Credit unions are being offered a 15-step process for successfully recruiting new SEGs.
In remarks before The Credit Union Journal's SEG & Business Development Conference, Bob Hoel, executive director of the Filene Research Institute, Madison, Wis., and Michelle Bloedorn, VP-marketing with Baxter Credit Union in Vernon Hills, Ill, brought those 15 lessons to life during an hour-long presentation. The Filene Research Institute has also published the 15 steps as one of its studies (www.filene.org).
While acknowledging that many credit unions are considering community charters, Bloedorn said SEG marketing still makes sense. It also involves work, she said.
"Sometimes it takes two years to add a SEG due to the multiple steps you have to go through and the necessity for discussions and approval by multiple people in the companies you are working with," said Bloedorn. "You really have to stick with it, pay attention and follow through."
Don't Say SEG
One point: she advised credit unions to use the phrase "sponsor company" instead of "SEG" for ease of understanding by people who are not in the credit union world.
Before starting a relationship, Hoel advised credit unions to make sure they have a written CU-SEG agreement. He said a written agreement can improve penetration and success by up to four times over instances where no agreement is in place.
Hoel also recommended a credit union and its SEGs should set joint goals for employee penetration level. CUs should offer SEG members special loan programs, 401(k) and retirement planning, financial counseling, and credit counseling.
On the flip side, Hoel cautioned, "Sometimes you must decide to eliminate a SEG if the management people are not cooperative and don't let credit union personnel go on site."
Bloedorn stressed credit unions must dedicate significant resources to their SEG programs. "Some credit unions do special branding for their SEGs-they let the SEGs use the name 'Company Name CU, an affiliate of Blank CU,'" she said. "Another way to accentuate the partnership is a credit card just for a SEG."
A credit union and a SEG can have a written agreement, joint goals and special programs, but building employee awareness still is vital. Hoel said many SEG employees who don't join a CU do not realize they are eligible. Only 20 percent are "very familiar" with what a credit union is.
"Get involved in the community-individually and collectively," Hoel said. "Join the local Chamber of Commerce, business associations, Rotary and other service clubs, charity boards and a local country club."
The 15 Lessons
The 15 lessons learned in SEG Marketing are:
* Understanding big benefits. Position the credit union as an employer profit enhancer; a financially troubled employee costs his-her employer $400 per year.
* Appeal to key employer decision-makers.
* Get a written CU-SEG agreement that spells out tasks and responsibilities.
* Target, specialize and focus on selected SEGs.
* Explain the bigger business services opportunity, including financial products to the business, electronic links to payroll, etc.
* Demonstrate that emplyees want financial education. Filene has found that 50% to 65% of members are at least somewhat concerned about retirement and immediate savings.
* Build effective employer support for the credit union.
* Recruit employee members; incent member enrollment, not contracts produced.
* Dedicate significant resources to the SEG program.
* Build employee awareness to achieve success. (Only 20% of eligible members actually join.)
* Offer a "Can't Miss" product to build membership; i.e, a free ATM card.
* Use CU Ambassadors effectively.
* Give SEG discounts on key services.
* Join the country club, chambers of commerce, Rotary, etc.
* Support sponsor activities that build community and visibility.