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SAN DIEGO — Showing how the credit union saves members money and turning members into CU evangelists will be among the top marketing tactics in 2011.

That's according to Anne Legg, VP-marketing at $168-million Cabrillo Credit Union here, who also chairs the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council. Credit Union Journal asked Legg to share marketing and business development strategies she intends to use at Cabrillo in 2011, as well as what she is hearing from her colleagues on the council around the country.

"First off, we are starting this year with a slight glimmer of hope from the leading economic indicators," she noted. "We have a slight increase in non-farm payrolls and a slight decrease in unemployment. This is helpful as it hopefully means that our members will be keeping the jobs they have and possibly get ones if they don't have them."

Consumers Gaining Confidence

Additionally, an increase in holiday spending may mean that members are feeling better about their financial position, she offered, "and some of that confidence may spill over into new loans for us. That being all said, marketing and BD departments still have the hefty task of increasing loan growth in a market of shrinking qualified loan candidates and tightened loan criteria."

One thing that will help credit union marketers meet that challenge is the fact that credit unions really do have a big competitive challenge when it comes to giving members an experience that meets their financial and emotional needs, Legg commented, citing the Prime Performance 2010 Bank and Credit Union Satisfaction Survey released in December.

"This means that credit unions can position themselves as the best financial alternative and know they can deliver on that brand promise," Legg said. "Plus, credit unions have worked harder than banks to keep members financially sound and members recognize this and trust credit unions."

The key to leveraging this competitive advantage is in targeted messaging and putting your members to work to do the marketing for you.

"Credit unions can easily identify evangelists and influencers and use social media channels to communicate this strong position," she commented. "And this can be done with little resources, which is good as overall marketing budgets seem to be flat from last year."

Legg said Cabrillo is working to get members to share their credit union stories in as many relevant channels as possible. "The specific strategy is to increase member-centric and authentic communication," she explained. "Tactics are to identify those members who will evangelize for you and ask them to do so."

The channels credit unions should be considering include e-mail, social media, the website and blog, and any other channels that have proven key to a specific credit union's growth.

The Key Message For 2011

The key message for 2011 is going to be showing how members benefit from the credit union experience, Legg said.

"Communicating this benefit in terms of money they save by banking with the credit union and not someplace else," she offered. "This may be expressed as, 'An auto loan with Cabrillo Credit Union can save you over $1,100 in the first year!' And of course the savings are clearly expressed."

Legg said another message she expects to be used by a lot of credit unions is to share not only what their current products and services are saving them, but what additional products and services they might add to increase those savings. "This trend is consistent with what is being messaged in the generic retail market. Messaging surrounds the savings, not the lowest price."

Expect to see marketing dollars focused on the products that are most key for growth: auto loans and checking accounts. "Perhaps real estate in some markets, but definitely not in San Diego," Legg said. "Mobile banking is also a service that will be increasing as the use of smart phones is increasing and the overall cost for smart phones are decreasing."

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Growth strategies