Opinion: Being Heard Over All The Noise

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Today's competitive climate requires extraordinary thinking to compete successfully. With all the noise, how can your credit union maintain its members' attention? And with your member's operating in a largely digital world, what is the most effective means to reach them?

Being able to serve your members as individuals in our digital world can be exceptionally challenging without the right tools incorporated into your business strategy. Your ultimate goal, and the greatest challenge of all, is to ensure your members view your credit union as their preferred financial institution and trusted financial advisor. When this goal is attained, member growth and growth in member share of wallet will follow. There are tools available to support your growth objectives and assist you in implementing programs to encourage growth in share of wallet.

The way in which you serve your members and expand your relationship with them can be either enabled or hampered by these technology tools. To serve members effectively, you need to ensure you align your technology with your strategy and utilize the appropriate resources to help your credit union improve the depth and breadth of services you offer members. This is only successful if you are offering the products and services your members will be receptive to. Several tools, including MCIF systems, business intelligence solutions, Member Relationship Management (MRM), relationship pricing and cross-selling applications, all claim to help grow share of wallet. Yet no two financial institutions are identical. The key is determining which tools will work for your credit union's specific requirements and fulfill members' needs.

The notion of "one view of your member" is not a new one, but certainly one that is critical to successfully serving and expanding member relationships. Simply put, your technology applications need to "talk" to one another. Disparate systems in today's environment will not enable the access to information your staff needs in order to service your members appropriately. Your staff needs to be empowered with member information at their fingertips to understand each member relationship and have the capability to uniquely cross-sell each member.

A focus on member demographics can assist in analyzing whether your credit union is offering the right products and services to the right members at the right time and in the manner they want those services delivered to them. Once you discover, for example, that a member performs all or most of his/her transactions via Home Banking, providing a cross-selling opportunity through that Internet channel will likely be openly received by that member and produce results. If, however, your credit union is not equipped with this intelligence, you may run the risk of spending dollars on marketing to that member without the desired outcome.

Research, therefore, is the first logical step to decide whether or not to move forward with marketing efforts. Research can be performed on SEGs through market research, demographic research, household research, transaction analysis, product analysis, and a variety of other research tools.

An integrated technology tool to help perform transaction analysis can assist with a study of member demographics combined with transaction volume by channel and lead to more effective marketing programs through the appropriate channels within those market segments. Understanding not only the member, but also the household relationship can assist with cross-selling efforts. Tools that aggregate member information, such as MCIF systems which are tightly integrated with core member data, can provide a snapshot of the entire scope of the relationship and the open the door of opportunity to expand that relationship.

Member Relationship Management (MRM) applications provide marketing tools to put much of this gained intelligence to work through targeted marketing and cross-selling campaigns. Relationship pricing tools can combine information from a variety of sources and provide the ability to design incentive programs that encourage members to maintain higher balances and utilize more of an institution's products in exchange for rewards. Once a certain level is attained, members are rewarded with additional service benefits.

Until research and analysis is performed, marketing dollars spent on programs may be spent in futility. And, of course, measurement is the critical piece to gauge future success of any program or marketing endeavor.

Often, this research will lead to developing a sales culture within the credit union where all staff are offered incentives to cross-sell members. This culture can energize and empower employees. MRM systems provide tools to track sales efforts, as well as raise the consistency of service levels across all delivery channels. A successful MRM initiative is one part culture and one part technology. Successfully rolling it out to internal staff is one part technology, and two parts training and internal communications.

Lastly, when marketing for new member acquisition with the ultimate goal of gaining more wallet share, it is critical to ensure you have tools that enable the implementation of retention programs, such as those that continue to touch new members with various cross- selling opportunities. Retention programs are essential during the first 90 days to 12 months when more than 30% of new members are most likely to leave your credit union. If your credit union can use tools to develop programs that provide "high touch" during that critical period of time, your retention rate will increase, as will your member base which will promote continued growth in member share of wallet.

David McConney oversees daily operations for the Credit Union Core Systems business of Harland Financial Solutions. He can be reached at david.mcconney harlandfs.com

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