The growth of everything digital has changed how people build relationships, and that requires business development leaders to re-examine their craft, says Julie Ferguson, owner of JRF Consulting Services and a former credit union business development professional.
“I believe in digital channels, but face-to-face still builds relationships” with select employee group (SEG) contacts, says Ferguson, who addressed the 2019 CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Conference Wednesday in Las Vegas. “Think high tech and high touch.”
Ferguson offers several ways credit unions can boost their business development efforts:
1. Focus on financial wellness. Research shows a clear connection between employees’ financial and physical health, and their productivity at work.
Discuss this issue with SEG representatives, explain the credit union’s financial education resources, and stress the benefits of these resources to both employees and the company.
“Businesses care about the bottom line,” Ferguson says. “They want employees to be healthy—but they also want lower insurance premiums. Don’t just talk about what’s in it for select employee group (SEG) employees, but how it helps the business: If employees are financially stressed, they’re not as engaged and productive.
“This is what gets us in the door more than any of our other benefits,” she adds. “We should lead the charge on this.”
2. Share your expertise in the community. Consider participating on a panel during a Chamber of Commerce or other organization’s meeting about the impact of financial wellness in the workplace.
“Education and building trust are top relationship-builders,” Ferguson says.
3. Differentiate your credit union. Be specific and deliberate about how you define your brand and weave it into your storyline.
“Articulate why people should choose you,” she says. “This must be crystal clear.”
4. Use SEG codes for new members to see who’s using you, and which SEGs are profitable.
“Figure out where you’re good, and define your niche,” Ferguson advises.
5. Be likeable and build rapport with SEG representatives. Don’t be all business or push your products and services during interactions.
“Instead, find out more about them,” she says. “Let your personality shine.”
6. List and build relationships with your “centers of influence,” or people outside your industry who can open doors for you.
“Make a list of who these people are and build a strategy about how to cultivate those relationships,” Ferguson says. “Be deliberate about cultivating those relationships, and know it’s a two-way street. Give them more than they give you.”
7. Look for the “side doors” into an organization. What charities and foundations does the organization support? What events does it hold? Doing so opens channels of communication.
“Explore their world and find their access points,” she says. “Win over the gatekeepers.”
8. Partner with branch managers. Give them the training and support they need, and explain how business development ties into their goals.
9. Ditch the brochures during meetings. Make meetings memorable and get people to talk to you.
10. Set up a system for regular follow-up with SEGs.
Some CEOs are questioning whether they should have a business development department, Ferguson says. “ That tells me we need to do better sharing the value we bring to the credit union and measure what we’re bringing to the table. We don’t always do a great job sharing our value.”
► Visit CUNA News for more conference coverage, and get live updates on Twitter via @CUNA_News, @cumagazine, @CUNACouncils, and by using the #MBDCouncil hashtag. Learn more about the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council, a member-led professional society for credit union executives, at cunacouncils.org.