Tips For Getting Most Out Of Marketing Dollars Shared

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COLUMBUS, Ohio-From using small-town printers to managing the budget like a "hawk," one person shared advice for small credit unions on getting the most out of their marketing dollars.

Mark Arnold, president of On the Mark Strategies in Carrolton, Texas, and a long-time credit union marketer himself, talked with small CUs during the Ohio CU League's InVest48 annual meeting about marketing on a shoestring and getting results. He shared the following tips:

• Use shared cost resources. Join together with other credit unions to partner on campaigns. Share the cost and design.

• Get multiple bids on al projects, and then haggle, haggle, haggle. Too many times CUs get comfortable with people they do business with.

• Use standard print sizes as much as possible and use black and white occasionally. The credit union will save money. Not all print pieces have to be in color, and a lack of color can sometimes help the CU stand out on a page.

• For print ads, every now and then use two-color and, when possible, use templates. A color template with a black overlay can make an add look full color and save money.

• Watch mail expenses. The number-one cost to any promotion is mailing. Send bulk mail when possible. Collect e-mail addresses from all members.

• Get early bird pricing on materials for promotions. For example, if CU always decorates branches for Halloween, the best time to buy those materials is right after Halloween.

• Look into vendor partnerships. For, instance, include advertising in the newsletter for a vendor in exchange for having them pick up or contribute to the cost of the publication.

• Always push back on vendor pricing. Often in today's economy, CUs can get a 10% reduction.

• If all else fails-borrow. Create a "drawer of knowledge." If someone sends you and advertising idea or you see something you like, even if it does not fit anything you are planning for at the time, save it, Arnold advised. Then when you are stuck for an idea, open the drawer and pull out some ideas.

• Consider a print broker. Printing is a big expense and brokers can often find the best deals. They usually know the times when printers' presses are idle, and can slot the CU in for a cheaper rate because the printer needs to keep the presses moving.

• If the credit union is in a big city, use a printer that is way out of town. "We use a printer 200 miles east of us. Printers located in rural areas often have less overhead and charge less," Arnold said.

• Target the audience. The credit union can't be all things to all people. Finding the CU's niche will make marketing more effective and reduce expenses.

• Be a budget hawk. Any time an expenditure hits the marketing GL, the charge must be reviewed to make sure it is a marketing expense. Too many people attach expenditures to marketing that are not actual marketing expenses. "The annual meeting is not a marketing expense, in my opinion. Neither is the CEO playing golf."

• Be aware of what the CU is spending on marketing. Itemize everything. Don't have a general marketing budget-track exactly the credit union is going to spend on social media, billboards, community involvement, etc.

• Always ask members how they find out about the products they choose. That way you know what works and what doesn't. One credit union quickly learned its print newsletter was not effective but its website is. So they cut back on newsletter costs and dumped more money into the website, Arnold said.

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