Archive for category Marketing

Is Your Credit Union Offering Financial Vitamins…or Aspirin?

Posted by on Friday, 12 November, 2010

From Christopher Morris:

Warning: This post has more metaphors than a middle school poetry contest.

Are your credit union’s product offerings just another “great” financial rate or product in a sea of many? Or are you stopping your member’s financial pain?

In the latest Fast Company magazine, Chip and Dean Heath (authors of the must-reads Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard and Made to Stick) talk eloquently about the difference between “vitamin-quality” and “aspirin-quality” products and services.  In the piece, they note that “vitamins are nice; they’re healthy. But aspirin cures your pain; it’s not a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have.” Consider the difference between a book on pregnancy for husbands (useful information, but a vitamin) and the mega best-selling book on pregnancy for women, What to Expect When You’re Expecting (definitely an aspirin).

Credit unions across the country offer a mix of financial vitamins and aspirin. In my new role at the National Credit Union Foundation, I’ve been in awe of credit unions participating in the Foundation’s REAL Solutions program. Some examples of these REAL Solutions’ aspirin-quality products or services (with links for more information):

“I was about to lose everything– totally everything. A lot of institutions turned me away. I feel like my credit union rescued me.”

-  Ora Houston, member of Wright-Patt Credit Union in Ohio

Now that’s aspirin. Credit unions like Wright-Patt are meeting the financial needs of their members in a mutually beneficial way. Are you?

Most likely, you are. But maybe you could do a better job of letting your members know that they need your “financial aspirin.” If you look at most credit union advertisements, you’ll see lots of “come check out our great rate” or “free” this or that. Financial vitamins – useful, but you need stronger medicine to survive.

For example, are you offering financial education? Market it like aspirin – most people think they know a lot about personal finance (even though they don’t). Help them realize they need to know it. Will your product save a significant amount of money compared to competitors? Tell them. How will the product ease their financial pain?

“You’ve heard the old saying ‘If you invent a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.’ Don’t bet on it. The world’s felt need isn’t for a better mousetrap. It’s for a dead mouse.”

-  Chip and Dan Heath

At a conference I was at a few weeks ago, someone said, “Don’t try to outbank the banks.”

So be a credit union. A good one. Offer financial aspirin and spread that message.

Credit unions were founded for this very purpose.

Christopher Morris is the Director of Communications for the National Credit Union Foundation.  He used to work at the CUNA Councils and was on the original CUNAverse team. You can read his previous CUNAVerse posts here.

Looks Like a Boring Kind of Cheap Shirt

Posted by on Thursday, 4 November, 2010

Prior to starting at CUNA 7 years ago I had no clue what a credit union was.  My parents had always belonged to banks and when I was looking for a financial institution, ”bank” was the only brand I knew.  Even after my husband and I both had terribly negative experiences with our bank we stayed put because we didn’t realize there was a better choice.  I don’t remember ever being taught what a bank was, it’s just all that I ever knew. I wish that somebody had sold me on credit unions earlier on;  it would have saved me some terrible service experiences and lots of money spent on bank fees. 

Truth is, even after starting at CUNA, it took me some time to really get the fact that credit unions were such a great choice for consumers.  I still have plenty of friends that I haven’t been able to convince to leave their banks, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that like me a few years ago, banks are familiar to them, and thus perceived as the best choice.

I recently came across the following video which conveys the impact branding has at an early age.  This simple school project shows that at as early as grade school children begin equating the value of something with their knowledge of that something’s brand.   The older a person gets, the more this belief gets solidified regarding the brands they know and turn to. 

I think in some ways credit unions are like  the logo-less products in the video, many people don’t really understand what a credit union is so they see credit unions as a lesser option than a bank.   To overcome that, credit unions need to begin creating a loyalty to their brand at as early an age as possible.   Whether it’s through a partnership with local schools, a sponsorship of  certain youth events or strengthened relationships with current members to help ensure they are sharing their love of their credit union with their kids.  Credit unions need to be doing something to make sure children start seeing them as relevant, or years down the road they will have an even harder time trying to convince them that they are the best choice. 

