How To Recruit And Retain SEGs in 3 Easy Steps

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It's not enough to get a business to sign on as a select employee group, a credit union also has to work hard to keep that SEG on board, and one expert offered three easy steps to getting in-and staying in-with SEGs.

Drawing on his experience as credit union consultant and founder of Bator Training & Consulting, as well as his most recent incarnation as vp-marketing at Corporate Central Credit Union, Hales Corners, Wis., Ken Bator suggested the key to recruiting and retaining new SEGs is to demonstrate the credit union's value to the SEG.

"There are three ways to truly provide a benefit to your SEGs: 1) pre-call research, 2) add value through partnership and 3) visibility through education," Bator told attendees of The Credit Union Journal's SEG & Business Development conference.

Pre-call Research

"There is no excuse to go into a call unprepared," Bator suggested. "Never ask a question that you can get the answer to beforehand."

Instead, check out the potential SEG's website, read up on any news articles that have been written about the company and learn as much as possible about the business.

At the very least, this will keep the credit union representative from looking ignorant, and at the very best, it helps develop rapport and potentially wins over a new SEG.

In addition to the corporation's website, other sources of information include human resources publications, local publications, the company's annual report and the chamber of commerce.

Since most SEG recruitment calls go to an HR person, understanding what that person wants and needs is just as important as understanding the business itself.

"We need to understand the HR people's pain," Bator noted.

Joining groups like the Society for Human Resources Management and other such HR groups is not only a good way to find out about potential new SEGs, but it will help the credit union understand what HR people want, and that will help the CU know how to appeal to these people.

Other groups credit unions should consider having their business development officers join would include area chambers of commerce, Business Networking International (www.bni.com) and Sales & Marketing Executives International (www.SMEI.com).

But Bator cautioned that certain chambers and groups aren't has helpful as others, so it's worth the credit union's time to evaluate the groups before choosing which ones to join. "If every member of the chamber is a life insurance salesman, then you're just not going to find a whole lot of leads there," he noted.

Add Value Through Partnership

"It's critical to get commitment [from a would-be SEG] in writing," Bator advised. "If the person you originally worked with leaves, you've still got a footprint."

But it's not simply about getting the SEG to commit to the credit union-it's also about demonstrating the credit union's commitment to the SEG.

"Link your brand to the SEG," he suggested, noting that Baxter CU has actually created branded websites for some of its SEGs, making it appear as if the credit union has created a completely new credit union just to serve that SEG.

Of course, a credit union needs to make sure its SEGs want that kind of tie-in. The credit union formerly known as NWA FCU, for example, was actually sued by its original sponsor, Northwest Airlines, for using the NWA name and logo, he noted.

"Tie in to their charities," Bator suggested. Instead of using marketing dollars to put logos on stress balls and letter openers, consider donating that money to the SEG's favorite charity-and of course, be sure to tell them about it.

Not only does this help develop the relationship between CU and SEG, but it also gives the CU a chance to live up to and demonstrate the people-helping-people philosophy that sets credit unions apart from banks.

Bator also suggested creating a local rewards program using local restaurants or entertainment venues.

And never underestimate the power of the credit union's CEO.

"Have CEO breakfasts and luncheons," Bator recommended. "One of the great things about credit unions is that the CEO really is right there and is ready and willing to meet a person. You're never going to meet [Bank One CEO] Jamie Dimon. But Bob Columbo, the CEO of my credit union, will come on out to say hello."

Visibility Through Education

"We have a fiduciary duty to teach financial literacy," Bator said. "Education is what we're here to do."

Credit unions, then, must take every opportunity to teach and inform their members, because it is the right thing to do, he suggested.

But it also just so happens that making the most of every opportunity to teach and inform also creates greater visibility for the credit union, and that helps develop the partnership between credit union and SEG and credit union and member.

"This shouldn't be about sales," he added. "I walked into one credit union, and they had a beautiful display of brochures. But they weren't brochures about the credit union's checking account or the credit union's mortgage program. They were brochures about understading your mortgage, debt management-not a single one was a 'check out our checking account' brochure. They were truly of educational value to anyone and everyone."

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