Provocative BetterThanBanks.org Stresses Convenience

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University of Colorado FCU has rolled out a website that's bound to raise a few hackles with bankers: betterthanbanks.org.

The site lists 17 reasons why a consumer is better off doing business with the $700-million credit union than a bank, and includes a "join now" button and a link back to the UOCFCU's home page.

At the top of the list of those 17 reasons is not the typical "low rates and fees" (though that did make the list) or even that the CU is not-for-profit and democratically run (though that also made the list).

Instead, U of C Federal Credit Union chose the one thing that consumers most want: convenience.

The No. 1 differentiator on the list reads: "25,000 ATMs." When a user rolls his mouse over that button, the following message pops up: "Most banks have only a few thousand ATMs. We have over 25,000 ATMs as part of The CO-OP Network-the largest ATM network in the world."

Differentiator No. 2: "2,000 Shared Branches." The message: "Banks build branches for only their customers. We share branches with other credit unions as part of the CU Service Center Network, giving you access to over 2,000 branches nationwide."

"Anyone who is still relying on lower rates and fees to differentiate themselves is delusional," said U of C FCU VP-Marketing Rich Jones. "We have to define why we are better, and that goes well beyond great rates and lower and fewer fees."

That's not to say those aren't important features-indeed, lower and fewer fees shows up as U of C FCU's third reason to do business with it instead of a bank, and better rates comes in at No. 4.

But they weren't first, and they certainly weren't everything. Other reasons included the idea that while banks are only too happy to take advantage of a customer's ignorance with regard to financial services, the credit union seeks to educate its members to help make them more financially savvy.

To promote the new website, the credit union is putting the URL on all of its print collateral, its light screens, and a button on the credit union's homepage that will take a visitor to the betterthanbanks.org site.

The URL will also appear on all of U of C Federal Credit Union's newspaper ads and direct marketing pieces. "We're also going to try some guerilla marketing with this, too," Jones offered. "We're going to have t-shirts that just say betterthanbanks.org."

As the credit union's name suggests, U of C FCU serves the University of Colorado but also has more than 100 SEGs. The site was launched in tandem with the opening of its seventh branch in Longmont.

"We already had 5,100 members there, and we had pretty good brand recognition among non-members there, too, but they didn't know why they should be doing business with us," Jones told The Credit Union Journal. "This is all about member acquisition. Growth has been flat. We needed to offer reasons to come do business with us instead of the bank across the street."

U of C FCU originally wanted to roll out the website at betterthanabank.org but discovered that URL was already taken, even though there is currently nothing to be seen at that address.

"When we saw that we could still get betterthanbanks.org, we latched on it and started identifying the differences of what we're doing versus what the banks are doing," Jones related. "We came up with 17 reasons, and we think that's pretty impressive."

While Jones said he can imagine that other credit unions may want to buy into this website, he noted that of the 17 differentiators listed, "some are uniquely ours." For example, the fact that U of C Federal Credit Union has been voted "Best Financial Institution" by Boulder County seven years in a row.

But putting the site together, he said, was easy, and any credit union that wanted to do something like it would simply need to come up with its own unique set of reasons.

"This is all about differentiation, about getting our message out," Jones offered. "We've always known there were plenty of good reasons for someone to come here instead of a bank, now we're making sure everyone else knows it, too."

(c) 2006 The Credit Union Journal and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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