In an article in Credit Union Magazine, CUNA executive vice president and chief operating officer, John Franklin shared that “it is estimated that today’s 90 mil­lion {credit union} members have 19 million children under 18 years old. Studies show the very best way to get loyal young members is through their parents’ memberships. Yet little progress is being made.”   

What are you and your credit union doing now to make sure today’s kids become future loyal members of your credit union?

Community Credit Union & Growth Conference Recap

Posted by on Thursday, 14 October, 2010

Bo McDonald

From Bo McDonald:

The speakers may have been diverse at the CUNA Community Credit Union & Growth Conference, but their message was the same. In every presentation, the need was pointed out for credit unions to change their way of thinking.

Dr. Kevin Freiberg, author of BOOM!, opened the conference by pointing out that there are several thousand credit unions across the country quoting rates and fees, but only a handful can tell members and potential members what really makes their credit union “unforgettable.” Freiberg suggested that the experience your members have with your credit union is what sets you apart from the pack. He cited such examples as Southwest Air and Starbucks.

Likewise, Matt Tebbetts from Greenville Federal Credit Union shared its “Member Experience Standards” program. The program lays the groundwork for the credit union to provide a consistently positive member experience, including employee attitudes, attire and workplace atmosphere.

Aside from providing a unique member experience, a fresh lineup of useful products for members is a great way to set your credit union apart. Both Scott Butterfield from Credit Union Strategic Planning and Steve Williams from Cornerstone Advisers shared some ideas on products. Although these products are not new to the market, they haven’t been utilized by credit unions. Some examples provided by both presenters included micro-business loans for small business and payday lending alternatives. Both have been successfully implemented by several credit unions across the country already, including Brewery Credit Union in Wisconsin.

To sum up the CUNA Community Credit Union & Growth Conference in a statement, credit unions that want to survive need to understand that “what got us here today, is not what is going to get us there tomorrow.” The needs and wants of your members will change. Get ready to follow.

Bo McDonald is President of Your Marketing Co. and was a participant in CUNA’s VIP Network for Young Leaders at this year’s Community Credit Union & Growth Conference.  You can e-mail for information on the conference as well as the VIP Network.  This blog post was originally published on CU Insight.

Why Celebrate International Credit Union Day?

Posted by on Thursday, 9 September, 2010

International Credit Union Day is on the horizon (October 21, 2010). Credit unions who celebrate with posters or events help raise awareness about how credit unions impact the lives of 186 million people in 97 countries.

While those numbers are impressive, there are still so many around the world without access to basic financial services. They are subjected to loan sharks, hiding their life savings in mattresses, or taking long and dangerous trips just to visit the nearest financial institution.

That’s why the work of World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) is so important. Part of WOCCU’s role is to empower people across the globe with access to financial services through promoting the sustainable development of credit unions and financial cooperatives.

It’s also one of the most important reasons for celebrating International Credit Union Day; to raise awareness about how credit union principles truly change people’s lives. Promoting the world-wide impact of credit unions creates new and unique opportunities for the Credit Union Movement as well as for individual credit unions.

For example, learning about credit unions’ international impact is a major reason I’ve worked for credit unions these past 7 years. One story that has stuck with me was of Lois Kitsch‘s experience with a newly formed credit union in a remote area of the world during her time with WOCCU. (As I paraphrase Lois’ story, I hope I do it justice.)

ICU Day is also a great time to look back on how CUs came to be. Click above for a graphic history from CUNA's MoneyMix

As I recall, a small loan from the newly formed credit union–something like $10–enabled a woman to purchase a tarp. The woman prepared and sold food to villagers to earn a living. But when the rainy season hit, she was unable to prepare food because the rain extinguished her fire. This left the woman unable to earn money until the rainy season had subsided.

Acquiring the tarp allowed her to protect her food preparation from the rain and she was able to earn a living throughout the year. As a result, the woman was then empowered to expand her business and provide a laundry service.

She was able to improve the quality of life for her family as well as her community… and all it took was a $10 loan.

Pretty incredible, eh? I certainly thought so. Lois’ experience demonstrates the power credit unions can have and it left me feeling like I needed to get more involved with the Movement.

