Connect With Members Online

Treat members like they’re your friends.

May 1, 2011

Connecting with people online isn’t about hyping your credit union’s great rates, it’s about generating a passionate conversation, says Bo McDonald, president of Your Marketing Co., Roebuck, S.C.

“People don’t care about your credit union; they care about its people, the work it does, and the community it serves,” McDonald told attendees at the 18th Annual CUNA Marketing & Business Development Conference in Las Vegas. “People don’t trust advertising—people trust people. That’s why social media is so important. It’s about people talking to people online.”

McDonald cites an unlikely example of a company that inspires passion in its customers: Fiskars, the global scissors maker.

The company created the “Fiskateers,” a nationwide group of “crafting ambassadors” who blog about what they’re doing with their scissors.

“The scissors’ one-year guarantee doesn’t excite people; connecting with others does,” McDonald explains. “Find something your members can rally around.”

He advises credit unions to join the conversation in social media venues such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and blogs.

Some insights about using these tools:

  • People like free stuff;
  • There’s a big difference between updates and spam;
  • Include photos, videos, and links in addition to updates;
  • Make your fans and staff famous by highlighting them;
  • Let your fans go crazy—don’t censor their postings;
  • Give people something to look forward to, such as “freebie Friday,” when you regularly give away items; and
  • Don’t delete complaints. Instead, address them immediately.

The particular social media vehicle is less important than the conversation, McDonald says. “Remember when MySpace was the shiny new thing? It’s dead now. Facebook and Twitter will be in the same boat someday.”

Next: More conference highlights

More conference highlights:

Consumers’ disgust with banks’ predatory practices and bailouts gives credit unions the perfect chance to build market share, says Patrick Adams, president/CEO of St. Louis Community Credit Union.

“This is our ‘bags fly free’ moment,” says Adams, referring to Southwest Airline’s popular practice of not charging passengers for their first piece of checked luggage. “Don’t lose this opportunity.”

Measure results, not activity, when gauging business development success, says Celeste Cook, CEO of CUStrategies LLC. When she worked as a credit union business development executive, she spent a fair amount of time playing golf—and building relationships—with executives of a former select employee group (SEG).

Both Cook’s putting and relationship-building paid off: The company, AT&T, rejoined the credit union as a SEG, providing access to thousands of potential members.

Build “mind share” to grow market share, says brand strategist Libby Gill. “Capture members’ heads, hearts, and loyalty.”

Five ways to do this: Define and deliver authentic value, confirm your status as a go-to authority, create a sticky message, create a “wow” website, and implement a culture of continuous improvement.

Council honors top marketers

Taking top individual honors from the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council are:

  • Amy McGraw, marketing director for Public Service Credit Union, Romulus, Mich. (Marketing Professional of the Year). She helped her credit union grow from 19,000 members and $89.5 million in assets four years ago to more than 23,400 members and $126.3 million in assets today despite the challenging economy.
  • Brynn Ammon, project manager for $1.1 billion asset Pen Air Federal Credit Union, Pensacola, Fla. (Business Development Professional of the Year). In 2010, under her leadership, Pen Air Federal opened more than 100 new business accounts and signed up 120 new select employee groups.
  • Joye Cox, vice president of marketing for $671 million asset SAFE Federal Credit Union, Sumter, S.C. (Hall of Fame inductee). She has been instrumental in adding underserved communities, expanding programs for senior members, and laying the groundwork for a student-run branch in a local high school.