Marketing: A New Emphasis On 'Getting The Message Out'

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Few professional disciplines within credit unions have seen the kinds of changes over the past years as marketing.

Expanding fields of membership, changing charters and politics have not only changed the message being delivered by credit unions but also have changed the way the message is delivered. This changing face of marketing will be a hot topic for the Marketing and Business Development Council this year.

"Marketing has changed since the time when everybody knew who credit unions were. There was a time when many of us only had one or two sponsors in our field of membership, and the people we marketed to were often right down the hall. Now, credit unions are competing on a national level," said Renee Dickson, chair of the marketing and business development council. "There's a lot at stake for us just to get the message across."

That makes branding and identity more important than ever, and marketers are not expected to carry that weight by themselves, according to Dickson, product marketing manager with Wings FCU. Credit unions are relying more heavily on the business development professional to help spread their message. Once considered a luxury in the credit union community, the business development department is now critical to the long-term success of many credit unions.

"As credit unions change their charters and expand to places they've never been before, they certainly have to have more people who can go out and share the message with people. Putting an ad in the newspaper to say we're here is just not enough," said Dickson.

Adding to that challenge are name changes. In the past few years, an unprecedented number of credit unions have changed their names to accommodate changing fields of membership.

"Name changes have added a different spin to our jobs. Once a credit union changes its name, people don't know us anymore," Dickson said.

That can make the marketer's job difficult, especially if slim net interest margins are limiting the amount of money they have to spend. Some marketers are turning to technology to help ease the burden of being innovative on a shoestring budget. "E-mail marketing is a beautiful way to reach our to your target audience while being cost effective."

Not all credit unions are ready to move in the direction of technology-related marketing, but some who are holding their annual meetings by webinar and hosting director elections over the Internet. Technology is also impacting job location.

"One of the changes of credit union marketing directly related to technology is that many marketers work from home now. It may be just a few hours a week or it could be all the time," Dickson said. "That doesn't change the face of marketing, but for credit unions who embrace that type of relationship, they can attract a broader range of talent."

The council will use education, networking, white papers and its annual conference to keep its members up to speed on the changing face of marketing and the impact it is having or can have on their credit unions.

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