The Shelf Life Of Pizza Coupons, & Other Vital Tips

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Where's the most effective place to put your credit union's expensive print and membership advertising? On greasy paper that sits around the house.

That was just one of the tips-all practical, some offbeat-gleaned by attendees at The Credit Union Journal's just-concluded 5th annual SEG & Business Development Conference. It was two days and more than a dozen speakers filled with the pragmatic and the philosophical on everything from the nitty-gritty of making presentations to SEGs to the big picture of the hallowed credit union "brand."

If you missed it-and we know who you are-below are some of the gems, insights and other stuff you may not know that were mentioned or discussed during the conference (see coverage, pages 15-21).

* Think your credit union's billboards are just eye-popping traffic stoppers? Consultant Paul Lucas urged every credit union that buys billboards to take this test. Print the billboard message and graphic out on an 8.5x11" sheet of paper. Have someone hold the piece of paper and stand in an office doorway slightly out of sight. Now have another person run past that doorway without stopping and try to read the sign. That, said Lucas, it's what it's like for the average driver zooming past a billboard. Later, Lucas added that there are two marketing avenues every credit union should consider: Pizza coupons and wraparounds on TV Guide. Both, said Lucas, sit around the house longer than anything else.

* "Just because you make a lot of money doesn't mean you don't live paycheck to paycheck," observed Bill Strunk, president and chairman of Strunk & Associates, a provider of overdraft privilege services. "These are people who spend what they make, and they make mistakes. They don't live their lives like you do or your CEO does. They want and need your help. They are not irresponsible, they are your good members."

Strunk said many don't realize another market desperately in need of overdraft privileges is seniors on Social Security who are two days away from getting their check and who need to buy medicine. Now.

* One reason many business development officers/marketing executives don't get more support is they're light in the lingo, according to one person. That's why Keryn Marlatt of WestStar Credit Union in Las Vegas said she has become best friends with the CFO and has learned how to speak his language. Marlatt also made clear that those old, unique FOMs with their own unique needs have not disappeared from credit unions. She noted that WestStar, which serves gaming industry employees, often makes membership pitches to workers at the MGM Grand, which has 7,200 employees and "breakrooms the size of this convention center. Their employees are not allowed to leave during their shift."

She also cited another Las Vegas-ism: "We're No. 1 in NSF fees among Raddon (Financial) clients. We don't want that. We're not proud of that, and we counsel, counsel, counsel. But people who gamble will withdraw that extra $100 just to get back to even." But perhaps Marlatt's keenest insight, and it's a topic she says she's passionate about, is how poor service stings the credit union. "If an employee is not giving the service, then that marketing dollar is wasted."

* "You don't design a product by looking at what the banks are doing, and doing that but charging less," advised Bill Myers, president of Alternatives FCU in Ithaca, N.Y. "So don't design a better checking account. Do ask potential members how they see the world. Do solve their financial problems."

* Get your story down and perfect it," urged Debra Watterson, director of Marketing Services with CUNA Mutual Group. "Get it so everyone from your CEO to the secretary can say in 30 seconds this is why we're better." When it comes to marketing the credit union, Watterson said one client with which she worked gave a a trip to DisneyWorld as part of an effort to collect e-mail addresses. "And you're saying that's a big part of your budget. Well, compare that to the cost of a direct mail of the same message."

Another credit union, she said, gave away microwave popcorn for an e-mail address. "When someone pops it in the workplace it smells good, and others ask 'Where'd you get the popcorn?' And next thing you know you've got 20 e-mails." And she added, "The most powerful part of the message is the P.S. That's where you should put your sales message."

Watterson stressed that business development efforts don't conclude when the member comes in the branch. "Seventy-five percent of the cross-sell is done within the first 90 days of a new account. So develop a 90-day program. Do you know why people don't have mortgages with you? They don't know you offer them."

Finally, Leo Costello of Dupaco Credit Union in Dubuque, Iowa, offered a reminder that there remain some fundamental differences between credit unions and banks, despite what bank critics might suggest. When asked by an audience member about what to do when a credit union can't serve the local offices of a company that is headquartered elsewhere due to charter limitations, Costello said the answer is simple: find that company a credit union that can serve them. That's something one imagines Citigroup does not frequently do for BofA.

Want details on next year's SEG & Business Development Conference? Drop us an e-mail and we'll send you a notice when we have details of next year's event.

Frank J. Diekmann is editor of The Credit Union Journal. He can be reached at fdiekmann

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