CSCU's 2013 Solutions Conference

The Time Is Right for CUs, Says Harley-Davidson Strategist

‘If I were to open a business in 2013, I’d open a credit union.’

May 25, 2013


“If I were to open a business in 2013, I’d open a credit union,” Ken Schmidt, Harley-Davidson’s brand visionary and communications strategist, told attendees of CSCU’s 2013 Solutions Conference. 
That’s because Schmidt believes small community-based businesses can grow by capitalizing on today’s anti-big business mindset among consumers.  
While this mindset is a good start, it is only a start, says Schmidt. 
To be successful, any business needs to attract and continually create demand. And for credit unions, that demand comes from what your members are saying about your credit union when they leave. 
If no stories are being shared, you’re only meeting expectations, you’re not creating more demand. 
So, says Schmidt, to create more demand and grow:
Get people to talk about your credit union and its services with passion. 
A customer, says Schmidt, is a goal or a target, but you should strive for disciples: members who believe so strongly in your credit union that, without prompting, they’ll tell others about their good experiences and your good products and services. 
After all, Schmidt says, people are most likely to instantly mimic something when there’s a visible passion and enthusiasm for it.  
Call members by name
“While I finance my bikes with the credit union, I have an account at a major bank that I go into every Friday,” he says. “Do you know what those bank employees think my name is? They think my name is ‘Next.’ Don’t underestimate the importance of using your members’ names.”  
Humanize the business
Harley-Davidson learned the hard way that if you’re attempting to use data and numbers—logic—alone to sell something, it typically doesn’t work. 
That’s because most decisions come from the heart or an affinity to something—they’re illogical. 
“Only 1 in 100 members will choose a credit card from your credit union because of a brochure you have at the front counter,” he says. “But how about having your front-line employees say to members: ‘Do you want to see something cool?’ No one’s going to say ‘no’ to that. And then your employees can physically show members a card and explain where and how your card can be used to obtain rewards or other benefits.”  
The bottom line, he says, is that when all things are equal, we choose to interact with businesses we like.