So, what was the most successful International Credit Union Day celebration for your credit union? How will your credit union celebrate it this year and raise awareness about how credit unions change lives?

Take A Chance

Posted by on Tuesday, 7 September, 2010

When’s the last time you took a chance?  Bought a lottery ticket? Went skydiving? Went on a blind date?! Many of us take chances throughout the day and don’t even know it “eh, not too sure about the meatloaf at the cafeteria, but I’ll give it a go,” or “I think I could pull off skinny jeans.” Even if they’re not the best ideas you’ve ever had, you’re willing to give them a try. Ah, such is life.

Now, think about the last time you took a chance for your credit union??  Launching an expansive Facebook campaign?  (Too time-consuming). Hiring a Social Media Manager? (No, I don’t even know what that is!) Starting a blog? (Too much pressure.)

Why are we so resistant to change when it comes to innovation within the industry, but so open to it in other aspects of life? Think about that very first credit union to develop a website. What if that was considered ‘too risky’?  Where would we be if a few more didn’t join the internet bandwagon?  Where will your credit union get more membership inquiries from a website or a phonebook? The Internet has revolutionized all business’ relevancy. If you are not online in 2010 I will bet your membership numbers are declining rapidly (and I personally will never find you).

The credit union movement was created by taking a chance, by offering an alternative to other financial institutions.

Why not take a chance? All ideas may not be million-dollar ones (or I would be writing this from my second yacht in the French Riviera, in my awesome skinny jeans) but you’ll never know unless you try it!

When was the last time your credit union took a chance?

What’s a Credit Union?

Posted by on Tuesday, 24 August, 2010

Steve Rodgers

From Steve Rodgers:

One of the primary challenges credit union marketers are currently faced with is finding ways to promote the benefits and services of their credit union to increase membership and awareness of credit unions, with a drastically decreased budget.  The Marketing Chapter of the 2010 E-Scan Report focuses on strategies for tackling this challenge; however, this endeavor may be even more of a struggle than many even know.  Here’s why I say this:

Each summer, I present the findings of CUNA’s Environmental Scan (E-Scan) to third-year students at CUNA Management School, which is a three-year school held on the campus of the University of Wisconsin in Madison for two weeks every July.

I give the students a one-hour PowerPoint presentation and then my co-presenter and CUNA colleague—Kristina Grebener—gives them a little field work for the rest of the afternoon.

Kristina divides the class into five teams of about a dozen students each and gives each team a Flip video camera. Their job is to roam around the campus and interview people. The teams ask questions like, “Do you know what a credit union is?” The goal of the exercise is to gauge consumer awareness of credit unions.

The teams return after an hour and share their videos with the rest of the class. To people like me who have spent their entire professional careers trying to communicate the benefits of credit union membership, the videos trigger thoughts of a career change. They evoke the emotions of depression, laughter, panic, amazement, and back to depression.

The most common response is, “I have no idea what a credit union is.” After that, you hear a lot of, “I bank at a bank because that’s where my parents signed me up.”

Other responses include:

“I think a credit union is one of those companies that monitors your credit report and tells you when something goes wrong.”

“A credit union is where you pay your taxes.”

“Credit unions are like labor unions—you pay membership fees to belong.”

One of the teams finally came across a guy who knew quite a bit about credit unions, although he did all his business with a bank. He knew credit unions are financial cooperatives and return profits to members. He knew credit unions exist to maximize service to members, and banks exist to maximize profits to shareholders.

“Why,” the team asked, “if you know about all these credit union benefits, do you still do business with a bank.”

“I’m one of those bank shareholders,” he replied.

Suffice it to say, credit unions have a tremendous amount of work to do to move the needle on consumer awareness.

Do these responses surprise you? What is your credit union doing to promote what credit unions are and how consumers can move their money to benefit from membership (no fees attached)?

Steve Rodgers is the Editor-in-Chief  for Business to Business Publishing at the Credit Union National Association.

