The rosy glow that came with gaining roughly 650,000 new accounts and $4.5 billion in deposits in the months leading up to Bank Transfer Day (Nov. 5, 2011) continued as credit unions added 2.2 million net new memberships during the 12 months ended June 2012, CUNA reports (“CUs see fastest new-member growth in a decade,” p. 22).
How can credit unions keep the momentum going in 2013? Here are some strategies from Mark Arnold, president of On The Mark Strategies:
►Identify your niche and play to your strengths. Don’t try to be all things to all people. “Figure out who you’re good at serving and go after them,” Arnold advises. “Don’t spend millions trying to create brand awareness among the masses.”
►Develop a brand strategy. “This isn’t just your logo or your look, it’s the boardroom to the bathrooms and everything in between,” Arnold stresses. “Your message and vision have to align at every level. Your staff has to understand and live your brand—you can’t just declare it from on high.”
►Capture how you’re different from other lenders in six words or less—without using the words “service,” “people,” or “community,” Arnold says. “Everyone uses those words and they’re largely meaningless.”
►Engage your members. Train staff to make members feel involved from the minute they walk in the door. Develop tools that reflect how members connect with your credit union, whether that’s improved personal service, robust mobile services, instant or text messaging, or live online chat support.
►Draw a connection between marketing and return on investment. “We need to do a better job of documenting the correlation between branding and growth,” says Arnold, adding that marketing isn’t an area of strength for many credit union CEOs.
►Connect with Generation Y through mom and dad. “For the most part, Gen Y is a group that likes and respects its parents,” Arnold says. “We need to reach out to both groups and give them an incentive to come in the door.” There are more than 20 million nonmembers younger than age 18 living in members’ households, according to CUNA’s 2011-2012 Survey of Potential Members.
►Make it easy and rewarding to refer family and friends. Are members raving fans? Offer incentives for them to tell others about you, and make it easy to do so with tools such as links, emails, and Web resources.
►Tell compelling stories. “People love stories, and storytelling is an effective method of communication,” Arnold says. “Your stories should support and illustrate why your credit union is different.”
►Implement a public relations program. This requires an ongoing, active media strategy that’s formalized and proactive.