Research: You Never Get A Second Chance To Make A Good Impression

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Sometimes credit unions venture into new territory without a well-thought-out plan. Let's take boat loans for the sake of argument. Jane Member applies and finds the application process too slow and cumbersome. Is she going to apply for a home or car loan next year? Not likely.

When members have a negative experience they generalize it to the entire relationship with the institution. That's why it's extremely important to do things right the first time and to only do that which can be done well. Poorly executed projects can cannibalize other parts of the business and member relationships.

Similarly, credit unions sometimes make changes (name, logo, pricing, etc.) based on someone's great idea or to "follow the leader."

Proper planning can avoid costly failures in such ventures. For instance, one credit union abandoned a proposed new pricing strategy when testing with members proved that it would be counterproductive. According to its own calculations, the institution would have lost half a million dollars had it proceeded with the change. Another institution intended to introduce a cool "high-tech" logo. But when it was tested with a focus group of its members who were engineers, they pointed out that the design represented radioactivity, not high-tech, thus saving the institution a great deal of embarrassment, not to mention significant dollars.

Before a name change, it's critical to test the message to members. When the corporate sponsor of four credit unions asked them to change their names for branding purposes, the institutions planned to tell members the simple truth. Research, however, revealed that a request for a name change would likely be perceived as an indication that something must be wrong with the institution.

At a recent conference breakout session, at which marketing executives shared their biggest mistakes and lessons learned, was the No. 1 rated program. No one wants to make a mistake, so it pays to do due diligence up front. That's one reason why proactive research is a critical component of every marketer's tool kit.

Neil Goldman is president of Member Research. He can be reached at 310- 643-5910 or by email at ngoldman

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