Strategic Marketing Tips from the CDCU Institute

Posted by on Friday, 20 August, 2010

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak about strategic marketing with the National Federation of Community Development Credit Union’s third year group at the Community Development Credit Union Institute (CDCU Institute).   I had the unique experience of chatting with some community development credit union stars about how they can reach more members and prosper.  I was so impressed with this group as they were already beyond just talking marketing tactics and promo campaigns, and really wanted to talk marketing strategy.

Now, I’m not a history buff, but recently I heard a presentation where marketing consultant, Steve Olson, gave a great analogy of the difference between marketing strategy and tactics.  As Steve put it, when entering World War II, the United States was facing two battle fronts, one in Europe and one in the Pacific.  The strategy for World War II was Europe first, the Pacific second.  That really got me thinking as I prepared for my talk at CDCU Institute about what battle fronts are priority for credit unions?

As our morning conversation went on at the CDCU Institute, everyone took notice of how many fronts we are trying to fight with existing marketing efforts.  Now, if your credit union has any sort of limited resources (time, money, etc.), you realize what we did … that fighting all fronts at once is not an effective battle/marketing strategy.  So what did our group come up with?  Here are some of the session highlights:

  • Service is credit union marketing- be sure to know what you’re up against.  When each person told the group what sets their credit union apart from their competition, the immediate response was service.  Yet, very few people could recall a secret shopping or similar program to factually know what service their members receive elsewhere.  A strategy is no good if what you stand for isn’t your competitive advantage.  So, if your credit union stands for better member service than your competitors, do your undercover work.
  • Identify the front you’ll battle first.  We talked at length about the benefits of focusing on a core target.  This target should represent your most loyal members, and members that use your credit union for what it should be used for. Having a stable membership base representing your target will ensure your credit union is in existence to serve all your members far into the future.
  • Have fun!  Throughout this entire session, we pushed our comfort levels of what marketing meant to us and our credit unions.  When we did get to the conversation about tactics, it was fun because we had our goals and strategies mapped out.  While I didn’t come across the tactic of the Flash Mob of Innovations FCU until yesterday, it certainly would represent the fun ideas that came from this group.  Different now is that all our ideas are grounded in the marketing strategy we know will sustain our organizations.

So, let’s extend the discussion.  What strategies are you using to fight your marketing battles?

Why it’s Our Duty to Mention Credit Unions on a First Date

Posted by on Thursday, 1 July, 2010

Rachel Best

From Rachel Best:

I think we all love credit unions. Or we wouldn’t be reading this totally splendid blog, right?

In fact, I would go so far as to say that “credit union people” are more vocal about their love of their credit union than bank people.  We tell the grocery clerk about the differences between a credit union and a bank.  We say, “Hey, I get my ATM transactions surcharge-free, how about you?”  We argue tax-exempt status with our friend who works for a community bank and then make a pact to stop discussing it so we can stay friends.

I think I talk more about credit unions than astronauts talk about the moon.  When people ask me where I work, my friends all go, “Is this where you start talking about credit unions?” No joke…they actually do this.  YES, this is when I start talking about credit unions and their awesomeness.  And most of them love it (or in the case of the above community banker friend – tolerate it) because they are credit union members themselves.   For those that aren’t, I try to show them the light.  I’ve had new acquaintances and professional friends comment at the end of my credit union diatribe, “Why isn’t everyone in a credit union then?”  I tell them that they qualify and visit, etc, etc. I forgo mentioning that it’s because big banks are bad. Got to keep it friendly, you know?

I lecture young cousins about where to get their first loans.  And while I wouldn’t know from personal experience, I’ve heard that bars are a great place to discuss credit unions.  Mention it on first dates – you’ll know right away if your compatible!  Who cares if it’s awkward, embrace it, it’s our duty!  Ask, “Do I look like the Little Guy when I carry this umbrella?”

If you haven’t gotten someone to say “Why isn’t everyone in a credit union then?” this month, then we’ve failed.  I don’t think we are doing our job nor our service to fellow citizens if we don’t get them to realize what they are missing.

So go out and get them champs!  If you can’t bring people to the mountain, bring the mountain to the people.

Rachel Best is the Meetings and Exhibits Manager for the Credit Union National Association. Read her last CUNAverse blog post here.

