Twenty-five years ago, credit union marketing was decidedly paper-based and “spray and pray”—no data analytics, limited targeting, and pre-internet.
Digital marketing didn’t exist, and the member newsletter was king. Plus, marketers had yet to gain the respect their peers in other disciplines experienced. “It was like marketing was all arts and crafts,” says Mary Olson, a former league communicator and retired vice president of marketing at $5.6 billion asset Delta Community Credit Union in Atlanta.
The formation of the CUNA Marketing Council in 1993 helped change all of this. The council provided a place for marketing and business development professionals to hone their skills, network, and improve their standing within their credit unions. It led the way for the six additional professional development councils that have emerged since then.
Olson and four others who had a major impact on the formation and long-term success of the now CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council explain how the organization came about, how credit union marketing and business development have changed, and what they see for the future of their craft:
Credit Union Magazine: How did the council come about?
Olson: The Financial Marketing Association had a big conference in April 1993. Then in May, I believe they said, ‘We’re disbanding this particular group and we’re not going to have a marketing group at all.’ We were all taken aback by that.
Towle: Basically, the marketers were looking for a new home for professional development.
That’s when CUNA stepped in. Our main focus was getting a conference together for the following year, and coming up with the Diamond Awards. We had to come up with everything from scratch.
From day one, it was always going to be about marketers, for marketers, and of marketers. This was their organization and their agenda, and they were going to drive it.
Credit Union Magazine: What challenges has the council faced along the way?
Shermot: The issues facing the council were the same issues facing our members. The impact of regulatory issues, membership growth, compliance, and, most recently, corporate stabilization and the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau continue to stretch and challenge the industry.
As credit unions and a council, we need to continue to collaborate. With so many new nonfinancial entrants to the market, continually thinking outside the box is imperative for our industry to thrive and grow.
Towle: One challenge the group faced was making marketing a strategic function in the credit union. They needed to be part of the executive management team, which at the time was the CEO, chief financial officer, chief operating officer, and chief lending officer.
We said, “We’ve got to raise the bar as far as what marketing can do.” It’s not just getting the newsletter out.
Credit Union Magazine: It seems like that has happened.
Shermot: Everybody is in marketing now. It’s the heart and soul of every organization. You’re either marketing to your members, to the community, or to each other.
Once we were able to measure our success, we were part of the discussion for loan rates, and we were definitely part of the toolbox for the C-suite.
NEXT: Favorite council memories