MADISON, Wis. (5/8/14)--The flowers. Breakfast in bed. These heartfelt images swirl around consumers with Mother's Day right around the corner. Credit unions, though, can benefit from focusing on moms throughout the year.
Verity CU and Fort Worth Community CU have distinguished themselves as two credit unions that market specifically to women. Marketers from both credit unions primarily attribute their individual decisions to focus on women to a simple concept: market segmentation.
Verity CU developed its Verity Mom marketing strategy in 2008 after the credit union's leadership team read and discussed the popular business book, "Blue Ocean Strategy" by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. Kim and Mauborgne show that companies can succeed not by battling competitors, but rather by creating "blue oceans" of uncontested market space.
|Verity CU gives Seattle-area mothers a voice with its Verity Mom program, which was launched in 2009.|
"We decided that we needed to focus on a segment, and be everything to that segment instead of being all things to all people," Shari Storm, a former senior vice president at the $422 million-asset credit union based in Seattle, told News Now. "As credit unions we hate to leave anyone out. We want to open our arms and welcome everybody."
In the financial services marketing arena, that uncontested space was women, or more specifically, moms. And moms were "sticky" targets, according to Storm, who convinced the credit union's board and management that targeting mothers made business sense.
Storms, a mother herself, cited three reasons why moms are a desirable target market:
To the last point, Storm challenges skeptics to Google the name of any mid-sized or larger city followed by the word "moms" and look at the results. "Moms congregate online, which is really something to take note of," she told News Now.
Launched in 2009, Verity Mom not only targets Seattle-area mothers but gives them a voice. Every two years the credit union holds a social media campaign to choose a Verity Mom, who blogs, connects with Verity CU members through social media, and represents the credit union at public events.
The Verity Mom contest was developed by Currency Marketing and is similar to the Vancouver, B.C.-based marketing firm's Young and Free brand. Contestants vie for the Verity Mom title, staging social media-driven campaigns that include a sample blog and a one-minute YouTube video.
Verity changed the name of its checking account to the whimsical and mom-friendly "Cartwheel Checking" and rolled out remote deposit. Branches were redesigned with kid-friendly play areas and changing tables in both men's and women's bathrooms.
"We've even made an effort to hire moms for part-time jobs so they can provide for their families," Melina Young, Verity CU's director of marketing, told News Now. "I've always said that this helps us walk the walk instead of just talking the talk about being a financial institution for families. We really are dedicated to this concept."
That dedication has helped the credit union lower the average age of its new members by three years. Forty percent of new members in 2012 were between the ages of 18 and 34, Storm said. Only 25% of closed accounts were in the 18 to 34 age set.
|The Gabby communications team at Fort Worth Community CU, Bedford, Texas, uses social media to interact with the credit union's target audience.|
Recognizing the influential role women play in household financial decisions, Fort Worth Community CU, with $819 million in assets, Bedford, Texas, also wanted to connect to local women in a targeted, meaningful way.
"The reason was not to be all things to all people, but to really focus on women and buying and saving," Rochelle Drake, the credit union's vice president of marketing, told News Now. "We defined an age group (28 to 55 years old), and we defined women as our focus."
Why women? "All of the statistics we looked at told us that women indicated that women were the primary person in the family that handled finances in the home," Brandy Scarlett, Fort Worth Community CU marketing assistant, told News Now. "When it came to deciding which financial institution you were going to use, more than likely it was going to be a woman who was going influence that decision."
The credit union also sought to increase its use of social media with the goal of growing membership and increasing product awareness. "The point was not to make social media a broad audience but to create a girlfriend-type of spokesperson who connects with other girlfriends," Drake said. "As consumers, when women want a pair of shoes, or go to new salon, or open a new checking account, they want to talk to other women."
To ensure employees understood and embraced the initiative, Fort Worth Community CU marketers and its marketing firm Third Degree "introduced" Gabby to employees before her public debut. Staff received branded items and a training guide.
The external launch included social media platforms, billboards, drive-thru banners, boards behind the teller counters, an on-hold message and lobby displays. An initial external push also included direct mailers, HTML emails, and online advertisements with Google, Facebook and a local newspaper.
A team of 10 employees--nine women and one man--from Fort Worth Community CU serves as the Gabby communication team. Members blog and post to Twitter and Facebook based on their personal experiences.
"It's really increased our interaction with members and helped us energize social media," Drake said. "There's a group who communicate with us almost every day."
If targeted marketing connects with women, why don't more credit unions try it? "Because credit unions have been taught that one member is as good as another member, so everyone was treated equally," Drake said. "For so long there wasn't segmented marketing. As credit unions moved to community charters, we've started to break our memberships into demographic groups."
And Storm dismisses the notion that marketing to women will leave male members feeling alienated. She tells the story about one Verity Mom promotion that featured garden gnomes in branches. "Women were walking in telling us, 'I love the garden gnomes. Can we have them when you're done with them?' The men? They didn't even notice them."