Credit Union Magazine: What are some of your favorite council memories?
Lawrence: The first meeting, when we all met and formulated the concept for all the councils. I’ve been involved in the Lending Council, Technology Council, and others from day one. I’ve judged contests and chaired the Marketing Council at one point. Grassroots networking and collaboration is so critical.
Shermot: All of it, from making new friends to navigating the learning curve to participating as a judge for the Diamond Awards to sharing information and ideas as a speaker.
One of my best memories is when Bob Lawhead from Raddon Financial Group and I did a preconference, day-long workshop on Marketing Customer Information Files. Our feedback was amazing, and people referred to us as Batman and Robin. I was extremely lucky to be part of a forward-thinking credit union that embraced target marketing and has been running an MCIF for more than 20 years.
I’ve been a judge several times for the Diamond Awards, and I used to say to myself, “These people are so much more talented than me.”
I learned to appreciate all of the talent out there and how we’ve elevated ourselves over the years.
Olson: I got to be a judge as well, and it’s incredible. Another highlight for me was watching people win the Hall of Fame, Marketing Professional of the Year, and Business Development Professional of the Year Awards because it’s always a secret.
It’s neat to see how surprised and grateful they are for the recognition.
Morgan: Meeting some great people and forming friendships that I’ll have for a lifetime. They come see me in Vermont to this day. It’s great to have that kind of camaraderie.
Also, being on the executive committee and collaborating and creating the direction for the council was pretty exciting. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.
Towle: What stands out to me is seeing the elevation of marketing as a strategic function within the organization, and seeing former marketers become CEOs of credit unions.
Credit Union Magazine: How has credit union marketing changed over the years?
Olson: There was no worldwide web, no email, and nothing digital. Everything was paper-based, and everything was kind of a shotgun approach.
We didn’t know how to target groups. It was like, “Throw it out there and see if it sticks.”
Shermot: I think we called that “spray and pray.” For us, the member newsletter was the top priority. That was the conduit to communicate with members. It was hands-on.
In the past you would see titles like “marketing and business development manager,” when one person or perhaps a small team carried out the efforts of both roles.
Now, marketing has become so much more digitally engaged, specialized, and integrated with e-commerce, while business development, when done properly, uses our marketing tools to “sell” the credit union story to everyone we come in contact with.
Olson: Delta didn’t have to do marketing because everybody was a member, and we only had a few products. Everybody knew what the rates were for loans and share accounts. It was very different.
Morgan: You also had to wear many hats because at that time it was just myself and one other person in marketing.
You had to run at such a fast pace because the technology wasn’t there that makes your job so much easier today, like email and the website.
Lawrence: There are so many more tools at our disposal now—wonderful things, like analytics. I love the current environment because you can take data and make it actionable.
Marketing is far more strategic now than it used to be. At the time, marketing with many credit unions was extremely basic. They had some of the art, but little of the science.
Credit Union Magazine: What do you see for the future of credit union marketing and business development?
Olson: I think it keeps getting more scientific, more technology-driven, and more targeted.
Shermot: I have to agree. It’s all about demographics, psychographics, and data-driven marketing.
The biggest challenge is getting the next generation of credit union leaders as excited about the credit union industry as we all have been. We need to continue to make our industry attractive to these forward-thinking individuals.
Morgan: I think the future is bright because we’re constantly reinventing ourselves, understanding what’s relevant and what’s trending, and continuing to move forward.
We’re constantly looking for new ways to do things, include people, and provide those educational and networking opportunities to understand what’s next.
Lawrence: We need to embrace the role of emerging technologies. Communications methodologies have shifted in amazing, wonderful ways.
We need to continue using scientific methods to execute technologies and communication strategy. The sky’s the limit.
As far as threats go, Amazon is emerging as the one entity that might totally displace traditional banking providers. We’re wasting energy being anti-bank. Community banks are struggling as hard to survive as credit unions are.
I believe in business development as a relationship-building mechanism within the organization. You need to look at the institution’s journey and ask, “Where can we be relevant?” and “How can we stay relevant?”
Credit Union Magazine: What career advice do you have for today’s marketers?
Morgan: Never stop learning. Keep your eyes open and find what inspires you.
Olson: Concentrate on the business side of marketing—the numbers side—as much as you do the creative side.
Shermot: Find a mentor, fuel your passion, and learn something new every day. Everyone has a gift, and when you surround yourself with an open mind to learn from others, everyone wins.
Be a catalyst for change and a voice for making lives better.
Towle: Never be satisfied. You need to constantly raise the bar because your competition is raising the bar every day.
Lawrence: Do the right things for the right reasons strategically, and you will grow your credit union.
Also, identify your weaknesses. I was good in technology and statistics, but I needed some organizational development skills so I got my master’s degree in that.
If you want to move past wherever you are, develop the skill set you need to be more well-rounded.