Thinking Outside The Mill

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Brett Noll believes that most credit unions stage "run of the mill" marketing campaigns. And they generate "run of the mill" results.

The reason, said Noll, VP with Langley FCU in Newport News, Va., is "marketing deprivation." That's what occurs, he said, when a credit union forgets to factor into planning some of the following: time, multiple brains (lack of multiple people to think about a campaign), member research, creativity and plagiarism ("marketers don't plagiarize, they borrow," noted Noll.)

Speaking to the CUES Nexus Conference here, Noll shared one success story at his credit union that he said resulted from thinking outside that mill. LFCU's model, he explained, is based upon what he called "Brett's BS Code": Branding (capitalizing on the good name of the CU); Synergy ("we don't just want one type of marketing); Creativity ("having an outstanding offer that is differentiated"); Offer, Differentiation and Empathy. Case in point is an auto loan campaign staged by Langley FCU in which it set out to improve the results of its semi-annual car loan promotion by improving communications. But it needed a bigger budget to achieve better reach and frequency, needed more marketing staff, and needed better placement of advertising, he said.

One of the first steps the credit union took was to ask itself, "Who benefits from a credit union auto loan promotion." Among the answers were car dealers, members and the credit union itself. One other entity overlooked in that question, he said, is "the media," which gets the proceeds from increased advertising.

Out of that it developed its main strategy, which was to use representatives of the cable advertising company, in this case Cox Communications, to sell cooperative advertising opportunities to local car dealers. The credit union had Cox Communications' representatives sell the packages it had created to the car dealers. "We gathered all that money together, put it with our money, and it increased our advertising tremendously," said Noll.

The credit union committed $15,000 to the cable advertising company to make it aware that if it did the work for Langley FCU that it would be earning money. The cable advertising reps agreed to sell $1,200 partnerships to auto dealers on the credit union's behalf. LFCU assisted in developing sales pieces listing all the "tag" opportunities to be realized by dealers. Finally, the TV station agreed to a sliding scale of buyers. The latter referred to an agreement that if Cox Communciations failed to deliver a base of 20 participating dealers, Langley FCU didn't have to pay the full $15,000. "This was important because it motivated them."

Cox Communications created a personalized package that was presented to the dealers showing them they would get their names listed on 72,000 pieces that were being sent out on two occasions; their names in a newsletter produced by the credit union, on the credit union's website, on 10,000 teller handouts, at all ATM locations where a poster was displayed, in all print ads being done by the CU, and at the end of a commercial run by LFCU. "All that for $1,200," noted Noll.

Added value the credit union offered to dealers included a raffle by the cable company for a trip for four to a Washington Redskins game with the entry boxes located at participating dealer locations. For every five deals the dealer brought to Langley FCU, the dealer was offered a special advertising package by the cable company.

Langley FCU handled its own production of the spot, said Noll.

Keeping The Buzz Alive

To "keep the buzz alive," Noll said the credit union delivered donuts to auto dealers and the media to remind them the campaign was under way (marketing materials accompanied the donuts). Point-of-purchase signage was delivered to dealers, progress letters were sent to participants that let the dealerships know how it was going, and the credit union made phone calls to get updates from dealers. At the end of the campaign it sent out "recap packages" that updated the dealership on how the campaign did and everything the credit union did to get the dealer's name out. Finally, it held a surprise lunch for the top-performing dealers.

Noll's advice for other credit unions looking to "borrow" the idea: Start early; develop a contact list; have a good theme; make free production part of the deal, and sprice up the deal for the F&I guy. The reason, he said, was that the dealership might be thrilled with the sales going on, but the F&I guy will try to steer the member into dealer financing.

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