CU Mag: I’m glad the banks are making your jobs a little easier, but I’m sure some challenges remain. What are some of those challenges?
Legg: The biggest challenge we have is the overall awareness of the industry. So many people have no idea what a credit union is, and they get hung up on the words “credit” and “union.”
We have an industry name that doesn't resonate with the typical consumer. Consumers typically select a financial institution based on how many ATMs they see.
Wall: There’s a lot of clutter in the financial services industry, and most consumers view banking as a commodity. It’s a challenge, especially for us because we rebranded last year and had a name change. So not only are we fighting to get our name out there, we’re looking for ways for our new brand to stand out.
Godwin: Another challenge is the regulatory environment. It’s almost like we’re waiting for the next hammer to fall. That makes it hard for us.
We try not to operate under a cloud, but it seems like it’s always there. I worry about our ability to serve members with the services we should be able to provide.
We also need to keep our members active. We don’t let our members just sit there. We charge members a fee if they’re inactive for a year. And once an account gets down to zero, we close the account.
We need to actively solicit members to keep them engaged. That has been a challenge for us. We’ve started to make progress and have reduced the number of accounts closed due to inactivity by about 20%.
We reduced that level just by mailing to them. A lot of those members were inactive just because we had a bad address. If an account is flagged as a bad address, we chase them down.
The first mailing we did dropped the number of closed accounts by 13%. I'm eagerly looking forward to the results from the next mailing. We basically say, “Look at what you’re missing out on” and we'll highlight some of our products and services.
And the great thing is I was challenged for dedicating resources to go after people who only had a savings account and weren’t vested in the credit union. But we’re actually getting other types of accounts from these mailings—we just got a $40,000 share certificate deposit the other day.
Wall: It’s also hard to maintain a strategic focus and not spend all of your limited time and resources on the tactical day-to-day tasks.
Godwin: Definitely. Our chief operating officer challenges [the credit unions’ executives] to spend 40% of our time on strategic issues. I’m not even close to that. In a department of four, you can’t help but get pulled into the weeds.
But we have to do that. You’d have to be completely out of touch not to get pulled into the weeds. But it does detract from our ability to take a higher view and look at things strategically rather than tactically.
Legg: At Cabrillo Credit Union [her former credit union], our leadership came up with a way to condense everything into four core initiatives, and I built the marketing plan to focus on those four areas. That helped me to stay focused.
Then when people would say, “We want to paint the branches purple,” I could ask, “How will that get us to initiative one, two, three, or four?” You know, not denying them or saying something wasn't a good idea.
When I refocused that process I felt like I was seeing the vision and chipping away at those strategic goals instead of getting bogged down.
Godwin: One thing we do in every departmental meeting is discuss our strategic initiatives. Then in our leadership meetings we have a list of initiatives with a champion and a start date and completion date. The champion provides updates on those initiatives throughout the year.
That really keeps our initiatives in front of everyone, which really is the key. As soon as you stop doing that, too many other things get in the way and keep you off-target.
That has helped us knock out most of our initiatives. And the ones we don’t knock out, we know there was something going on or we had to delay it because it was contingent on something else. But at least we understand why it didn't happen.
In the last of this five-part series, Wall, Godwin, and Legg share the keys to marketing and business development success.The CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council honored these marketers during its annual conference in New Orleans.
Bill Merrick is deputy editor of Credit Union Magazine. Follow him on Twitter via @CUMagazine.