Top-Notch Marketers: Part IV

Make Every Day Bank Transfer Day

Make it easier for consumers to leave their banks, three Diamond Award-winning marketers advise.

June 12, 2012

Bank Transfer Day was a great way to jump-start awareness of credit unions. But the work doesn’t stop there, say three Diamond Award-winning marketers:

  • Anne Legg, vice president of marketing for $740 million asset Financial Partners Credit Union, Downey, Calif. (Marketing Professional of the Year);
  • John Godwin, vice president of business development/strategic alliances for $1.1 billion asset MECU of Baltimore (Business Development Professional of the Year Award); and
  • Kim Wall, community development director for $900 million asset Georgia United Credit Union in Duluth (Hall of Fame inductee).

In the fourth of this five-part series, Wall, Legg, and Godwin tell Credit Union Magazine how they’ve helped their credit unions capitalize on the Bank Transfer Day movement.

CU Mag: How did you help your CU capitalize on the Bank Transfer Day movement?

Legg: The biggest challenge with Bank Transfer Day was not having the budget to do mass advertising. If you weren’t already marketing aggressively to nonmembers, it would be difficult to attract them because they wouldn't know you existed.

We worked on having robust online account opening so people could do that on a Saturday. The awkward part about Bank Transfer Day was that it was held on Saturday, when many credit unions are closed.

But it did jump-start awareness of the entire credit union movement. We should try to make every day Bank Transfer Day and stay in the forefront. Because we couldn’t have been given a better gift than what the banks have been doing.

Wall: We should write Bank of America a thank-you note for announcing those debit card fees. When consumers got mad, that brought credit unions to the forefront.

Every day is Bank Transfer Day at Georgia United. We have stepped up our efforts in business development and hired additional reps to get the word out.

Kim Wall
Kim Wall
John Godwin
John Godwin
Anne Legg
Anne Legg

Of course, we try to make transferring accounts as easy as possible with tools such as switch kits, new member packets, free wiring of funds to open an account, and online account openings. Our E-Branch call center is staffed from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every weekday and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

Godwin: We have to make it easier for people to leave their banks. They’re stuck because they have so many automatic debits and transfers. We started allowing people to transfer money at no charge to us to fund new accounts.

I hate to say it, but I’m actually starting to love the banks. There’s no marketing campaign we could have come up with that would be as effective as some banks’ behavior. It’s like you said: we should send them a thank-you note: “I really appreciate your $7 monthly debit card fee, Wells Fargo. That’s awesome. Keep it up!”

Because of Bank Transfer Day, people are more aware of what banks are doing. Before, it took so much to get people to switch. Now we’re getting people who are switching to us not necessarily for what we’re doing but of what the banks are doing. They’re saying, “That’s it; I’ve had it,” and they’re coming to us.

We’ve always used pricing information to illustrate the credit union advantage, and we've been pretty successful about communicating that in a way that’s easily understood.

I'll give you one quick example. If I told you that our checking account rate is 0.25% and a nearby bank pays 0.01%, you’d say “who cares?”

But if I tell you that for every $1 in interest you got from the bank you would have gotten $25 from us, that message resonates. This has given us more material to discuss when we’re trying to convince someone to switch.

NEXT: Boosting awareness

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.

Subscribe to Credit Union MagazineAnd 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.