The Golden Circle Concept for Credit Unions – Start with Purpose

Posted by on Thursday, 17 June, 2010

I love convergences. About a month ago I found myself at the Wisconsin Credit Union League Annual Meeting where some friends at Filene were giving a general session on opportunities for credit unions. In Young Adult Adviser Brent Dixon’s section, he talked about the Golden Circle concept and its relevance for credit unions. It was a simple yet profound idea.


Driving back to Madison from the League meeting, I was listening to random TED talks and one of them happened to be on – you guessed it – the Golden Circle concept. The talk is from Simon Sinek and titled “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” I recommend checking it out sometime and sharing with your co-workers.

> Click Here to Watch/Hear the Full TED Talk

The gist is this: people connect with leaders and brands who they think share their beliefs – the cause (or the “why?”) in the center of the circle above. Too often, credit unions and organizations in general start with the outside of the circle in their messaging.

“We provide financial products & services (what?) via branches in the Madison area or online (how?) because we are a non-profit cooperative financial institution (why?)”

Sound familiar? Now turn it around:

“We believe that you should own your money and your financial institution, not shareholders. We believe in people helping people and our financial products/services reflect that. We do this because we are a non-profit cooperative financial institution.”

When I talked with Brent about this recently, he had this to add:

If you market based on the “what” you are a commodity. As soon as the terms of that commodity changes  (and we know they will change) – lower deposit rates, dropping free services to stay afloat, cutting back on branch hours – the market will leave too.

But if you market based on “why” – they will stay, because they believe in your purpose, and, because this goes beyond altruism, they will stay because they know that no matter what, you will fight to keep their best interest at the heart of your decisions.

Communicating and acting on purpose drives gut decisions that change behaviors.

Powerful stuff, yet we start the “what” all too often – professionally and personally.

What Credit Unions Can Learn from that Guy on Oprah

Posted by on Tuesday, 8 June, 2010


I am one of the millions of people who watched Bernard Lachance fulfill his dream on the Oprah Winfrey Show last year.  If you haven’t heard Bernard’s story check out his message to Oprah and then watch his invitation to her show.  Watching his story is so much better then me rehashing the background here.  Even after a year, the story still makes me choke up.  So how lucky do I now feel to be working on a session for the upcoming 1 Credit Union Conference with Bernard!  He is going to share how credit unions can tap into the things that have helped him to continue to make his dreams come true.

Whether you are trying to reach a personal goal that seems out of reach or if you are looking to take your credit union to new heights – there are lessons to be learned from Bernard’s amazing journey.  His successes haven’t come without hard work, but his unique approach has helped him go beyond his wildest dreams.

While we’ll have to wait until Bernard’s Innovation on a Shoestring breakout session July 13th to learn how he suggests we utilize his strategies, there are some things about his story that make all of his success no surprise to me.

Nurtured Strengths:  Bernard was born with a great voice, but on top of that he was surrounded by a musical family, his father a music teacher and his sister a piano player.  His environment helped to fuel his ambition to succeed in the entertainment business.  Is your credit union a place where strengths are identified and continually nurtured?

Legwork:  Bernard didn’t just jump into show business, he was formally educated and then spent a few years taking voice lessons and observing the industry.  He even would attend various TV show tapings to help him to begin understanding the ins and outs of the business before he fully made his jump in to entertainment.  Are new hires expected to have any knowledge of the credit union philosophy when they start at your credit union? 

Buzzworthiness:  This guy knows how to create buzz.  The marketing strategies he uses are different from anything I’ve ever seen.  From mailing a copy of his demo tape to every citizen in a community he is trying to make his name in to his clever t-shirt design to sell out his theater tickets, he knows how to get people talking.  What are you doing to get people to want to tell their friends how great your credit union is?  

Passion:  I think this is the key to Bernard’s story.  His videos capture how truly passionate he is about the dreams he has for his future and that translates into creating an emotional reaction from those of us who encounter his story.  Without a passion for what he’s reaching for he’d likely fall short on all of the creativity, hard work and determination needed to succeed.  What about your job motivates you to keep reaching for those nearly impossibly goals?

Bernard has shown that big things are possible.  What are you dreaming big about and what are you doing to make it happen?