In Rush To Community Charters, Two CUs Find Growth In SEGs

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While many credit unions have expanded into community charters, others are reporting far more success by turning familiar ground: select employee groups (SEGs).

Missy Rostkowski, manager of business development and operations for Baxter Credit Union in Vernon Hills, Ill., and Michael DeShazo, vice president of member services for San Diego, Calif.-based Cabrillo Credit Union, told the CUNA Marketing Council's meeting here that both their credit unions continue to grow via SEG expansion (see box, below, right).

Rostkowski's nine-step method began with the development of a SEG plan. She said before the marketing and/or business development staff can begin to present the credit union to potential sponsor companies, support must be in place from the board of directors and senior management. Internal resources also must be lined up, including marketing materials and advertising. These and other expenses, such as business lunches and mileage, might require an increase in budget.

Passion Must Be Shown

"The business development representative must show senior management his or her passion for this project," she said. "He or she must be dedicated, because that person is the first face of the credit union for many people. It must be more than a job."

Rostkowski recommends a "slow sale" method. This involves taking the time to get to know company representatives, taking them to lunch, and asking them for their opinions.

Step two is to set SEG criteria, she continued. CUs must decide if there is a desired minimum or maximum employee count for sponsor companies, if location of a company or the size of territory is critical, or if the company must be near an existing branch. Other considerations include if a potential partner is financially sound, is supportive of the CU, and is a good mix philosophically with the credit union, she said.

The third step is to set goals and a methodology for tracking results. "There are so many ways to track and measure results," said Rostkowski. "Decide if it is best to focus and build slowly, or add rapidly. How many SEGs a year is a good number?"

At a minimum, Rostkowski recommends creating a target list of groups and a record of the names and telephone numbers called. "Door-to-door is very difficult," she said. "It is better to use the 'back door,' such as community events."

Step four is the generation of leads. Rostkowski said an effective method is to target companies in a selected area and ask people for introductions.

The fifth step is the development of marketing collateral. These include postcards, a prospect packet, an introductory letter, testimonials from current SEGs and a comparison of the credit union versus local banks.

"Step six is to find companies to target. Identify an area via the name of towns or zip codes, directories, or by using resources such as the Human Resources Association's membership list," she said. "Input the target companies in Excel format, listing the name, address, employee count and the direct phone numbers of contact people. Develop connections and get referrals by using any number of methods-from family and friends to joining the Chamber of Commerce to participating in trade shows and blood drives. The United Way works with a lot of companies in many areas, so work with them."

Paying A Referral Fee

Another way of generating referrals is to train the front-line staff or offering a referral fee, she added. Rostkowski also counsels CUs to seek out co-marketing opportunities with complementary companies. "This can be as simple as having Dunkin Donuts in the lobby."

Preparation is the seventh step in Rostkowski's plan. This includes calling ahead for an appointment, researching the company website before visiting and tailoring the materials to the company, and getting ready for common questions. Most companies want to know about accessibility, if working with a CU will mean extra work for the HR department, and what the benefits of joining are, she explained. In many cases, the business development rep must get to know the "gate keeper" in order to talk with a company's decision maker.

Step eight is to connect with the target company. This begins by being early, and driving to an unfamiliar office the day before if necessary. Once at the meeting, the rep must listen for the key question: how can the CU help the company, HR and the employees?

Asking Questions

"What do they need? Direct deposit? Help keeping health care costs down? Are they looking to improve the employee benefit package? Ask questions to find out why they want a credit union, what the competition is, what is their time frame, what are the next action steps? Whatever the answers, it is very important to under promise and over deliver. Take notes, bring visuals and develop a bond."

Another critical point is, once the business development rep has established a connection with his or her HR counterpart at the sponsor company, the rep must introduce other credit union personnel to the company to avoid being the sole face of the CU.

"Phone calls with questions about a new member who bounced a check will bog the rep down," said Rostkowski.

The ninth, and final, step is to follow up. This includes sending a thank you card after the meeting, or perhaps flowers or a goodie basket to the department or office. "Make sure to answer all questions, and follow up again at an agreed time," she said.

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