Humor, Balance Transfer Offer, Driving Traffic

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va.-A sense of humor, a fun game and a balance transfer offer are helping drive new members to Langley Federal Credit Union.

Brett Noll, SVP and chief marketing officer, said the $1.6 billion CU's credit card portfolio continues to be profitable despite charge-offs and a difficult economy, because the 6.99% interest APR is so attractive compared to cards from other issuers. "The credit card balance transfer promo is a great growth initiative-it has increased membership," he told Credit Union Journal. "We also developed a microsite that talks about the differences between credit unions and other financial institutions in a creative way. It talks about what credit card companies are doing to beat fee income rules in ways credit union would not do."

The microsite, which can be found at www.IownLFCU.com, was designed almost entirely in house. The only exception are the videos available on a simulated television set, which Noll said are produced by a third party. Visitors to IownLFCU are invited to click over to Langley FCU's second microsite, at www.WhackAFee.com.

Creatures On Springs

On this site is a game patterned after arcade standard "Whack A Mole," except instead of pesky rodents, the objects of the "fee-whacking mallet" players wield are "Fee Monsters." The creatures on springs pop up out of the virtual ground holding up signs emblazoned with fees found at many financial institutions. Brief editorial comments following the names of the fees serve to drive home the point that Langley FCU is a better option for consumers.

The six fees (and zingers) are: 1. Balance Transfer Fee: 3% of transfer or as much as they can squeeze. 2. Loan Application Fee: Get out your checkbook! 3. Teller Talk Fee: Talk isn't cheap. 4. Restroom Fee: Start counting your quarters. 5. Annual Credit Card Fees: A BIG NUMBER in tiny print. 6. Cash Advance Fee: 3% or your firstborn child!

Noll said Langley FCU advertises WhackAFee.com without mentioning the credit union both online and on billboards in its local markets. "We developed the two sites because we wanted one site geared toward membership to re-educate the members what a credit union is and how it is different as a not-for-profit financial institution. We wanted to tell them they have a voice," he explained. "WhackAFee is designed to drive people to IownLFCU.com."

The two sites are generating "good traffic," Noll said. Membership growth was strong throughout 2009 (5.7%) and the momentum has carried into the first two months of this year. "All of the membership growth is probably not a direct result of the microsite, but the stes, along with our advertisements and the general state of the banking industry in this economy, are all contributing," he said.

Langley FCU is no stranger to using dramatic images such as Fee Monsters to get attention. The credit union recently was featured at the recent NAFCU Strategic Growth Conference in Las Vegas for its "Plastic Surgery" promotion, winning an award for Best Lending Promo of 2008 for credit unions with $150 million or more in assets.

"We had member service reps cut up the members' existing cards, and we helped them with a debt reduction procedure," Noll recalled. "We offered a 6.99% rate for people to transfer high-rate cards to our credit union card. "What we did really well was communicate with our staff," he continued. "Success of a loan promotion such as this one depends on the staff telling the members about it. In this case, the staff was enthusiastic about helping the credit union's bottom line while helping members get a better rate. It boosted morale."

Lessons Learned Asked what steps Langley FCU has taken to improve credit card promotions since Plastic Surgery, Noll said in 2009 and into 2010 it has tightened up the standards as to which members receive balance transfer checks via postal mail. "We tried to minimize our exposure to future delinquency. In the past we saw people transfer over large balances and run their cards right up against the limit." In some of those cases, he said, the charge offs were "very expensive."

The Next Target

Today, the CU is targeting higher income members with long periods living at one address. "We are looking at credit scoring, of course, as well as the total relationship we have with the member. When we develop a target list, we look for more than just a single, small savings account. We are still running balance transfer promos because 6.99%, even with charge offs, is better than investing."

Next up: Langley FCU will launch another "big membership push," Noll said, adding, "the most important thing is to continue to advertise the difference between credit unions and other financial institutions. People are really starting to notice the difference. Credit unions have gotten a bit of favorable press coverage, which helps it sink in."

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