with us.
Dare to be Different
In credit union land we are all super nice to each other and like to share and borrow ideas regularly. I have no problem with this. In fact it’s one of the things I love about working at a credit union. However, if your entire marketing strategy focuses on what another credit union has done, it becomes a problem. We all have different markets, different members, and different factors that need to be considered in our marketing strategies. I triple-dog-dare you to try something you’ve never tried and get outside of your rinse and repeat method of marketing. I get it. It’s scary, because anytime you take a risk you might fail. But, what if you don’t?
So, let’s stop promoting that 'We have clean toilets!' and the other nuances that we’ve been clinging to. Find your real differences, focus on tangible and intangible things that matter, and be bold. That’s what I plan to do in this New Year.
What are some of your ideas about reaching members in a different way? Do you have things you’d like to add to this list? Or maybe you disagree completely, that’s fine too. Share it in the comments below.
Amy Etheridge lives in Warner Robins, Georgia. She is the Electronic Marketing Coordinator at Robins Federal Credit Union. Amy started her credit union career 10 years ago as a teller, worked in branch operations, and has found her calling in the marketing department. The thoughts posted here are her own, and do not reflect those of her employer.